Unleashing the Moopers

The launch took place at The Little Bookroom on the 31st July 2017, a beautiful bookstore in Carlton that just happens to be owned and run by an equally beautiful family. Leesa Lambert and her parents, Ian and Lesley, could not have been more supportive, hospitable and just plain lovely to all of us in the Moopers team, which went a long way towards making it an incredibly special event for everyone there…and there were a lot of everyone there!

Scott, Sally and I waited in the back of the shop as people arrived. When we were eventually introduced, we were greeted by a sea of smiling faces, some familiar, many not, which was both humbling and emotionally overwhelming for a sook like me. The Super Moopers launch was a momentous and incredibly exciting day for all of us. These books have been a true labour of love, and we could not be more thrilled to know that our precious Moopers are now in the hands of eager, book-hungry children all over the country. Everyone at Bonnier had been chomping at the bit for over a year, waiting impatiently to release the books and share them with the world. For me, on that day, it felt as if the moment I had been waiting a lifetime for had finally arrived.

I’m a self-confessed, loud and proud book nerd who has wanted to write children’s books since I was a kid myself. Throughout my childhood, I was the girl who would happily choose a book over playing with dolls; the girl who devoured every Enid Blyton book I could get my hands on, reading each one multiple times. As Enid’s magical tales and stories quickly faded into the background for most children as they reached middle adolescence, I just couldn’t let go. Instead, those “beastly” girls of Malory Towers and St. Clare’s, with their midnight feasts and robust lacrosse matches, accompanied me well into middle adolescence. As if this wasn’t tragic enough, I kicked off my official entry to adulthood with an Enid-Blyton-themed 21st birthday. To my amazement, ninety-nine per cent of the guests dressed up, and my boyfriend’s sparse, suburban Williamstown backyard was gradually transformed into a magical, if somewhat frightening, spectacle; a colourful array of pixies, Moonfaces and Noddys.

My first attempt at writing a book of my own occurred when I was around eleven years old. I made it out of orange cardboard, a few too many staples and carefully pen-lined pages. It was entitled, “Bath Murder”. I still have it, and it’s pretty bad. Heavily inspired by Ms Blyton’s The Famous Five, it told the story of three girl detectives who solve a murder that the dim-witted police were just incapable of figuring out.  Actually, it’s really bad. Thankfully my writing has improved somewhat over the years.

The birth of The Super Moopers came about soon after I met Sally Rippin a

couple of years ago. My husband and I are both actors as well as writers, and Nicole Brownlee, head honcho of Story Box Library, and all round awesome human being, asked us if we would read some stories and do an improvised kids show as part of the RCH Good Friday appeal at Crown Casino.

“You’ll be performing in Sally Rippin and Patrick Verdon’s Story Peddlers Tent,” she’d told me.

“Sure!” I’d replied, having no idea what a Story Peddlers Tent was.

I did, however, know who Sally Rippin was. What parent doesn’t! My daughters both read and loved Billie B Brown when they were younger and so I was very excited about meeting this legendary Australian children’s writer. All of us from the Story Box Library team had a fabulous time at the RCH event on that Good Friday, and the kids loved watching the performances. The Story Peddlers Tent is so beautiful that I wanted to take it home and put it in my backyard the moment I laid eyes on it. Overall, it was a great day, and one of the best parts for me was meeting Sally and learning that, not only is she a fabulous writer, but one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. We hit it off and soon after that this generous woman was offering to script edit a YA novel I had written.

A month or so later we met up at her house for a feedback session on my MS. During the session, I mentioned an idea I’d had for a kid’s book about “not quite right” superheroes. Sally loved it and so the brainstorming began! Once we had the basic concept nutted out, we soon realised that we needed an illustrator. At that stage, Sally was busy writing and illustrating Polly and Buster, so we needed to find someone else who could draw. Unfortunately, when it comes to drawing, my skills don’t extend far beyond stick figures, and dodgy ones at that.

“I have a friend who’s a really good artist,” I told Sally as we sat outside a Brunswick café.

I’ll never forget the look on Sally’s face. A look that said she’d heard this from at least a hundred people in her long career in the book world and that most of the time these “friends” turned out to be not quite as talented as anyone had hoped.

“Um…sure,” she’d said, too nice to say what she was really thinking. “Why don’t you ask him to send his portfolio through and we’ll have a look.”

Scott and I first met way too long ago to mention for fear of revealing how old we actually are. Let’s just say that it was when we were both young and single and living the artsy Melbourne life and he was sharing a house with a friend from my St Martin’s Youth Theatre acting classes. Over the years Scott and my paths kept crossing in the small community that is the Melbourne arts scene, until in 2002 we were both cast in the channel ten sketch comedy show, Skithouse. We spent three years writing and performing comedy alongside each other, and when the show finished our families stayed close, partly due to the fact that our kids were born four days apart. I’ve known for a long time how talented Scott is, not only as a singer, songwriter and performer with Tripod, but also as an artist. So, of course he was the first person who sprung to mind when Sally and I first started discussing this idea.

I left Sally at the café and was on the phone to Scott before I’d even made it back to my car.

“Kids books…need illustrator…send through portfolio of your drawings…”

The moment Sally saw Scott’s drawings she knew we had found our guy. Sally loved his style and his work, and when the three of us got together soon afterwards it was a mutual respect and love fest.

As soon as the amazing women at Bonnier decided to take a punt on these two writer/performers who were total newbies to the world of publishing (thanks to Sally for going in there and vouching for us!) the Moopers team was complete and work on creating this world and the books began.

Seeing children and parents at the launch holding our books in their hands was truly one of the most surreal, special and amazing moments of my life. As everyone crowded into that gorgeous bookshop on a wintry Sunday afternoon, I had to take a breath and remind myself that this was really happening. Sure, I may forever live to regret the moment I revealed to a crowd of over 100 people that I had an Enid Blyton-themed 21st birthday party, but aside from that it was pretty much the perfect day for a book nerd like me.

 

Read a review of The Super Moopers here: http://www.betterreading.com.au/kids-ya/kids-series-of-the-week-super-moopers-by-fiona-harris-and-scott-edgar/

 

 

 

 

 

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