BrickUniverse: Author bringing 'Super Happy' books, Lego bear to Raleigh fan convention
Posted April 5
Marcie Colleen has been a teacher, an actress, a nanny, a children's author ... and now she can add Lego fan convention participant to her resume.
Colleen will be signing books from her popular chapter book series, Super Happy Party Bears, at this weekend's BrickUniverse Lego fan convention at the downtown Raleigh Convention Center. Tickets are $15 for the event, which sold out last year and features all kinds of opportunities to build with Lego bricks, gather new Lego ideas and see some pretty amazing Lego creations.
This isn't her first BrickUniverse. She's attended them with her husband, Lego artist Jonathan Lopes, who has been traveling with the show. But it's the first time she'll be signing her books at BrickUniverse under the watchful eye of a five-foot Lego version of one of the main characters from her books.
I checked in with Colleen by email to learn more about her work, her books and Legos. Here's a Q&A:
Go Ask Mom: You've been a teacher, actress and nanny. Why did you make the transition to children's book author?
Marcie Colleen: I have always been a reader and a writer. But my first vivid “dream” of being an author came in 1985 when the movie "Back to the Future" released. Towards the end of the movie, there is a scene when George McFly receives a big box of his novels. He then hands a copy of the novel to his son, Marty McFly, and says, “like I've always told you, you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”
Although I was only in fifth grade at the time, I remember thinking, “I want a box like that.” Fast forward through careers in teaching and theater, the focus was always on children’s literature and entertainment. So, even though I did not become interested in writing children’s books until late 2010, I feel as if I have been on this path my whole life.
GAM: You have a lot going on right now. First is your "Super Happy Party Bears" chapter book series. What have you enjoyed about writing that series? And what, in particular, do you enjoy writing for young readers of chapter books? What's been their reaction to your books?
MC: The Super Happy Party Bears is a series about relentlessly happy bears who love to party, eat doughnuts, and spread good cheer. It's difficult to not have fun writing it! Even the Grumpy Woods townscritters are super fun to write with their incessant grumpiness.
As for my readers, I think I am still six years old. I never really grew up. It's therefore easy for me to connect to that age group. So, I often find myself giggling as I write. I especially love placing little Easter eggs for adult readers, too - a little pop culture reference from the eighties here and there for all of those adults, who may be reading along with their kids. Let's just say there is a whole lotta me in these books.
So far, the reaction has been amazing! Readers have sent me fan mail letters and art. They have Skyped with me, and even a few kids have dressed up like Party Bears for Halloween. Having readers is so super cool!
GAM: You also have two picture books coming out. What are they all about and when should we see them at stores and libraries?
MC: My debut picture book, "Love, Triangle," is illustrated by Bob Shea and comes out from Harper Collins on October 3, 2017. It's the story of Circle and Square who are best friends until Triangle shows up. Then they both would rather be best friends with him.
And then "The Adventure of the Penguinaut," illustrated by Emma Yarlett, is about a zoo penguin named Orville, who dreams of big adventures and sets his eyes on the moon. Scholastic has targeted a winter 2018 release date for that book.
GAM: You will be signing at this weekend's BrickUniverse Lego fan convention and your husband happens to be a Lego artist. I'm guessing this is not a coincidence!? What will you be doing at the convention? I hear there might be a Lego bear?
MC: My husband, Jonathan Lopes, is a phenomenal LEGO artist who has been traveling with BrickUniverse for over two years, displaying 30 or so of his pieces.
Up until now, I had simply accompanied him as a supportive wife. However, now that he has created a five-foot-tall sculpture of Ziggy, one of the Super Happy Party Bears, my role has slightly changed. Quail Ridge Books will be on hand during the convention, selling copies of my chapter book series. I will be signing books from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., on both Saturday and Sunday.
GAM: Lots of parents have read countless picture books and chapters books to their kids and feel like they might have a great idea for their own book - or 10! What's your recommendation to long-time children's book readers, who wonder if they can write their own?
MC: If you wonder if you can, then you should try. Sure there is a lot of craft that goes into writing children's books, but never let the fact that you "don't know how" get in the way of trying.
To be honest, I almost said, "no," when I was asked if I wanted to write the Super Happy Party Bears. I hadn’t the foggiest clue how to write a chapter book. I had spent the past five years studying the craft of picture books. Chapter books seemed daunting.
However, Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the things you think you cannot do”. So, I said, "yes." Then once you've said "yes" to your desire, seek out classes, other writers and conferences to help you learn the craft.
It's not easy, but life's too short to not at least try.