There is something beautiful about the surprising personal stories you discover in the lives of the people you meet. There is always much more to the people you come across in your life than you know – and just one conversation can leave you enlightened and inspired! I was recently reminded of that when I met Ed Raarup.
I came to know Raarup, a Milford, Pennsylvania resident, while searching for real estate in his area. In the process of our discussion I came to learn that he has a rich, compelling backstory. Raarup spent the early years of his career as a NYC actor, singer and writer. As he branched out of the city into the beautiful Pocono region to sell real estate, he took his love of writing and music with him. Utilizing his relationships with Broadway artists and an incredibly gifted illustrator, he began to bring one of his passion projects to life: A children’s book that combines beautiful art, song and story with a touching message of acceptance.
Fireflies and Shooting Stars tells the story of Enzo, a firefly who was born without a taillight. As Enzo faces the challenges of growing up being different than those around him, the message for all children who are differently-abled becomes clear.
The book is a lush 143 pages, full of rich illustrations. Heartfully written, the book also comes with a CD full of music to accompany the story. (Listen to the tracks here!) It’s a story of hope that stresses the importance of accepting the differences in others as well as ourselves.
Here’s our POP Interview with author Ed Raarup:
POP: Fireflies and Shooting Stars is a beautiful tale – in so many ways – its story, its art and its music. Tell me… what inspired you to create this book? (And how long did it take from the idea to the final product?)
Ed: The whole project really began with my friends, Ronnie and Joe Biondo. They created a handicapped accessible playground for kids in Matamoras, PA called Firefly Field. The name of the park was inspired by a song called Fireflies and Shooting Stars written by our mutual friend and professional musical director, Michael Rice. In keeping with that inspirational effort, I wrote the story, Fireflies and Shooting Stars, The Tale of Enzo, about a little firefly named Enzo who was born without a taillight. In seeking Enzo’s own inclusion and success, the tale tells of his self-determined, fantastical journey and adventures to find his light – a tale of truth, hope and acceptance for children of all ages. From writing the first draft of the story to holding the printed book in my hands, it was an amazing five year journey.
Enzo probably says it best in the story: “You’ve gotta know just who you are and what you’re good at so you can shine in your own way.” In contrast to the thought that we are all the same or should be, Enzo’s journey leads us to the truth that no one is exactly the same, and we discover the importance of accepting the differences in ourselves and others. By realizing this simple truth, it could be possible to find a way toward goodwill, respect and much happiness for all.
Putting this book together must have been quite an endeavor … even after you created the story – it must have felt like you needed several miracles to pull it off! From getting the music and the artists together to getting it published… how did it all come together… and which came first? Which was the easiest – and the hardest – to get together?
Writing the story and songs was the first step and that seemed easiest given my background in the arts. My editor was Emma Walton Hamilton who has written a number of children’s books with her mother, Julie Andrews. With Emma’s wonderful editorial guidance, the story and songs began to develop and take on a life of their own. Upon completion of the lyrics and music for each song, I would hand them over to Michael Rice who did all the musical arrangements. I met with my illustrator, Lindsay D. Nery, every two weeks for about three years to develop the illustrations. In time, we had a book with 10 heartwarming chapters, 12 beautiful songs and over 80 stunning illustrations. The book layout was brilliantly designed by Torque Advertising + Design from Fort Lauderdale, FL and the book itself was printed and bound in Ashland, OH by Bookmasters.
Due to the uniqueness of the art and music included in the work, the hardest part was getting it published. Ultimately, I followed the advice of self-publishing expert, Peter Bowerman, and created my own company to publish the work called MoonWatch Productions. It was a very rewarding experience but I was responsible for every aspect of production. The amount of details, time and cost for such an endeavor can be overwhelming, but it was all worth it.
Oh, and getting a bunch of Broadway singers all together to record can be a challenge. Despite the many scheduling conflicts, we managed to pull it off with the extraordinarily talented likes of Lynne Wintersteller, Scott Hayward, Jennifer Smith and Gina Milo. Peter Millrose of Millrose Music in NYC recorded and mixed the songs and MasterDisk NYC mastered the CD. There were many, many trips to Manhattan to produce the CD.
Yes. When I was a kid, my mom used to read a chapter book to me called The Boxcar Children. I remember I couldn’t wait to see what would happen each night as a new chapter was read. And when I was old enough to read myself, that became one of my favorite books. I’ve received a number of emails and reviews from parents letting me know that their children are enjoying my book in the same way.
This book could really be enjoyed by kids of many different ages – from the smallest of children just learning to appreciate books (the pictures alone tell a great story!) to the older child who is reading on their own… Did you have a certain age of child in mind for your story?
In general, the book is ideal for 4 to 10 year olds, but we are finding there is huge crossover appeal for all ages because of the story’s message, Lindsay’s outstanding artwork and the Broadway-style songs. A lot of parents have responded that they love listening to the CD and they want to know where they can get posters of the artwork for their children’s rooms. We’re working on it!
You’re obviously a multitalented guy – you’ve got a history as an actor and a musician – tell us more about your background – And, which part of this process did you enjoy the most?
I studied vocal music and theatre in college and grad school. When I lived in NYC as a professional actor, I performed in a variety of regional theatre productions, cabaret clubs and television shows. After a lifetime of being involved in the arts, I have found that I most enjoy writing. Whether it be stories, lyrics or music – I love the whole writing process.
Beyond the story itself, there is another message in this whole story – one of your own determination in making this passion project happen! Talk about the quote you wrote on your wall when you decided to take this on…. did you learn any lessons in the process of pulling this off?
The quote you are referring to is by Goethe: “At the moment of commitment, the universe conspires to assist you.” I knew this project would require a lot of effort and this quote kept me focused. Much like Enzo’s journey, there were many unknowns but I knew if I persevered I would somehow find a way to succeed. I am truly grateful for the resources, knowledge and many wonderful people drawn together to make this happen. The lesson learned: the universe may assist you, but your own strength and determination will see you through.
What would you like to do next? Any projects ahead?
I am pursuing the development of a stage/concert adaptation or even an animated series or film for the story. I’m also working on an education curriculum with the book as a focal point to provide to schools and libraries. Of course, it is an ongoing process to find and collaborate with those who can make these types of developments occur. Finally, I’ve been working on a holiday book with Enzo and his friends. I hope to write many more stories and music, and I’ll go wherever my imagination leads me.