By day, Philip Moore cleans downtown Harrisburg’s federal building. By night, he writes modern-day fables inspired by an imaginary kingdom.
The brainstorm for his debut novel, “Camelot’s Heirs,” struck about 10 years ago while he was reading mythology and the legendary tales of King Arthur.
“I was imagining the descendants of Camelot, and all of a sudden, different characters showed up, so I started writing it out to see where they went,” said Philip, 50, of Harrisburg.
It took him on a writing journey that not only led to “Camelot’s Heirs” being published, but to book sales supported by his employer, Goodwill Keystone Area, at more than 40 retail stores. And it’s all the more remarkable when you consider Moore is autistic—a fact that he was happy to share, because, as he puts it, “I want to inspire people in general.”
“I consider it a gift from God,” said Philip, of his writing talent. As for “Camelot’s Heirs,” he said, “God gave me the idea and helped me develop it.”
The book follows the adventures of five teenagers with magical powers, unaware of their heritage linking them to King Arthur, as they combat an enemy plotting humanity’s downfall. Their adventures continue beyond the book’s 300 pages—Philip is close to completing a sequel.
His dream is to become a bestselling author, but it’s not just his name on the book’s cover—he has a very special co-author.
“Since I’m a guy, I have no idea how a woman would act or what she would say,” said Philip.
To help develop his female characters, he enlisted the woman who nurtured his love of reading since childhood—his mother. The fact that she lives in Idaho isn’t a problem—the pair uses Google Docs to write “together.”
“Mom adds flourishes of her own, and she’ll tell me if she thinks something is inaccurate or whether I’ve overdone it,” Philip said. “The stories are mine, but they’re stronger because of her.”
Jane Moore said Philip, her first-born of five children, has always had an insatiable love of books.
“We both love the classics—books have always been our thing,” she said.
Now, the mother and son team collaborate, about 10 times a month, on writing Philip’s own titles.
“When we write, I love the fact that we have a kind of mental thing that goes between us—we’ve shared 40 to 50 years of books between us,” Jane said. “The amazing thing to me is, when we write we become one person… it’s a relationship that we’ve built that makes it fun to work together.”
She always recognized that Philip was smart and creative. In first or second grade, while all the other children created simple clay pots, Philip sculpted “a perfect elephant—I still have it today,” she said.
It wasn’t until his freshman year of high school that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, a form of autism with symptoms that are less severe, without language delays.
“He’s brilliant,” Jane said. “I really believe he’s savant in his abilities.”
She recalled that her son’s Asperger’s prevented him from holding his dream job in high school.
“Because of who he is, he loved the library,” Jane said. “But he couldn’t work in the library because he was trying to reinvent the Dewey Decimal System—he found flaws in it.”
But he discovered a job he “loves”—one that he’s held for the past 20 years—through the Goodwill Services’ program, which provides career training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
“I enjoy what I do here,” said Philip of his responsibilities at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building. “It’s a very social job.”
He vacuums and dusts the courtrooms, follows COVID-19 disinfection protocols inside and helps with weeding and pruning outside. But he’s perhaps best known for greeting workers with smiles, striking up conversations and telling jokes.
“Everybody needs a laugh,” Philip said, “and it costs nobody anything.”
Goodwill, Good Journey
Philip is one of about 100 people currently employed by Goodwill’s program, funded by its popular thrift stores that resell donated items.
“The job is a good fit for him,” said Tracy Thompson, Goodwill’s director of business services for 15 years. “I’ve been on the journey with Philip for the whole trip.”
And it was literally on a work-related road trip that Thompson first heard Philip’s stories.
“He told me about his novel, and to kill the time on the drive up to Scranton, he read some of it. That was probably 10 years ago,” Thompson said. “I encouraged him to continue his writing. He had a lot of potential.”
Besides his mother, perhaps no one was cheering for Philip’s success more than Thompson.
“I am so proud of Philip for accomplishing this. It’s been a goal of his,” Thompson said. “To see his progress, it’s so rewarding—it’s why I do what I do.”
And it’s why there’s a display in each Goodwill store, featuring Philip’s photo and story, along with his books for sale, with the proceeds going back to Philip. He even inscribed each of Goodwill’s books with handwritten messages, which took him three days.
Many writers have added their spins to the King Arthur-themed legend—Arthurian literature—over the years, and now Philip Moore can add his name to the list. Perhaps it’s fitting that he’s writing about Camelot, a legendary capital, from Harrisburg—itself a capital city.
So that begs the centuries-old question: Do you believe there was a real King Arthur?
“I doubt it,” said Philip, “But it’s still kinda fun to think there might have been.”
“Camelot’s Heirs: King Arthur Series” by Philip Moore is available on Amazon, as well as more than 40 Goodwill Keystone Area stores in 22 counties. To learn more about Goodwill Keystone Area, including store locations and its business services program, visit yourgoodwill.org.
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