Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter

I wasn't going to post anything, but I decided I just had to. I saw Deathly Hallows 2 this afternoon. It was the second time I saw the film. Loved it just as much as I did Thursday (though that first audience was a bit more vocal in their enthusiasm for certain scenes, which really adds to the experience).

So why is Harry Potter so important to this nearly senior citizen grandmother? Because just like my kids, I got sucked into that amazing world that Jo Rowling created. We bought the book Sorcerer's Stone (SS) for a son who wasn't a fast reader, hoping it would make him want to practice. Didn't work. Then.

The book sat on his bookshelf for a year until his next younger brother (who is a fast reader) decided to try it. Didn't take long before he was begging us to pick up Chamber of Secrets (CoS)and Prisoner of Azkaban (PoA). This was about the time Goblet of Fire (GoF) was coming out, and there was tons of talk about the books on TV.

I asked my son who'd read them to let me have his copies, so I could read them. I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about.

My life hasn't been the same since.

My family's love affair with the series began then. Everyone read them (my oldest son is the only one who never got past the first couple of books). My son who's not into reading, is very much into audiobooks. He LOVES the series. We've had some lively discussions about where we thought Jo was headed.

When I finished the 4th book, I told my hubby that I thought he'd love them, too. I went back to SS and started reading them aloud to him.

And that's when my first inkling began of what a treasure trove these books are. The thrill doesn't just come with the school book titles or authors (though they're hilarious) or the moving scenes about this poor abused boy seeking to find friends and acceptance while refusing to become an abuser himself.

It comes when you realize how that crafty Jo Rowling has hidden so many things in plain sight. Examples: Sirius Black is mentioned casually in SS but becomes a major play in PoA. Or that vanishing closet that Draco worked so hard on in HBP was first introduced in CoS. It's in that clever little spell Fred gives Ron to turn that stupid rat Scabbers yellow. We assume the spell doesn't work because it wasn't a real spell or because Ron did something wrong. But it might not have worked because Scabbers wasn't really a rat at all.

Clever, clever girl, that Rowling.

Because of the information that we learned with each new book, we had to go back and read the older books in the series again. The new information changed the way we viewed things.

It wasn't until Half Blood Prince (HBP), though, that I just HAD to have some answers. After reading the book, I wrote down a page full of questions. I talked with other people I knew who liked the books, and we bounced ideas around. But I wasn't satisfied. I thought perhaps there must be something online.

Uh, yeah.

I first went to Mugglenet and signed up, though I never posted. I went to Jo's website and found that she'd awarded The Leaky Cauldron with the best fan website that year, so I went there. Turns out they had a forum called The Leaky Lounge, so I signed up there, too.

And that's where I found the Dumbledore Isn't Dead thread.

I got pulled into the debate (one of the three hottest ones discussed--the other hot topics included Snape's loyalty and whether or not Harry and Hermione would get together, what we called the 'shipping wars' with 'shipping' meaning relationships). The debate about Dumbledore still being alive included some pretty amazing discussions with people who were writers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, college professors, physicists, etc. The depth of the discussions was amazing. Seriously, people were looking at the trajectory of when Snape's spell hit Dumbledore and comparing the description of the spell compared with all the other Avada Kedavra deaths that had been described. Adults. Adults of all ages.

Kids' books? Who is anybody kidding to suggest these are just kids' books?

At the Lounge I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

And then I did.

Go to heaven, that is.

Five years ago last March, I was invited to become a moderator. I was absolutely stunned but thrilled. I've met so many absolutely wonderful people through that experience, both Lounge members and other moderators. I have friends now from all over the world ... including some other aspiring authors (like Donna and Suzie).

As the frenzy began a few months before the release of Deathly Hallows, I got to mod the forum that was Unfogging the Future (named for one of Harry's Divination textbooks) and then once we had a title Unfogging Deathly Hallows and eventually Deathly Hallows Unfogged. People were so busy theorizing about what everything meant that for the two months prior to the release I'd spend my entire lunch hour and usually three hours each evening reading posts and making sure people behaved themselves (and didn't spoil--that was a battle for all of us, believe me).

Because I knew about the epilogue, which Jo had written before she wrote the first book, I worried about someone at a large bookstore event opening their book and going to the back to see who lived and died. You see, Jo told us that the last book was a book about war and that it would be a bloodbath. I had emotionally prepared myself that any and all characters might die.

I volunteered to help out with a release event at a small bookstore at Gardner Village. This resulted in me being interviewed on television the day before the book came out. You could have blown me over with a feather when I got that phone call and the guy said he heard I was a Harry Potter guru. The call came to my work. O_o Turns out the lady at the bookstore had been contacted about doing it and she referred them to me. My hubby graciously gave them my phone number. Because of all the theories I'd read, I was quite versed in the possibilities.

And just so you know, I called it. They asked me if I thought Harry would live or die. I said, "Yes."

That night I attended the release party with my family. Another moderator lived in that community, and she attended with her children and the two of us did trivia quizzes for people. The atmosphere fit, and the people were wonderful. I got my book at midnight and we headed home. I was (mostly) spoiler free.

We got to experience something no others will be able to. We lived through the time when no one knew what the outcome of the series would be.

My life has been enriched. Not just with the books, though they'd have been plenty. But with the people I've gotten to know and care for.

Thanks, Jo.


  1. Wow! Amazing! What a great story!! Isn't it incredible what that one woman has done for millions of people all over the world with her books? Simply astounding!

  2. I wondered if you could wait! LOL. A friend of ours suggested the books to my husband and I. I couldn't make it past the first chapter and gave it back to her. I don't think I was ready yet.

    I watched the first and second movies when they came out on TV. They were good, but I wasn't "into" them. Then, for some reason, my husband decided were were going to see I think the fifth movie, right before the seventh book came out. (Forgive me if the timing's off a little.) I got it into my head that I was going to read all six books before I saw the next movie and definitely before the last book was released.

    I absolutely DEVOURED the books. Imagine me working full time, working on my bachelors degree online and I finished ALL SIX BOOKS in two months. I don't exactly remember when I did my homework. I just remember having to put my name on the waiting list at the library. Apparently others were doing the same thing I was.

    I never could quite get into the discussion on the HP websites but I could appreciate the effect the books, and movies, had on people the world over. Jo Rowling created something that will take years to not duplicate, but capture the worlds attention in a similar fashion. I don't think anyone other than Dan, Emma and Rupert could have brought them to life any better.

    Can't wait to see it tomorrow. As much as I cried during the first one, I know tissues are a MUST in this second one.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds like a fantastic one.


  3. My experience is so similar to yours of course *huge grin*

    Weren't we blessed though? That is what I will take away from this whole experience/ We lived and worked and loved through the whole Potter experience as it was happening.

    I don't think it will ever happen again.

  4. Colene - It was amazing.

    Mel - not everyone embraces their inner geek as much as other. Uh, me. =D I'm glad you found them though.

    Donna - I think you're right. I don't think it will happen again. Yet we were there. It truly was a once in a lifetime (multiple lifetimes?) experience.

  5. Love, love, love the books, and I love everything I've learned as a writer because of that series. She proves again how much power the written word can have. I'm looking forward to seeing the final movie, too.

  6. HOW COOL! And ahh, ship wars! They abound no matter what "fandom" you're in. ;) Thanks for sharing this story. HP has been a huge part of my life--I started reading them when I was sixteen, right before Goblet of Fire came out. Read them to my mom and brother. Later got my husband involved in them (we married between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix). I'm reading them now to my kids--we just started this summer and we're on Chamber of Secrets now.

    I love all of the little things JK Rowling dropped into the stories--little things that were so important, but seemed so small at the time. There are just so many of them.

    This was such a special series for so many reasons.

  7. A wonderful story Donna, made excellent reading.
    Here in the UK they are running a season of Harry Potter films throughout the summer......seems like the world has gone Harry Potter crazy.

    Have a peaceful Sunday.

  8. Amazing story, Donna. Truly wonderful how the entire world fell in love with the orphaned boy wizard from Surrey. Do you know... I still watch the "Year in the Life of J.K. Rowling" special (an extra on one of the BluRay's; I think it's HBP), and just sit there in awe & tears. I love her. Truly. She's SUCH an inspiration, and not just to us writers, but everyone who ever dared to dream.

    Next to my computer, in a beautiful Victorian-style frame I found several years ago, sits a portrait of Jo at her laptop, pounding away the last scenes of Deathly Hallows. Photoshopped on the bottom, I have: "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?"

    So, yeah. Thank you, Jo. For Harry, for giving us all hope that dreams really do come true. For everything.

  9. That's so amazing!!!! Good for you! I came to the series late, just before the release of DH. I devoured them after SS because they were so good. I do wish I'd had the togetherness of reading them like so many others. I'm the only reader in my family....

    I loved loved loved the movie :)

  10. Great post. I love discussing HP with other fans. It is truly one of my favorite book series of all time. I can't wait to see what will be the next series to take the world by storm, but I suspect it will be a book written for everyone, which is exactly what HP is.

  11. Shelli - I was talking with a friend yesterday, who also loves the series, and she expressed frustration that so many people blow this series off just because of its popularity.

    Laura - exactly. Those little clever tidbits. Jo really has spoiled me for other authors. The HP series has taught me to look at every little thing I read now as having foretelling potential, especially when it's in a series. A coworker with whom I swap books a lot frequently has to bring be back to reality with my theorizing by reminding me the authors aren't Rowling. =D

    Welcome - Some theaters here showed marathons of all the movies prior to the release of DH2. Can you imagine?

    Alyssia - I love your quote. I'm not into fame. But the idea of creating something that captures the imagination of so many people? That would be amazing.

    Words Crafter - I understand your feeling. I've talked with people who started with that Sorcerer's Stone book (Philosopher's Stone in the UK) and been a little jealous I didn't get into it sooner.

    Steven - It's always fun to talk about the books with other people. They pick up things you might not. One of the young women at church was the first one I knew to suggest that Harry was a horcrux. And online, one of the members at the Lounge suggested that Snape had proved his loyalty to Dumbledore by showing that his Patronus (which a witch/wizard has no control of the form it takes) had changed to be the same thing as Lily's. Clever people.

  12. What an amazing ride it's been! We were so fortunate to have a place where we could let our Potter/Rowling love let loose.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Donna!

    *hugs and chocolate frogs*

  13. Gosh, you just made me sad all over again! I also love those websites :)

    What a gifted woman JK is, and how fortunate we are to read/watch history in the making.

    I need to go watch Part 2 again...

  14. This whole post is so special! I got goosebumps reading about the adults arguing whether or not Dumbledore was dead. It takes an incredible imagination and a lot of heart to have written that series. I can't wait to share it with my now-two-year-old. I'm sure it'll be as fresh and exciting for her as it was for me.

  15. Suzie - Too right. And thanks for the chocolate frog! =D

    Barbara - Sorry. Didn't mean to make you sad. I'm trying to be happy I had to experience rather than sad that it's over.

    Jess - my family thought I was crazy trying to keep up with that discussion. They would have 7 PAGES of posts a day that had to be read just to keep up with the discussion much less to participate in it. And the quality ...

  16. Amen, your post matches my feelings to a T… my life will never be the same. Thx Jo, I owe you more than you know.

  17. Donea, GARDNER VILLAGE?? That's down the street from me!

    We watched the movie on Saturday and all of us loved it. It's so cool that you have had such an intimate involvement in something you feel so passionate about. Few of us ever get to experience that!

  18. Jess - my family thought I was crazy trying to keep up with that discussion. They would have 7 PAGES of posts a day that had to be read just to keep up with the discussion much less to participate in it. And the quality ...
    HOW I remember that, Donna! Me and you did so much "tag-teaming" through those crazy months! I shall always remember the "Harry and Hermione are siblings" debate.
    You've brought back so many memories, with this post. Harry as introduced me to so many virtual friends, my life has also been enriched. I always manage to separate the movies from the books - much better in my opinion. Long live Harry Potter!

  19. Ah, Catherine. Those were the days. You're one of the treasures.


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