Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Potterificus Infinitus Day 1

Have I mentioned that I was looking forward to hearing Dr. Henry Jenkins speak? I missed his talk at Azkatraz because I was a vendor last year, so I was very glad to see that he would speak at Infinitus. 

But it was Day 1, so first the Welcome Feast, our first chance to see old friends and who-was-dressed-as-whom. This was my first conference with my husband and our niece. My shy husband was gamely dressed as an "anonymous Auror:" brown-striped pants, old fashioned shirt with a button-on collar, loosely-knotted scarf, and a wonderful bowler hat. Our niece wasn't in costume, but she did a good job of teasing her uncle out of his nervousness.

We shared the table with Bel and her daughter, and some women I hadn't met before. Conference organizers with walkie-talkies were making sure the 2,000+ guests made it through the buffet lines (Mexican chilaquiles, not chipolatas), a belly dancer ondulated at the sound booth, and a VIP table of the keynote speakers stretched along the front of the room. Perhaps there were no floating candles or half-breed giants, but we had a few ghosts, some professors, a heavily pregnant Hermione, and a couple thousand potential friends. It had begun!

Abbie as Hermione
I picked up my press pass from Aziza, and headed to Dr. Jenkins' talk. His topic this year was "When Fans Become Activists." In case you didn't know, a Potter fan organization named the Harry Potter Alliance (in coalition with several other fandoms) ended up raising an astounding $123,000.00 for the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti ("Helping Haiti Heal"), and more recently was awarded $250,000 from Chase Community Giving, the top prize in their 2010 campaign. The HPA's motto is "The weapon we have is love."

Dr. Jenkins is so fascinated by these efforts and those of other fandoms, that he will be working with the MacArthur Foundation to study youth and activisim, specifically those organizations that approach activism as a part of a fandom, as he said, "From reading, to writing, to changing the world." Jenkins tour de force talk ranged from Na'avi-blue painted Palestinian protesters to Medieval protesters masked as moors or amazons, to Oilspill Spongebob, to WoW in-game protest marches in China, to Singapore where censorship of political speech led to widespread use of videotaped action figures as stand-ins.

Dr. Henry Jenkins and Andrew Slack of the Harry Potter Alliance
He blasted Bowling Alone as a "dead metaphor." I wanted to stand up and cheer.

As a public librarian, I thought one of his more interesting observations was that participation in afterschool programs have a huge effect on activism. Band, theater, choir, etc., according to Jenkins, "creates a literary space that looks a lot like a fandom. The kids don't think of themselves as political. They see themselves as cultural, then shift as a result of a fandom." I would argue not just the fandom, but also the realization that as a unit they have some power to work for change.

In the question and answer period, someone asked about the tension between charity and activism. Jenkins explained that semantically, "charity" is a dismissal of a movement's political force; it is also a gender-laden term. Andrew Slack pointed out that it was important to the HPA that all approaches be welcome -- the HPA's role is to provide structure and fundraising/advocacy help, not dictate whether activity is a "charity" or "activism." Andrew sees the next stage as one where fandoms join forces for good, as they did with Helping Haiti Heal.

Jenkins ended by mentioning that a new journal named Transformative Works and Cultures had a call out for papers.

Next was a clever bit of fun "The Blair Witch Law Firm Discusses Wizarding IP Law" by Heidi Tandy and Rachael Vaughn. Heidi and Rachel (dressed as a silver doe Patronus), both practicing lawyers, announced that they are opening up a London office of the Blair Witch Law Firm, representing both wizards and muggles.

They were there to present an overview of Wizarding IP Law, answering questions such as: Are spells patentable? Do ghosts retain copyrights to their creations from the 1600s? and Is the Invisible Book of Invisibility tangible enough to be copyrightable? Some gems: Memories stored in a Pensive are copyright protected, but "leaking" ones are not, and House-elf work is owned by their owner. More work for Hermione, I guess. The section on trade secrets touched on the legal aspects of Secret-keeping. Hee.

The Auror and I had tickets to the Merlin's Circle Reception where I met Naomi Novik, the author of the Temeraire series (swoon), and actor Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley), as well as some of the amazing HPEF conference organizers, Aziza, Heidi and Gwen.

Unexpectedly, I was approached by a young woman who asked me if I worked for the Lexicon. I don't know how she knew, but we had a great conversation. She was visiting from New Zealand (!) and was hoping to find a copy of our book while she was in the states. I told her I didn't think they were available anymore except from Amazon, but that I had one in my luggage. Bel and I signed it the next day, so she has her copy of the book.

Hogwarts Castle by Mary GrandPre
And finally we had time to visit the Vending Room and the Craft Fair. What did I buy? A spiffy bezoar necklace, a couple of pygmy puffs crocheted by a 14-year-old girl, and some fun stuff from Whimsic Alley: a wand scabbard, a "Bad Dobby" button, and other gifties for friends back home (shhh). However the loveliest thing was a numbered (10/50) and signed Mary GrandPre map of Hogwarts from ArtInsights Gallery. I see it as a companion to Riikka's drawing; the detail is amazing. Thanks luv. Merry Christmas to you too!

P.S. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos -- they were taken with my cellphone. My niece lent me her DSLR later on, so the photos *will* get better.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Potterificus Infinitus: Intro

Bel and Professor Sprout (me) at Infinitus
Belly dancers, Snapes of every flavor, OMG costumes, geektastic t-shirts, quidditch, "Bad Dobby" pins, drabbles, fangirling, meeting online friends for the first time, movie stars, great food, provocative presentations, "Professor, may I take your picture?", and music music music. I just returned from four euphoric days with 3,000 other Harry Potter fans at the HPEF's Infinitus 2010 conference in Orlando, FL.

This wasn't my first. I've been going to Potter conferences since The Witching Hour in 2005. That was the year after I started a website with a UK maths teacher Deborah Skinner named "Madam Scoop's Potter Pages" which indexed and paraphrased all of Rowling's statements in interviews about the details in her books. Within a couple months of the launch we were asked to be members of the popular "Floo Network," which at the time consisted of The Harry Potter Lexicon, Leaky Cauldron and Quick Quotes Quill fansites.

The Witching Hour wasn't just my first Potter conference, it was also the first time I had to navigate the "we met online but what are these people really like" dance that happens when avatars and in-joke member names give way to real faces and voices. I will never forget being in a bus terminal to pick up an online friend visiting from Finland and realizing that I had no earthly idea what she looked like -- I'd had such a strong mental picture I hadn't until then realized that I'd never seen a photograph.

Each Potter conference has its own flavor. The Witching Hour in 2005 was one of discovery -- the discovery that I'd stumbled upon nothing less than a shift in the way reading was changing, and the discovery that this book-centric fandom was making history. Dr. Henry Jenkins (then at MIT) spoke about how fandom had forced the movie studios to re-think their policies about trademark protection and be more tolerant of fan-created websites and communities.

I also learned that there was a pattern to a Potter conference: Welcome Feast, presentations, midnight movie/pyjama parties, wizard rock concert, a kick ass ball, and Leaving Feast.

Infinitus was no different. Here was my schedule this year:

Alex Carpenter playing for fans
Day 1
  • Welcome Feast
  • “When Fans Become Activists“ (Henry Jenkins)
  • “The Blair Witch Law Firm Discusses Wizarding IP Law” (Heidi Tandy, Rachael Vaughn)
  • Merlin's Circle Reception
  • Craft Fair

Day 2

  • “How Harry Potter has United a Fandom” (Jasmine K. Harrison)
  • “Seven Literary Keys to Unlocking Harry Potter: The Future of the Hogwarts Saga ‘Shared Text’ in classrooms” (John Granger)
  • “FTW: Fandom-Trained Writers:” fanfic writers turned pro: Naomi Novik, Karen Healey, R.J. Anderson, Ali Wilgus, and Sarah Rees Brennan will discuss making the transition between fanfic writer and published novelist, their writing processes and their feelings about fanfic for their own original stories.
  • “Growing Grassroots Projects in Fandom” (Heidi Tandy, Melissa Anelli, Andrew Slack, Edward Drogos, Matt Maggiacomo)
  • “Historical Hidden Key in Harry Potter: Why Witches & Wizards Went Underground after the English Civil War” (John Granger)
  • Night of a Thousand Wizards (a costumed frolic in the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Park at Universal Studios).

Day 3

  • Keynote Luncheon - Franchise Creative Director for Electronic Arts’ Bright Light studio, Kelvin Tuite. Kelvin gave a behind the scenes perspective on aspects of Harry Potter video game creation.
  • Potter Pundits Live (John Granger, Travis Prinzi, James Thomas)
  • Night of Frivolity Ball

Day 4

  • Leaving Feast & auction
 More tomorrow about Infinitus Day One!

Potterificus Interruptus

Well. I've been gone a long time from this blog. What can I say? Job changes, mum's health, and fascinations new and old have all been very distracting. I'm still Pottering around, but have been posting more about it on Facebook than here.

However, I'm writing a report for O'Reilly Media on Infinitus, this year's HPEF conference, and will use the space here to try out portions of it.

By the way? Infinitus was really, really fun. More anon...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Harry Potter The Exhibition, Boston

I did something crazy last week, I dropped everything when a friend called and said she had a free ticket to a Harry Potter exhibit.

In Boston.

But it wasn't just any ticket, it was a "Very Important Muggle" preview admission to the Boston Museum of Science's blockbuster, Harry Potter: The Exhibition, 20,000sf of sets, props and costumes from the Harry Potter movies. Even more important, it was a chance to see Bel, someone I've wanted a real hug from for the past several years. Thank you, Bel, for this gift!

The invitation said "confidential" so were pretty sure that we weren't supposed to blog or tweet about it ahead of time, though it was very hard keeping quiet. I only allowed myself a tweet about packing warm socks, an allusion that even the most fervent Dumbledore fan would probably miss without context.

The date? Thursday, October 22, 2009 from 6:30-9:00pm.

By 4:30 we were all assembled, Bel, Trish, and Kimmy, and I. Bel demonstrated the unfathomable depths of her tapestry bag more than once. Wand? yes. Asprin? yes. FictonAlley chapstick? yes. It would seem to contain everything except a portrait of Phineas Nigellus. It was like old times.

Other news was appearing on the wires: actor Matthew Lewis (Neville), was in Boston for the press party that afternoon, were he had news of the ongoing filming of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Would he be there in the evening too? (the answer was yes). Which of our Potter friends would be there? (alas very few, it seemed to be mostly supporters of the museum).

It was a gorgeous evening. Unbelievable weather for Boston, really. We looked it up and it was only 5 degrees cooler than Tucson.

6:30 finally came. We picked up our V.I.M. badges in the Museum lobby and went exploring. Our entrance time was 7:05.

The reception was very nicely done. Museum staff were teaching about live toads and rats; they were also demoing a snake and an owl. In another area there was light food, wine, and later, a quartet playing themes from the Potter movies. Pretty soon we could see Matthew and museum bigwigs arrive, and everyone gathered around a small stage. First the Museum of Science Director Ioannis Miaoulis spoke, then Matt Lewis. No time for autographs, drat it, but it was lovely to see him in person.

7:05! We stood in line for a bit then -- enter! We were whisked off by a cheery welcome witch who sorted a few of the children. Soon the doors behind us opened and we entered a small dark room where we were shown a short film with highlights from the movies. Again, a surprise door opened, and ... goosebumps. Mist, and a red steam engine with more beyond [cue swelling Potter music].

What can I say? See the show if you can. You will be amazed by level of craftsmanship not visible on film. Everywhere there are humorous details to rival Rowling's, and evidence of the care that went into the design of everything from potions bottles to Educational Decrees. Verisimilitude. Are all movies like this, or were these set designers as inspired and as obsessed by the detailed nature of the stories as the most hardcore fan?

I wish I could have taken pictures, but they weren't allowed. The few I have are on my flickr account.

Soon I will write more about the highlights.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Potter party was HUGE fun! Part 2

This is the second report of the goings on at the July 9th Potter party at the Pima County Public Library's Mission Branch in Tucson, Arizona. [Part one of the report is here]

There will be a second party on Saturday, July 11th at 2pm in the Joel D. Valdez Main Library's Lower Level Meeting Room. Free; no registration required. See you there!

After the Potions class came Care of Magical Creatures, beginning with Rhonda as Professor Grubbly-Plank. She corrected Hagrid's earlier confusion of Gryphons with Hippogriffs and proceeds to teach the different types.

As a special treat, she tells the class that she has a sedated -- but real -- baby Gryphon named Katerina. Hagrid ghoulishly goes into a little too much detail about the damage even a baby could do to fingers and toes while Grubbly-Plank removes Katerina from her cage. And she's a darling. Eventually, however, she begins to get agitated and has to be put back in her crate. "Oh!" says Hagrid, "But not without her bunny!" and adds a stuffed bunny rabbit to the crate. Not a good idea. The crate jumps and bucks violently. Hagrid valiantly tries to rescue the bunny but alas, only pulls out stuffing. Ah well.

For Hagrid's segment of the class he has a special guest, a former Hogwarts professor-turned-werewolf. Ben as Remus Lupin is brought in and the students are told that while he is generally safe due to the Wolfsbane potion, they shouldn't get too close. Hagrid starts the lesson about how well the potion works when Lockhart ambles over to harangue the class about his book Wanderings with Werewolves. Over Hagrid's objections he demonstrates how werewolves like to be tickled on their tummy and behind the ears when he is attacked by Lupin. Hagrid petrifies Lupin long enough to allow Madam Pomfrey to drag Lockhart away. Once Lockhart is safe, Hagrid distracts Lupin by yelling "Squirrel!" and Lupin bounds out the door. My goodness, another close call. You never know what will happen in Care of Magical Creatures class!

We had to be careful with this segment because we knew there would be some very young kids in the audience. We had a full Werewolf costume, but ended up going for comic effect instead of a fearsome one. Curt made a Ben a tale and doggy nose and found some ears, and Ben wore the claws from the costume. It worked perfectly.

Our Hagrid is played by Curt who is, um, a little typecast. Curt, easily 6'6", brings to us a strong theater background and the ability to adjust track lighting without a ladder.

Ben, a Library Assistant from the Himmel Branch Library, was a great sport about the tame werewolf costume and told us at least it was better than when he had to play a puppy for one of the library storytimes.

Rhonda, like Curt and Chris, are active in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Their life-long appreciation for the archaic and arcane adds authenticity and and depth to their performances.

My role as Madam Pomfrey was dead simple: bandage Lockhart up after all his injuries. I had a large bar of chocolate, vet wrap, and goofy band-aids (Barbie, Sponge Bob, Scooby Doo) on hand. He looked pretty funny by the end of the evening!

The last segment was a visit from Simon Wanderman, Ministry of Magic official from the Wizarding Examinations Authority. Mr. Wanderman is visiting to test the students for their magical abilities. Wanderman is played by Chris who is a magician with over 20 years experience.

However, he has a little trouble getting to Hogwarts because he attempts to use a rickety vanishing cabinet. Hagrid puts the 4 broken pieces together and we held our breath while Wanderman emerged unscathed. Whew.

Wanderman has a great time, beginning with some basic wizard hygiene -- cleaning between the ears. My favorite part of the testing is for skill with the Expelliarmus! charm. I won't spoil it, but I can tell you that the child who got the blasted card yelled "Score!" to his friends. Wanderman ends his segment with an appeal to the students to be diligent in their studies because the Wizarding world needs smart, skilled wizards.

Then we snacked on pretzel wands, jelly beans and butterbeer (cream soda). The cast was available for photo ops and other kinds of mayhem afterwards.

I have a gallery of Potter party photos on my flickr account.

Potter party was HUGE fun! Part 1

Tomorrow I will look at today's great-sounding HBP movie premiere footage, but for now I am still basking in the afterglow of a very fun Potter party. I thought this time I would write a little about the logistics of pulling a party off in case it is helpful (and not boring).

Room set up: There are 5 classes at our parties: Divination, Herbology, Potions, Care of Magical Creatures, and testing from the Ministry of Magic, so we set it up so that the classes alternated sides of the room so the next class could get everything ready while the audience was focused in the other direction.

Ideally you'll be in a room that has dimmer lights. If not, bring some floor lamps so the kids can see what's happening even when the lights are out.

We had a full house at Mission Library. Our hosting librarians Lupita and Leila did a wonderful job planning the sorting, door prizes, and food. I thought the sorting technique was especially well thought out. Library staff made Hogwarts house ties out of cardstock and string. It was really easy to see the child's house when awarding and taking points. What I really liked about it was that even the kids who came in t-shirts had a proper school tie.

The decorations
  • Iridescent streamers at entry door so that entry looks like a magical veil [source]
  • A machine that projected the night sky onto the ceiling [source]
  • Fog machine
  • Magic dust (cosmetic-grade iridescent glitter) sprinkled on arms at entry [source]
  • Faux stone on walls [source]
  • Handmade banners of the Hogwarts houses
  • Candelabras and spell books galore [one source]
  • Hedwig in her cage [photo]
  • Several flickering faux flame lamps [source] [source]
  • Purple twinkle lights [usually only sold at Halloween]
  • A large mercury glass gazing ball is a cheap substitute for a crystal ball
  • Tables covered with black plastic, but also with real fabric and shaggy black fur (4'x6') for accents
  • Huge canvas with tropical flowers for the Herbology greenhouse
  • Shawls draped all over Trelawney's corner
  • A vanishing box, also homemade
  • Potions bottles and cauldrons in the Potions classroom
  • Bookcarts decorated to look like the teacart on the Hogwarts Express
As they entered through the "veil," kids were given a wand (a clear straw with a fat glittery pipecleaner inside wrapped with ribbon) and asked to select a school house tie.

Hagrid welcomed everyone, introduced the professors and school staff, and directed everyone's attention to Professor Trelawney who informed us that she was a true seer who knows EVERYTHING. Laurie plays her with a querulous voice and dry sarcasm, and has concocted around 80 of the most doleful fortunes you have ever heard. She has the kids pick them from a basket and then reads a few of them aloud to the dismay and guffaws of the audience. The rest are handed out and read later when the food is served.

Next is Professor Sprout in her greenhouse with a special guest: Gilderoy Lockhart, on leave from St. Mungo's and still extremely forgetful. Lockhart immediately interrupts to show off his new book, Magical Me, and hands out autographed photos of himself. Once the class starts, he loses interest in helping. Thankfully "Fernie," a remote-controlled potted fern is on hand to bring her things.

Sprout demonstrates the characteristics of the Deadly daisy, Mandragora ("Silencio!"), and Mimbulus mimbletonia. The notoriously grumpy cactus is unfortunate enough to attract Lockhart's wandering attention. Lockhart ignores Sprout's explicit advice and pokes it repeatedly with his wand while her back is turned. Yeah, you guessed it (and so does the audience), prettyboy Lockhart gets stinksapped. With a twinkle in her eye, Sprout turns the plant on the audience and squirts the crowd too.

Her final plant is her deadliest, in fact a young girl in the audience correctly identifies it as Devil's Snare. While Sprout is focused on impressing the crowd with the plant's ferocity, Lockhart seems drawn to it and in a flash he is thrashing on the ground with the vine around his neck. Once Sprout notices she leads the class in a loud "Lumos!" and Lockhart is freed.

Sprout is played by Thania and her husband Steve. Together they are a joy to watch because of their attention to detail and because their gags are so perfectly calibrated to the audience. Both of them have great comic timing too.

Potions is next! The dark professor, Draco at his side, begins by explaining the power and importance of potions and then proceeds to mix a transformative potion. Right in the middle of this, Sprout enters with Lockhart and asks Snape if he could step away to see her snargaluff pods. Snape asks Lockhart to "babysit" the students (BIG mistake), tells Draco not to let Lockhart touch anything, and leaves with Sprout.

Can you guess? Lockhart proclaims himself a skilled potions master and finishes Snape's potion, which starts bubbling. When Snape returns, he sees the bubbling glass, proclaims it ready to drink and quaffs it in one gulp. "I feel funny" he proclaims and in a flash he is whipping around. Once he steadies, he asks the audience -- in a Borscht Belt voice -- why 6 is afraid of 7 (because 7-8-9). One more corny joke, and he whips around and is Snape again. Snape is suspicious of the laughter, but before he can figure things out he is whipping around for more vaudevillian jokes. You get the idea. I really loved this part. The physical comedy reminded me of the Boggart lesson in the third movie when Snape turns into Neville's grandmother.

Mike plays Snape, cast against type, because he is one of the funniest people I know. He's been doing stand-up for years and writes filks satirical of libraryland that help make our library's holiday parties the stuff of legend. Draco is his lovely daughter Wren.

I will write more later about the Care of Magical Creatures class and the visit from the Ministry of Magic. The adrenaline has finally worn off and I'm off to sleep.

UPDATE: Part 2 is now posted.

--Lisa

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Our Potter parties are this week!

Pima County Public Library's Potter parties are this week! We're doing two parties; one requires registration, the other one doesn't. [Calendar information]

Here's the cast:
Rubeus Hagrid: Curt Booth
Sibyll Trelawney: Laurie Fleetham
Pomona Sprout: Thania Mayorga-Shull
Gilderoy Lockhart: Stephen Shull
Severus Snape: Mike Sterner
Prof. Grubbly-Plank: Rhonda Staggs
Simon Wanderman, Ministry of Magic: Chris Lyon
Poppy Pomfrey: Lisa Bunker
Draco Malfoy: Wren Sterner
Remus Lupin: Ben Matiella
Molly Weasley: Leila Duncan

The role of Madam Pomfrey was a bit of a surprise, but I found a nurse-like apron on the internet and a dear friend is making me a cap and shipping it express from Canada. My role will be to rush over whenever a cast member gets hurt (I expect Lockhart will have a genius for this) and bandage them up. I will be using some rather unorthodox materials such as fluorescent vet wrap and Dora the Explorer, Scooby Doo and Sponge Bob band-aids. Hee. We have SUCH fun!

Friday, June 19, 2009

On 'mood wolves' and drawing

Have you ever tried drawing with your eyes closed? Finnish children's book writer and illustrator Riikka Jäntti makes it a regular exercise.

She visited me a few years ago, arriving in Tucson after taking the train from NYC to Flagstaff, via Chicago. Her sketchbook was filled with exquisite, funny, incisive pen-and-ink drawings of America as seen from the window of a train: diners and fast food joints, tenements, laundromats and corn fields. She told me that the other young people on the train were glued to their laptops and phones while she was glued to the window, soaking it all in.

I got a little nervous as her drawings began to show the southwest. What would it reveal of her thoughts? Well, Flagstaff was dead-on: quaint and funky with a bit of snow on the ground. Then Riikka turned the page and the drawing of the Grand Canyon took my breath away. And another page. Another drawing from the same vantage point, but this one bounced and quivered and provided its own soundtrack. "I did this one," she said, "with my eyes closed."

She pointed out to us the 'moodwolves' that appear on her sketches a la Oliphant's penguin, offering commentary on the scene, or on the quality of her dinner that day. In another scene at the Metropolitan Museum the moodwolf grumpily complains about the dreadful frame on Van Gogh's Starry Night. I didn't realize it at the time, but Riikka draws all of the moodwolves with her eyes closed.

Riikka's new book, Mielialasusi (Helsinki: WS Bookwell OY, 2009), collects the moodwolves that she and her sisters Eeva and Liisa have drawn over the years. The book informs us that "the wolf must be drawn eyes closed, so that it's easier to focus on the current mood."

The book is organized by moods, which are really more like states of being: "Every-day wolves" (just woke up, crowded in a tram), "Pub-wolves" (too many whiskeys, nostalgia), "What I'd like to do," "What I could do" (I love the "I could read more books!"), What I'm going to do (finish all the sewing), and so on.

She thoughtfully and hilariously subtitled it for me with post-it notes. The page spread shown above is "Egg-Burp" "Overtired, a little hysterical," "Shapeless ankle," and "This wolf hasn't been listening and tries to pretend that he knows what others are talking about." Heh. I've NEVER done that!

"I could read more books"
"I could sing"
"I could throw a party"

At the back of the book she and her sisters thoughtfully left pages for their readers to start drawing their own wolves, inviting them to "Have a Wolf-moment every day. It only takes two minutes."

I'm off to have a Wolf-moment myself.

A Midsummer Night's Squirrel

Riikka sent me this drawing of a squirrel celebrating midsummer. He looks like he's not quite sure if the burgers are done!

Next I will post some scans of her newest book, one she created with her sisters Liisa and Eeva.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just an update

I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this blog, but here goes...

Here's what's been going on. Our book The Lexicon: An Unauthorized Guide to Harry Potter Fiction was published in mid-January. I don't have any sales figures yet but my friends sure bought a lot of them =) and our local bookstores -- both chain and independent -- displayed it prominently.

For me personally, this victory was tempered when my mom got sick in November and died in April. I was able to show her a copy of the book, but oh well, you know how it goes. It was wonderful to have the family all together again, and I am comforted by knowing that mom had a good life and was loved by many. Miss her though.

Steve came out in March for the wildly successful first annual Tucson Festival of Books. Steve's talk was standing-room only and got great reviews, and I think I just *glowed* when I saw the line that formed afterward at our signing tent. Next year will be even better -- I'm on the committee that selects the children's and young adult authors and illustrators!

And now? Steve will have a booth for the book at Azkatraz, and he's invited me to come help. Not one to turn down free registration, I've booked a hotel room and am looking for a quiet person (well, female) to share it with. Anyone want to come to a Potter convention in San Francisco? There's some really exciting programming and a huge Wrock fest!

But before that, our library will again be putting on 2 more Potter parties. Our first planning session is tonight. One date is still undecided -- I will post an update when everything is confirmed.

More news coming, but for now I need to get ready for work!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Local article about The Lexicon (and Tucson Festival of Books!)

The Arizona Daily Star interviewed me and Steve about our book last Wednesday for an article in today's paper. Danielle did a great job, and Fred took some lovely photos!

Article "Librarian/writer's Harry Potter knowledge is voluminous"

Steve's talk and our booksigning: Sunday, March 15th at 2:30pm, Catalina Ballroom of the University of Arizona Student Union

Signed copies of the book available at: Kids Center, 1725 N Swan Rd, Tucson, AZ

Tucson Festival of Books

List of exhibitors in attendance [pdf]

Come to the Book Festival next weekend! Karen Cushman (Catherine Called Birdy), Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted), Richard Peck (A Long Way from Chicago), Charles de Lint (Widdershins), J.A. Jance (Cruel Intent), Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), Luis Alberto Urrea (Hummingbird's Daughter), Richard Shelton (Crossing the Yard), Gregory McNamee (Moveable Feasts), and over 350 more authors and illustrators will be speaking and signing their books.

Other friends speaking, storytelling, and/or signing: Marge Pellegrino, Martin Rivera, Lynn Bevill, and Liz Danforth.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Potter Parties next week!

Well, our parties are next week and they are beginning to shape up. Trelawney will be there, as long as she stops hitting the sherry (j/k Laurie), as will Professors Sprout and Lockhart (visiting from St. Mungo's). Snape (sorry, Professor Snape) will be teaching Defense against the Dark Arts and for some reason he requested a karaoke machine. I can't wait. Mike's filks are famous here at the library. Hagrid and Professor Grubbly-Plank will squabble, er, teach Care of Magical Creatures, and Simon Wanderer from the Ministry will be testing kids for their magic abilities. For some reason Umbridge decided to come, and there was no polite way to dissuade her. Hopefully she won't disrupt the classes -- and there won't be any centaurs around.

What's new? Well I think I found a way to have stars on the ceiling like the Great Hall's. We'll see. And I hear rumors that we will have live Celtic music before and after, which will be super cool.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
5:30pm-7:45pm
Himmel Park Branch Library
All ages welcome.

Thursday, December 4, 2008
6:00pm-7:45pm
Eckstrom-Columbus Branch Library
Space is limited, so all attendees must register beginning Tuesday, November 19th. All ages welcome.
Many thanks again to Scholastic Book Fairs which has generously donated the door prizes.

Now, where did I put my wand?

Friday, November 07, 2008

My "While You're Waiting for Beedle the Bard" reading list

My library just published my list of suggested reading while you wait for The Tales of Beedle the Bard to be published, and we've got a fabulous cast again for the library's Potter parties celebrating the book's publication. No Umbridge for me this time (I had too hard a time not grinning to be a good one); I'll be playing Molly. My library has over 300 copies of Beedle on order!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Who are we? Where are we going?

[Note: I am a co-author of the book The Harry Potter Lexicon, but that's not what this post is about. I think there are larger things at stake.]

On my last visit, my doctor listened to my update on the book situation and asked me “What is ‘fandom’ – what do you mean when you speak of it? Is it one website? Two?” I knew she wanted me to explain it out loud because it might help me figure out why I have given it so much power to hurt, to control what I say and do. I launched into an answer but kept stumbling. Eventually I came up with something like “It’s the whole community of online Potter fans, people who come together to theorize, or draw the characters, or write fanfics. Not just people who love the books, but people who love the books and feel compelled create and to be together online sharing it all.”

I was surprised I had such a hard time explaining it, because I haven’t taken Potter fandom for granted. When I discovered my first fansite (HPANA) I dove in partly *because* I wanted to understand it as a phenomenon. As a children’s librarian I could see that what was happening in the name of Potter could have implications for the way young people of the future read books, why they read, and how they share them. Although I was initially hooked for professional reasons, I quickly learned to appreciate the energy and creativity of the fandom itself. I began contributing too. Soon, I added my voice to the community at HPANA, theorizing, and enjoying other’s theories. The reference librarian in me discovered that there was no reference book to consult, but that there was this nifty website called the Harry Potter Lexicon. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine ever working there.

But anyway, I have been aware of Potter fandom as children’s literature history in the making since the very beginning. At the conventions I attended I sought out programs where people would be discussing what we were, and where we are headed. What will happen to us when book 7 comes out? I have even done presentations to area library professional organizations using Potter fandom as an example of how online communities can bring readers together in fresh ways, a sort of “best practices” for libraries looking for new tools to bring book lovers together online.

So part of my sadness about the lawsuit and fandom reaction has been an awareness of a massive loss of innocence, a lessening of freedom and openness to new ideas that I remember from early fandom. I know, I know, it was not always sweetness and light *coughshippingwarscough*, but we were so unself-conscious, so proud of our dorkiness, so unshielded, so glad to find people online to share it with. What the hell are we doing to ourselves? How is it that we seem to have been taking lessons from Seamus all along, and not Dumbledore? What does it say about people that a community centered upon books that celebrate tolerance, integrity and individual responsibility can turn into angry factions bent on wounding and punishing each other?

I think I am finally getting over the loss of fandom as a place I can escape to, but my sorrow over where we find ourselves is profound. Potter fans, let’s see if we can build bridges and stepping stones together, and remember how to have fun again.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Visit from Riikka

Riikka Jäntti, the Finnish artist behind the Accio Quote! Artwork, is visiting America! She spent a week with us in Tucson where we were blessed with fabulous weather and lots to do.

Riikka brought me copies of her delightful book, Nokikätkön ritarit ja Kuuhiisi (The Knights of the Sooty Nook), and kept us enthralled with her sketched account of her travels via Amtrak from New York to Chicago to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, to Tucson. In the picture on the left she is drawing the sunset over the Avra Valley in Tucson Mountain Park. She says she will send us scans of it when she gets back.

Riikka, it was awesome to finally meet you! I hope the rest of your trip is full of adventures too.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

1997-2007 in review

Both Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron have posted retrospectives of the last ten years. Mugglenet's is an extensive timeline, and TLC's is a thrilling movie montage. If they used Accio Quote in their research, I hope it was helpful!

Mugglenet Presents... the Decade in Review 1997-2007
10 Years in Harry Potter, A Video Retrospective by The Leaky Cauldron

Monday, December 31, 2007

“J.K. Rowling, A Year in the Life” available online

Yesterday's ITV1 broadcast of “J.K. Rowling, A Year in the Life” is now online for everyone to view! There are a few ads first. Thanks ITV.

On the whole I thought the show was lovely, although unlike the famous BBC “Harry Potter and Me” show, there is little new canon.

However, I think the title is a misnomer. Rather than being entirely about “a year,” we get a nice look at Jo’s roots with highlights of events from 2007. Among these are the moment she finishes Deathly Hallows (January 11), the hand off of the manuscript to her agent, a meeting of the worldwide publishers, footage of the book being printed, the OotP film premiere, the book launch at the Natural History Museum (and bits from world launches), at home baking in her kitchen for her son David’s birthday, and at a planning session for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park.

Other highlights:
  • it is lovely to see Jo with her sister Di joking about old photographs,
  • a stronger sense of place for towns where Jo spent her childhood,
  • she is franker than I can remember about her relationship with her father,
  • watching Jo draw the family trees of Harry and his friends,
  • the wrenching scene in her old flat in Leith.
What were your favorite bits, or observations?

Make your own wands

I'm always on the lookout for Potter crafts for our library's Potter parties, so I was very happy to see excellent instructions on DadCanDo.com for making wands out of paper, acrylic paint and glue from a glue gun. These are as good as some wooden wands I've seen! Appropriate for teens with supervision because of the glue gun. Hmmm. Perhaps you could use glitter glue instead...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Canon summaries posted

The canon summaries for the last several interviews have been posted on the 2007 listing over on Accio Quote!

The big news today is that the third trailer for the December 30 ITV1 documentary contains information on the second generation of Harry's friends and their families. All three trailers are available on The Leaky Cauldron's YouTube page, and Jo's diagrams of the families is above.

Update: The door on Jo's Website is open with the drawing of the tree with additional information on Draco's family.