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1. Plotting My Summer

Happy summer vacation to those of you who have already begun!  My college students have finished their semester, but my husband and kids have two weeks to slog through. We are currently in major countdown mode, and my little bookworm has piles of library books all over the house in earnest preparation for lots of reading time. 

I tried to sucker Kate into writing a "guest post" today to give some insight into the mind of an 8-year-old who loves to read (and write), but she was not so inclined. She did tell me, after much consideration, that she reads to "find out what happens next."  While she talks to us primarily about snippets of scenes or dialogue or characters (Allie Finkle's BFF has come up often recently in real-life analogy), it's the plot that gets her to turn the pages.  She added that the chapter titles often entice her to keep reading.  I was somewhat surprised to hear this tidbit, but then I remembered her methodology for writing stories of her own.  She scrawls out chapter titles and then writes content to bear them out in fulfillment of a nebulous plan that she somehow manages to bring to fruition. I suppose this is her personal method of outlining.  [Kate also says that she likes to write stories because "you can write whatever you want instead of having to write what your teacher tells you."]

The topic of outlining reminds me of a graphic I've seen floating around on facebook recently, showing handwritten outlines of famous authors' works:

(I'm sure many of you have seen this, yes?)

I outline in narrative form (akin to a screenplay treatment), so I was intrigued by the depth and complexity of this spreadsheet format.  I was particularly interested in JK Rowling's outline, and google helped me find this analysis:


Wow!  She not only relates each main even to each subplot, but she knows the day on the week that it happened.  As well she should.  As well I should!  It seems I have a lot of work cut out for me and, thank goodness, finally some time to do it.

Wishing a happy, relaxing, and productive summer to all!  I am about to dive into a friend's WIP and give myself a major dose of inspiration.  And, in the spirit of "reading is writing," don't forget to enter our latest giveaway contest to win a copy of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh. I can't wait to read this one, myself. :)  -- Jeanne Marie

2 Comments on Plotting My Summer, last added: 6/7/2013
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2. Opening the Chamber of Secrets… again

In May I wrote about reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my eldest daughter, Nykita, aged nine (see “Revisiting Harry”). She was so excited by the book that we immediately moved on to the next one, which we polished off rather quickly. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally gotten around to writing about the experience.

I am pleased to report that Nykita loved Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret as much as, if not more than, the first book. She found the ghost of Moaning Myrtle, and her tendency to dive into toilets, particularly amusing. But she also found this book to be a little scarier than the first — especially the encounter with Aragog and the giant spiders in the Forbidden Forest. She also seemed a little distressed that his fellow students were so quick to turn on Harry and believe him to be the Heir of Slytherin.

As with the previous book, we followed it up by watching the film. Again, Nykita liked the film but preferred the book, although she thought the spider scene was more frightening in the film.

With book two done and dusted, you’d think that we would move straight on to book three. Not so. Nykita seemed rather torn — on the one hand she was eager for more Harry Potter; but on the other hand, she was worried that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban might be even scarier, and she thought that The Chamber of Secrets was scary enough. In the end, we decided that we would wait a while and read book three over the Christmas holidays, when she would be a little older and more capable of handling a scarier book. :-)

And my opinion? What do I think now, after all these years, revisiting both book and film in close proximity?

I think Chamber of Secrets is a better book than The Philosopher’s Stone. It has all the charm and wit of the first book, but not as many lapses in logic. The only one that really stands out is the basilisk using the Hogwarts plumbing to make its way around the school. All I can say is that, given the enormity of the basilisk, Hogwarts must have some pretty bloody BIG pipes running through its walls. As for the actual plot, it is more intriguing than the first — the idea that Voldemort preserved a teenage version of himself (then called Tom Riddle) in his school diary. It’s a clever way of having a different villain, who is also the same villain. And, of course, it’s all followed through in later books when the diary is revealed as one of the seven Horcruxes into which Voldemort placed his split-apart soul.

As for the film, I think it’s better than the first. The young actors have all settled into their roles and the story flows along much better — it feels more cohesive than the first. It’s interesting to note the changes that the filmmakers have made from the book. Nothing too big. Most of those changes have been to condense the plot or to make things more vi

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3. The 20 nerdiest moments from the Olympics Opening Ceremony

Friday’s Olympic Opening Ceremony was perhaps the most deliriously audacious live spectacle of the Internet age. Devised by the Anglo-Irish Danny Boyle, it celebrated the uniquely English heritage of industrialization, socialized medicine, drug-inspired music trends, James Bond and fantasy literature. God, how did I even write that sentence? Anyway, it was a night of both triumph and tragedy for nerds—while the geek-friendly moments of the ceremony were copious and unashamed, there was still Twitter outrage over a rumored appearance by Doctor Who somehow being cut for time. As I tweeted at the time, this was somehow nerd privilege overrun. As some anxiously pointed out, there was a “Doctor Who Tardis sound” at the end of the pop music/social media segment, but that was not quite enough to drown out the other supremely nerd-centric moments that were viewed by a billion people worldwide:

2012 olympic nerd moments12 The 20 nerdiest moments from the Olympics Opening Ceremony
Glastonbury Tor is a place renowned in Christian and pagan mythology and figures prominently in both Celtic and Arthurian lore. Its central place in the Olympic festivities gives it an even more modern allusions. The sacred tree around which the national flags are planted goes back to pagan tree lore. Go read The White Goddess if you need any more explanation.

2012 olympic nerd moments10 The 20 nerdiest moments from the Olympics Opening Ceremony
The whole forging of the ring sequence — surrounded by belching smokestack towers — was overtly Tolkienian, even if it didn’t directly reference the professor. It echoes the “Scouring of Shire” chapter of Lord of the Rings—Tolkien’s own allegory of the destruction of agrarian Britain by the advent of industrialization— while the visuals seem to reference Peter Jackson’s take on Isengard. I would say there is also some Wagnerian/Norse Das Rheingold in there, but best not to bring up Germanic lore here.
2012 olympic nerd moments9 The 20 nerdiest moments from the Olympics Opening Ceremony
Kenneth Brannagh appeared as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a cigar chomping engineer and architect, who designed railway grades and bridges. While he lived before the internet, Brunel seems the kind of guy who would today play D&D as an undergrad; he also designed the “train shed” where the Bristol Comic-Con is held.
2012 olympic nerd moments18 The 20 nerdiest moments from the Olympics Opening Ceremony

9 Comments on The 20 nerdiest moments from the Olympics Opening Ceremony, last added: 7/29/2012
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4. Willy the Wizard claimant loses court appeal

Written By: 
Lisa Campbell
Publication Date: 
Fri, 15/07/2011 - 08:55

A claim that J K Rowling's fourth Harry Potter book plagiarised a work by author Adrian Jacobs may be thrown out of court by the end of today.

Paul Allen, trustee of the estate of Adrian Jacobs who died in 1997, has accused Rowling and her publisher Bloomsbury of plagiarising Jacob's book Willy The Wizard when she wrote Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He has been attempting to sue Rowling for £5m.

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5. Harry Potter, JK Rowling, and the refusal to let go of your vision

Last weekend I, like many of you, saturated myself with all things Harry Potter.  Even after seeing the amazing, wonderful,…

2 Comments on Harry Potter, JK Rowling, and the refusal to let go of your vision, last added: 7/19/2011
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6. EIBF denies link with Publish America

Written By: 
Charlotte Williams
Publication Date: 
Tue, 16/08/2011 - 08:45

The Edinburgh International Book Festival has said it has no relationship with print-on-demand publisher Publish America, after the US firm sent letters to its mailing list of authors promising their books will be presented to "the festival".

On Twitter last night, EIBF said: "We have no relationship with @publishamerica. We have asked them to cease and desist making promises involving us."

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7. Influences on Johnny Mackintosh: Harry Potter

Most of the entries in this series of things that have impacted on the Johnny Mackintosh books have been either science fiction or science based. I have though saved the biggest influence until last and it comes from another world, but one which many readers will know well: Jo Rowling’s spectacular creation, Harry Potter.

Some people might have heard the story of how I came to begin reading about the boy wizard from Godric’s Hollow, but for those who haven’t here goes. Of course as a publisher I’d heard about Harry and his creator JK Rowling, but I figured he was for kids and I had no interest whatsoever in books about witches and wizards and magic and broomsticks, even though the buzz about this remarkable creation wouldn’t go away.

I was working for a company called Addison-Wesley who were based in Boston, Massachusetts, so had been spending time over there. At the end of the week everyone from the office was out a party in a club (I think the House of Blues) and I would be heading back to the UK the next day. I was approached be someone looking a little sheepish who said she had something to tell me – that everyone in the office thought I was Harry Potter.

In hindsight it’s obvious. At the time, as you can see, I wore ridiculous round battered glasses, had black messed up hair, spoke with an English accent and (though I normally cover it under mounds of foundation) I do actually have a lightning-shaped scar on my forehead. Then there are all the mad things that seem to happen when I get angry, but that’s another story…

The next day I found and bought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at Logan International Airport and read it on the flight home. Curiously, although I may have read all the Harry Potter books 20-40 times, I’ve still never read the Philosopher’s Stone version of book one where it all began. At that time Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was also published so I bought that at Heathrow Airport on the way home, and Prisoner of Azkaban soon followed. I loved this world that the woman who was to become my writing idol had created. It’s a tribute to her that she could even make things like magic and dragons and Quidditch sound interesting. But most of all it was what we call the voice of the books, and the cleverness of telling everything from Harry’s point of view, even when he got the wrong end of the stick.

It had never occurred to me to write the sort of books that children might want to read (as well as adults). I’d been trying to pen the ultimate cutting edge modern novel, a kind of cross between Iain Banks, Paul Auster, Tibor Fisher and Irvine Welsh (there’s a thought!) when one day, walking back from the

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8. Ypulse Essentials: Millennials & Luxury Brands, Lessons From Harry Potter, Togetherville Splits

While not all luxury brands tap into the Millennial market, others make this a priority since they know Millennials’ opinions (and purchasing decisions matter. Whole Foods for example has effectively won over Gen Y with the brand’s welcoming and... Read the rest of this post

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9. Harry Potter Sequel

Did you know J.K. Rowling wrote a short prequel story to HP? Me either! I just found it and am passing along the link for anyone interested:

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10. JK Rowling's speech

JK Rowling gave this year's commencement speech at Harvard. Its brilliant. I laughed, I cried.
(Thanks Jean Gralley for passing it on to the PBAA group so I could pass it on here.)

Watch the video of the speech.

2 Comments on JK Rowling's speech, last added: 8/26/2008
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Stephen King on Rowling and Meyer...

In case you haven't heard (or read), our pal Stephen King has been flapping his gums with USA Weekend and recently had this to say about J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer:

"Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. ... The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good."
King went on to talk about other terribly successful terrible writers, as well as a few he admires.

There's always a bit of backlash of what's wildly popular (in the book world and otherwise). There sure was a lot of Rowling backlash. (I remember lots of talk about her over-adverb-ing.) King has had his share of this sort of thing as well. But I wonder why he would bother criticizing Meyer. Trashing the current queen of bestsellerdom is certainly a good way to get his name all over the blogosphere, but Stephen King doesn't exactly need the publicity, as he's just helped launched the new Amazon Kindle.

I have never read a book by Rowling, Meyer or King so I can't offer an opinion on their prose. I can offer an opinion on King's statement: I think it's kinda mean.

While we're on a Twilight-related subject. Check out my new t-shirt (which is not mean--just funny):

19 Comments on , last added: 2/21/2009
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12. The Longest Day

Some people say there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Earlier this week, mine lasted 32 hours, beginning with a grand American breakfast (eggs sunnyside up) in downtown San Francisco, followed by a cable car ride up Nob Hill, clinging onto the outside which they’d never let you do in London.

A little shopping preceded a walk along the waterfront, staring out towards The Rock, otherwise known as Alcatraz, on which Jo Rowling’s Dementor-guarded prison of Azkaban was based. Her third title, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is many reader’s favourite so it was fitting to see it as I’ve spent a little of the past few days getting back to the third Johnny Mackintosh book.

The Science of SpyingGreat cities have great architecture and San Fran is no exception. There’s the landmark Transamerica Tower and, as you can see above, I managed to catch a glimpse of the unforgettable Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Mason Hill before heading back towards the hotel, having lunch (a pastrami and swiss sandwich even Joey Tribbiani would have been proud of), and then on to the airport, scene of my first ever full body scan where the security guards can see right through your clothes (I felt so sorry for mine!). We talked about these on The Science of Spying exhibition that I worked on, so it’s amazing to see them already in action.

On the plane it was a lamb curry, two disappointing films (Aliens in the Attic and the animated 9) and a chat with neighbour Katy who showed me photos of the prizewinning cats she breeds. She’s also a dog lover and there’s an Old English sheepdog in the family, so we talked about Bentley. To get over the poor movies I also re-watched the first half of the terrific Time Traveler’s Wife, which is a splendid adaption of a great but difficult book to bring to the screen. I could be wrong but the film seemed to die in the UK from a near total lack of publicity, after a very delayed global release. Some fans of the book weren’t keen on the casting, but Rachel McAdams is seriously underrated and always splendid and Eric Bana did a great job too.

Sadly, not much time for sleep, before leaping onto the Heathrow Express and heading for lovely London town – it’s always good to come home after some time away. One of the tricks to defeat jetlag is to stay awake as long as possible and not succumb to the though

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13. Author Appreciation Week - Day One JK Rowling

I am a fan girl of many authors, some of whom I'm fortunate enough to have actually met, and others of whom I feel like I know, even though I've never met them and probably never will. JK Rowling falls in the latter category.I admire her on so many levels - as a writer, as a woman, as a formerly single mother, a social activist.

It all started when my son and I began reading the first Harry Potter book together in the summer of 2000. Son was about to enter second grade, and we had moved from England the previous year. The second grade teacher had been reading Harry Potter to her class and they all thought he looked like Harry Potter. When they heard him speak and heard his English accent, they told his teacher, Mrs. Schutzman, "He IS Harry Potter!!!"

Here's son before he grew a zillion inches and lost the round Harry Potter glasses. He's pictured here with then Senate candidate and current CT Governor candidate Ned Lamont.

In a sense, JK Rowling kick started my writing career, by earning me my first byline in the Greenwich Time. I was reading Reader's Digest in a doctor's office waiting room and there was an irate letter from a reader that they had featured JK Rowling on a previous issue, because her books featured "un-Christian" topics like witchcraft and wizardry. I was furious that anyone would attack my beloved Harry, and wrote a humorous piece about what this woman would make of my childhood favorites like the Wind in the Willows (in which Toad drinks and drives and cross dresses as a washer woman) Alice in Wonderland (psychedelic drugs) and of course, THE BIBLE, which has incest, murder, you name it. I concluded that I was glad that my son was reading a terrific book like Harry Potter, and that it had encouraged so many reluctant readers to pick up a book in the first place.

It was that irate column that first got me published in 2001. I've been writing regular columns for the Greenwich Time since 2003. Thank you JK Rowling!

My son and I shared all of the Harry Potter books together, except for the last one, which came out while he was visiting his dad in England and I was on vacation in Canada. We each got a copy and read them separately, but were both devastated that our favorite character, Dobby, perished in the final struggle.

I've listened to the books on tape and reread them several times and new cease to be amazed by Rowling's ingenuity and humor ("Spellotape" alone makes me crack up every time - but you might have to have lived in England to get that one).

There's so much to admire about Rowling as a writer, but I'm a fangirl of her as a person, too,
because she is open about having suffered from depression, and as someone who has been down that road myself and who deplores the stigma that is often still placed on those who suffer from mental illness, I'm always glad when people who have lived through it successfully speak out and give hope to others.

I admire Rowling also because she spoke to some of the the most Type A, overachieving graduates in America about the importance of failure, even if some of them (supposedly the "best and the brightest") were too arrogant and clueless to get it.I see the pressure that is put on kids in my town to achieve, achieve, achieve and make money, money, money. When I speak in schools, I don't deny that one has to make a living, but I talk about trying to find a way to make a living out of your passion.

I'm so excited to hear that Rowling is busy writing, because I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

And this devoted fan girl will continue to dream about sitting down and having a cup

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14. Johnny Mackintosh and Harry Potter down under

When you’re a writer you have a clear idea of your story in your own mind, but inevitably you wonder how much of that your readers will actually “get”. I’ve been so lucky with the Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze reviews so far, because everyone who’s looked at it seems to have picked out different elements that delighted me.

The latest is Danielle Mulholland, whose written a detailed and thoughtful piece for the Australian website Media-Culture Reviews. The way she summarizes the story at the beginning of her article shows how perfectly she’s grasped it, before going on to say:

“This is a well written book with wonderful descriptions, exciting new concepts for the young adult mind and set in a futuristic world where space travel and various gadgets are common place for Johnny Mackintosh, the protagonist and albeit unrecognised and unknown saviour of the world.”

Danielle stresses that anyone reading a book series should start with the first one, and of course that’s absolutely right. I worked very hard to make Star Blaze work as a standalone book and some reviewers have picked up on that, but it’s absolutely the case that someone’s enjoyment will be deeper if they follow the story from the beginning. A paragraph follows that:

“Having been compared to J K Rowling, Mansfield has certainly used her tried and true double life technique to justify his main character’s peculiarities. In his ‘normal’ life, Johnny has Mr Wilkins to give him grief like Harry Potter had the Dursleys making his life miserable. In his alternative life, Johnny confronts other enemies, similar to the Potter versus Voldemort saga.”

There are plenty who’d claim to be Jo Rowling’s biggest fan, but I’d put myself forward as a contender for the label, and may at least be her number one author fan. It was a great honour to be able to write the Sunday Telegraph’s Harry Potter quiz a couple of years back. Until I read the Potter books I’d only written for adults, but I fell in love with her story and knew I could be passionate about writing for a similar audience, in a way that wasn’t reflected so well in my more grown up scribblings.

I think to really love a book you’ve got to be able to empathize with its characters. That’s why I didn’t write Johnny Mackintosh as “A long time ago in a galaxy far away”. I’m delighted Danielle’s review has picked up on Johnny’s double life, and the problems he has at his children’s home, of course compounded by goings on at school. That’s because I want my younger readers to be able to put themselves in his shoes (or maybe trainers) so they can relate to half his life, while wishing the other half is something that may just happen to them. Personally, I never found myself longing to be a wizard, but as a child I always dreamt of being whisked off into space by aliens.

It goes without saying that any review of Johnny that also mentions the Harry Potter books is going number among my favourites. As a writer, the most impressive thing about Rowling is the architecture of her story, over all seven volumes. If you re-read her books (and I’m a great re-reader) you’ll be amazed at the clues planted in the first couple that point the reader all the way through to the end of the story, without giving too muc

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15. Young Adult Books on the Big Screen

Note this blog entry contains spoilers about the final two Harry Potter books

It’s a truism that cinematic adaptations often pale besides their literary counterparts. An obvious counterexample is Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner but, off the top of my head, I can’t think of more. For those who’ve only seen the film, it’s well worth reading the Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to see just how different it is, but to explain some elements of the screen version you’d have to gloss over otherwise.

Read the book to discover why the Blade Runner owl is artificial

A wonderful thing about a book is that everyone’s idea of it is unique. The reader converts the printed word from the page into a world of their own imagination. How I see the Imperial Palace on Melania in my head, is different from any readers of the Johnny Mackintosh books. Perhaps that’s why film adaptations so often disappoint, as the Director is competing with thousands of movies that have already run within a reader’s head.

There’s no film I can remember that’s disappointed me more that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, directed by David Yates with a screenplay by Steve Kloves. As someone who loves the stories so deeply, it horrifies me that this pairing were also asked to make the double film of the final book. While I think the quality of film-making in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince isn’t terrible (though it is weak), what I can’t fathom were the drastic, totally unnecessary changes to the plot that were introduced, diverting from Rowling’s marvellous story architecture and characterization.

[spoiler alert]

Yates and Kloves think they know better than JK Rowling

With a long book, why introduce a mad scene where Bellatrix Lestrange destroys The Burrow? Where will they hold the wedding in the next film, or has that been scrapped too?

A more important example was the death of Dumbledore. In the book, Harry is powerless to act, hidden under the invisibility cloak with Dumbledore’s body-bind curse on him. He would do anything to fight to save his pseudo-grandfather figure, and knows all too well the Hogwarts Headmaster is dead when the curse lifts. If the film, Harry is hiding in the background, and chooses simply to watch and not act, perhaps due to some bizarre element of cowardice that Yates and Kloves wanted to introduce into Harry’s character. There are numerous other examples and a lot concerning Dumbledore’s relationship with Harry: in the books, our hero is kept in the dark and has o puzzle things out for himself; according to this film, Harry is Dumbledore’s confidant.

When I write the Johnny Mackintosh books, I confess I sometimes have a secret nod to possible future film adaptations. I know a fair amount about film theory and structure, and sometimes I’ll be particularly proud of a passage because I know how well it would translate onto the big screen. I see the same in Jo Rowling’s writing at times, where she’s gone a little out of her way to write a beautiful, cinematic scene for her directors, knowing how much it would enhance the film. Yates completely ignored this. There ar

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16. On Radio Five Live in Support of Harry Potter

Last night, I plucked up the courage to ring Dotun Adebayo’s Virtual Bookshelf. Readers of this blog will know I’m a fan. Normally nowadays I can’t listen live, as the phone-in takes place between 2am and 3.30 (not great when you have to out the house for 6.30 to get to work). However, I’ve taken time off to write Johnny Mackintosh’s third adventure (provisionally Battle for Earth) so I, like Dotun, can afford to be up all night.

I telephoned to nominate Harry Potter – the entire series – for a place in the list. Dotun, lovely man that he is, allowed this, which did rather set the cat amongst the pigeons. Do the rules of the Virtual Bookshelf allow a boxed set? Everyone hates listening to their own voice but, for the next few days only, that shouldn’t stop you hearing my praise of the boy who lived and his magnificent creator on the bbc i-player: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00vc2dl/Up_All_Night_18_10_2010

I’m between 1:21:25 and 1:29:30 (a whole 8 minutes).

The nomination caused much heated debate, with many voices against (and every vote against cancels one for), but at the end of the phone-in Harry won the day and made it on as Book 60. However, Harry Potter still needs your help. Next week, Dotun and his literary reviewer (last night it was Hephzibah Anderson) invite listeners to remove one from the most recent ten titles on the list. Harry creates strong feelings in people and Dotun suggested he was in danger of being removed after only one week.

Don’t let that happen. I propose the AA Road Atlas of Britain (currently in place 51) should go as it doesn’t really compare with Rowling’s great work – I would be more lost without Harry than I would without a map. So next Sunday night/Monday morning, I say the atlas has to go.

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17. Harry Potter Freak

HP, Circa 2001.

My name is Sara Dobie … and I’m a Harry Potter addict. It started sophomore year in college, when I first discovered the books. For years, I would be one of the only college kids in line at midnight outside Barnes and Noble, waiting for the newest release. Kudos to JK Rowling—a modern day rags-to-riches story; the kind of story that keeps writers like me writing—who created a world so easy to sink into and long to be a part of.

My literary addiction transferred to the movies, which is why I’m writing this blog entry: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, comes out Friday. I’ll get into all the hype about the newest flick later. For now, I’d like to take a look back at Harry Potters past. It’s jarring to watch all the movies in one week (which is exactly what I’m doing). It’s easy to forget certain details of each film, which dwindles the Harry Potter 7 experience. And I would hate to do that. So here we go …

2001. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
This film introduces the world of Hogwarts to an unlikely, lonely kid named Harry Potter. Everything is new and shiny—for Harry and for the viewer. Voldemort is trying to come back from “the dead,” after an infant Harry seemingly sent him there. Hidden deep within Hogwarts castle is the sorcerer’s stone—exactly what Voldemort needs to come back. Harry and his new friends, Ron and Hermione, have to stop this from happening. The special effects were mind-blowing. Everything looked just as I’d pictured in the books, including the Hogwarts sport, Quidditch. (Damn, that was thrilling.) The kids couldn’t really act in this one. Yet, they each looked the part, and so my fondness for Daniel Radcliffe began …

2002. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Holy crap, the boys hit puberty. All of a sudden, they had deep voices. Weird. Anyway, in this one, Dobby (not to be confused with “Dobie”), a house elf, appears to Harry and tells him not to go back to school. Harry doesn’t listen, of course, and soon, students at Hogwarts end up petrified by some monster from the so-called “Chamber of Secrets.” Harry realizes he can speak parseltongue—or speak to snakes, just like Voldemort. AND Kenneth Branagh makes an excellent cameo as Gilderoy Lockhart. At this point, the Harry Potter movies still have happy endings. Not so for much longer.

Sirius Black.

2004. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
I love Gary Oldman! I love Sirius Black!! (I get really excited about these movies.) So Sirius Black (Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison, and everyone thinks he’s coming after Harry. Dementors are looking for Sirius, protecting the boundaries of Hogwarts. Harry can’t handle the Dementors. The character of Lupin (a werewolf) is introduced as Harry’s mentor, who helps him form a “Patronus” to protect himself from them. Harry learns Sirius Black isn’t quite what he seems. Note: They start switching directors from this one, forward, and the change is pleasant in each. For instance, this film is darker than the first two, and rightly so.

2005. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
My favorite book. Yessir. Darn good m

2 Comments on Harry Potter Freak, last added: 11/18/2010
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18. YAB Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Ed. Note: This report from the midnight screening of "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows" comes slightly overdue, but on the heels of a very successful Thanksgiving weekend at the box office, the insights on a magical draw over Gen  Y remain just... Read the rest of this post

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19. The End of Harry Potter. The End of Magic? I Think NOT!

I came across this trailer recently and surprised myself at how emotional I became. It's not like I cry at all movie trailers. And in fact, I wasn't crying because of the trailer; I was crying because it is the absolute end of the Harry Potter reign. While Rowlings' books will live forever (and the movies) and probably become classics for my grandchildren, there will be no new adventures--no more Harry Potter and gang acting brave and foolhardy. Continue reading

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20. Madonna To Star in Comic Book

Madonna has had a pretty colorful life, and pretty soon you’ll be able to see it in full color. Independent publisher Bluewater Productions has a new comic book coming out in August based on the star’s life.

Female Force: Madonna is the illustrated story of the star’s life as written by CW Cooke and drawn by Michael Johnson. The book tells the story of how a struggling dancer in New York became one of the biggest pop stars in history. The book also highlights Madonna’s influence on other artists. “Most pop stars owe everything to this woman. It’s amazing all of the things that she’s done in her lifetime, and I have a feeling that this is still only the beginning,” stated Cooke.

Bluewater’s Female Force series featured other prominent women, including: Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling, Ellen Degeneres and Sarah Palin.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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21. Pottermore defends selling e-books directly

Written By: 
Charlotte Williams
Publication Date: 
Mon, 27/06/2011 - 08:53

Pottermore has responded to retailers' frustrations over being unable to sell the Harry Potter e-books, saying the idea was to "ensure ease of availability across all reading devices".

read more

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National Children's Choice Book Awards Announced...

You may have spied the Children's Choice Awards widget on the right side of my blog. Well the results are in for the award, announced last night at a Children's Book Council dinner in NYC hosted by Jon Scieszka. Here they are (in non-widget form), reinforcing for all of us that kids dig scary stuff, precocious pigs and boy wizards (drumroll please...):

  • Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year: Frankie Stein written by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry (Cavendish). I'm posting the cover of this one, because I really dig Kevan and his book. (Murray loves it too, but he's too young to vote.)
  • Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year: Big Cats by Elaine Landau (Enslow)
  • Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year: Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee (Scholastic)
  • Illustrator of the Year Award: Ian Falconer, Olivia Helps with Christmas (Simon & Schuster)
  • Author of the Year Award: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Scholastic)

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23. Why I will be rooting for Yale this year

I went to Duke undergrad and NYU for grad school, and my family is pretty equally split between Harvard and Yale, so it's always a toss up who to root for in the Harvard Yale game. But this year there's no contest. I'm a Boola Boola Bulldog fan.


Readers of this blog will know that I am a HUGE fan of JK Rowling. For the magical world she created with her Harry Potter books. Because my son looks kind of like Harry Potter, and was often mistaken for him when we first moved here from England when he was in first grade. Because she is open about having suffered from depression. And most recently, because of her wonderfully heartfelt and honest commencement speech about the benefits of failure given to the privileged graduates of Harvard University.

In the speech, Rowling uttered some of the wisest words a graduate could ever hear, words to which I relate from the deepest part of my soul:

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

I love this woman. I really, really love her. At risk of sounding like a complete and utter fangirl (ok, fan middle aged woman) I honestly think that if the two of us met, we would be able to sit down over a cuppa and talk for hours.

Anyway, back to my disgust with the Big Crimson.

Some of the idiots who are supposedly the nation's best and the brightest were not impressed by the choice of Rowling as their commencement speaker.

"I think we could have done better," shrugged computer science major Kevin Bombino. He says Rowling lacks the gravitas a Harvard commencement speaker should have.

"You know, we're Harvard. We're like the most prominent national institution. And I think we should be entitled to … we should be able to get anyone. And in my opinion, we're settling here. "


"It's definitely the 'A' list, and I wouldn't ever associate J.K. Rowling with the people on that list," says senior Andy Vaz. "From the moment we walk through the gates of Harvard Yard, they constantly emphasize that we are the leaders of tomorrow. They should have picked a leader to speak at commencement. Not a children's writer. What does that say to the class of 2008? Are we the joke class?"

Uh, yeah. More like the IDIOT class, if you can't appreciate how fortunate you are to have a speaker of the caliber of Rowling. I wish I had my magic wand to perform a spell to turn you into an incredible bouncing ferret. Twerp!

However, another Rowling fan says it much more eloquently than me:

"That was a terrible thing to say! They're just a bunch of Muggles!" exclaimed 10-year-old Allister Beeson, borrowing a Hogwart term for ordinary folks who don't benefit from the gift of magic.

Beeson was one of many young people in the audience who skipped school to hear Rowling. He came in a Harry Potter Halloween costume, all the way from New York. He says Harvard seniors who have a problem with Rowling are actually the ones with the problem. He says they simply lack common sense.

"Phooey on them for saying she's not important. They just don't get it."

Phooey on them, indeed.

And older Harvard graduate was similarly philosophical:

"They'll grow up," says 1983 graduate David Epstein. "They'll have a broader worldview and they'll understand that there are many, many ways to contribute. You know what they say — the freshman bring so much, and the seniors take away so little."

I know a lot of very bright Harvard graduates- in fact I'm supporting two of them for office this year, Barack Obama for President and Jim Himes for Congress. My editor for CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC, Julie Strauss-Gabel, was a Harvard graduate, and she is WAY smart, so I think what Mr. Epstein says must be true, Harvard graduates improve with age.

But no matter. I'm rooting for Yale this year. Boola Boola! Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Bow Wow Wow!

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Entertainment Weekly's 100 Best Books of the Last 25 Years...

I zipped home for lunch this afternoon, and found the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly in my mailbox (a happy surprise--it usually comes on Saturday) featuring The New Classics--The 1000 Best Movies, TV Shows, Albums, Books & More of the Last 25 Years. I almost didn't make it back to the office I was having so much fun reading it. And look at Daniel Radcliffe/Harry Potter smack in the middle of the cover! I immediately turned to their book list.

Now, as EW would say:


If you want to read these yourself leave my blog right now (or at least shut your eyes and scroll way down).

Here are five books of note that made the list:

#2: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire because J.K. Rowling "went epic and evil."
#21: On Writing because Stephen King offers "some of the soundest advice to writers set to paper."
#40: His Dark Materials trilogy because Phillip Pulman offers "a grand, intellectually daring adventure through the cosmos."
#65: The Giver, by Lois Lowry because they agree with the Newbery committee (and it's a fantastic book).
#84: Holes, by Louis Sachar, because they continue to agree with the Newbery committee (and it's also a fantastic book).

Mixed in with the many fiction and nonfiction titles were several graphic novels such as Art Spiegelman's Maus, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and Neil Gaiman's Sandman.

Fact that surprised me: The Da Vinci Code was on the New York Times Hardcover Best-Seller List longer than HP and the Goblet of Fire (166 weeks vs. 148 weeks--3 years-ish for each!)

My Saturday afternoon is officially taken--I have a date with this double issue.

2 Comments on , last added: 6/26/2008
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25. The BIG read

Okay, I found this over at Jessica Burkhart's blog and had to join in.

The Big Read, an initiative by the National Endowment for the Arts, has estimated that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed. How do you do?

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Twenty-Four - not bad

10 Comments on The BIG read, last added: 8/1/2008
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