Thursday, July 14, 2011

One Woman

Seven books, eight films, several GENERATIONS of people who love to read, millions of people, from a few hundred countries speaking dozens of languages... we have all been connected... this has all been possible, because of one woman—now the second richest woman in the world if my attention span has managed to get the facts right (Oprah being first)... richer than the QUEEN...

But man, what a class act.

Joanne Rowling was a single mom on welfare... struggling after a divorce... teaching, but not getting by when on a train ride this AMAZING idea came to her. All of it... the seven book SERIES... It has so many elements of the classic battle between good and evil... the orphaned child, the wise mentor, the prophecy that guarantees he has to face the enemy because the enemy is determined to kill him... It is a classic boarding school tale. It is a metaphor for the Holocaust in several ways. It flirts with mythology related to werewolves, Veela, goblins, giants...

In fact I think the most brilliant job touting all she did was done here by my friend Jason, using a parallel tale from the conversation between Riddle and Slughorn. This is REALLY worth a read if you are a Rowling fan... it is both chuckle-worthy and insiteful... because she does this... uses a VARIETY of brilliant techniques (and like a good mystery writer, a fair few herrings) to tell us what is coming.

One of my favorite things about these books is they can be understood at so many levels. Both of my kids got their first dose in first grade (their request in both cases). And they understood the good versus evil story... and they loved the quidditch and magic and humor... and the friendship... and they missed a lot... Each of them got a reread about every two years because we read them as each new one came out. By upper elementary my daughter was squealing about the romance, my son (who might be a freak) was using early books to predict what would happen later... there is the message that authority isn't always right or good (a theme dear to my own heart). By high school a young adult is ready to spot the foreshadowing, to recognize the character growth... and a college student might do supplemental reading and realize the mythology and classic literature that feeds these books (for example a Veela wedding is known to be a dangerous place...)


But as you know... around here, it is all about ME... so I would like to write a brief letter to Jo, thanking her for what these books have done FOR ME...


Dear Jo,

In 2001, I had heard of the Harry Potter books. I'd listened to a few public radio pieces on 'controversy' over witchcraft in books. Even before reading, I knew I was on your side, as I happen to think people who don't get that fiction is fiction are NUTS, and those trying to censor shelves for others should be be put in their own private lala land to live with other people who are happy to be ignorant and leave the rest of us alone. But I'd been thinking I would wait until my oldest, then six, was about nine. 300 pages, after all, is beyond a first grade attention span. I thought.

When she brought it home from her school library however, I confess I was excited... we began to read... you had me HOOKED from the cat reading the map and the man willfully ignoring it... humor abounded... and by the end of chapter 1, “To Harry Potter-the boy who lived.” which brought out my first tears, I was hooked. I read every free minute and Santa brought the first three books, shortly followed by the brand newly released Goblet of Fire.

While I loved the books up to this point, it is Order of the Phoenix, turning point for Harry, point where he makes his destiny his OWN, instead of a thing happening TO HIM, that I fell thoroughly, deeply and irreversibly in love. I looked for excuses to reread, I spent time thinking about what came next (my own journey paralleling Harry's—it had become an interactive thing). I looked for online articles, read theories, and finally found a community with whom I could predict and debate in brilliant company.

And HERE, is where you changed my life. Forever.

Part of that family was HERE. Lucky bastards.
Those friends, bonding over Harry Potter theory, came from dozens of countries. We ranged in age from teens to 50s. We worked out rules of courtesy to eliminate misunderstandings, whether due to culture, immaturity, the lack of tone and facial expression on the internet... It was community... and then it was more... it was FAMILY. Six years later, many of these people... in fact MOST of them who were fairly dedicated... are still in my life... still supportive friends--family. I have visited a number in person, and when I met them I felt I'd known them for years... I HAD known them for years.

This community and these theories extended into writing fan fiction and reawakened a dream I'd always had that one day I would write... And you taught me that too... how to end a story, how to PLOT a story... how to begin with themes and points of action I wanted to include and to weave them together. In my life there had been dozens of novel starts, but my first long, completed works were all Harry Potter stories.

It also led to my first SHARING my writing, my first encouragement... my writing group, and my decision I could write a 'real' book.

My excitement for the series also was a bonding point with my kids. My 12 year old son and I STILL share books we love and discuss them. Harry Potter is why he trusts me on the matter. And as a mom of a teen and a tween, the movies are the last hold out of things that my children want to do WITH ME.

So thank you, Jo... for both of my families, and for my identity... as a writer...

Sincerely,

Tami
Hart Johnson
Gnargles&Snorkaks
The Watery Tart

32 comments:

Trisha said...

Love the letter! And I agree, she is a phenomenon!

Siv Maria said...

What a great letter! I hope you send it and that she replies. What a lovely hero to have in todays society!

Matthew MacNish said...

That was beautiful. Thanks, Hart!

Pk Hrezo said...

What a wonderful tribute to an amazing woman! I can't even imagine a world without HP anymore. It's become a part of who we all are. You should send her that letter, Hart. I'm sure she gets tons of fan mail, but still.

Cruella Collett said...

I *heart* it. That is all :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

One woman to rule them all...
Oh wait - wrong fantasy series!

Old Kitty said...

Yay for your most NAKEDest letter to Ms Rowling!!! Take care
x

Hart Johnson said...

Thanks so much guys! Maybe I will try to send it... I am often skeptical of the fan mail system, but from the other side, I think I would love to know I'd encouraged people... so I should.

Alex, you made me snort my coffee.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Yay for jo!
Are you seeing a midnight showing? I'm not, I don't do night owl stuff on work nights. We actually decided to do a saturday morning show, to try and beat some of the crowds of teens.

Hart Johnson said...

Sarah-we ARE, but that's driven by the childings who MUST. I love a matinee better myself, but this one and the last, the kids begged. I am taking Friday off, though...

LTM said...

that is so very cool. I love how one person is able to touch so many lives by simply telling a story.

*sigh*

it's the dream~ :o) <3 missed you!

Stephen Tremp said...

Nicely done. You never know, she could read this and leave a comment. How cool would that be!

Johanna Garth said...

Wonderful letter! She's such an inspiration and life changer for so many. I think she would love reading that letter...wouldn't you? Send it!!

Hart Johnson said...

Leigh--it IS the dream, isn't it? To touch people that deeply. I think a fair number of authors do.

Stephen-that would be AMAZING! I have friends who have had authors post when they did book reviews, but I've never known JK Rowling to be a commenter (even if I've heard of her doing some lurking on fan sites)

Hart Johnson said...

Johanna-thank you! Yes--I would... you're right!

RaShelle said...

Great letter! Thanks for sharing it. Got me all misty-eyed. You know I love the story as well.

Helena said...

Last night I caught parts of a couple documentaries on TV about Harry Potter's world, snippets of interviews with J.K., etc. OMG. They drove home how she created a complete universe where the characters are more real and have more depth than many in so-called grown-up literature. I'm more hooked than ever.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

One of our foster daughters was enthralled with the series and we purchased several of the books for her. I think they also spurred her to write, too.

Michael Offutt said...

I personally am getting tired of all the Harry Potter hype. The last movie was god-awful. I'll be glad when it's over so that there aren't a hundred blogs that I follow all screaming the same crap.

Cold As Heaven said...

I've only read the first book, and I'm not a big HP fan, but have to admit it's impressing what she has achieved >:)

Cold As Heaven

Michael Di Gesu said...

A very lovely tribute to an amazing woman.

Nicely done Hart. I feel the same way. She started me to read again and also influenced be to become a writer.

DCAllen said...

I read somewhere that her publisher initially printed only 500 books because they were unsure whether it would be a success. That's such an endearing tidbit of information--and so revealing about how much the publishing world knows about what will sell.

Al said...

A great letter, I'll second that

Misha said...

It's wonderful to think that one idea is all it takes to write something that can touch people world-wide.

I loved the HP series for the fact that there was so much going on that I could reread the books and STILL find something new.

:-)

Nick Thomas said...

She has been an inspiration to all struggling writers.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I made the Hart snort coffee - my work here is done.
Saw Harry Potter today - best movie of the batch!

mshatch said...

completely agree; JK is brilliant (just re-read the last two books in order to prepare for the movie).

GigglesandGuns said...

Very touching letter. She certainly gave many of us a fantastic way to share.

Ella said...

This was a wonderful letter, such a tribute to the joy and bonding this work of art has brought to so many!
Are you going to attempt to send it to her?! ;D I think you should~
It connected so many families and instilled the love of reading! She truly is a magician~ Well Done :D

TreeX said...

I think you should try to send it, Tamster; she's always been pretty good with answering fanmail, and I'm sure this would make a nice break from the usual drivel :)

Powdered Toast Man said...

I feel like the only person to not have read one of the books or seen any of the movies. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Deniz Bevan said...

That;s a great letter. I'm so glad to have been a part of this journey as it was happening. I hope Rowling keeps writing!