Ode to Fangirl

This won’t be a proper ode because, let’s face it, I don’t have a poetic bone in my body, but Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell deserves nothing less than a Shakespearean sonnet.

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I’ve been wanting to read this book from the moment I first heard about it, coincidentally, here on WordPress.  I knew I would love it.  I just didn’t know how much.

This book, to me, was a love letter, not only to writers (I loved Professor Piper and the way she put writing fiction into perspective) but to anyone who has ever loved a book series so much that those places and characters, in fact, become real to them, in some instances, more real than real life.

(https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/i-believe-in-dragons/)

Simon Snow is the Harry Potter of the Fangirl universe and the book included several passages from the books and fanfiction written by the protagonist, Cath.  I’ve got to be honest, if they were real, I would read those books in a heartbeat.  They sound awesome.  I found myself reading, not only to keep up with what was happening with Cath, her twin sister, and her potential love interest, but also to find out how the Simon Snow saga would end!

In the book, Cath and her twin sister, Wren, become immersed in the Simon Snow fandom after their mother walks out on their family.  For them, Simon Snow was an escape, a refuge.  It is revealed that Cath loves the fandom so much because for a moment, her reality stops.  She doesn’t have to live there.  I’ve never had something so horrible as a parent walking out happen to me, but my family did struggle financially for years.  I won’t go into it (I’ve already written it all down in the blog entry I posted above) except to say it made our home life miserable.

That’s where Harry Potter comes in.  Hogwarts became my own personal form of escape.  Instead of living in the horrible real world where our problems dictated our lives, I sought sanctuary in the world of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  While I was there, none of my stupid problems could touch me, because they didn’t exist.  Like Cath, I began reading and writing fanfiction (though I was not nearly as dedicated as she is), which eventually led to writing stories of my own.  I don’t list JK Rowling as one of my writing influences because I can’t even begin to compare myself to her, but the truth is, she’s the one who started it all.  I have other writing idols, but JK is the Queen.  We all know this.

Near the end of the book (I don’t think this is really a spoiler, but if you don’t want to read it, skip over this paragraph), Cath and Wren and a few of their friends attend the midnight release of the last Simon Snow book.  I’m not going to lie to you, but I got tears in my eyes.  The entire time I was reading, I was reliving my own time spent waiting for each of the Harry Potter books to be released.  It was real magic.  That moment the boxes come out, the moment they’re opened, the moment the first one is sold and everyone cheers.  If you’ve felt it, you know what it’s like.  These books, these characters, are so special and have such an impact on our lives.  That’s why I love writing and reading so much.  In some ways, it’s the only world I really know.

I’ve wondered my whole life when I would find my true place in the world.  It sounds so melodramatic and cliche, I know, but it’s something we all wonder.  I see people all around me who seem to know.  Some are meant for the world of business, others for law, some for medicine.  Artists, the writers and painters and sculptors and actors and musicians, I’ve come to believe, have no specific place in the world.  That’s why we feel compelled to create our own.  By doing so, I like to think we make the world a little bigger, give it a little something new each and every day.  And maybe, if we’re lucky, someone else will find a part of themselves in our creations.

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Self-Promotion and Harry Potter

As I round the corner and make my final sprint in this long road to publication, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of reflecting, and a lot of self-promoting.  When you’re an independent author, you’re not just an author.  You’re also an editor (though I’ve had a lot of help with editing), a publisher, a businessperson, a publicist… you name it.  The publicity and marketing is one of the most essential parts of being an independent author because, let’s face it, you’re not going to sell any books if no one knows that the book exists.  You’ve got to get yourself out there.  How do you get yourself out there if you’re an independent author?

Self-Promotion.

I’ll be the first to admit it can be a lot of fun to talk about yourself.  I love telling stories and sharing experiences.  There comes a time, however, when all the me-me-me stuff begins to wear a bit thin.  Ever since I announced the release of my book, I’ve been spreading the word of Jackie and Cemetery Tours quite a bit.  This afternoon, I wrote a blurb about the book and myself for my University’s magazine.  I hand out postcards with the book’s image and information everywhere I go.  I’ve been posting non-stop on every social media site that I know.  I still love my book and I still love what I do, but I’m getting a little tired of talking about myself.

So tonight, I thought I’d write about the boy who changed my life, who has helped me throughout some of the hardest times in my life, and who has taken me on the kind of adventures I’d never have imagined in a thousand years.

Harry Potter.

I was in elementary school, probably fifth grade or so, when the first books became popular in America.  I distinctly remember everyone in my class reading The Sorcerer’s Stone.  I’ve always been a little behind on everything cool, so I really had no idea what the book was about.  I remember getting curious, however, after the first three books started popping in up the Scholastic book-order forms (always my favorite part about elementary school).  I was particularly intrigued by the strange creature on the cover of The Prisoner of Azkaban.  When I expressed my interest in The Boy Who Lived to my mother, she was iffy.  She’d heard rumors that the books were weird and not suited for kids, but I decided to read them anyway.  I was just sort of a rebel like that.

I won’t even begin to tell you how quickly I read the books, or how deeply I fell in love with the characters.  The movies only intensified my bond with the characters and the story (however, I would be lying if I said I thought the best of the movies was better than the worst of the books… the books are always better!  Though The Hunger Games movie was pretty damn awesome…).  Beginning with the release of The Order of the Phoenix (the book), I attended every midnight release of every book and every movie (except the sixth movie… I was working at camp, but I saw it that weekend!).  I remember the night that The Order of the Phoenix was released, I stayed awake all night reading.  I was so exhausted the next morning that I actually fainted, so my mom ordered me to stop reading and take a nap.  Apparently, she’s been trying to come between Harry and me for years (don’t worry, she loves him now).  I still finished the book later that day however, totally bawling my eyes out because of what happened to Sirius.  I loved him so much.  Why couldn’t he catch a break?!  Couldn’t he have used Polyjuice Potion to go outside?  I mean, really!  Sure, JK Rowling, you can give him a reason to drink, but don’t torture him!

Sirius had been one of my absolute favorite characters ever since the first time I read The Prisoner of Azkaban.  Confession: After I finished the second book, I couldn’t find the third one anywhere.  Desperate for more Potter, I decided to skip the third one and go ahead to The Goblet of Fire.  That was a bit of a mistake since I found out that “notorious mass murderer” Sirius Black wasn’t actually a mass murderer at all, but Harry’s fiercely loyal, protective, and reckless godfather.  Basically, one of the biggest plot twists in English literature.  Still, it didn’t ruin Prisoner for me in the slightest.  I’ve read it so many times, I could probably recite it word for word.  I still tear up every time the Sirius falls to his knees in the Shrieking Shack and begs, “Believe me. Believe me, Harry. I never betrayed James and Lily. I would have died before I betrayed them.”  Even though she died before the book began, Lily has always been another of my favorites.  In my mind, she was the very heart and soul of the books.

Being a member of the so-called Harry Potter generation was a gift.  We grew up alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  We learned to believe in forces even more powerful than magic; love, loyalty, friendship, bravery, sacrifice.  Reading the books got me through some of the hardest months of my life.  From the time I was in seventh grade up until halfway through high school, my family suffered the loss of my father’s job, my mother taking two jobs to support the household, and bankruptcy.  During the summers when both of my parents worked and before I could drive, my sister and I stayed home alone inside our house all day.  It was a rotten way to spend summer.  However, it was also during that time with Harry that I began writing again.  I had always enjoyed writing when I was a kid, but it was through my love of Harry Potter and my desire for more adventures at Hogwarts and I began writing seriously.  Okay, I’m talking about myself again.  I’m sorry.

Before I sign off for the night, just a few more things.

1.  Richard Harris will always be Dumbledore to me.

2.  Fred Weasley was my first fictional crush.  The day that the seventh book came out, I spent the entire day reading and had plans to attend a sock-hop dance at my University after I finished.  I almost ended up not going because I was so devastated by Fred’s death.  It was like losing a friend.  I didn’t tell anyone because I was the only who’d read the book, but I was trying not to cry the entire time I was at the dance.  Also, they probably would have thought I was crazy.

3.  I like Ron, but personally, I think Hermione could have done better.  She’s happy with him though, and that’s all that matters.

4.  Professor McGonagall is one of my heroes and my favorite Hogwarts professor after Lupin.

5.  There are very few things I wouldn’t do if it meant that JK Rowling would write more Harry Potter books, especially about the Marauders.

6.  I am a proud Ravenclaw.

7.  I want a pet dragon.  And a phoenix.  And a pygmypuff.  And an owl.

8.  One of my favorite movie characters is Lucius Malfoy.  I thought he was perfect.

9.  One of my absolute favorite scenes from the books is the Quidditch World Cup and I was exceedingly disappointed that I didn’t get to see it in the movie.

10.  I think I loved the side characters and backstories (Fred and George, Sirius, Remus, Neville, Luna) more than Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  And I love them a lot.

Mischief Managed.

*** UPDATE ***

Apparently, I don’t have to do anything for JK to write more Harry!!!!  LOOK!!!

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2013/09/12/jk-rowling-to-write-harry-potter-inspired-film/2803671/