Oh my Jo.

I’ve paused the interview that J.K. Rowling did with Oprah Winfrey. It’s just that I feel quite overwhelmed. At the moment the huge messy ball of my thoughts is not showing any signs of organising itself, but I’d like to at least attempt to convey what it’s about.

For over a year I’ve felt quite distant from the Harry Potter fandom, and from the story and “The Feeling.” Without getting into a massive debate about tier systems, I have very much felt that the fandom as I knew it has disappeared and what is left is a community where we have made certain people celebrities. It makes me hugely uncomfortable. I couldn’t exactly tell you why. Perhaps some part of me feels that celebrity is not what I signed up for. What drew me to the fandom was the people all over the world, from different families and religions and countries, who were on the same journey that I was. We were all Harry. We were all learning about how important love is, how important loyalty, friends, hard work are.

Me and Martha, queuing for Deathly Hallows. 2007

Listening to Jo Rowling speak about what it was like for her on the other side of the typewriter, about how she had no idea that there were children and adults alike reading the books and becoming involved in such a dramatic and emotional way, rekindled The Feeling for me. Honestly it really has been a long time. And how can I put into words what I’ve been through with these books, what they’ve done for me or how I’ve experienced them?

Let me explain for a moment what The Feeling is. (Although, I know that if you are reading this as a HP fan, I don’t really need to.)

When it’s an early autumnal  morning, everything’s crisp and quiet and there is a mist hovering above the grass, you may experience The Feeling. It’s almost as though the world is completely yours and only you know its secrets. That there’s some strength or power you get from that. It’s very difficult to describe an emotion in the first place. If all your friends and family turned up to surprise you with love and hugs, the feeling you would experience in the middle of the night when they’re all asleep and it’s quiet is “The Feeling.”

It’s kind of like “I feel so lucky to be alive that I’m slightly melancholy.” Strange, but so am I.

I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when I was twelve years old. I’ve always felt different to my peers. And adults. And people younger than me. For some reason I’ve always felt just a little bit out of step. I tend to think of things differently, or imagine things differently. I’m convinced that this is a reason that I can’t fathom poetry: it resonates COMPLETELY differently for me. I never saw what everyone in my class at school saw.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been shy or felt that being different was a very bad thing. It’s just always been that way. Even something as small as like being the curly-haired girl in a class or straight-haired people. I’ve just always felt different. I’ve never seen a reason to be shy. When my school friends avoided raising their voices, I’d be the one shouting or singing or just asking questions.

It’s my nature to be that way, definitely. And even though I never felt that I had to seek solace anywhere, I definitely found reinforcement in the Harry Potter books. Hogwarts was a place where EVERYONE was different. No one tried to be the same as anyone else. Each character had their own strengths and each character was on his or her own personal journey. They got through it all because they had individual power and the love of their friends.

I needed to see that. To this day, I’m not sure if a world exists where everyone feels okay being themselves all the time. I am myself all the time and I certainly feel that in some places Amy is frowned upon. But I needed to see that someone else believes that it’s okay to think differently, or to be ‘strange.’ In the Harry Potter books, it’s the idiosyncrasies of the characters that makes them so lovable and so memorable.

Jo Rowling didn’t know it, but she and I were having a long conversation. She was teaching me how to feel things like loyalty, friendship, strength, love and grief and to understand what they meant.

My mother died when I was 15 years old, a good three years after I had started reading HP. It was sudden and unexpected. One day everything was fine, the next day I was told my mum was dying. Obviously it wasn’t as straight forward as “I understood grief because of JK so I was fine,” but I was certainly familiar with the concepts and emotions that came next. I recognised what I was going through because I’d been through it already with Harry. During my particularly dark periods, I could relate to Harry. I never felt a hundred percent alone.

The WZRD Staff. Terminus, Chicago, IL August 2008

There is so much I could say. I could talk about Terminus, about how much it meant to me to go and spend time with people who had been on the same journey as me. I could talk about how much I’ve gained from being the the fandom in terms of work experience and life experience. I could talk about you, my friends, who I’m sure wouldn’t be reading if not for J.K. Rowling. Yet, I feel sure that she doesn’t understand what she has done for so many people. I know that, simply because she is human, she can’t begin to fathom the way she has touched so many people’s lives. Maybe she thinks that we read and enjoy and are inspired.

We are.

But it’s so much more than that.

Birmingham, UK.  October 2007
New Canaan, CT, USA. January 2008

With Squib Girl. Providence, RI, USA. January 2008

With Camie and Grace at FAO Schwartz, NYC January 2008

LeakyCon, Boston, MA. July 2009
The Snow Ball, Edinburgh, Scotland.
December 2009
Ellie, Laura, me, Cathrin and Lucy. After “The Cork Show”
June 2010

If you can relate or have any thoughts about this, please comment!

10 thoughts on “Oh my Jo.

  1. I think a lot of people feel like that…you know, that the fandom is not what it once was. But how can it, with the books being done. In less than a year the movies will be done as well. People try to keep things exciting and I think that's where (at least) part of the whole "fans become fandom "celebrities" comes from.And I'm for certain not as involved in the fandom as I used to be, but every time I do go to an event, if it's in the UK or if it's wrockstock or anything like that and when I see all those people again that are part of this community, I still get the same feeling of "I'm so lucky to be alive and experiencing something like this!" It's still about friendship and it's still about love. And you know I love you lots 🙂 ❤

  2. I discovered the fandom at a time when my life was just a question of routine and a struggle for survival, only "metro-boulot-dodo" as the French say. I had lost my "joie de vivre".When during the London Yule Ball 2009, I experienced The Feeling for the first time, it was exactly like you describe : "I'm so lucky to be alive and experiencing something like this!".Every time I watch a movie or listen to wrock, I remember that moment and think of all the people I met (or not physically met for that matter) from all over the world that are all kind and supportive and accepting.Even if the fandom is less intense because the end of the movies is near, The Feeling will always remain.

  3. Man I miss my HP friends a lot. I cant afford to go to any of the great events anymore because I have to worry about a mortgage and can't take time off with my job. It sucks. I miss you so much. I remember when we finally met at Terminus at Lena's release party. What an amazing time.I don't think she will ever get what she has done, but that is ok.

  4. Now that the last movies are coming out, I agree the fandom isn't what it once was. In one way it's more, because all those who were/are part of the HP fandom have grown as friends and split off/added on to other different fandoms as well. On the other hand, some who have grown up with Harry Potter and have loved it for so long have seem to have split from it altogether. Half of my department at work are Harry Potter fans, and yet a year ago when I heard and told them the last book was being made into 2 movies, they looked at me like I was insane- partly because they didn't believe me, but mostly because they figured it was true since, to them, I'm the crazy person who keeps up with Potter news. To them, HP is just books and the movies that coincide.I got into Harry Potter when the first movie came out because my little sister was so overjoyed about it I had to read them to see what she was talking about. Since then we've both kept up with the fandom (me more than her, but who's counting). Wizard Rock helped the groups of fans grow together, helped fans make new friends, led me to chatting with you, Amy, about nonstop whatsits.Even wizard rock has diminished a bit though. Wrockers are writing sonds about other books or nerdy themes. That's great, but while it's so much more than HP now, it's a bit less at the same time also.I worry about what will happen after July when the last movie comes out. Surely the world will not forget that magical scar, the scouring glare of Alan Rickman (though I guess the only time he isn't like that is in Jane Austen movies) as Snape, or the twinkle in the Eye of ol' Dumbledore. But I wish I could say what will happen.I guess if I did know I'd be stocking up on all Harry Potter merchandise now to have it before it's not sold anymore. I'd also play the lottery.

  5. Just now seeing this, but really glad to have read it. Your description of "The Feeling" is perhaps the best summation of that emotion that I've ever read. I don't get "The Feeling" in the same ways or places that I used to, but that's how it should be. It should always catch me by surprise. I don't mind that fandom's losing its charm; we're all always moving forward. I feel so incredibly lucky that we got to experience all of this the way we did, though, to completely live it as much as we possibly could – and I think you feel the same way. ❤ I think the way I know fandom is pretty much over for me is that I look back at it with nostalgia.

  6. I was late to the Harry Potter scene. I admit for years I thought of it as just being trendy. Then I watched the first movie, and a week later I owned every movie that was out and started working my way through the books. I knew there was hype around HP, but for the longest time I had no idea that there were actually communities of fandom.My amazing girl friend was apart of the fandom from the beginning and she has spoke of very similar feelings. Although when I think about these feelings you speak of I honestly can't help but think about my life in church. I didn't find church until 2006, and when I did it was powerful. I volunteered, I hung out in the lobby during the week. I went through a program to become a pastor. Then I started to look around the church and didn't like what I saw. I saw a bunch of people focused on themselves, and very few were serving the broader community. Sure they were at least trying to better themselves, but ultimately it seemed it was all about themselves, and we are not called to serve ourselves. Today I am no longer part of the church, I was asked to step down when I moved in with my lovely girl friend that I intend to spend the rest of my life with. They said it was unbiblical even though theologically I can make a sound case, they disagreed. So now I struggle not to hold this place, a place I was once delighted by, in contempt. Is that church the same church I grew in? Has it changed or have I?Has Harry Potter fandom changed or have you changed?Perhaps Jo lite a fire in us that caused us to mature. The books have taken us to a new understanding of the world we live in. Perhaps those still in the center of fandom are still in the process of growing. Or perhaps they are there for superfluous reasons and are not growing. I think I agree with Grace that we can look back at it with Nostalgia. And I think we can overcome the meloncholy by finding new ways to grow, and new purposes to serve. Thanks for writing this, and I hope I didn't ramble too much.

  7. Rob, I feel that I have changed, but the fandom has also changed to a huge extent. As I mentioned above, I came to the HP community when there were only two books released and you could count the number of "Big Name Fans" on one hand (two). When the first movie was released the explosion in popularity was phenomenal. And over the years I've more-or-less stayed on the periphery until Wizard Rock popped up. It's natural for these things to change and for our feelings and understanding of them to change. I'm totally at peace with it. Just sometimes I look back and I can't believe the whole thing happened!

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