October 18, 2012

Meeting J.K. Rowling

Last week, I shared a little bit about how I visited the set of the Vampire Diaries early this year. I ended with a cliffhanger of sorts, because I meant to tell the rest of the story this week. But I'm afraid that you're going to have to wait one more week to find out what happened next...

Why the delay? Because of what happened to me last Tuesday.
What happened on Tuesday night?

I got to meet J.K. Rowling.

You read that right. One of my biggest writing inspirations and an author who changed my life came into town, and I got the chance to see her and hear her speak. She shared a little bit about her new adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, and even did a reading. She spoke about her writing process, career and opinions on books and publishing. And, best of all, she took the time to meet each and every member of the audience who stuck around and signed books for us all!

Before anything else, as inspired by the amazing Rebecca Serle and her post, let met tell you my Jo story.

When I was still in elementary school, my mother was my primary source of books. She'd pay attention to what was on the bestsellers list, or what books were making waves in the world, and she'd purchase them for me. One particular Christmas, she got me a book titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. While I thought the sorcerer bit was right up my alley, I wasn't into reading books with male main characters at the time, and so I put it in my bedside drawer and forgot all about it until I accidentally found it two weeks later.

Once I started reading this book, I was completely taken with it. I would bring the book with me and read it during my classes (even when I wasn't supposed to!), just completely and utterly absorbed in this incredible story. I could relate to poor Harry, as he struggled to find his place. I was intrigued by the magic in the book, the places, the creatures, the spells. It was enchanting. It was incredible. It was life-changing.

Without fail, every single time a new book in the series came out, I would get it as soon as I possibly could manage and just devour it. I'd go through them so fast on my first read, then go back and reread them at a slower pace to find details I'd missed, or draw pleasure from experiencing everything with these characters I loved all over again. . I read them so much that the characters became the best friends I wished I had, and the magic and the setting became something I aspired to find for myself (or at least pretend I could find for myself). As I got older, I was also amazed by the world that Jo built, and the care she put into all these tiny details from the start to the end of the series.

Obviously, I absolutely love the Harry Potter series.

Jo's creativity and imagination led to the creation of the Harry Potter series. This series, in turn, taught me things - about life, about love and about writing. I feel so inspired whenever I think of how these seven books just all came together so perfectly, with details in places that all just make so much sense. I admire the fact that there are stories within a story, that it's not just Harry's story (though that may be the primary focus, of course). I just - gah, I just love the way it's written.

I cannot imagine having grown up without this series in my life, both book and movie form. I can't imagine not learning these things about life, love and friendship along with Harry. I can't imagine not knowing who Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint + Emma Watson are. I can't imagine not being able to visit "Hogwarts" and "Hogsmeade" via a quick trip to Florida.

I can't imagine a life without Harry Potter.

So, yes, obviously, I snagged the opportunity to get to attend her one night only event in New York without a second thought. And it was so totally worth it.

I was basically in awe just listening to her speak. She was quite articulate and funny and intelligent, and I just found myself even more amazed by her.

Here are a few quotable quotes from Jo for the night:

- "The reader should never have a feeling of how difficult it is to write your book."
- "I've turned American."
- "We're ruthless people, writers."
- "The Macbook Air changed my life." (What an endorsement! It makes me want to get one...)
- "Discussing an idea before writing it is a way to kill it stone dead."
- "People have sex in this book, but no one really enjoys it."
- "All of our lives are observed in some ways."

And here's a few from Ann Patchett, who did an incredible job handling the questions and discussion:

- "True villainy is rare."
- (with regards to villains) "... fill out the symphony of the book"

And a few fun facts we all learned:

- The Casual Vacancy is mostly about what is hidden, and stripping the layers away.
- Jo would make notes of the things she wanted to come back to, like little details. She did not finish her outline before starting to write The Casual Vacancy.
- Children are very aware of fear. When it's addressed in books, they're given a safe place to deal with it. For Jo, you should allow children to get it out, talk about and then dissipate it then.
- For adolescents, they already start to appreciate that evil exists in the world.
- Jo is comfortable with 14-15 year olds reading The Casual Vacancy, because there are issues that they can understand.
- It has never crossed her mind to self-publish, as she appreciates traditional publishing. She loves the fact that they can handle all these aspects, as well as saying there's a romance to it.
- With Harry Potter, no one ever read anything before she finished the draft, even her editor. Her editor was always the first one to read the finished draft. With The Casual Vacancy, her husband read it while she wrote it.

Of course, you didn't think I was going to have this night happen and not take any pictures. Unfortunately, my electronics were not cooperating with me, so I only snagged a few of my own. Proper credit has been given for the pictures I included below if they aren't mine.

The stage is set.

I was seated up in the second ring.

Check out this awesome picture of JK Rowling signing, care of Jennifer E. Smith!

I stood this close to her and snagged a picture after she signed my book!

It was an amazing, magical, incredible experience and I feel truly blessed and awed that it even happened. Thank you J.K. Rowling, for changing my life, and for giving me the opportunity to meet you and thank you in person by doing this event. You will always, always, always be a source of inspiration and awe. Thank you.


  1. I am so jealous right now! Harry Potter was such a big part of my childhood, and I still try to read the books every year (usually around Christmas time). Thanks for sharing your Jo experience!

  2. what a fabulous experience! and something i'm sure you will always cherish!

  3. Super jealous!! Sounds like an amazing time listening to an equally amazing woman! Great pics!

  4. I love reading others Harry Potter stories. I know it sounds silly, that a book series plays such a key role in lives, but THEY DO! I don't know how old I was when the books first came out; probably high school. I didn't read the series until I was an adult, so I really can't imagine what it's like growing up with Harry Potter! Meeting JK Rowling sounds like such a great experience and I'm so glad you were able to!

  5. I think I need to live where you live because you get to meet ALL THE COOL AUTHORS! I'm so jealous! That must've been a wonderful night! Thank you for sharing!

  6. I love how candid and honest Jo is with her readers. You can tell that this is a woman who is truly passionate about what she does and that is so inspiring to the rest of us. Glad you were able to have this amazing experience and thank you for sharing it with those of us who could not be there! YAY! :)

  7. I'm so glad you got to go to this Alexa. If I had been anywhere near NYC for the event, I would have gone in a split second. :)

  8. WELP I DON'T NEED TO WRITE MY POST NOW!!! you've done it all and this is so incredibly touching. i'm so happy for you and i really love your story about potter. hogwarts is always home. <3

  9. Oh WOW! This is amazing, you actually were so close to her! :D
    I felt like you were narrating my own childhood story, I too, cannot imagine it without Harry Potter! And I just LOVE those quotes, and what she said! <3 And she's so so beautiful!

  10. Holy. Flipping. Crap.

    You are so lucky and you literally just fulfilled so many people's life dreams. So happy for you, Alexa!

  11. This is so so cool! I'd love to hear her speak!

  12. This sounds like an amazing event and you had a great time. I can only imagine how it must have been to meet JK Rowling, if it were me I know I would have a panic attack.

    I feel like you, I can't imagine a life without Harry Potter. I always liked reading, but Harry Potter was the first thing to make me really believe in books.

  13. I'm so glad you were able to go to this event and that you met Ms. Rowling! Glad you had a great time!

  14. Gah ! So awesome. You were so close, glad you had a great time. Thanks for the recap !!

  15. I SERIOUSLY considered making this trip JUST to see Jo, because you know, I am never going to get the chance to see her just sitting here in the middle of Canada. But ultimately, it would've been just too expensive. But it's so nice of you to post this detailed recap for me to live vicariously through/SEETHE WITH JEALOUSY! Heh, just kidding :) I mean, I AM jealous, but I can recognize a TRUE HP/J.K. Rowling fan when I see one so I really am happy that you got your dream experience of getting to see her because you are clearly deserving, Alexa! You took the words right out of my mouth when describing what the series means to you - except, you said it a lot better than I could manage - and I loved reading it. I read the books the same way as you! First, quickly to get through it to see what happens, and then slower the second time to pick up on anything I might have missed. ANYWAYS, I sincerely LOVED The Casual Vacancy and I hope you do, too! (The reviews for it have kind of been all over the place). Thank you so much for sharing, Alexa!!

  16. I love this and definitely smiled hard while reading. I'm glad you got the chance to meet Jk Rowling.


  17. To meet JK Rowling...Gosh, what a treat! You lucky gal! Thanks for sharing your experience and your love far Harry Potter. That series changed my life too :)

  18. All I can say is HOLY CRAP! You are the luckiest girl ever. I loved reading this post. I wonder what she means by "I've turned American'? Thank you so much for sharing. I got to live vicariously for a little bit :)

  19. I am SO, SO jealous! You're so freaking lucky, it's not even funny. *Sigh* What I wouldn't give to meet her.

  20. There are no words to describe how thrilled I am you got to experience this! Like you, I can't imagine my childhood (and let's be for real, my adulthood) without Harry Potter and I think I'd give my first-born child for a chance to meet JKR and simply say, "Thank you." I'd probably act a fool and pee my pants if this ever did happen, but it'd be worth it :) Thanks so much for sharing for those of us who couldn't make it - reading it from a friend is the next best thing!

  21. Alexa!!!!!! So much excitement and happiness for you! Getting to meet the one and only JK Rowling is one incredibly awesome experience and I am so glad you were able to go to this event <3

  22. Wow, I'm jealous! Harry Potter was part of my teen years, so in a sense, I too grew up with the books and movies. I would go to NYC if I could, just to meet Jo, but a trip there would be too expensive. Thank you for describing yours!


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