Ten Years Ago…

I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and I was just walking into science class. It was a third/fourth period block for BESS 1 (Biology and Earth Science Studies, the science class most of the freshmen were taking), and the first thing that caught my eye was the television. It was on, which was strange in and of itself, but on top of that it was tuned to CNN. Although I had only been a high school student for a couple of weeks, I had learned that the classroom televisions were rarely tuned to anything outside of the school announcement channel and the channel that showed the WKHS News on Fridays. On this particular day, though, the entire class was staring at CNN.

Only minutes before, the first plane had struck the World Trade Center.

Our teacher came in and started class, but she left the TV on. At that time, everyone was just interested to see what would happen. Everyone was assuming it was a tragic accident. There was only one kid in our class that thought otherwise. Every few seconds he would say that it was terrorists. But as this kid had a tendency to think that everything and anything was due to terrorists, no one really gave him a second thought.

I was still sitting in BESS 1 when we watched the second plane hit. After that, the rest of whatever we were learning fell into the background. We were all too mesmerized by what was happening on the television.

The rest of the day is something of a blur to me. I remember no one was talking in the hallways between classes, because everyone was in too much shock. I remember that every single television in the school was showing CNN. I remember that it was during lunch that Osama Bin Laden’s video hit the airwaves, and that everyone was crowded around the four TVs in the middle of the cafeteria. I remember that during my history class at the end of the day, the original lecture was forgotten in favor of talking about terms we would be hearing a lot in the coming weeks, including “Taliban.” Oddly, I also remember that it was that day when I rode the bus home from high school for the first time, because all after-school activities got cancelled, so there was no marching band practice.

That day and the days surrounding it were an emotional roller coaster. My father was in Germany on a business trip and we couldn’t get in contact with him for days. My cousin was in Virginia and his job meant he was sometimes at the Pentagon. Until we found out that he hadn’t been there that day, we were worried about him. The following Friday was a home football game, and our marching band re-worked pre-game to pay tribute to what had happened.

It was a day and a week that I’ll probably never forget, regardless of how many years pass. I don’t think any of us that experienced that day will ever forget it. I’ve heard that each generation has a “where were you when…” moment, that one significant day or event or moment that lives in that generation’s memory forever. September 11, 2001 was our generation’s “where were you when…” moment. It’s the day that our children and our grandchildren will ask us about. It’s the day that future generations will study in history class and write reports about and do projects on. I won’t lie that it will be surreal, some day in the future, when my son or daughter asks me where I was when those planes struck the World Trade Center.

And I’ll tell them…I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and I was just walking into science class…

Dancing Through Life

Pardon the Wicked reference, but it seemed to fit for the title of this post. Hopefully by the end of it, you’ll understand why.

In my true writerly nature, I don’t do well talking about my feelings. In fact, the only way I seem able to process my feelings is by writing them down. The tougher the stuff is to deal with, the more I feel I need to write.

Today I got some sad news. Terrible news. News that took me a while to process, but when it finally hit, I had to hide in the bathroom to cry, because I didn’t want my roommate to ask what was wrong.

I received word that earlier this evening, my wonderful, energetic, amazing Irish dance teacher, Ann Richens, lost her battle with cancer.

I used to dance ballet when I was younger. I danced for several years before quitting. But soon after I quit…I regretted it. I never got to dance pointe. I missed the graceful movements. The regret hit harder in college, when I got the chance to take a couple of dance classes for PE credit. And then I fell in love with watching Irish dance and I knew that was what I wanted to learn next.

Two years ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to take Irish dance classes downtown. I fell in love with it immediately. I made friends quickly, I loved the movement, it was fun. I was glad I joined Columbus Celtic Dancers…and a lot of that was in part because of Ann.

Ann was, honestly, the most energetic person I’ve ever met. She could easily have kicked any of our butts if she’d wanted to. She was strong and inspirational. She encouraged us to try our best…and for those of us to whom the dance steps came a little easier, she pushed us to jump higher, step lighter, extend more. Those of us who chose to compete, she expected us to, not necessarily BE the best, but to DO our best.

And we did.

Many of us have won medals in competition, many teams from our group have gone on to place. We’re not world champions, but she treated us like we were. It was because of Ann that I felt comfortable enough to go into competition after dancing for only a year. It was because of Ann that this year when I competed, I won five medals.

Ann had more energy than most people her age I’ve met. She would travel an hour and a half each Monday evening to and from downtown to teach our dance class. She traveled to Ireland several times a year. She worked with us adults and she also worked with the Richens-Timm Academy kids. I don’t think she ever sat still for more than a few hours.

It was apparent to anyone who knew her that she loved teaching. She challenged me, she encouraged me, she inspired me. I’ll continue dancing, under however many teachers I end up having throughout the years, but Ann will always have a special place in my heart. She will never be forgotten by anyone whose life she touched, she was just that kind of person.

Ann, you will never be forgotten. You will live on in everyone you taught, in every dance step we learned from you, in every medal we win, and in every performance we put on. Thank you for everything. May you rest in peace.

Casting Characters

You’re lucky you’re getting a blog post today. I have been living in a state of constantly refreshing my inbox that is somewhat reminiscent to querying agents. Most of my friends have gotten activated into the beta of Pottermore. I, however, am still waiting. It’s rather like being picked last for the team in gym class.

I don’t wanna talk about it.

So, instead…here you go. Writing Tuesdays. For the next five minutes, my mind will be OFF Pottermore pain.

I went back and forth between two topics. One I might save for later, when I get more involved in the concept. Today, I’ll be talking about casting characters.

To be fair, this is not something I’d ever done before this weekend. I’d always considered my characters to live solely inside my head. I’ve never been good at finding physical representation of any of my characters, because I have very firm ideas of what they look like to me. Occasionally, I’ve run into some random person on the street or in the grocery store that I’m like “woah, she/he is exactly how I picture [insert character here]” but even that’s rather rare for me.

But then this weekend, something spurred me on to cast my characters. I don’t know what this “something” was, but…I came to find out that the project was kind of fun. And I kind of like having pictures of all my characters hanging on my writing board over my desk. It makes them all the more REAL to me (which means, it’s all the more REAL to me when I have to kill them off…oops?). My roommates got a kick out of it too. They seem to get a kick out of most of the weird writerly things I do…”a kick” being that they smile, nod, and back away slowly.

An interesting thing I discovered during this casting characters project, however, was how difficult it is for me to picture my male characters. I always have a ton of trouble in general with male characters–I hate naming them, I hate describing them, and sometimes they’re interchangeable to me. It’s really a problem. So it’s was an absolute nightmare trying to find people I thought best visually represented my male main characters in my novel. But, I did eventually get it done. And I’m pretty happy with the results.

(I was going to post the pictures of my cast here…but…I’m technology stupid today and couldn’t figure it out. Maybe later.)

Life Transitions

My childhood is all ending this month. Essentially.

I said goodbye to Harry Potter last week. It was emotional. And I know it’s not forever. I’m sure I’ll see the movie many more times before it leaves theatres, plus there’s the DVD to look forward to, and I’m already counting down to Pottermore. Harry will always be a part of my life, but, regardless, an era has ended. A new era for the Harry Potter fandom has started. Tears were shed.

This weekend I say goodbye to my parents. Kind of. I’m moving out of my parents’ house permanently. I’m going into a townhouse apartment with two of my best friends. I’ll actually be living in the real world…paying rent and all that. It’s overwhelming and stressful and I haven’t finished packing yet.

The moral of this story is: I’m sorry I haven’t posted on here in a while. I intended to get back on my blog schedule this week, but what with the stresses of getting ready to move and the additional stresses that come with Dublin Irish Festival being only a couple of weeks away, I haven’t had the chance.

So I figure…next week I’ll start back on my blog schedule. Moving means I’m getting more serious about a few things, because I’m using it as a benchmark. Getting serious about my diet again. Getting serious about revisions again. Getting serious about this blog, and a possible new vlog project, and other…exciting things that I can’t really talk about yet, but (shocker) have to do with Harry Potter.

This has been a month of changes for me. I think I’ll have a lot to say as I learn in the real world.

Here at the end…

I’ve been told a lot of things about my love of Harry Potter

That I’m obsessed.

That it’s an addiction.

That I’m a nerd, a geek.

That I have a problem.

I’ve also gotten a lot of rolled eyes and sighs and maybe-if-we-ignore-it-it’ll-go-away kinds of looks.

Maybe it’s all true. I embrace it. No one can make me feel bad about my time with Harry Potter. No one can make the last ten years less than they were–and they can’t make the coming years less either. I’ve had experiences I’ll never forget. I’ve made friends I’ll always cherish, even if we’ve grown apart. I’ve met the most amazing people and learned the most uplifting things, all thanks to this fandom.

Thanks to Harry Potter, I found myself when I didn’t even know I was missing. I embraced my inherent nerdiness–the very nerdiness I’d tried to hide–and ran with it. I learned it’s okay to be a know-it-all or a goofball or feel lost. These characters taught me how important it is to be myself and to stand up for what I believe in. Harry Potter taught me how to use my voice to speak for those who can’t. It taught me that anything can be done if it’s worth fighting for. It taught me that it’s okay to be scared or unsure in the face of adversity, as long as you face it head-on anyway.

No one can take away the moments I’ve had over the last decade. Even though it’s over, it’s not really over. Those memories will always live on. The midnight book releases and midnight premieres, staying up all night to read, making t-shirts and donning costumes, entertaining at the movie theatre, waiting anxiously for the next Mugglecast, solving Jo’s scavanger hunts for announcements, RPGs and fan sites, wizard rock, speculations and theories, debating to the death over every miniscule clue or theory or passing reference, Muggelcast Fan Chat late into the night, HPA Livestreams and Skype chats and team meetings, counting down the days and dreading the end. Dying Emmy’s hair blue, cheering with every other fan when Hermione punched Draco, house cup competitions and trivia contests, immediately bonding with someone because they’re a fellow fan, inside jokes like *confetti* or “delusional” or “HE SAID IRKED”, hearing Caitlin scream “not again” in the middle of the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, feeling like this world we read about is read if only we could get to Platform 9 3/4, waiting for cast announcements and theme park announcements, suffering through Post-Potter Depression. Together.

Knowing that, even though it’s the end, it’s not over.

The fandom will change. It will get a little quieter. The anticipation will be gone, but the fandom is going nowhere. Those of us who grew up with Harry will grow up too. Perhaps have children of our own. And one day, those children will ask about those seven well-loved books on the shelf and we’ll take them down and open them up and pass the magic on to the next generation. We’ll get to watch them discover Harry Potter for themselves and fret over the next chapter and we’ll smile and remember. We’ll remember the lessons and the people and the events. We’ll remember that anticipation and those friendships.

When that time comes, when I’m passing Harry on to my future children, I know I’ll smile. I’ll remember vividly the thirteen-year-old girl with the insanely curly hair who skeptically opening this book called Sorcerer’s Stone while sitting in her middle school library. That could could never have imagined the impact that book would have.

So, from the bottom of my heart I have to thank you. Thank you to all the friends I made in this fandom and the friends I’ve yet to meet. Thank you to the fan sites and the podcasts that made me think and laugh and helped me fight away the boredom.

Thank you to Harry, Ron, and Hermione for showing me there are things worth fighting for.

And thank you, JK Rowling, for creating this world for us, that became more than even you probably imagined.

“Of course it’s happening inside your head…but why on earth should that mean it is not real?
–Dumbledore, Deathly Hallows UK pg 792–

Love to Hate

There’s something to be said for a character who is so vile, so twisted, so amazingly hateable that an entire fan community is able to be in COMPLETE and TOTAL agreement that the character’s demise should be slow and painful.

I’ve been involved in the Harry Potter fan community for a decade, so I know how people can disagree on characters. Everyone’s got an opinion. I love Sirius and Luna, but there are people who find Sirius immature and Luna flat-out irritating. Which is fine. To each his own. So that’s why it’s always amazed me how much the Potter fans can agree so completely on one thing–we all HATE Dolores Umbridge.

In re-reading Order of the Phoenix, I’m reminded just how horrible Umbridge is. She does unthinkable, torturous things and obviously takes pleasure in people’s pain. She’s prejudiced and has an agenda at all times. She purposefully tries to make Harry and the other rebellious students as miserable as possible. She’s just plain mean. She is, simply, the character we all love to hate.

I’d wager a fair guess that Umbridge is more hated than Voldemort (at least he gives interesting monologues).

A couple days ago, this idea was reinforced when I posted a status on Facebook saying how I always remember why I hate Umbridge so much when I read Order of the Phoenix. Within hours, several of my friends had either “liked” the status or made a comment expressing their own severe dislike of Umbridge.

Which got me thinking.

As a reader, I can’t stand Umbridge. I laughed when she got carted off by the centaurs. I grit my teeth when she showed up to Dumbledore’s funeral. I took great pleasure in reading a funny list of the “Top Ten Fates Wished Upon Umbridge,” then printed it off to save forever. I really hate Umbridge. With an undying passion.

As a reader.

As a writer, I’m deeply in awe of the effect Umbridge has on people. I would love nothing more than to be able to write a villain so horrible that he/she gets a similar passionate response from readers. That would pretty much make my life.

The Magic Never Dies

This week, I began to re-read Harry Potter for the last time before a movie comes out. It’s bittersweet, knowing that this is the last time I’ll do this. I’ll always re-read the books, of course, but I’ll never again be doing it with a purpose in mind. So many times I’ve re-read them to get ready for a book release or a movie release, but after this summer, that’ll all be over.

I’ve been keeping a journal of thoughts as I’ve done this. Perhaps that sounds a little overkill, but I can’t help it. These stories have been a dear part of my life for more than a decade. So here’s the first of my thoughts as I’ve been reading.

The first time I read Sorcerer’s Stone, I was thirteen-years-old. It was fall of 8th grade. My friends had badgered me for months to pick up the book and they’d finally worn me down. I sat at a table in our middle school library and started to read.

At the time, I couldn’t tell you what sucked me in. I’m still not entirely sure. Perhaps it was the idea of such an ordinary boy being something more. Perhaps it was the witty writing or the intriguing plot. Perhaps it was simply the magic.

Whatever it was, it hooked me. And not long after, it hooked my sister too when I insisted I read the books to her each night as she cleaned her hamster’s cage. Then it hooked other friends who came into my life. The stories were intoxicating.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I read this first book, or any of the others. I’m still just as invested as the first time. I know what happens, could probably quote the story verbatim, and can find any tiny detail in the book at the drop of a hat, but I’ll still stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading, like I’ve never read the book before. It will still nag the back of my mind as I do other things. When I’m reading it, even if it’s for the twentieth time, I still can’t put it down.

That is, I think, the true magic of Harry Potter–that the magic never seems to dissipate at all.

Love of the Week: Skyway Flyer

I’ve gotten really into these indie YouTube musicians. I posted a couple weeks ago about Ministry of Magic, a wizard rock band. This week I’m posting about Skyway Flyer (aka Jason Munday). He is actually one of the members of MoM, but his solo stuff is absolutely amazing too!

I particularly enjoy this acoustic version of a song from his album (which you can buy on iTunes). Definitely check him out!

(Belated) Book of the Week: The Last Little Blue Envelope

Do you ever have those weeks when life just kind of gets away from you? That’s kind of what happened to me this week. Thus why you’re getting the book of the week post I normally do on Thursday…on Saturday.

Frankly, I’m just impressed with myself that I’m doing it at all.

Between killing characters, making chaos, trying to get some reading done, and going through all the normal HPA craziness that comes with ending one campaign and starting another, it’s kind of amazing I made it to this weekend. It was just an interesting week of trying to get things accomplished, but only getting about half of the things done I wanted to originally.

Ah, well. Win some, lose some. Whatever.


The book I’ve been reading this week is (finally) The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson. It came out on Tuesday and I was SO EXCITED to finally get it.

It’s just as wonderful as I guessed it would be. I always love what Maureen Johnson writes, though, so I didn’t worry otherwise. I wish I could have gotten more read this week, but I’m loving it anyway. If you get the chance to read this book, I’m sure you’d love it too. It’s just quality YA.