Hello again! I have received nine entries for the challenge, which are posted below. Once you have read them all, please click on This Link to vote for your favourite. It's very difficult to tell you exactly how to pick your favourite (one of the reasons I didn't want to judge myself) - it may be the one you think is the best written, or that moves you the most, or that you think best shows the ways Harry Potter can affect people. It's really up to you how you decide. There is also an opportunity to leave comments for any of the entries (though this thread will be left open after the challenge for people to post comments.)
One final note, I plan to reveal who wrote what, once the poll is complete. If you would not like me to reveal which entry is yours, please let me know via PM.
The survey will be open until midnight BST on the 15th July (because I'm not going to a midnight showing and will need something to keep me occupied).
Title: My Magical Memories
A/N: The story of how I became a Harry Potter fan, and what it's meant to me... in verse
Many years ago, I'm dating here,
these books began a stir.
I didn't really know much then.
Now it all seems such a blur.
Harry Potter seemed a silly thing
just meant for children's view.
I thought it fine like so many more
That was well before I had a clue.
I hadn't read, just merely heard
when I was asked to play a part
for my nephews birthday party plan:
McGonagall, a teacher, so smart
I read a bit and watched the vid
and wore her pointy hat
The merry day went over well,
a success with every brat
Hogwarts School we'd imitate,
each class with fun things they could do.
The kids enjoyed and wanted more,
tho our Snape did scare a few.
It was some years later then,
when I taught myself. Who knew?
I'd finally heard enough to read
and was charmed at once, it's true.
The movies helped, I can't deny.
Those actors were superb,
bringing life and visual splendor
to JK's magic noun and verb.
The books are still far better
as directors tend to stray,
but all in all an unmatched work
that grows more popular each day
Now all the books and movies
I still rabidly devour.
With such complex truths and lessons
I'm still amazed they hold such power
I've been to some conventions,
and of course the internet
where I've had some lovely chats
with some great fans that I have met.
Across the globe, it stretches far,
and has brought the wide world closer still,
for those that want to share the fun.
It's formed bridges that enforce good will.
I realize how it's shaped my views
and helped me learn to teach.
Parent, student, or just citizen,
Harry Potter seems to reach.
His tale, somehow, is everyone's
whether or not they wield a wand.
Greatest of all, a teacher's dream:
books that get young readers to respond.
Differences, alike or not,
the books teach us to be fair;
acceptance, still a sticky thing
in a world where some don't care.
Now with children of my own to raise
I'm looking forward to the ride
of sharing with them this wondrous tale,
with the "boy who lived" 'long side.
Title: How Harry Potter Launched My Second Childhood
I realize there’s not a “typical” Harry Potter fan, but still, I consider myself pretty out of the ordinary. Let’s just say if I had gone to Hogwarts, I would have attended in Tom Riddle’s day, not Harry’s. I’m probably one of the few women who celebrated her fiftieth birthday with a Harry Potter cake and movie marathon. And I credit the series with the rebirth of my imagination, and for helping me not quit the journey I’ve been on for decades to become a published author, myself.
When I was six, learning to read opened up a new world for me as surely as if I had tapped on the brick wall in the back of the Leaky Cauldron with my wand. By the time I was seven and realized that ordinary people like myself could create those worlds, I knew I wanted to write and publish stories for other people to enjoy.
For years, I was surrounded by friends who had similar goals. One good friend and I became a couple of the original “fan girls” when we fell in love with the Star Wars universe – and I mean when the original movies were coming out! A whole gang of us spent many happy days while waiting for Return of the Jedi by writing our own ending to the series, swapping new installments of our work and discussing each other’s ideas.
But the usual happened. The Star Wars saga wrapped up just fine without our input. Friends married and had children, or lost jobs, or developed health issues. Most of my friends were so overwhelmed trying to deal with the real world that there was little left over for fantasy lands. I never lost my desire to become an author, but I decided it was time for me to grow up, too.
So I put aside fan fiction to concentrate on “real writing.” I queried agents and attended writers’ conferences and learned to pitch. I read books not because they inspired me, but because I was supposed to study the writing style. I wrote stories to “fit the market.”
Shortly before my fiftieth birthday, a new job brought me into contact with HP readers, and listening to them speculate about the last installment of the series due to be released soon gave me a pang of nostalgia. So I started to read Harry Potter. Not only was I immediately hooked, but it was as though the cobwebs had been dusted off my imagination.
Since I started reading HP, my imagination is soaring. For the first time in years, I wrote a fan fiction story and am discussing ideas with other fans. Best of all, I’m interested in my original characters and stories again. I care more about the world I’m creating and the people who live there than about pleasing an editor at a publishing company. My husband says I’m in my second childhood, but I’m having the time of my life. All is well.
Title: Home At Last
A/N: I actually left out a lot regarding fan fiction, since most of us share similar experiences, but overall, it's only a fraction of the whole story for me. Enjoy!
It is said that, throughout our lives, we as human beings can look back upon events past and select one in particular that simply changed everything. For some, this is the birth of a child, marriage, or even tragedy, but sometimes, this evolution of self can be found in the pages of a book. Which book? Well, there’s a skinny, bespectacled, dark-haired boy with a scar on the cover — someone I’ve never met yet know better than I know some of my family members. Name?
You know the name; the whole world does. Across the globe, people young and old, rich and poor, pedestrian and famous alike have adopted the Harry Potter series into their hearts and lives. The characters have become like family to so many, but none more so than Harry himself. When I picked up the first book as an adult, I wondered if I was alone, if I was odd for wanting to read a children’s story, but in my omnipresent ‘to hell with everyone else’ attitude, I read it anyway. Life changing moment: check.
I don’t know if it’s within the power of words to describe the feeling I got as I avidly flew through the pages of every book as fast as I could get my hands on them. There was need, there was purpose, there was urgency — Harry had to win, and he had to be okay. He was just the right sort of protagonist, the type that appealed to me first as a human being and then a hero. He wasn’t perfect or handsome or incredibly smart, which, in other words, made him more like me than any other character I’d ever come across in both fiction and cinema. But more than that, I got to watch him grow up, as well as do a bit of growing up myself.
However, nothing prepared me for the sheer outpouring of adoration in the Harry Potter fandom, which I discovered quite by accident while looking for movie trailers on iTunes. Finding Mugglecast, quite simply, rebuilt me. Before that fateful day when I found the Mugglenet podcast, I had no job, no inspiration, and no drive to do anything. All I wanted at the time was to see what the movie a friend of mine wanted to see was about, but the rest is in the iconic pages of the Harry Potter novels.
In retrospect, fan fiction has been a large part of my life, but overall, I think the kinship with both the series and my fellow fans has really been the most overwhelmingly momentous part of my Potter life. Since my words can’t grasp just how much this familial connection to the whole universe means to me, the words of J.K. Rowling herself at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two sums it up beautifully. “Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
And here I am.
Title: My Home Hogwarts
If you look in my bedroom, it is fairly clear that I am one of the biggest Harry Potter fans out there. There is hardly any wall space that doesn’t have a Potter poster on it; there are action-figures, two copies of each book, dolls, a very bizarre bust of Hagrid, the Sorting Hat, wands, and a real-live ginger cat who I appropriately named Crookshanks. For all intents and purposes, I have turned my home into Hogwarts.
Like Harry, Snape, and Voldemort, the “abandoned boys,” who belong most at Hogwarts, I too have found my home there. It has been the home I have carried with me from the time I was nine years old to now—through every hardship, every difficult choice, and every adventure.
I started my life as a bratty girl who did not like reading. I did poorly in school; I was so shy that I was easily bossed around by others; I was too scared to stand up for what I knew was right.
Hagrid telling Harry that he was a wizard transformed my life just as much as it did Harry’s. I started to enjoy reading, devouring each Potter book up to thirty times; now, I am going into my senior year at a top university, where I am an honors student of literature. I learned to not let the Draco Malfoys of the world push me around; now I have strong, brave friends who listen to what I have to say and, even if they don’t always agree with me, respect me. I realized that there were causes in this world bigger than me; I spent many of my high school years doing charity work and fighting for good in a world that contains evil.
Harry’s journey taught me every step of the way. When I stepped onto the plane to move away from my home, my city, and my family, I remembered Harry’s courage. When I felt insignificant and picked on by everybody I knew, I remembered Neville proving that no matter who you are, you can make a difference. When I felt terrible loneliness and as though nobody understood me, I remembered Snape who even in near total isolation fought for what he truly believed in.
Most importantly, Harry Potter gave me something to believe in. As I grew up and began to questioned my school, my parents, the people around me, my religion and above all, myself, I never questioned Harry and the stories he had. I truly would not be the same person were it not for these stories that Jo has given us. Hogwarts was the home I kept with me through my entire life, and as Jo said in her goodbye speech at the UK premiere, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome me home.
Title: Subconsciously Influenced
It’s hard for me to say exactly how Harry Potter has changed my life, as it has been a part of it for so long. Perhaps the magic of the series is the fact that it was introduced to me so early in life that I can no longer pinpoint exactly what it has done in my life. I looked back on my “credo” written before I even joined the boards, and my second point was that I believed that love is the greatest earthly power. This is a notion that has been given over and over in the series, and at the time I wrote that, I had not read the novels in about seven months. I think the lessons I have learned from the books may sit subconsciously, as it was part of my childhood. I think that the greatest thing about these series is how each character taught us something that will always stay with us. The following characters are the ones who made the greatest impressions on me.
Neville taught me that bravery comes in all sorts of different forms. He taught me that you need not be the Chosen One to make a difference, that though we may seem weak, we are strong, that we are worth more than what people tell us, and that regardless of people’s expectations, we can rise above and bring about change.
Ginny taught me that we cannot let our past experiences and our demons dictate who we are. She taught me that regardless of what we have done, whatever horrors we have seen, we can push past them and battle on.
Snape taught me the power of obsessive love, and the value of trust. He taught me that love can be a driving force. He taught me trust in people who must be trusted, regardless of my own biases.
Hermione taught me the power of knowledge, that even the one who seems only good in the theory can exercise what they know practically.
Ron taught me the power of loyalty and battled for confidence at the same time I did. He taught me that I can do what I set my mind to and that friendship is important, and to always stand by and for my family and friends.
Harry taught us perseverance through all his struggles, and taught us that pure love for others and their safety is what makes us strong.
Even minor characters, like Oliver Wood have taught me things, for he taught me that with passion, hard work, and a little bit of talent, we can achieve our dreams.
Lastly, there is Dumbledore, the man who taught me wisdom. The man who taught us that our choices make us, that all our hearts beat as one, and that we must not sink in our anguish, but battle on. And so we battle on, knowing this isn’t goodbye after all, for we take Harry with us wherever we go, for he lives on in our hearts.
Title: Thank You Notes from the Girl Who Lived
A/N: I kind of want to actually send this to Jo...anyone got her address?
Dear J.K. Rowling,
I went through what you would call a “rough patch” in middle school. In Potter terms, my first two years at Hogwarts did not go as planned. I was a shy but content bookworm at the age of ten, until my parents convinced me to change from a public school to a very small private school. Their intention was to give me the best education possible. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. In addition to leaving all my friends behind, I found myself entering a new school accompanied by brand new braces and glasses to boot. Classes were small and filled with the same students all day long. Say what you will about the failures of the public school system, but I have never encountered cliques and bullying like I did in that fish bowl of a school. It would be useless to describe the different students, because there essentially were no differences. It would be best described as a massive clique of the same person cloned over and over again, encompassing all but around ten students in the entire grade. You were either in or out. I was out. I didn’t necessarily like the clique or want to be a part of it, but then I met him. It was a carefully planned strategy. He wasn’t in the clique either, but he figured out the best way to worm his way in. Make fun of the other outcast, and the others would accept you. That year was hell. It was one thing to endure the constant verbal abuse, but my reaction made it all the worse. Bullying made me become someone I’m not. Desperate for a solution, I hurled insults right back at him. I’m not proud of it, and I hated who I became. But through this difficult time, I found a world that accepted me. I could take refuge in Harry Potter. I saw myself in Harry, on a much smaller scale, when he was ostracized in the fifth book. I found that I loved writing stories, and I was accepted by an online community of wonderful writers. When I came home from school everyday, I would take comfort in reading Harry Potter or dreaming up my own stories. I left that school after two years. Now I’ve graduated high school and I love who I am again. I have great friends and I’m excited to move onto the next stage of my life at university. But I can’t thank you enough for getting me there through all the support I found through Harry Potter. I survived those years with Harry’s encouraging words of love and friendship echoing in my head amidst the loneliness and despair that surrounded me. I think that I really did receive a letter of acceptance from Hogwarts.
With love and thanks,
The Girl who Lived
Title: Honeymooning with Harry
Author's Note: I love Mugglenet.
I went on my honeymoon with Harry Potter.
Really, I did. I had a lovely time with my husband, but I also enjoyed watching Harry dare the perils of the Triwizard Tournament at the pool, and witnessed the return of Lord Voldemort on the plane ride home. I distinctly remember the woman next to me trying to strike up a conversation, only I was desperate to know what was happening in the graveyard at Little Hangleton.
That is my first Harry Potter memory. Obviously I'd read the first three books, but that was one of my first big experiences with the Harry Potter phenomenon. I remember buying Goblet of Fire and setting it aside for my trip. I wasn't a big fan at that point, but I knew it was something special and couldn't wait to start reading.
I remember looking forward to the release of the first film, and then hitting a midnight block party for book five. I wore a hat like McGonagall's and someone actually stopped me and asked why. I read the entire book the next day whilst wearing a pair of round spectacles, and I had a pounding headache at the end, and not from Harry's shouting. And then book six was released, which was when I really hit the ground running as a fan, so to speak.
Desperate to know what other people thought of the book and what it might mean for the end of Harry's story, I searched the internet for fellow fans. I landed at Mugglenet in the Chamber of Secrets, where I enjoyed reading, writing, and discussing speculative essays and editorials. Writing a non-fiction piece about the final book is not that far from writing fanfiction, which I quickly discovered and devoured.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
But how has it changed my life? In two ways. First, I have a hobby I truly love: writing. Telling stories. Creating characters. I've grown better each year, learning more about the craft and exploring new styles, new ideas. I have confidence in my ability to tell a good story after so many years of playing in someone else's yard; perhaps someday I will plant my own garden of tales.
Through this hobby I have met some wonderful people, both online and in real life, and have shared some amazing stories, fascinating discussions, and much, much laughter. That is what I look forward to more than anything when I open my laptop: simply talking with fellow fans about this crazy thing called the Potterverse and then laughing until I cry. We have the serious discussions as well—Harry and Hermione? Snape and Lockhart?- but it is the moments of levity that I remember most. It is the instant bond of loving and laughing about something we all hold dear to our heart that keeps me here and keeps me writing.
Plus, I now know words like spork, wank, bamf, and zechad. And by Merlin's baggy pants/trousers/underwear, that is AWESOME.
Title: Always In My Heart
The first time I was introduced to Harry Potter was when I was six years old. My cousin had just purchased CoS on DVD and he forced me and my siblings to watch it. It was then that I fell in love with the idea of this magical world which no one knew about, and how I, we, were even part of it too, as “Muggles”. I was delighted by the idea of a flying car; I even thought that when I turned twelve, I could do the same. Immediately after watching CoS, I realised that I needed to watch the previous one, and again, my now seven-year-old self was astounded by the sheer brilliance of JKR’s ideas — a human-sized chess set? It was just mind-bogglingly amazing.
So of course, I had to continue, and I found myself desperately wishing I would be allowed to go to the cinema to watch PoA. Sadly, my parents wouldn’t allow me to, so I was happy when my uncle bought the DVD the moment it came out. The time between waiting for the DVD to be released, however, was spent catching up on the books, which I had long since dismissed as being boring and not for me. Again, I literally fell in love, and I was even more delighted to find out that more detail was put in the books than the films, and that there were characters I wouldn’t have heard of just by watching the films.
Eight years on, and I am still incredibly proud of being the biggest Harry Potter fan to exist. I can quote my favourite sections of the book; I know most of the lines in each of the seven (going on eight) films; I can even act out scenes of the film, even if they weren’t quite as how I envisioned them to be while reading the books. Most importantly, though, when I was first introduced to Harry Potter, I was given a much-needed friend. As a child, I had never been the most sociable or the most popular, but when I found Harry Potter, I realised I was perfectly entitled to be selective about my friends. Because I had Harry, Ron and Hermione, and they more than made up for it.
What’s more, Harry Potter made me realise just how important books are for me. Harry Potter kept me sane and made sure I was happy; Harry Potter made me understand what love meant. Harry Potter was the reason I did well in English; it was the reason why I excelled in school. It made me cry and laugh and smile and cry some more, and it takes a lot for a book to be able to do that. Harry Potter has permeated the hearts of many people across the globe, and ultimately for me, Harry Potter taught me life lessons, and I know no matter how old I get, Hogwarts will remain in my heart, and so will Harry Potter.
Title: Part of My Life
I never thought Harry Potter would change my life. When I was younger, I was naturally a reader, so I can’t say that J.K. Rowling introduced me to books or inspired my love of reading like she has done for so many others. When I first saw a news report about the release of PoA and decided to give the books a try, I expected to devour them and then move on, like with so many other books.
I never expected that I would read them over and over again, that I would remember exactly when and where I was when I purchased each book, or that by the time Deathly Hallows was released, I would be queuing outside a bookshop with a hundred others, desperately waiting to get my hands on the final book.
Discovering the existence of the fandom was the turning point in my Harry Potter journey. Up until then, I read the books a lot, but it had never really occurred to me that there might be other fans out there who all felt the same about Harry as I did and who wanted to discuss the books in more depth than I could ever dream of. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about fanfiction – I didn’t understand the appeal. But then, I read some of it and almost instantly I was hooked. It provided a way to stay in the wizarding world in the long gaps between books and to imagine my own scenarios for the characters I loved.
Since the discovery of the fandom, Harry Potter has changed my life in many ways, some good and some bad. I’ve made some incredible friends – people who I think know me more than some of my real life friends. It is these people who keep me here – without the community, I’m not sure I would have maintained my connection with Harry Potter for as long as I have.
There have been bad times too. For the first time, I have found myself crying over things people I’ve never even met have said to me. I sometimes want to scream at the amount of frustration that can be caused by something as silly as a website, but the amount of myself that I have invested in this fandom makes it difficult to detach from it. I have let hours of my time be absorbed by this world, sometimes to the cost of real life commitments.
Every so often I think about what I would do if I didn’t have Harry Potter. Would I be more productive in other ways – would my academics be better, would I have more friends? Possibly.
But then I log on to AIM, or I receive a review for something I’ve written, or read something brilliant, and I realise that I couldn’t be without Harry. Harry Potter hasn’t just changed my life – it is a part of my life, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.
Title: Stopping My Tears
It is simple to say that a teenage wizard changed my life. Of course, without the benefit of a time-turner, it is difficult to prove, yet here I am about to prove to you that my life is substantially different because of Jo Rowling’s world.
Through Harry Potter, I rediscovered a love of writing that I’d thought dead and buried under the drudgery of mere existence. Perhaps that’s over-dramatic, I was hardly rotting away, but I was directionless and living vicariously.
I found this site, quite by chance, when I was mourning the end of Deathly Hallows and finding the computer games a poor substitute. The stories I’d always imagined happening after I closed a book – the conversations only alive in my head – were valid. Look, here’s a site, with other people as nutty as I am, who want to craft their ideas into stories.
Writing stopped me from stagnating. Writing stopped me vegetating in front of the television watching crappy soaps. Writing allowed me an inner focus and stopped my tears. Yes, tears from the futility of not living the life I felt I should have led. But now I have Harry and I have my stories.
I have made friends through Harry Potter, (I think we all have), but I’ve lost some, too. In the early days of my discovery that life could be different, that I had other options, I wrote obsessively and cut myself adrift from other cyber sites. People I’d met up with became unimportant whilst I discussed a myriad of plots with betas, argued petty points of canon, or chased the House Cup. Perhaps I was crazy to sacrifice them for this other life, but I can only liken it to falling in love. Harry Potter proved as addictive as that first flush of love and the thrill of sexual attraction. Yes, it is insane, but I was helplessly in thrall.
Harry Potter changed my life; but it needed changing, or I would have become a much, much more conventional person – and that would never do.