Since today is the premiere of the final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this book and movie franchise’s contributions to literature, entertainment, culture and reading. Then, this morning, I saw an article from GalleyCat, “Harry Potter Lives Forever in Fan Fiction,” with a statistic that stunned me: Fanfiction.net now hosts 420,000 fan-written stories inspired by Harry Potter.
That’s four hundred twenty thousand stories.
Time to share my deepest appreciation for J.K. Rowling and the most important series of books to grace the children’s publishing world since Dr. Seuss (although, of course, Harry Potter books are for grades 5 and up). While grossing billions of dollars in book and film sales and selling books by the hundreds of millions, plus earning its own theme park at Universal Orlando, the numbers behind Harry Potter only make us sit up and pay attention. Especially those 63 publishers who passed on Rowling’s first manuscript before Bloomsbury gave Rowling a $20,000 advance. Seems pretty crazy now, doesn’t it?
My appreciation for Harry Potter began in 2001, when I was talking with a schoolteacher and artist who was home-schooling her 11-year-old son because of her differences with a school system that had cut compulsory reading by 50%. She handed me a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second book in the series, and said, “These books are making children want to read again. One day, we’re going to be crediting J.K. Rowling for making reading enjoyable for millions of kids like it was for us.”
What a prophetic comment. The combination of adventure, sorcery, danger, fantasy, compelling stories, teen romance, villains, and main characters just as dorky, intelligent, curious, silly and courageous as all kids in their awkward years created a fan base just as ravenous as Trekkies or Star Wars fanatics … only younger. Rowling’s magical storycrafting and her populating of characters in these worlds was just as meticulous and well thought-out as George Lucas’ creation of the alternate universe of Star Wars.
In an era when we were losing kids (and the printed book itself) by the millions to endless TV, video games, mobile devices and, at the end of the run, Facebook and Twitter, Harry Potter gave them a reason to read, imagine, dream and fantasize.
But what I really like about Harry Potter’s impact is the second component — the writing. It’s one thing to read books, but it’s another to sit down with a piece of paper and write creatively — something that seems to be phasing out of more and more schools as students approach high school age. As the GalleyCat post makes clear, the Harry Potter franchise has sparked writing by young people big-time.
I submit that today’s incredible number of highly talented, highly determined fiction, memoir and narrative non-fiction writers in the 14 to 25 age range were directly or indirectly influenced by reading Harry Potter books. All of the popular genres of this group — graphic novel, horror, fantasy/supernatural, romance and adventure — are “grown up” offshoots from Rowling’s narrative premise. I’ve worked with a lot of these kids in various schools and writer’s conferences, and seen some incredible works along the way — works of incredible depth, imagination and emotion. In addition, some of these writers illustrated their own books and already know how to brand them through social media, blogs, websites and the like.
Yes, today is the grand finale of an incredible youth literature franchise. While I admit to only reading four of the books, and seeing five of the movies (I’ll see the new release, for sure), I just want to be sure we always hold J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter books very high in our hearts as writers, readers, parents, teachers … and the young writers who were sparked creatively for life by a band of pesky students with supernatural powers at Hogwart.
Indeed, as the GalleyCat article proclaims, Harry Potter Lives Forever.