Monthly Archives: January 2013

Worlds Collide: Harry Potter, the Titanic and the airport

Universal Park and Harry Potter World! There’s nothing better than Florida in January, even though the park is filled with lines and tourists.

Between Hogwarts food and souvenirs, I spent most of my galleons. Still, the weather was perfect and, except for all the people in t-shirts and shorts, we fell into Harry’s magical world.

For example: Harry’s mother, if you recall, sacrificed her life to save Harry. I’d planned to buy Hermione’s wand, but my daughter wanted one, too. At $35 each, we couldn’t buy two wands. So my daughter got the wand, not me. Oh, the sacrifices mothers make for their kids!

ImageYet another: Everyone in Diagon Alley, whether they were from Brazil, Japan, or Wisconsin, began to speak British phrases with an accent. Where’s your flat? and Oh, bollocks, I dropped my tea.

Yet another: There’s no sorting hat, but you quickly identify yourself with a Hogwarts house. Turns out, I’m Gryffindore, and my daughter is Hufflepuff.  I think she just likes to say Hufflepuff.

Yet another: The adults enjoyed butterbeer after we recovered from the disappointment of learning it’s alcohol-free.

Tomorrow: The Titanic, the airport, and a bit of magic.


Essential Harry Potter

The trip to Harry Potter World will require some essential purchases to bring home.

  1. Wands
  2. Robes (although my daughter would prefer an invisibility cloak)
  3. A t-shirt for my Potter-crazy friend Kirstin that says, “My friend went to Diagon Alley and all she got me was this lousy t-shirt.” (Do they still sell these in tourist traps?)

Off the list:

  1. Any candy where the flavor is a surprise. I’ll pass on the vomit, booger, and worm flavors.
  2. An owl. Too hard to get on the plane.
  3. Dragon eggs. I learned my lesson via Hagrid.

Any other suggestions?

Hermione says …

As my daughter and I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we’ve been flagging our favorite Hermione quotes:

“I hope you’re pleased with yourselves. We could all have been killed — or worse, expelled.”

“Flitwick told me in secret that I got a hundred and twelve percent on his exam. They’re not throwing me out after that.”

(When Ron asks Hermione if it’d be safe for her to ask her parents about a famous wizard.) “‘It’d be safe to ask them.Very safe, as they’re both dentists.”


Hermione the Heroine


Hermione rules!

I’m reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to my daughter. We’re going to Harry Potter World, and I want her to fall into Harry’s magical world. You can’t walk down Diagon Alley and think, “Wow!” unless you’ve read at least one book.

But more importantly, I want her to discover and admire the incredible character of Hermione Granger. Hermione is a know-it-all, and she grates on our two heroes – and on readers – when they begin their Hogwarts education. But she quickly becomes their best pal, and she’s no damsel in distress.

Whenever the gang is cornered, she’s the witch with the answers. Emma Watson’s a beauty, but Hermione is described as offbeat, with her long frizzy hair and regular frown. She wears long wizard robes, not tight jeans and low-cut, body-clinging t-shirts. It’s refreshing. She’s the Superheroine I want my daughter to know. Notice the close spelling of Hermione and heroine. A coincidence? I don’t think so.

Of course, Superhero movies feature Superheroes, not Superheroines. The female leads in most comic book movies are a feminist mom’s nightmare. They have more courage and sass than the early films, but it’s always a sexual sass. Wink wink, I’m wearing a size-two dress, let’s hit the sack. (Okay, Lois Lane defies all.) But Pepper Potts from Ironman? Rachel from the Dark Knight? The over-the-top sexuality of Halle Berry’s Catwoman? Mary Jane from Spiderman?

Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for Hermione Granger.

Little Rock Girl in February

Black History Month begins in February, and my book, Little Rock Girl, was named one of the Top Ten Black History Books for Youth. Online searching tells me a number of schools and libraries are using the book for that purpose. It’s an incredible honor.Image

I think what makes Little Rock Girl special is its angle. There are hundreds of kid’s books on Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and the Little Rock Nine. Little Rock Girl is part of a series called Captured History. The books explore how a single photo changed a movement.

Little Rock Girl tells the story of Elizabeth Eckford, of course, but it’s much bigger than her horrific experience. The book shows how media coverage – including TV news, which was a baby at the time – affected public opinion, forced national leaders to confront the issue, and propelled the movement forward.

I worked in public relations for seven years, and I consider civil rights leaders as the founders of modern day public relations. Martin Luther King quickly learned this: no media coverage, no movement. Photos of demonstrations, arrests, and police brutality motivated African Americans to become activists, risking their jobs, their homes, and even their lives. The photos forced white citizens, particularly in the north, to face an issue they ignored. And political leaders could no longer pretend segregation was just a state issue.

Little Rock Girl is a nuanced look at complex issues ranging from state rights to the concept of “separate but equal” to the legal battles. I’m thrilled the editor at Capstone was supportive of probing deeper than biographies of civil rights leaders.

And I’m thrilled I was chosen to write it.

Stories our houses tell

Our old house? Nope - couldn't find a picture. But it was two blocks from this one!

Our old house? Nope – couldn’t find a picture. But it was two blocks from this one!

I’ve lived in a lot of houses and apartments as an adult. My sister counts seven moves in one three-year period. That’s when she resigned as moving helper.

Last month, I moved into a new house, a house we built, a house without stories. And that’s the strange part. We are living with a very clean and blank canvas.

One of my homes was 100 plus years old. No horror stories, but it pulsated with energy.

I’d sit next to the fireplace, near the beautiful French doors we’d found hidden in the basement. And I’d wonder. How many arguments happened in this room? Did the housewife ever dream of running off to the city? Did they cry in front of the fireplace when friends died? Did they have parties? Did they almost lose the house during the Depression? Did they watch us from the spirit world, making sure we loved their home?

Sometimes I felt mood shifts throughout the day. I sensed their company by the fireplace, their solace during our struggles. The couple’s energy and presence never left.

So now we have the new canvas, without stories or wonder.

Yesterday the inspector told us the vinyl siding on the house’s east side has slight waves in it. This, he said, is to be expected because of Minnesota weather.

The tidbit made me feel light. We had a flaw. We had a teeny-weeny story – with more to come.

Mankato writers rock it!

The Minnesota State Arts Board released the names of grant winners. The pool was dominated by metro-area artists, but Mankato, my old stomping grounds, made an impressive showing.

My dear friend Kirstin Cronn-Mills won money to complete her novel Original Fake. I’ve read early chapters. The novel is funny and quirky, and how about that great title?

Diana Joseph, an amazing writer, ultra cool human, and a former teacher of mine, won to work on a memoir about motherhood and postpartum depression. Diana is the author of a book of essays, I’m Sorry You Feel That Way. The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog.

Steve Almond, author of Candyfreak, endorsed Diana by saying, “…You should buy this book. Immediately.”

Yes, sir!