Thursday, July 28, 2011


by Michael Di Gesu, Ravenclaw

LONDON - All week, O.W.L. results have been delivered over Great Britain to soon-to-be sixth years who waited with nerves bordering on a breakdown. Parents twitched anxious fingers over wands ready to hex their kids if they pestered them about any special owl deliveries ... my mum included.

Even with Umbridge and her tyrannical ways overpowered, most fifth years didn’t receive proper Defense Against the Dark Arts training and therefore many failed. Only a few of us (you know who you are) passed this course with an Exceeds Expectation or the coveted Outstanding. We had help from a very special person indeed.

Speaking of this special person, a new name for THE BOY WHO LIVED is on the lips of wizards young and old. Could Harry Potter really be THE CHOSEN ONE? This investigative reporter will dig deep to uncover every clue to see if the rumors are true. (Plus it doesn’t hurt to be in his inner circle.)

Last night, a snowy owl pecked at my window. It was none other than Hedwig, Harry Potter’s personal owl. What could THE CHOSEN ONE want from me? Could these be the answers to the questions I ran by him before term ended? Fat chance, he threatened to never speak to me again if I printed anything about him. But surely, he wouldn’t. Or would he? His mood swings lately would try anyone’s patience. But now that Umbridge is back in the Ministry and out of our hair, he should be more himself.

To my shock, the message wasn’t anything worth printing...just an invitation to the Burrow from Ron Weasley.

But wait! There was something in that scribble--the date, July 31. Four days from now, Harry Potter turns sixteen!

Let’s make this his most unforgettable birthday! Let’s give THE BOY WHO LIVED the best surprise party ever. Let’s honor him for all that he has done for us. After the tumultuous year we’ve all had, let’s get wild and show Harry how much we love him.

Write those letters, get those owls ready, and send Harry a cheery birthday message.

All you DA members, please get in touch with Fred and George Weasley before crashing this event. If anyone two people know how to crash anything, they do. Harry won’t expect a thing. Imagine his face as all of us DA members grin at him while hundreds of owls carry in warm wishes.

So don’t forget, blast those calendars with memory dust for Mon., July 31!

Four days and counting!

Michael Di Gesu is the Thestral Gazette’s investigative reporter. If you have anything to hide, he will sniff it out. When he’s not digging up secrets and sordid affairs, you’ll find him on the Quidditch pitch with friends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Terrified of flying himself, he’s yet to take flight with his buddies. Harry’s still working on it. “Someday I’ll get him on a broom!” Michael blogs at: http://writing-art-and-design.blogspot.com/.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

How will you help make Harry's special day even more wonderful?
Thursday, July 28, 2011 Laurel Garver

by Michael Di Gesu, Ravenclaw

LONDON - All week, O.W.L. results have been delivered over Great Britain to soon-to-be sixth years who waited with nerves bordering on a breakdown. Parents twitched anxious fingers over wands ready to hex their kids if they pestered them about any special owl deliveries ... my mum included.

Even with Umbridge and her tyrannical ways overpowered, most fifth years didn’t receive proper Defense Against the Dark Arts training and therefore many failed. Only a few of us (you know who you are) passed this course with an Exceeds Expectation or the coveted Outstanding. We had help from a very special person indeed.

Speaking of this special person, a new name for THE BOY WHO LIVED is on the lips of wizards young and old. Could Harry Potter really be THE CHOSEN ONE? This investigative reporter will dig deep to uncover every clue to see if the rumors are true. (Plus it doesn’t hurt to be in his inner circle.)

Last night, a snowy owl pecked at my window. It was none other than Hedwig, Harry Potter’s personal owl. What could THE CHOSEN ONE want from me? Could these be the answers to the questions I ran by him before term ended? Fat chance, he threatened to never speak to me again if I printed anything about him. But surely, he wouldn’t. Or would he? His mood swings lately would try anyone’s patience. But now that Umbridge is back in the Ministry and out of our hair, he should be more himself.

To my shock, the message wasn’t anything worth printing...just an invitation to the Burrow from Ron Weasley.

But wait! There was something in that scribble--the date, July 31. Four days from now, Harry Potter turns sixteen!

Let’s make this his most unforgettable birthday! Let’s give THE BOY WHO LIVED the best surprise party ever. Let’s honor him for all that he has done for us. After the tumultuous year we’ve all had, let’s get wild and show Harry how much we love him.

Write those letters, get those owls ready, and send Harry a cheery birthday message.

All you DA members, please get in touch with Fred and George Weasley before crashing this event. If anyone two people know how to crash anything, they do. Harry won’t expect a thing. Imagine his face as all of us DA members grin at him while hundreds of owls carry in warm wishes.

So don’t forget, blast those calendars with memory dust for Mon., July 31!

Four days and counting!

Michael Di Gesu is the Thestral Gazette’s investigative reporter. If you have anything to hide, he will sniff it out. When he’s not digging up secrets and sordid affairs, you’ll find him on the Quidditch pitch with friends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Terrified of flying himself, he’s yet to take flight with his buddies. Harry’s still working on it. “Someday I’ll get him on a broom!” Michael blogs at: http://writing-art-and-design.blogspot.com/.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

How will you help make Harry's special day even more wonderful?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How is your summer going, friends? I am having a great time researching a shiny new idea while simultaneously having a not-so-great time revising marketing materials for a finished book.

After a long chat with a CP who encouraged me to start my query from scratch, I realized something. I've been channeling my frustrations with query letter writing into how I conceive of my character. This is a very bad thing. One's query should always convey a sense of excitement about the project. Yet the more drafts I wrote, the more judgmental of my MC they sound.

I had a long talk with my girl this morning. I apologized to her for losing the love, for not listening with a truly sympathetic ear. Answers to common query questions--What does she want? What must she do to get it? What's in the way? What happens if she can't get it?--must come from within her and her story. She is what makes the story have heart, not my (stumbling) attempts to cleverly describe it.

Writing from a place of love isn't just for the book itself--it's for everything surrounding it, queries and synopses included. If you find yourself genuinely perplexed about the marketing end, it's time to get back to the basics and love your characters and their world.

Have you dealt with query/synopsis struggles? What helped?
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 Laurel Garver
How is your summer going, friends? I am having a great time researching a shiny new idea while simultaneously having a not-so-great time revising marketing materials for a finished book.

After a long chat with a CP who encouraged me to start my query from scratch, I realized something. I've been channeling my frustrations with query letter writing into how I conceive of my character. This is a very bad thing. One's query should always convey a sense of excitement about the project. Yet the more drafts I wrote, the more judgmental of my MC they sound.

I had a long talk with my girl this morning. I apologized to her for losing the love, for not listening with a truly sympathetic ear. Answers to common query questions--What does she want? What must she do to get it? What's in the way? What happens if she can't get it?--must come from within her and her story. She is what makes the story have heart, not my (stumbling) attempts to cleverly describe it.

Writing from a place of love isn't just for the book itself--it's for everything surrounding it, queries and synopses included. If you find yourself genuinely perplexed about the marketing end, it's time to get back to the basics and love your characters and their world.

Have you dealt with query/synopsis struggles? What helped?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


by Lisa Galek, Ravenclaw

ORLANDO--Ever wish tank tops were part of the Hogwarts dress code? Do you long for ocean-side Potion lessons? Been dying to use that sunblock spell you learned last year? Then consider taking a summer class at Hogwarts esteemed American campus located in sunny Orlando, Florida! This reporter was lucky enough to be part of a wizarding convention there last week and has the full scoop for you on all the classes, shopping, and extracurriculars.

The first thing you’ll see when you arrive is a replica of our beloved Hogsmeade. You’ll be amazed at how close these American wizards have come to our own village. You’ll feel right as home as you take a stroll past the shops, buy a butterbeer in the street (I recommend the frozen variety), or enjoy a song performed by the frog choir. They have a branch of Zonko’s selling all kinds of magical mischief. There’s Honeydukes, too (watch out for the chocolate frogs – they not only hop fast, they melt fast). You can pop into Ollivanders to watch one lucky witch or wizard choose their very own wand. Or you can buy some quality Quidditch supplies at Dervish and Banges. If you want to write home to all your friends, stop at the owl post. There your letters will be postmarked from Hogsmeade, so everyone will know how you’ve been spending your summer.

Make sure you leave room for lunch, too! You can stop into the Three Broomsticks where house-elves are cooking up delicious British cuisine. It will run you a few Galleons, but it’s definitely worth it. Be sure to check out the Hog’s Head next door, as well. The barmen are very friendly, but the hog behind the bar has been known to grunt at patrons from time to time.

On the way up to the castle, you can stop for a quick ride with Buckbeak on Flight of the Hippogriff (approach with caution though… my hippogriff went soaring all over the place once I boarded!). For the especially brave, you can even race a Hungarian Horntail or Chinese Fireball on the Dragon Challenge. I chose the Horntail and I’m very pleased to say that I won… and survived.

Hogwarts castle is truly spectacular. As you walk through, you can chat with the portraits, get a peek into the Headmaster’s office, and even see some famous Gryffindor alumni in the common room. In the heart of the castle is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It’s a remarkable adventure… if you’re feeling up to chasing a dragon through the grounds. Watch out for the dementors (I had stowed my wand before getting on board, so I couldn’t even cast my patronus!) and spiders (I clamped my eyes shut the entire time we were in Aragog’s lair. One run in with a giant spider is quite enough for me). Oh, and one more warning – the ride feels a bit like disapparating for the first time. I had to sit down for a short while after I left the castle… but I soon recovered and, luckily, didn’t end up looking like the victim of a bad Puking Pastille.

The only real problem I had with the Florida campus is that they let Muggles in! Of course, the little dears can’t register for classes, but you’ll catch them aimlessly waving wands in the streets and gawking in the shop windows everywhere you look (it’s like they’ve never seen a mandrake before!). And the place is constantly jam-packed. Some would say this is excellent for promotion of cooperation between magical and non-magical peoples, but I doubt those people have ever had the hem of their brand new robes trampled on by a group of wide-eyed Muggle tourists.

All in all, a visit to Hogwarts’ Florida campus makes a fantastic summer holiday. My only question is: Do they accept transfer students?

Lisa Galek is the Thestral Gazette’s adventurous travel reporter. She spends her days up in Ravenclaw tower plotting trips with the help of Charles, her enchanted talking atlas. When she’s not busy seeing the world via broomstick, she blogs at Read. Write. Repeat.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Which part of Florida campus appeals to you most?
Thursday, July 21, 2011 Laurel Garver

by Lisa Galek, Ravenclaw

ORLANDO--Ever wish tank tops were part of the Hogwarts dress code? Do you long for ocean-side Potion lessons? Been dying to use that sunblock spell you learned last year? Then consider taking a summer class at Hogwarts esteemed American campus located in sunny Orlando, Florida! This reporter was lucky enough to be part of a wizarding convention there last week and has the full scoop for you on all the classes, shopping, and extracurriculars.

The first thing you’ll see when you arrive is a replica of our beloved Hogsmeade. You’ll be amazed at how close these American wizards have come to our own village. You’ll feel right as home as you take a stroll past the shops, buy a butterbeer in the street (I recommend the frozen variety), or enjoy a song performed by the frog choir. They have a branch of Zonko’s selling all kinds of magical mischief. There’s Honeydukes, too (watch out for the chocolate frogs – they not only hop fast, they melt fast). You can pop into Ollivanders to watch one lucky witch or wizard choose their very own wand. Or you can buy some quality Quidditch supplies at Dervish and Banges. If you want to write home to all your friends, stop at the owl post. There your letters will be postmarked from Hogsmeade, so everyone will know how you’ve been spending your summer.

Make sure you leave room for lunch, too! You can stop into the Three Broomsticks where house-elves are cooking up delicious British cuisine. It will run you a few Galleons, but it’s definitely worth it. Be sure to check out the Hog’s Head next door, as well. The barmen are very friendly, but the hog behind the bar has been known to grunt at patrons from time to time.

On the way up to the castle, you can stop for a quick ride with Buckbeak on Flight of the Hippogriff (approach with caution though… my hippogriff went soaring all over the place once I boarded!). For the especially brave, you can even race a Hungarian Horntail or Chinese Fireball on the Dragon Challenge. I chose the Horntail and I’m very pleased to say that I won… and survived.

Hogwarts castle is truly spectacular. As you walk through, you can chat with the portraits, get a peek into the Headmaster’s office, and even see some famous Gryffindor alumni in the common room. In the heart of the castle is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It’s a remarkable adventure… if you’re feeling up to chasing a dragon through the grounds. Watch out for the dementors (I had stowed my wand before getting on board, so I couldn’t even cast my patronus!) and spiders (I clamped my eyes shut the entire time we were in Aragog’s lair. One run in with a giant spider is quite enough for me). Oh, and one more warning – the ride feels a bit like disapparating for the first time. I had to sit down for a short while after I left the castle… but I soon recovered and, luckily, didn’t end up looking like the victim of a bad Puking Pastille.

The only real problem I had with the Florida campus is that they let Muggles in! Of course, the little dears can’t register for classes, but you’ll catch them aimlessly waving wands in the streets and gawking in the shop windows everywhere you look (it’s like they’ve never seen a mandrake before!). And the place is constantly jam-packed. Some would say this is excellent for promotion of cooperation between magical and non-magical peoples, but I doubt those people have ever had the hem of their brand new robes trampled on by a group of wide-eyed Muggle tourists.

All in all, a visit to Hogwarts’ Florida campus makes a fantastic summer holiday. My only question is: Do they accept transfer students?

Lisa Galek is the Thestral Gazette’s adventurous travel reporter. She spends her days up in Ravenclaw tower plotting trips with the help of Charles, her enchanted talking atlas. When she’s not busy seeing the world via broomstick, she blogs at Read. Write. Repeat.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Which part of Florida campus appeals to you most?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dear Editor-on-Call,

Is "bored of" a proper phrase? I thought it was "bored with."

Regards,
Interested in bored
(aka Valerie Keiser Norris)

Dear Interested,
You're correct. The standard American idiomatic use is "bored with." Oxford says "bored by" is also correct. I couldn't find any evidence that "bored of" is the idiom in other anglophone counties. (There are a number of phrases in which the idioms do differ, such as "different." Americans say "this is different FROM that" while the Europeans say "this is different TO that".)

The nonstandard use "bored of" appears to have been picked up from parody/punning titles. For example, the title "Bored of Education," as a pun on "Board of Education" has appeared in numerous places, from an Our Gang short in the 1930s (see photo) to an album title by the hip-hop band Brooklyn Academy in 2008 (reference: Maeve Maddox, Daily Writing Tips). A 1969 parody of Tolkien's fantasy series was titled Bored of the Rings.

The lesson in all this? Take care to use a reputable source when you check your grammar. A google search is likely to turn up just as many misuses of grammar as correct uses.

Are there any phrases like bored of/with that confuse you?
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-Call,

Is "bored of" a proper phrase? I thought it was "bored with."

Regards,
Interested in bored
(aka Valerie Keiser Norris)

Dear Interested,
You're correct. The standard American idiomatic use is "bored with." Oxford says "bored by" is also correct. I couldn't find any evidence that "bored of" is the idiom in other anglophone counties. (There are a number of phrases in which the idioms do differ, such as "different." Americans say "this is different FROM that" while the Europeans say "this is different TO that".)

The nonstandard use "bored of" appears to have been picked up from parody/punning titles. For example, the title "Bored of Education," as a pun on "Board of Education" has appeared in numerous places, from an Our Gang short in the 1930s (see photo) to an album title by the hip-hop band Brooklyn Academy in 2008 (reference: Maeve Maddox, Daily Writing Tips). A 1969 parody of Tolkien's fantasy series was titled Bored of the Rings.

The lesson in all this? Take care to use a reputable source when you check your grammar. A google search is likely to turn up just as many misuses of grammar as correct uses.

Are there any phrases like bored of/with that confuse you?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Today, I'd like to talk about a character in the Harry Potter books I've most enjoyed watching change and grow over the series: Neville Longbottom.

In Rowling's world of evocative names like Pomona Sprout and Severus Snape, Neville's is one of the most interesting. "Neville," from the French, means "new village" and Longbottom, more obviously, means one who remains lowly, at the bottom, for a long time. Put them together, and I see prophecy: the boy who stays long at the bottom will be the foundation of a new civilization.

Like Harry, Neville lost his parents traumatically during Voldemort's first uprising. Unlike Harry, Neville knows everything about it. He knows what happened to them (cruciatus curse), who did it and exactly where she is (Bellatrix Lestrange, prisoner in Azkaban). You get the sense that his extended family draws a certain pride from rehearsing the story of how Frank and Alice refused to give up information under torture and went into catatonic shock because of it. Like Harry, Neville is haunted by his parents, but his ghosts are corporeal and he gets dragged to St. Mungo's to be regularly re-haunted by them.

If anyone has reason to become dark and twisted, it's Neville. And yet, he initially reacts to it not with anger but by shutting down. He's notoriously forgetful, as if this is his regular mental pattern. He wants to just forget, to be numb. The magical world scares him--he's seen how powerfully evil it can be. He works against himself subconsciously, not really wanting to be a wizard. His great uncle Algy finally manages to trigger some magic in the poor boy by shoving him out an upper-story window, and Neville's magical instincts kick in to save him from injury. This will remain Neville's pattern for many of the books--magic only under duress--until he can get a handle on his fear and begin to grasp his own inner strength.

Greatness has been thrust upon Neville by his Gran, who fully expects him to live up to his auror parents' example. Her expectations seem to hurt more than help, and yet, having someone see something worthwhile in him does provide a foundation from which he can change.

Harry has empathy for Neville from the beginning--he sees a kid likely to be bullied the way Dudley bullied him and his protective instincts kick in. While others get fed up with Neville's bumbling, Harry continues to defend him in his weakness. In book one, Harry tells Neville, "You're worth ten of Malfoy." For Neville to hear that from a peer, one who has had as tough a beginning as himself, sets more foundation stones for Neville's storehouse of courage.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, we see a parallel of Neville in James's generation--Peter Pettigrew. Pettigrew eventually becomes a betrayer because James, unlike his son, never took any pains to encourage his hanger-on and treat him like a true friend. In Harry's friendship with Neville, we see hopeful signs that Harry will succeed where his father and the older generation failed.

It is not until Order of the Phoenix that Neville begins to come into his own, for two reasons. First, Neville's peers work hard to bolster his confidence. Second, Neville at last opens up to others about what happened to his parents. I wish the St. Mungo's scene had been included in the film, because it is so pivotal to Neville's development in the book. His parents being alive but catatonic has long been a sore point for Neville. How can heroes look so, well, embarrassing? Again, Harry's reaction to Neville's shame is affirming, and this clearly enables Neville to stop his pattern of self-sabotage.

By book seven, Neville is able to fill Harry's shoes as the head of the D.A., and endures torture from the Carrows with the same bravery as his parents, Frank and Alice Longbottom.

I have to admit, one of my very favorite parts of book seven is when Neville proves himself a true heir of Gryffindor, grasps Godric's sword and destroys the final horcrux.  Neville has come a long, long way from crawling, teary-eyed, on the floor of Hogwart's Express searching for his toad.


What are your thoughts on Neville's transformation from the butt of jokes to the heir of Gryffindor?
Friday, July 15, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today, I'd like to talk about a character in the Harry Potter books I've most enjoyed watching change and grow over the series: Neville Longbottom.

In Rowling's world of evocative names like Pomona Sprout and Severus Snape, Neville's is one of the most interesting. "Neville," from the French, means "new village" and Longbottom, more obviously, means one who remains lowly, at the bottom, for a long time. Put them together, and I see prophecy: the boy who stays long at the bottom will be the foundation of a new civilization.

Like Harry, Neville lost his parents traumatically during Voldemort's first uprising. Unlike Harry, Neville knows everything about it. He knows what happened to them (cruciatus curse), who did it and exactly where she is (Bellatrix Lestrange, prisoner in Azkaban). You get the sense that his extended family draws a certain pride from rehearsing the story of how Frank and Alice refused to give up information under torture and went into catatonic shock because of it. Like Harry, Neville is haunted by his parents, but his ghosts are corporeal and he gets dragged to St. Mungo's to be regularly re-haunted by them.

If anyone has reason to become dark and twisted, it's Neville. And yet, he initially reacts to it not with anger but by shutting down. He's notoriously forgetful, as if this is his regular mental pattern. He wants to just forget, to be numb. The magical world scares him--he's seen how powerfully evil it can be. He works against himself subconsciously, not really wanting to be a wizard. His great uncle Algy finally manages to trigger some magic in the poor boy by shoving him out an upper-story window, and Neville's magical instincts kick in to save him from injury. This will remain Neville's pattern for many of the books--magic only under duress--until he can get a handle on his fear and begin to grasp his own inner strength.

Greatness has been thrust upon Neville by his Gran, who fully expects him to live up to his auror parents' example. Her expectations seem to hurt more than help, and yet, having someone see something worthwhile in him does provide a foundation from which he can change.

Harry has empathy for Neville from the beginning--he sees a kid likely to be bullied the way Dudley bullied him and his protective instincts kick in. While others get fed up with Neville's bumbling, Harry continues to defend him in his weakness. In book one, Harry tells Neville, "You're worth ten of Malfoy." For Neville to hear that from a peer, one who has had as tough a beginning as himself, sets more foundation stones for Neville's storehouse of courage.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, we see a parallel of Neville in James's generation--Peter Pettigrew. Pettigrew eventually becomes a betrayer because James, unlike his son, never took any pains to encourage his hanger-on and treat him like a true friend. In Harry's friendship with Neville, we see hopeful signs that Harry will succeed where his father and the older generation failed.

It is not until Order of the Phoenix that Neville begins to come into his own, for two reasons. First, Neville's peers work hard to bolster his confidence. Second, Neville at last opens up to others about what happened to his parents. I wish the St. Mungo's scene had been included in the film, because it is so pivotal to Neville's development in the book. His parents being alive but catatonic has long been a sore point for Neville. How can heroes look so, well, embarrassing? Again, Harry's reaction to Neville's shame is affirming, and this clearly enables Neville to stop his pattern of self-sabotage.

By book seven, Neville is able to fill Harry's shoes as the head of the D.A., and endures torture from the Carrows with the same bravery as his parents, Frank and Alice Longbottom.

I have to admit, one of my very favorite parts of book seven is when Neville proves himself a true heir of Gryffindor, grasps Godric's sword and destroys the final horcrux.  Neville has come a long, long way from crawling, teary-eyed, on the floor of Hogwart's Express searching for his toad.


What are your thoughts on Neville's transformation from the butt of jokes to the heir of Gryffindor?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

This week, I've been looking at Rowling's complex characterizations over the series, focusing especially on the villainous characters. In PART 1, I examined the Dursely and Malfoy families. In PART 2, I delved into the faces of evil we see in Umbridge and Voldemort. Today, I want to look at the complex, misunderstood character Severus Snape.

Snape: the hero in villain's clothing

Harry and Snape first encounter one another during the opening banquet and sorting ceremony. Snape seems to be studying him carefully, and Harry initially reads it as sinister intent. Snape looks dangerous--he's all in black, lean and hungry-looking, dark eyes glittering with what Harry reads as pure malice. Harry's accustomed to being judged by his fearful, approval-hungry relatives. But this look? Not fearful. Something else. Something Harry can't name or understand, and it unnerves him.

But from what we learn of Snape over the course of the series, Snape's initial reaction is likely exceedingly complex. Here is the "boy who lived" while his beloved died to save this child. He resembles Snape's childhood rival, James Potter. The whole school is abuzz with this child's celebrity. And yet...the kid is completely clueless. The celebrity is totally lost on him. And while Snape fully expects Harry to be James's arrogant, bullying clone, he finds a confused, scared little boy who had an upbringing a whole lot like, well, his own! Harry, too, bears the marks of adult neglect, stuck wearing ill-fitting hand-me-downs and having bad hair. While seeing himself in Harry ought to stir Snape's sympathy, it does the opposite. It stirs up his own self-loathing. These ugly characteristics, after all, are what he believes kept him from winning Lily.

I find it highly ironic that the student Snape favors is the real heir of James Potter: Draco Malfoy. Does that shock you? Seriously, Draco is far, far more like James that Harry is. He's from a rich, pureblood family and lords it over others. He's arrogant and a bully. In place of Crabbe and Goyle, James had Remus and Sirius, who helped him torment the throwaway kid of his generation, Snape. Draco and James even play the same Quidditch position--Seeker. In currying Draco's goodwill, Snape is unwittingly still trying to be accepted by James Potter.

Beyond seeing his hated rival and the hated throwaway-child part of himself in Harry, Snape also sees his beloved. Lily died so this child could live. Snape wants to honor her memory and prove himself her truest of loves. He will protect Lily's child and avenge her death, even if it tears him up inside to do it, even if he has to grit his teeth all the while.

Now there's some complex characterization for you!

Surely Snape's inner conflicts appear on the surface as villainy. He singles Harry out for ridicule and uses his position of power to put Harry down. And yet...Snape guards Harry's life in book after book with no concern for his own personal safety. The only times we ever see Snape being remotely fearful is when he thinks Lily's son might be in mortal danger. Snape knows that Harry is pivotal in bringing down Lily's killer. He does all he can to aid Harry's success, acting as a spy among the Death Eaters in order to track their movements and plans, biding his time until he can avenge Lily.

It isn't until the final moments of Snape's life that Harry begins to put together all the pieces. But when he does, it's like the scales fall off his hate-blinded eyes. He realizes that true heroes act on behalf of those they love with no thought for themselves. Snape cared only about Lily and Lily's legacy. He didn't care if people misunderstood and hated him for it. His own reputation mattered not at all. He is the anti-Dursleys in this way. He wants only to empower Harry, not grasp power for himself. He is the anti-Voldemort.

In the end, Harry realizes the extent to which his life has been entwined with Snape's. How Snape has been a true father to him. As Harry faces Voldemort in their final battle, it is Snape's example he follows. Motivated by love for Lily (and James) as well as Ginny, Harry sacrifices himself and finds final redemption.

What do you think of this complex interplay of the past and present in Snape's characterization?
Thursday, July 14, 2011 Laurel Garver
This week, I've been looking at Rowling's complex characterizations over the series, focusing especially on the villainous characters. In PART 1, I examined the Dursely and Malfoy families. In PART 2, I delved into the faces of evil we see in Umbridge and Voldemort. Today, I want to look at the complex, misunderstood character Severus Snape.

Snape: the hero in villain's clothing

Harry and Snape first encounter one another during the opening banquet and sorting ceremony. Snape seems to be studying him carefully, and Harry initially reads it as sinister intent. Snape looks dangerous--he's all in black, lean and hungry-looking, dark eyes glittering with what Harry reads as pure malice. Harry's accustomed to being judged by his fearful, approval-hungry relatives. But this look? Not fearful. Something else. Something Harry can't name or understand, and it unnerves him.

But from what we learn of Snape over the course of the series, Snape's initial reaction is likely exceedingly complex. Here is the "boy who lived" while his beloved died to save this child. He resembles Snape's childhood rival, James Potter. The whole school is abuzz with this child's celebrity. And yet...the kid is completely clueless. The celebrity is totally lost on him. And while Snape fully expects Harry to be James's arrogant, bullying clone, he finds a confused, scared little boy who had an upbringing a whole lot like, well, his own! Harry, too, bears the marks of adult neglect, stuck wearing ill-fitting hand-me-downs and having bad hair. While seeing himself in Harry ought to stir Snape's sympathy, it does the opposite. It stirs up his own self-loathing. These ugly characteristics, after all, are what he believes kept him from winning Lily.

I find it highly ironic that the student Snape favors is the real heir of James Potter: Draco Malfoy. Does that shock you? Seriously, Draco is far, far more like James that Harry is. He's from a rich, pureblood family and lords it over others. He's arrogant and a bully. In place of Crabbe and Goyle, James had Remus and Sirius, who helped him torment the throwaway kid of his generation, Snape. Draco and James even play the same Quidditch position--Seeker. In currying Draco's goodwill, Snape is unwittingly still trying to be accepted by James Potter.

Beyond seeing his hated rival and the hated throwaway-child part of himself in Harry, Snape also sees his beloved. Lily died so this child could live. Snape wants to honor her memory and prove himself her truest of loves. He will protect Lily's child and avenge her death, even if it tears him up inside to do it, even if he has to grit his teeth all the while.

Now there's some complex characterization for you!

Surely Snape's inner conflicts appear on the surface as villainy. He singles Harry out for ridicule and uses his position of power to put Harry down. And yet...Snape guards Harry's life in book after book with no concern for his own personal safety. The only times we ever see Snape being remotely fearful is when he thinks Lily's son might be in mortal danger. Snape knows that Harry is pivotal in bringing down Lily's killer. He does all he can to aid Harry's success, acting as a spy among the Death Eaters in order to track their movements and plans, biding his time until he can avenge Lily.

It isn't until the final moments of Snape's life that Harry begins to put together all the pieces. But when he does, it's like the scales fall off his hate-blinded eyes. He realizes that true heroes act on behalf of those they love with no thought for themselves. Snape cared only about Lily and Lily's legacy. He didn't care if people misunderstood and hated him for it. His own reputation mattered not at all. He is the anti-Dursleys in this way. He wants only to empower Harry, not grasp power for himself. He is the anti-Voldemort.

In the end, Harry realizes the extent to which his life has been entwined with Snape's. How Snape has been a true father to him. As Harry faces Voldemort in their final battle, it is Snape's example he follows. Motivated by love for Lily (and James) as well as Ginny, Harry sacrifices himself and finds final redemption.

What do you think of this complex interplay of the past and present in Snape's characterization?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Today I continue analyzing some of Rowling's villains and what makes them tick. Check out yesterday's post for my thoughts on the Dursley and Malfoy families.

Dolores Umbridge
I find Dolores Umbridge by far the most chilling of all Rowling's villains, in part because she's the type one is most likely to encounter in real life--the evil bureaucrat.

She's power-mad and sees official positions as her gateway to great things. However, I get the sense that his power hunger came upon her gradually. Umbridge is a great example of what Hannah Arendt calls "the banality of evil." This sort of evilness grows within a person who sees him/herself as embodying society's values and assumes the right to protect those values. Little by little, that assumption turns into a compulsion and leads the person down very dark paths.

Underneath it all is a fear that something good will be lost--some essential value. In Umbridge's case, it is a desire to stamp out anything that disturbs the Fudge regime's "peace at any price" way of thinking. At a deeper level, we also see Umbridge is deeply afraid of hybridity, impurity, the Other. She's Aunt Petunia with a wand.

It's usually the most unassuming people who get sucked into this mentality, which makes it all the more chilling. At some level, most can see ourselves in this ordinary person led astray by good desires run amok. This is the path that, for instance, we see Percy Weasley heading toward.

Tom Marvolo Riddle
Rowling's portrayal of Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort is perhaps one of the most deeply psychological looks at the making of a sociopath you'll find in fiction, let alone children's fiction.

Some of the factors that clearly play into Riddle's make up are his conception tainted by deceit (rather than love), his abandonment and his mistreatment and neglect in early childhood. These things warp him so that he never develops empathy and cannot attach to anyone.

The rest of his life becomes a quest to never again be powerless or worthless or at another's mercy. These drives seem to culminate most of all in a fear of death. If he can master death, then he won't have to fear anything or anyone ever, ever again.

I think Rowling points out something here we as a society need to take very seriously. Early intervention in cases of abuse and neglect are ESSENTIAL. Tom arrives at Hogwarts at age 11, already too far gone to be redeemed. All society suffers because of it.


Tomorrow I'll be back with my promised look at Snape, the anti-hero of the series.

What strikes you about the many faces of villainy in the Harry Potter series?
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today I continue analyzing some of Rowling's villains and what makes them tick. Check out yesterday's post for my thoughts on the Dursley and Malfoy families.

Dolores Umbridge
I find Dolores Umbridge by far the most chilling of all Rowling's villains, in part because she's the type one is most likely to encounter in real life--the evil bureaucrat.

She's power-mad and sees official positions as her gateway to great things. However, I get the sense that his power hunger came upon her gradually. Umbridge is a great example of what Hannah Arendt calls "the banality of evil." This sort of evilness grows within a person who sees him/herself as embodying society's values and assumes the right to protect those values. Little by little, that assumption turns into a compulsion and leads the person down very dark paths.

Underneath it all is a fear that something good will be lost--some essential value. In Umbridge's case, it is a desire to stamp out anything that disturbs the Fudge regime's "peace at any price" way of thinking. At a deeper level, we also see Umbridge is deeply afraid of hybridity, impurity, the Other. She's Aunt Petunia with a wand.

It's usually the most unassuming people who get sucked into this mentality, which makes it all the more chilling. At some level, most can see ourselves in this ordinary person led astray by good desires run amok. This is the path that, for instance, we see Percy Weasley heading toward.

Tom Marvolo Riddle
Rowling's portrayal of Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort is perhaps one of the most deeply psychological looks at the making of a sociopath you'll find in fiction, let alone children's fiction.

Some of the factors that clearly play into Riddle's make up are his conception tainted by deceit (rather than love), his abandonment and his mistreatment and neglect in early childhood. These things warp him so that he never develops empathy and cannot attach to anyone.

The rest of his life becomes a quest to never again be powerless or worthless or at another's mercy. These drives seem to culminate most of all in a fear of death. If he can master death, then he won't have to fear anything or anyone ever, ever again.

I think Rowling points out something here we as a society need to take very seriously. Early intervention in cases of abuse and neglect are ESSENTIAL. Tom arrives at Hogwarts at age 11, already too far gone to be redeemed. All society suffers because of it.


Tomorrow I'll be back with my promised look at Snape, the anti-hero of the series.

What strikes you about the many faces of villainy in the Harry Potter series?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

As I look back over the Harry Potter series as a whole, I see some interesting patterns. Today I'd like to consider Rowling's villains and what seems to make them tick.



The Dursleys

The Dursleys' bullying and abuse of Harry seem over the top to the point of parody in the vein of Roald Dahl. But unlike Dahl's villains, their primary motivation isn't selfishness. It's fear. They fear being judged by neighbors so much that they'll ruthlessly cover up and squelch anything that might mark them as "not normal" in the community. Once Harry's magical nature is revealed, they're far less concerned about his ability to hex them. No, they continue to tremble at the thought the neighbors might find out one of their blood kin is "a freak."

Ironically, we never, ever see the Dursleys enjoying the fruits of their supposed good reputation. They aren't having backyard barbecues with the neighbors, nor do they seem to entertain much. Their fear blocks them from having genuine friendships.


The Malfoys

The Malfoy family seems to have everything going for them--they're rich, well bred and attractive. They seem to genuinely love one another as well, which isn't something you can say for most of Lord Voldemort's lackeys.

So why are they attracted to the dark side? Fear. Unlike Voldemort, who comes from nothing and scrambles for power and privilege, they come from privilege and fear losing it. They have a lot to lose, and want to stay on the winning team.

But there are limits to the Malfoys' willingness to risk, partly because of the strength of their love for one another. In moments when this primary love is tested, it always trumps whatever harm Voldemort threatens--they go along only to keep one another safe. Even in this haughty family, Rowling shows the biblical idea that "perfect love casts out fear."

Next in the series, I'll talk about Rowling's other villains: Umbridge and Voldemort, as well as the antihero, Snape.

What do you think about villainy motivated by fear? Do you see other parallels between the Dursleys and the Malfoys?
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 Laurel Garver
As I look back over the Harry Potter series as a whole, I see some interesting patterns. Today I'd like to consider Rowling's villains and what seems to make them tick.



The Dursleys

The Dursleys' bullying and abuse of Harry seem over the top to the point of parody in the vein of Roald Dahl. But unlike Dahl's villains, their primary motivation isn't selfishness. It's fear. They fear being judged by neighbors so much that they'll ruthlessly cover up and squelch anything that might mark them as "not normal" in the community. Once Harry's magical nature is revealed, they're far less concerned about his ability to hex them. No, they continue to tremble at the thought the neighbors might find out one of their blood kin is "a freak."

Ironically, we never, ever see the Dursleys enjoying the fruits of their supposed good reputation. They aren't having backyard barbecues with the neighbors, nor do they seem to entertain much. Their fear blocks them from having genuine friendships.


The Malfoys

The Malfoy family seems to have everything going for them--they're rich, well bred and attractive. They seem to genuinely love one another as well, which isn't something you can say for most of Lord Voldemort's lackeys.

So why are they attracted to the dark side? Fear. Unlike Voldemort, who comes from nothing and scrambles for power and privilege, they come from privilege and fear losing it. They have a lot to lose, and want to stay on the winning team.

But there are limits to the Malfoys' willingness to risk, partly because of the strength of their love for one another. In moments when this primary love is tested, it always trumps whatever harm Voldemort threatens--they go along only to keep one another safe. Even in this haughty family, Rowling shows the biblical idea that "perfect love casts out fear."

Next in the series, I'll talk about Rowling's other villains: Umbridge and Voldemort, as well as the antihero, Snape.

What do you think about villainy motivated by fear? Do you see other parallels between the Dursleys and the Malfoys?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Today I have a guest post from my husband Joel, an assistant professor of philosophy at La Salle University who teaches a course, Harry Potter and Philosophy. He also contributed a chapter to a collection of "philosophy for beginners" essays that engage Rowling's world--The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles.

Because of this, his university PR department often send reporters his way that are covering Harry Potter topics. Joel kindly let me post his response to a reporter at the Hartford Courant (not sure when/if his comments will appear in the planned article).

She had asked,
"How does the experience of readers today differ from the generation of readers who were growing up as the books first came out?"

Joel replied:

I've taught Harry Potter to college students who grew up with them and I have an elementary school-age daughter who is now reading through the books, so I've seen both generations of readers and movie-watchers.

It seems to me that Rowling always intended the books to be taken slowly, over an extended time -- and that is how we are guiding our daughter in her reading. The books are intended to grow up with the children who read them, as they in fact did by necessity with the first generation of readers.

After all, with each successive book the volumes get longer, the plots become increasingly more complex, the main characters grow up, the wizarding world becomes darker and scarier, the stakes become higher, and the themes of the books -- love, death, relationships, sacrifice -- become more mature. There are matters to be puzzled out, problems to be pondered, and realizations to be fought for.

So, these are not books meant to be read by a precocious youngster all in a single summer. Rather, the volumes reward delayed gratification and re-reading. A rapid read will miss too much and fail to absorb all that is going on.

This seems to me part of the genius of Rowling's work -- taking young readers, carrying them along through the character's experiences, and growing them up and helping them mature right along with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The magic of that sort of literary and personal transformation requires time and patient reading.

Another difference today is that many readers of the books will have begun with the films rather than the books. For those of us who read the books first and then viewed the films afterwards, there was always a certain disappointment with the films. Given the limits and strictures of film-making, they could not help but fall short of the rich tapestry of Rowling's world, the depth of her characterizations, and the complexity of her plots.

The relationship between the films and the books is now reversed for many children (and adults!). There's nothing wrong with that in principle and I'm sure new readers who have seen the films will be impressed by how much of the books is left off the screen.

But what will be lost in reading the books after the films is the sense of discovery the first readers enjoyed -- getting to know these characters and imagining Rowling's world. For many new readers, Hogwarts will always be the place director Chris Columbus imagined and Harry will always be Daniel Radcliffe. Furthermore, these new readers will also lose the experience of being surprised again and again by plot twists, mistaken identities, and startling revelations. And that's a sad loss, I think.

What was your experience with reading the books and watching the films? What are your thoughts on taking the series slowly, books first?
Monday, July 11, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today I have a guest post from my husband Joel, an assistant professor of philosophy at La Salle University who teaches a course, Harry Potter and Philosophy. He also contributed a chapter to a collection of "philosophy for beginners" essays that engage Rowling's world--The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles.

Because of this, his university PR department often send reporters his way that are covering Harry Potter topics. Joel kindly let me post his response to a reporter at the Hartford Courant (not sure when/if his comments will appear in the planned article).

She had asked,
"How does the experience of readers today differ from the generation of readers who were growing up as the books first came out?"

Joel replied:

I've taught Harry Potter to college students who grew up with them and I have an elementary school-age daughter who is now reading through the books, so I've seen both generations of readers and movie-watchers.

It seems to me that Rowling always intended the books to be taken slowly, over an extended time -- and that is how we are guiding our daughter in her reading. The books are intended to grow up with the children who read them, as they in fact did by necessity with the first generation of readers.

After all, with each successive book the volumes get longer, the plots become increasingly more complex, the main characters grow up, the wizarding world becomes darker and scarier, the stakes become higher, and the themes of the books -- love, death, relationships, sacrifice -- become more mature. There are matters to be puzzled out, problems to be pondered, and realizations to be fought for.

So, these are not books meant to be read by a precocious youngster all in a single summer. Rather, the volumes reward delayed gratification and re-reading. A rapid read will miss too much and fail to absorb all that is going on.

This seems to me part of the genius of Rowling's work -- taking young readers, carrying them along through the character's experiences, and growing them up and helping them mature right along with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The magic of that sort of literary and personal transformation requires time and patient reading.

Another difference today is that many readers of the books will have begun with the films rather than the books. For those of us who read the books first and then viewed the films afterwards, there was always a certain disappointment with the films. Given the limits and strictures of film-making, they could not help but fall short of the rich tapestry of Rowling's world, the depth of her characterizations, and the complexity of her plots.

The relationship between the films and the books is now reversed for many children (and adults!). There's nothing wrong with that in principle and I'm sure new readers who have seen the films will be impressed by how much of the books is left off the screen.

But what will be lost in reading the books after the films is the sense of discovery the first readers enjoyed -- getting to know these characters and imagining Rowling's world. For many new readers, Hogwarts will always be the place director Chris Columbus imagined and Harry will always be Daniel Radcliffe. Furthermore, these new readers will also lose the experience of being surprised again and again by plot twists, mistaken identities, and startling revelations. And that's a sad loss, I think.

What was your experience with reading the books and watching the films? What are your thoughts on taking the series slowly, books first?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

By Jen Daiker, Hufflepuff

HOGSMEDE, INVERNESS—The secret is out at Hogwarts. A certain someone in a black robe has been receiving love letters from a student.

Have you noticed your girl doesn’t seem as interested in you? You’re not able to sweep her off her feet, even on the Quidditch Pitch? She may be hiding something.

Recently I’ve come across a secret stash of love letters to none other than Professor Snape. I can’t reveal my sources, but suffice it to say, I’ve cracked into a secret club more exclusive than Dumbledore’s Army. If you’re a member, watch your back—and your intimate correspondence.

The Hopeless Romantic
My Dearest Severus,

My feelings for you grow stronger every day. You respect me enough to let me know about my homework ahead of time. You praise me when you praise no one else for a job well done. No one has ever in my life talked to me the way you do. We’ve gone through so much together all ready, like the day when a student set his hair on fire. I believe we could get through anything.

You and I are destined to become the fairytale romance I’ve dreamt about. I’ve read many stories and listened to my friends’ stories of their childish crushes. But my love is for you is so much more—deep, rooted and true. I hope you feel the same.

Yours Truly,
Wanna be yours 4-Ever

Conjure Up My Love
Snape,

I hope we can share a moment sometime during this school year and see where the sparks go. It’s my last year and I know I’ll need lots and lots of one-on-one tutoring in order to excel in my potions N.E.W.T. I’ve also scheduled my classes to make sure they’re close to you. If only we could slip away somewhere romantic to have lunch. How magical it would be.

I have an idea. Since you are indeed the potions master it would be nice if you could conjure up some polyjuice potion so we could meet in secret. You may have been thinking love potion but I don’t roll that way. I know our love is true. We can make this work.

Always,
Lover Gurl

Hidden Love
Steal-my-heart Snape,

I love you so much and you just don't know it. Sometimes I get scared to show it. It feels like when you come around me my mouth becomes grid-locked and all the words I want to say just stop.

My lips clutter because my love is so strong. Your eyes shine like big, glittery beetles. Your words flow like delicious butterbeer. Sometimes I want to open up to you and tell you how I feel --I guess I am too scared to open up and be real. Maybe one day I’ll have the courage, for now I’ll just pray for the perfect love potion.

I hope you share these hidden feelings too. I love you.

Thinking of you,
Never stop our love


Jen Daiker loves transfiguration, fizzing whizbees, and is a founding member of S.P.E.W. She has also been known to dabble with polyjuice potion. She blogs at unedited.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Do you think Snape is crush-worthy? Why or why not? Which of the teachers do you love most?
Thursday, July 07, 2011 Laurel Garver
By Jen Daiker, Hufflepuff

HOGSMEDE, INVERNESS—The secret is out at Hogwarts. A certain someone in a black robe has been receiving love letters from a student.

Have you noticed your girl doesn’t seem as interested in you? You’re not able to sweep her off her feet, even on the Quidditch Pitch? She may be hiding something.

Recently I’ve come across a secret stash of love letters to none other than Professor Snape. I can’t reveal my sources, but suffice it to say, I’ve cracked into a secret club more exclusive than Dumbledore’s Army. If you’re a member, watch your back—and your intimate correspondence.

The Hopeless Romantic
My Dearest Severus,

My feelings for you grow stronger every day. You respect me enough to let me know about my homework ahead of time. You praise me when you praise no one else for a job well done. No one has ever in my life talked to me the way you do. We’ve gone through so much together all ready, like the day when a student set his hair on fire. I believe we could get through anything.

You and I are destined to become the fairytale romance I’ve dreamt about. I’ve read many stories and listened to my friends’ stories of their childish crushes. But my love is for you is so much more—deep, rooted and true. I hope you feel the same.

Yours Truly,
Wanna be yours 4-Ever

Conjure Up My Love
Snape,

I hope we can share a moment sometime during this school year and see where the sparks go. It’s my last year and I know I’ll need lots and lots of one-on-one tutoring in order to excel in my potions N.E.W.T. I’ve also scheduled my classes to make sure they’re close to you. If only we could slip away somewhere romantic to have lunch. How magical it would be.

I have an idea. Since you are indeed the potions master it would be nice if you could conjure up some polyjuice potion so we could meet in secret. You may have been thinking love potion but I don’t roll that way. I know our love is true. We can make this work.

Always,
Lover Gurl

Hidden Love
Steal-my-heart Snape,

I love you so much and you just don't know it. Sometimes I get scared to show it. It feels like when you come around me my mouth becomes grid-locked and all the words I want to say just stop.

My lips clutter because my love is so strong. Your eyes shine like big, glittery beetles. Your words flow like delicious butterbeer. Sometimes I want to open up to you and tell you how I feel --I guess I am too scared to open up and be real. Maybe one day I’ll have the courage, for now I’ll just pray for the perfect love potion.

I hope you share these hidden feelings too. I love you.

Thinking of you,
Never stop our love


Jen Daiker loves transfiguration, fizzing whizbees, and is a founding member of S.P.E.W. She has also been known to dabble with polyjuice potion. She blogs at unedited.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Do you think Snape is crush-worthy? Why or why not? Which of the teachers do you love most?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

We all get stuck at times, find our productivity come to a screeching--or sputtering--halt. In THIS previous post, I discussed one of the causes--hitting walls because we hadn't let our intuition guide the process and had taken the story in the wrong direction.

In the comments on that post, I got the sense that walls are not as common as desert times for making us unproductive. So what is this phenomenon--"desert" writer's block?

Image from weathersavvy.com.

Desert


"The word block suggests you are constipated or stuck, when in truth you are empty."

--Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird 178.


"You're blocked because you have nothing to say. Your talent didn't abandon you. If you had something to say, you couldn't stop writing. You can't kill your talent, but you can starve it into a coma through ignorance."

--Robert McKee, Story 73-74

We've all been there--somehow stuck in a place where you're plumb out of ideas. This place feels hot and parched and lifeless--desert-like. Entering a desert usually looks like the following:

- Your characters are faceless mannequins.
- The story setting is a big white box.
- Your characters slump around looking bored.
- The sound loop is your head is chirping crickets, or some really annoying pop song with unintelligible words.
- When you sit down to write, the only word that comes to mind is "waffles."
- You can't blog, tweet or update your Facebook status.
- Your house is exceptionally clean.

Lamott says that you need to accept that these desert times are going to come. In that acceptance, you free yourself to begin filling up again. When the Israelites let the pillar of cloud and fire lead them, God sent them the resources they needed--manna to fell from the sky, water gushed from a rock. The fact was, they couldn't get to the Promised Land on their own--they needed divine intervention. So do we. Call it "the muse," one's "inner light," "intuition," "unconscious mind," "talent" or "the Holy Spirit"--the sources of creativity need freedom and care and feeding.

So how do you allow the empty places to refill? Acceptance, as Lamott says, is a huge piece of it. If you try to push, "Your unconscious can't work when you are breathing down it's neck" (Lamott, 182). She suggests writing 300 words a day culling your memories--just rough journaling to keep you loose. Then seek things that feed you--walking, visiting friends, reading lots of great and terrible books, wandering museums and historic sites.

McKee's advice is strikingly similar. He suggests research as a way of filling up in empty times: "No matter how talented, the ignorant cannot write. Talent must be stimulated by facts and ideas. Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliche, it's the key to victory over fear and its cousin, depression."

What things have helped feed you in empty, desert times? What new thing might you try based on Lamott's and McKee's advice?

*This is a revised repost from October, 2010
Tuesday, July 05, 2011 Laurel Garver
We all get stuck at times, find our productivity come to a screeching--or sputtering--halt. In THIS previous post, I discussed one of the causes--hitting walls because we hadn't let our intuition guide the process and had taken the story in the wrong direction.

In the comments on that post, I got the sense that walls are not as common as desert times for making us unproductive. So what is this phenomenon--"desert" writer's block?

Image from weathersavvy.com.

Desert


"The word block suggests you are constipated or stuck, when in truth you are empty."

--Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird 178.


"You're blocked because you have nothing to say. Your talent didn't abandon you. If you had something to say, you couldn't stop writing. You can't kill your talent, but you can starve it into a coma through ignorance."

--Robert McKee, Story 73-74

We've all been there--somehow stuck in a place where you're plumb out of ideas. This place feels hot and parched and lifeless--desert-like. Entering a desert usually looks like the following:

- Your characters are faceless mannequins.
- The story setting is a big white box.
- Your characters slump around looking bored.
- The sound loop is your head is chirping crickets, or some really annoying pop song with unintelligible words.
- When you sit down to write, the only word that comes to mind is "waffles."
- You can't blog, tweet or update your Facebook status.
- Your house is exceptionally clean.

Lamott says that you need to accept that these desert times are going to come. In that acceptance, you free yourself to begin filling up again. When the Israelites let the pillar of cloud and fire lead them, God sent them the resources they needed--manna to fell from the sky, water gushed from a rock. The fact was, they couldn't get to the Promised Land on their own--they needed divine intervention. So do we. Call it "the muse," one's "inner light," "intuition," "unconscious mind," "talent" or "the Holy Spirit"--the sources of creativity need freedom and care and feeding.

So how do you allow the empty places to refill? Acceptance, as Lamott says, is a huge piece of it. If you try to push, "Your unconscious can't work when you are breathing down it's neck" (Lamott, 182). She suggests writing 300 words a day culling your memories--just rough journaling to keep you loose. Then seek things that feed you--walking, visiting friends, reading lots of great and terrible books, wandering museums and historic sites.

McKee's advice is strikingly similar. He suggests research as a way of filling up in empty times: "No matter how talented, the ignorant cannot write. Talent must be stimulated by facts and ideas. Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliche, it's the key to victory over fear and its cousin, depression."

What things have helped feed you in empty, desert times? What new thing might you try based on Lamott's and McKee's advice?

*This is a revised repost from October, 2010