Sunday, September 16, 2012

Gardens, Harry Potter, Politics and how I got my start writing

It’s a beautiful day here in CT, and I finally got around to tending my plants, which like my health, I’ve been neglecting this year. If you ever want to judge my state of stress, look at my house plants. If they are thriving, I’m in a good place. If they are drooping and/or dead, chances are I’m going through a very stressful period.

This morning I finally planted chrysanthemums in my outside planters, replanted the geraniums in them into pots to overwinter inside, took cuttings from the houseplants that hat gotten old and stringy from neglect and planted them into new plots. It made me feel hopeful and reinvigorated. I know not all of the cuttings will survive, but some of them will. It’s like writing a first draft.

Of course after potting there was a huge mess of soil on the front step, so I grabbed a broom out of the garage to sweep it up. And that brought back of memories.

Yes, I was sweeping up with a Firebolt. I don't just have a Firebolt, my friends. I also have a Nimbus 2000.

Way back when being published was just a dream, I started reading the Harry Potter books with my son, who didn't just look like Harry, but, having moved here from the UK, sounded like him, too. Kids at his elementary school thought he WAS Harry. I was a frustrated creative masquerading as a housewife, and when my son was in second grade, I threw that creativity into throwing him the most awesome Harry Potter party ever.

What did that involve?

Here are a few of the highlights:

Potions class: We did experiments with Borax and made Goop

Quidditch Game: Each of the kids at the party got a Nimbus 2000 of their own. I bought all the brooms at Costco - some guy thought I owned a cleaning company and asked me for a job - and almost asphyxiated myself spray painting them. I got a bunch of ping pong balls, wrote point scores on them, and hid them round the garden. Then I spray painted one gold for the Golden Snitch. I hid that one in my pocket for when I wanted the game to end.

The kids "flew" around the garden on their brooms, hunting for the ping pong balls. The best part was that we, the grown ups, got to pelt them with wet sponges (the Bludgers). It was a warm, sunny day, so the kids would come within bludger range with astonishing frequency : ) When they'd expending lots of wonderful energy, I surreptitiously dropped the Golden Snitch and waited for someone to find it to end the game. The guys were very excited to be able to take their brooms home with them.

Sweets: Had local sweet shop, Darlene's Heavenly Desires make me some chocolate frogs. My sister created labels for them. We also had Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans.

The whole family got in on the creative hijinks. My brother in law Mark played Professor Snape and led the potions class. I was Minerva McGonagall. Lindsay, our then nanny, aka "Mary Poppins, made the most awesome Kings Cross Station sign, which hangs in my garage right where I park my car:

My mother, who had always been artistic and now is finally pursuing it with her pet portrait business, created a portrait of The Fat Lady for the entrance for our Griffyndor Common Room (aka, the dining room where we were going to serve the cake).

Unfortunately, she's a little worse for wear due to the damp in the garage, but she still looks pretty good after 11 years!

I can thank my enthusiasm for Harry Potter for my first ever byline, for my start in both publishing and as a political columnist. It all began with this column, published in the Greenwich Time on April 29th, 2001. Unfortunately, the only copy I could find is the one I had framed (because it was the first thing I'd ever had published) so please bear with me.

"I'm glad my son identifies with Harry. And I don't think that in ten years time he will be out in a wood somewhere performing satanic rituals because we spent many happy hours together, sharing, with great excitement and anticipation, the next chapter of Harry Potter."

Well, it's now ELEVEN years later and I'm pleased to report I was right.

My son is a smart, engaged, kid who likes to read, makes good choices and cares about what goes on in the world. He's a Harry, and I couldn't be more proud. Meanwhile, since then, I've published four books, more political opinion columns than I can count, and at risk of sounding like Annie Wilkes, I can't help but have this feeling that if Jo Rowling and I met over a cuppa one day, we'd have plenty to talk about and become fast friends.

In the meantime, it's time to get back to work and try to look after both my plants and myself better.

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