My oldest child was almost twelve when Michael, the local book store owner, hand-sold me a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
“Trust me. It’s going to be huge!” he said.
I looked at the thick book and wondered if my daughter would really get through it. But she was my reader, so I bought it.
Not only did my oldest daughter read it, but that weekend her little brother sneaked into her room, took the book while she was off at a sleepover, and read the whole 200+ pages. He had just turned nine.
When the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, came out, I had to buy two copies, so both fans in my house could read it at the same time.
A lot of people hadn’t caught on to the craze of Harry Potter yet. When the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, came out in 1999, a book store in Lafayette, a neighboring town, booked J.K. Rowling for an author event. She was coming from Great Britain to promote the series. The Storyteller was selling tickets for $25.00 to meet her and get an autographed copy.
I asked my girlfriend to go with me. She said that it was too much money.
“It’s J.K. Rowling!” I said. “You may never get this chance again.”
“So she wrote a couple of books about wizards,” Teryl said. “Who cares?”
“My kids care,” I said.
I bought a single ticket. It was a weekday, and my kids had school. Besides, there was a limit of two tickets per person, and I had two Harry Potter fans at home.
Hundreds of people showed up at the church, including children whose mothers had let them play hooky. I got in line when it was my group’s turn to meet her. The helper woman, who was opening up our books to the title page before she handed them off to the author, noticed my name tag. She was a bookstore person.
“You wrote Say Hola to Spanish!” she said. “That is such a great book.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“We really need you to come do a signing sometimes,” she said.
“Sure,” I said.
I looked up, and J.K. Rowling was staring at us. We had held her up for two seconds because of our chit-chat.
“Hi,” I said.
She signed my two copies, and as she was handing me my books and I was opening my mouth to tell her how wonderful she was and how much my kids loved her, she looked to the little girl behind me and greeted her with a huge hello.
My turn was over, and my time was up, squandered by chatting with the woman who had recognized me for my own book.
As I walked down the line back to my seat, I thought, Wow, what a bummer! I didn’t get to tell her anything at all.
As the years went on, the Harry Potter books kept coming, and my third child also caught the fever. Before the series ended, I had to buy three copies of every book for the two older ones and their little sister.
My youngest also grew up with the movies, so she ended up being the biggest Harry Potter fan in the family, complete with her own wand and Hermione Halloween costume. Her college application essay that got her into Tufts University, where they had their own nerdy Quidditch team, was about how much she loved Harry Potter, and how he shaped her childhood as a nerd.
No one recognizes me on the street. I haven’t sold 400 million copies of my books, more like 400,000, tallying up sales for all twenty-nine of them. I have not had nine movies produced from my stories. I am not richer than the Queen of England.
But I have two signed copies of Harry Potter books, by the author who passed me up because I held her up.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
If I would’ve told the Storyteller woman to stop talking to me, I would’ve been able to tell J.K. Rowling how wonderful her books were and how much my kids loved them.
When I do author visits for my own books, and the kids ask me if I’ve ever met anyone famous, I can that yes, I have. After I tell them it is J.K. Rowling, they ask if I know Derek Jeter and Steph Curry. Then I tell them that we all had lunch the other day — JK.