Reading should be an emotional experience.
Once upon a time, I was a young adult–well maybe more middle grade. Those almost 14-year-olds are tricky to place. It was winter vacation. Harry Potter books entered the ancestral home as a holiday gift. And this was before there were more than three books. And this was before there were any movies. I read most of the first; it was a little too MG for me at the time. I read all of the second, and that was fun. Then I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and I sobbed through the ending, which I’m now going to talk about. Look away if you must.
I cried when Harry thought somehow his dad had come to save him and conjured the potronus. Harry needed rescuing. He had no fight left in him. His dad by some deus ex machina that I couldn’t wait to understand did. Tears of relief.
But you know the thing about tears is that they are a telltale sign of a slurry of emotions. Tears come when people are feeling more than one thing. Tears of joy are actually tears joy and something else–maybe relief, maybe exhaustion, maybe embarrassment. Tears of sadness are really tears of sorrow AND maybe anger AND maybe something else. Don’t believe me? Do some digging.
So I cried for Harry because I was relieved, but there was more to it. More on that later.
J.K. did time-travel so well in Azkaban. I had a lot of fun and felt so smug that I’d seen it all along. And wow. Here we go. Here comes Harry’s dad. Or maybe it is Lupin or even Sirius?
But it wasn’t.
And it wasn’t.
To this day, more than a life time later, I read this part of Azkaban and I lose it. To this day I am transformed into a sobbing wreck of tears and snot. I read this part of the book and I remember and feel what it was like to be an almost 14-year-old. No one is coming to save Harry. He realizes this. I realize this… And that must mean he has to do it. Harry has to conjure that patronus. But how can he? HOW?
I”m a big fan of Harry Reid. I might be a fan of his the way my husband is a fan of the original Hamilton soundtrack. Big fan. Lots of respect. Much admiration. Frequent quoting. I like this article about Harry. In the article he says, “I wanted a strong Democratic Party, okay? So who could I get to do that for me? I got me to do it.” The article continues, and Harry says that in his career he has done stuff (tedious, headache-inducing, unpopular stuff) that no one else wanted to do. At one point he says, “I went to everybody. But no one would do it. So I did it.”
How can Harry conjure the patronus? His world just shattered. He lost his father all. over. again! And y’all the feelings are so real: The desperate determination through the gritty fear. The scary, wild, unknown strength that spills out of Harry as that stag. The fact that Harry does what he just couldn’t but always could do. It all translates into a very emotional ride.
Back to this Harry, who isn’t so different from the other Harry. I admire his pragmatism and his resolve. Writing (oh yes and my other job: mothering) require a lot of tough, headache-inducing, unpopular stuff. Absolutely there is good stuff in with all the tedious drudgery. But there are tough jobs that need doing. And who can I get to do those for me? Who can I get to polish my manuscript? Who can I get to study the pacing, untangle the symbolism, message those openings?
I’ll get me to do it.
But wait. I’m just like Harry standing on the opposite side of the lake. I don’t know if I can do it. I’m pretty sure I’ve been here before and know that I can’t and that I need someone bigger, smarter, older, and more experienced to see me through this.
You remember when I talked about those tears of relief potentially having more to them? Yeah. I think there was some frustration mixed in with those. Writers speak my language. I internalized the symbolism even as a 14-year-old: J.K. is tell me that I’m going to need help from adults, mentors, and people who are more qualified and experienced than I am to get out of the really awful jambs I get into. That to me was a frustrating message then, and it is a frustrating message now. What if I don’t find a mentor? What if the deus ex machina is too late? When will I not be so dependent on the mercy of everyone else’s generosity?
I get that everyone has a favorite HP book and yours may not be Azkaban, but Azkaban is my favorite because the emotional notes it hit resonated with me. J.K. got me just right. Harry had the stuff he needed to make it work. It was real. It was gritty. It was magnificently enough. He became his own champion. In his darkest most despairing hour he got himself to do it.
So to my new #pitchwar friends who worry that maybe they can’t. Get yourself to do it. And know that you can. You’ve got this. You are just like Harry (both of them).