Local Potter fans off to see the wizard-maker

Baltimore contest winners to meet J.K. Rowling in NYC

October 17, 2007|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun reporter

Twenty-nine year-old Katherine Valdez was a latecomer to Pottermania, not becoming a big-time fan until 2000, the year the fourth book in the Harry Potter series was published. But since then, she swears, she's been one of the faithful.

"Oh yes, definitely, I did the whole thing," says Valdez, a Charles Village graphic designer when she's not busily keeping up with Harry and his friends as they try to save the world from the evil Lord Voldemort.

"I was at the Senator at midnight when the films opened. I was at Barnes & Noble in Towson to get the last book as soon as it came out. I'm a devoted fan."

She'd better be, because this weekend, she'll be living every Potter fanatic's dream. Valdez was one of 1,000 lucky fans who won tickets to hear Potter author J.K. Rowling read from the latest and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, at New York City's Carnegie Hall Friday night.

Rowling's public appearances in her native England are rare, and her public appearances in the U.S. are even rarer. Her Carnegie Hall stop will be the fourth and final in the week-long J.K. Rowling Open Book Tour, and the only one open to the general public. She met with students in Los Angeles on Monday, and will visit schools in New Orleans tomorrow and in New York Friday.

Valdez is one of six contest winners from Baltimore. Another is Clark B. Merrill, a 46-year-old systems administrator living in Roland Park. Like Valdez, he entered the contest using a form downloaded from the Potter fan site, leakycaul dron.com.

"It's a really cool thing, really surprising," Merrill said of his contest win. "One day I was just sitting there, and they called me."

Contest winners, each of whom received a pair of tickets, will be able to do more than just listen to Rowling read. They'll also be able to ask questions, and will receive a signed copy of Deathly Hallows - or, if they prefer, can present their own copy of one of the Potter books for her to sign.

At her Los Angeles appearance, Rowling spoke before a group of some 1,600 students from 40 area schools - their names picked from a sorting hat like those used to assign Hogwarts students to their dorms in the novels. She also answered a dozen pre-selected questions.

Asked what she will be writing next, Rowling said she didn't know - except that it wouldn't be about anything supernatural.

"I think probably I've done my fantasy," she said. "I think because Harry's world was so large and detailed and I've known it so well, it would be incredibly difficult to ... create another world."

Eighteen-year-old Laura Bowers, whose mother, Chris, actually won the tickets for Friday's New York appearance - Laura filled out entry forms in her and both her parents' names - says she'd like to ask Rowling about the sources of her material.

"I was thinking I might ask her if she had read [William Makepeace Thackeray's] Vanity Fair," said Laura, a student at the Baltimore School for the Arts. "I noticed things, like names in the book, that parallel Harry Potter. There are some similarities."

For Valdez, the hard decision hasn't been what to ask Rowling, but who to ask to go with her to Carnegie Hall. After some soul-searching, she decided on her sister-in-law, Darcy Bisset.

"But I have another friend who is a very big Harry Potter fan," Valdez says warily, "and I haven't told her yet."

Sorry to break the news to you, Amy Hyland. Looks like you'll have to spend the weekend just like the rest of us muggles.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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