John Gets a Thank You Letter from Scholastic

I send a copy of the Harry Potter related books I write or edit to Ms. Rowling through her publishers as a courtesy. I have never expected a response and I have never been disappointed. It’s just something that seems right to do.

This practice explains why I sent Ms. Rowling one of the reviewer’s copies of Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader that I got from Zossima Press before we kicked the first big kinks out of it. Her website instructs those wanting to contact her by post to send letters to Bloomsbury if you live in the UK and to Scholastic if you live in the US. I wrote a grateful note on the title page of Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, consequently, and shipped it off to Scholastic, as instructed.

I forgot about it. After my daily run late one night last week, though, I found a letter in our mailbox from Scholastic. It had first class postage (meaning it wasn’t junk mail).


I confess my first thought was that it’s just a form letter acknowledging receipt of the book. The second thought, an echo of doom-and-gloom predictions I heard when friends helped me publish Hidden Key to Harry Potter in 2003, was that Scholastic had sent me a “Cease-and-Desist” order for copyright violation. The third thought was that Ms. Rowling had actually written me a note.

I was wrong on all counts.

The questions I am asked every time I speak anywhere, from a Barnes and Noble bookstore to a Harry Potter fan convention, are “Have you met Ms. Rowling?” and “Has the author told you that these things you’ve said are true?” I always say that Ms. Rowling is far too busy and far too prudent to spend her time talking with parasites like me, especially before Deathly Hallows is published. This answer makes half the questioners laugh and the other half nods their heads sagely. I interpret the latter to mean, “so I don’t have to take seriously anything you have said.”

The letter doesn’t give me any reason to think I will need to change my answer to these questions soon. The thank you note is not personal in a revealing way so I reproduce it here for your interpretations.

March 21, 2007

Dear Mr. Granger,

Thank you for sending your book, Unlocking Harry Potter, to J.K. Rowling. It has been forwarded to my attention. We’re very sorry that Ms. Rowling is unable to personally respond to your gift.

Ms. Rowling has asked me to convey her thanks. She wishes she could personally respond to each and every kindness, but it is just not humanly possible. I know she will appreciate your inscription and be most interested in your interpretation of her work. We are sending it to her in the UK.

We truly appreciate your interest in J.K. Rowling and her wonderful Harry Potter series. Thank you so much for writing to us.


Linda H. Schenker
Scholastic Book Group

I showed it to my older children after reading it a few times. Not wanting to hurt my feelings, they dismissed it as gently as they could as a form letter. My cadets, in contrast, were convinced the signature was real and that Scholastic wouldn’t send form letters on watermarked ‘Strathmore’ stationery. The book’s title and her mentioning my inscription points to it not being a generic form letter; it is probably something written from a template. How else could they make responses to the bags of letters and packages they have to go through each day?

I appreciate the letter I received from Ms. Schenker. Acknowledging the courtesy of my book-token with a kind note explaining that the addressed recipient herself could not respond but was grateful was not necessary but it was more than civil. It reflects a concern that “things be done right.” In the midst of Potter mania, I expected much less and am thankful for the gesture and the thought behind it.

Knowing that thay “are sending it to her in the UK,” alas, has the side effect of feeding both the imagination and the heretofore successfully repressed desire to learn what, if anything, Ms. Rowling thinks of what I have written. “Maybe,” the voice at the back of my head whispers, “maybe she’ll read Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader. And maybe she’ll say she likes it!”

Get behind me, Satan….

A “friend of a friend” received a note from Ms. Rowling herself, believe it or not, several months ago. I haven’t read that letter because her lawyer, in a separate note responding to a request to publish the JKR missive online, asked that it be kept private. If this story is true (and I think it is, based on the one person I know who is involved tangentially), I confess to being impressed both by Ms. Rowling’s openness and by her fan’s respect for the privacy of their correspondence. I suspect, come August, we’ll learn about several instances of individuals having been told in advance about the gist or some details of the saga’s finish and meaning.

Try to forget that if you find an envelope from Scholastic or Bloomsbury in your mailbox.


  1. Arabella Figg says

    Dear John,

    Congratulations on getting such a nice response from Scholastic. I agree with you that the letter is likely mostly a template with personal touches. But I doubt they respond to everything they get, either. So perhaps Ms.Rowling is sitting by the fire, reading your book right now (I’m about a third of the way through).

    The “friend of a friend” Rowling note, though, has my urban legend antennae up. In his wonderful writings about ULs, folklorist Harold Jan Brunvand refers to the above phrase as FOAFs. Your friend may be a reliable person, but that still doesn’t mean it’s true. People are fooled all the time. I find it highly suspicious that Rowling, with her legendary secrecy and amazing control of information, would leak such tidbits before the last book is out.

    Urban legends are fascinating and often hilarious. I recently wrote a column for my city newspaper on ULs after the cell phone registration UL in November. For those interested, go to to learn about ULs and check out stories you’ve heard–prepare to be highly entertained and chagrined as some of your favorite tales turn out to be just that. (I checked but didn’t find anything on a Rowling letter…yet.)

    Oops, the kitties are clawing the couch,

  2. Arabella Figg, is my husband’s favorite site. I’ve learned to go there with some of the forwarded emails as well. Hubby finally convinced his cousin and his brother to think twice before sending on all those fowards.

    However, that doesn’t mean that JKR hasn’t responded in some fashion to a few people. I too doubt that she would give away anything concrete, but she has a way of wording things so that they sound more informative than they turn out to be. Sometimes in interviews, though, she does actually give some quite useful tidbits–if we only knew what to do with them, which we usually don’t. And there is the story of her reading one of the books over the phone to a young girl who was dying. I think it’s a mark of how much her fans respect her that if we did receive a personal letter with the request that we not share the information, that most of us would comply. She has been as open in interviews as she has dared, and this has been such a unique experience to get all the extra information from the author as she is writing. The Harry Potter books are great, but the chance to be so personally invested in the series is something we likely won’t encounter again.

    John, I’m about 3/4 of the way through “Unlocking Harry Potter”. I had to stop to finish “Jane Eyre” (sorry), I’m trying to re-read “Order of the Phoenix” and keep up with the discussion at Leaky Lounge, and then the cover art came out and I’ve been completely distracted.

    I really appreciate what you’ve done with Unlocking HP. Having all those pieces in one book (and so well explained) is so helpful and informative–and as usual, written in a way that’s easy to understand and with just enough humor to make it entertaining as well.

    I particularly like the explanation of the post moderns and the deconstruction of the metanarrative. And while I was reading it this afternoon at Barnes and Noble, sipping my mocha, it struck me why I like HP so much. And that’s it–I’ve always been in the position of reaching out to the underdog or the societal rejects or the people who were just “different”, just as I’ve always chosen to remain apart from the goals that we are told we should want–money, perfect job, biggest car, boat, expensive house and clothes, etc. That’s never been me, and now I finally get where I fit in.

    And I’ve made the connection of why–I grew up in that transition between the 50s when everyone HAD to conform and the 60s when it started to be OK to be an individual. No, I wasn’t that far from the mainstream (I was not a hippie or even rebellious), but just far enough to resent being “pigeon-holed”, or told that I had to act or think like everyone else. Anyway, I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you all.

    But back to the letter from Scholastic–I agree it does sound like a template that has been individualized–and that’s cool. I like the idea that Ms. Rowling might be sitting by the fire reading your book, nodding over some points, shaking her head over others, and I hope that, at some point, she will let you know which parts she agrees with and which ones she doesn’t. And if you get THAT letter, I hope she’ll give you permission to share it with us as well.

    Exciting stuff, John. And the more I read, the more I wish we had Time Turners that could take us forward to July.


  3. It occurs to me that although it does sound like a template letter filled out based on a screening process, it is still Her screening process. Due to JKR’s many statements about how important her fans are to her, I would not believe that she would want false or misleading statements made to you (narrative misdirection aside). The letter clearly states that your book was sent to her so I would believe it was. Pretty exciting actually.
    As I am one of your many fans I will understand if you don’t personally read this reply though.

  4. I do read everything sent to this site and respond to every email I get from readers of my books. I don’t respond to everything posted here, certainly, because my millions in royalties have allowed me to hire my six year old son to do that drudgery for me (which frees me up to write other posts, take care of my children, etc.). The boy’s bid on this work was very low, of course, because he is still learning the “reading-thing;” please don’t be offended by our delay in responding to posts here.

Speak Your Mind