Leaky-Con After-Action report

Yes, I know it’s been well more than a week since the Leaky-Con crew departed Universal Studios Resort (though I suspect some of them may have tried to sneak back in and live there), but with all the excitement, I’m just now getting to a more thorough response to the event, along with a few pictures! Those of you who were able to attend, I hope you’ll add your thoughts about sessions or events that I didn’t get to experience.

There was a little (or a lot) of something for everyone at Leaky-Con 2011, a fact made clear by just a glance through the very nifty program (which came in the form of a full-sized school annual or yearbook, complete with all the participants’ pictures and lots of fun extras!) The Wizard Rock folks were in full force, as were the unstoppable Quidditch players sweltering in the Florida sun (I’m thinking midnight Quidditch may be a good idea in Florida). There were workshops on everything from making Harry Potter-themed books and outfits to putting together programs such as a Hogwarts Vacation Bible School. The Harry Potter Alliance and most of the internet usual suspects were there, with live podcasts and other fun events. Of course, the Leaky Cauldron team led several programs, as did the folks from sites like Mugglecast and Pottercast. Fans could wait on line (and wait, and wait) to meet film personalities such as Evanna Lynch who plays Luna Lovegood or the teams behind popular fan-based entertainments (some of which are really involved and beautifully produced endeavors!). as one would expect, there were plenty of folks dressed as everything from wizards to house elves, and lots of frou-frou for the big Esther Earl Rockin’ Charity Ball.

And, of course, there were a number of more academic pursuits for nerds like yours truly. Though I would have liked to have attended all sessions of that nature, I don’t own a Time Turner (yet) and could only sample a few. On Friday, I enjoyed David Martin’s absolutely delightful take on the content of Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches, which contained not only some good advice that Ron apparently took to heart based on the improvements in his approach with Hermione, but some pretty darn good advice for Muggle males as well. My personal favorite was the very simple spell for a wizard to recite to get back in his witch’s good graces: ” I was wrong, and you were right”; Ron is right, solid gold, there. I also really enjoyed David Gras’s super (and packed!) workshop on the function of HP as “way between two worlds.” It’s always a treat to fellowship with the delightful David and Toni Gras, friends of this blog and truly fine people. Kristin Domin’s workshop on the effects of Rowling’s work on teachers and students of English also led to a very involved audience response. Those who missed sessions like Erin Sweeney’s (a program printing nargle confused some folks) will be happy to know her planetary theories are in her chapter in the brand-spanking new book Harry Potter for Nerds.

One of the highlights Friday was undoubtedly the big Pottermore session. The main stage events were held in the vast ballroom, beautifully decorated to look like the great hall (including a blue sky projected onto the ceiling with moving clouds). This one, in which audience members were strictly forbidden from taking photographs by a big image of a hand with Umbridge-esque writing on it (I must not take pictures), was filled with folks eager to know more about Rowling’s newest endeavor, and they were not disappointed. James Deeley, who was one of the leaders of the Pottermore team, led the session, along with Leaky’s Melissa Anelli, who was also very involved in the process. Deeley, who was upbeat, fun, and quite a hit with the crowd, revealed that the Pottermore experience idea began about 2 years ago (which is, as far as I can tell, about the time Rowling stopped adding much to her regular site). He also joked about the technical traffic jams that caused some of us to wait days for Pottermore to respond to us and about theories on what Pottermore was (including that it was another country or planet to which all fans were being relocated). He showed many images from the new site, including one that showed the process of creating images that Rowling said were just right for her vision. These images will also allow visitors to click on and learn more about the Potterverse. For example, in the Dursleys’ house, one can learn about the really boring courtship of Vernon and Petunia, or, by clicking on Professor McGonagall, we got a very quick sneak preview of her fascinating backstory. There are, apparently, 44 such moments just in Philosopher’s Stone, and Rowling already has over 18,000 words of new content as well as goodies from those notebooks. Deeley didn’t linger, though, and often, like Hagrid, told us something (like a hint about additional magical schools) that he followed up with “I probably shouldn’t have told you that.” He walked us through the Pottermore process, which will allow visitors to experience each chapter of each book (woven together in a big pattern with lots of circles, Headmaster!) with many layers of new material and multimedia. Sections will apparently be launched on a schedule, so that there will be something new to look forward to for some time to come. Overall, it was a great presentation that had most folks hoping to be among those chosen to try the site out come Sunday, and all of us eager for October and the chance to delve into Philosopher’s Stone with new discoveries. The issues of control were actually treated with gentle humor by Deeley, alleviating some of my previous observations that Pottermore may lose its whimsy in efforts to keep everything in a tight grip (the old Weasley twins versus Umbridge dichotomy).

Saturday was my day to be less of an audience member and to do more heavy lifting. My husband Michael and I had the 9 am presentation slot for our program(eek!), but we had a wonderfully engaged group for our talk on the ways in which Rowling portrays authors, publishing, and the book industry in the Wizarding World, a topic we began to analyze on the way home from Infinitus last year as we noted that authors hardly ever come off well in Rowling’s writing, from the egomaniac Lockhart who is punished with insanity to poor old Bathilda Bagshot, seemingly harmless textbook writer (who doesn’t even work with a Muggle academic publisher who would bring out a new and more expensive edition every year), who is consumed by a giant snake, ugh! As Michael and I have worked in nearly every aspect of the writing process (as writers, proofer/editors/ consultants/ librarians, etc.), we had fun connecting Rowling’s fictional authors, publishers, and librarians to the real thing. Thanks to everyone who joined us!

Saturday was also the day for our intrepid Headmaster, John Granger, to give his presentations, both of which drew huge (and very interested!) crowds. The first presentation covered the fascinating Ring Composition theories on which our headmaster has so carefully worked. There were plenty of ohhs and ahhs (and WOWS!) as audience members saw the complex and revealing patterns in the series. In the second presentation, John explained the “keys” to the way the Hogwarts adventures engage us so thoroughly. As you can see from the pictures, John had a great group, and plenty of folks queued up to get one of his books, including the hot-off-the-presses book on Ring Composition. If you didn’t get to come to Leaky-con, ran out of book money there, or discovered you missed someone on your Christmas list, don’t despair; you can still contact John Granger for a signed copy!

Of course, one of the best parts of Leaky-Con was the opportunity to visit with wonderful folks. It’s always a treat for the HogPro faculty to get together in corporeal form to fellowship, eat, and encourage each other. I must also say, that even though it was a little hectic for the event organizers, everyone with whom I worked was just super, and the speaker swag bags were swell! Thanks especially to Collette and Kimberly for all your help! I hope those of you who enjoyed other aspects of this multi-faceted event will share those with us. Enjoy the pictures!


  1. revgeorge says

    With that beard, John looks like he’s preparing for the priesthood. 🙂

    Where exactly can one get a copy of John’s ring cycle book? I couldn’t find it through the link provided.

    Any idea if David Gras’ presentation will be made available to those of us who couldn’t attend?

    Thanks for the report!

  2. Arabella Figg says

    Elizabeth, thanks for the great report and pictures. Your presentation of WizWorld’s book industry sounds fascinating; I’ve not read any analysis on this subject. I wish I could have heard it, and hope you do a post on it. We’d hoped to go to the conference this year, but it wasn’t to be. Hoping for Ascendio next year.

    I too would like to know about the signed Ring book, because I’ve been too swamped the last several months to get it.

  3. Maggiemay says

    I told my 13 year old about the HP vacation bible school idea and he blurted out:
    “Sectumsempra Snacktime!”
    “Avada Kedavra Arts and crafts: it’s so much fun it’ll kill you!”

  4. Deborah (shackle52) says

    I have to say that John’s talks were the highlight of Leaky Con for me (along with being part of the winning Team Trivia group) this was the third time I’ve heard him and I always get something new but the Ring Composition talk just blew me away. I’m on my second reading of the book. I also thoroughly enjoyed the piece “Why She Chose 1692” from Harry Potter Smart Talk. This stuff just feeds the old (and I do mean “old”) history major in me. I wrote on my FB page on day one that I had spent 3 hours discussing Ron, Snape, Dumbledore, and “Severus, please” and I felt I was in heaven.

  5. Nicholas says

    I’m curious if the folks who come to these conventions to dress up and play quidditch and talk about shipping and fan fiction ever wander in to the academic talks and find themselves getting interested. Do they ever come up after the talks and say “Wow, I never realized there was so much there!”?

    More kudos to John for the beard – it certainly gets rid of the house elf look! A bit Rasputinish, though.

  6. Elizabeth says

    Deborah, Thank you so much for coming! Indeed, John is responsible for deepening many people’s understsanding of the books!

    I do hope that we’ll get posts up soon summarizing David’s talk and mine and Michael’s. Stay tuned!

    No beard-bashing, George! Clearly, I like beards, as Michael has had his longer than he’s had me (and our 16th wedding anniversary is next month)! My standard response, when people ask about the beard, is a paraphrase of Beatrice’s line from Much Ado about Nothing: “What would I do with a husband with no beard? Dress him in my clothes and make him my waiting woman?”
    If I were movie-Hermione, I would have kept that beard on Ron, too! Charming!

  7. revgeorge says

    Oh, I wasn’t bashing on the beard; just stating an observation. 😉

  8. Elizabeth, thank you for giving us a great write-up on the Leaky Con 2011 gathering we shared down in Orlando last month. Thank you also for your kind words toward Toni and I and your encouragement regarding my talk. A roundtable discussion will normally draw 15 to 20 attendees, I was grateful and surprised for the full house! We enjoyed meeting with you and Michael once again and the opportunity to work with you with our own Hogwarts Professor John Granger and his two fantastic talks on the Ring Composition and the HP “Metaphysical Center”.
    If anyone hasn’t purchased John’s new “Ring” book you’re missing a great work on the “reverse echoes” of related chapters in the seven book series that mirror their meaning on opposite sides of each book and chapter. A lot of “Wows” indeed from the audience throughout that session John. Fascinating subject relating to the hidden meanings and Christian symbolism within HP that we now know so well.

    revgeorge, thank you for your interest in my talk,” Harry Potter: The Bridge between Two Worldviews”. I don’t believe Leaky Con has any audio from the sessions released as yet, but I can give you my webs. blog that has my outline and questions from that talk as well as the audio from a similar talk I gave at Portus 2008 the link is


    A bridge between two worldviews?
    J K Rowling begins DH with two epigraphs one pagan in source from the writings of Aeschylus the other Christian in origin from William Penn. Jo had both of these quotes selected before book one was even finished.

    A line that Jo did not use from Aeschylus’ writings that fits Harry’s story to a tee particularly from book 6 and beyond knowing the struggle/battle within Harry’s thoughts and dreams with Voldemort will give thought.
    “He who learns must suffer and even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God”.

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