I was in the U.K. during the last two weeks and every second was a celebration of writing. My son graduated with his masters in writing from Oxford (I am in awe), I met an author I had been corresponding with who managed to meet me in London on his way to the Netherlands. I had cocktails with a fan in London and another fan/friend/author in Edinburgh. When all that was done, another new friend drove me around the city.
I saw J.K.Rowling’s house (actually, I saw her security hedge) and Alexander McCall Smith’s haunts. I went to the writers’ museum. There were statues of writers, dishtowels, t-shirts and cement blocks in the squares featuring literary quotes. I raised a glass at The World’s End Pub made famous by Outlander. Even though I have made a living writing for over thirty years, I felt as giddy as a newbie in this amazing city. But when my host drove me to a middle school and parked across the street, I was speechless.
I will pause here to make a confession. I have never read a Harry Potter book. I have never seen a Harry Potter movie. I have never been to Universal Studios and gone on the Harry Potter tour. But the moment I put eyes on the imposing school building – ancient stones black with soot, turrets sliced into pieces by narrow windows, an entrance door so large it would take ten people to open it or at least a magic spell – I knew this was the building that inspired Harry Potter.
Thousands of people drive by that school each day, hundreds of uniformed students walk the halls and parents attended teacher meetings. For them that place was a school; for Rowling it was a universe.
On the other end of town I found Alexander McCall Smith’s stomping grounds. There is no 44 Scotland Street. However, I did see 43 Scotland Street and that was all I needed to understand his work.
Edinburgh is behind me, but I will never forget the moment I recognized the home of Harry Potter or the neighborhood of 44 Scotland Street. The reader in me lives for these moments when an author’s inspiration meets my reality. The author in me dreams that one day a reader will stand in the middle of Hermosa Beach and recognize it as the place Josie Bates was born.
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