Thursday, September 1, 2016

Announcing My New Harry Potter for Writers Video Series
Harry Potter for Writers Video Series
I'm so excited to show you my latest creation. Recently (I know I'm late to the party!) I've gotten hooked on YouTube videos for learning almost everything new. My daughter got me started when she learned how to sew solely from YouTube instructional videos.

So, I started thinking, with the new edition of A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter being out, maybe I could try to put together some of my own how-to videos based on the book and my favorite posts from this blog. I didn't realize how much work it is! But it's been fun learning.

Now that I have the basics covered, I want to share the three I've done so far with you. And what better day than September 1, as well all head back to Hogwarts in our hearts! I hope these videos will help you peer beneath the surface to how J.K. Rowling created all that magic.

I'll keep adding to the playlist, but would love any comments as to what topics you'd love to see covered in these videos.

Here's the playlist where the three videos I've created so far are listed:

And here are the three videos embedded here.
The first is an introductory video to the series:

The second covers one of my favorite clues, and one of JK Rowling's most powerful, from the scene where Snape Kills Dumbledore:

And the third analyzes a fascinating, and often overlooked, element that can be a part of the Hero's Journey, The Forbidden Door:

As my channel and videos are brand new, I'd love it if you could take the time to like and comment on the videos and follow my channel.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Original Potter Generation: Where Are They Now? (Survey)

Does the magic of Harry Potter still call to you?

Following up on last week's post on The Next Generation of Harry Potter fans, I've been wondering a lot about the original generation of fans and where are they now. During the last ten days as I've attended multiple Harry Potter and the Cursed Child release events and A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter book signings, I've been blessed to meet and talk with a ton of fans

From young children who are just now discovering the books on their own, to families of readers who have shared their Potter love together, to adults who grew up on the series and still look forward to hearing more about Harry and friends, the love of Potter continues. However, it's the original set of kids growing up during the height of the Harry Potter mania, who are now adults, that I'm most curious about at the moment.

From personal stories readers gave shared with me, I've been blessed to hear of how many were affected deeply by their love of JK Rowling's stories, and not only regarding their reading habits. So many fans developed deep commitment to social concerns and justice after engaging in the trials of Harry and friends as they fought the fear and prejudice of pure bloods against mudbloods or witches and wizards against other magical beings. Others were influenced to become writers or other creative careers because of the stories.

If you are one of these fans, I ask you to take part of my survey for an upcoming article.

If you were:

  • a Harry Potter fan during the original release of the books (1997 - 2997)
  • born between  ~1982 - ~1998 (thereabouts)
  • influenced in your life by reading Harry Potter

Then please consider participating in the survey by answering the following:

  • Your name (or pseudonym if you want to be anonymous)
  • Your age
  • How old you were when you read your first Potter story
  • How long it took you to read the whole series (mention time waiting for releases)
  • How many release parties you attended
  • Where you were living during the time of the series' release
  • Where you live now
  • The most interesting thing that happened to you as a result of reading Harry Potter 
  • How you participated in fandom, then and now
  • How reading Harry Potter affected your life choices then and now.

Please answer as many as you will, especially the last one, but you do not have to answer them all. And you can be general in regard to personal details if you wish.

You can reply with your answers in the comment trail here, or, if you prefer, send me your owl at SPSipal AT gmail DOT com.

I'll update this blog regarding when and where the article will be posted.

Thank you all for sharing your experience with me (and the world!).

Also, be sure to check out my article on the highly popular AlwaysJKRowling fansite this week, Harry Potter: From Story to Myth. There's a great giveaway included!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Next Generation of Harry Potter Fans

Presenting Clues
A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter
This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to present and sign A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter at two Harry Potter and the Cursed Child release events, both at local Barnes and Noble stores. Saturday night was in Durham at New Hope Commons, and Sunday afternoon was in Cary (both North Carolina). While Sunday's gathering was more laid back than the very excited crowd for the midnight release party, at both I was fortunate enough to meet and share with some very enthusiastic Harry Potter fans.

There were plenty adult fans gathered, but the group that surprised me the most, the largest group, were the young ones. I'd read an article somewhere in the last few months that the current target-age for the Harry Potter series was not as into it as the past. That some teachers who grew up loving Harry, Ron, and Hermione had a hard time getting their own students to read about their adventures.

Fans Gathered for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

But by the amount of in-depth knowledge I was quizzed on throughout both events, I feel Potterdom has definitely charmed a new generation. Some of their parents were fans too, but most were not. The kids discovered the magid on their own or through their peers. And what I found wonderfully surprising is that at least half of the young fans I talked to represented many diverse cultures. Harry Potter remains a story with broad appeal.

I have always been amazed at how well Rowling's youngest fans understand the mysteries and subtext in her series and can pick out the clues. And these kids were no exception. They quizzed me on which ghost belonged to which House (I got stumped w/ Hufflepuff...the shame!), how in Deathly Hallows the Patronus deer in the forest had given away Snape's involvement right away, and insightful speculation regarding how Umbridge had obtained Mad-Eye's mad eye to pin on her Ministry.

Head of Hufflepuff!
As a writer, especially of A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter, it always thrills me to see how many of Rowling's youngest fans are writers themselves. I was blessed to hear many stories already written or in the process of being written. The depth of imagination in these young fans astounds me. I wish I could bottle some of that creativity for days when I feel my own well running dry.

Rowling has left us many gifts through her books, but perhaps the inspiration of a new generation of writers is the greatest. For without Story, Story that has been with humans since the earliest images on cave walls, would we have any of the developments of civilization brought about by imagination?

And now, with the release of Cursed Child and the renewed interest in Harry Potter, Rowling is once again inspiring those with the strongest imagination. Perhaps, this time, the stage will benefit as well.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter Release Week + #Giveaways!

It’s release week for A Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter, and I couldn’t be more excited! So many good things have happened recently to share with all of you. Best of all, I want to invite you to the virtual launch party this Wednesday.

First, I am featured this morning on WRAL TV’s Go Ask Mom column in an interview about how I came to write A Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter. Please check it out here.

What’s really cool is that the reporter for this piece, Sarah Lindenfeld Hall, will also present the book live on FOX 50 this Wednesday as part of their morning newscast. If you’re local, you can watch it between 8:30 – 8:45.

Wednesday will also be the day of our virtual launch with a Facebook and Twitter party. The theme will be Harry Potter Fandom Around the World and the Writers JK Rowling Inspired. My publisher and I will be interviewing writers from many countries about how Rowling inspired their writing and what the fandom is like in their country and throughout the US. If you were inspired by Harry, there is still time to get involved. Just drop me a note at SPSipal AT

As part of the release party, we’ll have giveaways and prizes, so be sure to attend. Along with the interviews, I’ll also talk about some of the clues Rowling wove into the HP series and what we can expect from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which releases this Sunday. Our hashtag for the event will be #WritersGuideToHarryPotter.

After a couple of days of recovering from all this, I’ll be participating in Durham's New Hope Commons Barnes and Noble midnight release party for Cursed Child. I’ll post more updates on Twitter and my Upcoming Appearances page as they are confirmed.

Our live-in-person launch party has turned out to be more fantastic than I ever imagined in my wildest dreams. I’ve been invited to present and sign my book at a mini Renaissance Faire in my hometown, complete with RenFaire craft booths, vendors, food trucks, sword fighting, mead tasting, and lots and lots of cosplay. So, I guess I’ll be dressed as someone from Potterdom. Who should I go as?

If you’re close enough to attend, you can also get your picture made in our Prisoner Sirius Black, “Have You Seen This Wizard” insert-your-face cutout carnival standee.

Finally, the paperback version of A Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter is live today on Amazon. The Kindle will go live tonight at midnight here.

My fabulous publisher, Deep River Press, made all of this possible. The marketing team at Deep River is just incredible, and I cannot thank them enough.

Come have fun with me this week!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter ARC at ALAA and Hogsmeade + #Giveaway

From June 24-26, I had the pleasure of attending my first American Library Association Annual Conference. I went with my publisher, Deep River Press, to promote the upcoming release of the new edition of A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter. I had a blast, and gave a report for Adventures in YA Publishing, but wanted to copy it here in case you missed it there.

First, I should say: Librarians are the BEST!! Seriously. Every librarian we met was so friendly, so eager to hear about our books, and so committed to providing the best services to get people reading. I've been to writer conferences, fan conferences, and publishing events, but none of them beat librarians for loving books across the board and all their readers.
Darker the Night at IBPA
While the conference offers tons of panels, meetings, and workshops geared specifically to the librarian's needs, my editor and I spent most of our time in the immense exhibit hall at the Orlando Convention Center. Deep River Press' most current release, Darker the Night, was on display at the Independent Book Publishers Association booth, as they are a member. We hung out there to talk to interested librarians about DRP's whole catalogue, and I was able to show off the new ARC for WGHP. I was thrilled to see how much interest there was in the book.

But we spent most of our time walking the exhibits, meeting publishers, authors, and vendors...and picking up so many free books we had to check our luggage home. I'm giving some of these away here, so check out the books and the Rafflecopter below!

Writer's Guide to Harry Potter
As an author wanting to promote my book, I have to say that the best thing I did was to take the advice of my editor and have a T-shirt made with my book cover. I took it one step further and had the front cover on my front and the back cover on my back. I was a walking ARC!

Can you imagine how many Harry Potter fans there are at a library convention? I got to meet lots of people and share both our excitement and trepidation with the upcoming releases of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I also got to book lots of speaking events and workshops for book release events for both upcoming script books.

Here are some pictures and highlights:

I was thrilled to hear Editor Zareen Jaffery speak on the Salaam Reads imprint from Simon and Schuster. This is the new Muslim-themed imprint that will be publishing 9 books a year starting in 2017. She spoke of the importance of positioning the books in a new imprint, rather than through existing imprints, for marketing and ease of finding the books.

Zareen Jaffery on Salaam Reads

Harry Potter Alliance: They are doing such wonderful work with their chapter organizations and projects like #Protego. Be sure to check them out.
The Harry Potter Alliance

Got to see Lemony Snicket signing! Alas, the line was too long for me to get a book.

Loved this lovely lady from the Bright Star Touring Theater. They provide literary and curriculum performances for libraries, schools, and other events.

Enjoying Happy Hour on the floor at the exhibit hall. So many good people to talk to!
Lisa London w/ QBO

And here is my editor, Lisa London, holding her newest release, QuickBooks Online for Small Nonprofits & Churches.

Finally, as any true Harry Potter fan would do at the end of a busy weekend in Orlando, we visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Can you believe it was my first visit? Time did not permit us attending both parks, so we enjoyed everything Hogsmeade had to offer.

My new home...

Off to have a chat w/ Dumbledore book made it into Flourish and Blotts! Almost.

Writer's Guide to Harry Potter

So, my advice to you if you're attending ALA or any other conference event as an author promoting your book:

  • if appropriate, wear your cover!
  • have bookmarks and business cards to pass out to anyone interested in your book
  • walk the halls and meet people
  • show genuine interest in what books they are writing and reading and loving as well
  • and at the end of the day, have fun with other book lovers!


I didn't go overboard with the freebies because I knew, from experience, I'd have to haul them home. But here's what I got:

I'm giving away ARCs for Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee, Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin, and Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz. Sign up through the Rafflecopter below. US shipping only. One book per winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Updated and Expanded Edition of A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter Releases Soon!
I'm thrilled to share some exciting news. A newly updated and expanded edition of A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter will be releasing July 26, 2016! My publisher, Deep River Press, has some wonderful plans for this 5th anniversary edition.

First, the book has been completely revised and expanded with more examples and some new analysis, including thoughts on the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This edition will be available in both paperback and Kindle through all major retailers.

But one addition I'm truly excited about are the upcoming workbooks and teachers' guides. Encouraging a love of creative writing with Harry Potter as the text is a natural step for many teachers who grew up on the series. Now, we'll provide educators with workbooks at two levels, middle grade and upper grade, along with a teacher's guide to help make this an exciting enhancement to the classroom curriculum.

If you've read my Writer's Guide in the past, or attended any of my workshops, and would be willing to give me a quote, or are interested in reading an ARC of the new book and providing a review, please contact me at SPSipal AT Or, if you're an educator interested in the workbooks and teachers' guides, you may contact my publisher at publicity AT

Check out the new book on Amazon here. It's available only for preview until July 26, but you can add it to any of your wish lists now.

Note: I will also be teaching from the new Guide and using the workbook when I teach the class at Central Carolina Community College from July 14 through August 8 at the Pittsboro, NC campus. See more info and sign up here under the link for The Crafting of a Bestseller.

About the Book:

Improve Your Writing with Harry Potter as Your Text!
A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter
The Harry Potter magic lives on as J.K. Rowling expands her wizarding world into new stories and formats. For five years, writers and fans from all continents have used A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter to delve beneath her pages' surface to discover the skill and artistry which created a story that enchanted audiences across generations. In this newly revised and expanded edition, S.P. Sipal takes you even deeper than before, exploring new techniques, and even peering into the artistic and marketing vision behind the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

No matter your genre, this guide will help you strengthen your craft by virtually apprenticing under a bestselling mentor. Through fourteen lessons, discover the expert techniques Ms. Rowling employs which makes her series such a phenomenal success and which will help improve your own craft and style.

Topics include:

  • characterization
  • world building
  • backstory
  • mystery plotting
  • myths and archetypes
  • fan interaction
  • social media
  • and author-driven publishing and promotion.

Friday, June 10, 2016

On JK Rowling, The Cursed Child, and The Right of an Artist to Choose Her Canvas

Certain corners of the internet have been blowing up the last few days over Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The trouble started brewing when JK Rowling announced in December 2013 that the long-awaited next installment (sorta) of Harry Potter would be a play. A theater production in London. Something only a few people among her millions of fans could attend. Those around London. Or those with money.
Needless to say, fans were NOT happy! And for good reason. Fandom is a large reason that Cursed Child is even possible. It seemed the beloved headmistress of reader magic was deliberately cutting off the people who had made her such a success.

Hearing these rumblings, Jo and her people deliberated, doubtlessly, and on February 10, 2016 another announcement was made that Cursed Child would be published. A book! (Sorta) Of the script, at least. Something all fans could read!! (By the way, this is the same plan for the upcoming film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them -- a scriptbook to be released along with the movie).

But then the play's previews were announced. Seven weeks before the book Cursed Child is to be released, a very few lucky fans have been able to actually SEE Cursed Child in London's West End Palace Theater. Those lucky few have been told to #KeepTheSecrets. Not spoil the unlucky millions waiting for the book's release. But, of course, the Fidelius charm only works with a very trusted secret keeper.
So fandom is heating up again. It's not fair! Some people are getting to see a play earlier than we can read it! Spoilers are everywhere! I can't view the story in its intended format.

At the heart, I think, is a sense of loss, a collective bereavement for a time that may never come again...and yet, for a glimmer of a moment, we thought it had magically re-apparated. That time when fandom was ONE in waiting for, instantly opening, and together reading the highly anticipated new release. Good times.

Believe me, I understand this universal sense of loss. I stood in line for each new Harry Potter release, read as much as I could over night, and was ready to shoot out new theories for the next book the next day. Sigh. I'm upset too that I can't afford to hop on a plane to London, book a hotel, and purchase expensive theater tickets...for two nights! Because Cursed Child is a play in two parts, with a cliffhanger ending at the end of the first.

But I'm a writer too. An artist like Jo (sorta, don't have that legions of fans things going on, ya know). And there's one thing I feel passionately about -- the right to tell my story the way it needs to be told. Each story dictates to me how it should be told. Almost everything I write is in a different genre, category, format, or style. If I want to forego the advantage of building a fanbase in one medium, that's my choice.

I've chosen the artistic life not for the fame (ha!), or the money (bent over in hysterics), but because of the intense, driving need to get the stories out of my mind and out to the world in a way that is as true to them as it possible in this materialistic business.

Despite Jo's millions of fans, and maybe even more so because of them, she STILL has the right to choose her canvas. She has every right to tell her story in the way it needs to be told, to remain true to her artistic vision, to broaden her creativity, even if that means some people get to experience it before others.

Of course, she has a responsibility to her fans as well. Respect and story-telling is always a two-way street. But that's what the book is for. She listened to the fans whom she's always treated well*. She responded. And now, for her readers to demand that they get it all, to time-travel back to an experience they adored, is, in my POV, a bit self-serving...and living in a fantasy world.

I'll never forget the power of waiting among a unified community of  passionate readers for the release of a if the biggest rock star had come to town. But I'm now equally excited to see what a woman of such creative magic can do for stage and screen when she is allowed free rein with her artistic tools.

What about you? Are you eagerly awaiting the release of Cursed Child? Or content to let your Harry Potter years rest preserved in your memory?

*Putting aside, for now, the controversy surrounding the Pottermore release of four stories related to Fantastic Beasts and the criticism the first drew regarding cultural appropriation. I'll discuss this in a future post.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Southern Fried Wiccan Release Day with Giveaway, Plus Interview with Editor Mary Waibel

Release day is finally here! Southern Fried Wiccan is live today!
Southern Fried Wiccan by S.P. Sipal
Many moons ago, when I first got the offer from BookFish Books, I was thrilled.  Finally, this story I had worked so long and so hard on would be shared with the readers I'd written it for. I didn't quite realize how much more long and hard work I had ahead of me.

But Mary Waibel, as my content editor, and Ellie Sipila, as my line and copy editor, made that work a fun and learning experience. I'm so thrilled that Mary is celebrating with me today by sharing her experience not only as an editor, but a writer as well.


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