Living the magic: A lifelong Harry Potter fan talks about working on the brand
Devin McDonald works in marketing at Scholastic, handling brands like Harry Potter. A lifelong fan of the boy wizard, she tells us what it was like to work on the series that you've been passionate about since you were a child.
I can still remember reaching my hand into a wide-brimmed wizard hat at Barnes & Noble and pulling out a slip of paper that said “Hufflepuff.”
I was seven years old and didn’t know to be indignant at this clear mis-sorting (I’m a proud Gryffindor). All I knew was that “Hufflepuff” was the strangest word I had ever heard and that my older brother, who I worshipped, couldn’t stop talking about a boy named Harry Potter.
Now, it’s hard to imagine my life without J.K. Rowling’s bespectacled boy wizard.
When I look back, I remember so much of it in the context of the magic the Harry Potter series brought to it:
- I see myself in second grade, swishing around my neighborhood on Halloween in wizards’ robes lovingly sewn by my mother, a lightning bolt scar on my forehead and fake, taped-up glasses on the bridge of my nose.
- I see myself in third grade, playing “dementor tag” during recess.
- In fourth grade there was the great scandal of the golden snitch a classmate stole off of the teacher’s desk, and I started writing stories because I’d decided I wanted to be J.K. Rowling when I grew up.
The spell Harry cast didn’t fade with age.
I read Deathly Hallows sitting side by side with my brother on his college visit road trip, and even at 15 years old I still loved Ron Weasley so dearly that I had to put the book down for a while when he left the Forest of Dean because I wasn’t sure I could go on without him. My freshman and sophomore years of college, I accumulated a spectacular collection of scrapes and bruises playing Keeper in my school’s Quidditch league.
Still, I never dreamed I’d find myself at a Books Of Wonder party in New York City with a crowd of like-minded fans 17 years after the first Harry Potter party I attended, awaiting the midnight release of an eighth story, surrounded by readers sporting buttons and lightning bolt tattoos that I had helped create.
Working on the Harry Potter brand
Since I started working on the Scholastic marketing team for Harry Potter a year ago, I’ve had the opportunity to experience this series I grew up with in an incredible new way. I used to hold the books in my hands and see my own personal escape. Now, I see the smiles of all of the fans I’ve met while working at events.
At the first convention I attended at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I met a 10-year-old who had read Deathly Hallows so many times his book had fallen apart. When we handed him a copy to replace it, his jaw hit the floor. His dad came back later to tell us that, in a hall full of exciting movie props and merchandise, the book was all his son could talk about. That same day, a young girl I had chatted with in our booth thanked me and handed me a pin she had made that said “Always” on it.
At the midnight release for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two, I was in awe of the crowd gathered. After months of meetings and emails in preparation, it warmed my heart to see all of the peop
le who had come in costume, from little kids in Hogwarts robes to hulking Hagrids and moms dressed as professors. I asked one particularly tiny Gryffindor if he had read the books and his sister chimed in to tell me that they were on Prisoner of Azkaban. People were clearly anxious to get their hands on the script of the play they’d been hearing so much about, but more than that, they just seemed happy to have the chance to don their wizards’ best and celebrate their love for the Boy Who Lived with fellow fans.
It's more than a book
A co-worker recently told me that Harry Potter was unlike any other book series because when you ask people if they’ve read it, few people are able to stop at “yes.” They have to tell you when they started reading it, how they discovered it, what house they’re in, what it means to them. In other words, it’s more than a book.
For some, it’s a way of bringing their family and friends together. For others, it’s a light when they most need it. For many, it’s world they desperately wish they could live in.
But above all else, it’s magic. And that magic is most definitely still alive.