Welcome to the September Issue of In the Spotlight! We've prepared your usual goodies such as some extras with the September Sitewide Story of the Month winner, an all-exclusive interview with this Month's staff member who received an Order of Merlin, as well as an interview with our most recent Head Students. This month we're also bringing you even more extras with the Summer Quarter's Prefect Challenge winner! September is a bustling month -- it's back to school here on the Forums as well as some of you in real life! So take some time to yourself, kick back, and enjoy. Abby ( @Chemical_Pixie ) has even prepared some...poetry for your entertainment purposes. Finally, we have prepared a SPECIAL SURPRIZE for you all at the end of this Blog Post! Be sure to check it out! We hope you've been kicking off this Hogwart's season the right way (with lots of writing)!
As seen in the September News Bulletin, the one and only Lotte ( @LadyL8 ) was chosen by the Prefects to receive an Order of Merlin. She was kind enough to provide us with some responses to interview questions, despite her life being quite busy and hectic at the moment. Thanks so much, Lotte!
How long have you been a part of the Harry Potter fanfiction community?
I joined the Harry Potter fanfiction community back in 2010, so about 8 years ago. I was still in middle school back then and had just finished reading all the Harry Potter books for the first time. I was watching some Harry Potter videos on youtube, found a fanfic trailer and got really interested. I started reading fanfics, then writing and eventually I joined some forums. And well, I loved the community so much that 8 years later I'm still here
What is your favorite part about working behind-the-scenes?
There are lot of things I love about working behind-the-scenes, but my favourite part is probably being able to give back to a community that has given me a lot over the years. I found the Harry Potter community at a time in my life when things weren't going all that well for me, and the community really helped me feel better. So for me, my favourite part about being a staffer is probably being able to help run a site that could help others like the community helped me. And also, I love teamwork. I work much better in teams than on my own and the staff team is just the best!
Favorite type of fanfiction to read/write?
I'll enjoy just about anything as long as it's well-written, but I've always loved stories about minor characters. There are so many interesting minor characters in the Harry Potter books, and I honestly think you could write a good story about just about any one of them. And I really love it when authors take the little facts they have about the character and incorporate them into the story, but then they also add lots of interesting new information. So yeah, I think that's probably my favourite type of fanfiction
What is your OTP?
That's a tough question. I don't know. The first pairing I fell in love with in the Harry Potter books was Harry/Ginny, so I've always had a soft spot in my heart for them. I'm also a big James/Lily fan, so it's probably one of those two pairings
What’s your favorite story from mythology and why?
My favourite mythology story is definitely the myth of Icarus and Daedalus from greek mythology. The moral of the story is really good and I can relate to it a lot. And being from Norway, I'm also a big fan of norse mythology, and my favourite story from norse mythology is probably the story of the creation of Thor's hammer. I'm not really sure why. I just love Loki in this story
We are proud to present some interviews with one of our two Head Students for September, Abby ( @Chemical_Pixie ), who allowed us to pick brains!
Why did you pick the House you are in?
My heart holds pride for daring Gryffindor,
My veins bleed loudly in crimson and gold.
Adventures linger on a distant shore,
Online, nearby: exploration so bold.
In competition, I may lose my head,
So watch your back, my friend, I play to win
No passionate arguments go unsaid,
In games or life, my roar comes from within.
I live with a lion’s ferocity,
In the hopes of pleasing Godric the brave.
I face new things with curiosity,
And I’ll take my loyalty to the grave.
I stand for what I believe in: what nerve!
For a betterpurpose I hope to serve.
If there’s one story of yours you would like to tell us about, what would it be and why?
To the current and potential readers of A Place Not Far From Here:
I would tell you not to believe everything you hear, but you’re going to believe what you want, anyway.
For those of you who are curious enough, yes, I dated James Potter while at Hogwarts. And no, I didn’t have a clue of what was to come of him. The signs might have been there, but that’s for me to decide.
Oh, you’re wondering about The Cause? They might be worse than the Ministry but perhaps not half as corrupt. Though, I am not so sure anymore…
If you’re trying to get me to tell you about the Hallows, stop if you know what’s good for you.
And why am I doing this? Do you even need to ask?
Signed with all due respect, Amelia Fortescue.
What would be your first question after waking up from being cryogenically frozen for 100 years? Why?
“Does the US have equitable education and universal healthcare yet?” Let’s start actualizing our humanity, people!
What TV Channel doesn’t exist but really should? Why?
Something without ads
And with book adaptations:
One chapter per slot.
Because ads hold us hostage;
Not interested in
Your flashy products.
But the art should speak
Fromfirst frame to close
Storytelling comes to life.
What is the best single day (or group of days) on the calendar? Why?
For this one, let’s turn to our relationship with the sun: the solstices and equinoxes, for we’re in balance and in transition, a cyclic change as time marches onwards in an ever revolving pattern, bringing forth life and death and hope.
What’s the best thing that happened to you this month (or last month)?
There was once a lonely soprano
Who auditioned for a guy and piano
Lim’ricks have dirty hearts
So think of muddy carts
And in a new choir the girl began-o!
This month's story of the month was That's All [M] by Bex ( @beyond the rain )! We have written a review column about this lovely piece, [and we've managed to score an interview with the author][pending Bexy's answers]. Enjoy!
Reading Bex's That's All has been a sweet, rewarding journey thus far.
Her use of nonlinear time progression creates an excellent hook when diving into the Prologue, and it just gets better from there. The main character Clara Leavitt, an original character, is perfectly unique, easily relatable, and entirely likable. Having faced difficulties in being a Muggleborn Slytherin while at Hogwarts -- and with the world in shards during the First Wizarding War -- Clara chose to estrange herself from the Wizarding World and pursued a career as a nurse in the Muggle world. Save from communication with her best friend Severus Snape, she had essentially isolated herself from magic all-together until she became reunited with Remus Lupin.
They formed a friendship based on need and kindness, which progressed in a beautifully frustrating slow-burn into a relationship. The nature of their relationship is so natural and so sweet. They create this organic banter, complete with flirting, that is downright hysterical. In each review, I keep using the term "domestic" to describe them because the two have this classic chemistry that is evident even from when they were just friends. They're symbolic of what I envision growing old with someone would look like, and it's incredibly sweet. The two help one another heal and move forward on a number of different levels, which is a difficult thing to do in the aftermath of the first war.
Sweet and slow romance, beautiful characterization, hilarious moments...you really can't ask for more if you want something to fill you to the brim with fluff. I highly recommend this fic, so if you haven't read it -- go do that right now. You'll thank me later. I'm so happy to see this receive a well-deserved spot in the Story of the Month archives!
What inspires you to write?
Small things. Sometimes I'll read a sentence, or see the way a person acts (in real life or in a film) and my imagination runs with it. There are certain parts of history, the conflicts of that era, the music and even the fashion just really inspires me. I'm also a huge sucker for picspams and aesthetics. The colours and compositions of pretty graphics just give me ideas and before I know it a world's created in my head.
What is a genre/trope that you’ve never written before, but want to try?
Fake dating! Or when two friends book two hotel rooms and of course there's only one and it's a double bed. I love seeing characters squirm and battle with their emotions!
Published authors you look up to?
Oh wow, this is a tough one. I think J K Rowling - yes she's a controversial figure, but she created one of the biggest, and in my opinion one of the most well known, worlds...all in her head! There's so much detail and it's such a warm place, I have to admire her for that. Right now I'm loving the Bronte sisters too. I actually started by reading a book by the lesser known sister, Anne, and while her structure is more of the time (I read a sentence that was a page and a half long. It was crazy.) she was so forward thinking. She wrote even though her two sisters refused to have her work published, she wrote about feminism and even challenged religion and the middle class way of life...I think that's really cool! Now I've started reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and I've somehow managed to avoid finding out what this very famous book is about for years and it's crazy how much I relate to Jane. In reality the two of us don't have that much in common but Charlotte Bronte has this style that makes you feel like you've known all of her characters for years and I find myself nodding along or just generally reacting to things that happen loudly. It's the effect her writing has on me!
If you could give one piece of advice to your fellow writers, what would it be?
Write for yourself and at your own pace. I know there's a lot of "write everyday even if it's just 100 words" - I haven't written anything in three weeks and I feel great. I'm not stressed about my writing and I'm not worried that people will lose interest in my works. It's lovely to have feedback, but don't write something for other people. Write because you love what you're doing and because it makes you happy.
What does your planning/outlining method look like? Does it vary from story-to-story?
hahahaha. haha. ha
That's All specifically has about six different documents full of plans, and two books full. Originally I started out by planning using a timeline. It was very informal it had lots of question marks, lots of swearing, and lots of gaps. From chapter two I had to come back and rewrite most of that timeline, and colour code it based on what chapter it was, whose POV it would be in, and how certain I was that this particular part would stay in the book etc.
I branched out because the timeline was far too vague and it never stays the same. I also have lots of endings planned depending on what sort of character deaths we're looking at. Those are mostly like drafts, the writing isn't very descriptive it's just very step by step.
The books are a different. I'm not sure if this is because I love acting and think dialogue is the most important part of any book/script/whatever you're writing, but the books are full of quotes. Or the quotes are prompts and then I have an entire conversation written out like a script with nothing descriptive. The conversation ends up changing but it's like a starting point or a guideline to just get me motivated.
So this is an example of my script plans (this is a possible scene for a chapter that's like...10 years away from where That's All is right now, it'll probably change so it's safe enough for me to share it with you!
"That greasy git went to your wedding?!"
"He's Clara's closest friend, Pads. I could hardly say no."
"Did he at least wash his hair for the big day?"
"I wasn't getting married to admire Severus Snape's hair."
"Bet you weren't admiring her hair either."
*remus rolls eyes rather than rising to SB's bait*
"she's sucked the life out of you, trust me - I'd know" **is it too soon for Azkaban jokes idk
If you couldn’t pair Remus with Claire (blasphemy, I know), which other character would you ship Claire with and why?
I honestly have no idea. Clara needs someone who's patient like Remus, someone who would support all her endeavours and that is so non-judgemental that he wouldn't berate her when she does let her guard down and starts acting silly. She was almost paired with Severus, but at the time I loved ss/hg for me to fully consider any other pairing that involved him. In the long run I think it was for the best...they'd have killed each other. Maybe Chandler from friends? Or Joey. I can't see her with anyone else from the HP fandom at least.
We recently wrapped up our Summer Quarter's Prefect Challenge and announced winners! We have another review column for the lovely winning story below. Nicole ( @teh tarik ), the author of the first place entry To Boil Telephone Porridge | 煲電話粥 [M] has given us a short interview as well, despite having to struggle to type with a broken finger!
To Boil Telephone Porridge, an Original Fiction piece, is one of the best short stories I've read in a while. It showcases what societal and personal issues the LGBTQ+ community faces in Malaysia, personified through the main character Daniel and what repercussions he has faced from his family. Not only does this story explore the previously mention cultural aspects, but also puts emphasis on entirely real fears of coming out and the effects it can have. Nicole's writing is beautiful and the story fits together smoothly, despite leaving the reader wondering, "What happened?" as the story kicks off.
Since there is a bit of a mystery to it, which makes this even more fantastic to read, I won't give away the "What happened?" portion of the fic. However, I will say that when Kwai Sim receives a phone call from Daniel, her son, after ten years of not hearing from him, the readers are left with a sense of mystery and wonderment, especially after the opening scene of Daniel's childhood, when everything seemed simple -- like a childhood should be. Though, with implications of Daniel's sexuality and his possible attraction to his best friend, Aizzit, the readers are left with a vague idea as to what had happened between Daniel and his parents.
I love how this story also explores Kwai SIm's perspective. It's clear that she loves her son and misses him desperately. She tries to make amends the best way she knows how, but favorite meals are not always the solution to everything as she quickly discovers. There's a moral here about being able to grow and adapt, which is shown through a magnificent ongoing allegory of Kwai Sim and using a mobile phone instead of her old landline. There is an emphasis on how important that ability to change is, especially when it's for the ones you love -- to let go of your old ways and move forward.
I can't promise a lot of fluff or a brightly happy resolution, but the note of quite hope that To Boil Telephone Porridge ends on is absolutely genius. I highly recommend this one-shot.
If you could give one piece of advice to your fellow writers, what would it be?
There are lots of valid writing advice out there given by writers better and more prolific than me. Not everything you hear will be useful. But I do believe that you need to find your process when it comes to writing. Find out the best way to get those words going. Get those words out, no matter how slow and painful it is. And if you're already struggling, make sure you don't delete anything. Later you can always come back and fix - and it's easier to work on existing material, at least for me.
What does your planning/outlining method look like? Does it vary from story-to-story?
It varies. I guess I'm not a very orderly writer, so I really do have to plan, otherwise I'm just going to abandon stuff left right and centre *shoves my drafts folder out of sight* If I have an idea for a fic, I'll just vomit out everything onto a page without structure - snippets of dialogue, sketches of scenes, details of setting, bits of imagery etc., interesting words - then I'll put them in bullet point. Then I'll start writing. USUALLY. I DON'T FOLLOW MY OWN PROCESS MOST TIMES.
What inspired you to write an LGBTQ+ fic based out of Malaysia, specifically?
I was born in and grew up in Malaysia. Still Malaysian, with close ties to Malaysia, and I still speak the language, even though I don't live there now. Malaysia comes to me naturally as the place to set my stories in. And also because I follow the LGBTQ+ situation and news in Malaysia. A little bit of context about Malaysia, in current times: this year has been historic for the country, because for the first time since independence from British colonial rule, Malaysians have voted out the old corrupt government, without bloodshed (we have a history of race riots and violence). We have a new government, and everyone I knew was overjoyed, posting non-stop about a New Malaysia, etc. I was one of those with so much hope for the change.
Unfortunately in the months following the new government coming to power, there has been a constant sequence of LGBTQ+ controversies, where the community has been persecuted in various ways. We've had politicians openly opposing LGBTQ+, there's been a public caning of a lesbian couple, there's been vicious attacks on the trans community because people 'just felt like it', and the social attitudes toward LGBTQ+ has been so homophobic and vicious and I don't even know.
I wrote this story because I've been following LGBTQ+ news in Malaysia for a long time (way before this backlash), and because I'm quietly devastated by everything that's been happening.
What was the most difficult part of writing To Boil Telephone Porridge?
I wrote from my own internal experiences, and of my family. I've never actually said this out to anyone on this community, but I am many shades of queer in terms of gender and orientation and have known this since I was thirteen, but never really bothered to acknowledge (homophobic family and all). I wrote an earlier version of TBTP last year, and that was an incredibly personal one, and the main character was pretty much me. That was too personal to post anywhere. So when I wrote TBTP, I reworked some of my original ideas from that story into this, and distanced myself as much as I could from these characters. Took myself out of the story. But it was still difficult to write, because I had to confront a whole lot of truths about myself. This nearly never got posted, and after writing and re-writing, I finally got sick of it, threw it out into the internet and said to my story, I'm done with you. I'm just done. You've caused me enough pain so begone. So there.
But to answer your question in a more direct way - the personal elements of it was the hardest. It required a lot of courage on my part to get through, and to reread.
What was your favorite part of To Boil Telephone Porridge?
So I'm Malaysian and I speak like a Malaysian - and I definitely enjoyed having my characters use Manglish (Malaysian English) to communicate. That means odd grammar, English mingled with words from other languages, lots of suffixes etc.
It felt good to write Manglish, you know? Just like some writers can effortlessly write slangs or use references from different communities or cultures, so I can do the same with Manglish.
Is there anything you wish you could change about the fic now and, if so, what is it?
Oh dear - if I reread this story, I'll want to change everything about it. >.< I definitely wanted to explore a lot more about Daniel and Aizzat's imperfect and at times somewhat desolate relationship. But the story was already getting too long, and the focus always had to be on Daniel and Kwai Sim.
I guess the other thing I would change is my adherence to the stupid structure of the whole thing! I actually borrowed the structure of this story (and some phrases as well) from one of my fics - a Star Wars fic lol. I regularly cannibalise parts of my fanfic to put into my OF. The structure was very restrictive, but I guess it worked for a long distance relationship.
This month, we are debuting a brand new feature of In the Spotlight! Each month, we will be asking you all a question! You can answer the question by responding to that specific blog post. Anyone who comments in the blog post with an answer to the question is put into a randomized raffle to win a little prize. You will have until the 15th of the following month to answer the question to be entered into the raffle. Winners will be announced in that month's Monthly Dilemma section.
This month's dilemma: If you had to be half animal/half human, which animal would you pick -- and which half?
You have until October 15th to answer!
This month's raffle prize winner will receive a free review on a story of your choice!
That concludes September's In the Spotlight! Beginning in October, we will begin featuring extras from each House's monthly Common Room Awards! Also be sure to keep your eye out for the Autumn Quarter Prefect Writing Challenge, soon to be announced. We hope you're surviving the Train Ride to Hogwarts (studying by way of Hangman can be tricky, but don't worry -- we have more study options coming your way) as well as enjoying making some new friends. We'll see you again soon for our monthly potpourri Blog Post in a few weeks!
headers and dividers - @facingthenorthwind
interviewers - @Sleepingbagonthesofa, @Nix , @ShadowRose, @Rumpelstiltskin
review columns | picspams | layout - @Rumpelstiltskin
prefect reviews - @MadiMalfoy , @Nix