Archive for June, 2010
When I first started writing, I couldn’t think of anything else except actual writing. I only cared about getting through the first draft. As I was writing though, I realized there was so much I didn’t know about writing. I devoured books on the subject and I learned that in today’s world, writing requires more than the ability to write.
“A Career in Children’s Literature means you have to find the balance between inspiration, craft, and business.”
We writers don’t lack inspiration and we know at least something about the craft of writing to get us through several drafts, but we usually forget about the business of writing.
Sure, we all have dreams of becoming as successful as J.K. Rowling; but dreams of wealth is only secondary to us. We write because we love to write, and because we want to share our wonderful stories with the world. Success for us means: having a lot of people read our stories and enjoy them as much as we’ve enjoyed writing them. We forget that in order to reach as many people as possible, we need to be not just savvy writers, but savvy business-persons as well.
“But we already have so much to do! Plotting, writing, re-writing, editing—these things take years, and they expect us to learn about business stuff as well?”
Well, it’s not expected of us, really. We can choose to be the shy, reclusive, hermit-writer type who does nothing but churn out story after story without caring if they get read or not.
But let’s be honest here. As writers, our ultimate dream is to be read by everyone. We didn’t spend all that time writing just to have our work locked up in a dusty filing cabinet. We didn’t pour all our sweat, blood, tears (and just about every kind of bodily fluid) into our masterpieces just so a person or two can pat us on the back and say “good job!”
No. The truth is, we write not just for the pleasure of writing, but also for the pleasure of being read.
And if we want to be read, we need to make an effort to learn not just the craft of writing, but the business of writing as well.
The business of writing has many aspects. But for me, the most important aspect of the writing business is making real connections. Real connections are important because they last a lifetime and because they help us in the different stages of our writing career.
As beginning writers, we connect with other writers to learn from them, to make friends and to have a support group when writing becomes such a lonely, unbearable task.
As writers who are in the process of finishing a manuscript, we connect with agents and editors to gain insight into the world of publishing. We make connections with them because we need them to guide us and help us get our stories out to many more people.
As published writers, we connect with our readers. We try to write stories which make them laugh, cry, think or re-think. When they connect with the experiences we write about, relate to our characters and agree or disagree with our opinions; they become the loyal readers who make our writing careers possible.
Without connections, our manuscripts remain manuscripts and the books we always dreamed of publishing vanish in the ether.
Making Connections Through Business Cards
Since making connections are so important for me, I always bring BUSINESS CARDS to any writing-related event or activity.
Business cards open a lot of doors and create many opportunities, especially for budding writers. Here are several uses I can think of for business cards (Feel free to add more in the comments section of this page)
- Promoting or marketing blogs / websites
- Creating social networks (especially if you’re just starting out)
- Expanding social networks (if you already have a hundred blog readers, but would like to add more)
- Following up with ever changing addresses and contact information (especially since we see some of our writing friends just once a year)
- Gaining friends (sometimes simple writing acquaintances become good friends when given a way to communicate with each other)
There are several ways to create a business card. You can go to Staples, Kinko’s or any other printing shop to have one designed and printed for you. Some printing businesses are available online so you can create your business cards without leaving your desk. Vistaprint.com lets you print 500 business cards for $10 and Moo.com http://us.moo.com/en/products/business_cards.php has a lot of ready-made as well as custom designs, which you might find fit for your business card.
I’ve chosen to go the cheaper route, however. I design and print my own business cards. I buy the Avery® Clean Edge Inkjet Business Card Paper, Ivory, 2″ x 3 ½ at Staples, use the Business Card size for the Label option under the Tools tab in Microsoft word, then type up the information I want on my business card such as:
- Contact Number/s
- Email Address
- Website/Blog Address
I also download a free writing-related clipart online (such as a typewriter or quill and pen) and add it to my business card, just to make it a bit more interesting.
I can also choose to add the following to my business cards if I feel like it:
- Company name
- Fax number
- Or any other way to contact you
Whenever I go to a schmooze session, a critique group, or a writing workshop I bring a whole bunch of business cards with me. I make sure I have more than enough to give away (It’s always better to have extra cards than to run out of them).
I not only give business cards away, I also ask for them. When people don’t have business cards with them, I ask for their email address instead. Emails are the least intrusive ways of re-connecting with people. I also ask for any blogs/website addresses if they have any. Sometimes, the shiest of writers will have the most brilliant blog, but I won’t know that unless I ask if they have one.
After exchanging business cards at writing functions, I do the following things:
I input the information (Name, Address, Phone No., Fax No, Email Address, Website/Blog Address and other Notes I have about the person) from the business cards into an excel file I’ve made up.
I also bought a separate business card book just to hold business cards I collect from writing events/ activities. So once I’m done typing up the information on these cards, I file them in this book.
Business cards are a great way of expanding our social networks. Exchanging business cards are a good step toward learning more about the business of writing.
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I constantly immerse myself in fantasy books as well as movies. Devouring books and movies and in my genre of choice inspires me to create my own magical world. I’m always on the look out for new fantasy books to read and new movies to watch.
Here are several fantasy movies I will be watching on the big screen this year:
1. The Last Airbender
This movie is based on a hit Nickelodeon cartoon series–the very one which inspired me to write my book.
2. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – based on Disney’s Fantasia.
3. The Chronicles of Narnia – Voyage of the Dawn Treader – based on the Third Book in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia Series.
4. The Twilight Saga – Eclipse. Based on the third book in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Series.
6. Beastly – based on Alex Flinn’s novel “Beastly”
8. The Smurfs – Based on the hit 1980′s cartoon.
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Most of the time, I read books for either educational or entertainment purposes. Sometimes, though, I read books so I can fall asleep.
There’s something comforting about falling asleep to words swimming on a page. It’s like letting warm chamomile tea settle in your belly right before snuggling under the blankets on a frosty night.
Last Friday, I had a major stomachache and was having trouble falling asleep. So I got up from bed and went to find a nice book I could fall asleep to. I went into the home office and stood before the bookcase, wondering which book to pick.
I suddenly remembered that I had ordered several books from a discount book club I joined online. I figured I might as well start with those books. I browsed the titles of the five books I’d purchased and selected one.
Partly because of my stomach ache and partly because I really didn’t care what book I should read; I ended up picking the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
Let me tell you something. If you want a book you could fall asleep to, stay clear of any book in the Hunger Games series.
I ended up sleeping at two in the morning because I just couldn’t put the book down. I found myself too immersed in the story and too emotionally invested in the characters that I just had to finish the book.
Hunger Games is a dystopian novel about one capitol, twelve districts and several children who fight to the death for survival in the Hunger Games. Here’s the blurb as written on the book’s jacket:
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
The blurb doesn’t really cover all that the book is about. There are layers upon layers of meaning and symbolism, which made me think and undercurrents of the characters’ emotions and thoughts, which swept me away. The book was about oppression, hunger, rebellion, and love. This was a book I had to finish despite my strained eyes and boiling stomach.
The second book in the trilogy –Catching Fire—is just as full of danger and suspense as the first one. It continues the story of Katniss and the other characters introduced in book one.
I’d be an emotional wreck if I had to wait one year before I found out what happens in the story. Luckily, I only have to wait two more months for the final book in the trilogy. Mockingjay will be released on the 24th of August, 2010.
Amazon is currently pre-selling the book for $8.45, which saves you an amazing $9.54! The good thing about buying a pre-sold book is that the book is delivered at your doorstep the day it’s released to the public. I actually should have bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when they were pre-selling it, instead of lining up at the local bookstore until one in the morning.
I’m definitely setting a side some money to buy the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Reading great books like these only inspire me to do better with my own writing. If only some of Suzanne Collins’ great characterization would rub off on me, I know I’d get my book published. Maybe if I read the books enough times, I can pick up some techniques on how to make my own work just as exciting and suspenseful.
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My schedule has been crazy these past couple of months. I take martial arts classes Tuesday and Thursday nights, as well as Saturdays from 1-2 pm. Every second Wednesday of the month, I attend a schmooze. Weekends are for household chores, family gatherings, social events, other writing group meetings (like the recent critiquenic), reading books and rewriting my novel. Sometimes on Mondays I drop by to visit my mom when she’s not working. Mondays and Fridays are really all the time I have to breathe and more often than not, Fridays are when friends and family call for random get-togethers.
This Saturday we had a family send-off lunch for my sister, who is going away for two years to work for the Peace Corps in Mali, Africa. I spent the whole morning getting the house ready for the party (this included vacuuming the whole house, and tidying every room possible. I’m happy to report I lost at least two pounds cleaning the entire house with breakneck speed. ) The rest of the afternoon was spent in the company of my family –eating, playing board games, wii games, and watching movies.
I thought I’d be able to get some rewriting done on Sunday, but of course that didn’t happen. My body just refused to do anything which didn’t involve sitting or lying. So I ended up alternating between reading, napping and watching TV.
Though I was thankful for the break, I still felt guilty about not having done any work on my novel. My mind felt restless and unaccomplished and kept nagging me about how I could’ve done some work instead of wasting the whole day lounging around. After half an hour of my psyche’s nagging, I finally decided I’d had enough. I told my mind to shut up and just enjoy the peace and quiet. I told my mind that the body knows when it needs to rest and it can’t hurt to listen to it every now and then.
My mind sulked around for a bit, but eventually accepted that it, too, needed a rest.
I’m glad my body told me to take it easy last Sunday. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been ready to face a whole new week.Sometimes the body knows what it needs and we need to listen to it. We need to drown out our busy minds and do something relaxing.
Taking breaks is just as important as working hard. If we want to do the very best work, then we need to be at our very best. More often than not, the most creative ideas come from a mind that’s well-rested and free from stress.
I mean, even cats are smart enough to know when to relax and play a game,
or enjoy a little drink.
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Whenever I go to schmoozes or writing groups, I make conversation and casually try to spread the word about this amazing writing software I’ve been using. Some people might think it’s a waste of time trying to convince writers to change their writing habits. They reason that if these writers are bent on writing their entire manuscript on Microsoft Word then nothing can change their minds. This might be true. Writers are stubborn creatures (especially when it comes to their manuscripts and writing habits).
But why should I shut my mouth when I can offer fellow writers something that can help them write their novel? After all, if it were the other way around, I would love it if a fellow writer came up to me and started talking about this fabulous program she’s using and all the cool stuff it can do. I’m all about learning new things and finding ways to ease my novel writing.
I’ve promised several new friends (you know who you are) that I would write about this software program I’ve been blabbing about. So here it is—the first post in a series about the fabulous writing software program known as…
I’m thinking about adding several articles on how to use Ywriter5 under my Writing Tools webpages. Owing to my busy schedule, it will probably take me a month or two to get there. So in the meantime, I’ve decided to list down several amazing facts about YWriter5 just to get all fellow writers (and anyone interested in novel writing) started.
Amazing Fact # 1: Ywriter5 was created by an accomplished novelist.
Simon Haynes, author of the Hal Spacejock Series wrote this program. Say what? How can a writer create a software program, you ask. Well, Simon Haynes isn’t only a bestselling writer; he’s also a computer programmer with 20 years of experience. He’s the perfect man to create a program for writers because he actually knows what writers need.
Amazing Fact # 2: Ywriter5 is a specialized word processor for writers.
When I first started writing my manuscript, I typed it using Microsoft Word. After writing a few chapters on word, I immediately realized that Word wasn’t enough. What if I ended up writing 60 chapters and I wanted to restructure my story? What if I realized I didn’t need a particular scene – or several scenes and wanted to delete them? What if I wanted to remove a particular character or location or item from my manuscript?
I would have to go through each and every page of my very long manuscript just to accomplish all these things. Rewriting was going to be a b***h if I didn’t find a good writing software soon.
Research is a wonderful thing. It led me to this website called www.spacejock.com, and here I discovered the software that would make my life so much easier.
Ywriter5 works with scenes –which are small and manageable pieces of the overall plot. Ywriter5 allows you to drag and drop these scenes from one chapter to another as you work out the overall flow of your book. The best thing is, Ywriter5 allows you to mark a scene as ‘unused’. This means that if you’ve written a senseless scene, it will be kept out of the word count and can be exported without deleting the content.
Amazing Fact # 3: Ywriter5 is a great organizing tool for writers.
I love lists. Lists make my life easier and help me organize my thoughts. Lists are also very helpful when you’re a writer churning out a 500 page manuscript. Have you ever wished that you could create a list of all the objects/items, locations and characters in your novel, without having to open several word documents?
Ywriter allows you to do this. You can create a list of all your characters/items/locations, add information about them (even pictures!), then set the program to automatically add character/item/location whenever they are mentioned in your scenes.
Amazing Fact # 4: Ywriter5 generates reports which will prove to be useful when rewriting/editing your manuscript.
Reports such as Character List, Item List, Location List, Scenes per Character/ Location/Item, Scene Notes, Chapter Notes can be easily printed and used as guides when we do our rewrites.
Amazing Fact # 5: Ywriter5 is FREE.
Yup, you read it right. This is probably the most important fact when considering a software program. The truth is, not all writers are well-fed or well-off. We scrape by with minimum wage jobs and dream of the time when we can publish the next Harry Potter type novel. So why should we by writing programs which cost hundreds of dollars when we can get an awesome one for FREE?
You’re interested now, aren’t you? You should be! Where else can you find an amazing writing program, which you don’t have to pay for?
Simon Haynes has done all of us writers a great service by creating this program, and allowing us to use it for free. I’ve actually vowed to send him a donation through his website once I get my finances in order. For now, I shall have to content myself with spreading the word about his fabulous program.
If I’ve managed to spark your interest, then it’s time to explore the program on your own. Click Here to download Ywriter 5.
If you want to know more about YWriter5, before you download it, feel free to watch the video below.
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A writer should always be on his/her toes.
At our most recent Westside Schmooze, Lee Wind and Rita Crayon-Huang, (our wonderful moderators), mentioned that we should be careful what we blog about because if an editor or agent happens to find our blog and reads an unsavory book review about something he/she edited… Well, it’s easy to imagine 101 ways our budding writing careers can go down the drain.
Our careers as writers are built on words. It only makes sense, then, to make ourselves fully aware of the words we send out to the ether. Words come together to form the content of our posts or articles, and content is something we should definitely be wary of.
We should write posts with value and meaning so we don’t end up wasting our readers (and our own) time. We might also want to make our posts anger-free and positive because generally people don’t like downers. Sure, we can rant and rave about our horrible day or about how our writer’s block has lasted for the last decade–but we could at least make it interesting so our readers can learn from our experiences (or funny, so they might have a laugh or two).
Aside from content, we should also be aware of our presentation. How we write is just as important as what we write about. We should be wary of little devils called typographical errors. I was talking to a friend last night and she said: “I love your site, but I saw a couple of typos and as a writer you may wanna check on those.”
She was absolutely right, of course. As a first-time blogger and as a very impatient writer, I have the tendency to write whatever comes to mind at the moment and publish it. Well, okay, so I do give the article/post a once (or twice) over–but that might not be enough. As a writer who’s trying to get into “the biz” of writing, I should be careful about my words and how they look on the page.
Typographical errors seem like such a small thing to worry about, but as writers we should always be on the lookout for these little buggers. They not only ruin the flow of the article, they can also make our readers scoff and say “you call yourself a writer? You can’t even spell ‘orange’ right.” (Sufficed to say, grammatical and spelling errors are also something we should beware of.) Of course, our readers (mostly family and friends) are kind enough not to say it out loud or leave comments on our pages, but they probably think it.
Having been chastened by my friend’s comment and having said my piece on the importance of being aware of content and typos in our blogs, I vow to go through all my posts and articles and check for grammatical errors, spelling errors and typographical errors and remedy them. I also vow to read through my copy of William Strunk Jr.’s and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style. (That book may be old, but the wisdom in those two authors’ words still hold true.)
Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s perfectly reasonable for blogs to have typos. We all have very busy schedules and between work, family and our favorite TV shows, we have no time to do a line-by-line edit of our posts. As writer-bloggers, however, I feel that we should make an extra effort to make our posts as typo-free as possible. What we write and how we write says a lot about us as writers. As much as possible, we should come across as writers who are conscientious about our use of words. After all, whenever we see any kind of typo on whatever material we’re reading, we wrinkle our nose in annoyance. We might as well try to avoid making the same mistakes.
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For fellow Harry Potter fans out there, this news just in from the Universal Orlando Harry Potter Website: You can watch the Official Grand Opening Events for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter live on their website. They will be streaming LIVE VIDEO FOOTAGE on Wednesday, June 16 from 9:30 – 10:00 PM EDT when celebrities attend the opening event at the resort.
The Official Public Grand Opening will be on Friday, June 18 from 9:00 – 9:30 AM EDT
Here is the Official News as copied from the website:
Universal Orlando Streams Grand Opening Event Footage of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter World Online
WHAT: Universal Orlando Resort invites viewers to watch the official grand opening events for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter live on www.UniversalOrlando.com/HarryPotterNews.
Viewers will be treated to highly-visual and entertaining events commemorating the opening of the world’s most anticipated entertainment experience. Viewers may even get a glimpse of stars from the “Harry Potter” films who will be in attendance at the events.
Live updates from the grand opening events will also be shared on Universal Orlando Resort’s Twitter page – www.twitter.com/UORnews.
More than five years in the making, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the most highly anticipated entertainment experience of 2010. The 20-acre area inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters features multiple themed attractions, shops and a restaurant and brings the magic of Harry Potter to life.
Celebrity Preview* — Wednesday, June 16 from 9:30 – 10:00 PM EDT
Official Public Grand Opening — Friday, June 18 from 9:00 – 9:30 AM EDT
NOTES: Go to www.UniversalOrlando.com/HarryPotterNews and click on the LIVE FEED button at the top left of the home page (next to the RSS feeds button)
Most of us wish we can take a week off from work and attend the opening ceremony, but our wishes will have to remain wishes. Florida is miles away and work (ideally) comes first during these tough economic times. We shall have to content ourselves with oogling videos and drooling over pictures of the new resort.
The Flying Ford (which isn’t doing much flying, really ) beside the Dragon Challenge.
Inside the Dragon Challenge tent. There’s also a small cot at the back provided for visitors who will most likely faint at the sight of the Goblet of Fire coming to life.
Inside Dumbledore’s study. No, I don’t think we can borrow any of Dumbledore’s books.
Inside Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, we can buy a dozen Hedwigs, Scabbers and other creatures.
Hagrid’s Hut, though I don’t think Hagrid will be there to make us tea.
Hogsmeade at Night. As romantic as Paris, though without the violins and the mimes.
Hogsmeade Entry. “Please Respect the Spell Limits”
Hogwarts at Night. Beautiful!
Hogwarts Castle during the Daytime. Still beautiful.
Triwizard Spirit Rally: Beauxbatons Girls twirling purple streams.
Triwizard Spirit Rally: Durmstrang boys and their sticks.
Triwizard Spirit Rally: Beauxbatons girls again. They sure can’t get enough of the spotlight.
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This Saturday (June 12, 2010) from 11:30am to 3pm, SCBWI-LA hosted its annual critiquenic at the Beverly Hills Roxbury Park. Writers of all genres brought their blankets, chairs, lunch and manuscript and were quickly divided into groups according to book categories: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Picture Books, etc. Water and yummy desserts were provided for and after each group had found a spot on the park, under the trees, they proceeded with the critique sessions
I was part of the Middle Grade group moderated by author Lisa Yee (who was kind enough to take time off from her busy schedule to help us with our manuscripts). She brought the famed Peepy with her and took pictures of our group critiquing the yellow celebrity. (Learn more about Peepy here.)
We began the critique session by digging into our lunch boxes and introducing ourselves, (name, genre, other trivia). Lisa had us tell everyone one lie and one truth about ourselves. Most of us had a hard time inventing a lie about ourselves (funny since as writers, this kind of creativity should come naturally ). Lisa said she was once a private detective and that she was also once a professional ballet dancer. We all thought it would be cool if she were either of those. She revealed later on that she had indeed taken up detective classes but otherwise both statements were false.
After the round of introductions, Lisa set up a few critique rules and we launched into the session. I was fortunate to be part of a group whose members were already successful in their writing. One person revealed that he already had an agent waiting for him to finalize his manuscript, another person said an agent had offered to see his whole manuscript during the OC Agent Day, and still another one said one of her manuscripts was currently with an editor in New York.
When my turn came, I passed around copies of my manuscript and business card (which I clipped on to the manuscripts). I usually bring a voice recorder with me to critique sessions, and after asking everyone if it were okay to record my own session, I pressed the record button–only to find out that I should’ve deleted some files first. Sigh. Ah well, things rarely go as planned.
We were each given 20 minutes for our session. After someone had finished reading my first chapter out loud, Lisa began the session by giving her thoughts on it. Others soon joined in. I eagerly soaked up all their feedback and wrote down all their comments (since my trusty voice recorder was out of commission).
The session ended at 3pm and after exchanging thank you’s, we all rushed off to our own parking spots (afraid that we would get parking tickets for staying over the time limit). As soon as I got home, I immediately did my usual routine of filing the papers from the critique session.
I’ve been to a few critiques and not wanting to throw away any of the papers my critique groups had marked and wrote their comments on, I devised a way to organize them. I print out front and side labels with the following information: name of the critique group, date and place of the critique and the chapter critiqued.
After printing out the labels and posting them on the front and side tab of the folder, I file all the papers in the folder, along with whatever notes I’ve written down for that session. That way, when I’m ready to rewrite or edit that chapter, I just pluck out the folder I need and I have all the comments, notes, and feedbacks from the critique session organized and ready to use.
Maybe I’m being too anal , but as a writer, I know how easy it is to get lost in tons of papers. So I try to be as organized as I can, as I find it cuts my work in half. I prefer spending a little time organizing my paper and computer files right away, rather than waste an hour trying to find them when I need them. I’d much rather use that hour writing than sifting through an ocean of paper.
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As much as I’d like to take a trip to Orlando, Florida this summer and spend one whole week at the new Harry Potter Land, I can’t. So every time new pictures of the theme park surface, I grab them and write a post about them. I spend at least five minutes oogling each picture and imagining myself and my loved ones enjoying the place.
I really hope I save up enough money to go there. It must be such an awesome feeling for J.K. Rowling to have the places from her imagination become real, and her characters come to life. How lucky!
Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans.
I wonder if they really do have sardine flavored ones, or booger flavored ones for that matter?
Wow! A butterbeer dispenser!
And mugs of butterbeer! I wonder if this drink tastes like butter, beer or a combination of both?
Emma Watson finding her wand at Ollivander’s. Special Effects of bright spotlight, rushing wind and magical sounds included.
Hogwart’s Hall’s enchanted ceiling of candles. I wonder how they keep them all floating up there?
The entrance to Dumbledore’s study. Password is Lemondrops, unless they’ve changed it, of course.
The Entrance to Hogwarts School. I can imagine the throng of tourists who will be streaming through these gates in the coming days.
Hogwarts Castle. I wonder if the tour includes a boat ride to the school, like the First Years experience.
Hogwarts choir complete with large toads serenade all passersby.Are those puppets or mutant frogs?
Portaits hanging on the walls of Hogwarts. Man, if these walls could talk!
A hog’s head in the Hog’s Head Pub in Hogsmeade, near Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling seems to have a thing for hogs…
Lucky tourists walking the streets of Hogsmeade village.
Hogwart’s Express. I don’t think the train actually goes anywhere, but who knows–anything can happen in Harry Potter Land.
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