Harry Potter-series editor charms book lovers at Secret Garden

Publish date: November 4, 2011

Ballard News-Tribune

Arthur A. Levine, co-editor of the Harry Potter series visited Ballard’s Secret Garden Books on Nov. 2 to read from his new children’s book, “Monday is One Day.”

Parents, fellow authors and book nerds gathered in a corner of the shop for a chance to meet Levine, listen to him talk and get their books signed.

The book is written as a poem, illustrated with colorful pictures of families, about working parents and having to part from their children at home. Each day of the week is spent in a special way and the weekend is a time to be spent together as a whole family reunited.

Levine’s inspiration for his book was his only son, Max Emilio, to whom the book is dedicated. He started writing it when his son was six months old. Levine had to return to work and it was their first time apart after his child’s birth.

“I was really thinking about how we were going to be apart for the first time,” Levine said. “I think [I wrote it] mostly to comfort myself.”

The takeaway from this book, Levine said, is that parents and their children should make time for each other through daily activities and to look forward to the days when they can spend more time together and communicate their love as a family.

“The book is something that can be shared between parents and kids because it allows them both to express the fact that they miss each other during the week,” Levine said. “And [it] provides them some fun rituals or games to make their time special during the week.

This is Levine’s first published book in eight years. While on his writing hiatus, he spent much of his time working with J.K. Rowling, editing the Harry Potter series manuscripts for the American publication.

“I worked with her directly, reading her manuscripts, reacting to it, giving feedback,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. She’s a lot of fun to work with.”

But the series’ rising fame overtook the relationship between Levine and Rowling and he felt the price of her success. Part of the endeavor as an editor, he said, is having an intimate connection with the author.

“The cost of success on that level is a loss of intimacy for me,” the author said. “During the first reading, there was something very special. I had great satisfaction talking with her for six hours on the phone copy editing.”

Regardless, of the seven Harry Potter books, Levine still enjoyed reading them all. Like many other parents, he couldn’t choose one to be his favorite.

“They’re like my kids. Each one is special in its own way.” Levine said. “Obviously I’m going to have a special feeling for the first one – like when you meet somebody for the very first time, you always remember that.”

While Levine is happy to be back to writing, currently working on a young-adult novel, he finds it slightly more enjoyable to edit saying it involves more of who he is and the feeling of helping a writer get from one place to another is incredibly satisfying.

All in all, Levine takes pleasure in both writing and editing.

“I think they’re complementary activities,” he said. “So I really like to do both. I sometimes say that writing is like speaking. Editing is like listening. And to have a whole conversation, you have to have both sides.”

Though the book reading was intended for a younger crowd, but only attracted one attendee under the age of 10, Secret Garden’s events and public relations coordinator, Suzanne Perry still thought it was a good turnout.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Perry. “People who came out got their money’s worth with the Harry Potter stories.”

After an hour of questions and answers, Levine signed books for his fans. Jennifer Chushcoff, a Tacoma native, came all the way up to Ballard to attend the event.

“It’s not often you get to meet Arthur Levine and get him to sign your book,” said Chushcoff, “And it’s a great opportunity to get very personalized Christmas presents.”

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