August 3rd is the Central Florida Slug Club’s FOURTH birthday! On this day in 2012, a bunch of us who began talking on MyHogwarts decided to get together for butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks. Since then, we’ve grown to become a group of about 1,500 members spread out between our Facebook and Meetup.com groups that meets at least twice a month for a variety of activities include cosplay days, book club, laser tag, virtual races, community service and activism, and more! It’s been an amazing three years. I can’t wait to see what the fourth brings!
It’s that time of year again when people start thinking about new beginnings. Are you making any New Year’s Resolutions or goals for 2016? If so, joining and being active with the Central Florida Slug Club might actually help you accomplish your goals! How so? Here are some example goals:
- Make Friends and/or Get Out of the House More. Making friends as an adult is hard. In school, you always saw the same people in class each year and always had that one thing in common. But as an adult, you don’t necessarily have that. With the Slug Club though, you already know that every single person at our meetups has at least one thing in common – we all love the Harry Potter series. It makes it easier to get conversations started. Even if you don’t say a word during your first meetup or two, keep coming! The more you see the same people, the easier it gets to open up and start talking with new people.
- Read More. We have a book club in our group! Book club meets every other month and alternates between re-reading the Harry Potter series (with some members reading it for the first time!) and reading a new book as selected by members.
- Learn a New Skill/Try Something New – I guarantee that at some point in the year, you will learn something new at a Slug Club meeting. We’ve had a variety of activities such as knitting your own house scarf, laser tag, cosplay days, and Quidditch pong.
- Volunteer. Want to help others and get more involved in your community? We have a subgroup within the Slug Club called S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Everyone’s Welfare) that does community service and activism projects. They’re also a member of the Harry Potter Alliance, an international nonprofit that uses the positive energy of fandom to create social change.
- Get organized. …yeah, okay, we might not be able to help you out much with this, though come find me at a meetup and I will be happy to discuss at length the pros and cons of various planners I’ve tried over the years.
- Improve your writing skills. Both our newsletter and blog are always looking for submissions! Write something and send it our way! Also, participate in our book club! Reading the writings of fellow authors helps improve your skills… plus you’ll learn a lot from the discussions about what other readers enjoy and get recommendations on other books to read.
- Improve your health. Okay, so our pizza nights probably aren’t the best for this (though they do have vegan and gluten-free options!) But for those who are looking to get more physically active, a number of our members are also in the Hogwarts Running Club. Start a post in our Facebook discussion group and get a group together!
- Travel more. There’s at least one Harry Potter convention each year. They are a great way to indulge your nerdy side while giving you an excuse to travel to a location you might not have necessarily visited on your own. (Trust me, I know. New Hampshire wasn’t on my top list of travel locations until I started attending MISTI-con. Now I can’t wait until my next trip up there… and at least 20 Slug Club members are attending next time!)
Ever since I first participated in a photo scavenger hunt at Phoenix Rising (a Harry Potter conference in New Orleans in 2007), I have fallen in love with them. It’s not participating in them so much for me (though that’s always fun), but hearing the stories that come from them – hilarious tales of shenanigans, strangers working together to accomplish a goal with no reward for themselves, and seeing the creativity that comes out in each and every picture.
As a group, the Central Florida Slug Club has run two photo scavenger hunts to date: one during the Quidditch World Cup, and the second just recently during LeakyCon 2014. We’ll make a list of prompts for members (with the requirement that at least one team member be in each picture because, let’s face it, pictures are way more interesting when you know someone in it.) They surprise us each time with these amazing photo responses. Read More
Over the last month, the media exploded with news of Hogwarts is Here, a website designed to let Harry Potter fans live out their Hogwarts education fantasies. It all began when former myHogwarts.com users received emailed versions of the famous Hogwarts acceptance letter. (For those unfamiliar with myHogwarts, the site was marketed to be everything Pottermore wasn’t – a chance to take Hogwarts classes and meet with other fans in your city and around the world. After months of being down as the site was being worked on, it was shut down permanently after the creator received some form of communication (possibly a C&D?) from WB.) The former MH users were cautious, but overall excited at this opportunity to finally take Hogwarts classes!
The premise of the site is very cute ; basically, Hogwarts decided to open up to students from around the world. They’ve done so by opening up an online portion for those with access to muggle technology. Many members of the Slug Club (myself included) jumped on the chance, registering for accounts and signing up for classes the day they opened. Once they have created an account, students choose their House (saving the site from bitter people creating multiple accounts in the hopes of finally getting their preferred House), can get assigned a dorm room, sign up for classes, chat with others in their House or everyone in The Great Hall, or add friends.
What are some things you should know about the site before joining?
1. I totally overestimated the amount of work necessary. Seriously. I was a Hermione wanna-be who signed up for a ton of classes, but didn’t get Ministry approval for a time-turner. I had a few classes that had four assignments for the second week… understandable for a real school where I get an actual degree, but sadly, it’s not, and I don’t have time for that. I’m now in five classes but…
2. There are no due dates! It’s makes it hard to say no to signing up for a class… and hard not to procrastinate. I made an attempt at being on time with things, but then when everyone joined the site and it went down a lot while they tweaked it, I fell behind and sort of gave up. It’s comforting though to log in and see that everyone I had friended isn’t posting status updates either, so I assume they probably are in the same boat I am. And already touched on this before, but…
3. It’s glitchy. The site has had a lot of downtime. And really, it’s all understandable! I mean, Merlin’s knees, it’s been on the websites for The New York Times and The Washington Post. Everyone in fandom has at least checked it out. It is a small, free site with no major funding source and apparently only one person doing all of the coding. But I do feel like it should be mentioned, as I know there are some people out there who aren’t happy joining a site until all of the kinks have been worked out. The textbooks rolled out in pieces almost two weeks after classes started. The trivia section was pushed back a number of times, with just a vague message constantly displayed stating that it will open “tomorrow.”
4. It’s not Pottermore. And by this, I mean it’s not professional and it’s not necessarily the words of J.K. Rowling. Everyone working on the site is a volunteer, and it shows. Some of the textbooks are the size of a single chapter from another book. Some of it is pulled strictly from canon, which means the information used is from any of the seven Harry Potter books, the supplementary textbooks written by JKR herself, or Pottermore. Other classes use a combination of muggle knowledge, mythology, and their own imaginations to create course materials. All in all, it reminds me of the earlier fandom days when everyone had a Livejournal and used it to join sorting communities, where users filled out an application, were sorted by the members, then earned points for their Houses by completing assignments and participating in discussions and challenges.
The question on many fans’ minds is, of course, how sustainable is it? When starting on HiH, users are designated as “first years”, with the promise that completing all of the “first year” courses will move them up to “second years.” Each course takes nine weeks, if one turns in the assignments on time. Do the professors actually have seven “years” worth of material to teach about? Is there a plan in place yet for fifth years and O.W.L.s? Will the site last that long or will it be shut down by WB? Or maybe those who run Pottermore will get the hint from HiH on what fans are looking for when it comes to an interactive fandom experience? If it does last through the seven “years” of education, what comes after that? Will HiH incorporate some of the more local aspects of myHogwarts, such as a the Wizard Cities where people in various cities around the globe could talk and plan meetups? (Fun fact: that’s how the Central Florida Slug Club was formed! Thank you, myHogwarts!) Will there be more in-depth electives that explore non-European centric magical cultures? There are so many possibilities! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this online Hogwarts!
“Oh, there’s a really nice place just up here, haven’t you ever been to Madam Puddifoot’s?” she said brightly, and she led him up to a side road and into a small tea shop that Harry had never noticed before. It was a cramped, steamy little place where everything seemed to have been decorated with frills or bows. Harry was reminded unpleasantly of Umbridge’s office.” – Order of the Phoenix pg 559.
Comparing the description with the new Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shoppe (fake!) store front that appeared in WWoHP’s Hogsmeade recently, it’s freaking accurate. The first thought when looking inside is “Add some cats and Umbridge would be at home in this place.”
It’s perfect, really! Except for, of course, one important factor:
WHY CAN’T WE BUY TEA HERE?!?
I mean, really, we’ll soon have another place to buy heavy British food (for those of you that are behind on the Diagon Alley developments, you’ll be able to eat at The Leaky Cauldron, where they’ll serve traditional food from the U.K., just as they already do at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade and Finnegan’s Irish Pub across from The Mummy.) But there is no place to get a good cuppa. Even if it was just a tiny window where we could walk up and order a cup, we would totally go for that, particularly if they’re willing to offer it iced. (I know, all of the Brits will have a fit at serving it iced, but let’s be realistic – it’s the American South, and Florida to be specific. We like our tea, but drinking hot tea outdoors in Florida in July simply isn’t realistic.) Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a tea shop now where guests can purchase a number of different varieties of tea and get them the normal way or iced. It’s a nice offer to have – the warm tea is a great alternative to coffee and hot chocolate in the winter and the iced tea will be consumed in large quantities during the summer.
And it’s not just tea! Oh, no, there’s cake, too!
In addition to tea, Madam Puddifoot’s could sell different types of cake. They could have slices of larger cakes (as pictured above from the Madam Puddifoot’s fake storefront display) or little cupcakes. I can tell you that Harry Potter fans will buy SO many cupcakes if you themed them to the books – Dark Mark designs, a lightning bolt, Slytherin crests, Gryffindor crests, Hufflepuff badgers, even just Ravenclaw-colored icing would go over so well.
Universal Studios, we want to give you our money. We just need more than cheap chocolate and Gryffindor-only items to buy!
Check out this sweet new Slytherin shirt on the market at Universal’s Islands of Adventure! We found this in the massive store up at the front of the park (to the left as you’re going in, to the right as you’re exiting) back in the Harry Potter section. It looks and feels super comfortable. I’ve seen similar designs on shirts on the Internet before, but can you really have too many house pride Quidditch shirts? I think not. (So yes, that’s my way of telling you that they have these available for every house – just in time to add to your summer wardrobe!)
Congratulations to Melissa, our Hufflepuff Head of House, who was chosen to be a model for the new Hogwarts brochure sent to potential new students!
(Sorry, Melissa, I saw the opportunity and took it. You have to admit – it does look like a recruitment brochure picture. It’s just too perfect!)
As you all know, the Hogwarts Express pulls away from Platform 9 3/4s at exactly 11:00 a.m. on September 1st. Now, most of us are alumni at this point (as we are reminded every four months when the owls arrive with requests for donations to the school), but that doesn’t mean we’re any less excited for the start of the new term! This year we decided to get together and grab some pictures at our local train station and the adjacent park, some in our favorite robes and others in their old Hogwarts uniforms. A great time was had by all – we studied, dueled, listened to a lecture on Herbology, climbed a tree, made friends with a squirrel named Peter, and even found some Hogwarts alumnae that may join our group!
Traveling from place to place is always more fun when you have a large group of wizards trying to discreetly navigate muggle areas of the city. I think (I hope!) we managed to make it through without unintentionally violating the International Statute of Secrecy.
While taking the pictures in the park, we had that awful reminder that we are, in fact, NOT in the United Kingdom. While other areas of the Northern Hemisphere are settling into autumn, here it was… well, Florida. It was Florida. An hour outside in robes is really the max that anyone can handle. (This was fun, but we promise the next cosplay day will be in a “winter” month.)
Once we were done in the park, the cosplay group went to Fiddler’s Green, a fantastic Irish pub in Winter Park. It’s not quite the same as grabbing food in Hogsmeade, but the brunch was amazing and service was fantastic! There were a fair amount of muggles there, but they proved to be friendly and open-minded towards the wizards invading their territory. (Anyone who took Muggle Studies in school knows the key to acceptance in the muggle world is copious amounts of liquor… both for them and us.)
At the pub we played some Pottergories (congratulations to Angelica of Hufflepuff and Adam of Slytherin on their victories!) Every time we play that game, I’m always struck by the creativity and memory of some of our members! People kept thinking of answers that I probably never would have come up with if I had twice the amount of time they did.
All in all though, our first cosplay day was a success! Thank you to all who attended, whether it was for the cosplay day, the brunch, or both! We’ll see you all on Wednesday at the Mellow Mushroom in Winter Park for Harry Potter trivia night! (In the meantime, check the Facebook group for more pictures from our cosplay adventures!)