Sixth-grader's essay earns her trip to meet Harry Potter author

Fairbanks girl wins contest

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Sarah Brown is going on a Harry Potter-inspired adventure.

The sixth-grader at Pearl Creek Elementary school is going to New York City for winning an essay contest on how the Harry Potter books have changed her life.

Sarah has never been to New York City before.

She is one of 10 winners of the essay contest sponsored by the Scholastic Inc., the American publisher of the wildly popular series.

Her younger brother and parents will accompany her on the trip to New York next Thursday to meet J.K. Rowling. Sarah and the other winning essayists will appear with the British author on NBC's ''Today'' show Oct. 20 and eat breakfast with her.

'I think that Hogwarts sounds like a fun place. If it were real, I would really like to go to the school.'

--Sarah Brown of Fairbanks

Scholastic released the names of the contest winners Monday, but a representative of the publisher notified the Browns last week. The representative spoke first with Ann Brown, who handed the phone to her daughter.

''She was just dumbfounded,'' Ann said.

Alan Cohen, the marketing director for Scholastic, said Sunday that the publisher received about 10,000 contest entries. Readers were asked to submit 300-word essays describing how the Harry Potter books changed their lives.

Cohen did not know how many entries were from Alaska and Hawaii, which were originally excluded from the contest. An outcry from librarians and others, including the mayor of Ketchikan, led to the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii and a contest extension.

In his letter to Scholastic, Ketchikan mayor Rob Weinstein concluded his appeal by saying, ''You can be like Harry Potter or Voldemort -- the choice is yours.''

Apparently not wanting to be like Voldemort (one mean wizard), the publisher extended its deadline to Sept. 18.

Fred Brown encouraged his daughter to write an essay after he read about the contest extension.

Sarah is excited about going to New York and wants to see the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and a Broadway show -- either ''Annie Get Your Gun'' or ''Kiss Me Kate.''

She is a little nervous about being on national television and is still thinking about what to say to J.K. Rowling.

Sarah wants to be a fiction writer when she grows up. She said she likes the Harry Potter books because they are so imaginative.

''I think that Hogwarts sounds like a fun place. If it were real, I would really like to go to the school,'' she said.

Ann Brown said her daughter is a serious reader. She came home from school last year talking about the Harry Potter books, and has since read them all.

In the fourth book, Harry and his friends are found in a corridor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where Mrs. Norris, a tattletale cat, has been attacked.

''Snape pinned the attack on Harry, Ron and Hermoine,'' Brown wrote. ''The three try to lie to get out of trouble. Even though they really did nothing wrong, by lying they did do something they could get in trouble for. This is a good lesson for telling the truth no matter what.''

''I am wiser on how to deal with, and not deal with, difficult people,'' she wrote.

Asked for tips on dealing with difficult people, Brown said she ignores them.

''Everybody says, 'Ignore them,' but it's really true,'' she said.

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