Rowling lets next Potter title slip, but no details about book

Posted: Friday, October 20, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) -- Author J.K. Rowling let slip the title for the fifth Harry Potter book in a breakfast Friday morning with a Fairbanks girl and nine other children who won an essay contest.

The title, straight from the author, is ''Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.''

But sadly, that was all Rowling would let slip at her breakfast with the children who wrote the winning essays about her work and its impact on their lives.

Sarah Brown, 11, of Fairbanks, was one of the winners in that contest, which generated some controversy in Alaska because the contest sponsor at first refused to allow children from Alaska and Hawaii to enter. An outcry from librarians and others, including the mayor of Ketchikan, led to the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii and a contest extension.

''I kept saying I wouldn't tell anyone, but then this cute boy, about eight, asked me, and I knew it would make him so happy,'' she said during a Friday morning appearance on the ''Today'' show.

But in a conference call interview earlier in the week, Rowling gave out another important piece of information for Potter-lovers: Don't hold your breath for book five.

''Although book five is under way, I really haven't got that far with it yet,'' she said.

Rowling said she didn't have a deadline for the next book, and it would probably not be ready by July 2001. But she said readers wouldn't have to wait for two years for its appearance.

''On book five, I'd like to ensure that I really like the writing ... I would like to take my time,'' she said.

All is not lost, however. Though Harry may be on a hiatus, Rowling is penning two other related books that could be a quick-fix for fans.

Rowling is writing two spinoff reference books from the popular series to benefit Comic Relief. Proceeds from the sale of the books will help the organization fight poverty and social injustice.

The short books -- called ''Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them'' and ''Quidditch Through the Ages'' -- will be released worldwide during a Comic Relief fund drive March 16.

''Fantastic Beasts'' is a title on the boy wizard's school supply list in a previous book. The second new volume will be an anthology of Harry's favorite sport, quidditch.

''For me, it was absolute joy to write these books,'' Rowling said.

The 10 children who joined Rowling at the breakfast Friday were winners in an essay contest from Scholastic, the American publisher of her phenomenally successful series. The children were asked to describe how the books had changed their lives.

In her essay, Sarah Brown wrote about an incident where three characters blame another for a bad deed.

''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,'' she wrote. ''This is a good lesson for telling the truth no matter what.''

In addition, she wrote, after reading the Potter books, ''I am wiser on how to deal with, and not deal with, difficult people.''

Ashley Marie Rhodes-Courter, 14, of Crystal River, Fla., said in her essay that she related to Harry's life with his cruel relatives because she spent 10 unhappy years in foster care before being adopted.

''The whole experience is phenomenal. It's unbelievable,'' she said of meeting Rowling.

The other winners were Laura Schreiber, 13, of Port Angeles, Wash.; Nick Drews, 10, of Gilbert, Ariz.; Rachel Johnson, 9, of Burr Ridge, Ill.; Shelby Nicole Hill, 8, of Sarasota, Fla.; Scott McDonald, 13, of Crownsville, Md.; Michael Salka, 13, of Rock Hill, S.C.; Tyler Walton, 9, of Oaklyn, N.J., and Millie Thornton, 11, of Great Falls, Mont.

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