After a very long time of waiting, J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore was finally unveiled on April 14 to anyone who wanted to join. Being the nerd that I am, I was curious and wanted to join. Also, I will not deny that the Harry Potter series has had a profound influence on my writing over the years, and that it was one of my favorite series when I was in middle school.

Pottermore is essentially the Harry Potter series brought to life. You sign up, choose a username (mine’s DreamEye7027), and follow the same path Harry did when he found out he was a wizard. As you move through the chapters, you collect items, brew potions, cast spells, etc. You can be “sorted” into one of the four houses at Hogwarts by taking a quiz that asks some rather interesting questions. Oddly enough, I was sorted into Gryffindor, even though I have never characterized myself as brave.

What’s most interesting to me about Pottermore is the extra material from J.K. Rowling that’s scattered throughout the chapters. It’s explanations on the origins of some of the names she uses for characters and objects, backstories for some of the minor characters, additional descriptions of settings, etc. I would say that the worldbuilding in the Harry Potter series is some of the best in any books I’ve ever read. Everything makes sense and is so intricate that you could actually believe the magical universe exists.

I’d say that Pottermore is valuable to writers for that reason; we can get a more in-depth look at how well J.K. Rowling builds her fictional universe, and we can learn from that. Reading those short little blurbs about characters, items, and places inspired me to think about the worlds I have created in my own fiction – and how I might bring more depth to them.

So… check it out!

Online Reading Groups for Teens

Some of the big-name publishers have created online book communities for teens in order to instill a love of reading. Simon & Schuster’s PulseIt is only available to those between the ages of 14 and 18, which creates a safe environment for teens to read YA books for free online, discuss them, and spot trends. There are also sweepstakes and contests each month.

Hachette’s Pick a Poppy is a similar site aimed at teens. It allows readers to comment on and discuss popular book series like Gossip Girl, The Clique, and Monster High. As far as I know, you don’t have to be a teen to join Pick a Poppy.

There are other sites similar to these two: InkPop, Pottermore, and Buzzers.

I really like the idea of creating sites for teens to discuss books, but the question is… will these sites attract new or reluctant readers? They’re catering to teens who already love reading and that’s great, but if they could successfully include those who’ve never had an interest in reading or YA literature before, that would be even better.