I’m a self-professed dork. But I’m not alone in my dorkdom. I go to school with people whose lives revolve around books. And I’ll tell you what; it’s not a bad life. In fact, I would hazard a guess and say it’s a happy one (but I’m not dead yet, so we’ll have wait awhile to pass judgment).

Dork or not, at LeakyCon, I got the opportunity to sit in on panels with Maureen Johnson, Hank Green, David Levithan, Maggie Stiefvater, Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, Rainbow Rowell, E. Lockheart and Valerie Estelle, and the male half of the cast of the wildly popular YouTube vlog videos “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” among many others. Their topics ranged from how to sell a book via social media (hint: don’t just tell people to buy your book, be genuine and nice and funny, if you’re able), to how not to be a troll (hint: remember that people are on the receiving end of your comments), to how some authors use books to figure out how to navigate the world and use it as a way to self-diagnose their inner-demons.

We laughed through dramatic and ridiculous readings of some of these authors’ books and heard stories of how books saved authors and how authors saved books. We learned the best responses to when people ask why in the world you would put yourself through the exquisite torture of NaNoWriMo; or say, “Your relationship to Tumblr is getting unhealthy;” or better yet, “You have a story to tell.” I saw more Luna Lovegoods than you could shake a wand at, gender-bent Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, a TARDIS complete with flashing lights, golden Snitches, and a few Hunger Games tributes.

There are a thousand observations I could bring up but what I kept catching myself realizing again and again throughout the weekend was that all of this was created; these people coming together, these writers telling their own stories about their books and connecting directly with their fans was because of a single book. A single book that was published fifteen years ago almost to the day, when Cheryl Klein revealed the new Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban cover.

Spending the past weekend at LeakyCon really opened my eyes to show just how many people feel the way we do and not just about the Harry Potter books. The main message of the LeakyCon Opening Ceremonies was that this was a place where people could belong. Walking through the Convention Center, they called out to one another, complimenting each other on their costumes, randomly breaking into song and generally making connections with other fans in real life. It showed us something that we learned many years ago upon finishing each increasingly bigger Harry Potter book; books can connect us, unify us and give us a real place to belong.

Especially the book that every one knew and repeated the first line of when Anthony Rapp read it during the First Line Mash Up game: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

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