TIME Books

J. K. Rowling’s New Harry Potter ‘Story’ Is Better Than Mistletoe

The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival - Day 2
J K Rowling poses on Day 2 of The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival on Oct. 6, 2012 in Cheltenham, England. David Levenson—Getty Images

On the second day of Christmas your favorite author gives to you ... a bottle of love potion

On the second day of J. K. Rowling’s new Harry Potter 12 Days of Christmas ‘series,’ the best selling author plays Cupid. Well, if you can solve the riddle to unlock the day’s story anyway.

If one thing is clear about this ‘series,’ it’s that it’s not for casual fans. While the riddle answers have been fairly simple, those who’ve read the books only once might not know the answer immediately. Today’s goes as such:

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is a marvellous place, Full of jokes and potions by the box and the case. The premises are stuffed with people, ready to pop, But on what magical street can you find this fun shop?

Diagon Alley, obviously. Solve the riddle and head inside, where you’ll see Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny surrounded by balloons and toys you can pop and spin. There’s one measly paragraph about the shop, but hit the right balloon and you’ll be granted a love potion. Well, it is Christmas.

Seeing as this “story” takes place during the Half Blood Prince, before the final battle at Hogwarts, several key characters have yet to be killed off by Death Eaters. Watch out for Lavender Brown, Ron.

TIME Books

J.K. Rowling’s New Harry Potter Story Is Quite a Tease

The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival - Day 2
J K Rowling poses on Day 2 of The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival on Oct. 6, 2012 in Cheltenham, England. David Levenson—Getty Images

Fans must solve a riddle to unlock the first story

The first of J.K. Rowling’s new Harry Potter 12 Days of Christmas ‘series’ has landed — but the author didn’t make it easy to get to.

Having surprised users of fansite Pottermore with the news that she’d be posting new Potter material in each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas eve, Rowling published the first on Friday. But eager readers had to first solve (what else?) a riddle.

In a house on Spinner’s End, a meeting takes place, a mother begs help for her son, tears on her face. Agreeing to help, though he doesn’t know how. Which potions master performs an unbreakable vow?

MORE: Reading Harry Potter Provides Clues to Brain Activity

The answer, of course, is Hogwarts potions master Severus Snape. But in order to solve the riddle, you must type it in as Professor Snape, not Severus (or Snivellus). Always so specific, that J.K.

The story itself returns us to the town of Cokeworth, where Petunia (as in Aunt Petunia, who raised and essentially tormented Harry until he headed to Hogwarts), her sister Lily (Harry’s mother), and Severus Snape all grew up. Readers will remember Cokeworth as the place where the Dursleys attempted to escape the flood of Hogwarts admission letters sent to Harry in the first book. It’s also where Petunia felt shunned after learning she didn’t have the magical powers her sister and Snape did.

MORE: J.K. Rowling Reveals Her Dream Job If She Weren’t A Writer

Fans are only treated to three paragraphs about Cokeworth, with a hint about the unbreakable vow that Snape made when he promised to protect Draco Malfoy at the start of The Half Blood Prince. The ‘story’ is quite short in comparison to other bits of new Potter content fans got this year. But Rowling readers shouldn’t be dismayed: Something magical is sure to come along tomorrow.

Read next: J.K. Rowling’s Christmas Present to You Is More Harry Potter Stories

TIME Books

Video Blogger’s Ghostwriter Says She Had ‘Issues’ with Girl Online

YouTube blogger Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella, poses during a photocall for her debut novel "Girl Online" in London Nov. 24, 2014.
YouTube blogger Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella, poses during a photocall for her debut novel "Girl Online" in London Nov. 24, 2014. Luke MacGregor—Reuters

Author breaks silence to defend herself and the book

The author who has been described as the ghostwriter behind YouTube star Zoella’s New York Times best-selling young adult novel Girl Online said she had issues with the way the project was managed that she is barred from discussing.

The Sunday Times of London named British Young Adult writer Siobhan Curham as the likely ghostwriter of the book by Zoella, whose real name is Zoe Sugg. Curham, along with author and editorial director at Penguin U.K., Amy Alward, were mentioned in Sugg’s acknowledgements for Girl Online — but many people criticized Sugg for not explicitly crediting a ghostwriter.

On Monday, Girl Online‘s publisher Penguin told TIME in a statement that, “The factual accuracy of the matter is simply that Zoe Sugg did not write Girl Online on her own. For her first novel, Girl Online, Zoe has worked with an expert editorial team to help her bring to life her characters and experiences in a heartwarming and compelling story.”

Despite the online backlash that erupted against Sugg, Curham had stayed quiet on the controversy. But on Wednesday, Curham posted a defense of both herself and Sugg to her blog. Writing that she had signed on to help Sugg with the book not to become “famous” or “rich,” Curham said that she’d agreed because she loves writing and “helping others write books.” She did, however, note that it wasn’t an entirely enjoyable process, saying:

I did have some issues with how the project was managed. Issues which I expressed on more than one occasion. Issues which I’m afraid I’m not allowed to go into. And issues which have nothing to do with Zoe. I’ve seen at first hand how caring and considerate Zoe is. I’ve been very impressed with how she finds ways to use her (completely unexpected) fame to help others, whether that be through her vlogs, blogs, books or becoming a digital ambassador for the mental health charity MIND.

Curham also noted that she couldn’t reveal the precise nature of the work she did on the book, for “legal reasons,” though she did say, “Zoe Sugg chose to create a storyline that dealt with [issues such as cyber bullying, homophobia and anxiety] out of a desire to help her fans. And, when I was offered the opportunity to help Zoe, I also saw the opportunity to help get important and empowering messages across to her incredibly huge fan-base.”

And, perhaps proving that she really is a fan of the perpetually optimistic Sugg, Curham also found the bright spot in the whole ordeal. “By breaking sales records — because of Zoe’s humungous fan-base — book stores such as Waterstones are ending the year on healthy profits,” she writes. “Thousands of young people across the world have been tweeting excitedly about reading a book!”

TIME Books

Auction of Lost Letter From Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac Shelved

An 18-page letter written by Beat-era icon Cassady is shown to reporters in San Francisco
An 18-page letter written by Beat-era icon Neal Cassady, which transformed Jack Kerouac's writing style, is shown in San Francisco, California, Dec. 1, 2014 Deepa Seetharaman—Reuters

Kerouac called the missive "the greatest piece of writing I ever saw" and his inspiration for On the Road

The auction of a letter deemed the inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s 1957 masterpiece On the Road has been postponed amid an ownership dispute.

The family of Neal Cassady, the Beat Generation icon who penned the 16,000-word correspondence, is locked in a legal wrangle with Kerouac’s relatives, reports the Associated Press.

The letter, known as the Joan Anderson Letter, inspired Kerouac to tear up an early version of On The Road and instead adopt Cassady’s relentless, stream-of-consciousness style.

Los Angeles performance artist Jean Spinosa apparently found the missive when she went through her late father’s belongings.

Both the Cassady and Kerouac estates have filed court motions claiming ownership but a hearing date has not yet been set, Cassady’s daughter Jami Cassady told the Associated Press.


TIME Books

A Vintage Drawing of Winnie the Pooh Just Sold for Nearly $500K

The drawing shows Winnie the Pooh playing pooh sticks on a bridge with Christopher Robin

It seems that a drawing of Winnie the Pooh with Christopher Robin is quite the honeypot.

An image of the favorite childhood bear playing pooh sticks with Piglet and Christopher Robin has sold at auction for £314,500, or nearly $500,000, the Guardian reports.

Illustrated by EH Shepard and first published in 1928, the image has been in private collection for more than 40 years. The ink drawing was featured in Chapter 6 of A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner, “in which Pooh invents a new game and Eeyore joins in.”

The scene captured Piglet, Christopher Robin and Pooh playing on a bridge inspired by a wooden crossing known as Posingford Bridge, at Hartfield Farm, Sussex. “For a long time they looked at the river beneath them, saying nothing, and the river said nothing too, for it felt very quiet and peaceful on this summer afternoon,” Milne wrote of the scene.

Sotheby’s, which handled the auction, had expected the illustration to fetch between £100,000 and £150,000.

[The Guardian]

TIME celebrities

Lena Dunham Defends Writing on a Past Sexual Assault

Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham Jeff Kravitz—FilmMagic/Getty Images

Dunham's description of her attacker apparently matched a real person, who is threatening a lawsuit

Lena Dunham has opened up about why she wrote in her recent memoir about being sexually assaulted while in college.

In a lengthy statement published Tuesday by BuzzFeed, Dunham hits back at accusations that she described the man she claims assaulted her in a way that could be matched a male student who also attended Oberlin College. The student has denied he raped Dunham; her publisher plans to alter Not That Kind of Girl to specify that “Barry” is a pseudonym.

In her statement, the Girls writer and actress explains she was inspired by other sexual-assault survivors to share her story, while also addressing the recent accusations:

Speaking out was never about exposing the man who assaulted me. Rather, it was about exposing my shame, letting it dry out in the sun. I did not wish to be contacted by him or to open a criminal investigation. I am in a loving and peaceful place in my life and I am not willing to sacrifice any more of it for this person I do not know, aside from one night I will never forget. That is my choice.

Dunham, who wrote that she was drunk and high during her assault, also addressed her frustration when she receives questions that relate her intoxication to the incident:

These ignorant lines of inquiry serve to further flawed narratives about rape, but these people are reacting to the same set of social signals that we all are — signals telling us that preventing assault is a woman’s job, that rape is only rape when a stranger drags you into a dark alley with a knife at your throat, that our stories are never true, and that lying about rape is a way for women to enact revenge on innocent men.

Dunham’s decision to share her story was praised when it was released in September, in the midst of an ongoing national dialogue on campus sexual assault. Her writing had previously met controversy when a conservative group accused her of sexually abusing her younger sister.


TIME Books

Fashion Blogger Zoella Admits She Did Not Write Girl Online On Her Own

YouTube blogger Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella, poses during a photocall for her debut novel "Girl Online" in London, Nov. 24, 2014.
YouTube blogger Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella, poses during a photocall for her debut novel "Girl Online" in London, Nov. 24, 2014. Luke MacGregor—Reuters

The 24-year-old YouTube and blogging star had "help" with her best-selling debut novel

Zoe Sugg, the British YouTube and blogging star whose novel is at No.9 in the New York Times Young Adult Best Sellers list, has admitted that she did not write the book on her own.

The 24-year old writer, who also uses the name Zoella, has had record sales of her recently published first novel, Girl Online, but the Sunday Times of London revealed that the writing bore similarities to another author, Siobhan Curham.

Sugg first rose to fame with her beauty and make-up tutorials, which she began producing in 2009. It wasn’t long before she was attracting millions of views and fans, many of whom snapped up her print debut. But the news that Sugg — whose first-week book sales eclipsed the first-week sales from the debuts of J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown and EL James — received help writing her book has prompted surprise and even outrage online. Several social media users have called Sugg a “fraud“. As one commenter on Twitter put it: “Ghostwriters should be banned. If you’re not smart enough to write a book, admit it. Don’t take the credit for someone else’s work #zoella.”

Sugg’s publisher Penguin issued a statement on Monday. “The factual accuracy of the matter is simply that Zoe Sugg did not write Girl Online on her own, ” the statement says, “For her first novel, Girl Online, Zoe has worked with an expert editorial team to help her bring to life her characters and experiences in a heartwarming and compelling story.”

Celebrity writers often work with ghostwriters when they publish a memoir or even a novel. The New York Times noted in 2011 how celebrities such as the Kardashians, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Hilary Duff had all published novels, in part because, “Like a branded fragrance or clothing line, the novel — once quaintly considered an artistic endeavor sprung from a single creative voice — has become another piece of merchandise stamped with the name of celebrities, who often pass off the book as their work alone despite the nearly universal involvement of ghostwriters. And the publishing industry has been happy to oblige.”

Though many in publishing and media are aware of how commonplace ghostwritten works are, readers — particularly young readers like Sugg’s fans — might not realize that the blogger had help with her novel. After all, it’s only Sugg’s name that appears on the cover of Girl Online. Yet, in the book’s acknowledgements, Sugg writes, “I want to thank everyone at Penguin for helping me put together my first novel, especially [author and editorial director at Penguin U.K.] Amy Alward and [Young Adult author] Siobhan Curham, who were with me every step of the way.”

It is Curham — who has published more than half a dozen novels under her own name — who has been suggested as the likely ghostwriter for Girl Online. Though Curham did not respond to TIME’s email request for an interview, the Sunday Times‘ story outlined how she wrote a now-deleted blog post in August on what it was like “to write an 80,000-word novel in six weeks.” Many now suspect the post was a reference to Girl Online.

Sugg herself responded to the controversy on Sunday night, saying in a statement posted to Twitter:

“Thanks for all the positive feedback about Girl Online and for the doubters out there, of course I was going to have help from Penguin’s editorial team in telling my story, which I talked about from the beginning. Everyone needs help when they try something new. The story and the characters of Girl Online are mine. I want to thank all of you who have taken time to support the book.”

Considering that Sugg’s statement was favorited and re-tweeted more than 15,000 times it seems likely that her stable of young fans are sticking by her. That not only bodes well for Girl Online‘s continued sales, but also for the book’s follow-up, which is due out in 2015. Despite the current controversy, it seems unlikely that Zoella will be haunted by the ghostwriter revelation.

TIME Opinion

Girl Gone Wild: The Rise of the Lone She-Wolf

Fox Searchlight

A woman on a solitary journey used to be seen as pitiful, vulnerable or scary. Not any more.

The first few seconds of Wild sound like sex. You hear a woman panting and moaning as the camera pans across the forest, and it seems like the movie is starting off with an outdoor quickie. But it’s not the sound of two hikers hooking up: it’s the sound of Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon, climbing a mountain all by herself.

It lasts only a moment, but that first shot contains everything you need to know about why Wild is so important. It’s a story of a woman who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail for 94 days in the wake of her mother’s death, but more than that, it’s a story of a woman who is no longer anything to anybody. We’re so used to seeing women entangled with other people (with parents, with men, with children, in neurotic friendships with other women), that it’s surprising, almost shocking, to see a woman who is gloriously, intentionally, radically alone.

When it comes to women onscreen, the lone frontier is the last frontier. It’s no big deal to see women play presidents, villains, baseball players, psychopaths, superheroes, math geniuses, or emotionally stunted losers. We’ve even had a female Bob Dylan. But a woman, alone, in the wilderness, for an entire movie? Not until now.

Which is unfair, considering all the books and movies dedicated to the often-tedious excursions of solitary men, from Henry David Thoreau to Jack Kerouac to Christopher McCandless. Audiences have sat through hours of solo-dude time in critically acclaimed movies like Castaway, Into the Wild, Life of Pi, 127 Hours, and All is Lost. America loves a Lone Ranger so much, even Superman worked alone.

In fact, the only thing more central to the American canon than a solitary guy hanging out in the woods is a guy on a quest (think Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick). The road narrative may be the most fundamental American legend, grown from our history of pilgrimage and Western expansion. But adventure stories are almost always no-girls-allowed, partly because the male adventurer is usually fleeing from a smothering domesticity represented by women. In our collective imaginations, women don’t set out on a journey unless they’re fleeing from something, usually violence. As Vanessa Veselka writes in her excellent essay on female road narratives in The American Reader: “A man on the road is caught in the act of a becoming. A woman on the road has something seriously wrong with her. She has not ‘struck out on her own.’ She has been shunned.”

MORE: The Top 10 Best Movies of 2014

The ‘loner in nature’ and the ‘man on the road’ are our American origin stories, our Genesis and Exodus. They’re fables of an American national character which, as A.O. Scott pointed out in his The New York Times essay on the death of adulthood in American culture, has always tended towards the boyish. Wild is the first big movie– or bestselling book, for that matter–to re-tell that central American story with a female protagonist.

But Wild is just the most visible example of what’s been a slow movement towards loner ladies onscreen. Sandra Bullock’s solo spin through space last year in Gravity was the first step (although her aloneness was accidental, and it was more a survival story than road narrative). Mia Wasikowska’s long walk across Australia in Tracks this year was another. But Wild, based on Strayed’s bestselling memoir and propelled by Witherspoon’s star power, is the movie that has the best shot at moving us past the now-tired “power woman” towards a new kind of feminist role model: the lone female.

Because for women, aloneness is the next frontier. Despite our chirpy boosting of “independent women” and “strong female leads,” it’s easy to forget that women can never be independent if we’re not allowed to be alone.

For men, solitude is noble: it implies moral toughness, intellectual rigor, a deep connection with the environment. For women, solitude is dangerous: a lone woman is considered vulnerable to attacks, pitiful for her lack of male companionship, or threatening to another woman’s relationship. We see women in all kinds of states of loneliness–single, socially isolated, abandoned–but almost never in a state of deliberate, total aloneness.

Not to mention the fact that women’s stories are almost always told in the context of their relationships with other people. Even if you set aside romance narratives, the “girl group” has become the mechanism for telling the stories of “independent” women– that is, women’s stories that don’t necessarily revolve around men. Think Sex & The City, Steel Magnolias, A League of Their Own, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Girls: if a woman’s not half of a couple, she must be part of a gaggle.

When Cheryl Strayed describes her experience of “radical aloneness,” she’s talking about being completely cut off from human contact–no cell phone, no credit card, no GPS. But her aloneness is also radical in that it rejects the female identity that is always viewed through the lens of a relationship with someone else. To be alone, radically alone, is to root yourself in your own life, not the role you play in other people’s lives. Or, as Strayed’s mother Bobbi wistfully puts it, “I always did what someone else wanted me to do. I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I’ve never just been me.”

MORE: The Top 10 Best Movie Performances of 2014

And that’s the difference between aloneness and independence. The “independent woman” is nothing new– if anything, it’s become a tired catchphrase of a certain kind of rah-rah feminism. “Independence” implies a relationship with another thing, a thing from which you’re severing your ties. It’s inherently conspicuous, even performative. Female independence has become such a trope that it’s become another role for women to play: independent career woman, independent post-breakup vixen, independent spitfire who doesn’t care what anyone thinks. And usually, that “independence” is just a temporary phase before she meets a guy at the end of the movie who conveniently “likes a woman who speaks her mind.”

Aloneness is more fundamental, and more difficult. It involves cultivating a sense of self that has little to do with the motherhood, daughterhood, wifehood or friendship that society calls “womanhood.” When interviewed by the Hobo Times about being a “female hobo,” Strayed says: “Women can’t walk out of their lives. They have families. They have kids to take care of.” Aloneness then, isn’t just a choice to focus on one’s self– it’s also a rejection of all the other social functions women are expected to perform.

In 1995, when Strayed hiked for 94 days, that would have been hard. In 2014, it’s even harder. Thanks to the internet, our world is more social now than ever before, and it’s even harder to escape other people. But aloneness is at the root of real independence, it’s where self-reliance begins and ends. So these days, if you want to be independent, maybe you can start by trying to be alone.

Read next: Reese Witherspoon Isn’t Nice or Wholesome in Wild, and That’s What Makes It Great

TIME movies

True Detective Director to Film Adaptation of Stephen King’s It

Stephen King's "It" (1990)
Stephen King's "It" (1990) Warner Bros.

The plan is to split 'It' into two films

It looks like Pennywise the Clown will soon be back to make audiences fear clowns for years to come.

Speaking to Vulture on Dec. 4, producer Dan Lin confirmed that True Detective director Cary Fukunaga is on board for a new adaptation of Stephen King’s It.

“The idea is to start official prep in March for a summer shoot,” Lin, a producer on The Lego Movie, told Vulture.

However, Lin said It was too big to keep to one movie, and so the plan is to split It into two films (which, if Lin takes inspiration from Peter Jackson, will turn into a trilogy culminating in It: A Pennywise for Your Thoughts).

Lin only confirmed Fukunaga’s involvement for the first film, but did say he is working to sign on the director for the second one as well.

The two-part film does have some precedent in the case of It, however. The original 1986 novel has only seen one other major adaptation, a two-part miniseries on ABC that aired in 1990. That version is particularly memorable for Tim Curry’s horrifying portrayal of Pennywise the Clown, and should serve as a standard-bearer for clown-based scares as Fukunaga and Lin prep their version.

More so than signing on Fukunaga for both parts, Lin has been most concerned with earning the approval of one man: Stephen King.

“The most important thing is that Stephen King gave us his blessing,” Lin said. “We didn’t want to make this unless he felt it was the right way to go, and when we sent him the script, the response that Cary got back was, ‘Go with God, please! This is the version the studio should make.’ So that was really gratifying.”

This article originally appeared on Entertainment Weekly

TIME Books

J.K. Rowling’s Christmas Present to You Is More Harry Potter Stories

Author J.K. Rowling attends a photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sept. 27, 2012 in London. Ben Pruchnie—Getty Images

'Tis the season to be Harry

On the first day of Christmas, J.K. Rowling will give to you: new Harry Potter material. On the second day of Christmas, she’ll give you some more. And so on, through the 12 days leading up to Christmas Eve.

The author announced the new stories in a newsletter to Pottermore members, explaining that each new installment would be posted at 1 pm GMT (8am ET) every day beginning Dec. 12. The email promises “wonderful writing by J.K. Rowling in Moments from Half-Blood Prince, shiny gold Galleons and even a new potion or two.”

MORE: The Top 10 YA Books of 2014

One story will reportedly center on Draco Malfoy, Harry’s nemesis. In the spirit of the holiday season, maybe he’ll get a little redemption, Ebenezer Scrooge-style.

[Daily Telegraph]

Read next: J.K. Rowling Reveals Her Dream Job If She Weren’t A Writer

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