Tabitha Davis’ origin story is just about as inspiring as the Boy Who Lived’s.
As a child, she struggled with reading, but manifested a vivid imagination, and with a little help from Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, she became a writer, eventually landing a nerd’s dream job with Geek Magazine.
She deeply connected to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series after looking for something she could read that would restore her sanity after the birth of her son. Rowling’s novels and the fandom surrounding them have subsequently shaped her life philosophy of love and inclusion.
Eventually, Tabitha found her “tribe” after joining the Meetup.com group Los Angeles Dumbledore’s Army and becoming a co-organizer of Harry Potter and other geek-themed events, from skate nights to Disneybounding days.
With more than 2,400 hundred diverse members, Dumbledore’s Army is the second biggest Harry Potter fan group in the world, which means it’s a lot of work to run, but Tabitha wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
You’re a co-organizer of the Los Angeles Dumbledore’s Army, a Harry Potter fan group for adults, centered around the social site Meetup.com. The group was founded in 2008. How did you become involved?
I first heard of the group via a flier, but I wasn’t sure it was for me. After finally deciding to try it out, I joined the book club and began attending events. I had previously worked in marketing and enjoyed planning events so I volunteered to assist with the group events and have been doing so ever since.
For those who may not be as familiar with Harry Potter, what does the name “Dumbledore’s Army” refer to in the books?
Dumbledore’s Army is a group the kids in the book form to fight against the tyranny of the dark wizards and the misled government officials. Their goal is to learn to protect themselves and others.
Is your group affiliated at all with charity group the Harry Potter Alliance?
We have done work with them, and many of our members work with both. They do a book drive at our skate night every year.
What are your duties as co-organizer?
It really depends on the event. Usually, we are all assigned specific tasks when we arrive at an event, and we all set up and clean up. I personally co-host Wizards Chef and will be co-hosting our first Wizards in Wonderland (Harry Potter Day at Disneyland).
Tell me more about L.A. Dumbledore’s Army. How often do you meet? What are some examples of the type of events/activities the group participates in.
Oh man, we do so much! We meet at least once a month. We have two very active book clubs, we host skate night, have done trivia nights, movie nights, scavenger hunts around the city, family-friendly events with a focus on the educational benefits of the book series, and Wizards Chef.
There are 2,426 members of the group, according to Meetup.com. It’s the second largest Harry Potter fan group in the world. It must be quite a bit of work keeping this group running!
It really is. In addition to the group being large, it is also diverse, so we also have to come up with a variety of events for our members. We are all working people with other responsibilities, but since we can lean on each other it is very much like Harry and his team. We get it done!
Out of curiosity, what’s the largest Harry Potter fan group in the world?
Funnily enough, it is The Group That Shall Not Be Named, out of NYC. Our names are in competition with each other, but we have members that came from that group and that visit groups events when they are in the area. The HP community is cool like that.
I understand you recently helped organize “Wizards in Wonderland,” a Harry Potter-themed meetup at Disneyland. How did that go? Tell me about the day.
We all met up in front of the train around 10. Our first meeting saw probably 50 or so Potter heads, but as we moved through the park we ran into many more. There were those in cross-over T-shirts, and some people fully decked out. One group did Hogwarts-inspired Mousketeers.
What were some of the best Harry Potter-bounding outfits you saw there?
So many fun ideas! Two ladies came as Hogwarts Express, one woman was a pin-up version of a chocolate frog.
What do you enjoy the most about being a part of Dumbledore’s Army? How would you describe the group dynamic?
Meeting other wizards. I had previously sought out other fandom communities, specifically the Star Wars fandom. I found that the wizarding community tends to be more welcoming. There isn’t a lot of pretense here that one finds elsewhere. The world J.K created is one of inclusion and acceptance, and that is very much what the group tries to embody.
Let’s talk about your personal connection to Harry Potter. How did you first discover J.K. Rowling’s series and how did your passion for it grow?
Well, first off, I am a Potter. It’s my maiden name and more than a few teachers referred to me as Snape does to Harry, as simply Potter. Since I was already an adult when the books came out, I bought them for my younger brother since he is a Potter too, obviously.
He never really got into them, and when I had my son, I asked my husband to buy me the biggest book he could find because I was going nuts. It was just after “Order of The Phoenix” was released, and that’s what he brought me. I devoured it, and then stole all the HP books I had given my younger brother.
As a mom, I connected with the books in a different way, I think than a lot of fans. First, these kids were my age, I graduated the year the Battle of Hogwarts takes place, so these were my contemporaries. I didn’t have the greatest childhood. I was bullied, and we were very poor when I was younger. I found that I connected to these characters very deeply through their trials, and it inspired me as a parent to listen to and try to better understand my children and their unique experience.
When I found the group, I felt like I had found my tribe.
What is it about J.K. Rowling’s series that sets it apart from other fandoms?
I think it may be that it was designed for children, so there is an honesty to it. It was untainted by so much of the adult world, but still, the lessons of life are there. No one is perfect, everyone is flawed and makes choices that can bring good or bad outcomes, but it is what they do about it that counts. It lets us believe in magic while understanding that we are the ones who need to make our own magic and take up the fight for those who can’t.
Aside from your involvement with Dumbledore’s Army, how is your love of Harry Potter currently manifesting itself?
Well, in my decor for sure. My living room is in Ravenclaw colors, with various witchy accouterment. We have a cupboard under the stairs, also known as the reading nook, but probably the most significant impact is how I raise my kids. I try to listen to them and to think deeply about the impact I have on them. There is a lot of wisdom in the series that I feel I keep with me in my daily life. WWWD, What Would a Wizard Do?
You were a panelist at this year’s WonderCon, discussing “Hogwarts Academia: 20 Years of Fantastic Harry Potter Fandom.” That’s impressive! Tell me about that experience.
It was so incredible. Being on stage with my daughter, and with these incredible women who I have seen achieve their dreams was an honor. It really drove home to me how great this community is, and how wonderful for my kids to have these incredible role models.
These women are lawyers, doctors, graphic designers, empowered humans making the world better every day. It’s amazing to be counted among them. Also, (fantasy writer) Patrick Rothfuss showed up so as a fan and writer I’ve been geeking out about that for months.
Los Angeles Dumbledore’s Army also devotes itself to other fandoms, including Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Sherlock, and Doctor Who. What other fandoms are you into?
Star Wars, for sure, is my first love. The first movie I saw in the theater was “Jedi.” I love most of those other fandoms, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Sherlock. Game of Thrones is freaking amazing. Comics, anything Neil Gaiman ever does. The list is long.
You write for Geek Magazine. That sounds like a cool gig! How did that come about?
It is a super sweet gig! I work with some of the coolest geeks out there. I write Haiku for fun in a group on Facebook, and one of the members is a fellow writer. She heard the magazine was hiring, so I sent in the most recent thing I had written, which was a blog about the near-death experience I had delivering my daughter. I’ve been geeking out ever since.
What’s your writer origin story? What sparked your interest in that art form?
I am dyslexic, so learning to read was the worst. I was in a special ed class to learn to read. I couldn’t read, but I would make up insane stories for sharing time. My teacher told me I would make a great writer. I thought he was nuts, I couldn’t even read.
Fast forward about a year and I was reading everything I could get my hands on. I learned that Stephen King was also dyslexic, and while I couldn’t read his work yet I knew there was a lot of it. If he could do it, maybe I could too.
Around this time I was lucky enough to meet the great Ray Bradbury. To me, he was just a really nice old guy. He asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, and I had decided that I would be a writer even though I wasn’t good at spelling. He told me to follow my heart, and to never ever let anyone tell me I couldn’t or shouldn’t write. I took his advice, ended up reading a lot of Stephen King, and pretty much anything I could get my hands on and writing whenever I could.
What sorts of things do you write about for Geek Magazine? What do you enjoy most about it?
Most things geek. TV shows, movies, books, and technology. My favorite stories are when I get to write about something I really care about. It’s like a chance to share my own love with a broad audience and maybe show them something they can love too. I love to do research and doing reports and writing for the school paper were my favorite parts of school. Now I get paid to do research and write about things I love. It’s a dream come true. 8-year old-me got her wish with this job.
Are there many other women writing about geek culture? What’s your experience been like in that regard?
Absolutely. I’d say at least half our crew is female, and some of our writers write for other pages and do podcasts and blogs about geeky stuff. I have to say that there really has only been one incident where my sex mattered, and it was a comment from a reader not from my co-workers.
The guys I work with never question what I know, or make me prove that I know something because I am a woman. I know there has been a lot of toxicity in fandom regarding men vs. women, but the vast majority of the guys I both work with and know socially are completely comfortable being schooled in geeky trivia by a woman.
You’re a mother raising two “geeklings.” Does your family share your geeky interests or have pop culture interests of their own?
They do, and they have introduced me to fandoms I would never have explored. My Little Pony is probably the best example. They’re sort of over it now, but they totally got me hooked. Bob’s Burgers has become a family favorite thanks to my daughter, and we even cosplayed the kids to a con last year. I also know way too much about Overwatch, thanks to my son. We spend a lot of time together, so it’s nice that we like the same sorts of things.
Of all the interviews I’ve done with women who are geeks, the biggest fandom they have in common, by far, is Harry Potter. Why do you think this franchise speaks to so many people?
Its core messages are the messages of our time. Equality, diversity, love vs. hate. These things are in our headlines, and though we don’t have magic, we do have love. We joined the masses at the first Women’s March together, and a lot of the signs were Harry Potter related. If these kids could stand up against a powerful evil then we can too.
Do you have any future plans/hopes/dreams for the L.A. Dumbledore’s Army?
Right now we are gearing up for our last Skate Night, Wizards in Wonderland, and Wizards Chef, but I would love to plan another family event. A lot of our group are having kids and it’s fun to introduce the magic of the series to another generation of fans. Also, more pub crawls.
If anyone reading this is interested in joining the group, how would they go about it?
Let’s close with a few pressing Harry Potter-related questions:
What’s your Hogwarts house?
Ravenclaw 4 life.
“Order of the Phoenix,” even though Harry is totally having a case of the puberties.
Least favorite movie?
“Chamber of Secrets.”
I don’t know if I can pick one. Book Ron, Movie twins, Snape, Lupin, Tonks, Mrs. Weasley … that’s a short list.
Most devastating character death?
Wizarding subject you’d most like to study?
Favorite magical creature?
Favorite Harry Potter item you own?
My custom wand designed after my first Pottermore wand.
How often do you visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
I’ve been twice. I’m more of a book fan.
Cold Butterbeer, Frozen Butterbeer, or Warm Butterbeer?
What’s left on your Harry Potter bucket list?
To see the dragon at Diagon Alley, and to visit the locations in the U.K.