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University of Iowa lecture committee looks to lure Rowling to campus

Hopes letter-writing campaign will leave renowned author spellbound

Library assistant, Casey Lambert, of Iowa City holds filled out letters to “Harry Potter” author JK Rowling at the Iowa City Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. The University of Iowa Lecture Committee came up with the letter writing campaign in hopes to get JK Rowling to lecture in 2016. (Michael Noble Jr./The Gazette)
Library assistant, Casey Lambert, of Iowa City holds filled out letters to “Harry Potter” author JK Rowling at the Iowa City Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. The University of Iowa Lecture Committee came up with the letter writing campaign in hopes to get JK Rowling to lecture in 2016. (Michael Noble Jr./The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Members of the University of Iowa Lecture Committee are hoping the state’s residents can help conjure one of the world’s most famous authors.

Nathanial Richmond, a Bowling Green, Ky. native who serves as the group’s chair, said he came up with the idea of inviting J.K. Rowling to campus in Spring 2016.

“I actually thought it was a terrible idea at first, because when you look into this, she doesn’t accept speaking engagements officially,” said Richmond, a fourth-year graduate student studying applied math. “I still mentioned it to the committee, and the committee as a whole was excited about it.”

Committee members brainstormed how they could convince Rowling that she should head to Iowa City, Richmond said. They decided to ask Iowans to write letters thanking Rowling for her work, and personally appeal for her to appear.

“We thought we are certainly not alone in that we would enjoy having her come speak. We thought we needed to come up with a way to set ourselves apart,” Richmond said. “We like the idea of a physically imposing box showing up at her doorstep.”

The committee so far has partnered with entities such as the Iowa City Public Library, University of Iowa Honors College and Iowa City School District. Richmond said he wants people from across the state to get involved. There is a short time frame, though. Letters are due by March 13.

Richmond said they wanted to keep a tight time frame on the campaign so apathy would not set in.

“If we made it due by end of school year, it loses that sense of excitement and sense of urgency,” Richmond said.

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Richmond said the committee decided to time the invite to Spring 2016 for a number of reasons. For one, it would take time to figure out the logistics. Also, a number of events — such as the opening of the new University of Iowa Children’s Hospital — are occurring in that time frame, and the committee would like Rowling’s appearance to be tied to them.

“Her visit would mean a lot to community and would definitely be our biggest speaker for the year,” Richmond said. “It probably would be in the basketball stadium, and maybe even the football stadium.”

Richmond said the committee would offer to make a donation to Rowling’s charity, Lumos, in exchange for her appearance. It likely would be upward of $50,000, he said.

Richmond also said the committee has been trying to get in touch with someone connected to Rowling in order to deliver the letters once they are compiled. He doesn’t want them to just end up in “some mail room somewhere,” he said. One idea has been to partner with Iowa City’s City of Literature organization, as Edinburgh, Scotland, where Rowling lives, also is a UNESCO City of Literature.

“The worst case scenario is she doesn’t come, but either way it’s a good project,” Richmond said of the letter writing campaign. “Either way we have shown our appreciation.”

DO YOU KNOW SOME MAGIC WORDS?

Letters can be emailed to lecture-committee@uiowa.edu, dropped off in room 145 of the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus, or mailed to:

University Lecture Committee

ATTN: J.K. Rowling Invitations

145 Iowa Memorial Union

The University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA 52242

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