Special Guests

Ascendio 2012 will play host to a number of exciting special guests including Harry Potter film cast members Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley) and Afshan Azad (Padma Patil)

We can’t wait to see these special guests at Ascendio:

Afshan Azad

Attending her first Harry Potter fan event, Afshan Azad, who played Padma Patil in the last five Harry Potter films, is thrilled to attend Ascendio! Fans will get insight into what it was like working on Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, Half-blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, alongside Dan, Emma and Rupert.

Afshan will be doing a programming session where you can hear about her Potter experience and ask her questions, plus there will be autograph and photo sessions throughout the weekend. She will also be attending Night of a Thousand Wizards; that night will be her first time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Not only that, but Afshan, who is a true-blue HP fan, will be sitting on one of our thought-provoking formal programming panels, adding to a discussion of privilege and race in Harry Potter.

Afshan had to say of Harry Potter and coming to Ascendio:
“My time filming the Harry Potter films was a life changing experience I will never forget. I have taken away memories to last a lifetime and have met such amazing people along the way! We all wouldn’t be here without the dedication and loyalty of the fans and I can’t wait to visit the Wizarding World and all you out there, so we can all share the magic together! 

Chris Rankin

Chris, who plays Percy Weasley in many of the Harry Potter films, including Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows II, has previously attended HPEF’s The Witching Hour and been a special guest at our Azkatraz and Infinitus events, as well as The Leaky Cauldron’s LeakyCon 2011. He also has an extensive theater background, having performed in pantomimes and plays such as Dick Whittington, Jack & the Beanstalk, Hedda Gabler and Salome.

Hugely fascinated by Harry Potter fandom — and welcomed by it — Chris has focused his university thesis on fandom, and is excited to present his work at Ascendio — a Harry Potter actor-special guest first! Other events featuring Chris will be announced at a later time — but rest assured, Chris will present, do a Q&A, sign Harry Potter DVDs and more! Chris is excited to return to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where he will be one of the hosts of Night of a Thousand Wizards 2.

Aimee Carter


Aimée Carter was born and raised in Michigan, where she currently resides. She started writing at age eleven and later attended the University of Michigan, graduating with a degree in screen arts and cultures. Her first novel for young adults, The Goddess Test, was published by Harlequin Teen in May 2011. Aimée has written fanfic and original stories for nearly fifteen years, and has long participated in the Harry Potter fandom; she was on staff for POAIMAXNYC in June of 2004.

Aimée will be doing readings and signings at Ascendio, and participating in panels on writing, including the differences between writing fanfic and writing in a self-created universe.

Ben Schrank (Keynote Speaker)


Ben Schrank is President and Publisher of Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin (USA). Razorbill’s books include Jay Asher’s #1 New York Times bestselling Thirteen Reasons Why, Richelle Mead’s #1 bestselling Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series, Beth Revis’ New York Times bestselling Across The Universe series, the New York Times Bestseller Marcel the Shell with Shoes on by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer Camp and the multiple star review winning and entirely revolutionary image-driven novel Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral. Ben Schrank’s novel, Love is a Canoe, will be published by Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar Straus and Giroux in early 2013. For more about Razorbill, go to www.razorbillbooks.com and for more about Ben Schrank, go to www.benschrank.com

Beth Revis


Beth Revis lives in rural North Carolina with her husband and dog, and believes space is nowhere near the final frontier. A former high-school English teacher, Beth can’t help but blog about writing, grammar, and publishing at Writing it Out. She is the founder of the new popular dystopian blog, the League of Extraordinary Writers and blows off steam by trying to come up with something witty in 140 characters or less, lusting after books on GoodReads, or wasting time on Facebook. Beth is represented by Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House and published by Razorbill, a Penguin imprint.

In addition to hosting a reading and signing at Ascendio, Beth will be participating in several panels relating to writing, the publishing industry and themes in Harry Potter.

Carlie Webber


Carlie is a long-time HP fandomer who worked as a YA librarian and reviewer for publications including Kirkus Reviews prior to becoming an agent. Wishing to explore her interest in the business side of books, she decided to switch from librarianship to publishing and enrolled in the Columbia Publishing Course. Now she is building her agenting career on her favorite genres: young adult, middle grade, romance, horror, mystery, suspense, thrillers, literary fiction, contemporary fantasy and women’s fiction. Her ongoing submissions wishlist includes but is not limited to high-concept YA, literary suspense, grunge era nostalgia and things that go bump in the night.

Catherine Tosenberger (Keynote Speaker)

Catherine Tosenberger is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Winnipeg, where she is attached to the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures. Her Ph.D. thesis was on Harry Potter fanfiction on the Internet. She has published on queer Potter fanfiction, Supernatural fanfiction, and fairy tales; her research interests include folk narratives, erotica and pornography, and children’s and adolescent culture and media.



Connie Neal (Keynote Speaker)


Connie Neal was the first Christian author to publicly challenge negative attacks against Harry Potter by some in the Christian community, defending Harry in the media and enduring the resultant backlash. She is author of What’s a Christian to do with Harry Potter? (2000); The Gospel according to Harry Potter: The Spiritual Journey of the World’s Greatest Seeker (2002, 2008); Wizards, Wardrobes, and Wookiees: Navigating Good and Evil in Harry Potter, Narnia, & Star Wars (2007) along with many other books and Bible projects. Neal’s books, in many languages, are widely cited in other books, doctoral dissertations, scholarly journals, magazines (including Newsweek & Christianity Today), and media worldwide. Her Harry Potter-related books are used in university courses from Pepperdine to Yale. Her latest release is Harry Potter’s Book of Virtues.


Joanna Volpe


Joanna is a literary agent with Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation and a lifelong Harry Potter fan! She represents all brands of fiction, from picture books to adult. She has an affinity for stories that have a darker, grittier element to them, whether they be drama, fantasy or comedy. Her upcoming publications include Shadow and Bone (Book One of the Grisha trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo, Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Ever Afters: Of Giants and Ice by Shelby Bach, Chained by Lynne Kelly and Sway by Amber McRee Turner. When Joanna is not reading (which is almost never), she can be found either cooking, playing video games, or hanging out with her husband and their chihuahua PeeWee on Long Island.

Lev Grossman


Lev has been TIME magazine’s resident writer on books and tech issues since 2002 and posts all over the Internet, including Time.com, his personal blog at levgrossman.com, and @Leverus on Twitter. You may have read his 2010 TIME Person of the Year story on Mark Zuckerberg, or his 2011 piece on fanfiction, which featured Harry Potter fandom. Lev also edits TIME’s annual Best Inventions and 10 Ideas issues and pioneered their coverage of video games, blogs, viral videos, Facebook, and webcomics like Penny Arcade and Achewood.

At Ascendio, he will not only be doing a reading and signing of his books, but will lead Formal Programming sessions on Pottermore from the perspective of a gamer, a parent and a technologist, and give exclusive insights into his 2005 interview with J.K. Rowling and his 2011 article on fanfiction.

Libba Bray


Libba Bray is the New York Times bestselling author of the Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing), the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine, and Beauty Queens, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominee and a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of 2011. She has also contributed short stories to several anthologies, including Geektastic, Zombies Vs. Unicorns, and Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories.When Libba is not scribbling words, watching Dr. Who, trying to make her cats wear odd things for her own amusement, or thinking about snacks, she is one-quarter of the all-YA author rock band, Tiger Beat, along with DanielEhrenhaft, Natalie Standiford, and Barnabas Miller. You can find Libba at www.libbabray.com, @libbabray on Twitter, and http://www.facebook.com/libbabray.

Lindsay Ribar


Lindsay is a junior agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, where she also assists senior agent Matt Bialer. A graduate of New York University and the Columbia Publishing Course, Lindsay works with first-time authors, New York Times bestsellers, and everyone in between. As a writer, Lindsay is represented by Brenda Bowen, also of Greenburger. Her debut young adult novel, THE ART OF WISHING, is about a high school senior who falls for a boy two years her junior, who also happens to be a genie. The first in a trilogy, it will be published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin, in 2013.

While Lindsay has been in the professional publishing industry for many years, she has spent at least double that time in fandom, lurking on the message boards of FictionAlley, writing one-shots, brainstorming with other writers, and beta-reading. She blames (and thanks) the Harry Potter fandom for making her realize how much she enjoys editing other people’s stories.

Mark Oshiro, aka MarkReads


In May of 2010, after blogging his experience reading the Twilight series, and after avoiding the Harry Potter books and films for years, Mark took a friend’s suggestion to start Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone, and he was not prepared for the journey the books would take him on. His blog became a group read-along as thousands of Harry Potter fans from around the world tried to avoid spoiling upcoming chapters while sharing in Mark’s reactions to the surprises, revelations, quirks, joys and tragedies of J.K. Rowling’s stories.

Mark will be hosting discussions about the Harry Potter series as well as at least one meet-up for discussion of everything and anything from MarkReads and MarkWatches.

Michelle Hodkin


Michelle’s debut novel, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a YA mystery-thriller that has been praised far and wide by critics, and fellow authors. Ascendio guests Beth Revis, Veronica Roth and Lev Grossman are all fans. Michelle will be doing a reading/signing at Ascendio, as well as sitting on many Quill Track panels.

Michelle Hodkin grew up in South Florida, went to college in New York, and studied law in Michigan. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found prying strange objects from the jaws of one of her three pets. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is her first novel. You can visit her online at michellehodkin.com.

Neta Kligler-Vilenchik (Keynote Speaker)

Neta Kligler-Vilenchik is a Doctoral student working with Professor Henry Jenkins on the Media Activism and Participatory Politics (MAPP) project at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. As part of the MAPP project, she is looking at connections between fan communities and youth civic engagement, focusing on members of the Harry Potter Alliance, Imagine Better, and the Nerdfighters. Neta has published work on the Harry Potter Alliance and Invisible Children in the Journal of Transformative Works & Cultures, and is currently working on her Doctoral thesis on alternative citizenship models and their potential for youth civic engagement. She holds an M.A. in Communication from the University of Haifa, Israel.

Veronica Roth


Veronica’s debut novel, Divergent, has already been optioned by Summit Entertainment (of the Twilight movies fame), and its follow-up Insurgent is sure to be a best seller. Veronica is a HUGE Harry Potter fan, and can’t wait to join everyone at Ascendio in celebrating the series. Veronica will be hosting a book club for her books, plus we have it on good authority she’ll be bringing Faction tattoos for all of us!

Veronica is a twenty-three-year-old graduate of Northwestern University’s creative writing program. While a student, she often chose to work on the story that would become Divergent instead of doing her homework. Now a full-time writer, she lives near Chicago.