JK Rowling

J.K. Rowling wrote ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ on an old manual typewriter in 1995, and on Friday, the iconic author revealed where she came up with one of the story’s core ideas, the Hogwarts houses.

In the first ‘Harry Potter’ novel, the story takes Harry and our favorite characters to the school of wizardry, of course, and we learn right along with him its many ins and outs, both good and bad. Among the milestones of the first book is the House selection, determined by the sorting hat, in which Harry joins Gryffindor along with friends Hermoine and Ron. Each of the houses is named after the school’s four founders.

While tweeting about the process and typical writing habits, Rowling eventually responded to an author who said:

“Years ago, at a birthday party, with no notebook in my purse I was forced to write on napkins when inspiration struck.”

For Rowling, that little anecdote struck a chord. She responded, saying:

“The best thing I ever wrote on was an aeroplane sick bag. Came up with the Hogwarts houses on it.”

‘The Woman in Cabin 10’ author Ruth Ware, who posted a brief Twitter thread about how arguments for the best writing habits usually don’t hold up, started the conversation. Her thread read:

“There’s more than one way to be a writer, just like there’s more than one way to be a human being. Find what works for YOU, not some other writer.”

She then added she didn’t carry a notebook, which spurred Rowling to chime in, saying:

“I’ve usually got a notebook with me.”

The sorting hat, among many other iconic elements, did not even appear originally in Rowling’s initial conception of the school, so I imagine that sick bag contained many different versions of the houses we know and love today. We can only hope someone preserved the bag for all to see someday!