Olivia Dolphin ’13 transfigured her childhood love of young adult fantasy into a multifaceted creative career.
When Olivia Dolphin ’13 was in third grade, her mother brought home a new book for her. The book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was about an orphan boy who went to wizard school. She had no idea then how, like an ancient prophecy waiting to spring forth, the book and its sequels would consume her life. “There was a chunk of time when it was just the first three books, and I would rotate between them,” she remembers. By the time the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, came out, she was attending midnight releases with fellow Potterheads, and contributing fan fiction to Internet sites about the battles of Harry, Hermione, and Ron against the forces of darkness.
“We try and uplift the voices that are not being heard and create a safe space
for new writers and creators.”
–Olivia Dolphin on Wizards in Space
“There was this robust community where those of us who felt a little different, and preferred reading in the library to going to gym class, could find each other,” she says. “You could write fiction or songs and put them online and people would care.” She began volunteering at Harry Potter–themed conferences, sharing at open mics and fangirling to “wizard rock.” Eventually, while double-majoring in writing and rhetoric and music performance at URI, she launched her own literary magazine—Wizards in Space—originating from an inside joke about whether mages can survive in the cosmos, and a desire to create a space for those struggling to find an outlet beyond the Potter-verse.
“We try and uplift the voices that are not being heard, and create a safe space for new writers and creators,” she says. Now on its fourth issue, the magazine publishes everything from original science fiction and fantasy to poetry. After graduating from URI, Dolphin earned a master’s in writing and publishing at Emerson College, and worked as a copywriter for jewelry designer Alex and Ani, which has its own Harry Potter-inspired line. She now works for insurance company Liberty Mutual as a user experience content strategist, which informs her creative work. “It helps me think critically about the functionality of the website and how users are going to feel when they hold this book.”
Dolphin is now creating an anthology of her own poems with the working title, Letting Go and Other Lessons I Didn’t Want to Learn. She also released a song this past winter, “This Damn Christmas,” channeling the frustrations of holiday quarantining into a soulful piano ballad, and plans to release an EP of her music in the coming year. Meanwhile, Wizards in Space continues casting a spell on its several hundred readers from some 20 countries. “We want to reach 10 issues,” she says, “but beyond that, we have lofty goals of building a community with workshops and writing retreats where young writers can feel like they are really engaging in this space.” •