Harry Potter: And Rowling’s Writerly Success
If J.K. Rowling had not juggled the idea of a boy wizard on a train from Manchester to London, I would have been very bored for several hours of my childhood in which I instead spent delving into the magical world of Harry Potter. So, who is this Rowling who had such an impact on my life? And not to stretch imaginations, probably millions of other kids’ as well? Well, that’s what we’d like to know.
If this rags-to-riches story fails to convince you that life indeed is full of bright moments amongs its dark crests, know at least that J.K. Rowling is a BAMF with a capital B. And a captial M. And a capital F.
Born in Chipping Sodbury, which sounds like a polite way to refer to one’s rather dismal English village, Rowling began writing when she was 6. She wrote a story called “Rabbit,” which she didn’t finish. If you don’t think a six year old writing a book is a big deal, you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if the plot involves the title character Rabbit constructing a rocket ship to go attack Deceptacons on the moon. Even in those horrible storytelling throes, Rowling was making progress as a child.
J.K. Rowling says her favorite subject in high school was English, which I know, is a SHOCKER! I’m under the firm belief that anyone who can write loves English, loathes Math, and uses History as a personal nap time. After high school, she went to Exeter University where she earned a degree in French. Because if you love English, who not learn French?!
She also spent a year studying in Paris, a good place to go if you’ve just gotten a degree in French. Also, she moved back to London and worked at Amnesty International which had a large impact on her writing, because she experienced the events of lives of others’. She talks about these experiences in her commencement speech at Harvard. Check that out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkREt4ZB-ck
Slightly after that, this writer got some time behind enemy lines, as a secretary of a publishing house. Publishers are not writer’s enemies. Of course not, but sometimes it feels like it when you receive back those very formal rejection slips. Sending those rejection slips was one of those whose job it was to draft and send those. So, before getting rejected, she understood the mass competition of traditional publication.
It was around this time- 1990- that she created the idea of Harry Potter: a simple premise of a boy who discovers he’s been a wizard his entire life. Also, in 1990, her mother died. She promptly moved to Portugal to teach English. There she married a Portuguese journalist to whom she was married for only eleven months.
Jessica was the result of that marriage, whom she brought back to England in 1993. She lived in Edinburgh in a fairly dingy flat, overrun by mice, receiving a Welfare check of about one hundred dollars a week. During this time of extreme poverty, she worked on the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. This is cliche writer’s life, unfortunately- this is J.K. Rowling crouched over a pad of paper, making an espresso last for two hours. This is she letting her baby Jessica sleep in her carriage while she writes.
When she finally finished, she received rejections from three publishers before signing on with Bloombury’s Children Books for 10,000 pounds. Which is not a lot of money, but Rowling would make a lot more money off of her baby. It became a bestseller fast, children picking it up and not putting it down. They made her use the name “J.K. Rowling” in an effort to hide from boy readers that Rowling indeed was not a male. But soon it didn’t matter.
Scholastic books bought the rights to the book for over 100,000 dollars. This was an unprecedented advance- she was going to make bank. It took three books for Harry Potter to become an international phenomena. The forth book sold over a million copies intially in the UK and over three million initially in the US.
The rest is nearly history as Harry Potter overflowed the pages. And J.K. Rowling became a superstar. A qualified BAMF.
Right now, she has ventured out on the self-publishing limb with the e-books of the Harry Potter series via Pottermore. Early Regristation opens July 31st. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- pt. 2 opens July 15.