JK Rowling

2 Aug

Hi guys hope everyone is enjoying the heat wave (if there is one where you are!) Personally I am loving it we haven’t had this great of a summer since at least 2010. Although I have to say that my wardrobe is heavily equipped with clothes for the traditional British summers we have, so needless to say I’m mostly boiling but loving the heat. Anyway, lets get back in touch with my choice of inspirational women of our time. Now as we are nearing a close to this feature (boo) I have decided to go with a personal favourite this week, for reasons that are linked to myself. If you are a book lover then great but if you are not I hope you find some inspiration from this entry. This weeks inspiring woman is the great J K Rowling…

Most of you know who J K Rowling is even if you aren’t into books all of you would have at least heard her name. She is quite clearly one of the most well known women of our time. However, I can probably guess that a lot of us have only ever known her to have given birth to the wonderful world of Harry Potter. Does anyone actually know her story before her fame and fortune?

I will put my hands up and openly say I knew very little of her before writing this article and it was only a Spotify advert that caused the curiosity to bubble.

Joanne Rowling was born on 31st July 1965 in Gloucestershire, England and grew up with her younger sister, Dianne in their family home in Tutshill. Rowling sparked great interest for writing at a very young age. She is known to have written short fantasy stories to read to her sister and grew up idolising the likes of Jessica Milford. Joanne had a pretty run of the mill upbringing, which included the rebellious teenage phase of finding one’s feet and she then proceeded onto attend university to study French and Classics in Exeter.

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image from esquire.com

After graduating, Rowling moved to Manchester with a boyfriend and it was on a four hour delayed train trip from Manchester to London that she first thought about Harry. She recalls what happened on her website:

“I was travelling back to London on my own on a crowded train, and the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head. I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one… I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me. Perhaps, if I had slowed down the ideas to capture them on paper, I might have stifled some of them (although sometimes I do wonder, idly, how much of what I imagined on that journey I had forgotten by the time I actually got my hands on a pen). I began to write ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ that very evening, although those first few pages bear no resemblance to anything in the finished book.”

I’m a great believer of fate, as I have stated many times before and I also believe that our brains are at their most imaginative when we were idle. If it wasn’t for her delayed train and the fact she was probably bored out of her mind, then maybe Harry would never have entered the forefront of her mind. It’s stories like this that just continue to enforce the way I like to see life; everything happens for a reason and even though the reason may not be apparent immediately, it will make sense one day. That’s how I look at her train journey, she was meant to live this life.

Rowling said that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was started that very same day and on a negative note, the December of the same her, Joanne tragically lost her mother to a ten year battle with multiple sclerosis and it was this deep loss that she felt that affected her to write about Harry’s parental loss in much more detail because she could vouch for how he would have felt. It could arguably be said that Rowling also lost both parents because she has no contact with her father after sharing a strained relationship with her during her youth. As I write this, I am finding more awe for her because she has taken so much from her personal life to apply to Harry and to be a good writer, I think a lot of the emotion has to come from tragic memories you’d rather forget…

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image from blogger.com

After this great loss, Rowling moved to Portugal to teach English in night school, whilst focusing on writing during the day. She met and married Jorge Arantes with whom she shares a daughter Jessica Isabel Rowling who was born in 1993. They separated just 13 months later and there is speculation over domestic abuse, but whether it is true or not is unknown. Rowling and her daughter moved back to the UK in Edinburgh near her sister, and felt the weight of failure upon her shoulders. She had no job, no partner and a child to provide for.

Some would see this as the beginning of the spiral into a black abyss of depression and to pull yourself up from the bottom and dust yourself of would seem impossible at this stage. It is so hard to find positives in life when you feel like a failure but this stage in Joanne’s life was nothing to stop what was about to happen. She views this era of her life as one of freedom:

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”– J K Rowling, The Fringe Benefits of Failure, Harvard Commencement 2008.

 

She has a way with words and just reading extracts from The Fringe Benefits of Failure has created a little fire inside that I can be capable of anything…we all can.

After leaving Portugal she was diagnosed with depression and it was this feeling that provided the origin of the Dementors in Harry Potter. Do you see what I’m trying to say? She has an outstanding capability to apply herself to her work and it’s incredibly admirable to witness. Rowling committed to writing the first Harry Potter in many cafés around Edinburgh, anywhere that she could get her baby daughter to fall asleep. The manuscript of the first book was finished in 1995 and was subsequently rejected by 12 publishers (I bet they are regretting that now!) and after a year, she was finally given a chance by Barry Cunningham, editor from Bloomsbury. The best part of this is that a lot of the decision was down to 8-year-old Alice Newton, the daughter of the Bloomsbury chairman, who was given the first chapter to test and apparently begged for more. Although this was all positive, there was little money to be made from children’s books but Rowling was awarded an £8000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to continue her writing.

In the summer of 1997, The Philosopher’s Stone was published in an initial 1,000 copies and today these are valued between £16,000 and £25,000! Several months later, the book won several awards and then an American auction was held for the rights to publish the novel, which was won for $105,000. This was the beginning of the rest of J K Rowling’s life.

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image from reederreads.com

The following books were published from 1998 up until 2007 and the last book was the fastest selling book of all time. During completing the last book, Rowling allowed herself to be filmed for a documentary for ITV, which included a revisit to her old flat and she was reduced to tears stating that this was “really where I turned my life around completely.” It is known that the last chapter of the last book was written in the early 1990’s before the others had begun. She knew where the story was heading and that’s why for me it has worked so well, because she had a clear idea of how to get there.

Following on from the success of Harry Potter, J K Rowling has remarried and had another two children. She continues to write and dedicates a lot of her time to charitable organisations such as the Volant Charitable Trust, Lumos, which were both set up by her and she also supports Comic Relief, Gingerbread, Fund for Children, Young People in Crisis, and contributes a lot of money and support for research and treatment for multiple sclerosis and many other charities. She stated “I think you have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.” (A Fond Look Back at Harry, USA Today 2007).

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image by Melody Johns

This is one story of a woman’s journey from rags to riches. She did it all on her own, without marrying someone rich. All of her success has been because of her talent, her determination and most of all her strength. She is absolutely wonderful woman to look up to and she allowed people my age to grow up alongside Harry Potter. I remember being absolutely captivated by the first book when I was just in primary school, and felt the same towards every book that followed in the series. J K Rowling opened up the imaginations of all kids my age and I continued to love the series through the films, and after watching the last one, I felt deeply nostalgic that this era of my life had ended but also deeply grateful that I had the honour of being a part of this world. So from my part, I would just like to say a massive thank you to J K Rowling for bringing happiness to me through the pages of a book.

About the writer: Melody has just finished a degree in Journalism, Film and Media with a 2:1. She aspires to work with vulnerable women and children subject to domestic, and or other forms of abuse. She is an animal lover and has a small obsession with Fearne Cotton. She is a constant joker and can be found on Twitter.

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