“Whatever money you might have, self-worth really lies in finding out what you do best.”
As a child, JK Rowling wrote many fantasy stories, however only shared them with her sister. “The first story I finished was when I was six years old.” Later in life, Rowling went to St. Michael’s Primary School and it has been rumored that her head master, Alfred Dunn, served as inspiration for the character Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. In her teen years, Rowling was very unhappy due to her negative relationship with her father and her mother’s illness with Multiple Sclerosis. Rowling however knew how to make the best of every situation. While she experienced this unhappy time in her life, she decided to channel her emotions into the first Harry Potter novel in order to contribute to the feelings that Harry was experiencing, ultimately making her work better. “It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Before the idea of Harry Potter came along however, Rowling was working as a secretary and researcher for Amnesty International, an organization centered around human rights. Philanthropy has always been something that Rowling has been passionate about and was something that she prioritized throughout her life.
While Rowling gained attention through her Harry Potter book series, her personal life seems like a story as well due to it following the “rags to riches” concept so closely. She went from relying on state benefits for financial security to becoming a millionaire within five years, solely due to her own ideas and aspirations. “I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” While in school, Rowling’s teacher described her as “not exceptional.” Even while lacking the support of others, she didn’t entertain the idea of being discouraged and instead took charge of her idea of a boy attending wizardry school and proved them wrong.
Rowling first thought of the idea for the Harry Potter novels in 1990 while on a four-hour-delay for a train to London however the first novel was released in 1997. These seven years between the spark of the idea surrounding Harry Potter and the release of the novel were significant years for Rowling. Within this time, Rowling’s mother had passed away, she had given birth to her first child and divorced from her first husband. While it took Rowling 7 years, and multiple obstacles, she never let the possibility of failure get in the way of finishing her book. “Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”
When the time came to proceed with the first novel’s publication, Rowling was advised by her publishers to not include “Joanne” in her pen name and instead put two initials due to her target audience of young boys possibly not wanting to read a book written by a woman. However, Rowling does not have a middle name and was inspired to use her grandmother Kathleen’s name as her second initial. While the fact of being a woman threatened the success of her novel, yet again Rowling did not let this get in the way of her releasing the novel that she had worked tirelessly on.
Rowling gained a lot of inspiration for the series from her own life. As mentioned before, the Head Master at her school has been said to be the inspiration behind the character Albus Dumbledore. The flying car featured in the Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets film has also been said to be inspired by a Ford Anglia owned by her best friend as a teenager Sean Harris. Rowling has also said that she inspired the character Hermione based on herself at the age of eleven.
Harry Potter is now history’s best-selling book series, has sold over 400 million copies, has grabbed worldwide attention, won various awards, has inspired films based on the books, along with spin-off novels and films as well. Rowling has become the United Kingdom’s best-selling author and was named October 2010’s “Most Influential Woman In Britain” by magazine editors. However it is not merely these statistics that has gained her the loyalty of her fans but rather her social and moral values. Rowling was able to change her entire life through one idea that she had. Rowling could have very easily let the thought be passing, and millions of people across the globe would not know of Harry Potter today.
While Rowling is definitely best known for the Harry Potter series and franchise, she is always devoted to, and tirelessly working towards, her philanthropic work. Rowling is currently the president of Gingerbread, which is a charity that was originally named One Parent Families. Her devotion to this charity comes from her personal experience of being a single parent. Rowling also worked with Comic Relief where she, along with Helen Fielding, the creator of Bridget Jones, and Delia Smith, a writer and television presenter, was asked to write a book relating to their most popular work. Rowling created Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and posed them as texts that would be found within the Hogwarts library. Since the release of the books, Rowling has raised upwards of 19 million dollars for the charity.
Rowling has also contributed to countless other charities, including the International Fund for Children and Young People in Crisis and the National Council for One Parent Families. However, Rowling did more than contribute to charities. In 2000, she had created the Volant Charitable Trust that aims to eliminate social inequality and poverty. This charity, with a budget of upwards of six million dollars per year, also contributes to organizations that assist one parent families, children, and research for multiple sclerosis. Alongside the Volant Charitable Trust, Rowling, along with Emma Nicholson, established the Children’s High Level Group in 2005, which is now known as Lumos. Through the platform that she has been able to gain through her work on the Harry Potter franchise, in which fans have created a connection with and become so loyal to, Rowling has focused on more things that she proves to be truly passionate about and will benefit an even wider audience. Through her philanthropic work and writing, Rowling has been able to make endless connections with people throughout the world. She has done, and is continuing to do, her best to enable everyone to have a fair shot in life, while presenting the magical world of Harry Potter that so many people can escape into and have created a relationship with. “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.”
Author: Sarah Pouramn
Sarah Pouramn lives in Toronto and resides in Waterloo when she is attending university. She works with Habitat for Humanity as a builder and as an Executive Events Coordinator and believes that everyone deserves a fair shot at their goals. Sarah also works with The Community Edition, a Waterloo Region newspaper, as the Social Media Editor. Follow Sarah on Twitter @itsmesarahpea and on Instagram @sarahpouramn.