This excerpt about the author J.K. Rowling, of the popular Harry Potter series, from today’s The Writers Almanac, by Garrison Keillor, is, I think, a very good example for folks that are down on their luck to ponder:
It’s the birthday of children’s fantasy writer J.K. Rowling, (books by this author) born Joanne Rowling in Yate, England (1965).
Rowling grew up in rural England. She tried writing a couple of novels, but never finished them. One day on a cross-country train trip, the idea of Harry Potter just appeared in her mind. She didn’t have a pen to write things down, so she said: “Rather than try to write it, I had to think it. And I think that was a very good thing. I was besieged by a mass of detail, and if it didn’t survive that journey, it probably wasn’t worth remembering.” As soon as she got home, she started writing what she did remember.
But her personal life was falling apart. She said: “A mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. … I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, 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.”
It took J.K. Rowling awhile to find a publisher for her novel, but finally it was published: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (published in the U.S. as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). It started with a print run of 1,000 copies. The last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007), had a first print run of 12 million copies in the United States, the largest first printing of any book in history. Altogether, the series has sold more than 400 million copies. She said, “I would like to think that readers enjoy my stories because they are simply good stories.”