J.K. Rowling: Biography, Books & Facts

Instructor: Andrew Sedillo

Andrew Sedillo has taught Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology at a middle school level. He currently holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Education, Master's of Arts Educational Learning Technology, and a Graduate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning.

J.K. Rowling is one of the most popular authors in the past decade due to her success through the Harry Potter series. Learn more about J.K. Rowling and her works, and test your knowledge through a quiz.

Introduction

Could you imagine risking everything to follow a dream? Would you be able to hold onto that dream when you are struggling to support a family? Or would you just quit on your dream? These questions have been answered through the experiences of popular author J.K. Rowling. Most people know her as the highly successful author of the Harry Potter series, but before the success came struggles.

Who is J.K. Rowling?

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Joanne Rowling, or as most people know her, J.K. Rowling, was born in Yate, England, on July 31, 1965. J.K. Rowling is actually her pen name. Some writers use a pen name instead of their real names. Typically authors use their initials. The main reason for Rowling's was based on a publishing suggestion. Publishers felt that her Harry Potter series would not sell well if readers knew that a woman wrote a wizard's tale. So Rowling chose to use the abbreviation 'J.K.' She had no middle name, so Rowling added the K to pay homage to her grandmother's name, 'Kathleen'.

Early Life

Rowling grew up in Chepstow, Gwent. She knew as early as six years old that she wanted to be a writer, and wrote her first book about a rabbit. She attended Wyedean Comprehensive School and College, though she would eventually leave Wyedean in 1982 in favor of the University of Exeter in England. Here she studied French to please her parents. She had originally wanted to study English literature, but her parents felt that it would take her nowhere. In 1987, she earned a bachelor's in French and the Classics. Shortly after graduating, she began working for Amnesty International as a researcher (and she continues to donate to them to this day).

The Bumpy Road to Success

Rowling's passion for writing never ended. She would continue to write stories in her free time. In 1990 on a train ride back to London, she got the idea to write Harry Potter. She would loosely base a lot of the situations Harry experienced in the story on her own life, including losing a parent. December 1990 was a dark time for Rowling: her mother Anne passed away due to multiple sclerosis. Life didn't get any easier. In 1991, she moved to Portugal to become an English teacher and experienced a failed marriage. She continued to write Harry Potter and used the effects of her mother's death and other problems she was experiencing to develop the character of the young wizard.

In 1993, her first daughter Jessica was born. She would move to Edinburgh to live by her youngest sister Diahn. Rowling has described this part of her life as rock bottom. She was living on welfare and struggling to support her family. Rowling used this as motivation, and continued to write Harry Potter. In 1995 her story was finally finished; it was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. She sent out the first three chapters to an agent. Despite its initial rejection, this would not discourage Rowling. She was determined and gave it a second try.

Christopher Little would eventually write Rowling back asking to see the rest of the story. Christopher became Rowling's agent and sent Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to several publishers, though many turned it down. In 1996, Christopher was finally able find a publisher in Bloomsbury Children's Books. Christopher had a plan to bring Harry Potter to an American market. He did this through an auction for publishing rights of the book. Arthur Levine won the bidding war and made an offer on behalf of Scholastic Books. In September of 1998, Harry Potter was published in the USA under a new name, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

The Good Life

Rowling struck gold with Harry Potter. She went from being jobless and living on state benefits to being a multi-millionaire. She would write six more books in the series, all of which were eventually turned into movies. Both books and movies were hugely successful and hit the number one spots in their respective categories in sales, breaking numerous records.

Rowling is also respected by many due to her charitable efforts. In 2007, she became the President of Gingerbread. This charity offers a variety of support to single parents. Rowling also created a charitable trust known as Volant as a means of reducing poverty. Rowling would go on to offer donations to many other charities. She has donated a whopping $160 million to charities. Rowling has won several awards and honors, including Author of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, James Joyce Award, and many others.

Work (Timeline)

The Harry Potter Series (1996-2007)

The seven-book series tells the story of an orphan named Harry Potter whose life turns from ordinary to extraordinary. Harry discovers he is a wizard and begins to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Each book follows the adventures of Harry, other wizards, and those who want to destroy them. The series sold over 400 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 67 languages.

The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them/Quidditch Through the Ages (2001)

Both books were written as a means of expanding the Harry Potter universe. Readers were given details about magical creatures and other information about the world that surrounds Harry Potter.

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