Born Joanne Rowling on July 31, 1965, the British novelist, screenwriter, and producer working under the pen names J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith, and is best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series. The seven books have won multiple awards and sold a total of 400 million copies. They have become the best-selling book series in history, and been the basis for a series of films. Rowling was a producer on the final sequels and had overall approval on the scripts. Her story of a boy wizard have earned her worldwide success, been published in 65 languages, and in 2004 made her the very first person to become a U.S.-dollar billionaire solely through writing, according to Forbes.

Her life story is one of failure and success. Rowling has said that her teenage years were unhappy and her home life was complicated by her mother’s diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and a tense relationship with her father. As a young woman, she was not accepted in Oxford University when she took the entrance exams in 1982, and went to study French and Classics at the University of Exeter. After a year of study in Paris and earning her B.A. at Exeter in 1986, she moved back London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. After working at Amnesty in London, she moved to Manchester with her boyfriend at the time, and in 1990 while she was on a four-hour-delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry “came fully formed” into her mind. In December of the same year Rowling’s mother died from complications from her multiple sclerosis, which heavily affected the young woman’s writing.

In 1991, an advertisement in The Guardian led Rowling to move to Porto, Portugal, to teach English as a foreign language. She met Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes in a bar, they married in 1992, and had their daughter, Jessica, in 1993. The couple separated in November of the same year, and in December J.K. moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, with her baby girl and three finished chapters of what would become Harry Potter, to be near Rowling’s sister.

Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as a failure. With a failed marriage, no job and a dependant child, she signed up for welfare benefits. However, she described her misfortune as liberating and allowing her to focus on writing. During that period, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and considered suicide. Instead of taking her life, she managed to use her illness as an inspiration for the characters known as Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book. Opening up about her past economic problems, Rowling’s described herself in that period of her life as “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.” In the middle of the struggle, she created the Harry Potter universe, and finished the book in 1995, submitting it to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript.

A year later she was finally given the green light, and a £1,500 advance, by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London. In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher’s Stone with an initial print run of 1,000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries; copies that today are valued between £16,000 and £25,000. In the early 1998, an auction was held in the United States for the rights to publish the novel, and was won by Scholastic Inc., for US$105,000. Since then, Rowling’s books have conquered the hearts of a legion of fans from all around the world, bringing the author from poverty to becoming a billionaire.

A devoted philanthropist, J.K. Rowling gives away much of her earnings to charitable organizations, including Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain. In 2000, the writer established the Volant Charitable Trust, which uses its annual budget of £5.1 million to combat poverty and social inequality. In 2005, she founded another charity, Lumos, which promotes an end to the institutionalisation of children worldwide. Even though she is no longer a billionaire, she still is one of the wealthiest people in the world. Best-selling living author in the United Kingdom, in October 2010 she was also named the most influential woman in Britain by leading magazine editors. In December 2017, J.K Rowling was made a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour, for her services to literature and philanthropy. She accepted the esteemed award from the Duke of Cambridge during an investiture at Buckingham Palace.

Rowling has beaten depression and poverty, changed her own life and keeps transforming those of others through literature. She is an inspiration to all women, but especially those who love art and writing.

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