Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.
When the first few books of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series came out, I didn’t read them. My brother wanted me to, but I wasn’t into witches and wizards at eight years old, so I shrugged off the new mania for a few years. When the first movie came out, my brother wanted to see it, and talked me into watching it with him. Remind me to thank him profusely for it one day, because I saw the movie and demanded to borrow his copies of the first four books (the only ones out at the time). As the series finished, my love for the story continued to grow. In the end, each character’s death made me cry even in the middle of a calmer scene—and I never cry when reading—but I kept going to see if Harry would survive.
Since Murasaki Shikibu wrote the world’s first novel, we’ve seen awesome books throughout history. Authors like Dr. Seuss, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, and JRR Tolkien gave us wonderful reads within the last few centuries alone. So what is it about Rowling that makes her another giant in literature? Why do so many people admire her? What is it about her writing that gives us so much joy?
Well, it helps that Rowling herself is a wonderful person. An example of this is the story of a little girl named Natalie McDonald. In July 1999, a friend of the girl’s mother wrote to Rowling, explaining that Natalie had leukemia and wouldn’t live long enough to finish reading the series. The friend asked Rowling if she would write back to Natalie, telling her what would happen to her favorite characters. Rowling didn’t get the letter until after a long holiday, and though she worried Natalie wouldn’t hear back in time, she still wrote to her, telling her how the rest of the series would progress. Unfortunately, Natalie died before she could read Rowling’s email. Eventually, Goblet of Fire included a first year Gryffindor named Natalie McDonald, the only character in the series based on a real person (for more on this story, refer to here: http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/1100-macleans-bethune.html).
As great a person as she is, Rowling is equally admirable as a writer. It’d be cliché to say that Harry Potter got kids into reading, but it’s true. Before getting published, Rowling submitted Philosopher’s Stone to twelve publishing companies, all of whom rejected it. When she submitted to Bloomsbury Publishing, the chairman gave the first chapter to his daughter to test it. She read it and immediately begged for another chapter (for more details on that story, click here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=10333960). Since then, thousands of others came to love Harry Potter just as much. There are even people I know who don’t read a lot and acknowledge Rowling’s series as a favorite.
But what is it about Harry Potter in particular that made Rowling famous? Part of it comes from Rowling’s imagination. She believed in the world of Harry Potter and its characters so much—and arguably continues to do so—that it didn’t take long for us to catch on. That’s the key to critical success as an author: she spent time with her characters, getting to know them. Rowling also gave us more than just an entertaining story. Books like Twilight and Fifty Shades prove that anyone can write a popular bestseller. But we’ll remember Harry Potter years later because Rowling was an author with exceptional perseverance, creativity, and wisdom.
On a personal level, I hope I’m not the only one to say that Rowling’s work made me want to be an author. She showed me the power of knowledge and imagination, and how to apply them to real life. She never gave us more than we could handle, but at the same time she challenged us to learn and grow alongside her characters. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good a teacher or writer as she is, but I hope that my future books will be worthy enough for me to say that someone as awesome as JK Rowling inspired them. She taught so much, she gave so much, and she continues to do so. And we love her work as much as we love her.
Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “Happy Birthday, Ms. Rowling”
Photo source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/books/review/j-k-rowling-by-the-book.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0