After reading this story, I thought, not sharing it would be selfish! This story will not just inspire you as a writer but it will motivate you not to despise your little beginnings especially when facing the challenges of your writing career….
As creative minds and writers especially, we face a lot of challenges and fears, from book publishing to whether our work will earn us a name and a living. Joanne’s story will give your mind an uplift towards conquering these fears and challenges…
Joanne loved reading fantasy books as a little girl and even tried writing some short stories. Like a typical introvert, she had a rich imagination. Wizards, magic and sorcery formed part of her world. She thought she should be a novelist. But she came from an impoverished background. Her parents wanted her to do a vocational course—a course that would empower her to secure a real job in the real world.
“Joanne, your overactive imagination is good for amusing people but not enough to pay for a mortgage or for securing a pension, my little girl,” her parents told her. Joanne’s parents were being practical. After all, there is nothing noble about poverty. Joanne loved her fantasy world. That universe was a part of her. Leaving that world was as traumatic as separating from your loved and dear ones.
In the university, Joanne’s parents wanted her to do a “useful” course while she wanted to study English literature. Joanne did not want to upset her parents. So she agreed to pursue a degree in modern languages. However, at the last moment, she enrolled herself in a course in Classics not informing her parents about her sudden change in decision. University life was a different world altogether. A world where students were busy attending lectures, seminars and preparing for tutorials. Some worried about their careers after graduation. Some were simply partying and having fun. But Joanne was spending her time mostly in coffee bars writing stories and sometimes not even attending lectures. She was lucky to pass her exams.
In her mid-20s, she took up secretarial jobs. Then she got married and had a daughter. During lunch sessions, her writing bug did not leave her. Her employers noticed that Joanne was not paying attention to work. As a result, she lost her job numerous times. Sadly, Joanne also had a failed marriage. Her world was crashing down all around her. There seemed no hope. She was miserably alone with an exceptionally short-lived marriage, jobless, a lone parent with a daughter to look after, and as poor as it was possible to be in modern Britain, “without being homeless”. The fears that her parents nursed about her, and that she had for herself, had come true. She felt as if she was the biggest failure from any standard. Joanne even contemplated suicide. There seemed nothing to look forward to in this world for her.
However, her daughter was something that made her come down to earth. Abandoning her for escaping from this world was definitely not the right thing to do. Joanne decided to take full control of her life. Failure had taught her things that she never knew about herself. Failure made her discover her true self. It gave her an inner security which did not come from passing university examinations. Joanne realized that she had more strong will and discipline than she ever thought she had, which are also classic strengths of an introvert. Plus she had an old typewriter and a story to tell to the world. Joanne stopped believing that she could do nothing better than make a living out of a day job. She stopped suppressing her creative self which was supposedly of no use in the ‘real world’.
One day on a train journey from London to Manchester and back, Joanne created a story of a boy wizard in her mind. She thought that to be a good bedtime story for her daughter. Joanne had a pen that did not function and she was too shy to ask for one. It was years later when she got down to writing that entire story, spending most of her time in a coffee shop. The owners did not want her to spend the whole day writing in long hand while ordering only one cup of coffee. Joanne remained determined.
A few years down the line, Joanne finished her manuscript. She had written 700 pages in long hand and then manually typed it. She now had to send the manuscript to publishers. “Children’s stories have no market”, she was told straight to her face. Her manuscript was rejected one after another by twelve publishers. It was very easy to give up at that juncture. Joanne had never had any success in life. It seemed as if her life was jinxed. Yet Joanne persisted. She sent her manuscript to the 13th publisher.
After a year, her wizard story finally found a home at Bloomsbury. She was granted a miserly $1500 advance. Her publisher advised her to keep her day job, as there just wasn’t enough money in children’s literature. The first printing of her book had a run of 1,000 copies, 500 of which were sent to libraries. Today, those original 1,000 books are worth $16,000 to $25,000.
In early 1998, an auction was held in the U.S. for the rights to publish the book. Scholastic Inc. won and paid Joanne $105,000. The book was published in the U.S. The money from the U.S. sale enabled Joanne and her daughter to move into a new home. Her book attracted millions of fans from the world over, irrespective of culture or nationality, children or adult. She became the first person to become a billionaire from her books.
In 2006, Joanne released the seventh and the final book in the series that sold more than 400 million books worldwide. Her books have been translated into 65 different languages. Joanne’s patience, persistence and an unshakable belief in herself more than paid off in the end. She is now happily married and has a son and a daughter.
Now you should already know who Joanne is. Yes, you guessed right! The famous J.K. Rowling.
Her first book, a boy wizard story, was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Today, the Harry Potter brand along with its movie franchise, is worth billions of dollars.
You got it, Impossibilities are absolutely nothing!
–Chidolue J. Chinonye
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