Fangirl Fridays – J.K. Rowling

Fangirl Fridays are an opportunity for us Saucy Wenches to gush over people or characters that we love, admire, put on pedestals and/or who have made a profound impact on us. I would like to share with you why J.K. Rowling is someone who embodies these characteristics for me.

I still remember the day when I was in a children's toy store and saw Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on a shelf. My son was about seven years old and had no interest in reading. As a parent and a book lover, I was always on the lookout for reading material that would engage him and help him develop a love of reading. By that point, I didn't care if it was comics, Captain Underpants or cereal boxes. I picked up Harry Potter and brought him home. I think it's safe to say that Harry became part of our family.

Join me after the jump as I gush over what J.K. Rowling has meant to my family, to her readers, and to those who might not even know about her.

My son really enjoyed being read to, but he would never pick up a book on his own. His father and I had spent many hours reading to him from about the time he was two years old. I remember reading C.S. Lewis's Narnia series to him at bedtime. Those chapters are bloody long, and I would be almost hoarse by the time I was finished! He had quite an active imagination and enjoyed those stories immensely, but still — no interest in reading by himself.

I started reading Harry Potter aloud that night, and he was immediately captivated (as was I). Here was a story about a boy that wasn't all sunshine and happiness; there was a darkness to it that was very intriguing. The seven Harry Potter books are about magic, mystery, good versus evil, a boy who survived a tragedy and is frequently persecuted and misunderstood, a villain so terrifying people are afraid to speak his name, and bravery.

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

One of the most important lessons of the Harry Potter series is showing readers what true bravery is. Bravery is being scared to do something and doing it anyway. Bravery is being willing to sacrifice everything for the safety of your loved ones. Bravery is having the courage to do what is right, even if others will hate you for it. In addition to helping my children develop a love of reading, J.K. Rowling taught this and many other life lessons to them and countless other children and adults around the world.


Joanne ("Jo") Rowling was born in England in July 1965, just one month after me. I don't know why I think that's special. I guess I sometimes think about the different paths our lives have taken and all the things she has overcome and accomplished. As I look at the timeline on her biography, I remember back to what I was doing at the same time. When she began writing the first Harry Potter novel, I was just celebrating my engagement. When I was banging my head against the wall raising a toddler who wanted to watch Barney videos all the time, she became a mother for the first time. When she was struggling with the end of a marriage and being a single mom, my daughter was born. I think it was incredibly brave of her to continue writing her novel while she was undergoing such a traumatic and uncertain time in her life.


Her first novel was published in 1997 and was an immediate success. She continued writing and quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. Her books have enjoyed critical acclaim and are beloved by millions of fans. In just the U.S. there are more than 120 million copies of Harry Potter books in print. Over 450 million Harry Potter books have been sold worldwide. Harry Potter books are available in 73 languages. That's just the books. The books have been made into very successful movies, and there is a Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, Florida.

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”

The final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released in July 2007. My family and I were on a cross-Canada road trip that summer, and when that book came out we were in Newfoundland. At midnight on release day, my husband and I were at a local bookstore waiting in a lineup to pick up the book. I still have the replica wand, and it is a very special keepsake. I stayed up all night reading it, so that my son could have it as soon as he woke up (and I wouldn't have to hand it over without knowing how it ended — LOL). By the time we were back home, both my son and daughter had finished it. We spent quite a bit of time on the drive talking about our favorite parts. It was an amazing end to an amazing series.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.”


Thanks to her amazing talent and incredible work ethic, J.K. Rowling has become an extremely wealthy woman. Before she became a successful writer, she worked for Amnesty International, researching human rights abuses in francophone Africa. She, who was once a single mother living on government benefits, became an ambassador and then president of the Gingerbread charity, which supports single parents and their children. After learning that children were sleeping in caged beds in institutions in the Czech Republic, she co-founded the Children's High Level Group (CHLG), which later became the Lumos Foundation. Lumos works to end the systematic institutionalization of children and help them find safer, more caring places to live. She is also active in the fight to find a cure for and help those suffering from multiple sclerosis, first through the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Scotland, and later through the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic. The clinic is named for her mother, who died from the illness at the age of 45. Her own charitable trust, Volant, offers assistance to projects that are related to alleviating social deprivation, with an emphasis on women's and children's issues. She is also a supporter of Comic Relief, Doctors Without Borders and the Maggie's Centres for Cancer Care.


“We're all human, aren't we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”

One of the things I admire about her is her belief in giving back to the community. Her appreciation for the government sustaining her while she was a single mom writing her first novel is reflected in her willingness to pay her share of taxes without looking for ways to evade them.

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”


J.K. Rowling had an enormous challenge ahead of her. Her beloved series was finished. What could she do for an encore? She definitely had her fans, but she also had her critics. Those in the public eye often do. For some reason, some people take delight in tearing others down. In September 2012 she released a new novel, The Casual Vacancy. Unlike her earlier work, this was a book for adults. I was quick to pick up a copy and reviewed it here. I also read reviews from critics, and some were less than favorable. In my opinion, some were unnecessarily harsh. Just like some of her characters, Ms. Rowling was subjected to nasty and petty comments.

Six months later she released The Cuckoo's Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. I can see why she did it this way. J.K. Rowling had some big shoes to fill (her own), but Robert Galbraith had no huge expectations to meet. The Cuckoo's Calling received some very favorable reviews, but very little press. It might have remained that way, but a sharp-eyed reader noticed some similarities between J.K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith. A direct question to someone in the know confirmed the suspicion — that Robert Galbraith was indeed J.K. Rowling. She has said she was disappointed the news came out only a few months after the book was published. She wanted The Cuckoo's Calling to be judged on its own merits, without any prejudgments from fans or critics. In this way, she would receive honest feedback. The result of the information getting out is, unsurprisingly, The Cuckoo's Calling shot to the top of the best sellers charts. She is planning more books about the private-eye protagonist, Cormoran Strike, and the sequel is already finished. It is expected to be released in 2014.

I can't adequately express my feelings and admiration for J.K. Rowling. I'm just a lowly fan, not a critic, not an English major — not qualified in any way to offer any expert review of her or her work. But the Harry Potter series has motivated both of my children to become active, engaged readers. These books have been read so many times in my house, they are falling apart. Most of them have the spines separating from the covers. I think this is the best compliment I can give Ms. Rowling. These books are so loved, we are wearing them out. Here is a picture of them on the bookshelf in my daughter's room:

Thank you, J.K. You have made a tremendous impact on my family. That's everything to me.

We know J.K. Rowling has brought many people to reading, has brought many families together, and doesn't take her success for granted. What has the Harry Potter series meant to you? Are you reading her newest works? Do you fangirl over J.K., too? Tell us in the comments below.


  1. Donna, fabulous post! this series was the only one my daughter agreed to read, and that led to more reading. J.K Rowling is fantastic.

  2. Yes, I am a fangirl. I think J.K Rowling will always be one of my favourite authors. Her books made me love reading and gave me a place to escape, when I needed it the most. Around the time I discovered Harry Potter books my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Those books helped me through a very difficult time in my life and for that I will always be grateful. July 2007 when the last book was published, at that same day I happened to be in an international airport and there it was... the last book. Of course I bought it and read it during my vacation in Italy. Literally best vacation ever! Might have missed some magical Italian mountain roads, but it was so worth it.

    I can also say that I grew up with those books, when the last book was published. I just had graduated high school and then went to university in September.

    I can honestly say that my books are not in much better shape :) I have read them too many times to count and there are parts that get me to cry every single time.

    I do plan to read her new books, in fact I have The Casual Vacancy on next to read list.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story T. I think I'll always have a special place in my heart for Harry Potter. I hope you enjoy The Casual Vacancy.


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