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Joanne Kathleen Rowling (pronounced rolling) was born on July 31st, 1965 in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, England. Her sister, Di, was born a little under 2 years later. Rowling can remember telling stories from early on and writing down her first story when she was 5 or 6 years old - about a rabbit called Rabbit who got the measles and was visited by friends including a giant bee called Miss Bee.

She moved house twice while growing up. The first was from Yate, just outside Bristol, to Winterbourne - also close to Bristol. In Winterbourne she was friends with a brother and sister whose surname was Potter. She says she always liked the name, and preferred it to her own because the children always made annoying jokes about rolling pins!

Her family moved again when she was nine years old - to Tutshill near Chepstow in the Forest of Dean. After attending Tutshill Primary School she went to Wyedean Comprehensive. She describes herself as having been quite, freckly, short-sighted and rubbish at sports. Her favorite subject was English followed by languages. She used to tell stories to her friends - usually involving them all doing heroic and daring deeds that they wouldn't dare to do in real life.

She went to Exeter University straight after school and studied French, having been encouraged by her parents who said that this could lead to a great career as a bilingual secretary. On graduating from Exeter she spent a few years as 'the worst secretary ever'.

In 1990, at the age of 26, she moved to Portugal to teach English. She says that she loved teaching English. She taught in the afternoons and evenings, leaving the mornings free for writing. At this time she was starting work on her third novel (the first two having been abandoned as being 'very bad'). The new book was about a boy who found out he was a wizard and was sent off to wizard school.

While in Portugal she met and married a Portuguese journalist. Their daughter, Jessica, was born in 1993. After her marriage ended in divorce, Rowling and her daughter moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be close to her younger sister, Di. Rowling set herself a deadline - to finish the Harry novel before starting work as a French teacher - and, of course, to try and get it published. She wrote at a café table while Jessica was napping.

The Scottish Arts Council gave her a grant to finish the book and, after a number of rejections, she eventually sold Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone for the equivalent of about USA $4,000 to Bloomsbury (UK).

By this time Rowling was working as a French teacher (being serenaded down the corridors with the first line of the theme from Rawhide "Rolling, rolling, rolling, keep those wagons rolling...')

A few months later Arthur A Levine Books/Scholastic Press bought the American rights for enough money that she was able to give up teaching.

The book was published in the UK by Bloomsbury Children's Books in June 1997 (at the time of writing 1st editions of this book are on the market for upwards of 12,000 UK pounds/ USA $20,000!). Thereafter the accolades began to pile up. Harry Potter won The British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year, and the Smarties Prize.

Renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the book was published in the USA in September 1998 by Arthur A Levine Books/Scholastic Press.

The sequel, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets was published in the UK in July 1998 and in the USA in June 1999. The third book Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban was published in the UK in July 1999 and in the USA in September 1999.

In 1999 Rowling became an international literary sensation when the first three installments of the Harry Potter series took over the top 3 slots in the New York Times bestsellers list - after achieving similar success in the UK.

By Summer 2000, the first three books had sold over 35 million copies in 35 languages and earned approximately $480 million.

In July 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had a first printing of 5.3 million copies with advance orders of over 1.8 million.

Rowling plans seven books in the series with each one chronicling a year in the life of Harry Potter at the Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Filming of the movie version of The Sorcerer's Stone is planned to start in late 2000. It will be directed by Chris Columbus who also directed Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire.

Rowling says she wrote Harry Potter when "I was very low, and I had to achieve something. Without the challenge, I would have gone stark raving mad."

The Harry Potter series has sparked new enthusiasm amongst children for books. Having said that, Rowling's books are not free from criticism - some Christian fundamentalists, express concern that the books promote and encourage satanic practices. On the other hand, other Christians applaud the books for the themes of courage, loyalty, justice, honesty and fairness that they portray and compare them to books such as The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.

In July 2000 The New York Times introduced a bestsellers list for children's books - in recognition of the new interest in children's literature engendered by J.K. Rowling's books