Reading Between The Lines: Money from nothing

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J.K. Rowling is the epitome of rags to riches. Rowling was a single mother on government financial assistance before she rose to fame with her Harry Potter series.

Everyone loves a great rags-toriches story, and it’s even better when the authors themselves become the subjects of one. Being a writer is a craft almost consistently carrying a tradition of poverty and duress along its side, authors suffering tremendously with their health, social or financial lives to bring us the beauty they imparted on paper. These authors, however, overcame the odds to the point of making us thankful to the universe for somehow allowing us access to their thoughts despite all their roadblocks.

Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad is one of the most celebrated authors in the history of English literature. Heart of Darkness – based on his travels as a merchant sailor deep into the heart of Africa – continues to be championed as one of the most stark, revealing write-ups on the darkest sides of human nature. And yet, English wasn’t even Conrad’s, born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, first language to begin with. A sailor with a scholarly family, Conrad travelled the seas with the French and British, learning English along the way, experiencing near-death and love-sickness. He finally retired at 36 to publish his works that slowly but surely gained foothold within the world of contemporary English literature.

Supertramp (W. H. Davies)

Yes, the very basis for your favourite band was, in fact, a Super Tramp himself, so to speak, since W. H. Davies was a wandering tramp, a hobo first. Out of school, destined to become an iron wrought worker, Davies instead opted to travel and write about his experiences. By pure luck did a copy of his manuscript, The Soul’s Destroyer, land on the lap of Daily Mail journalist Arthur Adcock, whose publication of it thrust Davies into the spotlight.

J.K. Rowling

Most are aware that Rowling had financial difficulties early on writing the Harry Potter series, but the extent is where most people lose touch. Her admission of having used government financial assistance is putting lightly the destitution she faced, living as a single mother, hammering away on an old typewriter in a one-room apartment, right next to her only daughter. Of course, once book agent Christopher Little picked up the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and accepted it, the first to do so after twelve rejections, literary history was made. But the odds young Rowling faced are inspiring in itself.