As the oldest of four boys, growing up amid the open spaces of Iowa, I was used to having more than my share of freedoms. Walking to school, fishing alone at night on a nearby river, and patrolling the neighborhood on my trusty Schwinn bike were all activities that I took for granted. So was watching television. My brothers and I never abused the TV privilege but we certainly enjoyed catching a college football or basketball game. My parents, who were both big readers, weren't fans of TV, and tried to limit our viewing opportunities.
Show me a voracious reader and I will show you someone who I daresay had a lonely, miserable and isolated childhood -- at least, I did.
As a child, I read to escape, to find friends, to travel to distant parts of the world, and to try to make sense of a world that I found pretty baffling. I was the type of girl who read cereal boxes, the tags on mattress covers, and the comics in Hubba Bubba gum.
I learned to read when I was four years old and books have been a very important part of my life ever since. There were plenty of them around. My parents bought many books - cheap editions of classics available in regular bookstores, pre-war editions of books one could only get at second-hand bookstores and flea markets. There were libraries, too, but more popular titles were hard to get and there were no holds, unless a librarian took pity on me and helped me secure what I craved.
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I just came across this early interview with J.K. Rowling (probably from late 1998 or early 1999). She's sitting in the now famous Edinburgh House cafe in Edinburgh where she wrote the early Harry Potter books. She looks, frankly, exhausted, but hugely excited to have sold 30,000 copies of her first two books - especially as her agent told her, "there's not much money in children's books." She goes on to say that she's always wanted to write but "my realistic side had not allowed me to dream about half of what has happened to me," - this in reference to her agent selling the first two Harry Potter books to eight countries so, as she says with huge excitement, "it will be translated in France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy and Finland ... I love the idea of saying I'm big in Finland!"