J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Speech Is Being Turned Into a Picture Book

Sure, it's about failure. But like Harry Potter's broomstick, it's really uplifting.

Everything that Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling writes seems to have a little bit of magic in it.

The best-selling author, who has transcended her craft from fantasy novels about young wizards-in-training to adult-themed books like The Casual Vacancy, and a new mystery series based on a true crime detective, has another piece of literature in the works—but this one won’t require much writing, since she’s already penned it.

This week, Harvard University announced that Rowling’s commencement speech to graduating students at the university, which was delivered in 2008, will be turned into an illustrated book, complete with the text of her words of wisdom to the class.

Called Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, the book will be published by Little, Brown, and Company. Portions of the proceeds from the book’s sales will go toward funding university-wide financial aid at Harvard, and to an organization founded by Rowling that helps disadvantaged children, called Lumos.

Harvard University president Drew Faust said of the many commencement speeches she has heard over the years, none have been more “moving” or “memorable” than Rowling’s, which might explain why it will make the perfect book to offer reader’s inspiration on a daily basis.

“Years after her visit to Harvard, people still talk about it—and still find inspiration in her singular evocation of the idea that living a meaningful life so often means daring to risk failure,” said Faust. “What a powerful example she embodies, and what a remarkable gift her speech was, and is, for all of us privileged to hear it then—and to read it now.”

Below is an excerpt of Rowling’s speech at Harvard’s 2008 graduation ceremony, which Little, Brown, and Company said touches upon “life’s most important issues with acuity and emotional force.” The full speech can be read on the school’s website:

…We all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.