Insights from a Wimpy Kid

Good Evening!  My 11 yr old and I just returned from from a trip to the Sydney Opera House to hear Jeff Kinney, the author of the comic/novel series Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Jeff was a surprisingly warm, engaging and funny speaker.

He began with the story of how he wanted to be a cartoonist from a young age but finally realised that he couldn’t draw well enough.  In his words, he decided “maybe I should act like I’m drawing like an 11 year old on purpose!” and thus the idea of Diary of a Wimpy Kid was born.

His is an interesting story of knowing where you want to get to in life but taking a slightly unexpected path to get there. First, he wanted to be a pure cartoonist, and when he realised that way was unlikely to work out, he thought about combining the words of a 11 year old with his 11 year old style cartoons.  Next, he thought his book would be for adults, reminding adults of what it was like to be a kid, and was initially dismayed when it was suggested that it would be more suitable to a younger audience.

Jeff is one tenacious guy.  When he decided to write his book, he spent 4 years sketching out ideas in a notebook, and then another 4 years on his first draft.  8 years in preparation!  This guy deserves his success.  On the plus side, having published 6 books, he is still working through the ideas he sketched out many years ago.

Jeff appears to remember his childhood in uncanny detail and obviously draws (literally!) from it in his books.  One of the questions from kids in the audience tonight was “How do you know so much about what kids are like?” and his answer was essentially that he remembers it.  He loves how kids create their own myths, describing a piece of cheese he recalls left on a playground when he was at school and how no-one would go near it or move it, as if it was cursed.  This cheese went on to become the first scene he ever wrote/drew for Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Tonight’s last note for the audience was the answer to a question around the best thing about being an author: “proof that I created something”.  Perfect.

And for anyone with young fans out there, he is working on his next book – it’s about Valentines Day, based around Greg trying to get a date for the high school dance.

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