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Author Chat with Jeff Kinney
Transcript of Live Chat
August 19, 2008
Jeff Kinney Hi everyone! Thanks so much for coming to this chat!
Summer Reading Welcome to today's chat with the author Jeff Kinney. Jeff worked on Diary of a Wimpy Kid for 6 years and published it online at Funbrain.com. Over 50 million visitors have read the online version and the site is usually read by more than 100,000 kids per day. After Diary of a Wimpy Kid was published in April 2007 it became a #1 New York Times bestseller. His next book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules also reached #1 on The New York Times bestseller list in 2008. Welcome, Jeff.
Jeff Kinney Thank you! And I'm ready to take questions!
wimpykidfan yo dawg
Jeff Kinney Hi wimpykidfan :)
wimpykidfan sorry about that, my little brother
Jeff Kinney While I'm waiting for questions, I wanted to tell you that the third book in the Wimpy Kid series will be out on January 13th of next year....
Jeff Kinney Hi Naty!
Jeff Kinney Also, we've created a "Do-It-Yourself" book.... kind of like a Diary of a
Wimpy Kid activity book... and that will be out in the fall.
Margaret How did you get the idea for writing Diary of a Wimpy Kid?
Jeff Kinney I had always wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist, but I couldn't break in. I kept a journal during the years I was trying to become a cartoonist. When I looked at my journal, I said, "hey, that seems like a good format for a book!"
wimpykidfan when did you start drawing?
Jeff Kinney I strated drawing when I was young... I've been drawing for as long as I can remember!
Jeff Kinney My first decent drawing was of a turtle :) I don't consider myself to be a good artist... that's why I've stuck with stick figures.
wimpykidfan do you like my name?
Jeff Kinney Yes, were you born with it?
Margaret When you first thought of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, did you do the pictures first or the story first?
Jeff Kinney I thought of the jokes first, and then I created the pictures. There's not too much "story" to Diary of a Wimpy Kid... just a bunch of jokes strung together into a narrative.
wimpykidfan when did you draw the turtle?
Jeff Kinney When I was three!
Margaret How many Wimpy kids books will you write?
Jeff Kinney I plan to write at least five, and hopefully, I'll want to continue and write seven!
wimpykidfan do you play any instruments?
Jeff Kinney I play piano, but very, very poorly. I never could master any instrument... I'd hit a wall, and I couldn't go any further.
Naty what genre is this book?
Jeff Kinney Humor, hopefully. But if you don't think it's funny, then Tragedy.
wimpykidfan how did you get the idea for fregley?
Jeff Kinney I think that everyone knows a kid who is a little bit like Fregley.
Margaret Are you working on another book?
Jeff Kinney Yes, I'm writing book 3 now. It's written, but I need to do all of the illustrations.
wimpykidfan are you an only child?
Jeff Kinney No, like Greg, I have two brothers... but I also have a sister.
wimpykidfan what do you think is the funniest joke/moment/page in your books?
Jeff Kinney I think maybe the Fregley booger-on-paper joke... although I wrote it almost 15 years ago, so I don't know whether it's funny any more :)
Margaret Is Greg in the book like someone you know?
Jeff Kinney I think he's got bits and pieces of me in him, but he really just represents the selfish side of all of us.
wimpykidfan is one older and one younger, like greg?
Jeff Kinney Yes!
doglover what are you working on currently?
Jeff Kinney I'm working on book 3... I'm getting ready to spend about a month on the illustrations.
wimpykidfan on a rating of 1-10 how funny do you think the stelthinator bit is?
Jeff Kinney Good question... I'd say, maybe a seven?
Jeff Kinney How about you?
wimpykidfan i liked it
doglover Do you do a rough draft of the illustrations first?
Jeff Kinney Yes, I do a very crude first draft of the illustrations.
Koldshot On your website, it says that you make computer games. What kinds of games have you done?
Jeff Kinney I did most of the games for Funbrain.com, and I created Poptropica.com. Although for Poptropica.com, we have a staff of designers and programmers, so a lot of credit goes to them!
Koldshot Do you have kids? Do they like your books?
Jeff Kinney I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old... not quite old enough to read yet!
doglover Do you think that Diary of a Wimpy Kid will be a movie? If so, who would star in it?
Jeff Kinney Yes! It will be made by Fox. I'm not sure who will star in it yet!
Koldshot Do you put your kids in your books?
Jeff Kinney Not yet, although they're starting to do things that might qualify. Just the other day, my three-year-old tried to go to the bathroom in a toilet in the plumbing department of a hardware store.
Margaret Do you write other comics?
Jeff Kinney None successfully!
doglover That is so cool about the movie! Do you know when?
Jeff Kinney I don't yet know when it will come out!
wimpykidfan does a computer make the lines smoother after you draw them?
Jeff Kinney Well, sort of.... I draw everything by hand on a tablet computer, and most of what you see is what comes out of my hand. But the computer smoothes things ever-so-slightly.
doglover what was your favorite book growing up?
Jeff Kinney Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume.
Margaret Do you keep a diary? I started one and then forgot to keep writing in it.
Jeff Kinney I did, but not until I was in my 20's. I kept it up for about three years.
wimpykidfan how did you start making computer games?
Jeff Kinney I learned how to use Flash about eight years ago.
wimpykidfan how are you going to transfer the slouchy, meek-looking greg into the movies?
Jeff Kinney Hopefully, we can find a kid who has bad posture :)
wimpykidfan do you live in new york city?
Jeff Kinney No, I live in Massachusetts.
doglover Are you going to be in the New York City area any time soon for a book signing?
Jeff Kinney I come through every so often... I'll post it on my website if we're going to have another signing there. I've been to Books of Wonder three times!
doglover I love your website. Do you do it all yourself?
Jeff Kinney Thanks! Yes, I did that all by myself :)
dn How did you come up with such a great idea?
Jeff Kinney First, thanks! I came up with the idea after doing a journal of my own in my 20's. It gave me the idea for the format.
wimpykidfan i have a signed copy of the first wimpy kid =)
Jeff Kinney Awesome! Did you get it from me, personally?
wimpykidfan yes, i got it from you, but i wont say my name... heh....
Jeff Kinney :)
wimpykidfan tell us about the DIY
Jeff Kinney Sure. It's a hard book to describe. Half fill-in-the-blanks and create-your-own kind of pages, followed by 16 pages of full-color comics, followed by half a books' worth of blank journal pages, where you can tell your own story, like Greg.
Jeff Kinney I have no idea how people will receive it... I hope people think the first section is funny. I was trying to create a "My Book About Me" for an older set.
LibrarianJess Hello from the St. George Library, Jeff! Did you dig up childhood memories for inspiration for your book?
Jeff Kinney Hi St. George Library - yes, a lot of the inspiration form the book came from things that happened to me throughout my life.
dn how did you come up with the characters?
Jeff Kinney Good question! Some of the characters come from bits and pieces of people I've met, and some are completely fabricated.
kevind was it hard to make diary of a wimpy kid
Jeff Kinney Yes! Very hard. Writing is very challenging for me!
Koldshot Was middle school the same when you were a kid?
Jeff Kinney Middle school was no fun for me. I think it's just a tough time for everyone.
kevind will there be a wimpy kid 3?
Jeff Kinney Yes! January 13th!
doglover What does your mother think of your books?
Jeff Kinney I think she's proud of me... wait, is this my mom?
doglover When the move comes out, do you think that there will be Wimpy Kid backpacks? What other "products" would you like to see produced?
Jeff Kinney I'd like to do some merchandise, but I'd like to keep it limited, so everything is of good quality. Backpacks might be a good idea!
dn Does this remind you of your childhood
Jeff Kinney Yes and no... but there are bits and pieces of my childhood in the books!
Koldshot Do you like doing books better or online comics?
Jeff Kinney Books, for sure! But it's been great to be online!
wimpykidfan i stayed here the entire time, you know
Jeff Kinney Yes, very nice of you :)
amya Your books are so popular! Did you always want to write books for kids?
Jeff Kinney No... actually, I wrote Diary of a Wimpy Kid for adults!!
Kevind how did you come up with diary of a wimpy kid?
Jeff Kinney I started writing it after I created a journal of my own!
Koldshot I'd like to see Wimpy Kid cards with a joke on each one.
Jeff Kinney Great idea!
amya Did you like to read when you were younger? Any favorite authors or books?
Jeff Kinney I did! I liked Judy Blume, and when I got older, I liked fantasy books. Kids today have a lot more to choose from.
LibrarianJess Do you have any favorite parts of your books? I know I do!
Jeff Kinney I like the play sequence!
amya How long does it take for you to finish a book?
Jeff Kinney About a year, end to end.
Koldshot It took you a long time to write the first Wimpy Kid book. Does it get easier and faster?
Jeff Kinney It doesn't! For a book, I have to write about 600 jokes, and then throw away more than half. Takes a long time!
Margaret I don't think that I could even think of that many jokes!!!
Margaret What do you think you will write about after the Wimpy Kid books are done?
Jeff Kinney I'd like to write a book for graduates... kind of like a guide-to-life thing.
Koldshot What's your favorite computer game?
Jeff Kinney I like the Mario Kart games!
LibrarianJess Do you have other books planned (aside from more of Greg's journals)?
Jeff Kinney None officially planned yet!
wimpykidfan me too!
amya What else do you like to do in your spare time?
Jeff Kinney These days, I don't have any spare time! But I do like spending time with my kids!
Koldshot Will you make a Wimpy Kid computer game?
Jeff Kinney I think so, yes!
doglover If you write a guide to life, what would your top three "pointers" be?
Jeff Kinney Not sure... haven't thought of any yet :)
dn do you sometimes read the books you wrote?
Jeff Kinney It's very hard for me to read what I've written. Painful, actually. I doubt I'll ever read any of my own books again :)
LibrarianJess Have your kids read your books?
Jeff Kinney Not yet... they're too young!
Koldshot I like the Simpsons Guide to Life book. It's really funny.
Jeff Kinney Oh, didn't even know they had one!
dn whats your favorite song
Jeff Kinney Brownville Girl, by Bob Dylan.
Koldshot What would happen in the game?
Jeff Kinney I'm not sure! But I think it would involve Rowley and a Big Wheel.
wimpykidfan do you like the pbs tv show arthur?
Jeff Kinney I think it's pretty good. I sat next to Marc Brown, the creator, at a book signing!
LibrarianJess Do you hand write your work, use a computer, crayons, etc.?
Jeff Kinney I used a tablet computer!
bryan did you have trouble finding an illustrator
Jeff Kinney I'm the illustrator, so no :)
kevind what is you favorite movie?
Jeff Kinney Braveheart.
LibrarianJess Me too! Go Scotland!
doglover What did you major in college? Did you get good grades?
Jeff Kinney I majored in computer science, got bad grades, then switched to criminal justice, and got good grades.
Koldshot Wow, were you going to be a policeman?
Jeff Kinney No, but I thought about becoming a federal agent.
adamadam Were you a wimpy kid growing up?
Jeff Kinney Yes, at times!
bryan when were you born
Jeff Kinney In 1971.
dn would you keep on writing diary of the of the wimpy kid?
Jeff Kinney I'll keep writing as long as the jokes are funny!
doglover You seem to like black and white. Do you like any colors?
Jeff Kinney Well, the Do-It-Yourself book will have sixteen color pages!
LibrarianJess I made a typo and one of the kids in the Children's Room made fun of me :( Do you ever have help coming up with jokes?
Jeff Kinney I don't, really, but my younger brother spent a lot of time with me on the phone recalling funny things that happened to us as kids!
Koldshot Are tablet computers hard to use? Do you think my mom would get me one?
Jeff Kinney No, they're easy to use. And they're not too expensive, either! Not much more expensive than regular laptops, I should say.
dn i know jess from the St.George library, right now we are both talking to you
bryan did you ever hear a song from arole smith
Jeff Kinney Yes... AeroSmith, right? :)
riyaaz How did you get the idea of writing about a wimpy kid?
Jeff Kinney I thought it would be fun to write a story about a weakling who is in middle school.
LibrarianJess Any fun plans for the rest of the summer?
Jeff Kinney Nope! Just draw draw draw, and then I move.
doglover who do you want for the next president of the United States?
Jeff Kinney Hmm... I think it's best to keep that one to myself :)
kevind i hope you have success with your book Mr.Jeff
Jeff Kinney Thank you Mr. Kevin!
dn sorry jessica
wimpykidfan did you hear a song from nirvana?
Jeff Kinney Yes, but they're a bit too gloomy for me. I like stuff that's more upbeat.
riyaaz Do you ever suffer from writer's block?
Jeff Kinney I ONLY suffer from writer's block. The ideas never flow for me.
LibrarianJess Do you think you'll ever write a book where Greg is an adult? That'd be fun!
Jeff Kinney I don't think so... sorry! But I like writing about the problems kids face... adult worries don't interest me as much.
DillionK how do you unblock yourself?
Jeff Kinney I sit and I sit and I sit and I sit. If I'm lucky, I can come up with one joke every hour and a half.
tonmoy what is your favorite sandwich
Jeff Kinney Peanut butter and jelly!
DillionK what about a girl character?
Jeff Kinney Remember that everything is seen through Greg's eyes... and he doesn't encounter too many girls. But in Book 3, he falls for a girl named Holly Hills.
tonmoy where were you born?
Jeff Kinney In Maryland.
riyaaz Is there a wimpy kid in your life who has inspired you?
Jeff Kinney I guess you could say I inspired myself!
LibrarianJess But some adults are just kids in disguise :(
Jeff Kinney Very true. I'm one myself!
Margaret Do you get lots of letters from kids?
Jeff Kinney I do, but I had to stop receiving them. It got to be more than I could handle!
wimpykidfan what kind of computer are you on rite now?
Jeff Kinney A Dell laptop.
DillionK did you like to read growing up?
Jeff Kinney I did! I liked Judy Blume, and fantasy novels.
wimpykidfan whats your fave music genre
Jeff Kinney I don't have a favorite genre, but I like Bob Dylan!
tonmoy what is your favorite story?
Jeff Kinney Growing up, it was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
Margaret Do you try out your jokes with friends before you put them in your books?
Jeff Kinney I sometimes call up my brothers and sisters to see if they think my jokes work.
then it must have been pretty hateful to be a wimpy kid
I made it through in one piece :)
what's your favorite hobby
I don't have time for hobbies these days, unfortunately! I think my hobby is writing!
Do you have any pets?
Not now, but we grew up with dogs.
do you think you'll ever team up with another author on any future projects? Or do you like to work alone?
I don't think so... I do like to work alone!
Did you dream of being a writer when you were younger?
No, but I dreamed of being a cartoonist! I never set out to be an author... it happened on accident.
what's the worst job you ever had?
I was the "Pool Boy" one summer. I cleaned up ice cream spills and throw-up.
What was the accident that made you a writer?
Well, I really had wanted my work to be published in comic strips, but the only way I could get anyone to read my work was to put it in book form.
Where you popular in school?
Somewhere in the middle, I think :)
What are you working on now?
The illustrations for book 3! Should be done in a month.
Thanks for joining our chat today with
, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. You were great Jeff.