105 Ways to Give a Book

The Untold Jeff Kinney Story

With the Diary of a Wimpy Kid author having a big profile article in The Washington Post Style section, I feel it’s now time to tell my Jeff Kinney story. Here’s what I wrote when I met him at the American Library Association conference in June 2007:
I was able to get to the signings of Avi, Gregory MacGuire, Jack Prelutsky, Nancy Perl, Eric Kimmel, Laura Schlitz, and Jeff Kinney. The only one I really had to wait for was Jack Prelutsky, and he was very friendly and funny about signing the book “You’re a winner!” for the 48 HBC. Other notables were Avi, who was a little bit cranky about doing the same thing, and Jeff Kinney of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, who was very sweet and gracious. I may be biased though, in that at least he knew my blog. I bought his book for my daughter, but he’s committed to a donation for next year’s contest and I will remember that.
First let me note that I didn’t remember that after all. But there’s more to the Jeff Kinney story that I never told, because at the time it sounded so sad. Now it’s kinda funny.

It’s June 2007 and I’ve been trudging through the exhibition hall looking at the publisher displays, picking up ARCs, and getting a few books signed. It’s terribly fun, but also exhausting. I claim a place along the wall to sit for minute and sort out my plunder. Directly in front of me is a nice-looking man, with a huge stack of books and not one autograph seeker. I recognize the book because Fuse#8 raved about it, and I paid attention since we often have the same taste. At this point, I don’t need more to carry home, but I feel so bad for the poor guy sitting there, that I go up anyway to buy a book for my daughter. Jeff Kinney has been sitting there long enough to draw a decent little doodle in the book he signs for me. We talk about Fuse#8’s review, blogging, and the 48 Hour Book Challenge. He says he reads my blog, which I’m not sure I believe, but I give him niceness credits for saying so in any case. I could have probably used that to get a free book, but it doesn’t seem right to even try. And he’s just so nice. I wish him luck on his book, gather my belongings, and continue on my way. I see him again as I finish that side of the exhibit hall still with no one in line. Poor guy.

So now here he is, on his third book with more than 11 million “Wimpy Kid” books in print. The movie — a freakin’ movie — is getting together. And less than two years ago, I could have pulled up a chair and chatted with him at his empty book-signing table for the better part of an hour.

I could share this story now as a way to highlight the success of a nice, deserving guy. I could share this story as a way to remind other children’s authors that their break could be just around the corner. But I’m sharing this story to make sure that Jeff Kinney doesn’t renege on his offer to contribute an original illustration for the year’s 48 Hour Book Challenge. Or at least give me my ten bucks back.

14 comments:

Saints and Spinners said...

That's a great story! Thanks for sharing it. I must say, as much as I want to judge books on their own merit, I'm much more kindly disposed toward them if the authors I meet are actually pleasant.

I have never met Jeff Kinney, but my first storytime at a bookstore overlapped with his special appearance. After my gig, I got to listen in on his reading from a section of the children's srea, because of course there was no way I'd find a seat near enough to see Kinney!

Kelly Fineman said...

I love this story. I love your stated reasons for telling it still more.

Jeff Kinney said...

Great story! Poor guy. And I do too read your blog :)

laurasalas said...

Fantastic story! (And it gives us all hope, right?)

Sara said...

Ha! I'm loving this whole story within a story (complete with Mr. Kinney's comment.) Your posts always cheer me up, Pam. I'll NEVER ask for my ten bucks back from you. :)

Melissa said...

Ha! That's a great story. (I was going to leave some sort of sympathetic comment, agreeing that he is a nice guy, and that he does deserve the success, but it's hard to leave something like that after the subject of your story has commented. Oh, well.)

tanita s. davis said...

Despite the fact that most people choose these books to encourage boys to read, they still did the trick for my sister, when she was twelve. The ironic tone worked for her, and she ate them up with great amusement. It might just be that she liked the idea of the "wimpy kid" being someone other than herself...

Little Willow said...

That's fantastic. Thank you for sharing! Kudos to Jeff. :)

Liz in Ink said...

OK, I'm cracking up here...

My two girls just had an out-and-out brawl because Small One had finished Book 3 and wanted to tell Tall One all about it. Huge philosophical battle ensues, Small One yells a few plot points into the air, Tall One sticks her fingers in her ears and yells LaLaLa and then grabs Book 3 and runs.

If they were in line to have a book signed by dear Mr. Kinney I'm sure they'd be on their best behaviour ;)

Solvang Sherrie said...

What a great story! And thanks to the link for the movie. Now my son wants to audition...he LOVES the Wimpy Kid books (so do I)!

Anonymous said...

I was researching Jeff Kinney for my 8 year old son who wanted to know if Jeff Kinney had any other books published. I stumbled on your story and I just want to say thanks for sharing it. I will be a first time children's author (summer 2009) and your comment was a great reminder to me that anything is possible!
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

jeff are you macking a gold diary of a wimpy kid if you are can i get one signed iread.

Anonymous said...

hay jeff do you come to lawtan to sing books. if you do wear is the signing at.

Brittany said...

Jeff Kinney Live on ‘The American Entrepreneur’ radio at http://www.TAEradio.com today (April 8th) from 3-6pm EST

Tune into Ron Morris’ The American Entrepreneur’ Radio Program Today (April 8th) from 3-6PM to hear Jeff Kinney, the man behind the wildly successful “Diary of A Wimpy Kid” books and motion picture. We’ll ask Jeff about the behind-the-scenes experience of creating such a popular entity, and what the future holds for his inner wimpy kid.