Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I'm the Coolest Mom EVAH!

If you talk to any kid in the 8-15 age range about the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book series, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't know what you were talking about. These books have been a huge hit ever since Jeff Kinney released the very first book in 2007. The books follow the private thoughts of Greg Heffley and his attempt to navigate middle school, family, friends, and his role in all those places. The books are written in journal-format with a handwriting font and cartoons liberally interspersed throughout the pages. It reads and looks like a real journal of a tween boy.

When I told my boys that I was going to meet Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series, their jaws hit the floor. He's on tour to promote his newest book, The Ugly Truth, being released TODAY! Of course, they couldn't wait to get to school to tell all their friends that their mom is going to meet the Wimpy Kid author. I think it was more impressive than if I'd been meeting the President.

I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Jeff Kinney, along with Zach Gordon (who plays Greg Heffley in the Wimpy Kid movie) and Robert Capron (who plays Rowley, Greg's best friend), along with two other mom-bloggers (Jennifer from Mommy Needs Coffee and Crystal from Crystal & Company). The three of us, as well as Matt Mungle from the Dallas Morning News and the Mungle Show, were able to pick the brain behind the Wimpy Kid empire. We all took turns asking questions and got some surprising answers. (I'm going to paraphrase as best as possible because - let's face it - I'm not a newspaper interviewer, I don't know shorthand, and my chicken-scratch notes are barely legible.)

I jumped right in by asking if he had a writing schedule to which he adhered every day. He said that he commits himself to writing 4 new jokes every day, which usually takes 2-6 hours. (I was thinking, REALLY? IT'S THAT HARD TO BE FUNNY? but I'm guessing I have an over-inflated sense of how funny I am. Because, ya know, I haven't exactly sold 42 million books or anything.) We all wondered how long it took to write a Wimpy Kid book, to which he said it took about 9 months of really hard work, writing every day. He gets his ispiration some from his own kids, but mostly from his own memories. Something surprising I learned was that his first intended audience was not kids at all, but rather adults. I've read his books, so I definitely understand what he means; his books truly capture the essence of being a kid who's not a baby but not yet a teenager either, figuring out how to make friends, avoid your parents, and get into trouble without getting caught. We've all lived it and now Jeff Kinney really captures it in the pages of the Wimpy Kid books.

Jeff Kinney started his cartooning career as a kid, making his first cartoon flip book, "Fish". After graduating from college he took his cartoon, Igdoof, and shopped it around for a publisher but had no luck. Feeling like a failure, he later wrote the Wimpy Kid books and illustrated them as well. Hearing him say that he felt like a failure, because he had "failed" at cartooning but also didn't feel that he fit into the accepted author role, just blew me away. Even this guy who's sold millions of books, had a movie made from his books, and has had incredible success as the developer of the popular Poptropica online game, still described himself as a failure. It was in that moment that I realized, no one can define for him, or me either for that matter, what success is. I see him as having an amazing talent for tapping into the adolescent psyche. Crystal even shared that her son, who has dyslexia, enjoys reading his books because the handwritten-font is easier for him to process and the cartoons help support comprehension of the story. The Wimpy Kid books have caused reluctant readers to pick up a book with 200+ pages and READ. What could be more inspiring than that??? Yet, he still doesn't feel like he fits in with "legitimate" authors and the being rejected as a cartoonist still stings.

I was curious if he felt that the success of the Wimpy Kid book series had changed him at all? He said, "No. As a matter of fact, yesterday I was helping my son's soccer team, serving as the third-string assistant coach. I didn't even qualify to make it on to the team picture! I still just go through life as usual."

Did I mention that after the interview he had lunch with the Bushes? Yes, I do mean former President George W. and Laura Bush. So, you know, life as usual.


Hop on over to Crystal's interview recap to see some pictures of the event (don't even ask... I had my camera on manual settings and over-exposed every shot I took. I know, I'm kicking myself.)

Come back later this week to hear more about my interview with Jeff Kinney and the two stars of the Wimpy Kid movie, Zach Gordon and Robert Capron!

Texan Mama


Jennifer said...

How cool are you?? Wow!

Christina said...

That is great. I am getting to interview him today in Austin. Your notes were awesome. You are the coolest Mom ever!

Jennifer said...

That is so cool. I'm kicking myself that if I lived in Dallas I could have gone to this.

Michelle Saunderson said...

Wow, I am jealous and impressed at the same time. You are definitely the coolest mom every.

B said...

Wow, you ARE the coolest mom ever!! I'm a little jealous!

Crystal said...

Holy crap!! I am bowing down to you. My boys LOVE these books...not just love but L-O-V-E!!!!!! I am super jealous...by boys would have freaked out. How on earth did you get this gig????!!!

Foursons said...

I saw he would be in Austin today and gave it a thought of driving up there but I was working instead. Was it today or tomorrow? Anyways, I saw he was going to be close. My kids had their bookfair at school today and of course it was the first book I picked up for them. LOVE Greg Huffley.

Anna See said...

Wow! You are so cool! Brought 2 copies of the book home from wk for my kiddos today. They are so excited!

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

So, to everyone who's wondering, here's how I got included in the event:

I went to SITS Bloggy Boot Camp in Austin 3 weeks ago, and one of the sponsors was Pressman Games. Well, Pressman is coming out with a Cheese Touch game, from the Wimpy Kid book series. They helped put on an event with Jeff Kinney in Austin on Tuesday (Today) with the book release and also the release of the new game. I was contacted by Pressman to attend the event but couldn't come b/c it was far away and the middle of the week. So I told them I'd be interested if there was something more local. Lo and behold, this interview had a place open for another mom-blogger so I got included. I'm so grateful. It was a lot of fun and a completely new experience. SO fun!!!

Crystal said...

Excellent recap!!!

All of those guys were so down to earth! It was such an awesome experience. And it was great to see you again!

Thanks for sharing my links as well and the benefits my son has encountered from the style of Wimpy Kid!

Great to officially meet you! We need to develop some sort of meet up day every once in a while for local blogging moms!

Jenn said...

I added my personal recap today about the experience and will add the interview tomorrow. The enire Wimpy Kid Crew was amazing and such an honor to meet!

Excellent recap!

It was great to meet both Crystal and Gretchen! I look forward to doing much more with y'all in the future!

Sturgmom said...

Look at you! What a great opportunity! I wonder why there are never any big blogging projects in Waco...