Guest Blogger: Jeff Kinney

TeachingBooks.net is delighted to welcome award-winning author Jeff Kinney as our featured guest blogger.

Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!

The ‘Ugly’ in The Ugly Truth

by Jeff Kinney

Jeff Kinney in his studio

Jeff Kinney in his studio.

Photo provided by Jeff Kinney, 2010

It was a challenge coming up with a title and a cover image for the final book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series (Abrams). I always planned to call it Rowley’s Revenge, so I sketched what I thought might make a good cover.

Sketch by Jeff Kinney

But as I reviewed the manuscript with my editor, Charlie Kochman, we realized that there wasn’t a ton of Rowley in it. Furthermore, we already had a title in the series with alliterative “Rs”… Rodrick Rules. So a few months before it was set to ship to the printer, the book still didn’t have a working title.

Charlie and I went back and forth with different suggestions for weeks and couldn’t come to an agreement.

Finally, one day I woke up and it hit me: the title should be The Ugly Truth. There’s nothing pretty about adolescence, so it seemed to fit. I called my editor that morning, and he loved it.

Now we were getting somewhere. I tweaked the drawing and sent it to Charlie.

Smelly characters in a sewer

I thought the art was good. OK, so main character Greg Heffley looked more smelly than ugly, but it had all of the right elements: Rowley, Greg, and stink lines. But my editor thought the sewer and manhole didn’t say puberty; I went back to the drawing board.

Here’s what I came up with next:

Greg looking in a mirror.

Not bad, but Charlie and I agreed that the picture was too literal…and too boring.

Both of us pored over the book trying to find a central image that would crystallize the theme without clonking readers over the head. We finally found what we were looking for in a sequence where Greg is suffering through the “Facts of Life” unit in his Advanced Health class.

In it there’s a sequence where the teacher tells her students how difficult it is to take care of a baby, and she hands each kid an egg that they must carry around for 24 hours.

Students and teacher with eggs

Greg completely misses the point of the exercise and can’t figure out what a chicken egg has to do with a human baby. He concludes that he’d probably be getting a better education in a private school.

But the moment works: Greg isn’t ready for the full download in Advanced Health, and the egg symbolizes his confusion. All I needed to do was modify Greg’s pose, which was modeled after Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker.

Greg sitting on a rock

When Charlie and I saw it on the cover, we knew we had it. And that’s a good feeling.

 

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2 Responses to Guest Blogger: Jeff Kinney

  1. Danil October 26, 2011 at 4:27 am #

    Prezado Jeff Kinney

    Estou muito impressionado com seus livros, mostram muita diversão e o que realmente estáocorrendo atualmente, sobre a tecnologia influenciando na vida do jovem, conflitos entre amizades, atémesmo relacionamentos, estou interessado em saber como é esrever um livro ou publica-lo.E tambem se você ja se influenciou a fazer um livro a partir de uma pessoa conhecida ou um parente.
    Espero que consiga fazer mais livros como “Diario de um Banana”, achei ótimo a sua coleção de livros, tomara ue continue fazendo sucesso no mundo odo.

    Um abraço Aluno da Escola Scalabrini: Daniel, Brasil, Rio Grande do Sul, Guaporé.

  2. Josh Wallace November 26, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

    Hi my name is Josh Wallace.I am

    years old. I am a fourth grader at Afton-Lakeland Elementary school. And I am reading Dear Mr.Henshaw.Which is about A kid named Leigh Botts in his diary he is writing to Mr.Henshaw. I would like to ask you some questions.
    1.What is the next book that you will write?And why?
    2.Will you give me some tips to write like you?
    3.What age did you start writing at?
    4.How many books did you write?
    5.What made you think you wanted to write when you got older?
    6.What is your favorite book that you have written?And why?
    7.How did you get started writing?
    8.How long did it take for you to write your first book?
    9.How long ago did you start writing?
    10.Which book copy did you sell most of?
    I would like to hear back from you as soon as possible so I can share your comments with my 4th grade class.
    Thank you for inspiring me to be a writer.
    Josh

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