American children’s author and Web site developer Jeff Kinney wrote the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of books. The books are written in a diary format by the main character, a wise-guy middle schooler named Greg Heffley. They have humorous illustrations interspersed throughout. The books became extremely popular with middle school students, especially boys, who were easily able to identify with characters in the books. Kinney’s books have been published in more than 50 different languages.
Jeffrey Kinney was born on February 19, 1971, in Fort Washington, Maryland. When he was young, he wanted to be a cartoonist. He attended the University of Maryland in the early 1990s to study computer science. While he was there he published a comic strip called “Igdoof” in the school paper. After graduating in 1993, Kinney unsuccessfully tried to start a career as a cartoonist. Meanwhile, he simultaneously worked as a newspaper layout editor and then as an online game designer for the Family Education Network.
In 1998 Kinney began to come up with ideas for his first Wimpy Kid book. He spent years defining his characters and placing them in funny situations. Although he had planned to publish his work in a book format, he instead in 2004 started putting portions of it each day on one of the Family Education Network’s Web sites, Funbrain.com. He thought that children would be more likely to keep visiting the Web site during summer break if they had a cartoon series to entertain them. Kinney’s online novel attracted about 70,000 visitors each day. Two years later he signed a print contract that allowed him to publish his work as a book. Although his first book was slow to gain popularity, word-of-mouth recommendations allowed his work to steadily rise on best-seller lists.