From ADD to Wimpy Kid: Jeff Kinney bonds with Indian audience

New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) A stadium here was packed with students, kids, children and even their parents — all enthusiastic fans of Wimpy Kid and his creator Jeff Kinney — as he came to India for the first time.

The author was at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday night to address the 10th Annual Penguin Lecture.

Kinney was welcomed with loud cheers coming from all the corners of the hall.

Over the years, The Penguin Annual Lecture has brought together the world’s brightest minds for Indian audience like Thomas Friedman, Chris Patten, Amartya Sen, Ramachandra Guha, Dan Brown, Ruskin Bond and many others.

“This is my first time in India. I had many ideas about the country, myth in a way, but to be here tonight (Tuesday night) is extremely special. It is also special to be a part of Penguin’s Annual Lecture where authors like Dan Brown and Ruskin Bond have been a part,” Kinney said as he took over the stage.

Kinney’s legendary series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” has given birth to the delightful character — Greg Heffley (Wimpy Kid) who had taken over the world by storm, including India.

Kinney shared his personal moments — cartoon characters which fascinated him during his childhood days, how he gained knowledge from comic books which he thinks “is a way of telling of great stories”.

“Books are what make us who we are. I was very lucky to grow up in a house full of books. I really liked fantasy books like ‘The Spell of Chameleon’,” Kinney mentioned.

He also spoke on his struggle to read and understand letters during his school and college days as he was suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

“When I was in school and college, the text book letters were not clear to me. I discovered that I was suffering from ADD. It was really hard for me to get through college text books. So, I inclined towards images and sketches of the text books and created my own comic strip — Igdoof,” Kinney shared.

The road for becoming the creator of Greg was not easy for Kinney. Determined to make his career in cartoon, the author remembered how he was repeatedly rejected by publishers and could not become a successful newspaper cartoonist, yet never lost hope.

“I got seriously interested in building my career as a cartoonist. I worked really hard, got rejected and tried again. Meanwhile I realised I may be a good writer, a good cartoonist but not a good illustrator. My illustrations were that of an 11 or 12 year-old, and then I decided to write and draw for kids,” said Kinney, who took four days to write the first page and four years to write his idea book.

Kinney restricted himself from reading other books or influenced by other writers or characters, except one — J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ whom he considers as one of the best story teller of the generation.

When asked by a kid what would have been his career option if not a writer, Kinney said: “If I wasn’t an author, I still would have been working for kids.”

The 45-year-old, before leaving the stage, suggested the “young kids who want to become author”, to “read”.

“If you don’t read, you won’t be a good author. After that, you will find your own style.”

(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at somita.g@ians.in)

–IANS

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