Rachel Renee Russell is the author of the popular Dork Diaries book series. As an African American woman, Ms. Russell sees the importance of including characters from all backgrounds in her work. While the black-and-white comics accompanying the Dork Diaries text do not heavily indicate race, Russell’s writing includes African American and Latino characters (Zoeysha and Chloe) in addition to Nikki, the main character. Ms. Russell has said that Nikki is supposed to represent an “Everygirl, all hues mixed together.” By putting the focus on her characters and how they all struggle to fit into their middle school environment, Ms. Russell’s series appeals to readers from all backgrounds.
When Ms. Russell decided to pursue writing in 2007, she started by creating a story about an eighth grader who plans events to fundraise for a trip to France. After seeing this story do well in a contest, a publishing agent began to take notice of Ms. Russell’s work. They discussed moving ahead with the story she submitted, but after mentioning her passion for the Dork Diaries concept, the project shifted gears.
Dork Diaries is inspired by Ms. Russell’s experience as a self-proclaimed dork, and also the bullying her children experienced in school. Her daughters, Nikki and Erin, have experienced mortifying moments such as being tripped in the cafeteria and having their birthday balloons popped at school. Now in their 20’s, they contribute to the ideas and style of the books. The art for the books was initially drawn by Ms. Russell, but is now being completed by her daughter, Nikki. Erin also works with her mother to imagine new misadventures for the series. Ms. Russell enjoys having her daughters involved in the projects because it shows that even the kids who are picked on can grow up to be confident and successful.
Ms. Russell released “Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life,” both her first book and the first installment of the Dork Diaries series, in 2009. Due to its success, Ms. Russell is currently under contract to complete a total of eight books for the series. She enjoys writing children’s books more than her other job as an attorney, and plans to continue the Dork Diaries series as long as she possibly can.