A YEAR AGO, as summer approached, I came upon a surprise line. I was walking among the authors at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in suburban Washington, and watching the signings by writers I’ve seen often on the convention circuit. But here was a sudden queue of fans several-hundred deep, snaking through the park green as young readers hopped kinetic and and eager and happy.
There were here for “Dork Diaries.”
Or more precisely, they were here to meet the Family Russell — the 55-year-old mother and two millennial daughters who write and illustrate the Dork Diaries YA franchise, which has topped the New York Times bestseller list and has more than 20-million books in print in more than three-dozen countries.
Nearly a year after that day, I was in the Northern Virginia living room of Rachel Renee Russell, the former attorney who steers the Dork Empire aided by daughters Erin, 31, and Nikki (the illustrator), 29, as well as a sister, a brother and her mother. And several days after that, I would watch a scene of passionate grade-schooler fandom again play out, at McNair Elementary in Herndon, Va. Again, kids lined up to meet the Russells, and get an autograph — and when they could, even get a selfie and a hug.
Just how did the Russell family — a little more than six years removed from having to surrender their car and home — built such a successful empire so quickly, launched by a first-time author who was in the middle of finalizing her divorce? To the point that the Dork franchise is now working with partners on their film and TV development deals.
Today brings the release of their newest book: “Dork Diaries 9: Tales From a Not-So-Dorky Drama Queen.” So if you’re unfamiliar with the Russells (if not their books) as modern success story, you can read Comic Riffs’ full profile of the inspiring family HERE.