Former bankruptcy lawyer who wrote 'Dork Diaries' was once advised to avoid a writing career

The author of the best-selling Dork Diaries series is a former bankruptcy lawyer who started writing again in 2007 when her daughters left for college.

Rachel Renée Russell, 53, has sold more than 10 million books, the New York Times reports. The series appeals to tween readers with its description of the middle-school travails of Nikki Maxwell, who is named after Russell’s own daughter Nikki. Written in a diary format, the protagonist deals with snubs and snobs, including a girl described as a “KILLER SHARK” in “sparkly nail polish.”

Russell opted for law school after her creative writing teacher at Northwestern University offered some pessimistic advice. Russell says the teacher advised her that, “If you’re thinking seriously of writing as a career, you might want to think again.”

Russell was able to attract the notice of an agent with Writers House when she did well in a contest for unpublished authors. They initially focused on a different book, but the agent told her to switch gears after Russell showed her the Dork Diaries project.

Russell tells the Times she is able to draw on her own experiences as a dork, as well as the experiences of her daughters Nikki and Erin. “I never had a date through high school, and my father had to pay a family friend $50 and loan him the Cadillac to get me a date for the prom,” Russell says.

The newspaper has another label for Russell after a visit to her 12,000 square foot home in northern Virginia: “savvy entrepreneur.”

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