I love receiving letters. This week brought one from a grade four student named Banff in Aurora, Ontario.
In part, it reads:
My purpose in writing this letter is because you write very interesting books and I learned a lot about underwear. I also have some questions. Why did you decide to become an author and why did you write 50 Underwear Questions?
I hope I did not disturb your writing. I am now done my letter and I hope you will find time in your work to reply.
Is that not the sweetest closing paragraph ever? I’m quite certain it is.
And in answer to Banff’s questions… I became an author because I love to write, and can’t imagine doing anything else; because I’ve tried working in an office and (“hate” is a strong word) intensely dislike it; and because I never, ever get bored learning about things like underwear.
Answer two: Whenever I’m not supposed to talk about something, I want to blurt it out all over the place. I’m a very bad secret keeper. BUT, I’m an ideal underwear-book writer. Because I can’t understand why, when everyone buys it and everyone wears it, no one talks about it.
Plus, undies have changed history in all sorts of interesting ways. Having read the book, you already know all that!
I received an e-mail last week from a student reading 50 Underwear Questions as part of a Silver Birch club in Ontario. Here’s my response:
1. Did anything inspire you to write this book?
My husband has three questions, which he calls the “Min Kyi Personality Test.” One of the questions is: “If you won a free trip around the world, but every day that you took a plane, train, or bus, you had to wear your underwear outside your pants, would you take the trip?” He says there’s no right or wrong answer to this question — it’s just a way of seeing how shy or outgoing or downright crazy a person might be. But I say, of course there’s a right answer! An around-the-world trip, for free?!? You HAVE to take it. Who wouldn’t take it? (I think this answer might put me smack-dab in the “crazy” category.)
2. Is it actually true that people used to think bathing made them sick?
True story. My six-year-old son believes the same thing.
3. Why did you decide to write about underwear?
Everyone has them. But no one ever talks about them…. What writer can resist a mystery like that?
4. Do you like being a writer?
Yes, thank goodness, because I tried being a dishwasher and it was awful. And then I tried being a journalist, but I’m kinda scared of talking on the phone, so that didn’t work out. I tried working in a government office, and I was nearly petrified with boredom. (They had to chip me out with archeological chisels.) So, overall, I’m very blessed to be a writer.
Thanks for writing with your questions!
And to think, I almost didn’t answer my phone.
You see, the calls began a week or so ago… unfamiliar Ontario number… right at dinner time… no messages left. No one answers calls like that, right?
Then the same number popped up one morning, and I grabbed the phone all ready to DEMAND to be taken off the list.
Yeah. It was the Ontario Library Association calling.
Thank goodness they didn’t take me off their list! I am so excited to have not one, but two books included in this year’s Forest of Reading program. The shortlists were revealed today.
I’m so looking forward to hearing what the readers think!
I just learned that Annick Press has sold the rights for 50 Poisonous Questions and 50 Underwear Questions to BlueBird Publishing in Korea.
According to my trusty Google Translate, that would be 50 유독 질문 and 50 속옷 질문. How exciting! (I mean, “흥분”!)
I also received this a few days ago:
Using my powers of deductive reasoning, I have concluded it’s a Spanish translation of My Time as Caz Hazard. It could be anything, though, really…
A few recent reviews!
For 50 Underwear Questions:
“…a highly recommended resource for all curious readers who enjoy a good laugh.”
—Resource Links, December 2011
“. . . a bright bold, attractive book that grabs your attention right away.”
—Back to Books, January 20, 2011
And for The Lowdown on Denim:
“This cleverly designed book engages the tween to adult market with fun facts, catchy titles, witty responses and action-packed comic strips…”
—Resource Links, December 2011
“…a thorough, well researched, chronological history of denim jeans.”
—CM Magazine, January 13, 2012
The panel topic at Celebrate Science this weekend was “Is Science Everywhere?” Here’s a list I prepared as part of my contribution to the day:
Ten highly scientific things you might not know about your ginch, from 50 Underwear Questions:
- Underwear carved on an ancient figurine in France has shown archeologists when people in that region first developed weaving technologies.
- In Medieval Europe, people washed their undies in pee. Theoretically, the acid ate away the dirt.
- In 1856, an inventor patented the inflatable petticoat, which allowed women to float their skirts weightlessly – until they popped.
- In the 1880s, Lewis Tomalin sold thousands of wool undersuits on the theory that natural fabric could help you lose weight, gain strength, and improve your singing voice.
- The first underwear with elastic came out in the mid-1800s. It didn’t last long, though, and it couldn’t be washed. Elastic waistbands weren’t popular until after 1925, when the Dunlop Rubber Company created elastic that could be boiled.
- The jock strap was invented in 1897 for the sake of Boston bike couriers who were finding that while some of their packages arrived safely, other “packages” were a little numb.
- In 1900s, you could buy a Heidleberg Electric Belt, which would shock your groin every few seconds to improve your circulation and nerve function.
- In 1917, when the US War Industries Board asked women to stop buying corsets, they saved enough metal to build two entire battleships.
- Women wear panties today because of two 1950s innovations: elastic thread and nylon.
- It’s hard to wash your underwear in space. One astronaut took his dirty undies, wet them, and planted seeds… which sprouted into an underwear garden.
I think we can definitely say that science is everywhere… even in your underpants.