Welcome, parents, librarians, book fanatics, writers, and readers of all sorts... especially anyone who's ever used a potty before! Today, we are here talking about one of the most important inventions in all of history: toilet paper. August 26th is National Toilet Paper Day and we're thrilled to spend it with the amazing award-winning author, Sophia Gholz, and her hilarious and informative book, A History of Toilet Paper (and Other Potty Tools). Sophia's book shares a fun breakdown of what humans throughout civilization have used when they go...ahem. So, want to know more about Sophia, A History of Toilet Paper, PLUS want a chance to win a critique from her? Read on...
Q: Hi, Sophia! Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! We're thrilled to have you here and talk about one of the most important inventions ever made: toilet paper. Seriously, your book A History of Toilet Paper (and Other Potty Tools) is SO much fun and filled with humor and cool facts, too. Before we dive in, can you share a little about yourself and how you got started writing for children?
A: Hi! Thanks so much for having me!
I’m one of those “always been a writer” type of people. As soon as I learned how to escape into telling stories, writing poetry and journaling, I did. That’s where I spent the bulk of my youth and teens. That said, I didn’t start pursuing writing in a more serious way until many years into adulthood. What began as a few online creative writing classes in the evenings, grew into an obsession. I eventually joined the SCBWI in 2011 and that’s where/when I started to more specifically hone in on writing children’s literature. If anyone out there is considering writing for children, I’d say the SCBWI is an excellent starting point.
Still, it took me a few more years of writing, critiquing, workshopping, querying, crying over rejections, rewriting, and resubmitting before I finally landed my first agent and, eventually, my first book deal. I thought that might be it. In fact, I would’ve been happy just to have a single book in the world—a total dream come true! I’m incredibly grateful to say, however, that wasn’t the end. I’m now with my second agent and my eighth book deal (with more to announce). It took many, many years to get here and I’m glad for each lesson I learned (and continue to learn) along the way.
Q: Can you share the inspiration behind your book? What gave you the idea to write this?
A: I’ve spoken a little about this in other interviews, but I’m happy to share here as well. The idea for A History of Toilet Paper (And Other Potty Tools) came about during the start of the pandemic. If you recall, there was a shortage of toilet paper at the time.
I remember standing in a grocery store, staring at a row of empty shelves, and wondering what could be used in place of toilet paper. That curiosity led to a Google search later that night, which sent me spiraling down a rabbit hole of research, twists through history, and a slew of wild facts. It was absolutely fascinating! I wanted to learn more, and I couldn’t stop thinking about each weird new fact I came across. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to share my findings with other people. I mean, who knew something like toilet paper could have such a fascinating beginning and who doesn’t love a great origin story?
Q: Too funny! Thanks for sharing that with us.
A History of Toilet Paper shows the complete history of what people have been using when they potty ever since the dawn of... well, people. What kind of research went into your book and what advice would you give to anyone looking to add tons of humor into a factual story?
A: I mention in my Author’s Note in the back of the book how thankful I am to the multitude of scientists, historians, bloggers, and others who have studied and written about the history of human hygiene. This topic is widely studied and because of that, there were many resources I was able to pull on while composing this book. That said, because of the ample sources, the difficulty lay in narrowing them down. This was especially true when trying to work through conflicting reports on timelines for things such as the development of the first flushing toilet or the development of modern paper and even the patent for toilet paper itself!
As for the humor, well…I can’t take all the credit here. This particular subject happens to lend itself naturally to humor. Potty jokes? Yes, please! However, just like it was difficult to narrow down sources, it was challenging to remain on this side of the line when it came to potty humor or being crass. I didn’t want to bury the nonfiction elements or lose them in laughs. My aim was to add levity but maintain balance between the humor and the factual story/subject, without sacrificing either. I think that for anyone adding humor to a factual book, balance is key.
Q: I have to say, I always laugh out loud when looking through the spreads of this book. Xiana Teimoy did such a great job! Can you share some of your favorite spreads from your book? Why are they your favorites?
A: Oh, this is hard! I truly love all the illustrations. Xiana did such a fantastic job of bringing this book to life and she added SO MUCH humor to each spread. One of my favorite aspects of her art is how expressive each of her characters is. Every page is filled with fun! I may be especially partial to the Rome scene. Xiana was able to deftly tackle the topic in such a fun, informative and still completely appropriate way.
Q: What other books of yours can we check out ASAP?
A: Thanks for asking! My book, BUG ON THE RUG, also features a lot of humor and was just named a Sunshine State Young Reader Jr Award nominee for 2023. If you’re looking for more of my nonfiction, Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! and The Boy Who Grew a Forest are two inspiring nonfiction biographies. For more, check out: https://www.sophiagholz.com/books
Thanks again for joining us today, Sophia! We can't wait to check out all your amazing titles.
Q: Would you like to share a sweet treat for the readers?
Treat details: Readers can download FREE activity pages and curriculum guides for all of Sophia’s books with the following link: https://www.sophiagholz.com/teacher-guide
Readers, these are SO fun! Check them out!
Sophia is also giving away 1 manuscript critique for a lucky reader. The critique is for one picture book manuscript (fiction or nonfiction). Must be 1000 words or less. The critique will include an editorial letter and a notated manuscript with line comments. The manuscript must be emailed within 30 days of the critique giveaway winner announcement with the subject line: “Seasons of Kid Lit Critique Winner”
Wow, thanks so much! What a cool giveaway.
Contest Details. To enter to win a manuscript critique along with an editorial letter from award-winning author, Sophia Gholz, leave a comment below and let her know why you can't wait to check out her book. The winner will be announced on or about September 2nd.
About Sophia Gholz:
Sophia Gholz is an award-winning children's book author, magic seeker and avid reader. Sophia enjoys writing fiction with humor and heart. When writing nonfiction, she pulls on her love of science and her strong family background in ecology. When she’s not writing, you can find Sophia reading a book, visiting schools or exploring the great outdoors with her family.
Sophia’s debut book, The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng, was a NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, a Florida State Book Award Gold Medalist, Eureka! Nonfiction Honor Book and a 2020 Green Earth Honor Book. For more about Sophia and her books, visit her online at: www.SophiaGholz.com
For more about Sophia, check out the below links:
BUG ON THE RUG Sunshine State Young Reader Nominee. "A rollicking, rhyming read-aloud..."-Booklist
A HISTORY OF TOILET PAPER "Gholz has hit gold...a humorous and clever tale." -Kirkus
JACK HORNER, DINOSAUR HUNTER! "An inspiring example of how disabilities don't have to close doors..." -School Library Journal
THE BOY WHO GREW A FOREST Florida State Book Award Gold Medal, Green Earth Honor, Nile Delta Award Winner.
To purchase Sophia's books on Amazon, or to leave a review for them, click here.