MGM is excited about a new humorous non-fiction book Dung for Dinner that is coming on July 21, 2020. We asked Christine Virnig about her inspiration for this tasteless topic and for her favorite poop jokes.
Middle Grade Mojo: You’re a pediatric allergist (physician specializing in allergies and asthma in children). That seems like it would be a full-time career. What inspired you to become a children’s book author as well?
Christine Virnig: I’ve actually wanted to write children’s books for as long as I can remember, but I pushed that dream aside for much of my life as I focused on other things. Like family. And my education. When I finished my medical training in 2009, though, I suddenly found myself with this strange new thing called free time. That was when I finally decided to try my hand at writing, and I loved it! It’s been such a wonderful escape from the stresses of my day job.
MGM: What inspired you to write a book about poop?
CV: That’s a great question! The simplest answer is that I write about poop because I find the topic fascinating, disgusting, and fun. It also probably doesn’t hurt that I have the same sense of humor now that I had when I was 10. Potty talk and fart jokes? Yup. They make me giggle.
MGM: Tell us about your path to publication from concept to release date?
CV: I decided to start writing nonfiction (vs fiction) in 2017, and the idea for DUNG FOR DINNER came to me fairly quickly thereafter. I spent the next year researching like crazy, writing, and simply making sure I had enough content for an entire book. In early 2019 my fantastic agent (Jim McCarthy) sold the book to Julia Sooy, editor extraordinaire at Macmillan. That’s when things really got rolling as we went through edits, fact-checking, proofreading, etc. to get everything as polished as possible. My favorite part in the whole process has been seeing what Korwin Briggs would do with his illustrations. He is such an incredible talent!
MGM: While researching your book, what did you learn about dung that surprised you?
CV: How do I pick just one thing? Probably because of my doctoring day job, I tend to be especially fascinated when poop shows up in ancient and modern medicine. Most of the time these poop “cures” were not a great idea—which isn’t surprising when you consider that poo is chock-full of bacteria and parasites and a buttload of other germy stuff. But there are actually situations where poop medicine is a successful treatment!
MGM: Do you have any kid lit authors that you admire?
CV: Oh man… there are so many! But it was authors like Georgia Bragg, Carlyn Beccia and Sarah Albee who first showed me how much fun nonfiction could be. It’s because of them that I made the jump to nonfiction in 2017.
MGM: You have a sequel coming out in 2021, WAIST DEEP IN DUNG. Besides more poop, what is it going to be about?
CV: WAIST DEEP IN DUNG is a stomach-churning look at the grossest jobs throughout history. It covers everything from ancient Egyptian mummy makers who removed brains by shoving iron hooks up peoples’ noses, to the 19th century Toshers who hunted for treasure deep in the London sewers, to modern day forensic entomologists who study fly eggs, maggots, and other creepy crawlies that live on—and crawl through—human corpses. Fun, right?
MGM: Your website has an excellent page of jokes. What is one of your favorites?
CV: Let’s face it… poop jokes are the absolute best kind of joke (or, at a minimum, they’re a solid #2). On most days my favorite joke is: Why didn’t the toilet paper cross the road? It was stuck in a crack! But today I’m really liking this one: What did the math teacher do when she was constipated? She worked it out with a pencil!
About the Author:
Christine lives in Madison, WI with her husband, two daughters, and two hairball producers. She’s fascinated by everything disgusting, so researching and writing about the grossest of the gross is SOOOO up her alley. She writes for children–instead of for middle-aged adults–for one simple reason: she’s never really grown up. She has the same sense of humor now that she had when she was ten!
In addition to writing, she is a pediatric allergist, which is a physician that specializes in food allergies, environmental allergies, and asthma. This job is pretty great (when she’s not dodging snot rockets or projectile vomit, that is!), because she basically get paid to help kids live happier, healthier lives. She also gets to talk phlegm, boogers and dust mite poo all day long, which is a-w-e-s-o-m-e!