By Lydia Hope Wilen / New York City
“Oh no…here comes the noodge!” (The OED defines “noodge” as a person who persistently nudges.) That was Andrea Sachs whenever we saw each other, which was often, since we live in the same building and take the same bank of elevators. She was relentlessly after me to write something for The Insider.
I hadn’t written anything since my sister/my collaborator, passed away in 2018. If you’ve read my bio at the end of my Insider articles, you know that Joany and I had a very colorful, fun and successful collaborative career together. The thought of writing without Joany was not appealing to me…not until I had a visitor come in through my bedroom window. A BAT!
To help me recover from PTFBS (Post-Traumatic Flying Bat Syndrome) I wrote a horrifying and humorous story about it. Andrea published it and made me realize how much I enjoyed writing and how lucky I was to be able to write for The Insider.
Thanks to Andrea, it has been a wonderful experience. Over the years, I’ve had many editors – the good, the bad and the very bad, who would make changes just to justify their jobs. When Andrea suggests an edit, it’s ALWAYS to make the story better. I’ve learned so much working with Andrea…things I didn’t think I needed to learn—tense, plurals, punctuation and, most important, clarity (adding a word or two to emphasize a point).
I actually looked forward to those editing sessions with Andrea and the tech-savvy special specialist, Matt Nadelson.
Please know that this would be nothing if it weren’t for YOU, the readers. Your responses in the comment box and directly to me through my email address and by phone, were more appreciated than you can know. I’m so very grateful for your thoughtful support. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to say it.
What has been especially rewarding, in terms of the readers’ reactions to my work, specifically the “What Are the Chances…?” series, is that it seems to have awakened and heightened awareness in people. I keep hearing about the awareness of incredible happenings where the odds can’t be calculated. You know, “What are the chances…?”
Since I have all kinds of notes with ideas for articles that I won’t be writing, I’d like to share some of the article ideas followed by fascinating facts that I think you’ll find entertaining and enlightening.
Facts to Make You Say “Hey, Yeah!”:
Zero is the only number that cannot be represented by Roman numerals.
No Can Do:
In the early 1800s, Peter Durand of England patented a can for food, made of wrought iron. The can had to be opened with a chisel and hammer. Finally, 50 years later, a practical can opener was invented by Ezra Warner and thinner steel started being used for cans.
Take My Word for It:
That picturesque swirl of toothpaste seen on toothpaste packaging and in ads is known as a “nurdle.” Ask any toothpaste manufacturer and they’ll confirm it.
Turning Things Around:
Milton Bradley was a lithographer, creating custom lithographs in Springfield, Mass. His best seller was a lithograph of a clean-shaven Abraham Lincoln.
The story goes that an 11-year-old girl wrote Lincoln a letter, telling him to let his whiskers grow. Among other reasons, she wrote, “You would look a great deal better, for your face is so thin.” And so, Abraham Lincoln was the first president to have a beard.
Because that beard was the downfall of Milton Bradley’s lithography business, he needed to find other uses for his specialized equipment. Being a creative thinker, he invented The Checkered Game of Life and successfully transitioned into a major board game manufacturer. I bet you have at least one Milton Bradley board game in your home.
Article Ideas That Won’t Work:
Sue Grafton was a popular novelist. She came up with a clever series of mysteries, using the alphabet. Her first thriller was A is for Alibi and she followed that with B is for Burglar. I got the idea to do a Jewish version of that, starting with A is for Aggravation. (Remember, I called this “Article Ideas That Won’t Work.’)
Wimbledon is the only court where the players have to wear white from head to toe and everything in between. The reason is that white doesn’t show sweat like a color does.
Applying for a Job:
Leonardo da Vinci is credited with writing the first résumé, thought to be in the form of a letter to the ruthless Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. The letter/résumé listed da Vinci’s extensive engineering skills and numerous inventions.
Historic reports say that the potential employer was only interested in what weapons this creative genius could design. And yes, Sforza hired da Vinci.
I Got Your Number:
If you’re thinking about blinking, you might like to know that the average person blinks about 7.8 million times per year.
In a different vein with an astounding number, according to the British Heart Foundation, the veins in an adult human would stretch 60,000 miles…further than it takes to circumnavigate the globe twice.
How it Came to Be:
Thomas Williams saw his older sister Mabel putting a mixture of petroleum jelly and coal dust on her eyelashes for a darker, fuller, more attractive look. Williams adapted it with a chemistry set and started selling the product locally. The product sold! Williams knew he had a winner. Eventually, in honor of his sister Mabel, he named the eye beautifier Maybelline. Yes, Maybelline. No maybe about the kid brother becoming the founder of a global cosmetic brand.
The One and Only:
The one and only letter that isn’t in the name of any of our 50 states is “q.” The one and only bird that can fly backwards and upside down is the magnificent hummingbird.
The one and only reason to be sorry the pandemic has ended is that this is the final edition of The Insider.
Lydia Hope Wilen had a successful collaboration with her late sister Joany as nonfiction bestselling authors (18 books), journalists, TV personalities, writers and talent coordinators on a Nickelodeon series hosted by Leonard Nimoy, Reading Rainbow episodes, skit writers for Dr. Ruth's TV show, Diet America Challenge on CBS, and writers of screenplays (optioned but not produced yet).
Lydia is writing on her own now and has just completed an extraordinary book for young people and their parents. It will have them laughing and learning...once she gets an agent and it gets published.