Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beverly the Other Half-Invisible Turtle, Interview

Tuesdays with Morzant: Getting to Know a Reader

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. Today Beverly joins me in my lab to discuss books and, more specifically, reading. Hello, Beverly.

BEVERLY: What’s the deal, Morzant? I got your message to meet you here. What happened to our plan to meet at the park?

MORZANT: It’s going to rain.

BEVERLY: No it’s not. I just saw the forecast.

MORZANT: Trust me. I have much more highly sophisticated meteorological equipment than your local news channel. It’s going to rain.

BEVERLY: Whatever. So, here I am. Interview me. I don’t know why, though. Nobody’s going to be interested in an interview with me.

MORZANT: That’s not true at all. You are undoubtedly the most interesting member of Bigfoot’s reading club.

BEVERLY: Really?

MORZANT: Indubitably. The Bigfoot Reads audience is clamoring to learn about your reading history and habits.

BEVERLY: Oh. I didn’t know.

MORZANT: Yes. Bigfoot gets scads of emails every day asking about you. Now, why don’t you make yourself comfortable on this stool?

BEVERLY: This is hard to climb onto. It would have been better if we met at the park.

MORZANT: Don’t forget the impending rain.

BEVERLY: Fine. Go ahead.

MORZANT: At this point in the last interview that I conducted, the interviewee told me to “fire away.” I don’t know why, but it really motivated me to ask engaging questions. Perhaps you could tell me to “fire away” as well?


MORZANT: Okay then. How long have you been reading?

BEVERLY: Probably since I was three or four. I was pretty precocious, I guess. My grandmother used to read to me. She’d point at the words—

MORZANT: Could you please slide that large pot over to me?

BEVERLY: Uh. Sure. Here. Any way, she’d point at the words as she read and that must have helped me learn to associate sounds with the letters. She was invisible from the bottom down, like Norman, otherwise her pointing at the words wouldn’t have been much help, of course. I also have strong memories of learning the alphabet from Maurice Sendak’s ALLIGATORS ALL AROUND. I loved all the books in THE NUTSHELL LIBRARY.

MORZANT: Hmmm. The Allegheny Mountains sound like a lovely place to learn the alphabet.

BEVERLY: That’s not what I said. Why are you turning on the Bunsen burner?

MORZANT: No reason. Tell me. what’s your take on the controversial practice of dog-earing pages?


MORZANT: Dog-earing. It’s occasionally done when a reader must temporarily discontinue reading a book. To ensure that they can locate the page where they stopped reading, some readers bend the corner of that page down in a manner that resembles a dog ear. More that of a Jack Russell Terrier than a Basset Hound. In fact, to me, it looks more like a cat ear. I wonder why they don't call it cat-earing. Maybe they're afraid people might mistake it for catering which hasn't got anything to do with books. Unless maybe if you have a book club meeting catered. No, after further consideration, dog-earing is more appropriate because cat ears don't typically fold over and it's really the folding over of the page that's being named—

BEVERLY: I know what dog-earing is. If those are the kinds of questions you're going to ask me, I’m not going to do this interview.

MORZANT: I understand. Sometimes it’s best to refrain from taking a public stand on such a volatile issue. Otherwise you risk causing offense. Could you please hold Mortimer away from the pot? He’ll burn his little nose.

BEVERLY: Here Mortimer. No, I mean I’m not going to answer stupid questions.

MORZANT: Not to worry as there is no such thing as a stupid question. I read that in a book. Where do you like to do your reading?

BEVERLY: Down by the creek there’s a fallen tree that’s hollow. I like to sit in there while I read. It’s private and quiet. I like being alone when I’m reading.

MORZANT: That sounds like a perfect place to read. Perhaps I’ll join you sometime.

BEVERLY: No, I just said I like to read alone—what are those? Are those marshmallows?

MORZANT: These? Yes. I suppose they are. Do you remember the first book you read on your own?

BEVERLY: THE YEARLING by Marjorie—Rice Krispies? Are you making Rice Krispies Treats?!

MORZANT: Yes. Do you ever listen to audio books?

BEVERLY: Morzant, did you lure me over here to help you study the tensile properties of Rice Krispies Treats?

MORZANT: Yesterday Mortimer and I discovered that we could stretch a single Rice Krispies Treat a meter if it was made with real butter. The previous batch had been made with margarine which apparently affected the elasticity of the marshmallow in ways that we hadn’t anticipated. For our next experiment, we desperately need a third participant. We want to see what happens when we stretch a Rice Krispies Treat in three directions. Mortimer and I have differing opinions about what the outcome will be. But we’ll find out soon enough. I’m tingling with anticipation. Beverly? Beverly? Where are you going?

BEVERLY: To the park. Where it isn’t going to rain. Where even if it does rain, it won’t matter because I’ll be reading inside my hollowed out tree trunk.

MORZANT: Wait. Come back. You didn’t tell me what you’re reading. Your fans will want to know if you snack while you read. Would you like to take a plate of Rice Krispies Treats with you? I have plenty all ready. They’re a little misshapen, but still entirely tasty. Beverly?

I guess this concludes our interview with Beverly the Other Half-Invisible Turtle. Good-bye for now, humans.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Briar’s Journal (August 31 to September 28, 2010)

Dream Entry

Date: May 25, 2003*

Being chased by an angry Golden Retriever. Don’t know why. Have to keep running. He’s gaining on me. The sidewalks are crowded. I’ll have to cross the street. There’s one squat building on the other side. On the bottom of its front door is a flap—a dog door big enough for me, but not the Golden Retriever. It’s my only hope.

No peripheral vision. Can’t take the time to turn my head to look for cars, so I jump into the street and run across. Horns blast, people shout. I bound up the curb and across the wet lawn to the dog door. It’s a tight squeeze, but I’m through. I turn to see a paw swipe through the flap. It’s the size and color of a Golden Retriever’s paw, but it’s not a Golden Retriever’s paw. The flap swings back and I see a Golden Retriever-sized squirrel. He’s chattering angrily at me, but he can’t get in. I howl at him. Somebody shushes me.

I turn to see who. It’s an older woman with the hint of a moustache. She has a hairy-knuckled finger to her lips. “Quiet in the library she says.” I turn back to the flap and the giant squirrel paw reaching through, then back again to the woman. Only now she's changed into Bigfoot. He’s holding a plate of peanut butter cookies.

He walks away. At first I can’t find him in the rows and rows of shelves, but I track down the smell of the peanut butter cookies. He is standing in a dark aisle, facing the books. Above each shelf in this aisle is a plaque with the name of one of my friends. There is a shelf for Bigfoot, Morzant, Penny, Norman, and Beverly. And there are three names I don’t recognize: Oliver, Lenny, and Violet.

“Keep track of the books and you can have a cookie,” Bigfoot says.

I examine the spines of the books. There are no titles on the book spines, but when I look at them, I know what they are and when they will be.

I wake up with a strong feeling that this dream is precognitive, so I write down the books I remember:

On BIGFOOT’s Shelf:

GUYS READ: FUNNY BUSINESS by Jon Scieszka and others


Walden Pond Press-HarperCollins

September 21, 2010

THE 10 P.M. QUESTION by Kate De Goldi



September 28, 2010

On MORZANT’s Shelf:


edited by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier


Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster

September 21, 2010

On PENNY’s Shelf:

THE TWIN’S DAUGHTER by Lauren Baratz-Logsted


Bloomsbury USA

August 31, 2010

THE DANGER BOX by Blue Balliett



September 1, 2010

THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff



September 21, 2010

On NORMAN’s Shelf:

BINKY TO THE RESCUE by Ashley Spires


Kids Can Press

September 1, 2010




September 1, 2010

FRAMED by Gordon Korman


Scholastic Press

September 1, 2010


by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Rob Shepperson


Boyds Mills

September 1, 2010

THE KNEEBONE BOY by Ellen Potter


Feiwel & Friends-Macmillan

September 14, 2010

THE GENIUS WARS by Catherine Jinks



September 27, 2010

On BEVERLY’s Shelf:

THE KID TABLE by Andrea Seigel


Bloomsbury USA

September 14, 2010


AND EVERYTHING by Rebecca Rupp



September 14, 2010



Wendy Lamb Books-Random House

September 14, 2010



Atheneum-Simon & Schuster

September 21, 2010


by Lisa Graff, illustrated by Jason Beene


Farrar, Straus and Giroux

September 28, 2010

On OLIVER’s Shelf:

RESCUE BUNNIES by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Scott Menchin


Balzer & Bray

August 31, 2010




September 14, 2010

On LENNY’s Shelf:



Enchanted Lion

September 1, 2010



Little, Brown

September 7, 2010


by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith


Atheneum-Simon & Schuster

September 14, 2010

On VIOLET’s Shelf:


by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley


Clarion-Houghton Mifflin

September 13, 2010


by Mo Willems


Balzer & Bray

September 28, 2010

* The dream entries from Briar’s journal contain premonitions of books that will be published in the future. Briar’s dream self foresees the books’ summaries and knows which will likely appeal to each of her friends. Briar always wakes up before she can see whether her friends will enjoy the books.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kelly Bingham, Interview

Tuesdays with Morzant:

Getting to Know an Author

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. Today I’m interviewing Kelly Bingham, author of the young adult novel SHARK GIRL (Candlewick).

KELLY BINGHAM: Hi everyone!

MORZANT: Kelly, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I understand you have been friends with Bigfoot for several years. He speaks highly of you and of your choice in footwear.

KB: Well, I do love a good slipper. And I'm pleased to meet you, too, Morzant.

MORZANT: I recently read your novel SHARK GIRL. I have many questions regarding it as well as the methods you employed to write it.

KB: Fire away! (That's an earthly expression which means, "go ahead.")

MORZANT: It’s a good thing you clarified that. The meaning on Zeenton is completely different.

Contemporary Zeentonian writers tend to favor differential equations when constructing fiction, whereas ancient Zeentonian authors relied heavily on axiomatic geometry. You can imagine why our youngsters loathe studying the classics! I consider myself an accomplished mathematician, but I admit I cannot detect what formula you base your writing on. Please enlighten me.

KB: Um…well, we on earth don't usually use math, or formulas, when creating fictional stories. We use our imagination. We may also experience inspiration, which can be found through true stories, poetry, songs, art, or people we know.

In my case, SHARK GIRL came to me (via imagination and inspiration) after a summer many years ago that was dubbed by the media as The Summer of The Shark. They called it that because there was quite a rash of shark attacks taking place around the country. Normally shark attacks are rare in the United States, but that year, there were many.

I began wondering what it would be like to be a shark attack victim…would you ever be known for anything else in your life? Would that story stick with you forever? What would it be like to recover? And what if your story made national news, as most shark attacks do—what would that be like?

So…I began writing.

MORZANT: That is utterly fascinating. I would never have believed such random methodology could yield anything, let alone an entire book.

I’m just beginning to study Earth fiction. Yours is the first novel I have read that is written mostly in a form I have been told is called “poetry.” Tell me, was your decision to write in this format influenced at all by the color of socks you happened to be wearing at the time? Or perhaps it had something to do with the brand of peanut butter you use.

KB: Well,…………no. Oddly, those things had nothing to do with it. What happened is, I started writing the book in the 'regular' way, but found I had a hard time finding my story and making my characters real. I could not connect to the emotions and thoughts and feelings of Jane (my main character) in the way I wanted. After a long time of trying to make it work, my friend Andrew Auseon* suggested I try writing the book in poetry form. I knew right away it was a fantastic idea. I began writing in poetry and found that my problems were solved…the format allowed me to really get into Jane's head and share what she was going through, how she felt, and what she thought. I was able to get at the heart of my story much more effectively by writing through poetry form. I also found the immediacy of poetry lent itself very well to the intense conflict that Jane was going through, moment by moment and day by day.

MORZANT: This friend of yours, Andrew Auseon, is uncommonly wise. Is he Zeentonian?

KB: You know, I'm not sure where Andy was born, so it is entirely possible. But you'd have to ask him to be sure.

MORZANT: I hope he is. It’s always nice to talk to someone from back home.

In SHARK GIRL, an adolescent female deals with a personal tragedy—she loses her arm. It is a sad story, but also an inspirational one. Since you say that you did not use a mathematical equation to plot your story, did you find it difficult to plot a trajectory whereby your main character could find her way to a hopeful state of mind?

KB: Yes, I did find it difficult to write SHARK GIRL, which is maybe why it took three years to complete. Understandably, my main character Jane finds herself heartbroken and lost, and very unsure what her life will be like now that she has been forever changed and, (in her eyes) disfigured. It was easy to imagine how sad she'd be, and all the reasons she would have for feeling frustrated, but it was harder to find reasons that she would feel positive emotions like happiness.

But in the process of drafting the book I got to know Jane very well, and I began to see the small things that gave Jane hope, and gave her encouragement. I wrote scenes about those things and those moments, not knowing if I'd use them in the final book or not, but it was helpful to me to explore the notes of hope as well as the moments of sorrow or frustration. I found that Jane leaned heavily on her friends and family, but ultimately found a lot of strength within herself. She did not give up on learning how to do things with one arm; things that mattered to her…like drawing and painting, (which was hard for her, as she had lost her right arm) cooking, taking care of herself, and having fun with her loved ones. She also finds a lot of hope and comfort in her new friend Justin, who she meets at the hospital. What Jane wanted most of all was to resume her life, because she was very happy with her life just the way it was. The hard part was figuring out how to do that.

MORZANT: Our resident psychic, Briar, had a premonition recently that there is going to be a sequel to SHARK GIRL. Is she corrrect?

KB: I would like to meet this Briar. I need to get with her on some lottery numbers. But actually, YES. A sequel is in the works, largely due to my readers, who regularly write to me asking for one.

MORZANT: To my knowledge, Briar has never been mistaken in any of her predictions. I have never asked her about lottery numbers. But now that you mention it, she does eat filet mignon out of a platinum bowl for every meal.

I wonder, is it difficult to pick up where you left off, or in some ways does it help that you already have an established cast of characters? Would you consider adding a new character? Perhaps a pleasant visitor from Zeenton who offers meaningful insights that are beyond the capabilities of the human characters? If so, I would be happy to help you with your research.

KB: Well, thank you for the offer. I'll keep that in mind. You know, it's not difficult to pick up where I left off, and yes, it does help to have an established cast of characters. You know what else helps? Having readers write to me, as they do, and tell me the characters they like, and want to see more of, and to ask me questions they'd like answered about the characters and their lives. It gives me ideas on what to write about. The hardest part of writing this sequel? Figuring out what to leave out! It's tempting to go back to each individual character and write a long storyline for everybody, wrapping up each person's story with a neat, detailed ending and all questions answered. But that would make for a very long, and very dull book. So I have to edit myself. And I have to keep in mind what my readers want to know, what I'm willing to answer, and what I'd like to leave open.

As for a visitor from Zeenton……I will keep that in mind, of course. It could prove very……interesting. However, maybe the visitor from Zeenton needs his OWN book. What do you think, Morzant?

MORZANT: Without a doubt such a book would be a universal best seller.

I’ve noticed that many humans participate in activities called “hobbies” when they are not busy with their everyday work. Which of these hobbies do you engage in when you are not writing: collecting cigar labels, carving chipmunk figurines out of bar soap, or pruning bonsai trees?

KB: Um…none? Although I actually DID carve animals from soap, when I was twelve. I’m a little bit older now, and I have different hobbies. One thing I love to do is READ, which is why I enjoy Bigfoot's blog so much. I also like photography. My husband and I have our own photography business and it's a lot of fun, though we have not managed to get a photo of Bigfoot yet. I also enjoy making things, like scrapbooks for my kids, drawings and paintings, and needlepoint pictures. I enjoy watching wildlife too, and have lots of that where I live……all kinds of birds, foxes, bobcat, and many, many deer! We even have a resident bear that visits us once in a while.

MORZANT: Does the bear happen to wear a yellow hat and blue coat?

KB: I've actually only seen it in the dark, so I guess I can't give you a definitive answer on that. According to the shape of the bear, there is no hat on his head. But a coat…maybe a blue one…is a possibility. He was not, however, carrying a suitcase.

MORZANT: Back to our hobby discussion. Have you ever tried an activity just so that you would be able to write more convincingly about it?

KB: Not really. The one thing I did do when writing Shark Girl was practice breaking open eggs with my left hand, because Jane does this in the book and I wanted to know, realistically, how many tries it would take to get it done. It was quite difficult.

I did break my right wrist once, and spent eight weeks in a cast, which was an experience I called on heavily when I wrote about Jane trying to comb her hair or get dressed or draw or cook with her left arm, which of course is hard to do when you are right-handed.

Morzant—I should probably mention that breaking my arm was accidental, not something I did for research.

MORZANT: I want the whole “Earth experience” and would like to try a hobby myself. Can you recommended any that you think I would be especially suited for?

KB: You'd like chess, I bet. (It's a game.) And I know someone who could teach you to knit socks. Have you thought about photography? I bet YOU could get a picture of Bigfoot, which would make you very popular.

But I have a feeling you'd like something more unusual…like making ships in bottles.

MORZANT: Those all sound fun, especially knitting socks. It’s hard to find store-bought socks that fit me.

It’s strange that you should mention Bigfoot’s current obsession, photography. Despite the fact that every one of his photographs turns out blurry, he refuses to give up the hobby. Perhaps he would benefit, on several counts, if I convinced him to abandon photography in favor of learning to knit socks.

But, I must say, his inability to produce a clear photograph is most interesting, as is the failure of others to get a clear picture of him. Mortimer and I have constructed a hypothesis to study whether Bigfoot is physiologically prone to taking poor photographs—that, in effect, something in Bigfoot’s own body chemistry interferes with the workings of both film and digital cameras. If we determine that to be the case, we will then want to discover when the interference occurs. We anticipate it will be difficult to determine the “when” because deterioration in the emulsion suggests that the distortion may be happening before the shutter opens which is in direct opposition to what seems to be suggested by the pixel distortion in the digital shots—oh, dear. Please excuse me. What were we talking about?

KB: I don't remember. Oh, wait. We were talking about me. And my book, SHARK GIRL. The photography problem of Bigfoot IS interesting, but……do you have any more questions for me, Morzant?

MORZANT: Yes, I do. My apologies for getting distracted.

You live in the United States of America, in the state of Georgia. How many peach trees do you own?

KB: 312. Just kidding. None, actually. But we do have dogwoods.

MORZANT: How many pet scorpions do you keep and what are their names? Have you ever considered writing about them?

KB: We don't have any pet scorpions. We do have scorpions here, but when we see one in the house, we kill it.

MORZANT: Oh, dear. In that case, it’s probably for the best that you don’t name them.

While we do have fiction on Zeenton, most of our books are non-fiction. Have you ever considered writing non-fiction? Maybe a non-fiction book about your wooden dogs or the best methods for killing scorpions?

KB: Well, no. I never have thought of that. Hmm………

MORZANT: I have another suggestion you are definitely going to want to use. Earth suffers from a conspicuous lack of books, especially for younger readers, on velocity as it relates to gastropods. Publishers would be certain to snatch up such a manuscript faster than a Zeentonian Sea Slug can catch a cold. (Zeentonian gastropods are speedy, unlike their counterparts on Earth, and are quite susceptible to viral infections.) I would write the book myself, but I’m not much of a writer. Also, Mortimer and I are busy with our research into Bigfoot’s photography problem. I feel strongly that this would be a great project for you. I only ask that you remember me in the dedication.

(Some writers express frustration when topics about which to write are suggested to them. I trust that you are not one of those writers.)

KB: I am not one of those writers. But you know, Morzant, I think it takes a special person to write about gastropods. I'm not sure I'm that person. It's a wonderful idea and I'm sure there are……dozens of people……who'd like to read a book about gastropods and velocity. I would suggest you broach this idea to as many authors as possible until you find just the right one.

MORZANT: I’m surprised that you're passing on this opportunity, but I’m sure I’ll be able to convince some writer to fill this literary void.

Let me thank you again, Kelly, for taking the time to answer my questions. There’s just one more thing that I am curious about. As you are no doubt aware, many humans scoff at the notion of extraterrestrial life forms, or even Bigfoot for that matter. Why do you suppose the inhabitants of your planet—people who love to read stories that are not true—are reluctant to believe in beings like me when I clearly do exist?

KB: That's a good question. I think humans like parameters and rules, personally. We like to read fiction because we KNOW it's fiction. But maybe we're reluctant to admit we believe in Bigfoot…or Penny…or Morzant…because for most of us, we cannot state that we KNOW Bigfoot exists, or you either. You could be real…or you could be fiction…and if you're real, then a whole set of rules has to be thrown out or re-evaluated. That kind of thing shakes people up. So I think we do what people tend to do at times…we deny. Denial is popular here on earth.

Thank you for the interview, Morzant! I had a great time and it was lovely to meet you.

MORZANT: I enjoyed myself as well. Perhaps we could get together for a game of chess after I figure out what it is and how to play. I should warn you, though, that I can be a sore loser. Fortunately for my opponents, I rarely lose.

Good-bye for now, humans. If you haven’t read SHARK GIRL yet, I highly recommend you rush out and find a copy as soon as possible. It’s available in hardcover or paperback. I read both versions. It would seem that, while the cover thickness is different, the story and punctuation remain the same. I could find no release date for the telepathically transmitted edition.

* Andrew Auseon is the author of the young adult novels FUNNY LITTLE MONKEY (Harcourt), JO-JO AND THE FIENDISH LOT (HarperTeen-HarperCollins), and FREAK MAGNET (HarperTeen-HarperCollins); co-author the middle grade novel ALIENATED (Aladdin-Simon & Schuster); and the possible future author of FASTER THAN A SPEEDING GASTROPOD (publisher to be determined).