Monday, July 30, 2012

Three Minutes Lighting Your Pants on Fire

Normanday #39: Lie to Me.

Make something up. See if I believe you.

Email what you wrote to woof at bright dot net by the end of the day August 5 (put “Norman is a Descendent of Abraham Lincoln” in the subject line). I’ll post as many of my favorite entries as I want next Monday. Include your first name (or, even better, use a pen name) and age (unless you’re tortoise-old). If you’re a published children’s or young adult writer, include a biography to be posted with your entry.

Here is the single entry from last week when I asked you to write for three minutes about…

…the encore that dog did after his amazing trick.


Encore? You’re kidding right? I just juggled five cats, whistled the theme song to Star Wars, and vacuumed your living room. You expect an encore? I’ve got an idea. How about first you give me that biscuit you promised me. Then maybe we’ll talk about an encore. I’ve got things to do, you know. I haven’t had my fourth nap yet today, and those holes aren’t going to dig themselves. And who do you think keeps that guy away from the mailbox? An encore? My whole life is an encore.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Originally posted on October 2, 2010.



by Tad Hills

Schwartz & Wade-Random House, 2010


by Louise Yates

Knopf-Random House, 2010

Two Picture Book Reviews by Violet

I’m Violet. I’m a dog and I love to read. Today I’m going to review two picture books. The books are about dogs and both dogs love to read. One book is HOW ROCKET LEARNED TO READ by Tad Hills (Schwartz & Wade-Random House, 2010). The other book is DOG LOVES BOOKS by Louise Yates (Knopf-Random House, 2010).

HOW ROCKET LEARNED TO READ is about a dog named Rocket who learns to read. He doesn’t love to read at the beginning of the book because he doesn’t know how. He just loves to play and nap. Then a bird comes and tells him that she is his teacher and he is her student. He doesn’t want to be her student at first, but then the bird reads him a story that he likes and he finds out that he likes books and he wants to be her student. So Rocket is a student and the bird teacher teaches Rocket the alphabet. All during the fall the bird teaches Rocket the alphabet and reads him stories. But then winter comes and because she is the type of bird who flies south for the winter, she flies south for the winter. I don’t know why some birds fly south for the winter. Probably winter isn’t good feather weather. The poor south-flying birds miss all the fun winter snow. But Rocket doesn’t. He plays in the snow all winter and practices the alphabet by making the ABCs in the snow. He gets to be really good at spelling, too. And then in the spring the bird comes back and they read lots and lots of books together. And you know what? I just thought of something. I bet the bird had to fly south because maybe there’s a dog in Florida who is her student and she flies south to be his teacher during the winter. They don’t have snow to play with in Florida in the winter, so there is plently of time to learn to read.

The other dog who loves to read is called Dog and his book is DOG LOVES BOOKS. I like this dog because he loves to read and his ears are funny. His ears tell how he feels. At the beginning of the book his ears are perky and happy because he is excited and he is excited because he is going to open a bookstore because he loves books. But then his ears get droopy because nobody comes to his store to buy books. A woman comes to buy tea and a man comes to ask for directions. The book doesn’t say where the man is going but it doesn’t matter because that’s not what the book is about. Dog is disappointed that the man doesn’t buy any books and his ears get droopy. Then he remembers he is in a bookstore and finds himself a book to read to cheer himself up and that’s when his ears get happy again. He plays with dinosaurs and kangaroos and space aliens. Only he’s not really playing with dinosaurs and kangaroos and space aliens, he’s just reading about them and that helps his imagination pretend he is playing with dinosaurs and kangaroos and space aliens. And when Dog is done reading, a girl comes in the store and the girl doesn’t want tea or directions, she wants to buy books. Dog is happy because he gets to help her pick out some books and it’s fun when you can help someone find good books. I know that’s true because I’m having fun telling you about these two good books.

I will tell you one more thing about these books. The author of the book about Rocket made the pictures for the book. I love how he made Rocket look soft and fuzzy. I can tell Rocket would be nice to cuddle with during a nap or while reading a book.

The author of the book about Dog also made the pictures for the book. She’s the one who gave Dog his funny, bendy ears and the space alien four arms.

Here is a list of who will like these books:

Dogs who like to read.

Kids who like to read.

Dogs who can’t read yet and know a bird or a kid who will read to them.

Kids who can’t read yet and know a bird or a dog who will read to them.

Dogs and kids who don’t like to read. (When they read these books, they will find out they really do like to read.)


This is the end of my review. Good-bye.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Three Minutes Applauding Fido

Normanday #38: Encore! Encore!

No doubt that was an amazing trick. But did you see the encore?

Email what you wrote to woof at bright dot net by the end of the day July 29 (put “Norman Played the Spoons at Carnegie Hall” in the subject line). I’ll post as many of my favorite entries as I want next Monday. Include your first name (or, even better, use a pen name) and age (unless you’re tortoise-old). If you’re a published children’s or young adult writer, include a biography to be posted with your entry.

Here is the single entry from last week when I asked you to write for three minutes…

…the amazing trick that dog did.


Did you see my dog? He’s pretty amazing. I mean, way more amazing than other dogs. Last night, he did a trick for me. First, he jumped up on the bookshelf and turned on the stereo. He changed the station with his teeth to an awesome retro 70s station. “Play That Funky Music” came on. Then, he hopped down, flipped my dad’s hat up and it landed on his head, and started dancing. Not regular dog dancing, but people dancing. He balanced on his back legs and waved his front legs to the music. That was pretty impressive. He had a nice groove going. I was about to give him a treat, when he started hopping on each leg in time to the music. Using his tail, he started strumming the guitar to the music. It was in key and everything. I was so amazed! I started to clap, but he held up one paw to stop me. He looked thoughtful, like he was concentrating, and then his floppy ears started twitching and then they were bouncing to the music too. As the song started to wind down, he stopped strumming the guitar, did two back flips and then spun in a circle on the floor. Not bad for a dachshund, eh? At the end, I gave him his treat and he tipped his hat to me and walked out of the room, chewing. That dog should be on TV. Not that I’m bragging.

What does your dog do?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

ReRunday: MOONSHOT: THE FLIGHT OF APOLLO 11 (Picture Book)

Originally posted on September 27, 2010.


The Second Meeting of the Cryptid Book Club

Date: Monday, September 27, 2010
Location: Undisclosed
Members substantially present:
Bigfoot, Morzant, Briar, Beverly, Norman, Oliver, Lenny, Violet
Member virtually present via video conferencing:
Penny C. Monster
Members absent:
Meetings minutes taken by:
Penny C. Monster
Snack Master:
Book (selected by Morzant):
(Atheneum-Simon & Schuster, 2009)

• Meeting called to order by Bigfoot at 9:00 a.m.

• Refreshments taken. This week’s Snack Master, Norman, brought gummy worms. Bigfoot refrained from commenting on how much he likes donuts. Morzant tried to share the results of his latest experiments on the tensile properties of Rice Krispies Treats. Briar distracted him by calling his attention to the tensile properties of the gummy worms. Morzant expressed fascination in the tensile properties of gummy worms and suggested the meeting time be used to study those properties. Briar reminded Morzant that he was the one who picked the book to discuss. Morzant still insisted on a vote being taken to use the meeting to study the tensile properties of gummy worms rather than to discuss MOONSHOT: THE FLIGHT OF APOLLO 11. The result of the vote was 7 to 2 against studying the tensile properties of gummy worms. (Violet voted with Morzant so he wouldn’t feel lonely.)

• Book club members took their seats at the meeting table, checking first that Bigfoot did not bring his whoopee cushions again. He did not.

• Previous meeting minutes reviewed: Beverly brought Rice Krispies Treats. Morzant demanded a vote to use the meeting to study the tensile properties of the Rice Krispies Treats rather than to discuss the book. The attendees voted 5 to 1 against the motion. An attempt was made to discuss KEEPER by Kathi Appelt (selected by Beverly). Morzant hijacked the meeting with endless questions about which of many creatures are real and which are fictitious. Bigfoot provided dubious answers. Bigfoot issued a moratorium on Rice Krispies Treats at future meetings.

• There appeared to be something wrong with the video conferencing equipment. The substantially present members continued talking, but the virtually present member (me) could not hear them. I waved, splashed, and screamed to get their attention so they would know I couldn’t hear them. This went on for a long time before the substantially present book club members burst out with audible laughter and congratulations for Bigfoot on his clever practical joke at my expense.

• Morzant then began the book discussion by explaining that he selected the picture book MOONSHOT: THE FLIGHT OF APOLLO 11 to help “avoid the possibility for tangental discussions” such as occurred in the last meeting. He explained that by choosing a book with a “delightfully absurb premise—that of humans landing on the Earth’s moon” there would be no need for him to monopolize the meeting with endless questions about what was real and what was not real since “the whole book is unmistakably fiction." Beverly said, “I’m out of here,” and excused herself from the meeting.

Here’s a partial transcript of the ensuing exchange:

BIGFOOT: MOONSHOT is non-fiction. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins all went to the moon. Armstrong and Aldrin actually walked on the moon.

BRIAR: It’s true, Morzant.

MORZANT: I see what’s happening here. During the last book club meeting you all got me to believe in leprechauns and grizzly bears. Now you’re trying to convince the gullible alien from another planet that humans have been to the moon. Admirable effort, but ultimately unsuccessful. While a Chupacabra has a ring of truth to it, not so a human lunar landing. Now to continue the book discussion, I'd like to commend the author for his deft crafting of plot and skillfully rendered illustrations, all of which made it easy for me to suspend my disbelief and go along with notion of humans in space. I found this book highly entertaining in its fantasticalogicalness.

BRIAR: That's not a real word, Morzant.

MORZANT: I know. The whismy of the book is making me feel quite silly.

PENNY: Honestly. This book is based on real events. Three American astronauts went to the moon in July of 1969. Two of those astronauts landed on it.

NORMAN: And there’s proof. What’s left of the cheese platter they brought back is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. They let visitors sample from it if they bring their own crackers.

BRIAR: You're not helping, Norman.

BIGFOOT: And this was only the first lunar landing. Twelve humans have walked on the moon.

MORZANT: Making the story more fantastical is not making it more believable, I assure you.

BIGFOOT: I promise, we’re not pulling your leg. Except for the part about the cheese.

• While Morzant worked his way through the seven stages of skepticism, the rest of the group talked about the book:

Bigfoot appreciated how informative the book was without being overly technical.

Briar agreed. She was impressed with the author’s use of poetic language throughout to make readers feel the power of the rocket that launched Apollo 11, the vastness of space, the moon’s desolation, the isolation of the astronauts during the mission, and the world's shared pride in the Apollo 11 mission. She especially loved how the words and the illustrations worked together to build tension and suspense for an event that most readers, psychics and non-psychics alike, already knew the outcome of. Even though she knew in advance that the astronauts had landed on the moon and safely returned home, there were moments while reading the book when she felt afraid for the men who were so far away from Earth that they could not be rescued if anything were to go wrong.

Violet commented on the drawings. She really liked the one where a sandwich and a tube of toothpaste are floating in the ship. She thought this showed that the astronauts were telekinetic, like her, and that she would probably make a good astronaut because “it’s easy to make a tube of toothpaste float.” Morzant, who seemed to have finally completed the seventh stage of skepticism (acceptance), interrupted Violet to explain gravity to her. Briar diffused what threatened to become a lengthy lecture on gravity by offering Morzant more gummy worms.

Lenny said he thought he'd make a good astronaut, too, since he can already do somersaults in the air. He likes the idea of going so high above Earth and reaching the moon. Bigfoot reminded Lenny that he’s only allowed to levitate as high as the pine tree with the branch that looks like a tuning fork. Morzant explained that if Lenny levitated as high as the moon he’d need a special suit like the astronauts in the book used. Briar diffused what threatened to become a lengthy lecture on atmosphere, vacuums, and radiation by mentioning to Morzant that gummy foods also come bear-shaped. Lenny speculated on where he might get a space suit. He considered contacting Binky (of BINKY THE SPACE CAT and BINKY TO THE RESCUE by Ashley Spires). Norman reminded Lenny that Binky is just a character in a book, at which point Morzant regressed to the third stage of skepticism (bargaining) and yelled, “Ah, ha! If Binky is fictional, then somebody named Buzz must also be fictional!”

Oliver’s favorite part of the book was when the astronauts saw Earth from the moon and when the author said the astronauts were looking at everybody on the planet all at once. Oliver liked imagining that. He also liked the drawings showing what a family on Earth was doing during the moon landing. They were listening and waiting and worrying along with the rest of the world. Then when the astronauts announced they were on the moon, everybody was happy. Even without telepathy, the world shared this big happening all together.

I shared my family’s story about the lunar landing. At family reunions, my great uncle Bill used to tell us about how he was swimming nearby when the astronauts' ship returned to Earth and landed in the Pacific Ocean. He played truth or dare with the astronauts while they waited for a helicopter to come pick them up. Great Uncle Bill dared Neil Armstrong to moon the helicopter pilot. No matter how much we would beg, he would never tell us if Neil Armstrong did it.

Norman liked the book, too, but said that he wished the author had written about the cheese collection process and the lunar lemurs who helped the astronauts plant the American flag by digging a hole for the pole. This prompted the following exchange:

MORZANT: I was on the Earth's moon before and I never saw any lunar lemurs.

NORMAN: Sadly, they became extinct shortly after the first lunar landing. Buzz Aldrin's cold sore virus wiped them out.

BRIAR: Norman, you're really, really, really not helping.

Wrap up:
• Briar was assigned to be Snack Master for next meeting.

• Penny is to pick the next book.

• As Club President, Bigfoot issued a moratorium on gummy worms, gummy bears, and any other gummy derivation.

• Meeting adjourned at 10:20 a.m.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Three Minutes with Fido

Normanday #37: Sure he’s talented, but can he catch a rabbit?

I can’t believe the amazing trick that dog did. I’ve never seen anything like it, with the balancing and that other part. I wouldn’t know how to describe it. You were there. How would you describe it?

Email what you wrote to woof at bright dot net by the end of the day July 22 (put “Norman Can Whistle with a Mouthful of Crackers” in the subject line). I’ll post as many of my favorite entries as I want next Monday. Include your first name (or, even better, use a pen name) and age (unless you’re tortoise-old). If you’re a published children’s or young adult writer, include a biography to be posted with your entry.

Here is the single entry from last week when I asked you to write for three minutes…

…about the commotion you hear outside your window right as you’re about to fall asleep.


What is that racket? I really need to get to sleep. I have that big test in the morning. If I don’t get enough rest I’ll never be able to fill in those little bubbles. They make those things too dang small.

Whoa! What’s going on out there? Are those lightning bugs? What are they doing?

“Hey, you lightning bugs! Knock it off! No maracas after 10 p.m.”

There, that’s better. Now I can get to bed. I’ll just turn off the light and—

Now what?

“Hey, crickets! Are you kidding me with the bongos?”

I swear. Insects can be such pests.

ReRunday: HUCK RUNS AMUCK! (Picture Book)

Originally posted on July 2, 2011.


HUCK RUNS AMUCK! (Picture Book)

by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Dial-Penguin, 2011

A Book Review by

Violet the Telekinetic Puppy

I’m Violet and I’m going to tell you about a funny picture book called HUCK RUNS AMUCK. HUCK RUNS AMUCK is about a goat named Huck who runs amuck. Amuck is a funny word and Huck is a funny goat and funny things happen when Huck runs amuck and that’s why HUCK RUNS AMUCK is a funny picture book.

Huck is a special type of goat and that type of goat is a mountain goat. That means Huck is good at climbing. It’s good that Huck is good at climbing because the other thing about Huck is that his favorite food is flowers and the flowers Huck wants to eat are all in high-up places. Huck is a good climber but when he sees flowers he gets excited and he goes amuck and then he isn’t a careful climber.

Huck does a lot of climbing in this book but he doesn’t do a lot of eating because every time he gets close to flowers something happens to keep him from eating the flowers. One time he gets close enough to eat some flowers when he climbs way up a tall cliff that has flowers on top of it. But Huck doesn’t get to eat those flowers because he falls off the tall cliff and that might sound sad but it is really funny because the picture of him falling off the tall cliff is so funny that you won’t be sad. And Huck doesn’t get sad either because right away he sees some more flowers to try to eat and that is another funny part because the flowers he sees aren’t the kind of flowers that grow in the ground they are the kind that are just pictures on underwear. Huck climbs a clothesline to get to the flowers that are really just pictures on underwear but a funny thing happens to keep him from eating the underwear flowers. I won’t tell you what the funny thing is because you will want to find out for yourself.

There are other funny parts where Huck gets close to flowers but doesn’t get to eat them. But there is one time he does get close to flowers and he could eat them if he wants and those are the flowers on a lady’s hat and the hat is on top of a church tower and Huck climbs the tower to get to the hat. But do you know what? Huck doesn’t eat the hat flowers because everybody in town thinks Huck is being a nice mountain goat and that he is climbing the church tower to get the lady’s hat for her. Even though he really wants to eat the hat flowers he doesn’t because he doesn’t want everybody to be mad at him and also because even though he is a hungry mountain goat he is also a nice mountain goat and so he doesn’t eat the hat flowers. The lady is happy and wants to give Huck a reward and you probably think you know what his reward is but if your guess is flowers you are only sort of right. If you think I’m going to tell you if Huck gets to eat flowers at the end of this book you are not even a little bit right.

The pictures in this book are fun to look at and I like the colors and I like the funny way Huck’s eyes look hungry and googly when he sees flowers. I also like the little bird that follows Huck around and I didn’t notice the little bird the first time I read the book but I liked this book so much that I read it a second time and that’s when I noticed the little bird. I don’t know why the little bird follows Huck around but I think maybe Huck ate his nest. That might sound strange but at the beginning of the book it says that goats can eat birds’ nests so maybe Huck ate the little bird’s nest. Except maybe Huck didn’t eat the little bird’s nest because the little bird doesn’t look mad. Probably the little bird is following Huck around because it is fun to watch Huck run amuck.

Here is a list of who will like this book:


Little birds.

Readers named Billy.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Three Minutes Past Bedtime

Normanday #36: The squirrels are throwing a party on the lawn.

You’re in bed, about to fall asleep, when you hear a commotion outside. Write for three minutes about…

…what you see when you look out your window.

Email what you wrote to woof at bright dot net by the end of the day July 15 (put “Norman Could Compete in the Olympics as a Synchronized Swimmer” in the subject line). I’ll post as many of my favorite entries as I want next Monday. Include your first name (or, even better, use a pen name) and age (unless you’re tortoise-old). If you’re a published children’s or young adult writer, include a biography to be posted with your entry.

Here is a terrifying entry from last week when I asked you to write for three minutes…

…about something that’ll scare the socks off your fellow campers when you tell stories around the campfire.

Seriously. It’s really scary. You might want to skip reading this and go make a macramé pot holder instead.


Alright, fellow campers, gather ’round. I am going to tell you a tale of something truly frightening. One day, in 30 years from now, you will turn 40. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at first. I mean, yesterday you were 39 and today you are 40. One day doesn’t make a big difference, right? But then you begin to notice little things. You may go away for a weekend and you don’t sleep so well on other beds. You find that your back hurts. Then your knees make funny noises when you go up and down stairs. They started to hurt too. Not a lot, but just a little. Sometimes, you have cramps in your fingers after working for awhile. They start to get stiff. Okay, you tell yourself, I can take some ibuprofin. No big deal, right? Then, one day, you start calling things by the wrong name. “Gamebox” instead of “XBox,” “Johnsonville” instead of “Thomasville,” “Myface” instead of “Facebook.” Then you find that you skip concerts because they start at 10 p.m. at night and the main band won’t be on stage until 11:30 p.m. and that’s too late for you, even though it’s a Friday night and you can sleep in on Saturday. But you CAN’T sleep in on Saturday. You want to, but you wake up at 7:00 a.m. because that is what time you get up everyday, for work. And you don’t work someplace cool, like you thought you would. You aren’t even a scientist or a rock star or an artist. You do something mundane that you have to do every day because you have responsibilities. Most days, you are tied to a desk staring at a computer. Your eyes ache. And your eye doctor tells you that you may have to get special reading computer glasses and in a few years you will need bifocals. Then, one day, you take a walk during lunch, grabbing just a salad because anything else goes right to your hips and stomach because your metabolism went away a long time ago, and you see two eighteen year old girls and they are wearing skirts that are way too short and you feel irritated by their lack of modesty and then you realize... you have turned into your mother!

Wait? Where did everyone go?

I was expecting ghosts or maybe a couple hungry zombies. Cranberly really knows her way around “scary.” I think we’ll wrap up early today. As it is, you’re probably all going to have nightmares.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

ReRunday: Penny C. Monster, Interview

Originally posted on October 26, 2010.


Tuesdays with Morzant:

Getting to Know a Reader

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. I’m here on the beach awaiting Penny’s arrival. She’s agreed to an interview. I’ve known her a long time and I tend to take for granted much of what I know about her. Nonetheless, I’ll endeavor to ask probing questions so you can get to know her as well as I do. From her advocacy for lamprey literacy to her fear of raindrops, she is a fascinating being. There she is now. I’m over here, Penny! By the sand model of the Great Wall of China. The other end! Here!

PENNY: Hi, Morzant. Wow. This is really, really, really big. It must have taken forever to build.

MORZANT: On the contrary. This version came together in a fraction of the time as the first two.

PENNY: You’ve built three of these?

MORZANT: Six, actually. It took me two tries to formulate a building compound with the ideal sand-to-water ratio given the current temperature, level of humidity, and wind direction. The third wall was sound; however, I realized belatedly that a critical miscalculation had resulted in a model that was not to scale. Obviously, I couldn’t allow that version to stand. The fourth wall was flattened by a petulant beachcomber in need of a nap. The young human seemed heartened by his violent rampage, so much so that I found it difficult to resist trying it myself.

PENNY: Meaning what?

MORZANT: I kicked the fifth wall to smithereens. Which brings us to number six. I can hardly wait to see how the seashell reinforcements hold up. What time does the tide come in? Actually, nevermind that. We’re here to talk about you. Let’s start with your origin. Where were you born?

PENNY: In Lake Michigan, but my family moved around a lot when I was growing up. Lake Athabasca, Lake Bled, Loch Lomond, the Fleet Lagoon. It can be hard to make new friends. Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked to read. It’s hard to be lonely when you’re reading.

MORZANT: Aside from your rather long tail, you resemble a plesiosaur. Most Earth scientists believe the plesiosaur became extinct long ago. Do you believe you’re a remnant of that prehistoric creature?

PENNY: Being called a “remnant” isn’t very flattering, Morzant. I'm not a leftover carpet sample. I don’t know if I’m a descendent of those plesio-whosits, but I’m not a one-of-a-kind. There are lots of us out there, whatever we are.

MORZANT: Really? Are you related to the famous Loch Ness Monster?

PENNY: No, but my great uncle Bill went out with her a few times before he met my great aunt Georganna. I’m glad he ended up with Great Aunt Georganna instead. She’s the one who gave me my first book.

MORZANT: What was that book?


MORZANT: Ah. So that’s when it began.

PENNY: When what began?

MORZANT: You’re incomprehensible attraction to the horror genre.

PENNY: THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK isn’t a horror story. It’s an early reader with Grover. He’s a Muppet. And what do you mean “incomprehensible”? Lots of readers love scary books.

MORZANT: I’m quite aware of that bizarre truth regarding Earth readers. I’ve actually devoted much of my study of Earth literature this month to those readers with a predilection for the macabre.

PENNY: And what did you find out?

MORZANT: Nothing. I have found no explanation whatsoever as to why anyone would purposely read a book in order to become frightened. Perhaps you can enlighten me.

PENNY: Being scared is thrilling. Like riding a roller coaster. You’ve ridden a roller coaster before, haven’t you?

MORZANT: And risk retinal detachment and whiplash? I should say not.

PENNY: Forget roller coasters. You’ve read a scary book before, right?

MORZANT: I read THE ENEMY by Charlie Higson. It can’t be considered scary specifically to me, though, since the book’s zombies attack humans rather than visitors from the planet Zeenton.

PENNY: That counts. Did you like it?

MORZANT: I was enthralled when I thought it was a historical account of a plague. I was disappointed to learn that it’s fiction.

PENNY: It wasn’t a relief to find out that there aren’t zombies in real life?

MORZANT: It was to Mortimer. Even so, he insisted on sleeping with the lights on for two weeks.

PENNY: Maybe you should try a good ghost story instead. Zombies aren’t very subtle, you know? What you need is an old-fashioned, creepy ghost story.

MORZANT: Thank you for trying, Penny, but I just don’t believe I’ll ever understand the allure of the horror novel. We should get back to our original topic—you. If you were to write a horror novel, what would it be about?

PENNY: It would have to have ghosts, definitely. Vengeful ghosts on a rainy night, with lots of thunder and lightening. And there would definitely be newts.


PENNY: Newts are terrifying, don’t you think? There would be swarms of newts. Oh! Even better—ghost newts! Vengeful ghost newts.

MORZANT: What enraged these phantom newts?

PENNY: Um. Hmm…I know. Some kid picked them all up and made their tails fall off. And it really ticked them off. So when they come back as ghosts—

MORZANT: How would they become ghosts? Newts don’t die when their tails fall off.

PENNY: Well, then they live out their lives, humiliated because they have no tails. Then when they die, they come back—

MORZANT: But the tails would grow back. Your mishandled newts would experience no humiliation due to tail loss. Come to think of it, I'm not entirely certain newts are autotomic.

PENNY: What?

MORZANT: Autotomy is an amazing feat of nature whereby a being can disengage an appendage when attacked. Lobsters can shuck a claw and some lizards can shuck a tail. As a matter of fact, if you were to shake myhand too vigorously—

PENNY: Okay. How about this? The kid purposely cuts off the newts’ tails.

MORZANT: Compelling. Perhaps he’s a scientist intrigued by the regenerative properties of newts. He dismembers them so he can study them as their limbs grow back. That’s appropriately gruesome for this type of story.

PENNY: Newts can do that?

MORZANT: Certainly.

PENNY: I told you newts are terrifying.

MORZANT: As I tried to say earlier, I myself share that ability—

PENNY: How perfect for a horror novel! Forget the ghost part. The newt swarms just keep coming after you. Even if you chop them up, they can’t be killed.

MORZANT: Zombie newts? I’m not sure that’s scary. Maybe zombie leeches. No, leeches would make better vampires. Would zombie crocodiles constitute a redundancy?

PENNY: Forget newts and zombies. My book would have a haunted ship that sails the ocean, appearing only on nights of a new moon to take on new crew members. So they’d recruit new members by making ghosts out of unsuspecting sailors. Or scuba divers. Or maybe marine biologists.

MORZANT: That’s erie. What then?

PENNY: Then the sea monsters come to save the cruise ship passengers—yeah, it’s a cruise ship being attacked—the sea monsters save the cruise ship passengers from the ghosts on the haunted ship.

MORZANT: Sea monsters have the power to defeat ghosts? How so? Ghosts are immaterial manifestations.

PENNY: I don’t know. They just do. Anyway, it would be plenty spooky. With a happy ending of course.

MORZANT: A happy ending?

PENNY: Sure. I like happy endings. You know, now that you’ve made me think about it, I’d say part of the fun of a scary story is getting goosebumps from being scared, but knowing when you shut the book you’ll be back in your relatively safe world where there are no zombies or ghosts. Only newts and raindrops.

MORZANT: Speaking of which…

PENNY: What? Did you feel a raindrop? Is there a zombie newt? I’ll see you later, Morzant!

MORZANT: Wait! We’ve barely begun. I haven’t had a chance to ask you what your middle initial stands for. Is it Callidora? Clementine? Wait, Penny! Watch your tail! My wall!

Oh, well. Good-bye for now, humans. This concludes a partial interview with Penny Cecilia? Monster. Please come back next week when I'll try to steer the conversation away from the topics of zombies, ghosts, and newts.