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Howie's Writing Journal
Last night, Pete got into trouble with Mr. and Mrs. Monror. He was supposed to write a story for school, but he didn't, and now he's getting an eff. I don't know what that is, but it must be bad, because Mr. Monroe said, "I can't believe my son -- the son of an English professor -- got an eff on a writing assignment!"
Pete said, "How was I supposed to write a story when I didnt' have an idea?"
I wonder if it's like a stain. I remember the time I got into trouble for drooling on something Mr. Monre had written. It left a stain, but it wasn't my fault. I was just happy to see him.
Pete and I don't usually agreee about things. Maybe that's because he's an eleven-year-old boy and I'm a puppy, but I think it's mostly because we don't look at things the same way. This time, though, I had to agree with him. I know what it's like trying to write when you don't have an idea.
Like now. I'm supposed to be writing a third book in my series, Tales from the House of Bunnicula, and I used up all my idears on my first two.
I asked Uncle Harold what to do. Uncle Harold wrote all those books about our rabbit, Bunnicula, so he knows a thing or two about writing.
He said, "Well, Howie, the big question a writer has to ask himself is -- "
"When do I get paid?"
"That wasn't what I was going to say."
"When do I get my picture on the cover of Canine Quarterly?"
"Howie," Uncle Harold said, giving me that look he gets sometimes when he thinks I'm not taking life seriously. Personally, I don't think life should be taken seriously. Except maybe when your food dish is empty, or you really, really, really need to go out and everybody's saying, "It's your turn to walk the dog!"
Anyway, what he told me is that the big question writers ask is, "What if?" Which I quess I knew already.
"You have to put yourself in the place of others, Howie," he went on. "Ask how you'd feel if what happened to someone else happend to you. Or if you could do something impossible. Like fly."
"Or stay awake for more than two hours in a row?"
I don't think a book about staying awake for two hours and fifteen minutes will sell many copies. I'd better ask a different "what if."
What if...what if...what if...
What if I were like that kid in the book Toby's been reading to Uncle Harold and me every night? That kid has a pretty interesting life. His parents have died, see, and he lives with these really mean relatives, but then he discovers he's got special powers, and when he goes off to school to learn how to use them, he finds out he's famous and...
That's it! I know just what I'm going to write!
Hey, that "what if" comes in pretty handy.
Maybe if Pete had used it, he wouldn't have gotten an eff.
Howie Monroe and the Doghouse of Doom
By Howie Monroe
CHAPTER 1: "THE IMPORTANT LETTER"
Howie Monroe was as smart as a whip and as cute as a button, but that didn't stop him from being an orphan. He lived with his mean aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Monroe, and their wretched, runny-nosed sons, Toby and Pete.
(NOTE to the real Monroes: This is only a story! You are not mean, wretched, or runny-nosed.) (Except maybe for Pete.) (Sometimes.)
The Monroes made Howie sleep under Pete's bed, which was a dark and scary place, full of all kinds of creepy stuff, including several generations of dust bunnies. (See Book 1: It Came from Beneath the Bed! by Howie Monroe.) They were so mean to him, they fed him every other day and even then, were so stingy, they gave him only Kibbles or Bits.
Howie Monroe dreamed of a better life where he would not be called "dumb dog" all the time and everyone would recognize how special he was.
How, do you ask, did he know he was special? He knew because when he noticed his face reflected in his water dish, he saw that he was as cute as a button; when he did the crossword puzzle in his mind while sleeping under the single sheet of newspaper that was sometimes provided for warmth on cold winter nights, he knew he was as smart as a whip; and, besides, he had a mysterious pain in his back left leg that he was sure was a mark of his being an unusual dog with special powers.
One day, he got a letter in the mail. It was a good thing that none of the Monroes were home. Otherwise, Pete and Toby would have folded it into a paper airplane and flown it over his head while he yipped and chased after it. This time, he ran quickly to read it under Pete's bed, and what a lucky thing he did because it was a letter that would change his life forever!
Dear Resident, it began promisingly, You, too, could be a dog wizard! Take this simple test to find out!
1. Do you live with cruel relatives who make you sleep in a dark and scary place?
Howie looked around at the cobwebs and dust bunnies. Check!
2. Do you have an unusual physical characteristic that has great significance that won't be revealed to you until an important point in the story?
Howie thought of the bursitis in his back left leg. Check!
3. Do you have a spirit of adventure, a sharp mind, and ten bucks to return with the enclosed application to the Dogwiz Academy for Canine Conjurers?
Howie glanced at the crumpled ten-dollar bill lying under a heap of Pete's smelly, dirty socks. Check!
Yes! He was going to the Dogwiz Academy for Canine Conjurers! He, Howie Monroe, cute, adorable, but pitiful enough to make the reader feel sorry for him, was going to find out how special he really was!
He might even get to eat Kibbles and Bits!
Text copyright © 2002 by James Howe
Illustrations copyright © by Brett Helquist