A Gnawing Curiosity
I’ve heard the rumor that Lennies are the smartest pet in Neopia and, being a
Red Lenny myself, I’m quite fond of sharing it whenever I get the chance. I’m
not entirely sure how accurate it is, however. Sure, the host of Lenny Conundrum
is a Red Lenny like myself, but then again it is called “Lenny” Conundrum. My
own intelligence is just above average. Actually I guess it would be higher if
I spent as much time reading books as I do the Neopian Times. But in my
opinion, the Times is better than books--at least the Times doesn’t burst into
a cloud of discolored smoke when you’re done with it. This lack of combustion
is handy for me because when I get the newest edition of the Neopian Times, I
always read it the same way. I read the editorial first and then the comics. Afterward,
I roll it up and stick it in my pocket so I can read the articles, short stories,
and series throughout the week.
The other day my little brother (also a Lenny and not a credit to the smartness
of our species) accused me of stealing his favorite Usuki doll (which I did
not). I laughed at him for even playing with Usuki dolls and the argument got
heated. We both said mean things that we quickly took back later, but at one
point during the argument he grabbed the Times out of my pocket and yelled,
“Why do you even read this stupid thing?!” I think it’s needless to say that
it was much more insulting to me that he called the Times stupid than it was
to be screamed at. Wounded, I snatched the issue back and ran to my room.
But his comment got me thinking. Not about whether or not the Times is stupid--I
think anyone reading this knows the answer to that. But about why we read it.
Why do Neopians care about it? And all those people who submit their stories
for the rest for us to read, why do they care about a Baby Zafara named Penelope
who’s scared to death of Grarrls (Plushie
Eaters by Literalluau)? Or a Green Kau called Trika who’s Illusen’s biggest
Cookies by Nut862)? I didn’t know, but I was determined to find out.
I just hoped they all cared about a Red Lenny called Leona who had a gnawing
I took off immediately down the streets of Neopia Central into the Deep Catacombs.
I figured all those artsy types would hang out in the coffee shop, close to
the art gallery and the Neopian Times headquarters. I hit the nail right on
the head. Maybe Lennies are more naturally smart than I give us credit
for. Walking into the coffee shop, I saw that almost every head was bent over
a copy of the Neopian Times, a book, or a piece of paper. There was only a small
group in the corner who did not seem hard at work as they were talking quietly
with crazy smiles on their faces. All the other chairs were full, so I somewhat
hesitantly took a seat at their table.
At first I didn’t think they noticed. They all kept talking about cheesecake
and Meepits and water and fires and things that didn’t really make sense to
me. I turned my attention to the saner people in the room. Every few minutes,
the bell over the door would jingle to announce the arrival of a new customer
who would take a seat on the floor with a notebook and his or her coffee. The
odd thing was, every time the bell jingled, the girl to my right literally began
drooling at the mouth. Each time, I tried to imperceptibly scoot my chair further
away. Soon I realized that a majority of the people entering the shop were coming
from the Neopian Times headquarters. I imagined many of them had just dropped
off a story or an article or a comic that I would be reading next week and my
heartbeat quickened. I couldn’t talk to these--
“Name?” The person sitting across the table from me demanded loudly. I turned
the right way in my chair to see them all staring at me. “Name?” she repeated,
but not meanly.
“Leona,” I answered hesitantly. This seemed to satisfy her. “Your names?”
“Not important,” she answered and the rest shook their heads in agreement.
“Unless you plan to join us?” I counted heads now. There were five of them,
and I made six at the table.
“Sure… but I have to tell you, I don’t understand anything you’re saying.
I really came here to talk to some Neopian Times readers and writers, not to
talk about, errr, cheese graters or pie.”
“Well, you’re in the right spot!” one of them exclaimed, clapping her hand
on my back. “I’d have to say that criteria covers everyone in here. Even the
shopkeeper. So go talk to them!”
“Oh, no, I--I couldn’t talk to these people.” I just knew that some of them
had written my favorite stories, tales that had made me laugh, cry, and even
throw my Nova Lamp across the room once.
“Sure you can,” said another of the group. “But they’re not as sane as they
look.” She winked. “Most of them are just as insane as we are.”
“As we,” said the girl on my left, irritated.
“You said ‘as we are,’” she told the girl. “It’s just ‘as we.’” Suddenly the
corner felt very tense.
“That sounds like some new petpet. Aswee.” They all laughed, much to my relief.
“We’ll introduce you. How’s that?” suggested the girl who kept drooling at
the mouth when the bell jingled. She poked me in the wing.
“Okay,” I agreed uneasily.
“By the way,” said the girl to my left, smiling, “we know you can talk to
people who’ve had their work published in the Times. You just talked to four
We walked to the nearest person. He was sitting against
the wall, hunkered over a notebook in his lap. His quill was moving furiously.
“Busy?” one of my new friends asked.
He jumped about a mile, looking extremely upset until his eyes rested on our
group. When he saw us, he smiled a little. “I’m right in the middle of something
I think will be pretty good. Of course you all would pick right now for a chat.”
“Leona here,” someone said as they all pushed me forward, “wants to talk to
some Neopian Times readers and writers. We thought you fit that description
pretty well, Dan.”
“Well.” He smiled at me, putting his notebook to the side. “What do you want
“It’s okay,” someone whispered from behind me. “He doesn’t bite.”
“Often,” someone else added, causing them all to erupt into giggles. “Just
kidding,” came the same voice. “Ask him what you want to know.”
“W--why do you read the Neopian Times?”
“That’s easy. I read the Times to see others’ writing styles and how they
I nodded. That made sense, that the Neopian Times would be a good way for
writers to inspire and learn from each other. “How many times have you been
My eyes widened. “Well then, um, why do you write for the Times?”
“I like to tell my own stories and show off my own characters. And for fun.
And for the trophies.”
“Thank you.” I was in a daze. Thirty times? I had carried on a conversation
with someone who had been in the Neopian Times thirty times. And more to come
by the looks of his notebook that he had hastily pulled back into his lap.
“So you’re impressed with thirty, huh?” someone asked me, poking my wing.
“Well, come on. I see Sia is in her usual spot.”
We came up to a young girl who was sitting by the window, apparently daydreaming
“Ahem,” came the sound from various group members. She shook herself from
her thoughts with a jerk of her head.
“Go ahead, ask her,” came the command from behind me.
“I’m Leona.” I thought it would be rude not to introduce myself first. “How
many times have you been published in the Neopian Times?”
She glanced to the group behind me, a slight questioning look her eyes. “One
hundred and thirty,” she answered, directing her attention back to me.
My eyes must have been huge. She blushed slightly. As I talked to her, I found
that she also finds inspiration in the things others write in the Times. She
said she writes for fun. “Mostly to escape reality, immerse myself in something
else than the mundane daily life. It lifts stuff off my shoulders and I write
things that sometimes can’t be said.”
After that, I departed from the group and spent hours in that coffee shop.
I talked to people who had been published almost fifty times, those that had
just been published ten times and were very excited, and those that hadn’t been
published yet but were still trying. I talked to people like me who read the
Neopian Times, but had never tried to write for it.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” asked the girl to my right when
I got back to their table.
“I should hope so,” smirked another girl. “She’s been here for four hours.
Can’t get enough of us.”
“I found more than what I was looking for,” I told them.
“That’s great,” the girl across from me grinned. “Well.” She checked her watch.
“We’d better be getting back.”
“Wait!” All eyes were on me. “Your names?” I asked.
The girl across from me smiled and introduced the group, starting with the
jingle-obsessed girl on my right and working counterclockwise around the table
back toward me.
“Can I ask you some questions?” I had my pen poised.
Some interesting facts based on my discussions:
The average number of publications was 14
The popularity of categories (although all are very popular):
1st place--Short Stories
Disclaimer: These “facts” are not representative of anything but the people
I talked to. These people do not represent any population but the one that was
at the Coffee Shop that night.
Most common reasons for reading the Neopian Times:
The love of reading
To be entertained
To escape to another world
To get information
To be inspired by what others have written
To keep up with friends’ stories
Most common reasons for writing for the Neopian Times:
For the love of writing
Incentive to write and improve writing
To put feelings down on paper
The thrill of being published
Almost all the people I talked to had a combination
of these reasons for reading and/or writing for the Neopian Times. I guess that
just goes to show that there’s not one universal reason why we care. Reading
or writing is a personal experience that we choose to share with other people.
In that respect, every time we read or write a story we give a part of ourselves
to someone else. Those people in the coffee shop in the Deep Catacombs realize
that, that’s why they respect and support each other constantly.
You know, I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before, but I just may try
to write for the Times myself.
Author’s Note: Congratulations to the Neopian Times on hitting the 250
mark! Thank you to the hilarious and inspiring members of my guild and also
to Nut (Nut862), Dan (Dan4884), Sia (Shadowcristal), and Hali (Haliete). Thank
you to everyone who participated in answering my questions; you can be sure
this article wouldn’t have been possible without you. And last, but not least,
thank you to everyone who reads and/or writes--you fill the voids in any world.