Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Convenience Store Imp

An H C Andersen tale newly told by Troy Howell
On the top floor of a convenience store, right under the roof, lived a college student who loved literature. He tended to read more than eat. On the bottom floor lived the grocer,  who tended his store. Somewhere in between lived an imp, who tended to eat more than anything, and loved sweets in particular. Candy, cakes, cookies—it didn’t matter, as long as it was sweet. He would steal into the store at night and snack himself silly.
So the imp approved of the grocer.
One evening, the student came down the stairs to buy light bulbs and cheese, and the imp was watching. The student greeted the grocer’s wife, who switched from gabbing to gawking, for she had the gifts of both gab and gawk. As the grocer was wrapping the cheese, the student noticed the wrapper was not a wrapper at all, but a page from a poetry book.

“What a shame!” he said. “This page should not have been torn!”

“Here’s more,” said the grocer, producing a battered book. “It’s perfect for wrapping cheese.”

“Sir!” said the student. “You’re a good grocer, but you know less about poetry than that recycle bin!”
The grocer laughted it off. "You can have the book for a price."

“Give me the book for the cheese, then. I’d rather feed the soul than the stomach.”

The exchangewas made, the student returned to his loft, and under the stairs the imp stamped. Who does the student think he is? To insult the grocer and snub the recycle bin!
That night when the household slept, the imp crept out. He borrowed the tongue of the grocer’s wife, who snored with her mouth open wide and had no need of it then. The imp placed the tongue on the recycle bin, asking, “Do you know poetry?”

“Know poetry!” cried the tongue. “Huh! It’s the blurb they stick at the end of a page to fill in the
blanks! Blah, blah, blah! That’s what it is! I’ve got more in me than that arrogant kid!”

"Just as I thought," said the imp.

He put the tongue on the coffee grinder and it chattered nonstop. He put it on the cash register and the dairy case, and each one repeated what the recycle bin had said. The word was unanimous: Poetry filled in the blanks.

“Ha!” muttered the imp. “I’ll show that sorry student!” And he rushed up the stairs.

Light was shining from under the student’s door. The imp peered through the keyhole and— Glory! The room was luminous! There sat the student, bent over the book, and from its pages grew a wonderful tree, full of sunrays and spirits who sang enchanting songs. The imp could hardly believe his eyes, could hardly believe his ears. Never had he seen such a sight, never had he heard such singing!

He stood on tiptoe until his limbs went numb, far into the night, until the student closed the book
and climbed into bed.
The light was out, but the vision glowed in the imp’s mind. He approved of the student now. “I never would have imagined!” he whispered. “This is the place for me! I must move into the loft!”
He crept back down the stairs, wondering how to do it. But then his stomach growled, and his sweet tooth ached, and he knew it couldn’t be. The student had little food, and nothing sweet at all.

He returned just in time to save the tongue from wagging itself limp, for it was back on the
recycle bin, babbling the news backward. And from that time on, all the merchandise had the same opinions as the bin.

But from that time on, the imp got no pleasure from gossip. Whenever the light shone from under the student’s door, he’d peer intothe keyhole, amazed.At times he would cry and would not know why.  He would smile, he would sigh. He felt as if a mighty sea rolled before him, basking in sunlight, shifting under clouds. It warmed him and comforted him; it made him feel both strong and small.
Winter came, and still he would peer, though the wind in the stairs shook his bones. When he could stand the cold no longer, back down he would go, shivering but happy.

Christmas came and there were plenty of sweet things to eat, so the imp liked the grocer again.

But on New Year’s Eve he woke in a heat. What commotion there was outside! Shouts and sirens and smoke! Fire! A building was burning! Whose was it? Theirs? He couldn’t tell for sure.

But one thing was sure: Each person would save what each treasured the most. The grocer leaped out of bed and grabbed his accounts. The grocer’s wife took off her earrings and plunged them into her gown. The imp darted upstairs and into the loft, where the student stood calmly at the window, gazing at the fire next door.

The imp found the book of poems, snatched it away, and climbed onto the roof. There he sat, sheltering this marvelous work.

Now he knew what he treasured the most.

The firemen came, the flames were put out, and still he gripped the book.

But then his stomach began to churn, and his sweet tooth began to yearn. Sugar! Sugar! He hung his head, got down from his perch, returned the book, and slumped down the stairs.

He favored the grocer after all.

art & text © 2012 by Troy Howell

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Current Events

At a recent meeting of our writers group, one member commented, "I really don't like assigning my writing to any particular category, such as YA, middle grade, etc., because I'd like my writing to reach everyone." Wouldn't we all? It's probably impossible to get your book into the market without labeling it something, but there's good news! Books written for the young reader appeal to a very wide range of the reading public, as reported in this article from Publishers Weekly (9-13-12): "More than half the consumers of books classified for young adults aren’t all that young. According to a new study, fully 55% of buyers of works that publishers designate for kids aged 12 to 17 -- known as YA books -- are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44, a group that alone accounted for 28% of YA sales. And adults aren’t just purchasing for others -- when asked about the intended recipient, they report that 78% of the time they are purchasing books for their own reading. The insights are courtesy of Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age, an ongoing biannual study from Bowker Market Research that explores the changing nature of publishing for kids. “The investigation into who is reading YA books began when we noticed a disparity between the number of YA e-books being purchased and the relatively low number of kids who claim to read e-books,” said Kelly Gallagher, v-p of Bowker Market Research. “The extent and age breakout of adult consumers of these works was surprising. And while the trend is influenced to some extent by the popularity of The Hunger Games, our data shows it’s a much larger phenomenon than readership of this single series.” Indeed, 30% of respondents reported they were reading works in the Hunger Games series. But the remaining 70% of readers reported a vast variety of titles (over 220), only two of which commanded more than five percent of overall sales – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn. “Although bestsellers lead, there’s a long tail of rich reading that has interesting implications for the publishers of YA books in terms of discovery and consumer relationships,” said project editor Kristen McLean. The trend is good news for publishers, as these adult consumers of YA books are among the most coveted demographic of book consumers overall. Additional insights from the Bowker study show these readers are: • Early adopters: More than 40% read e-books, equivalent to the highest adoption rates of adult genres of mystery and romance • Committed: 71% say that if an e-book of their desired title was unavailable, they would buy the print book instead • Loyal: Enjoying the author's previous books has a moderate or major influence over the book choice for more than two-thirds of the respondents • Socially active: Although more than half of respondents reported having "no interest" in participating in a reading group, these readers are very active in social networks and often get recommendations from friends. Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age is sponsored in the U.S. by Little Brown for Young Readers, Random House, HarperCollins, Scholastic, Disney, Penguin, DK, and Macmillan. To order a copy, contact Bowker Market Research at"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Gift

As we get into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I find December to be the hardest month to sit down and write. I am like an elf juggling candy canes in a blizzard. There you have it. A brief and very accurate simile of my December lifestyle. (And, yes, I already have a picture book story churning on this.) As I contemplated the necessity to update my blog with something inspirational about writing, I totally drew a blank. So I opted instead, to share something I hope others find inspirational. Last year, my then 7 year-old daughter came home on a mission. She was downright giddy over a special gift exchange in her class. As the Cane Juggler, I frantically rooted through her backpack to find the specifics. I needed a due date. I needed a monetary limit. I needed details. I found nothing. As my little one began pulling paper and glue from our craft closet, I confronted her. “What do I need to do or buy for this gift exchange?” She smiled and responded, “You don’t need to do or buy anything. I’ve got it covered.” So, for the next few hours, she plotted and planned her gift. I gradually pulled more details from her and found out that the exchange was an impromptu idea between her and a few friends. As a Recovering Helicopter Mom, I refrained from offering to buy a toy from Target, and let her make a present. After every piece was in place, she called me over to look at her creation. It. Was. Beautiful. So beautiful, I wanted it. I wanted it so much that I tried unsuccessfully to offer up the Target toy at that point. She loved that I loved it, but delicately reminded me that she did not make it for me, she made it for her friend. Although I’m sure I probably chewed off a significant portion of my tongue, I said no more. The following day, my daughter had me drive her to school so her present wouldn’t be damaged. I asked her the name of the child it was intended for and she innocently told me. I secretly contemplated contacting the child’s Mom to reacquire the present. How could that little girl possibly appreciate this gift as much as I did? Yet, I knew it was not meant for me, so I snapped one picture and painfully let it go. Later that afternoon, my daughter stepped off the bus and ran over to hug me. I asked, “How was the gift exchange?” She smiled and responded, “Well, no one else brought a gift in.” For a brief moment, I became really excited, thinking I would have that gift after all. But my daughter continued to tell me that although her gift was the only present, she still gave it to her friend. My daughter also told me that she told all her friends she made her present as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. Although I do not have it in my possession, her homemade nativity will always be my favorite Christmas gift. Please check out the picture of it below.
Deb Dudley A.K.A. The Cane Juggler (Originally posted on Deb's blog,