Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Above Us Only Sky

Above Us Only Sky is the epic tale of the Vilkas women, separated by oceans, generations and war, but connected by something much greater—the gift of wings. 

In 1973, Prudence Eleanor is born with wings in Nashville, Tennessee.  Considered a birth defect, her wings are excised shortly after her birth, leaving the ghost of them behind. 

Living on the eastern coast of the Atlantic, she grapples with the wings that only one other person can see, but Prudence can feel.  At age sixteen, she comes face to face with another winged girl, an apparition beneath Atlantic waters.  Who is she? 

This same year, Prudence meets her Lithuanian grandfather, a WWII survivor whose family was murdered under Soviet orders.  Through her grandfather, Prudence discovers a miraculous lineage beating and pulsing with past Lithuanian birds: storytellers with wings dragging the dirt, survivors perched on radio towers, lovers lit up like fireworks and heroes disguised as everyday men and women.  In a small oceanfront town, the unexpected and unimaginable have bubbled up from the depths to confront and enlighten Prudence, and this is only the beginning.  She is set forth on a quest to discover her lineage, to find out who the other winged girl is, and ultimately to find out where she belongs.    


Above Us Only Sky is a story of mutual understanding between the old and young; it is a love story; a story of survival, and most importantly a story about going home.  Again.   

Advance Praise
"Above Us Only Sky is a raw, beautiful, unforgettable book that folds unfathomable horrors and unfathomable love into a story of incredible power. Young-Stone is a master writer, and her deft control of this novel's many moving pieces puts her in the highest echelon of our craft. Yet at the center, literal and figurative, of this novel is a story so brilliantly simple and deeply moving, you'll forget you are reading a book. This story shook me to my core, and I can't wait for the rest of the world to experience it."  -Lydia Netzer.  
Author of Shine Shine Shine.  The Wall Street Journal calls Shine Shine Shine "decidedly weird and entirely winning".  People Magazine says, Shine Shine Shine is a "A delightfully unique love story and a resounding paean to individuality."


“The beautiful prose in Michele Young-Stone’s Above Us Only Sky flies off the page. A stirring meditation on resilience, the ties that bind us to our past, and what it means to have wings.”—Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds, a brilliant debut, Best Indie Book, highly praised by O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Booklist, and the San Francisco Chronicle--to name only a few.   

Library Journal:
VERDICT Young-Stone has written a novel that's both fanciful and brutally realistic, soaring as it does between angelic beings and heartless dictators. From America to Lithuania, from past to present, this is a heart-wrenching tale for literary fiction fans and particularly for readers interested in World War II.—Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Univ. Law Lib., Malibu, CA

Bank Square Books:   “Simply beautiful and exquisitely crafted. Combining history, love and loss with the story of a young woman born with wings and growing up in low income Florida is not an easy feat to pull off but Michele Young-Stone has done so without a flaw. I loved this novel, fell in love with Prudence and her wings and so will you. And I feel like I know much more of Lithuania than I ever thought I would!”—Annie Philbrick

Bank Square Books, 53 W. Main Street, Mystic, CT 06355, 860-536-3795www.banksquarebooks.com


Monday, March 3, 2014

The Moon Sisters land on earth, March 4th, 2014, and Therese Walsh talks character(s)--how they stick with her.


Therese Walsh’s second novel, The Moon Sisters, will be published in hard cover on March 4th, 2014 by Crown (Random House).  TODAY!!!!!!!!!

Her debut, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, was named one of January Magazine’s Best Books of 2009, was nominated for a RITA award for Best First Book, and was a TARGET Breakout Book.

Therese is the co-founder of Writer Unboxed, a site that’s visited daily by thousands of writers interested in the craft and business of fiction.


What Therese has to say about CHARACTER:


"When I’m ready to start a new story, I sit with ideas but not crystal clear ones. Rather, these ideas are like partially formed apparitions; they blink and sway and leave me feeling both unsure about my vision and entranced by it.

When I first sat to write 'The Moon Sisters,' I had a fairly good idea about the book’s themes and who one of the sisters would be—a dreamy synesthete named Olivia Moon, who could see music and smell her mother on the sun and knew the taste of hope. Her sister, Jazz, was much less revealing, which made things interesting when she claimed the first chapter for her own. She was angry, this sister—bitter and put upon.  She didn’t want to cooperate with me any more than she wanted to cooperate with Olivia, who had plans to track down a legendary will-o’-the-wisp light—a different sort of partially formed apparition that blinks and sways and lures with false promises. Olivia wanted to find one of these wisps because it was her mother’s dream to see one, and her mother had died without this wish fulfilled. Though Olivia believed that seeing a light would help in some significant way, I couldn’t pinpoint the why of that, exactly; and every time I tried to saddle Olivia with a simple reason, like a desire to lay her mother’s spirit to rest, it rang hollow.

Whatever Olivia’s fuzzy logic, Jazz was not interested in the trip. She let me know, almost immediately, that she had other priorities, like starting her new job at a funeral home—the same funeral home her mother’s body had been laid out in just a few months earlier. She wanted to work there, but she wouldn’t tell me why. Fascination with death? Obvious. But why?

Each chapter of The Moon Sisters begins with some form of reflection from either Olivia or Jazz. Sometimes these reflections are a single memory, sometimes they're puzzle-piece realizations about how life up to that point created the person they had become. I fell in love with these segments, and would look forward to writing them and learning more about the girls and their troubled mother, Beth, as the story progressed.

And eventually—eventually—there it was, toward the end of my draft. Illumination. When I realized why Jazz wanted to work in a funeral home, I cried. When I realized why Olivia wanted so desperately to connect with a will-o’-the-wisp light, I cried again.

If you’re a writer, and you’re one who knows all that’s needed about a canvas of characters before you begin writing, then I applaud you. I am not like you, though. I have to muddle through until my characters trust me—or until my subconscious bubbles to the surface. I have to write and write to learn why because it does not come any other way, and never easily.  And perhaps I’m a touch masochistic, but I think I like this blink-sway process. As the characters come to trust me with their issues, I come to trust myself with them as well."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Advance Praise for Above Us Only Sky


"Above Us Only Sky is a raw, beautiful, unforgettable book that folds unfathomable horrors and unfathomable love into a story of incredible power. Young-Stone is a master writer, and her deft control of this novel's many moving pieces puts her in the highest echelon of our craft. Yet at the center, literal and figurative, of this novel is a story so brilliantly simple and deeply moving, you'll forget you are reading a book. This story shook me to my core, and I can't wait for the rest of the world to experience it."  -Lydia Netzer.  Shine Shine Shine made the NYT Book Review's list of 100 Notable Books of 2012!  The Wall Street Journal calls Shine Shine Shine "decidedly weird and entirely winning" in its August 3rd review.
Shine Shine Shine is a "People's Pick" in the July 30 issue of People Magazine. "A delightfully unique love story and a resounding paean to individuality."


“The beautiful prose in Michele Young-Stone’s Above Us Only Sky flies off the page. A stirring meditation on resilience, the ties that bind us to our past, and what it means to have wings.”—Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds, a brilliant debut, Best Indie Book, highly praised by O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Booklist, and the San Francisco Chronicle--to name only a few.  

Thank you so much for reading Above Us Only Sky.  I look forward to one day paying back the favor and being asked to blurb for up-and-coming writers.  

Many years ago, Jacquelyn Mitchard and Sheri Reynolds praised my debut, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.  I am forever appreciative.      

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome to 2014: What does it mean to be 'Stuck Here on Purpose'?

I am the author of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.  The Boston Globe wrote,
"Young-Stone has written an exceptionally rich and sure-handed debut, full of complex characters, brilliantly described."  My next novel, Where I Am Born, is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster (publication date pending).  I live on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with my husband, my son, a quirky cocker spaniel and a jovial bearded dragon. 

(OOPS: The title of the novel has changed since I posted this blog.  That said, I'm going to leave this as is because a big theme in the novel is the notion of where we are born...  And that's basically what this post is about.  XO)  Oh, the new title is ABOVE US ONLY SKY.  


The New Novel:  Where I Am Born is the epic tale of two women separated by oceans, generations and war, but connected by something much greater—the gift of wings.  In 1973, Prudence Eleanor is born with wings in Nashville, Tennessee.  Considered a birth defect, her wings are excised shortly after her birth, leaving the ghost of them behind.

Living on the eastern coast of the Atlantic, the unexpected and unimaginable bubble up from the depths to confront Prudence: She meets her Lithuanian grandfather and discovers a miraculous lineage beating and pulsing with past Lithuanian birds: storytellers with wings dragging the dirt, survivors perched on radio towers, lovers lit up like fireworks and heroes disguised as everyday men and women.

Sometimes where we think we are born is not even close.  It is in finding our birthplace that we have a chance at becoming whole.  


In 2013, I worked on my second novel, Where I Am Born.  With the dawn of 2014, I realized that my life and work--as usual--are reflections of each other.  I lived the first half of my life in or around Richmond, Virginia, and then, in 2012, I was born in a new and amazingly unique place, on a chain of islands 200 miles long.  Most of the people who live here have come here by choice.  To quote my friend Matt Walker and his amazing publication, Milepost, we are “Stuck Here on Purpose”.    (Check them out online!)

We are an island of business owners, writers, teachers, surf instructors, doctors and realtors rubbing elbows with service workers: waitresses, cashiers, hotel staff, HVAC guys, roofers, electricians and jacks-of-all-trades.  We rub elbows at the grocery store, at the gym, at our children’s schools.    

The landscaper used to be a stockbroker and the waitress was an attorney.  

People who live here are called here—as we were—for the surf or the birds or the silence of February or the madness of July, or for all of it.  People who live here do whatever is necessary to stay here.  Deer trek through our yard and egrets perch in our canals.  We watch the ducks and geese come and go and the lime green tree frogs stick translucent to the glass doors all summer long.  We try to keep them from freezing to death in the air-conditioned house, and our hearts break when we find one frozen by the door.  Nearly every day in the summer, one hitchhikes from the sound to the beach or vice versa and back again.    
No one is any better than anyone and no one presumes to be so.
In the summer time, the locals work.  They work hard, long hours.  They can hardly catch a breath, juggling family life and putting bread on the table.  In the off-season, many escape to warmer climates, to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, or Mexico.  Many stay behind, collect unemployment, focus on their children.  I’m starting to feel it now, after 18 months, the feeling of being born again, of being born here and not there.       

Sometimes we are born anew because of circumstances out of our hands, born anew out of necessity and survival, but other times we are born anew by our actions, by choice, by imagining a different way to be.   I like this way.  I like HERE--the pace, the community.  For 2014, I am born on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  How about you?  Where are you born?



Friday, October 25, 2013

Thinking about Critiquing


"...you better pull on your big girl panties because if you want to be a successful writer, you better learn how to take criticism.  You not only have to take it, but you have to turn it around and be grateful that someone cares deeply enough about your words and work to tell you the truth about them." 

I belong to a wonderful writers' group, The Girlfriends' Book Club, an eclectic group of female writers,
whose work ranges from genre to literary fiction.  It's nearly my turn to blog on our group site, and after considering the suggested topic for this cycle: Who reads your work?  Talk about your experiences
during critique, etc., I decided to share this blog here.


Honesty vs. Brutality

As much as I try to be constructive and helpful when critiquing another writer’s work, it does NOT come across as either, for the following reasons: they (the writers) are in love with their work (as they should be); they want to hear praise (I make sure to do that); just the same, no amount of praise is going to ameliorate hard truths, like “This scene does not forward the storyline.  It seems unnecessary to the book’s arc.”  Or “You’ve already said this.”  Or “This dialogue has no subtext.  It’s not believable.”  I could go on and on.  I don’t read for anyone anymore.  For me, it tends to end with hurt feelings.

On the flip side of the coin, I have received editorial feedback like, “I think you should rewrite this from a different point of view.”  “Cut these four pages.”  “Write something better, more beautiful here.”  “You don’t need this.” 

And, truth be told, you better pull on your big boy or big girl panties because if you want to be a successful writer, you better learn how to take criticism.  You not only have to take it, but you have to turn it around and be grateful that someone cares deeply enough about your words and work to tell you the truth about them. 

Like in comedy, delivery is everything.  Start by saying something positive, like, “I like the paper you used.”  “I bet this pen was expensive.”  “Great font you’ve chosen.”

I try VERY hard not to read the work of aspiring authors.  Feelings get hurt. 

Flip the coin: I know who I can trust to read for me, and I am oh so appreciative!

Look for WHERE I AM BORN, Simon & Schuster, 2014/2015.  Buy your copy of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors NOW.  Sold Everywhere!

*Where I Am Born is the epic tale of two women separated by oceans, generations and war, but connected by something much greater—the gift of wings.

Friday, October 18, 2013

SNEAK PEAK: What is the next novel about??? Where I Am Born...

Above Us Only Sky is the epic tale of two women separated by oceans, generations and war, but connected by something much greater—the gift of wings.  In 1973, Prudence Eleanor is born with wings in Nashville, Tennessee.  Considered a birth defect, her wings are excised shortly after her birth, leaving the ghost of them behind. 
Living on the eastern coast of the Atlantic, the unexpected and unimaginable bubble up from the depths to confront Prudence: She meets her Lithuanian grandfather and discovers a miraculous lineage beating and pulsing with past Lithuanian birds: storytellers with wings dragging the dirt, survivors perched on radio towers, lovers lit up like fireworks and heroes disguised as everyday men and women.
Sometimes where we think we are born is not even close.  It is in finding our birthplace that we have a chance at becoming whole.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

WHAT A LITERARY LIFE REALLY MEANS, Virginia Pye


Virginia Pye, author, River of Dust

This week, news came out that a group of scientists have proven, once and for all, that reading literary fiction increases one’s ability to empathize with others. For some of us in the writing biz, that’s a no brainer. Still, it’s nice to have our sense of things confirmed.
The scientists explained that literary fiction, which shows the interior life of characters, teaches us how people think. Commercial fiction, which they contend focuses more on action, doesn’t achieve this. Over the years, I’ve heard writers and publishing professionals define these types of writing, but never with such authority. Perhaps it helps to be outside the world of books to see it more clearly.
These days, I’m so in the midst of a "literary life" --writing or reading, attending conferences and festivals, meeting fellow writers and publishing professional--that I can forget why I do this in the first place. It makes me wonder, what does a literary life really mean?
Last night, the car radio helped me remember the answer. I sat in my driveway in the dark and listened to the BBC World Service report on literary happenings around the globe. Not a reading by Salman Rushdie in some hallowed, ivy-covered hall. Not interviews with Jhumpa Lahiri or Dave Eggers on their latest books. But instead, reports from distant outposts—villages and hamlets way off the beaten path. And each brief story illustrated the power of literature in a deeply powerful way.
In Somaliland, children crowd around and elbow each other to get their hands on books. This remote region of a war-torn country has set down their guns. Adults and kids alike sit with their heads bent over books. For obvious reasons, their favorite is War and Peace.  
In Afghanistan, women write their stories -- tales that are uniformly horrific and yet they’re eager to share them. Near the end of the interview, though, a teenage girl says she is tired of women writing stories of rape, incest and murder. It is time, she declares, for them to instead write a new history of their country.
A different reporter visits Shakespeare & Company on the Left Bank in Paris, a bookshop crowded, floor to ceiling, with books. Joyce and Stein, Hemingway and Camus, all hung out here. The warren of rooms feels more like a library than a store, a sacred setting of literary history. (I remember my first visit there at age eighteen and have been thankful each time I’ve returned to find it unchanged.)
Mules laden with books make their way across rough terrain to Argentine villages, offering a popular mobile lending library. In Kenya, schools are mobile as well, so that nomadic sheepherding tribes can learn to read and write. In the sandy soil, sheep droppings are used to spell out the alphabet.
In the South Pacific, an elderly British trader is forced to finally toss away his books: Captain Cooke’s travel diaries, Robert Louis Stephenson’s volumes, Robinson Crusoe, James Michener, and dozens of others, have all been ravaged by humidity and bugs. The old trader says, You have to know what you’re up against here. His ruined books seem to illustrate what he means.
And in a city square in Morocco, one of the last dozen storytellers in the country shares a scene from A Thousand and One Nights. For over 1,000 years, stories have been passed down in this way. In a country with a 40% illiteracy rate, the tales are now being digitally recorded and saved for posterity.
These are the stories of literary life that I want to try to remember the next time I check my Goodreads account or Amazon author page. Books, as the scientists have now proven, help us understand the human heart. In settings where life is harsh, that understanding is crucial. Here in the comfort of home, it offers a vital life line to what matters as well. *****
 Virginia Pye’s debut novel, River of Dust, was chosen as an Indie Next Pick by the Independent Booksellers Association. Carolyn See in The Washington Post called it “intricate and fascinating;” Annie Dillard said it’s “a strong, beautiful, deep book;" and Robert Olen Butler named it “a major work by a splendid writer.” Virginia has published award-winning short stories in literary magazines. Her essays can be found in The Rumpus and The New York Times Opinionator blog. Interviews with her are on line at The Nervous Breakdown and Huffington Post. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence and has taught writing at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania. Please visit her at www.virginiapye.com



Monday, September 23, 2013

What Is A Worker Sentence?

Dear Writer, 
By my own definition learned from an earnest writer and professor of writing, a worker sentence is a
sentence that gets you from point A to point B in a story or novel.  It is regrettably not often a "pretty" or "glamorous" or "novel" sentence, it is a worker sentence, much like a worker bee.

When you write, do you try and make every sentence golden like William Faulkner or Toni Morrison?  Or do you employ the worker sentence as a means to a bigger end?  Or do you think that both are necessary in measure? 

Hot damn!  Tell me what you think!

xo
michele  


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to be a Successful Unsuccessful Humor Writer by guest blogger, Perry Block



A few years ago, Perry Block read my debut novel, and he liked it (so I really like him)!  He's very witty and cute (despite being "nouveau old").  Remember, folks: this age thing is going to happen to all of us.

Check Perry out @ www.perryblock.com  

The Internet has indeed afforded a tremendous amount of opportunity to a great many people that never existed in the past, and in no area of human endeavor is this truer than that of the literary arts.  Today there are more ways than ever before to successfully become a failed writer.  
And I should know.

I am a successful unsuccessful humor writer.   You may find it difficult to believe, but it was only four short years ago I began writing a humor blog entitled "Perry Block - Nouveau Old, Formerly Cute."  Back in those days I was a callow inexperienced unsuccessful humor writer. Fast forward four years and all that has changed dramatically; today I stand before you as a veteran experienced successful unsuccessful humor writer. 

And you can be too.  Here's how:

Why become a humor writer?  Everybody secretly desires to become a writer.  You don't have to get up early, you can wear a turtleneck any time you want, and in some circles you may be considered an intellectual even if you think health care reform is a branch of Judaism exclusively for hypochondriacs. And being a humor writer is the easiest kind of writer to be because you just make up everything.   No research, no fact-checking, it's like being a Republican. 

How did you begin humor 
blogging? Several years ago I came to the realization that I had many unexpressed thoughts, ideas, hopes, dreams, desires, and aspirations. They are none of your damn business!  So I thought I'd write me a schlock comedy blog instead.  

How long have you been humor blogging? Oh, about an hour or so. Actually I'm due for a bathroom break.  


Where do you get your ideas?   Mostly from China.  I also import a smattering of ideas from several other Asian countries and a few from a real funny fat guy in Bolivia. Don't get me wrong, I’d love to source ideas from the United States, but frankly the concept-ship is shoddy and I've gotten zero customer service attempting to call the Help Desk for an idea that isn't working! 

Are there any tricks to humor writing?   There sure are!  Uhh, know any?

Isn't it important to have a quirky mind or vivid imagination?
 Nah, my imagination's about as fertile as the concrete on I-95. To be a successful unsuccessful humor writer the stuff only has to be as funny as the small print on a whole life insurance contract.

How successfully unsuccessful are you?  
I don't wanna brag, but I am totally unknown outside of Michele Young-Stone, and even she won't return my calls.  

Do you have a writing schedule or regimen?   
Yes, I do.  

What is it, jerk?   Oh yeah, sorry!  I awaken at 6:00 A.M., brush my teeth if it's Thursday, then I head down to the kitchen to resuscitate yesterday's coffee. I check my e-mail, put on Good Morning America and check my brain, then go back to bed. Whenever I get up, I write a bunch of stuff if I'm not too nauseous.

Do you ever struggle with Writers' Block?  Gee, I can’t think of a thing to write about that.  Yeah, coming up dry here.  Sorry.

Can you guarantee I too will be a successful unsuccessful humor writer? Absolutely!  To be a success in the humor writing business you have to have talent, drive, desire, and determination.  If you had any of these things, you'd be doing something constructive. 

 Thus, your successful unsuccess is assured!


Thank you so much to Perry for guest blogging.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Susan Gregg Gilmore, Author of The Funeral Dress (available now), talks family and inspiration!






Susan talks inspiration, family, and story!  Sometimes a single-wide trailer is the most idyllic place in the world.     Just ask Susan.  
Susan Gregg Gilmore

"A 1970s Kodak photograph got me to thinking.  And then it got me to writing.  It was a photo I had snapped of my great aunt and uncle sitting in their single-wide trailer (the same trailer they had shared for fifty years) back in the late 1970s. 


As a small child, I loved visiting my relatives, and I loved their house.  It felt like a doll's house.  It was cozy and warm and always smelled like chocolate.  My aunt and uncle never had children of their own so when my brother and sisters and I went to visit, we were spoiled rotten.  Baba would buy those cheap plastic floats from the convenience market down the road and we'd all play in the lake for hours, including my aunt who acted more childlike than adult.  I only recently found out that Baba didn't know how to swim! 

So as a grown woman, finding this photograph, I began to wonder what life had really been like for my Aunt Baba and Uncle Ed.  Both had worked hard, went to church every Sunday, and doted on their family.  But they never left the trailer.  In fact it was only at the end of her life did Baba admit to my mother that she'd like to live in a real house, one made of bricks. 

From all of this Leona and Curtis came to life on the page, and writing the chapters about Leona and Curtis and their life in their trailer were some of the most wonderful, fluid times of this entire three-year process.  The words spilled onto the page.  And every time I entered their world, I felt very at home."

Thank you to Susan Gregg Gilmore for guest blogging and sharing this wonderful story and inspiration.  Please visit her at http://www.susangregggilmore.com/
_______________________________________________

Above Us Only Sky is the epic tale of the Vilkas women, separated by oceans, generations and war, but connected by something much greater—the gift of wings. 


  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What does "THE END" actually mean?

I like to flip the ms. page over when I'm revising.
Yesterday, I typed The End for my most recent work in progress, Where I am Born.  

What does THE END mean?

First, I am not finished.  It is not the end for me.  I will need to edit and revise and proofread a few more rounds.  

Second, I know that no matter how many times I revisit a sentence or paragraph, it will never be as perfect as I want it to be, and third, as happy as I am with the ending of the novel, I know that not everyone will approve.  

We all want different outcomes in endings.  Some readers want less and others want more.  It's always a close call,
Just a few of the drafts; most were recycled.
deciding how much to share.  This is the part of the novel where I have to trust myself the most.  I always feel like it's "pick an ending."  Do you want sappy sweet?  No, of course not.  Do you want tragic?  Not really?  But, then I dig and wait and think and see what emerges from the swamp into the light.  This week, I found my ending.  I'm quite in love with it.  I hope that you will be too.  


I hope hope hope that Where I Am Born will be available some time next year.  We'll see.  I'll be sure to let you know!  Thanks for your continued love and support on this journey.  XO  

*And thank you to David Pandolfe for guest blogging on Independent Publishing.  If you missed his post yesterday, it's just below this post.  ...And if you are interested in guest blogging on a Wednesday, shoot me an email: micheleyoungstone@gmail.com


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Guest Post: David Pandolfe, author of Jump When Ready


From MFA, to agents, to indie publishing (and why I think it’s great)

Thanks, Michele, for inviting me to guest-post on your blog. The idea is to talk a little about writing so I thought I’d say a few words about “indie” publishing and how much I’ve been enjoying this experience I wasn’t particularly open to not long ago.

A few years back, I completed an MFA program (hey, Michele, didn’t I see you there?) and, within the same year, was offered agent representation for my first novel. The stuff of writer dreams and I felt sure I was on my way to securing a traditional publishing deal. A brilliant, hopeful, exciting time in my life while emails flew back and forth and revisions were made to the manuscript, preparing for the big day. Eventually, it was time to submit the novel to editors. I waited, fingers crossed. Then, radio silence. When I finally inquired, I learned that a few editors saw the manuscript (five or six). Some said nice things but they passed. I never heard from that agent again. Yep, really. So, I dusted myself off and decided to push on and keep writing. Before too long (a few years but, hey, we’re talking the writing world, after all), I was offered representation again, this time for a YA novel I’d been working on. A really nice agent, very well-known agency! So, the first round was a dud. No biggie, right? My moment had definitely arrived. A writer couldn’t possibly snag two agents for two novels and still have nothing happen. No way. Well, guess what. You got it. The process wasn’t quite as absurd as the first time around (in other words, the agent didn’t suddenly vanish into thin air) but the result was the same. A few editors saw my book and that was basically it. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am simplifying here to a degree. My second agent was a nice person who I enjoyed working with. However, when she suggested that I put the novel on the back burner for a while and move on, I decided otherwise (but we did part ways amicably). So, I was back to square one.

The fact is, I wasn’t sure I had the heart to start the process all over again. And, while I did start sending queries, in the meantime I kept hearing about writers gaining a readership through indie publishing. Yeah, I know it’s self-publishing but I like the “indie” designation since (at least, to me), the term signifies a writer who’s taking every step possible to professionally publish his or her work. So, I started looking at independently published writers in a totally new light. As a result, I read some fantastic (and, in some cases, very successful) books (for example, Annelie Wendeberg’s The Devil’s Grin and Hugh Howey’s Wool, the holy grail of indie publishing success). Soon, any remaining doubts about self-publishing were history. In fact, the more I looked at it, this looked like the new model. If not the definitive future of publishing, certainly a part of future publishing that wasn’t going to recede into the background again.

Fast-forward to the day I published my YA novel, Jump When Ready, on Amazon. No, it wasn’t the lifelong dream coming true. All the same, it was still a very exciting moment. People, actual readers out there in the world, were experiencing one of my novels! I had made that happen, without anyone’s permission, without waiting several more years. Amazon allows for free promotions, and on my first promo Jump When Ready hit the top 100 free list. Thousands of people downloaded the ebook version of the novel, which just amazed me. To keep this reasonably short, I’ll just add that I love setting my own deadlines, choosing my own cover art, the fact that I can add new reviews to my back cover or interior whenever I’d like, or change front or back matter as new ideas occur to me (for example, adding a link to a new mailing list or blog). And, when my next novel is ready (I’m working on another YA to follow the first one), I can send it out into the world too. I’m excited about that, although I’m editing just like I would if I was about to send it back to my agent for an editor to consider. So, it might be a few more months. Then, maybe I’ll publish that other novel I finished during the MFA program. Who knows, but the future remains wide open.

So, that’ how it went for me. From MFA to agents to indie publishing. To be honest, I was almost thinking of bailing, starting to wonder if my books might not, in fact, have what it takes. Evidently, not the case (knock wood), at least based on the reviews Jump When Ready has received so far from readers, bloggers and book reviewers (all of whom, I thank very much for their kind words).

In fact, here are a few of those review quotes below. How’s that for a segue? Thanks again, Michele! And to my fellow writers, whether published traditionally or independently, good luck!

  
"Whether you're 14 or 24, this is a fun read with endearing characters and a quick-moving plot. Jump When Ready is not a book to miss."
- Portland Book Review 

"An engaging, poignant book that stayed with me long after I read the last word." 
- Tracy E. Banghart, author of By Blood.

"I loved this book and am looking forward to seeing what the author will come up with next!"
- A Little Shelf of Heaven 

"The combination of  coming-of-age, philosophical and thriller story comes together to make a fascinating and engaging book."
- The Real Bookshelves of Room 918

"It impacted my thoughts in a serious way, and I will most likely spend the next few days going over it, and over it, in my head."
- Bound by Words

"There are few books out there that have characters that make you wish you had friends like them."
- Book Nerds

"This was a great story. I personally have never read anything like it."
-  Reading is Better than Real Life

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