Thursday, December 10, 2009

Merry Christmas

Sisters. Micki and Desi Young, c. 1973

This year, I am grateful for my family and good health all around. I'm also happy that my first book review by Publisher's Weekly was a positive one. To read part of the review, check out my website:

Here's a snippet from ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL, nearly revised for the tenth time, nearly ready to be emailed to my agent. Yippee.

Betty showed me her list of beautiful things. Hers isn’t very old. She doesn’t have photographs, paper dolls and glossy birds in hers. In Betty’s book, which she colored pink, Link is number one, and I’m second. I couldn’t believe it. After me, there’s a tie between beer-battered onion rings and William Faulkner. When I ask Betty if she’s serious about that, she laughs. Again, I don’t know what anyone is thinking anymore so I take things at face, pretending I have some insight, but I don’t. William Faulkner and beer-battered onion rings are equally beautiful.

I was walking Izzy down Main Street, and it was the strangest thing, I found a prayer card, but not any card. It was to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The card is feathered at the edges and has tire tread across it. It was such an unusual find anywhere, but particularly in downtown Greely. I wonder what Isabel Sullivan would think of little Izzy? I bet she’d think she’s beautiful. Our Mother of Perpetual Help is beautiful. She looks at us, not at Jesus, but at us, like she’s talking to me: I’m a mother, and this is my son, and this is his future, and there’s nothing to be done about it. His sandal dangles from his foot. His future suffering buffets them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Hoorah! The creative juices flow. The muse is here sitting on my desk. Her legs are crossed and she's asking for a cigarette. "I quit smoking."
She's still here--despite no cigarette. "Thank you, Muse."
I'm up to page 112 in this latest revision. Things are feeling good, less stifled, more free. I am grateful.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kill the darlings...

Faulkner said it. KILL THE DARLINGS... We writers know it: the creed. How does it go? Write what you know? Write honestly. Don't use pretty words for the sake of being pretty. Kill the darlings, the phrases and quips you adore because you think you're so genius (flawed from the start...) All the best writers have said these things. The biggest being: SHOW DON'T TELL, which for me is one of those rules I sometimes take exception to. I argue, "But I want to tell!" and "I want to draw attention to my narrative self." After all, rules are meant to be broken. But I'll tell you: something I am learning the hard way: I better have a damn good reason to break any of these rules. No ridiculous "because I want to."

I am proud to say that I'm up to chapter five "This Charming Man" in my latest revision of ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL. A chapter a day... and in twenty-two days, I'll be finished with this latest revision. A girl can dream, can't she?

Any thoughts from you guys on the writer's creed? On revision? On Halloween? On All Saint's Day?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Happy Halloween 1975

In this picture, I'm the same age my son is now. That's me on the left and my sister, the Blue Fairy on the right.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I like the daily make-believe scenarios my son creates. We spot ghosts and goblins everywhere we look. There are witches all around us. Some disguised, others not. I don't think I've ever skipped dressing up on Halloween. I like that it's kid-centered, and I like that we adults get to pretend too. (And I like chocolate--as I mentioned earlier.)

Other things I like about Halloween: that we used to give away bags of popped corn and candied apples--before the fear of razor blades; It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Bela Lugosi vampire movies, making scary cupcakes, Halloween decorations, hayrides to pumpkin patches, carving Jack O'Lanterns... Every year, from second grade on up, I've carved at least one Jack O'Lantern. As a kid, I did this by myself, but now Danny, Christopher and I get to make Jack O'Lanterns as a family. It's so much fun! This year, we've already decorated some with paint, but we're still planning to do some carving.

So, what do you like about Halloween? Please share.

And we can't forget apple bobbing!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nine pages in three weeks

It's that time of year once again. Apple picking, crisp nights, Halloween and the annual gathering of Richmond's eccentrics and humble at the Fitzgerald campout. I am all over it!

On the writing front, I am ripping my flaxseed growing hair out! I am putting my ass in the chair every day, but in three weeks, I've revised, rewritten and rewritten and rewritten NINE PAGES. That's nine pages in 21 days. To be exact, pages 306 to 315. Oy vay. I know that when it "happens" like this, it usually pays off. Maybe other pages will fly from beneath my approaching-middle-age fingers. Certainly they will. Don't you think? I spent two of these three weeks on pages 306-309, so at least I am making progress. Happy Fall to all of you. XXXXXXX OOOOOOOOO

Friday, October 2, 2009

Baking and writing what you know

So, we're all familiar with the old adage, Write what you know. Whether you know it personally or you've experienced it through observation or empathy, it still has to be something that you cane imagine and identify with.

Well, that all makes good sense. But what I find funny is lately my writing seems to be determining what I do. For example, yesterday I wrote about a baker mixing flour and vanilla, eggs and sugar, and without being conscious of it, I ended up baking Toll House cookies with my son this afternoon. (We usually only bake at Christmas.) I didn't realize the connection until flour was in my son's hair, the cookies were in the oven. Cookie dough on the dog. Oh yeah, and baking soda on the floor. And butter on a CD case.

Other examples: I'm taking photographs with a Brownie Hawkeye b/c one of my latest characters has one.

I started collecting Virgin Mary figurines after my character started collecting them. I wonder if this is "normal"?

I know. I know. What's normal anyway?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Buxton Village Books

The owner Gee Gee Rosell greets you as you enter the store. She genuinely enjoys talking about books. (Thus, bookstore owner is the perfect career for her. I mention this because I'm sadly discovering that not all bookstore owners care too much about conversing with their customers or recommending books. A real shame.)

Despite being a relatively small shop, Gee Gee carries an extensive collection of children's books, notebooks, locally-made cards and all the newest titles in print.

She was also VERY excited when I told her that my novel THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS would be coming out April 13, 2010. She is ready to take your preorders. Oh, and her summer reading flyer includes a Corn Bread recipe. Does it get any better?! Books and cornbread!

Buxton Village Books; 252-995-4240; Mail orders welcome.

There's no better excuse for a trip to the shore than, "Honey, we have to go to Hatteras this year because I need to buy Michele's novel from Buxton Village Books. It's a no brainer."

I'm sending Gee Gee my galley this week. I hope she likes it.

Support your independent bookseller!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Avon, North Carolina

We're having a swell time at the beach. The waves are sick.
We found three live starfish yesterday and rescued them, putting them back in the ocean. There's a huge sandbar perfect for romping. Sunshine and light breezes. If only we could do away with the mosquitoes. Uncle Jimmy arrived yesterday and my mom comes today. And lastly, Danny survived turning 40. He looks much older now--as you can see from the picture. XOXOX

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blurbing and being seven

I am really grateful to Jacquelyn Mitchard for writing a complimentary and exuberant blurb about my novel.

Quite often, my friends and acquaintances will ask, "Does it seem real yet--that you're actually getting published?" and typically, I say yes. It feels real now, but then something happens like someone talented and wonderfully creative writing something incredible about something I wrote, and it seems crazy weird all over again.

When I was seven years old, I wanted to be a published novelist. I sat alone in my parents' den at this old desk my dad had, smelling pipe tobacco and writing stories about princesses, and I remember thinking then, I wonder what I'll write about in the future.

Even now, I don't know what I'm writing about until the characters come to life and tell me. I am so grateful to have this ability and this good fortune to share my stories with readers. Thank you!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The FIRST BLURB for the book jacket arrived!

The first blurb for THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS came into my editor's office yesterday.

Blurbs are the little snippets that go on the book jacket to hopefully entice you to pick the book up and give it a read.

I am so grateful that my first blurb is a great one, and it's by a prolific New York Times Bestselling novelist. (I don't know if I'm allowed to quote her just yet, but check back.)

Writers don't have to blurb for other writers so I am deeply honored that this particular novelist took the time to read and blurb on my debut novel. It means so much to me! THANK YOU.

Friday, August 28, 2009


The galleys arrived overnight from Random House this week. I don't suspect anything thus far has cemented the reality of publication like seeing the book all put together in galley form.

GALLEYS are early unproofed versions of the book that are used by sales folks to sell the books to bookstores and we send them out to other writers--with similar styles--and request that they read and comment on the book.

In this picture, my son holds the galley and I pray that he doesn't, being four years old, throw it like a ball. He is really proud of me. It's very cool. The other thing I'm working on this week are second-pass pages. These are the manuscript pages all ready for publication, but needing yet another close read. The last time I saw the ms., there were quite a few mistakes. This time, it's nearly flawless so far. Random House has done a careful job fixing mistakes that the proofreader and I found. THANK YOU. These second-pass pages are important because this is the last time I'll be able to see the ms. and make any corrections before it's published in hardback. Can't wait, and in the spring too! I love spring. April Showers and all that jazz... I sound like Lucy from THE PEANUTS.

Thank you to everyone at Shaye Areheart, Crown Random House for being so good to me, especially Sarah and Christine. This is an exciting experience. Needless to say, I will keep you posted as to what happens next. Eventually, I'll have a publicist. I wonder what that will be like. You'll be the first to know. Thanks everybody.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tattoo Day

I got my new tattoo yesterday at Absolute Art Tattoo. It was five years in the making. I got my last tattoo when I was 33, after completing THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS. Writing a novel is a feat all by itself, but I felt the need to commemorate THE HANDBOOK'S completion.

Similarly, writing my latest novel, ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL, has been a difficult emotional but wonderful journey of self discovery. Again, I needed to mark it--with more than words. I was fortunate that the great tattoo artist David Boisineau, who helped design my first tattoo did me the same favor with this one. It's not the moon, but it is a charm of the moon, cut by a blacksmith for a girl, Isabel, who believes that as long as she can see the moon in the sky, she knows where she is. While other children play and romp after all-day Baptist church in Batesville, Virginia, she gazes at the moon. Earl Weeks, the local blacksmith makes her the charm. Isabel, stunningly beautiful, is told by her mother that she should give the charm bracelet back to Mr. Weeks, but she won't do it. It's Isabel's forever.

(The red swelling is already gone...)

Monday, August 17, 2009


Well, since you asked... A whole lot is new. In the past two weeks, I have learned that the sales representatives at Random House really love my novel THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, which is SUPER important because they are the wonderful people who actually sell copies to bookstores.

In order to make the book even more sellable, I was asked to write discussion questions to accompany the text. I must tell you: I thought that this would be a difficult task, but it was great. It was so much fun to think about my book from a "book club" reader's perspective.

And, most recently, I've started writing letters to fellow authors requesting that they read my book and write blurbs to go on the jacket.

Busy, busy busy.

I also had the opportunity to speak to a friend's novel-writing group, and boy, are they a great bunch of writers. I really appreciated the opportunity to share my experience. Thanks, Jamie, for the opportunity.

Lastly, I am still revising ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL. It's a delight to work on this novel. It's so great when you can actually do something you love and make money at it. I feel incredibly fortunate, and for those of you with whom I haven't shared the following: I'll end on this note:

My son asked me, "Mommie, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

And I said, "A famous writer."

And he said, "Silly, Mommie. You already are that."

It's this... and it's that moment that we go into a library and pull my book off the shelf that I am dreaming about. Wow, but that will be exciting. And, speaking of excitement. The galleys arrive August 26th. WOW WOW WOW WOW

love to everyone, xo pussycat

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My characters have started their own blog.

I started a new blog dedicated to the fictional characters Isabel and Gloria from ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL. If you have the time, check it out.

On the publication front, my editor received excellent feedback from her sales reps, many of whom had already read the THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS. The North Carolina rep was especially enthused. The sales reps are the people who actually do the footwork, selling to individual bookstores. Yeah for sales reps!

Most recently, I was asked to write a series of discussion questions to supplement the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this task.

I feel like singing a Nelly song: “Bill Gates, Donald Trump, let me in now…” but I’m singing to Oprah. “Let me in now. I’d love to send you a galley.”

Isabel Sullivan, born 1939 in Batesville, Virginia


Gloria Ricci, born 1941 in Maryville, New Jersey

have started their own blog. They are the two main characters from my latest completed novel, ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What are "first-pass pages"?

...Just when I was starting to feel antsy, like I needed to start working on something new... My head and hands idle too long. Wouldn't you know it, but the "first-pass pages" arrived overnight delivery (7/11 due back 7/23). This is all new to me, so if you're wondering, "What are first-pass pages?" you are not alone. THE FIRST PASS PAGES are the pages that the book will be printed from. First, the galley or initial copies will be printed from these pages so it's imperative that we catch any glaring typos or misprints and things like that.

As I'm reading the ms. pages for errors, a proofreader is also reading. It's terribly exciting to have an ISBN number and a title page and to visually see the ms. in a near book form.

The only "bad" part of this step in publishing is that I still feel the urge to rewrite. As my professor Bill Tester used to say, "You are NEVER done with a book because it will NEVER be perfect." I imagine picking up a copy of THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS five years from now, flipping to a random page, and going, "What was I thinking? That sentence is clunky! I could've been more concise. It could've been more poetic."

Could've, should've would've. Shaye Areheart of Random House is publishing my debut novel! No regrets here. Lots of joy. We do the best we can, and I'm proud, so proud of this book. If I didn't look at it down the road and think, "That could be better," I wouldn't be very good at what I do. Thanks to everyone who has an interest in my novel. It means a lot to me.

People keep asking, "How come it's not out yet? What's taking so long?" and I'll tell you: this is a long process. Writing the book was a mostly solitary matter, but publishing it is another story all together. There are so many steps, from initial big edits to copy edits to cover art to selecting a release date, to "first-pass pages" and down the line to galleys (those first printings), and reviews (cross your fingers) to promote the hardback; and there's publicity (lots, hopefully), marketing, and lastly: hardback printings. We're really only halfway through the process.

Keep following and see what happens next, and thanks again for all the congratulations and good wishes. I can't wait until everyone can hold my book in their hands and read it. It's going to be incredible. THANK YOU. *And I want to add huge kudos and thanks to all the folks at Harmony & Shaye Areheart for caring about my opinion regarding the cover art. I didn't expect consideration in that matter. I write the book. They sell it, but they really genuinely cared about my opinion. That surprised and thrilled me.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I had a great time at the beach with my gorgeous surfer dude hubby. I love you, Danny. Don't say I never blog about you. Ha ha.
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Monday, July 6, 2009

Good News

My editor's wonderful assistant, Christine Kopprasch, sent me the latest cover art for THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS. It's a real treat for me to have it and show it to friends. I love the art so much. It's arresting and engaging. Thanks, Christine!

On another happy note, I finished my first revision of my latest novel, ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL, and sent it to my terrific agent, Michelle Brower, without whom THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS would still be a manuscript and not a soon-to-be published novel. I love Michelle Brower.

I hope everyone had a great and safe 4th of July.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


copyright by Michele Young-Stone, 2009

The clearing was behind a row of loblolly pines, a species ill-suited to New Jersey’s climate. In the darkness, Gloria wore a flower-print cotton dress and white flats. Slipping off her shoes, she set them side by side on the blanket’s edge and sat beside Isabel. “I brought sandwiches.”
Isabel reached for one. Unfolding the wax paper, she took a bite.
Gloria said, “The loblollies aren’t supposed to be here.” She remembered her dad telling her the legend of the Payne boys, three brothers from Maryville who’d supposedly traveled south to sow their wild oats. Gloria’s father had embellished the story, as had everyone who’d ever told the tale—making it legend. Her father said that when the young men were journeying back to Maryville by way of South Carolina, they stopped to eat lunch beneath a grouping of loblolly pines, and admiring the bark, the way it flaked under their fingernails, thought the trees might be worth something. They dug three of the younger trees from the sandy soil, binding their roots in sackcloth, and carrying them home to Maryville in their wagon. When the boys’ parents told them that the strange trees were as worthless as they were, the Paynes took the loblollies to the edge of the New Jersey pine barrens planting them among Maryville’s pitch and oak.
The trees survived, differing from their southern counterparts, their canopies sparser, their trunks shorter, their bark thinner, but they survived. Maybe that had been Gloria’s father’s point—telling her that story: People, like loblollies, can endure. Maybe her mother would survive—a little differently than she’d been before —but survive just the same.
“My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me. Tell me where did you sleep last night?” Isabel and Gloria sang staring at the moon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cover Art: Whiting Out

Yesterday, I got an email from my editor, Sarah, saying, 'We have a new image for the galleys/cover art. This new cover will be in the catalog that's sent to various book buyers.' I was nervous about seeing the cover because I hadn't fallen in love with the last two that I'd seen, and I'd really wanted to like them. What a relief and what a bliss to see something that I think matches and complements the novel's story! I absolutely adore the new cover. It's compelling. The composition causes the eye to move circularly. It's photographic, but still iconic with images that connote electricity and with lots of white space, which from a lightning strike survivor's standpoint is like blacking out, only whiting out. I think it's perfect. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Sometimes I'm overly enthusiastic. Yeah! Kudos to Shaye Areheart and Sarah Knight.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Home Run

Check out my super-star nephew, Peter. He hit a homerun in this season's final game, and I was there to see it. He's a seriously tough ball player, playing pitcher, short stop, second base, catcher, left center. You name it! I am very proud of him.
And, he's an incredible artist (I think he gets that from me.)
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Copy Editing: A necessary evil

Querying agents, trying to get your novel published, is far more daunting than reading through and addressing copy edits. That said, I just questioned if I should put a hyphen between 'copy' and 'edits'... or if that period I just typed should go inside or outside that single quotation mark, and, should that even be a single quotation mark or should 'copy' and 'edits' be italicized?

I think I just captured the gist of copy editing. I wonder if I spelled 'gist' correctly?

Wow. As my agents so aptly stated, "Every rose has its thorn," and isn't this a wonderful thorn? It really is.

I am looking forward to working once more on ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL. I love the writing process. Not so much the copy editing.

This is a page from the copy editor's time line for my book. I had a great copy editor because THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS is by no means straightforward or linear. Kudos to copy editors. Mine in particular. It's a tough job.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cover Art

I can't believe it, but in less than two weeks, I will see what THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS' book jacket will look like!

A lot of people who know that my book has been sold, ask, "Where can I buy a copy?" Patience, my dear enthusiastic friends. Spring, 2010 is our launch date. By then, we'll have hard-copies with actual reviews, and you'll be able to buy it at Barnes & Noble and hopefully at lots of other booksellers!

I can't believe that I will be able to go into a library and see my book on the shelf.

My son asked me, "What are you going to be when you grow up?" and I said, "A novelist, a writer..." and he said, "Silly Mommy, you already are that."
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Thursday, May 14, 2009


I have hurdled page 200 in my latest novel ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL. Having fallen deeply in love with two of the characters, I hope this book is as good as I think it is. I'm at that point in the storytelling process where I think I know what's going to happen next, and I think, I have a good idea, about the ending, but I never really know.

My favorite thing about crafting a story is when the story and the characters start crafting me. The story takes over, and I sit here trying to find the right words to tell their story. My main character, Gloria, compels me to paint and make collages.

I am enamored of Gloria. As my friend Annie says, "I'm living a duel life." It's pretty wonderful. Both of them. :-O
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Thursday, April 30, 2009


Great news! The book has officially been launched. This doesn't mean that it will be on bookshelves this month, but it does mean that we're getting significantly closer. My editor has officially pitched the book to the multiple hardworking departments and head honchos at Random House, building enthusiasm and excitement for the THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS.

The next phase is COPY EDITING. My copy editor will have the manuscript to me with his or her marks by May 20th. Copy editors are great people who check to make sure that if you mention a Betty Crocker Black Velvet cake mix in 1973, there really was such a thing around at that time. They check for date consistency (which is a must with my manuscript as a lot of time passes.)

I'll return the corrected ms. to my editor by June 2nd. The next phases include cover art, first pages (seeing the font and appearance of the actual printed work, what it will look like when it goes to print), and from there, we have galleys, which are first copies for one last run-through searching for mistakes, misprints, etc. It's like the hardback version but paperback with the preliminary cover art. So far, Shaye Areheart has been interested in my input in different stages, so I know that I get a little say in the cover art. If you've seen any of the novels they produce, you know the cover art is tremendous. Check it out.

Wow! I always knew that film was a collaborative form, but so are books. It's incredible. And wildly thrilling. It's hard to believe that 6 months ago I was wondering if I'd publish my first novel by my 60th birthday. The good news is: I always knew this would happen. It's important to have faith and keep faith.

That said: KEEP THE FAITH. This is all new to me so I will keep you posted. Love and peace to all of you, and Happy Mother's Day. (Though, in my opinion, Mother's Day is technically every day.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter or Death by Bunny

Religion aside: Let's focus on the pagan part, the Easter eggs, and my handsome husband, Bunny Dan. Despite a cloudy and cool climate, we had yet another deliciously fun celebration with more than a dozen kids participating in a three-legged race, a hopping race, a balancing-egg race, and our favorite: the Easter egg hunt. It was--once again--a great time. I am so lucky to have the life I've always wanted: with a great man, a beautiful son, and fun and interesting friends (I won't call them nice... we all know what that connotes). My life is idyllic. Seriously!

The Snowbird

Georgia Wren, Chrissy Robin and Finn hanging out at the Snowbird in Nags Head, April, 2009.

Spring into Kitty Hawk, NC

We had a great time in Kitty Hawk this April. The Outer Banks is one of my favorite places, partly because: I wrote much of my novel THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, there, learned that I had been accepted into MFA school, learned that my book had sold... and best for last: got married and later conceived our beautiful son. Too much information--I know.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


My husband Danny and I went away this past weekend to The Inn at the Crossroads, Rte. 29 and Plank Road, between Keene and Batesville, Va, partly for a romantic weekend and partly to research Batesville for my novel-in-progress, ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL.

Well, lo and behold, but Sunday morning, we ended up having breakfast across from a delightful couple, Bill and Lynne Reed, owners of Misty Valley Books in Chester, Vermont. Being a new writer, it was an incredible coincidence because they have an annual event, New Voices, with debut authors, including, in the past, Dennis LeHane and Arthur Golden. Additionally, and this gives me goosebumps despite knowing that novelists are regular folks, they've had dinner at John Irving's house, and they 've seen his wrestling gym. Oh, wow! Oh, wow!

Being a true brainiac, I told Lynne and Bill that I've always wanted to visit Vermont. I used to want to live there because I love cheese and syrup. I guess I am proof that writers, even soon-to-be published ones, are regular folks. As my mentor, Tom DeHaven, always remarked, "I'm better with words on paper than in person." So true. So true. Sometimes I feel like an imposter, but who am I trying to be? Just me. Just me. If you are ever in Chester, Vermont or nearby, stop in and introduce yourself to Lynne and Bill. They are great people. I'm going to make sure they get an advance copy of THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, and maybe they'll like it, and I'll be a NEW VOICE.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I know that Alice Hoffman is a highly creative, intelligent and disciplined artist and regular girl who hikes her black skirt up the same as any other girl, but just the same: WOW, I started her novel THE THIRD ANGEL last night. This was one of the books I chose from Shaye Areheart to take home when I was visiting New York... and it's autographed! I didn't realize that she had autographed it. There's something, as a reader, that makes a writer's very handwriting sacred. It's like, "Wow! She made that mark. That's her signature." I remember the first time I read correspondence--actually saw, under glass, letters--between Hemingway and Fitzgerald. I was filled with awe and wonder, imagining myself a part of their world: maybe Zelda, but then again maybe not; I don't want to be institutionalized.

The short of it: I am honored to have an autographed copy of THE THIRD ANGEL. The novel is brilliant. Thank you, Alice Hoffman and Shaye Areheart.

Monday, March 16, 2009


In celebration of nothing in particular, or maybe because every soon-to-be published novelist needs a sweet ride, whether it's a BMW, a Porsche, or (drum roll please) a Raleigh Special with pink-walled tires, I got one! I am in love with this bike. Boy, can I throw money around or what?! I told Chad at Agee's: "I want the works: pink tassels, shiny bell and basket." He said, "What kind of basket? What are you thinking of carrying in your basket?"

"The obvious, Chad: keys and wine." What a silly question. Honk if you see me out cruising or maybe don't honk. I lack balance. I might fall off the bike.

Now I need some good basket swag...

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Read any good books lately? Please share. It's always interesting to hear what people like and don't like.

I am reading THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST by Mohsin Hamid for book club. In addition to being a riveting page-turner, this first-person tale is seductive, luring me page by page to the point where I know that I can finish the novel in an hour, but I don't want it to end that quickly.

The shift between narratives is effortless. The character Erica is beautifully and sadly rendered, and I think I love her as much as the main character, Changez. My only fear is that what I "suspect" might happen is going to happen. I don't really know. I sure hope the ending is as good as the first half.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I heart Adam Lambert. (Mind you, I'm happily married, and I'm not a teenie bopper or a stalker, but my goodness, he's got it going on...)

Monday, March 9, 2009


Publishing a novel is a long and complicated process that no one in MFA school teaches you about. Why? Because most of us or a lot of us don't get our novels out there on bookshelves.

It's an unfortunate and disappointing fact, depending on the writer, but true.

My mind is all over the place tonight so forgive any leaps and jumps.

Here is a good starting place: Back in December when I told a local bookstore owner that I had recently sold my novel to Random House, she said, "If you thought selling your book was hard, just you wait." AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you kidding me? Please tell me that you are joking! I beg those with experience to chime in. After receiving hundreds of agent rejections, after writing and rewriting and cutting all my little darlings and all their little friends, writing 100+ new pages and cutting 100+ old pages: can it really get tougher? Is the art department at Random House going to intentionally screw with my head by coming up with some absurd cover art? Is my agent suddenly going to forget my phone number? Is my editor going to scratch out full pages and laugh like the wicked witch while I stew?

If you've published a novel, let me know what you think. I suspect that it gets tougher because there are many people involved, because there is a lot of waiting now: for the edits to be completed; for the copy writer to copy write; for more edits; for the art department and marketing; for the galleys, for the reviews, for the book itself to sit in my hands. But, that's all kind of exciting compared to waiting for rejections to appear in the mailbox. What do you think? Based on my experience so far, I am very happy with the process. I don't know what the future holds, but I am seriously optimistic. I hope that you might chime in with some feedback. xo michele

p. s. Michelle, I know that you won't forget my number, and Sarah, you're no wicked witch. You're more like Piper, Paige and Phoebe ("Charmed"). Oh, how I love Balthazar! I mean Cole.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I don't write SNOW!


1. Because this is the first time we've had more than a dusting in close to a decade.

2. Because Richmond is too sticky and hot to ever really think, "SNOW." Which as you can see must always be in all caps.

3. Because I can't do my childhood remembrances of sledding down Hollis Road justice.

4. Because no one can do it as magically as James Joyce in "The Dead," which I'd quote, but heavens to Betsy, I can't find my copy of DUBLINERS.

Above: Me, the snow lady Roberta, and Annie.
Below: Christopher dons hand-me-down Patagonia. This is his first snow day!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Who knew I could write such a good query?

If you are a writer, or if you are a person who's experienced rejection, you will understand this: I spent 8 + years sending out queries for short stories (no takers) and 5 + years querying various incarnations of my soon-to-be published novel THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, and Saturday, I received one of the worst standard rejection form letters; the agent actually pretended to have read a ms. that was never sent. I had only sent a query letter. "Dear Author..." Her rejection indicates the typical, "there was much to admire in your work," but the funny bit is that I didn't send any "work." I sent a query letter. Just the same, she "enjoyed reading [it]." Who knew I wrote such engrossing query letters?

My advice to this agent: Have separate rejection letters for queries and separate rejection letters for submissions. It's kind of pathetic on her part; it's insulting to potential clients and writers. I just received this query rejection dated 2/24/08, and my novel sold on 11/14/08. I hope this agent rethinks her approach. There are so many people on the web badmouthing the query process and the publishing industry, most of which is uncalled for: publishing is tough. It's incredibly tough! In my mind: this agent, who probably didn't read the query, and most certainly didn't read a submission that was never submitted, gives all that badmouthing credence. Boo! Don't fret. There's still time for her redemption. No one is beyond hope. More advice: remember that writers are people who care deeply about their craft. Rejection is part of the deal, but it can be handled more humanely. Again, separate your queries from your actual submissions, and if your client list is booked, send the form that states, "I am no longer accepting unsolicited manuscripts." A little goes a long way. xoxox

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Yesterday was an incredible day. It started with a visit to Jenny Meyer's office. She's my overseas agent. I liked her right away. She'll be traveling to the London book fair this April. I wish I could go!

Afterwards, my agent Michelle Brower (gray dress) and I went to lunch at a nice Italian restaurant. We talked about the publication of my upcoming novel and about a million other things. I felt like I'd known her for ages. We both feel like this partnership is meant to be. After lunch, we grabbed the train back uptown.

Later in the day, I met Michelle at Random House, which is INCREDIBLE. We had to give our names and show identification to get security passes to go upstairs. It was pretty cool. The lobby is a place I need to linger. There are first editions from floor to ceiling. I'm like, "I have that book and that book and that book." (Not first editions...) Wow! It's awesome. Upstairs we met Sarah Knight (big smile, beige sweater) and her assistant Christine Kopprasch. They were wonderfully complimentary about THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS. It was nearly five o'clock on a Friday, so I didn't have the opportunity to meet Shaye Areheart or the marketing crew, but I met Kira (sp) from publicity and learned the difference between marketing and publicity. (Marketing is about selling the book to bookstores and publicity is about getting buyers into those bookstores and selling books.) I feel like I'm in good hands all the way around.

Sarah showed me and Michelle the Random House conference rooms with an incredible view of the Hudson River. She'll be pitching my book in this intimidating room. Not that she'll be intimidated. She is awesome.

I had the opportunity to select some Harmony and Shaye Areheart books to carry home, which was like being a kid in a candy shop because I could've picked twenty books, but restrained myself, choosing a biography of Cary Grant by Marc Eliot, THE THIRD ANGEL by Alice Hoffman (what wonderful company I'm in...), and THE GRIFT by Debra Ginsberg (It's an awesome cover!) Shaye Areheart has the best art department. I've never seen better covers. I can't wait to see what they come up with for THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS.

After all that excitement, Sarah Knight took me to drinks at Cognac, a French restaurant across the street. We had a wonderful time with great conversation, yummy wine and cheese. I was reassured that the novel is in competent hands yet again as Sarah told me how much she loved THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, and that her second read, the editorial read, only solidified her belief that this novel needs to be published and read. (My mom's been saying the same thing for years. :-))

After a couple hours, Christopher and Danny met us at the restaurant, promptly driving the diners near us to another table.

It was a big day. I'm happy that I came to New York and met Michelle and Sarah. I plan to return when the weather's a bit warmer; to linger in the Random House lobby and meet Wendy Sherman and Shaye Areheart.

Today is going to be even more fun. Brigitte is in New York. We hope to meet at the public library where she's going to take notes on Sylvia Plath's personal copy of T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets." xoxox

My son is a natural photographer

Like his dad, Christopher is a natural at taking good pictures. New York is a different experience with a child. My editor Sarah asked, "So, what did you guys do last night?"
"Not very much."
Last night, we were going to venture from midtown to the village, but Christopher was cold, and it was after eight o'clock, so we came back to the hotel. First, we had a fun dancing experience waiting for the train. (Christopher has boycotted all pictures, but know that he danced and danced to the drums.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Christopher at Tavern on the Green

So, we went to Tavern on the Green for an afternoon cocktail; Christopher brought his own vendor pretzel as a snack, and I was so concerned that he would spill his water, I spilled my wine reaching for his glass. Afterwards, we went on a horse-drawn carriage ride around the lake and Strawberry Fields and saw the Dakota Building where John Lennon lived. The cabby's daughter is also a writer. We had a blast. The horse was beautiful.


We made it. We had a super great flight. Forty-five minutes in the air. Bumpy going up and coming down, but perfect. Our hotel is very cool. Check it out: There's a TV in the bathroom. We're staying on W. 77th and Broadway. Tomorrow is my busy day: meetings the overseas agent, lunch with my agent and drinks with my editor. I'm excited to meet everyone face to face. And I'm particularly excited to see the Random House Building. Hopefully, I'll have lots more pictures to post. This hotel is called On the Ave. So far, very nice, very roomy; the bad news is they have a sensor connected to the mini fridge and every time Christopher picks something up from the top, it registers a purchase. We'll have to check that bill closely. He's already eaten a pricey bag of peanut M & Ms. Love to everyone. Hope you'll comment on our shenanigans. We're off to have fun. xoxoxo michele

Monday, February 16, 2009


We marked Christopher's height on his grow stick today. He's grown about four inches since July. When people say, "Kids grow up too fast," it's not a cliche. He amazes me. He has this huge vocabulary, and this wide-eyed wonder and awe and sweetness. He's passionate, sensitive and kind, and it's still hard for me to believe that I have such a charming and sweet little boy. When his friends were leaving our house this evening, he said, "Wait, I have to tell you something..." (This is standard.) He told our friend Marie, "I love you," and wrapped his arms around her knees. She's a tall drink of water. :-) He is so innocent. I worry about the world hurting him and turning him into a cynic, but I know that I have to enjoy NOW, and not worry about what's to come: Que sera, sera. In my novel, Buckley's mother calls him "her joy." When I wrote the first hundred drafts of THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, I didn't have a son. Now that I do, it seems like Abigail and Buckley Pitank foreshadowed my own experience (in a small way). Christopher is my joy. It's incredible to experience life through the eyes of a child.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Hi. If you see my new website , shoot me a line and let me know what you think. Thanks for the support. I'm excited about my upcoming trip to New York. Big love to everyone on Valentine's Day.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What's the deal with girls and their dads?

I have no idea. I read a lot. I've taken your basic psychology courses, and lord knows, I'm big into therapy, but I still don't get it. As far as I can tell, it's a universal thing, some male/female disconnect that extends from childhood, from daughters and fathers, to adulthood, to wives and husbands, where we either pick someone just like our dad, or someone nothing like our dad, only to discover that in some ways, because there is the mind-altering penis that makes men strange, yet desirable, these husbands we picked are inevitably a smidgen like our dads.

(Men recommend that I not use the word smidgen in such close proximity to the word penis. If you're up late at night, you know about Extenz--male enhancement, so you needn't worry.)

Anyway, here is my point. My dad wanted to read my novel, the one that is going to be published by Random House, and get this: he cried! The ending had him in tears, and he doesn't even read fiction. This is my dad we're talking about. He said, "This seems like a real novel; like a real novelist wrote it." Am I supposed to think, "Duh"? I can't believe I'm a real novelist anymore than he can.

Long story short: Do you know what his tears mean to me? Do you know what his comment means to me? THE WORLD.

What surprises you about your dad?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

We're going to New York.

We--the whole family--are off to New York on February 19th, my bday--no less--to first and foremost, meet my wonderful and brilliant agent Michelle Brower and my equally brilliant editor, Sarah Knight. I received my first edits from her last week, and she is the exact editor I wanted and needed. Not only does she pay attention to the big picture: scene, and overall effect, but she notes those little things that separate a good book from a "really good" book: for example, she marks when I repeat the same word in the same paragraph. I hate the fact that I still do that, despite revision after revision, but enough said: Sarah Knight sees it, and she circles it. She is an editor who cares about what she helps to produce and share with readers.

I am early on the road to publication, but I feel like I am in the best hands--a safe place to be. *Thank you Michelle and Sarah.

Another exciting note: my super duper BFF Brigitte McCray, writer and academic extraordinaire, LSU Ph. D. student and overall wow-gal, is going to be in New York when we are there. She and I are going to go ice skating in Central Park. Neither of us has ever attempted ice skating. (This is one time you don't want to break a leg.) She is doing research for her thesis at the New York Public Library, a place she's never been. SHE IS GOING TO LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!! And we are all going to take a taxi downtown to my favorite pizza place, Arturo's on Houston. We will sit cheek-to-cheek eating fresh mozzarella, listening to live jazz. And I'll get to do it with my favorite people, my husband, Danny, my four-year old son, Christopher and the wow-gal, Brigitte. I can't wait.

Monday, January 26, 2009



This fiction debut is the story of Becca Burke and Buckley R. Pitank, two lost souls separated by time and place but brought together by the fierce inevitability of destiny. While Becca grows up believing in magic and running after the father who is always leaving her behind in North Carolina, Buckley is busy being beaten into the red dirt of Arkansas by bullies and pining for a life where he doesn’t stand out. In a strange twist of fate, both are touched by lightning, and though they’ve never met, their lives become intertwined as they try to understand what it means to be singled out by the heavens. When they finally come together one stormy night, their lives are irrevocably altered in a scene of electrifying power.

Told in alternating threads separated by excerpts from The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, this is a hopeful tale that reassures us that even the hardest times are just obstacles we must overcome in order to get to the place where we’re supposed to be.

Coming 2010

Excerpt from novel-in-progress, ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL (not a link; excerpt follows)

Copyright by Michele Young-Stone, 2009

Hours passed slowly, Gloria watching the clock, while the days, one after another, flew by.

This morning, she pretended to sleep, waiting for the sound of Jacob’s tires spitting gravel—Jacob going to find work—before opening the puckered back of her suitcase where she’d stowed the photographs from her summer with Isabel. There was the faint smell of home emanating from the suitcase, she thought. Somebody told her, probably Isabel, that everything has a scent. Not just flowers and food, but carpets and hairdos, sofa cushions, and even seconds in time. Fragrances linger. She sat on the floor in her flannel nightshirt, her legs bare, trying to remember Isabel’s scent.

Jacob smelled lemony. Isabel had smelled like rain—like a beginning, and it wasn’t perfume or soap; it was Isabel.

Gloria had once liked the smell of rosemary, thyme and lavender—the herbs that grew wild in Isabel’s garden—but nowadays she preferred pungent scents like ear wax, vinegar, onion, and skunk. She still liked hyacinth and cinnamon, and she still liked the smell of mothballs because they reminded her of her Nana’s closet where she’d spent hours at age four inspecting her nana’s vast shoe collection, another good smell—the smell of feet and stockings—while her mother sponge-bathed the ailing woman. The closet had been a safe place. Her nana had smelled like decay, like crunchy leaves and pine bark. And now Gloria’s new house had a musty smell, a smell she might like, but recognized as death, and there was life growing inside her. Gloria longed for natural light and fresh air in her new home.

One by one, she was removing old paint that kept the windows sealed shut. She’d inadvertently broken three panes trying to force them open. Afraid of Jacob’s reaction, she swept up the broken shards hiding them in paper bags, burying them in the bottom of their outdoor trash bin. Joy knew a handyman who replaced the missing panes without Jacob finding out. Joy footed the bill. Gloria didn’t want to be afraid of Jacob, but he ruffled easily. It was better when things went smoothly.

Shuffling through the old photographs, Gloria looked at her picture, age 15, wearing an oversized white shirt spattered with black ink. She was holding a piece of cedar she’d found. She remembered tracing the wood’s natural lines, following the coloring and shape—the shape of a woman’s body. The center, the belly, was full and round. The arms and legs danced through the wood. Isabel had said, “It is a magnificent find.” Gloria had wanted to paint all over it, but finding the form in the wood, she changed her mind. It was God’s art already.

Gloria tried not to be nostalgic, but pregnancy made that difficult. She put the envelope of photographs in a black bag and tossed it toward her closet, the straps catching her boot heels. Kicking her feet, the bag became more entangled. Shit. Four months pregnant, and it was already hard to move with grace. Her body, once lean and limber was off-balance. Too tired to get up, she sat there remembering Isabel, the past stuck to buckled-biker boots, size seven, that Jacob found at a clothes swap.

What's this all about?

My first published novel and those to follow...

My wonderful brilliant agent Michelle Brower (Wendy Sherman Associates) sold my debut novel to Sarah Knight at Shaye Areheart, a division of Random House. This site is dedicated to my journey from wanna-be published writer to novelist. Has it been a long strange trip? It has. Fortunately, I like strange.

I'm a regular girl, except: I'm a lightning-strike survivor, and after you read THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, you'll realize that being a lightning-strike survivor is not so irregular.

I write every day. The exception is when I get a rejection letter. Then I might skip a day, writing more the next day to make up for it. I think it's impossible to get up if you don't get knocked down.

I paint. I make collages (click here to see some art). I cut words from my stories and glue them to wood, adding beads and bobbles and whatever fits. As Becca, one of my characters from THE HANDBOOK... "is mad with the paint", I am mad with the words.

I have the greatest friends in the world--all of whom said, "You'll get published. It's just a matter of time," as the rejections poured forth. To quote Truman Capote (I keep this above my writing desk), "Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor."

A long time ago, my dear friend Brigitte McCray, poet, screenwriter, novelist and scholar, sent me this quote by Stephen King: "Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." My husband points out, having read the non-fiction book SALT, about the history of salt: "Salt wasn't always cheap. It was highly prized."

Thanks, Danny.

I am grateful for having a wonderful family and a life with drama--exclusively on paper.