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

THE DEBUT NOVEL

About THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS:

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.