Friday, December 31, 2010

"To all the writers I've loved before...

...who've traveled in and out my door.
I'm glad they came along
I dedicate this song to all the [writers] I've loved before."

Thanks Willie Nelson and Happy New Year, 2011, to all of you! I know it's going to be a great year.

For you: A quote from Flannery O'Connor, "Don't let anyone or anything cut into your time with words. They are more important than any of us will ever be."

Happy New Year, 2011! I'll let you know when my second book, PERFECT BIRDS, finds her home.

I am hard at work on BEHIND THE EIGHT-BALL, novel #3.

I am realizing, very humbly, that the book my friend Anne bought me, SHELL CRAZY (my nickname is Shel/Shell), is far too apropos this time of year. May all of us find our sanity this new year, or at least wear a good face, because what is the world without the crazy?: BORING! And who are the sane people?

With the very best wishes. XXXXXXX OOOOOOOO

shel young-stone

Monday, December 13, 2010

Moody Middle School and Appomattox Governors School, THANK YOU!!!!

Happy Holidays! Happy Holidays!

So, in the past week, I have had two incredible experiences at two different schools: First, I visited The Appomattox Governors School for the Arts last Thursday, and then today, I visited Moody Middle School's IB program (Creative Writing class) in Henrico.

I had an awesome time at both schools!

The students couldn't have been nicer. Everyone asked really smart questions--the kind of questions I'm used to getting at writers' conferences. These kids are creative and smart! Both schools are participating in the Scholastic Writing contest, and last year, Moody Middle had five winners who read their work at Carnegie Hall! I know that AGRS also had some winners!

Way to go!! Thank you again for a wonderful experience. I hope to visit both schools again in January or February to update them on what's going on with book 2--Perfect Birds.

Thank you to Patty Smith (AGRS) and Patricia Walker for having me. It's so rewarding to talk to young people who love writing and books.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Barnes and Noble at Libbie Place

Hoorah for Book People on Granite Street and Cheers to Barnes and Noble at Libbie Place for supporting local authors.

I'm here at Barnes and Noble at Libbie Place until 4 o'clock.

Come on out and get your signed first edition copy of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.

Happy Saturday, and then head on down to the Lewis Ginter Recreation Association's annual arts and crafts show on Hawthorne Avenue. It's on your way to the Bizarre Bazaar, but it's FREE! And there are great local crafters.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Perfect Birds

My second novel has a title! It's Perfect Birds. To quote my agent, "It’s a wonderful, beautiful, airborne novel," and that's how it feels to me.

I made some final tweaks today and rather than feeling insecure, I'm elated that my newest characters: Gloria, Sheff, Eddie, Molly, Frank and Isabel have come to life.

When I visit with writers or book clubs, I'm often asked, "Is it hard when a book ends? Is it hard letting the characters go?"

The thing is... I've realized... They never go. They are always here with me, and I am grateful!

*I am also grateful for the two perfect birds above: Gemma Driver Cioletti, new mama, and Chrissy Robin, back when he was a Buddha Baby. TELL ME ABOUT SOME BEAUTIFUL BIRDS THAT YOU KNOW!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Barnes and Noble at Short Pump Town Center

I will be at Barnes and Noble at Short Pump Town Center this Saturday from 1 to 4 pm.

I am hoping to have a swell time this Saturday--like eating cotton candy--and write a glowing blog after spending the afternoon there.

I am delighted that they're having me.

A signed first edition hardback copy of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors will make a great Christmas or Hanukkah present.

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's only rock and roll but I like it...

So, NO thanks to you guys: I finished my as-yet untitled second novel. I was seeking ideas for the ending. No one chimed in with "How about a lightning strike?" or "What if Becca and Buckley show up?" or "Can somebody fall in love?" Or "Can there be a lot of gore?" Just kidding.

Seriously, this was a hard book to write. During the process, the characters became so real, they wrote letters to me. Now, mind you, I'm not delusional--I don't think--so I know that I was the one doing the writing, but these characters of mine, Gloria and Sheff, wrote me letters! "Dear Michele,..." they said. They said a lot more, but it'll ruin the novel if I tell you exactly what they said. I kept joking, "At least they haven't texted me," at which, my friend Vicki promptly borrowed a stranger's phone and sent me texts from Becca and Buckley. Thanks, Vicki, for keeping it light.

I also made collages of every scene in the book while writing the novel. It's a wonderful gift to have all these darlings in my head. But, it can be a little strange sometimes too. It's all in the living and the doing. Boy, I feel happy some days. I hope you do too. All my love. michele aka shel

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bookwatch| Michele Young-Stone | UNC-TV

Can you help me write a novel ending? (pun intended)

Hi out there! I'm writing yet another new ending to my most recent novel, soliciting friends, neighbors, and all you awesome folks on the WWW for possible scenarios.

What you got? Death? Blood? Guts? Romance? How should a great novel end? (Let's assume that it's great and that it can end any way that you want...)

Help a sister out!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Windows to the soul

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, what does it mean when a person's eyes are always burning from sleep deprivation, spending too much time in front of a computer screen or too much time analyzing small print?

Open your eyes! Life is too damn short for all work and no play. Besides, it makes Jack a dull boy, and if you've read or seen The Shining, you know that you don't want your writer friends walking around with 500 pages of one proverb. Have a great week everybody. Big Love!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Is this it? Where are my panties?

We are born. And then we have mid-life crises. Of course, there's a lot in between. But right now, everyone that I know between 40 and 50, is thinking, as David Byrne thought, "How did I get here?"

We want to remember, "In your eyes, the light, the heat," and how we felt watching John Cusack woo Ione Skye in "Say Anything." "In your eyes, I am complete."

We don't want to think, "Is this it?"

We still want our romance. Hell, I want that "Sixteen Candles'" birthday cake, to kiss cutie pie Jake. He can hand me my panties any day. (Remember: "My little brother paid a buck to see your panties.")

Here's a question I'll throw your way: What keeps you young? What keeps you romantic? What keeps you bouncing and hopping and loving life? Lay it on me!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I love visiting book clubs!

If you have a group of readers and you'd like to discuss my novel THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, please don't hesitate to contact me @

I always have a blast meeting new people and discussing the characters. I'm also up for phone discussions of Skyping.

michele (This book club was one of my favorites: self described as a wine club disguised as a book club. The food was great. The wine even better. And the conversations--hysterical.) Thanks, ladies!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Day of School

My son started school yesterday. He is precious. For three days leading up to the start of kindergarten, I think I cried, realizing this is the end of one phase of childhood. He's spending his days elsewhere.

I didn't cry when I dropped him off on Tuesday. Did any of you guys cry when you took your kids their first day? It is NOT an easy thing to do.

He's growing up!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

From the novel in progress...

He took Gloria’s hand in his and gently parting her fingers, kissed her palm. He pressed it to his lips. His breath was warm on her hand. “I should write a poem about you.”

“I’d like that.” And Gloria loved him. She loved Sheff—understanding that love is not about penises or having babies. It’s about poetry and laughter and lines, whether from books or scars that weave and hold us together.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wearing two hats...

I wear two hats: bookseller and book writer. For the past few months, I've been more of a seller/PR/marketing gal.

My writing hat, which is pink and red, painted with gold stars and adorned with tassels, has been sitting in the corner.

Today, I'm putting this hat back on.

I hope to continue to attend book clubs and discuss The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, sign books, and have fun meeting new people, but I also look forward to writing again. Writing more and more often. And hopefully writing something worth reading. XO

Here are some emails and responses from readers over the last few months:

Two words for you. (whisper) Fucking awesome!

Your book is like something you made, like a pie with lots of really good fruit in it.

I loved it. Just talking about it, I get choked up.

The characters are really really real.

You've made me want to write down my own lightning story.

keep writing - whatever, really are a talent

I don't usually do this - but just finished your book and absolutely LOVED it!! What a great, funky, compelling read - and it takes a lot for me to hold my concentration these days while I run around after my 2 yr old boy! I recommended it to all my bookclub peeps. Well done you - was sad to have just finished it

Michele, what an awesome first book! I could not put it down. I share your love for the ocean, we are going through some sad times down here in New Orleans with the oil spill, it breaks my heart that my beautiful coast is being ruined! Keep up the good work, I can't wait to read your next books!

Hello Michele. I recently completed your debut novel and I loved it. I found it to be an amazing blend of creativity, feeling, and true-to-life quirkiness that I love to have in my world. Your profile on brought to my attention that males are rare amongst your readers. As a man, i thank you for writing The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. It has filled my days with laughter and happiness.

I love love love your book! You knew just where to end it! So many books fail to instill the satisfaction I felt as I put your book down, logged onto, and gave it 4 stars. I look forward to reading your next book. Wish I had something more profound to say here but it is 6:14 in the morning and I have to get ready for work. Cool hair.

just finished reading your book and needed to tell you how much I enjoyed it and needed it. It was like reading an indie film.It was wonderful.

Thank you,


Why Barnes & Noble at Short Pump Town Center in Glen Allen, VA SUCKS

*Disclaimer: I do not feel this way about all Barnes & Noble's, just the one at Short Pump Town Center in Glen Allen, Va.

I try to never write a "negative" blog entry. That said, this store is begging for it. The story: A very nice man who lives in my neighborhood drove out to Short Pump's Barnes & Noble in search of my novel, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. He had his two daughters with him. According to my neighbor, when he asked where he might find the book, he was told, "We don't have any in stock, and we've sent them all back."
He said, "She's a local author."
Apparently, this bookseller could care less because rather than saying, "I didn't know that. I can certainly order the book for you," the bookseller acted condescendingly toward my neighbor and said, "If the book doesn't sell, we don't stock it."
This same day, my neighbor conveyed this exchange to me at our local pool. I was also informed that the bookseller yelled at his daughter simply because she was riding on the escalator!
I telephoned the Barnes & Noble at Short Pump Town Center that same night and asked to speak with a manager. I relayed this story. She told me, "We do have a copy of your book in stock." Why is it that the bookseller was unaware of this fact? My neighbor had driven twenty miles out of his way.
The manager also told me that they don't always know which authors are local. So I guess they don't read the local newspaper or get lists of local authors from the major publishers. She then informed me that the only way I could be assured that my book was in stock was to arrange a book signing at their store. I said, "Sign me up." She said, "Our events planner is at lunch." I said, "Well, she can call me tonight or tomorrow to arrange something. I gave the manager my phone number. Do you think the Events coordinator from Short Pump Town Center called me?

Of course not!

I like Barnes & Noble just fine. I like all booksellers, especially local Indie sellers like Chop Suey in Carytown and Fountain Books in Shockoe Bottom. In fact, Chop Suey and Fountain have signed copies of my novel in stock right now.

That said, I have NO use for Barnes & Noble at Short Pump Town Center. As I understand it, the first thing that a bookseller should say when a customer requests a book not in stock is, "We can order it for you."

I don't typically burn bridges, but I'm burning this one with this particular store. With the way the book market is today, there's no excuse for booksellers to be rude or condescending with customers or authors.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vacation Bible School

Meet me on the mountain is this year's theme. It makes sense: A mountain is a prime spot from which to jump.

My son, who is attending Vacation Bible School this week, is understandably very curious about God. Here’s a sampling of questions and answers--why I might jump off that mountain:

“What do people eat in heaven?” “Will I have to sleep on a cloud? I don’t want to sleep on a cloud. I want to sleep in my own bed with my blue dog and all my things. I want you to be there and daddy. Will you be there?”

“Of course I’ll be there…

And no; you don’t have to sleep on a cloud if you don’t want to. I haven’t been to Heaven personally so I don’t know what they eat there, but I am pretty sure it’s all your favorite foods. And yes, your beloved Blue Dog, who you’ve had since your first Christmas, will be there too.

And here’s the other thing: You don’t have to worry about dying or going to Heaven for a VERY long time.”

“But what if I die before you? I don’t want to be alone.”

“I’ll still be there.”


“I just will.”

“Does Jesus know Mother Nature?”

“Well, certainly.”

“If God is Jesus’s dad and God is powerful, why did he let Jesus die?”

“It’s complicated.”

These are just a smattering of the questions that Vacation Bible School elicits from loquacious, charming and curious son.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Win a free autographed book! 51 authors are participating!

To celebrate the paperback release of The Last Will of Moira Leahy, Therese Walsh is sponsoring the “My Sister and Me” contest on her Facebook Author page. The idea being that if you’re one of the winners, you’ll have a copy of one of these 51 books to keep and another copy to share–with a sister or a friend. Click here to see the list of generous authors participating:

And then, once you’ve drooled through the list, added these authors to your Twitter feeds and friended them all on Facebook, please go to Therese's Facebook author page, click LIKE it, then follow the simple instructions for entering the contest for a chance to win two copies of one of these books. Want to spread the word? Visit Therese's Facebook page to learn how doing so can earn you extra entries in the contest.

Friday, July 30, 2010

How to write a follow-up to a widely praised debut novel...

... with patience!

This week, I visited with a terrific Richmond book club (pictured here). Thanks to Wendi and Dan for hosting. And thank you to (pictured from left) Katherine, Karla, Wendi, Lloyd, Sherry, Kim, Tracy, Susan and Karen for great questions and enthusiasm. I had a wonderful time! (That's me fifth from the left.)

And last night, I read and spoke at the Hopewell Library. I had the best time talking with the audience and the friends of the library, who presented me with a wonderful beautiful pen and a bag of great library swag. Thank you!

Last night, Chris Wiegard, the librarian, asked, "Do you feel pressure writing the second book?"
Ironically, for the last couple months, I've been struggling with this second book. Just last night on the way to the event, I was trying to decide if I should right the new ending to my second novel (or attempt it) or if I should take a few days off and then start at the beginning of the book to make sure the ending is dead-on and has more convergence, pulling together all the threads from earlier chapters. I am feeling a little panicked because I am seriously on the 22nd draft of this novel. SERIOUSLY. I do not want to follow up The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors with anything that will disappoint. I don't want to write a dud. I have to keep in mind what my audience will be expecting, but I also have to be true to myself and my vision and voice. Fortunately, I think these components are in league with each other.

It's very difficult writing this second book. I thought I was finished with a solid book (at one point)--only to realize that the pacing and plot were lacking.

Visiting with libraries, bookstores, and book clubs, I know that my characters have struck a chord with readers. The characters mean the world to me! I still get choked up talking about them. I don't want my second book to achieve any less: by my standards or by readers'.

*On a very different and very personal note, my best friend from 2nd to 1oth grade came to the reading last night. Mari "Brubaker" is all grown up with a teenage daughter of her own. It was wonderful to see her. She sees herself in The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. I see her there too. I'm so glad that she came to the event. Thanks, Mari, and thank you for the wonderful card.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Win a free autographed book!

My son the pirate drew a name, and the winner of a signed book is Caroline. My silly pirate giveaway comes to a close. Congrats, Caroline!!!!

*I'll draw names from the first ten people who comment on this post and send you an autographed copy of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. Tell me whether you like pirates, wenches, pirate lore... Why or why not? Do you like Johnny Depp? I do...

Dear Readers,

After the experience of seeing my book in a bookstore and having the opportunity to share it with my son and my husband, the GREATEST thing about releasing a book into the wild is the response I get from you!

Recently, a reader emailed me to say how much she wanted to hate the character Patty-Cake, but that she couldn't hate her. I emailed back: "When I wrote her, I wanted to hate her too, but I couldn't either. She's a strong woman who knows what she wants."

It's incredible that readers (you) are connecting with the characters inhabiting my head, making their way onto the page. A big huge THANK YOU to all the readers and bloggers who continue to reach out to me.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Feeling the need to share: excerpt from Conversations with Dead People

“There’s too many lambs in the world. They’re being slaughtered. But not us.” He made a fist. “We’re going to live.” He shot his lean arm toward the ceiling, toward the shimmering light that seemed to cascade from the chandelier when they looked at it straight on.

“Come to Chelsea. Meet me in Chelsea.”

“What’s in Chelsea?”

“The poets and the queers.”

Gloria looked wide-eyed at him.

“I’m going to meet Jack Kerouac.”

“Who’s he?”

“You’re kidding.” Across the table, they held hands.

She shook her head that she was not.

“He’s a man’s man. He’s the kind of man who needs me but doesn’t know it yet. Look at me,” Sheff said, fanning himself with Gloria’s notebook. “I’m hot all over now.”

Gloria laughed. “Do you really want to meet in Chelsea?”

“Why not? I’m supposed to meet this guy Sal who happens to look like the famous Sal Mineo. I’m supposed to meet Sal at the Chelsea Hotel which happens to be where Dylan Thomas died. I’m Sal’s muse or something. Sal is a writer. I doubt that Sal is his real name. He’s no Sal Paradise or anything.”

“Who’s Sal Paradise?”

“From Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road!”

“I don’t know it, but I read Madame Bovary.”

Sheff said, “I’ll loan you some books.” He leaned in and kissed her right smack on the lips. She felt flush. Sheffield Schoeffler, “the faggot menace,” sent fire through her limbs. He lit a fuse. For Gloria, it was kind of like being Erik, being stuck on that Ferris wheel beneath a black sky when all of the sudden, the world moved again. Life resumed, and Gloria was oh so grateful for that jolt.

Sheff sighed deeply. With his chin resting in his palm, he said, “You know, I have to be amorous of girls to shake this place from my heels.”

“I know.”

He took Gloria’s hand in his and gently parting her fingers, kissed her palm, pressing it to his lips. His breath was warm on her hand. “I should write a poem about you.”

“I’d like that.” And Gloria loved him. She understood that love is not about penises or having babies. It’s about poetry and lines that weave and hold lives and skin together.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Richmond Young Writers

I am inspired by the young writers I had the privilege to work with this past Thursday afternoon. Sometimes, it's too easy to overlook the talent and passion that young people have--and not just for video games--but for storytelling. I was blown away by the talent these folks possessed and by how much they wanted to write! The writers ranged in age from elementary school to high school, and Jessica (16) has completed her first novel and is currently submitting it to agents! Thanks to Valley Haggard and thanks to Ward at Chop Suey Books, and most importantly thanks to Bean (Hannah), Carla Adams (Kaavya), Jessica, Henry, Ryan, Maddie, Chico, Eli and Emily. Thanks again, Richmond's young writers!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It was like reading an indie film.

"I just finished reading your book and needed to tell you how much I enjoyed it and needed it. It was like reading an indie film. It was wonderful."

All right. Another AMAZING review from a guy! I am ecstatic. I realize that it's the individual reviews that keep me smiling, writing, and working on the next book.

Listen up, boys! Keep the comments coming. You're making my year!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sweetest review to date...

I received an email yesterday from a reader, who commented, "Some books are over too soon, but Handbook is substantial. It has kept me reading for quite a while, which sort of feels like I got my money's worth, except that it has nothing to do with money.

It's more like I have the feeling that this is something you made, like a really nice pie with a lot of fruit.

Thank you for releasing this book into the wild."

Here is a raspberry pie that I made (fresh-picked Cape Cod raspberries) with homemade crust.

Thank you to Ralph for the "sweet" review. I love hearing from readers. It really makes me feel good to know that people understand and love my characters.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Losing My Mind

I have a serious problem with losing things. I always have. This problem is apparently inherited from my dad. I can remember him stomping around the house like a lunatic, shouting, "Where are my god-damn keys?" I did not plan on following in his footsteps, but I did--to some degree--anyway.

For instance, today I lost the book I was reading. It's absolutely ridiculous, as I was reading it last night, but that said, I've searched the sofa and between the bed and wall, my pillows, beneath the covers. I seem to only lose things that are important to me. Another example: many years ago, I lost my wedding ring. It was a very nice ring--as my husband slid it onto my finger during our wedding ceremony--so you can imagine it was very nice and not as easily replaced as a book--and I was devastated. I told him. "God damn it! I lost my wedding ring. I put it right here. It was right here!" I pointed beside the kitchen sink.

We took the sink apart. No ring.

My husband said, "It will turn up. Don't worry about it, honey."

It never turned up. I turned our house upside down but the ring didn't fall out.

I think I would lose my mind if I didn't have my husband to ground me. I love him so much. I grew up with a raging dad, and I married a soft-spoken witty man. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

I used to think... Well, I think I'm losing my mind this time, this time I'm losing my mind. --Beastie Boys, Mike D (I got to meet the Beastie Boys back in the 90s... back in the day!) And sometimes I still do think that way--that I'm losing my mind--but I have this awesome family to keep me sane. I wasn't born into them. I chose them, and that makes my family all the better.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

HAVE BOOK CLUB? WILL TRAVEL! Or speaker phone... Or skype...

To say that I had an awesome time with the Richmond Book Club that I found at is an understatement.

I am blown away by the positive response my novel is getting from readers. It is so emotionally affecting to know that my characters stick with readers and that readers want more of them. "Will you write a sequel?" "Can you include the character Tide in another book?" "I really want to know that he turns out okay."

It's so wonderful! Because these characters are my family. A wonderful woman at the book club, who I'd met at Chippenham Hospital when my book first sold, wondered, "How can you talk so objectively, without being defensive, about your characters?" And the truth is, as I explained,
"First, great question! And one I'd never heard, but secondly, my characters are who they are. I know they're flawed and 'damaged' as Publisher's Weekly aptly stated, but that's what makes them so endearing, so real.

Just last night, I stopped by a friend's house. We were chit-chatting and for some reason, I told the story of how when I was in high school and we would go to parties, I had a friend who raided deep freezers and stole meat, like leg-of-lamb and pork chops, steak, etc. My friend who I was talking to, said, "No wonder you're a writer." I think we all know people who steal meat from deep freezers. We just don't all write about them.

All that said, if you are in a book club, I would love to come and talk with your group and if you're miles or states away, I would love to do a speaker phone or skype meet-up. I did one with a group of delightful women in Louisiana, and it was a blast.

Thanks for all the love. Thanks, Richmond Book Club. Thanks to all the book clubs who support me, and reminder, mark your calendar: Sunday, July 11th, 6 o'clock, Gallery 5, 200 W. Marshall Street, City Wide Book Club--River City . Everyone is invited. Please come. Ask questions. Spread the word. Light fare and libations for sale. Bring your kids. Bring neighbors and friends and cohorts and frenemies. Bring it on. Get your read on, Richmond, Virginia!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

You can Win a Free Signed Book plus 5 Writer Tips

Check out and participate in the online forum for your chance to win an autographed copy of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. All you have to do is post a discussion or participate in an online discussion about the book.

On the Road Again
Five writer tips from a traveling novelist newbie:

1. When speaking or signing books in public, dress comfortably. There's nothing worse than boob sweat or having your dress stuck to the back of your thighs, or even worse--lodged in your underwear.

2. Even if no one buys or bothers to peruse your book, smile, and act like you don't mind. You're just happy to be invited.

3. If someone spends an hour talking to you about your novel, and your attention has been solely on this person, telling them why your book is a "Must Read" and "a great gift," as other readers have moved away, and then, this possible reader says, "I'm not buying anything today," or "I don't read" and walks away, don't be upset. Smile. You're happy just to be invited.

4. If you're sitting alone with your giant stack of books, and the stack is not shrinking, and you'd much rather be home writing your new book, get some paper out and have at it. Write anything. Better yet, read one of the ten books you've bought in support of your fellow writers. You'll learn something!

5. The most important rule: You're happy to be invited!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Writers, writers everywhere!!

Writers, writers everywhere in Galax, Virginia.

Thanks to Chapters Bookshop for hosting the Authors on Grayson Street Festival.

Pictured: Me, Michele, Anne Clinard Barnhill author of At Home in the Land of Oz, and Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House.

My sweet son, who loathes having his picture taken, insisted on being in this shot--because it's hard sharing your mom with other authors.

I thoroughly enjoyed the company of Anne and Kathleen. It's fantastic meeting other talented writers.

Other highlights: meeting Kevin Donleavy, author of Strings of Life--Conversations with Old-Time Musicians from Virginia and North Carolina; Jennifer Frick-Ruppert, author of Mountain Nature (she was my table buddy!), Becky Mushko, author of Ferradiddledumday, An Appalachian Version of Rumpelstiltskin, and Peggy Ann Shifflett, author of The Red Flannel Rug and many other books centered around Appalachia. And Erica Eisdorfer, author of The Wet Nurse's Tale. In addition to being a talented novelist, Erica manages The Bull's Head Bookshop in Chapel Hill.

I had such a nice time in Galax. And it was the most fun getting to hang out in Chestnut Creek with my husband and son. Thanks, Galax. We'll be back!

Friday, June 11, 2010

What's going on?

I want to fly like a bird--with direction--and not like a kite or a leaf.

I want to hold time still. Yesterday in Chestnut Creek with my son; keep the picture, the smell, temperature, taste, rockiness and certainty with me. Certainty seems hard to come by sometimes.

Galax is beautiful: writers, monarch butterflies, crayfish, river glass, chestnuts, the Galax leaf. Sunday, I drive to Chapel Hill to tape Bookwatch with D. G. Martin, who was so wonderful to invite me.

And Tuesday, I get to meet with the Richmond Book Club in Midlothian. I am THRILLED that they've embraced me and my book. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today in Galax I met fellow writers: Jennifer Frick-Ruppert, Peggy Ann Shifflett, Kathleen Grissom (who spoke with Heidi Durrow at the VA Festival of the Book), Anne Clinard Barnhill (a friend of Therese Fowler's) and Becky Mushko. I can't wait to post my pictures (forgot my USB cable).

Monday, June 7, 2010

It won't happen to me!!!!

Oh, yes it will! As the steamy weather continues, so do the thunderstorms. People who have read my debut novel tell me that they think twice now about staying outside to finish gardening or play ball, and I'M GLAD.

Lightning can strike AT LEAST five miles from a thunderstorm. This means that you might be standing under thick puffy clouds and blue skies, thunder in the distance, and ZAP, lightning strikes.

Recently, a man was struck locally in Brandermill and more recently, a young woman about to be proposed to, was struck and killed on a mountaintop. Her fiancee suffered second-degree burns, but still attempted CPR in the storm, as did EMS. Everyone says that lightning strike injuries are rare, but this isn't true. A great percentage of people struck indirectly by lightning do not go to the hospital or report the injury. There are all types of lightning, and you can die!

Respect nature. If you see stormy clouds, seek shelter. You can't predict the first strike, and thunder doesn't have to occur before that first strike touches down. Don't let your kids play under stormy skies. Thunder is the sound lightning makes when it connects from cloud to ground. Thunder is not only a warning. It's lightning touching the earth. Please be careful, and if someone is struck, begin CPR immediately. The main cause of death from lightning is the electrical charge causes the heart to stop beating--cardiac arrest. Administer CPR until paramedics arrive.

Be safe this summer!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I love my book club!!!!!!!!!!!

Where else can a group of attractive smart women hang out, drink wine, munch snacks and talk about books, large and small ones, intellectual and otherwise? Our book club has read everything from The Time Traveler's Wife to The Great Santini to Eat, Pray, Love to It's Superman and Pride and Prejudice.

I was HONORED this Tuesday when we discussed my debut novel, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.

Our readers/members range from realtors to teachers to lawyers to media specialists to pediatric nurse practitioners and on and on. (I should keep better track of what people do.)

I am so appreciative of the love and support these wonderful ladies have shown me and my first novel. I can't wait until we can review my second one. And Amy, who hosted Tuesday night, is one of my oldest friends. She's in the back-left corner, and like the majority of these women, has her plate full with three kids, a husband, and a job. I'm amazed at how she put together such a great event.

A long time ago, Amy and I taught eighth grade English together. I'm so happy that we've remained friends and I'm glad that our friendship has blossomed into so many more connections. If you have a book club, and you'd like me to visit, check into River City Reads or shoot me an email The success of any novel begins and ends with the reader. If you have an interested book club, we can make it happen--even if it's via internet.

Anyone with an interest in the book can participate in River City Reads at Gallery 5, July 11th, 6 pm. The more the merrier.

And to all you readers who are reaching out and telling me that you like the book, THANK YOU. It means the world to me.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Best Part of this Book Has Yet to be Written

Imagine that after writing approximately 1,000 typed double-spaced pages only to discover that you're writing the wrong character's story, you begin again, writing an actual novel, 400 or so pages. Then, it needs work. Of course it needs work because it's too cheesy and too magical and too goddess-y for what you really like to write and "evoke." Okay, so you revise.

You've titled your novel ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL. Snazzy title! And you've revised it so many times, 17, in fact that you don't know if it's really any good, but when you write the final chapter, you cry, so you think, "This must be good." I'm going to show it to my agent, and she's like, "This is good. We'll pass it to the editor." And then the editor says,

"I love you," BUT
"I don't think the best part of this book has been written yet."

And both the agent and editor tell you (really me, but for some damn reason, I am writing in 2nd person), "Don't worry about it right now. Concentrate on promoting The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors," and you're like, "I can't. I'm mad with the words how Becca in The Handbook... is mad with the paint," so "I have to keep going. I have to figure out what's wrong with this book." So you think and think and think and then it comes to you. It's not the book it's supposed to be yet. You've cheated by not dotting all your I-s or crossing all your T-s. And this month, you've written 150 new pages and you realize this book isn't ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL, it's CONVERSATIONS WITH DEAD PEOPLE.

And you want to throw a parade for your editor, to thank her for having balls enough to tell you the truth, because even though some things are hard to hear, they are also WONDERFUL things to hear.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book Clubs and Making Connections

I couldn't have imagined a more stellar group of readers. And, thanks to Regy, for setting up this timed photograph--something totally beyond my abilities. (And note how we match!) This was a great way to spend a Sunday.

From left to right: Julie, Lisa, Nicole, Heidi, Michele (me), Holly, Jessica and Samantha.

In the back standing: Regi and Katie

Today was a feast and delight. It meant so much to me to be with past writer friends, Lisa and Nicole, and the other beautiful ladies were funny, smart and insightful. I look forward to spending more time with all of these gals. I felt embraced and at home.

Thank you! And thanks to the folks at Borders, where I signed books yesterday. I met some wonderful people like Robbie (the third-grade writer), April, mother of two, Wendy, who's in the Richmond Book Club I'm meeting with June 15th, and Deborah, who really needed my book. I felt an immediate connection with Deborah. Since publishing The Handbook, I am meeting so many wonderful people, all of whom reaffirm the messages and themes present in my novel. THANK YOU!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Writing and Parenting

Victoria Winterhalter, mother, teacher and writer, speaks about the connections between Motherhood and Writing. She has an incredible amount of insight on parenting--all free and accessible at Parenting By the Book, Richmond Family Magazine's blog.

I'm thrilled to have her as my first guest blogger!

Remember that book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum? I feel like everything I really need to know about parenting I learned from being a writer. For my blog, Parenting by the Book, I utilize my experiences as a freelance writer and English teacher just as much as I do those of motherhood because writing, like parenting, is largely based on what you’ve read and what you’ve experienced.

While we hate to admit it, both writing and parenting are learned through trial and error. Author Philip Roth writes, “I often write a hundred pages or more before there’s a paragraph that's alive. Okay, I say to myself, that’s your beginning, start there; that’s the first paragraph of the book.” With how hectic parenting can be, this is a hard correlation to accept but one that is real nonetheless. I know when it came to getting my four-year-old to be more independent I’d read numerous books and tried countless tricks. It wasn’t until I blogged about Raising Resilient Children by Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein that my efforts paid off.

Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, writes that successful writers don’t “sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars…This is just the fantasy of the uninitiated.” Good writing, like good parenting, is hard work; even the best writers (and parents) feel uninspired from time to time. The key is to ride out your insecurities until you feel confident again for I believe Lamott was right when she wrote “Leap and the net will appear.”

Whether you’re writing, or parenting, you should think about when you are at your best and capitalize on it. Author Toni Morrison writes, “I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are at their best creatively.” I’m a slow starter – at my best creatively in the afternoon; therefore, I’ve trained my kids to play together when they wake up. By the time they are on each other’s nerves, my coffee’s kicked in and I’m ready to play.

Last month, I heard Michele Young-Stone speak at a James River Writers event, and something she said confirmed this suspicion that all I really need to know about parenting I can learn from being a writer. Michele said when she got rejections she’d say she was done with writing while simultaneously putting another query letter in the mail to a potential agent – never giving up on her dream of publication. The reality is published authors succeed in large part because they aren’t afraid to reinvent their project until they find the format that reaches readers. It’s that kind of perseverance that makes for successful parents, too.

Victoria Winterhalter writes the blog Parenting by the Book for Richmond Family Magazine; she reads the parenting books so you don’t have to.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My First Guest Blogger this Friday!

I am excited to host my first ever guest blogger this Friday, May 21st!

Victoria Winterhalter, the blogger for Richmond Family Magazine, will blog about writing and parenting.

Before having kids, she spent ten years teaching English in elementary and middle schools. Since moving to VA with her family, she's taught primarily at John Tyler Community College in Chester - Freshmen Comp. classes, American Literature, and Creative Writing.

Victoria publishes articles on teaching writing in academic journals, but most of the writing she does is related to parenting - first for All About Kids and now for Richmond Family, which is what led to her awesome blog--Parenting by the Book.

Additionally, she spent some time abroad working for the Peace Corps! Which, I think is super cool! She has quite a lot to write about, and her blog is a helpful smart resource for moms and parents.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"I'm on the top of the world looking down on...

creation and the only explanation I can find is the love that I found ever since you've been around, you're what put me on the top of the world!"

When I was a kid, I remember jumping up and down on my bed, imagining I was Karen Carpenter and singing at the top of my lungs.

I had the greatest time in New York. In three days, we did:
a. The Museum of Natural History
b. Arturos on Houston (my favorite pizza) with my editor
c. Bleecker street blues with my sis and friend
d. Reading and book signing and drinks with Heidi Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
e. Little Italy and Chinatown
f. FAO Schwartz and the M & M store
g. Saw the Waldorf Astoria with my beautiful cousin and second cousin, Teresa and Cosette
h. Hand-sold my novel at JFK airport to another Richmonder

Heidi Durrow and her husband Darryl were so much fun. Heidi and I both considered how great it would be to book-tour together. She is a real wordsmith. Compelling, funny, wise and beautiful (inside and out). The folks at Word in Brooklyn couldn't have been better hosts. Man, I had a serious blast!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Good Times In Middleburg, Virginia

Saturday, May 8th in Middleburg, Virginia

I signed books at Books & Crannies, a wonderfully friendly and charming bookstore where the owners and manager made sure I felt right at home.

Sadly, the folks at Crown Random House put me up in the cramped accommodation pictured above. I don't know how these publishing people think I can sign books under such conditions. :-)

Not to mention, this crazy blue-eyed man accompanied me. Thank God for the great folks at Books & Crannies for rescuing me. I had a blast. Middleburg is a quaint beautiful town. I met a musician/bartender at Le Bar who made us feel right at home, and Teddy @ Teddy's Pizza made me blush. What a great weekend!

Friday, May 7, 2010


There are so many things that I've wanted to blog about lately, but I've been "mad with the words," revising ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL for the TWELFTH time--not including the 2,000 pages I wrote leading up to these twelve drafts.

That said: REVELATION. The reason that I wanted to be a published novelist is so that I could help people to see the world in a new way. I wanted to make people feel things deeply and appreciate what they have, what they might take for granted. And I wanted to entertain... And I'm driven to do this. I love writing stories!

So, today, I got the following email from a reader:

Favorite line: 'Buckley squeezed Joan Holt's hand.' And his 'Excerpts' are written in such an honest and believable and cute voice....a terrific effort." so keep writing! You put a lot of other current novelists to shame: wit, wisdom and talent for nuance are all there in your work. Right on, sister.

And the following phone call from a friend/reader:

I hadn't read a book in fifteen years, and then I couldn't put yours down. Thank you for making me want to read again.

Oh, and three days ago, I got this email:

I love your book, I'm a lightning strike survivor too, I bought your book in a trip to Washington but I live in Caracas, Venezuela. Thank you for giving me the impulse to write in spanish my own story. Congratulations!!! Looking forward for your second book. Best regards

For the record, I am all torn up! There were years when I thought I'd never publish. I am so happy that people are enjoying my words.

AND... Check out my guest spot on Coffee with a Canine. It's too fun!

Monday, May 3, 2010


I am revising my latest book today, and I am tossing whole chapters. Kill the little darlings is what Faulkner said, and I'm doing it. These aren't even little darlings, these are big darlings, but I think and I hope that in the end, I will be all the better for it. I used to say that I wrote 1,000 pages for every 100 I keep. I'm going to have to up that number to 2,000 pages for every 100 pages.

I'm proud of myself, but I'm also sort of scared.

What's the worst case scenario? I go back to the last draft.

I can do it! You can do it!

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Page 69 Test and James River Writers

I took The Page 69 Test. This is the coolest blog because it asks the question NOT necessarily on everyone's mind, but a really cool question: Does page 69 in the book that you wrote represent the overall story or theme of your novel?

My answer is posted today. Check it out!

And I had such a wonderful time last night participating in the James River Writers' Writing Show Panel at the Children's Museum. In this photograph are my agent Michelle, me, my editor, Sarah, and local fiction writer and JRW Co-Chair and last night's moderator, Ginny Pye. The audience of writers was insightful and inspiring. I had a blast! Thanks to everyone who came out and thanks to Michelle and Sarah for flying down from New York and to James River Writers' for hosting them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Here I go again on my own...

We have had the best time in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina. Thank you to Regulator Books and Flyleaf Books for their kindness. And thank you to DG Martin for interviewing me for 1360 WCHL Chapel Hill. He's a delight!

Last night after my reading at Flyleaf, I was at a local pizza place, IP 3 (rocked!!) and saw the White Snake video with Tawny Kitaen rolling all over the car, and I felt really happy that I'm not "traveling down the only road I've ever known". Not to mention, every single time that I see that White Snake video I want to roll around on a Trans Am or Camaro or whatever muscle car that is. Here's to Tawny Kitaen! I first encountered her in the movie Bachelor Party--I think. I'm showing my age.

Hat's off to Tawny.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Regulator Books in Durham, NC

And... if you miss me at Flyleaf Books, catch me Wednesday at Regulator Books in Durham, NC. I'll be reading from THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS and signing books. I hope to see you there.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Flyleaf Books Tuesday, 7 pm

Hi folks. If you're in Chapel Hill, Tuesday. Come see me at Flyleaf Books, 7 pm.
I'm really looking forward to it!!


Friday, April 23, 2010

Endearing Losers

From left to right, my sister, me, and my dad.

I'm guest blogging today over at The Book Lady's Blog, writing about what it means to be an "endearing loser." There are some fun pics. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Book Lady's Blog!!!!!!!!!!!

I love this woman!

Check out her blog, and the stunning review she gave THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS!!!!!!!!!!

See you at 6:30, Fountain Bookstore, Shockoe Bottom: Reading and book signing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Launch Party a HUGE success

The party was a blast! I'd imagined this party for years, and it didn't disappoint.

Thanks Coby, Wells, Stephen and Sara--for the great introduction and Ward and Curtis.

We had a blast! And thanks for coming and getting your book signed. I hope everyone had FUN!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Michele Young-Stone at Gallery 5 Sunday, April 18th

Please join me in celebrating the release of my debut novel, THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS.

Gallery 5, 200 West Marshall Street, Richmond, VA,

Sunday, April 18th, 5 - 7 pm.

Books for sale by Chop Suey Books.

Reading, signing, live music, food and libations.

I hope to see you there. XXOO michele