Thursday, January 2, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. I am born in Philadelphia, only it happened so long ago I should be migrating over to the past tense by now. I wasn't so much "called there" as dropped there and UPS refused to re-deliver. Anyway, very effecting post about differing ways of life and choices we make around them.

    Now, how can I get me some wings? Thanks, Michele!

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