Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hats Off to the Eccentrics by Michele Young-Stone

Michele Young-Stone is the author of the debut novel The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors (Shaye Areheart/Crown, 2010).  A fan of the underdog, her characters have been described as “endearing losers,” “complicated, nuanced and sympathetic.”  Publisher’s Weekly listed The Handbook… as one of the top ten fiction debuts of the season, and The Boston Globe called it, “an exceptionally rich and sure-handed debut, full of complex characters, brilliantly described...”

Michele earned her MFA in fiction writing at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Currently at work on a new book, Michele resides in Richmond, VA with her husband, her son, a sweet dog, some hermit crabs and a showy fish.  A very long time ago, Michele was struck by lightning and survived.

You can learn more about The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors at http://micheleyoung-stone.com 

Hats Off to the Eccentrics
by Michele Young-Stone

“I’ve got a feeling…” that I watch and read too much entertainment news because that Black-Eyed Peas song is running through my head.  Really, it’s the fault of my step-aerobics class to which I am freakishly addicted.

I like nothing better than jumping up and down on this riser to loud hip-hop music, spinning and improvising, dripping sweat all over the floor while the instructor Nicole calls out, “Repeater ham,” which means three hamstring moves in a row, or “L Step” or “V Step.”  Since she’s taught us variations with all of these moves, I’m bopping all over the place.  “I’ve got a feeling that tonight’s going to be a good night,…”  It’s nuts, and I love it.  I think it’s partly all the counting.  There are 4, 8, 12 and 16 beats in the steps.

When I was a kid, I would count the syllables in words whenever people spoke.  It was one way to make sense of the world.  This ritual grew into making sure that the bed is daily made, for order, which grew into making sure that the rug is daily vacuumed.

Potentially-long story short:  It seems much healthier to dance on top of a riser and break a sweat to hip-hop than counting syllables.

When I was growing up, I worried a lot about nuclear war, whales being harpooned, and dolphins being killed in tuna nets.  My parents were sure that I was going to grow up to be a dysfunctional bag lady.  Possible scenario:  Empathetic hyper-sensitive girl turns bag lady.  Another possibility:  Empathetic hypersensitive girl turns novelist.  I like the latter much better.

I like the oddballs in society.  They make life interesting.  I like the eccentrics and the folks who aren’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves.  It took me until I was thirty-years old to realize the gravity of choosing my friends.  For some reason, I was attracted to people who weren’t always empathetic to my quirkiness.  They perceived sensitivity as weakness. Nowadays, I choose my friends more wisely.  I pick the scattered artistic unruly.  I choose the freethinkers.  I choose the sensitive and intelligent, the inhibited and the uninhibited.  I choose the dancers and the wallflowers, the crybabies and the tattle-tales.  I choose lovers of nature.  The folks who want to nurture and build up.  I choose animal lovers and baby lovers.  Women and men who bound fearless and crawl fearful into the day.  The outspoken and the soft-spoken.  Bottom line: the big-hearted; the givers and not the takers.  “Fill up my cup/ Mazel Tov…  I’ve got a feeling…”


Victoria said...

Yes! I have a feeling we could be great friends. Kerouac would be proud--
"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time..."

Robin Antalek said...

When my oldest daughter went to pre-school she came out the first day with a frown. When I asked her what was wrong (since I was already a bad, bad, mother for even thinking about pre-school, wasn't I?) The anticipation of her answer nearly killed me. Finally she answered.
"I don't want to be friends with everyone." She said with a pout. Then she turned and pointed to a little boy who was dancing next to his mother's leg while she tried to get him into the stroller. He was dressed in head to toe pink complete with a tutu. He was a joyous little thing. "I only want to be friends with him." She called over her shoulder as she ran to give him a hug goodbye.
My heart hurt as I watched them. I so understood.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

V -- I think you and Michele would make a magical pair :)

And Robin --- I LOVE that story. That will make me smile all day. Thank you.

Michele should be here soon to add to the conversation :)

Unknown said...

Oh, EVF,
I love your comment. Jack Kerouac happens to be in my second novel. On reading of his death in California, she writes him back to life, claiming that he faked his death with the help of the St. Petersburg coroner. He can live now how he wanted. Thanks for the awesome comment.

And, Robin, I felt so emotional at what you wrote. My son is getting ready to start kindergarten in two weeks! He told me on the phone this past weekend when he was out of town with his dad and grandparents, "I love you more than chocolate cake." I said, "I love you more than chocolate cake." Then he said, "I love you more than God." I said, "I love you more than God," and then I thought about the miracle of his birth, how God is inside him.

Rose Margaret Deniz said...

Michele, I love this post! No only do I wholeheartedly agree with you about befriending eccentrics, I think it's in my blood. To love being just a little bit off center. Just a little bit outside the frame, which is utterly perfect because if you're just a little off step, off cue, you get to be your own composer and choreographer instead of in the chorus line.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Rose. Well said. Just wondering, to everyone out there, who are some of your favorite eccentrics? Two of my favorites are Anne Chamblin and Bill Tester.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Probably my husband when I first met him ;)

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."