Several days ago, I met Lindsey Stirling and Brooke S. Passey (Stirling’s sister), coauthors of The Only Pirate at the Party, at a signing at my local independent book store.
If you don’t know who Lindsey Stirling is, prepare to be amazed. I first discovered her about four years ago when a friend posted this YouTube video on Facebook:
This video has been viewed 140,000,000 times.
But two years earlier, after an ambitious third act on America’s Got Talent that didn’t go as well as she’d hoped, she suffered humiliating remarks from the judges on national television. (That’s also been immortalized on YouTube.) She could have crawled under a rock and never played violin publicly again. Instead, she decided the show was a learning experience that revealed where she needed to improve, and she immersed herself in focused practice.
She found an appreciative audience when she posted her videos on YouTube. Three years ago, as her star began to rise, she yearned to encourage struggling musicians, entertainers, and artists to stick it out. So, with her sister’s help, she wrote the story of her journey to success, starting with her childhood.
She grew up in an economically challenged household; yet her parents supported her unconditionally and made financial sacrifices to help her follow her dreams. They never told her she wouldn’t be able to do something—such as sewing her own kangaroo costume for Halloween when she was in third grade. They bought her four yards of brown fake fur, and sew she did. Not that the result was user-friendly. Stirling writes, “The finished product had a few minor flaws—mainly that I couldn’t breathe, and I spent the entire night tripping over my very realistic kangaroo feet—but the good news is I was the only kangaroo on the block that year (or any year, as far as I know).”
My neighborhood bookstore, Changing Hands, sold several hundred copies of The Only Pirate at the Party, and I waited for nearly two hours to get my book signed (I was in Group Q). I put the time to good use by reading the first 90 pages, laughing out loud and undoubtedly annoying the other patrons. When I got close to the authors’ table, I observed their enchanting personalities and the sister/best friend dynamic that makes me so jealous. (I have a wonderful brother, but no sisters—and I really wish I had that unique relationship.) Stirling and Passey clearly know and love each other well. They exchanged that “see—I told you so” look when I commented that the book is funny. They laughed and joked as they interacted with their adoring fans.
The book is a delightful read, full of anecdotes as well as deep insights. Stirling tried to include all the topics one might expect in a celebrity tell-all. Including Chapter on My Young and Carefree Drug/Alcohol Escapades. Which I quote here in its entirety: “I have never done drugs or consumed alcohol, so this chapter is really short.” How refreshing.
So what’s the deal with that pirate reference in the title? Stirling confesses three ways that she identifies with pirates.
First: When Stirling was a little girl, she had a perceptual disability, called cross dominance, which made it difficult for her to learn how to read. She says, “it’s a lot like dyslexia, only completely different.” Part of the treatment was to wear an eye patch over her dominant eye for an hour every day, which she hated—until she discovered an old pirate hat in her closet, “and it clicked…I was a pirate stuck in a weird suburban back yard. From that time forward I spent at least an hour every day turning the swing set into a giant pirate ship, where I played Cap’n Davy and made my sister and our friend Mary walk the plank. Arrr!”
Second, Stirling says, “I have always admired the pirate attitude. Pirates don’t take orders or ask permission. They do what they want…if someone tells you you’re not good enough, says your dreams are too lofty, or claims there is no room in showbiz for a dancing violinist—well then, by all means, pull out your eye patch, my friend.”
And finally, a friend invited Stirling to a Peter Pan-themed surprise party and told her she could dress up if she wanted. So Stirling showed up in full Captain Hook regalia. Not only was she the only pirate at the party, other than the girl wearing a Tinkerbell T-shirt, she was the only costumed guest.
I heartily recommend this book. Stirling is so un-Hollywood, so genuine and transparent, and so humble. She shares humorous and embarrassing events in the hope that if her readers experience failure on the road to living their dreams, they would take heart, persevere, and overcome.
One more video:
All right. But just one more.