Some more quotes about writing – and life

I can never resist a good quote - or sharing them with you. Hope you like this batch. Please let me know how these quotes relate to your writing. … [Read more...]

What is literary alchemy?

I'm pleased to host Professor M.C. Gore, Maestro Philip Wilson, and Angie F. M. Trotter while they are on their WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. Their children's book, All is Assuredly Well, is   about how hard a king had to work to be worthy of becoming a father. Here, Professor Gore, shares with us her thoughts on literary alchemy - a term I wasn't familiar with until now. Hopefully my Choices readers will learn as much as I have about it by reading her essay below. Who wouldn't want to learn how to how to purify our souls? Want to Join Our Secret Society of Literary Alchemists? by Professor M.C. Gore In the Middle Ages, alchemists believed they could purify their souls through the process of turning lead into gold.  Getting rich wasn’t the goal; purifying their souls was. An alchemist saw no distinction between the actor (himself) and the object acted upon (the lead) as he worked his craft in the Sacred Mysteries.  The alchemist and his lead were inseparable prim … [Read more...]

A travel story in poems

Here is the travel story I submitted to the Facebook group, We Love Memoirs' travel story contest. Alas, it didn't win, but I thought I'd share it here anyway. ​It was fun to put together. Also, our African safari in the fall of 2013 was amazing. As usual when I travel, my goal is to write a poem a day. A Travel Story in Poems    Preparing to Go Even while I am on the elliptical reading my New Yorker I wonder: should I add more shirts? should I pick out some silver jewelry? do I need a pair of high heels? While my Pilates trainer says my form is excellent, I visualize the piles of shirts, pants, undies, jackets on the sofa, shoes scattered on the floor, and stuff bought especially for this Kenya and Tanzania trip: insect repellent, bite itch eraser, and a new camera with built in telescopic lens. Even while I do my last stretches I know I have more to do: put my toiletries in travel containers, get out my contact lens solutions, lay out my travel cl … [Read more...]

Writing through chaos

I've been writing small stones again. As the group admin says: Write just your thoughts and ideas and have fun. Post small poems and thoughts; please share and enjoy each others talents. Everyone is individual and that makes this page brilliant. I took a long break from this writing, but started back at it last month when the group page was called Mayday Mayflower. This month we're June Jubilation. Here's a few small stone thoughts from May: I’m almost finished with Revision Ten of my novel. And when I’m finished I will declare victory. Ten revisions are really quite enough. I’m sad about the death of Tom Wolfe. He was a brilliant journalist and author. Anybody not read The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities? I’m in the edit poem mode, getting ready to submit. They say if we haven’t gotten 100 rejections in a year, we haven’t submitted enough. LOL  [note: I'm still not submitting enough!] I forgot to say the dinner I spent so much time on two days ago was a … [Read more...]

Two new reviews worth bragging about

Pat Seitz and I attend a monthly Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) writing group where we discuss our published books and books in progress plus hear a lot of good information about what resources out there for us struggling authors. I was pleasantly surprised at one meeting when Pat said she wanted to buy and read my book. Since I carry a box of books in the trunk of my car, I was ready to accommodate her immediately, and I happily signed a first edition hardback copy for her. I also gave her a discounted price, something I always do for other authors when we're at meetings and writers conferences. And Pat graciously wrote a fabulous review of Leaving the Hall Light On - unfortunately Amazon wouldn't publish it since she didn't buy it from the Amazon site. Here's Pat: Madeline Sharples' painful, powerful story, Leaving the Hall Light On, is phenomenal. Her fascinating story has turned the light on the darkness in my family's disconnect and … [Read more...]

How does an author change voices?

I'm delighted to have Wendy Lozano here at Choices. She and I have known each other since we worked on our high school newspaper together – and that's a long time. After an absence of many years, we reconnected while she carried out a successful career in academia and I worked for the aerospace industry. Coincidentally we are both novel writers now.  Her novel, The Fifth Sun, will be out next week. Here Wendy shares how she had found her author's voice after writing in her academic voice during her academic career – similar to my transition from technical writing to creative writing. I find the transition fascinating. I hope you will too.   Changing Voices by Wendy Lozano When I wrote my first historical novels in the ‘70s, my name was Wendy Lozano. Writing  seemed really easy to me then. I just fantasized about being in a particular time and place, did some research, and then wrote down my fantasy. I didn’t worry about voice or point of view. They were mine. The only … [Read more...]

Yes, I have to weigh in on the most recent celebrity suicides

I’ve been grappling with the two suicide deaths by famous people last week – Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Both successful and productive. Both seemingly having no reasons to end their lives. So what made them do it? I’ve heard that Spade was suffering from depression and was getting help. I've recently learned that Bourdain also had bouts of depression, and that in his early days he had drug and alcohol problems. Needless to say, they both had their demons. However, they say it isn’t only mental illness – it could be what’s going on in our world, including poverty, homelessness and unemployment or stress on the job – that trigger suicide. In a recent "New Yorker" article, Andrew Solomon states: "There is another factor that should not be underestimated. On a national stage, we’ve seen an embrace of prejudice and intolerance, and that affects the mood of all citizens. My psychoanalyst said that he had never before had every one of his patients discuss national politics repeatedly, … [Read more...]

Writing to heal in times of grief

Wendy Brown-Baez and I are soul mates. We're both advocates and beneficiaries of writing to heal and survivors of a loved one's suicide. Please welcome Wendy today as she stops by Choices on her WOW! Women on Writing book tour. Her literary fiction book, Catch a Dream, is described below. Here are her words about experiencing loss and grief and the benefits of writing to heal that experience. Writing for Healing by Wendy Brown-Baez, author of Catch a Dream My healing story begins not with my own healing but with seeking solutions for my companion’s depression. Sometimes Michael was unable to get out of bed for days at a time. Other times, he was energetic, gregarious, spending money wildly, followed by aggression. With a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder, the puzzle pieces fell into place. I was involved in two writing groups at the time, a writing support group called Write Action and a women’s poetry group. Michael became more and more mentally unstable and finally killed him … [Read more...]

The Pinochet Plot – a must read

I never read mysteries, but I sure gobbled up David Myles Robinson's new one - The Pinochet Plot. It's smart, fast paced, well narrated, and full of interesting characters. So I'm very pleased to have the opportunity today to share Robinson's book and my thoughts about it with you.   About the book Successful San Francisco attorney Will Muñoz has heard of the brutal former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, of course, but it's not until he receives his mother's suicide letter that he has any inkling Pinochet may have had his father, Chilean writer Ricardo Muñoz, assassinated thirty years earlier. Her suspicions spur Will on to a quest to discover the truth about his father's death–and about the psychological forces that have driven his mother to her fatal decision. His journey takes him deep into unexpected darkness linking his current step-father, the CIA, drug-experimentation programs, and a conspiracy of domestic terrorism. The Pinochet Plot is not just a story o … [Read more...]

What’s next in my writing life

Since I’ve finished – at least in my estimation– revision ten of my novel, it’s on hold. I want to hire a professional editor it go through it, but I haven’t made that happen yet. I’ve asked a young woman who worked with me on my memoir, but her life is so busy with children, she hasn’t given me a yes or no yet. I’ll wait another week or two and then go on to Plan B. In the meantime, I’ve gone back to writing small stones – I’ll post a couple that I’ve written this month below And I’m working on my poetry. I completed the April poem a day challenge put out by Robert Lee Brewer over at Writer’s Digest. I also write to his weekly Wednesday prompts. And this not usual for me – I’m editing some of my existing poems, getting them ready for submittal. (I’ve heard somewhere that if we haven’t received at least 100 rejections in a year, we haven’t submitted enough. That I’m editing poems is the unusual part for me. I usually write them, and then only with quick word or two changes … [Read more...]

My hair woes

Strands of my hair accumulate on my bathroom counter, on the floor, on the window sill, in the sink, on my clothes, stuck on my toiletries bottles, and sometimes even in my toothbrush and in my mouth. But, it is most visible on my brush every time it touches my diminishing head of hair. Many years ago, while traveling in Europe I noticed my hair was shedding quite a bit. I went to the pharmacy in the town we were visiting, and the pharmacist recommended biotin. Biotin seemed to work then. It also helped grow and strengthen my finger nails. I’ve been taking that vitamin product ever since. Is stress the cause of hair shedding? Then about three years ago I noticed another bout of shedding hair. It looked like my brush had more hair on it after I dried it. I asked my dermatologist for advice, and her first question was: did I have a particularly stressful experience nine months before. My answer was a definite yes. She recommended women’s Rogaine 5% foam. She didn’t have much … [Read more...]

Fiction: another way to erase stigma

My guest today, Joanell Serra, explores the idea of reducing the stigma of mental illness by openly describing the mental illnesses fictional characters experience. That is to say, being open and communicative about mental illness in fiction and/or real life helps reduce stigma and paves the way to recovery rather than hiding some pretty grotesque characters in corners as was done to Miss Havisham, in Charles Dickens Great Expectations. With that in mind it is easy to understand that the characters in her debut novel, The Vines We Planted, are deeply portrayed and very well written so that they can work through the many emotional and challenging issues they encounter in her book. Please help me welcome Joanell Serra during her WOW! Women on Writing book tour. Can we reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness through fiction? by Joanell Serra When we think of characters with mental illness in fiction, there are many extreme examples to choose from: Billy Pilgrim from V … [Read more...]

What else is happening in May?

This month is full of happenings, especially family ones. May 4 would have been my brother-in-law’s 79th birthday. Today would have been my dad’s 115th birthday though he only lived to be 72. They both died of cancer. Of course, next Sunday, May 13, is Mother’s Day, though I also commemorated Bereaved Mother’s Day yesterday, in memory of our son Paul who left us almost 19 years ago. And after that is my birthday on May 20, and Bob and my 48th anniversary on May 28. … [Read more...]

May is mental health month

I've written extensively about mental health and my mission to erase its stigma in blog posts and essays for my own and other websites. I'm also written about my son's mental illness that ended in his suicide in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Today I'd like to leave you with a list of some agencies that provide mental health and suicide prevention services. I've also pulled a passage out of my memoir to share with you - a scene with our son at a restaurant in New York City where my husband and I observed his clearly irrational behavior. We were so distressed at what we saw we plotted to get him into the hospital to be diagnosed and treated for the first (of many) times. I urge anyone who has a similar experience to get help as fast as possible. Some Helpful Agencies American Foundation for Suicide Prevention bringchange2mind Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services … [Read more...]

Renee Antonia writes about learning to breathe

I am pleased to welcome Renee Antonia here at Choices. She's participating in a WOW! Women on Writing tour of her book, I'm Not Okay. Renee has written a sensitive and meaningful guest post about her struggle with anxiety and how she found a community of people going through the same thing that helped her through. With mental illness it's always best to communicate our stories. That provides a two-fold benefit: it helps erase stigma and helps us understand and rid ourselves of the demons that plague us. Thank you for telling us your story about overcoming your demons.   Learning to Breathe While You’re Drowning By Renee Antonia There are many times throughout my busy work week that I realize I haven’t stopped to take a breath.  Between working, writing, friends, and family I forget to breathe. After one of these realizations, I stopped and asked myself why?  Why do I work myself so hard that I forget to stop and take a breath?  To embrace and enjoy what I have?  To be … [Read more...]

How I created my book and got it published

I belong to a writing organization called  Independent Writers of Southern California. We meet locally in a  small satellite group once a month, and this last month our leader asked me to speak about how I got my memoir published. Here are my notes from that talk. Even though writing is a lonely business, a village of resources helped and nurtured me from the time I started writing my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I started with journaling, at first sporadically and later, after reading and doing the exercises in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Putnam’s Sons, 1992), I kept my fingers moving across the pages of my journal every day. I still do. After amassing about three years’ worth of journal entries I began to think about turning them into a book – a book very much different from the one that was eventually published. But, I was not a creative writer. My writing experience consisted of writing, editing, and training engineers to produce reports and proposals in the aeros … [Read more...]

Yes! Dogs can help improve our health

Not being a pet owner myself, I was very intrigued to learn about the ability of dogs to help improve our physical and mental health. Thank you, Brandon Butler, for introducing me to these special qualities. Please go to Brandon's website to find out more. How Dogs Improve Our Health by Brandon Butler Photo credit by Pexels Dog owners have told us for years that their pets are more than just companions. Who hasn’t heard the story of a dog that has saved someone emotionally? But is it true? It turns out that even science supports the theory that dogs can improve your mental, physical, and social health. The Physical Health Benefits of Dogs We don’t commonly think of dogs as being beneficial to our physical bodies, but they can be. Here are a few ways how: Dogs require daily walking and exercise and that means you need to walk with them. You’ll be building muscle as you learn to control your dog and getting exercise along your walk. That daily walk can frequently … [Read more...]

Can grief be contagious?

I met Martha Clark Scala at one of the first Esalen Institute workshops I took after our son died by suicide. And it was in that workshop where I found my voice in poetry. "Aftermath," the simple poem I wrote resonated such with Martha, that she wrote the following piece about her brother's death. The poem and the article both appeared first in the Summer 2001 issue of "We Need Not Walk Alone," published by The Compassionate Friends, an organization that provides friendship, understanding, and hope to those going through the natural grieving process. Martha and I have been friends ever since. I’m Not Contagious By Martha Clark Scala​ In the two or three weeks immediately following my brother Nick’s death, I received numerous calls, cards, plants, flowers, and offers of help. My loss sat on the front burner of many wonderful people’s stoves for about 21 days. I was in their thoughts, prayers, and blessings. Unfortunately, many issues and events vie for front-burner status … [Read more...]

Another pitch about journaling

One of my friends who is still working full time shared with me her desire to do something besides work - something creative. I suggested classes at our El Camino Community College and the South Bay Adult School maybe in jewelry making or to learn a new language. But she said she’d like to get into writing. I asked her if she journaled. With that she pushed herself away from the table and leaned her body against the back of her chair, like she was physically moving away from that subject. After a long pause, she told me she couldn’t write down anything private for fear of it getting into the wrong hands. Of course, that’s a common fear amongst those of us who journal, but it hasn’t stopped me. When I first started journaling regularly back in 1993, I wrote in notebooks – the finer the better. I especially love the ones I bought in France and later found at Banner Stationer’s in El Segundo, CA by Clairefontaine. The pages are very thick and slick and don’t show through to the b … [Read more...]

I’m celebrating National Poetry Month. Are you?

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. I'm fully involved in the celebration in several ways: Writing a poem a day to Robert Lee Brewer's prompt. He's the poetry edition at Writer's Digest and has been holding poem a day challenges in April and November for years. I just wrote to his fourth day prompt a few minutes ago. Please join me. It's not too late to catch up. (Robert also gives us prompts every Wednesday the rest of the year.) Reading a book a poetry. Currently I'm reading Yevgeny Yevtushenko's little book of selected poems. I had the book in my library several years ago, but it disappeared. So I bought a new copy and am thoroughly loving rereading his poems. He writes vividly - without any flowery words or des … [Read more...]