How not to ask for a review

I thought this piece in today's New York Times magazine, in The Ethicist section by Kwame Anthony Appiah, is something all of us authors should think about. My husband pointed it out to me, and I totally agree. The Question More and more of my friends are self-publishing books; some I purchase just to support their writers. In this new situation, a dear old friend wants me to give him a five-star review on Amazon and post it on Facebook. I’ve seen a few pages of his book, and it’s a piece of self-indulgent drivel. I don’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings, but I don’t want to sell out either. What do you suggest? Name Withheld Appiah's Answer If you are such good friends, wouldn’t it be better to give him, gently, your opinion of some of the book’s weaknesses? Possibly without actually using the words “self-indulgent drivel”? Self-published books have taken a long dive since the days of Jane Austen, and the new ease of making them, in the digital era, has turned a river of putrefact … [Read more...]

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Women’s March precautions and vigil

I'm so glad I noticed the Women's March precautions posted on Facebook by my friend, Keren Taylor, CEO of one of my favorite non-profits, WriteGirl.   WriteGirl promotes creativity and self- expression to empower girls within a community of women writers. Here's what Keren had to say: If you're going to DC, Boston Los Angeles, SF, etc. to take part in a peaceful gathering, here are some good tips from a wise friend: Keep your cool. Do not offer personal information to unsolicited requests. Stay to the edges of the crowd. Have a meet-up-if-you-get-separated plan. Do not count on your cell phones. Write important information on your forearm in Sharpie. It will wash off eventually. Stay hydrated and never pass up an opportunity to use a toilet. Wear the right shoes Don't carry anything you can't lose. And most important in my mind: LISTEN to the energy and calmly leave if you have any doubts about anything. Please everyone, if you're march … [Read more...]

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Poems from the latest Poem A Day challenge

I have to confess right from the start that I didn't finish the November 2016 Poem A Day (PAD) challenge. I was so caught up in my husband's recovery from his Grand Canyon accident that writing poetry during that time was the last thing on my mind. However, I wrote a poem a day for the first fifteen days. Here's a couple, including the prompts I wrote to. Write a wire poem. A wire poem could be about something that needs wires–like maybe a robot, TV, or automobile. But birds huddle on telephone wires, people wire money to each other, and kids can get wired off of too much candy and/or caffeine. In fact, I’m surprised I haven’t written more wired poems over the years. Birds on the Wire It fascinates me To see those birds Up there on the electrical wires. Don’t their little bird claws Perched around those strands Of metal get hot? They don’t seem to mind their perch. It’s where they come to meet their friends, Learn the latest gossip, And take a short break From their … [Read more...]

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The Women’s March on January 21

On January 21, 2017, I will participate in the Women's March in Los Angeles along with an estimate of more than 1 million women in over 100 cities worldwide. It is anticipated that more than 30,000 will march with me in Los Angeles in support of women’s rights and equality. If you would like to see if there is a march in your city, go here. I'd love for you to join me. How important is this? It is TIME FOR OUR VOICE. One day after the presidential inauguration. TO BE HEARD. The Spirited Woman Prayer Scarf - A Symbol for the Women’s March Worldwide I urge you to stand together with your spiritually conscious sisters and brothers in solidarity by wearing the Spirited Woman Prayer Scarf, whether you attend the march or deeply support it in spirit. I came across the prayer scarf, about a year ago. I was introduced to Nancy Mills, the founder of Spirited Woman  and the Sisterhood of the Sacred Scarves through my friend, author Eleanor Vincent, who will also walk on January 21 in Oakl … [Read more...]

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Thoughts of gratitude in the new year

The holiday season has come and gone once again. As always, I view it as bittersweet. The holidays bring up too many reminders of my son Paul who died just three months shy of his 28th New Year’s Eve birthday. We visited his gravesite on his 45th birthday – as we do on his death day and birthday every year. I also view the holiday season with gratitude. Besides my continued good health, the love and support of so many family members and friends, and my ability to live a productive life, that I can even think in terms of being grateful is a miracle. However, as bad as life was after Paul died, and as much as I continue to miss him, I have found out that with such a tragedy come unexpected gifts. Paul’s death has made me a stronger person, physically and emotionally. It was as if I accomplished getting stronger through brute force. I met and interacted with people who had been through similar experiences; I took writing classes and workshops; I went back to work outside my home with … [Read more...]

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A beautiful clear day in paradise

For the first time since my walk down and up the Grand Canyon (November 16 and 17) I took a walk from my house to the Manhattan Beach Strand. It was beautifully clear and bright out after a much needed heavy rainstorm followed by a day of gusty winds. We can't always see Catalina Island from our shore, but yesterday Catalina was out loud and clear. And although the weather was untypically cool - December is usually as warm as summer -  I loved every minute of exercising outside again. Besides I had no choice. My gym was closed on Christmas day. … [Read more...]

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More small stones

As the year winds down, I'm still in the throes of my husband's reduced physicality as a result of his Grand Canyon accident a little more than one month ago. He's been suffering pain in his back for about ten days, though today he has said for the first time he's feeling much better. After writing small stones every day since last August I stopped writing them on November 16 - the day of his accident, and I didn't resume until exactly one month later - December 16. Here are my November small stones - that our group named November Pearls. November Pearls My stress level is at its peak, this being the last week before the election. I need massage, meditation, Yoga, Pilates, and a sauna. Did I leave anything out? A power outage today inspires me to take some time away from the internet. I celebrate the Cubbies winning the 2016 baseball World Series. They last won in 1908, the year my mother was born. Another hot, still, sunny day in southern California. Will … [Read more...]

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Getting back into the writing groove

Our Grand Canyon adventure and my husband’s healing process have taken me far afield from my writing life. Everything just seemed to stop on November 16. Interesting that I had carefully packed some paper and a pen so I could write a journal entry after my walk down the Grand Canyon that day. Unfortunately I never used them after hearing the news of my husband’s injuries and the challenge I faced in getting back to the rim and to the Flagstaff Medical Center to be with him. However, in this past week I’ve sat myself down at my writing desk and managed to write a couple of poems in response to Robert Lee Brewer’s poem a day challenge – that ended on November 30. And it felt good to “poem” (as Brewer likes to say) again. I am also putting together a new chapbook that I’ll submit for the Frost Place contest that’s due on January 1. Though I’m not back to my writing in full force yet – as you can see from how long it’s been since I wrote my last post here, I’m getting back slowly. … [Read more...]

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Erasing an item from your Bucket List is OK!

I started my Choices blog in November 2007, and one of my very first posts was entitled The Bucket List. And first on the list was climbing down into the Grand Canyon. For the life of me I can't tell you why that was such a prominent item. I do know after finally completing the climb down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, spending the night at Phantom Ranch, and then climbing back up this November 16 and 17 2016, it would have been much better to erase that item from my list and move on to less rigorous and dangerous endeavors. One of my friends completed the climb a few years ago. She warned me not to take the steeper though shorter trail, Kaibab, but to go on the so-called "less steep" Bright Angel trail, which we did. She mentioned the steepness but not the trail's narrowness and the very rocky and slippery terrain (perhaps when she was at the Grand Canyon the trail was less rocky). It goes without saying how close the trail is to massive cliffs on one side. Though none of … [Read more...]

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Where we can help

I worked the phones and entered data for several hours over at the Heart of LA for Hillary headquarters, and spent a day in Las Vegas registering voters. Since the election of Donald Trump people who worked hard and voted for Hillary need to find a way to quell their anger and find a way to direct their pent-up energy in a positive way. I know I do. Giving back is a great way to start. The Heart of LA for Hillary group has assembled, below, a list of some of their favorite organizations that need our help in the coming years.  They also sent out a second-round list, also below, in advance of Giving Tuesday (November 29 - TOMORROW!). Here are the Heart of LA for Hillary lists. EMILY’s List:  Supporting pro-choice Democratic women running for Congress and governor. Latino Victory Project:  a movement that builds power in the Latino community so the voices and values of Latinos are reflected at every level of government and in the policies that drive our country forward. … [Read more...]

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Review number 214!

Thank you so much Christine L. Miller, Ph.D  for this wonderful review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Dr. Miller has an enormous sense of what my family and I went through during our son/brother, Paul's battle with bipolar and after his suicide death seventeen years ago. Though it has been that long, Paul is still missed - forever. Thank you, Dr. Miller, for your sensitivity and understanding. Madeline Sharples’ book about her son Paul’s suicide and its aftermath is a searingly honest portrayal of the most intimate details of family life, encompassing everything from mundane daily events to the emotional vortex they were all thrown into.  There is no sugar-coating how difficult the onset of his psychotic bipolar disorder made their lives, no shying away from the occasional resentment she felt about his mental illness dominating their daily existence, or how his unapologetic re-entr … [Read more...]

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Election day thoughts

Maybe Robert Lee Brewer meant to give us prompts associated with the election of Donald Trump on Tuesday. But whether he did or not, I turned yesterday's and today's  November 2016 Poem A Day challenge prompts into poems about the election results. I'm still in mourning. I'm still in shock. And I feel it's a poet's role to put our thoughts down on the page - especially at times like this. As a poetry friend wrote me yesterday: 'Regardless of how you feel about the election results, I think it is important to remember we need POETS now more than ever. That poetry is both power and peace. It is up to poets to “build a citizen of something new.”' The prompts for November 9 and 10, respectively are: Take the phrase “Call Me (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then write the poem. Possible titles include: “Call Me Al,” “Call Me Crazy,” “Call Me Batman,” “Call Me at 3 O’clock in the Morning,” etc. Call Me Sad Th … [Read more...]

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The Cubbies and my brother Kenny

My brother was a diehard Cubs fan his whole life. And since I was always a “me too” kind of a sister, so am I. I had to cheer for the Cubs even when they were playing my home team, the Dodgers, in the National League playoffs this year. My Cubs and Chicago roots took over. But always on my mind during this winning Cubs season was my wish my brother were still alive to experience it. He would have been ecstatic. He never gave up on them and neither did I. One year for his birthday we sent him a replica of the Wrigley Field sign. My brother and I used to take the El train to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play many afternoons, so he loved the sign and the reminder of his go-to place as a boy. I was ecstatic when his Cubbies came back from one to three to tie up the series three all and force a seventh game. And I was ecstatic when his Cubbies won the 2016 baseball World Series EIGHT to SEVEN against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night. Who knows? Maybe they’ll do it agai … [Read more...]

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To prevent suicides we must vote no on Proposition 64!

My son Paul's diagnosis of bipolar disorder was based on tests showing no drugs in his system even though his first psychotic break came upon him suddenly and disastrously. However, he used marijuana to self-medicate while he was struggling with the effects of bipolar, ignoring his psychiatrist's warning that using pot was as dangerous as walking a tightrope. After Paul's suicide death, my husband found marijuana and its paraphernalia hidden away in his closet. Dr. Christine L. Miller states that studies now show that marijuana use could bring on psychosis and suicide. Could marijuana have driven my son to his death? Of course we'll never know. However, I can help prevent more outcomes like my son's by sharing Dr. Miller's words here and being very much opposed to the passage of Proposition 64 and the legalization of recreational marijuana. The data about suicide rates in Colorado is astounding. Proposition 64 Means Nothing Good for California Suicide Rates by Christine L. Miller … [Read more...]

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The jazz age, Chicago, and murder – read Sugarland

I’m happy to introduce Martha Conway and her new book, Sugarland: A Jazz Age Mystery, to my Choices readers as part of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book (blog) tour. About Sugarland: In 1921, two women, a black jazz pianist named Eve and a white nurse named Lena, join forces after a drive-by shooting nearly kills them. Eve is looking for her missing stepsister, and Lena wants to find out who murdered her brother, a petty bootlegger killed in the shooting. Sugarland recently received a Reader’s Favorite Book Award. Genre: Historical Fiction Hardcover: 314 pages (also available in paperback and e-book) Noontime Books: June 1, 2016 ISBN: 978-0991618552 About the author: Martha Conway’s debut novel 12 Bliss Street (St. Martin’s Minotaur) was nominated for an Edgar Award while Thieving Forest won an Independent Publishers Book Award, the Laramie Award, a Reader’s Choice Award and the 2014 North American Book Award in Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has appeared … [Read more...]

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Putting together a book of poems

I’ve been putting a poetry manuscript together in response to a submission request from a press asking for books written by women over fifty. I figure I'm well over fifty, so why not? The requirement is to compile a book of sixty to one hundred poems. I've been gathering my poems for the book during the last month or so. I've written a lot of poems - certainly more than the requirements of this submission, but the big question is: how many of them are good enough to put in a manuscript hoping to win a $1000 prize. As of today, I think I've completed the gathering phase. The next step is to organize them. I really had no idea how to do that. I've submitted to chapbook competitions before but never a full-length book. So I went to my poetry book shelf and looked at how some of my favorite poets (Ellen Bass, Billy Collins, Maxine Kunitz, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, etc.) do it. Some just number the sections, some use the title of one of the poems in the section as the title of the sec … [Read more...]

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Three ways to overcome addiction

  Since I’ve become an advocate of erasing the stigma of mental illness and suicide prevention I like to host writers who have healing ideas that could help people at risk. Jennifer McGregor has been my guest before – you can read her previous article here. I’m delighted to have her back. Her words make a lot of sense to me. Please join me in welcoming Jennifer to my website, Choices.  Three Mood-Boosting Activities for Those Overcoming Addictions by Jennifer McGregor Many people with mental illness find themselves self-medicating. Acquiring mental health care is very difficult for a number of people thanks to the ongoing stigma against mental illness. Whether a person goes undiagnosed or simply cannot afford care, self-medication is a rampant problem among those with mental illnesses. Self-medication, unfortunately, often leads to addiction, worsened symptoms of mental illness, and suicide. Preventing suicide is a crucial component to addiction recovery. So, if you … [Read more...]

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Voter registration volunteer – quite an experience!

Last Saturday I went to Las Vegas Nevada as a volunteer to help register voters. I got up at four in the morning, got ready, and left my home by four forty to get to Hillary’s headquarters in the Westchester part of Los Angeles (just north of the airport) by five. I arrived a little early and glad I did. A half hour later the line was almost out the door with people waiting to sign in. However, I waited more than an hour before we got on the bus and on our way – at six fifteen. I was assigned Bus 2 – two full buses left from the Westchester headquarters – one of fifty-three people. I felt lucky to find a seat on the left aisle next to a young woman named Gabriella. We chatted a bit – she teaches four and five-year olds pre kindergarten – and then decided to partner for the day. Having a partner at the registration sites was a requirement. It took us around four hours to get to Las Vegas – I whiled away the time writing of course, reading, and dozing – I don’t go anywhere wi … [Read more...]

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Let’s celebrate with Linda Appleman Shapiro

Linda Appleman Shapiro's memoir, She's Not Herself is celebrating its second anniversary. And it has a lot to celebrate. Just take a look at these wonderful reviews: “An honest and compelling story by a brave and gifted writer.” ~ Wally Lamb – NY Times best-selling author of She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True, and many other novels. Winner of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s Kenneth Johnson Award for the anti-stigmatization of mental illness. “A story that applies to us all – truthful, carefully crafted, and created with a clear-eyed affection.” ~ Watts, M.D., poet, writer, musician, NPR commentator “We identify with the author’s sense of alienation from the first chapter and agonize with her longing for a normal life. She's Not Herself is a revelatory account of someone who grew up with a mentally ill parent and grew up to become an effective, loving mother and a successful professional healer.” ~US Review of Books, Barbara Bamburger Scott “I lov … [Read more...]

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Journaling – the perfect sleeping potion

As a person who journals everyday I can see the benefits of doing morning pages every morning and journaling just before going to sleep. I've journaled both ways. Right now I journal in the morning. I decided to switch over from night journaling because once in a while I'd nod off while writing. You can only imagine what funny gibberish I found on my page the next morning as a result. Mari L. McCarthy, our WOW! Women on Writing blog tour guest today and author of Journaling Power, is an advocate of writing at night as a way to get a good night's sleep. By the way, she writes in the morning as well. Please welcome Mari to Choices. Sleep Tight Every Night By Mari L. McCarthy Do you have trouble getting off to sleep at night because your mind has gone into overdrive? Or do you drop off only to wake in the early hours with your head full of worries? I used to suffer with insomnia until I discovered a creative cure with absolutely no side-effects: writing therapy in the eve … [Read more...]

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