I did it. Seventeen miles in eight hours and still here.

A few thoughts about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention AFSP San Francisco Out of the Darkness suicide awareness and prevention walk this past Saturday night: Last year in Boston we felt the pain walking in the cold and rain; this year we felt the pain trudging up hill after hill. Those were just small reminders of the pain our loved ones felt and had to release when they took their lives. It was fitting for us to feel that pain, but we will never know an nth of it. I also felt so blessed to walk with Team S.O.L.E.S. Everyone took such good care of each other, worrying where the laggers were and waiting so we could all be in the mile-marker photos. And once we were finished at 3:26 am we all held hands, walking along side the luminaria and under the I-did-it-arch. Thank you Keith Alan Hamilton, Deborah Lee Rose, Debi Hoyles-Girardi and your friend Jen, Joanne Marrazzo Fry, Aaron D. Schwartz, Christy Heitger-Ewing and your husband Eric. You all made my night worth while … [Read more...]

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$.99 sale today through Sunday

My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide went on sale today through Sunday for $.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. We’re doing this promotion in honor of my participating in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s 16-18-mile suicide prevention Out of the Darkness walk in San Francisco on Saturday, May 21, and Mental Health Month. I immediately shared this promotion on my Facebook pages and with a few Facebook suicide survivor sites. Plus many of my friends also shared. As a result I’ve gotten a few kudos from people I didn’t know had read it: “This is a very good book. I encourage every survivor to read it.” “Thank you for writing and sharing your book. It helped me so much. So much of what you wrote felt like I was saying it. Some things you wrote I was even afraid to admit to myself and yet you were strong enough to share. Thinking of all of you this weekend. Thank you.” “A ve … [Read more...]

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Another novel milestone met

I just sent off draft seven of my novel to another reviewer. I very much value this person’s judgment because of her experience editing books for the Oxford University Press and that she helped me revise and edit my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.   I spent the last two and a half months working on this draft, looking for repetition, places where I told the story rather than showed it, and rewriting in response to some earlier review comments. As a result I cut out almost five thousand words. It’s now down to 85, 485 words. It’s still a little heavy for a novel, but in the right range. I’ve asked this reviewer to especially assess the content - are the story and its characters worth even pursuing at this point. My problem is the more I read and work on this material these days, the less confident I get. I said I don't need her to edit, except for giving me possible suggestions on where to delete/add stuff. After I sent my manuscript off to my reviewer today, my h … [Read more...]

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Remembering Mom and Dad

This Mother's Day weekend I remember both my mother and my dad. My dad was born on May 7, 1903 in Poland (the first location in my historical fiction work). He died at age 72 from cancer of the bile duct system. My mother, born on February 12, 2008 in Lithuania, died at age 94 from old age.  Lucky for me, they met and married in Chicago Illinois, making me and my brother and sister first generation Americans. Here are a few photos of them.     … [Read more...]

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A wonderful 5-star review

Thank you so much for this great 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. That makes 206 reviews total, with 66 percent of them with five stars. This review made my day. "as she explores on the page what it is like to attempt to create normalcy within a family life ... Exploring the real life story of the unspeakable tragedy of losing a son to suicide, author Madeline Sharples has written an affecting and heart wrenching memoir entitled LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON. A deeply personal and first hand account of struggling with her son’s battle with bipolar disorder and the effect on the family, the memoir delves deeply within the author’s consciousness, as she explores on the page what it is like to attempt to create normalcy within a family life where little exists. She tells her story with courage and abiding honesty never shirking from the hard truths of a life filled with so ma … [Read more...]

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The April PAD challenge ends today

I feel so accomplished. I finished Robert Lee Brewer's April 2016 poem-a-day (PAD) challenge – 30 days of prompts from the Poetic Asides editor at Writer's Digest. Robert's prompts are a little out there but always a challenge, meant to find the quirkiness in my brain. Here are a few of my favorite ones this month, with my poem responses. 6. Write an ekphrastic poem. An ekphrastic poem is a poem inspired by art. You can pick your own favorite piece of art if you wish. Or you can use one of the examples below: Frieda Kahlo How could I not write about Frieda Kahlo? That little dark-haired woman With eyebrows that kiss at the center of her forehead Just above her nose, And a mustache hint on her upper lips. Here she lies prone on sand and shells, A vessel to promote life, The roots and leaves growing wildly From her open chest. I’ve also seen her with a necklace of thorns The blood seeping slowly down her neck. 16. Write a poem about (or at) a food establishment. … [Read more...]

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How photos, poems, and quotes can add to your writing

Our poetry reading yesterday afternoon at Pages: a bookstore was a huge success. I read many of the poems included in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, plus a few newer poems. Using that material and receiving so many kudos from those in attendance yesterday makes me so happy that I never faltered about adding poems (and photos and quotes) to the book. Almost as soon as my memoir was published one of the first reviewers said, “….The poetry and photographs add an extra dimension that is missing from most memoirs like this since as a reader you get much closer to the reality of what is being described on the page….” (Mark Shelmerdine, CEO, Jeffers Press). Another reviewer said my book is “poetically visceral.” Those statements helped validate any misgivings I had in adding other creative works into my manuscript. I really hadn’t thought of putting photos in my book until my publisher sugge … [Read more...]

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We’re taking the show on the road

Last December, Chanel Brenner, Alexis Fancher, and I read poetry about the deaths of our sons at Beyond Baroque, a literary arts center in Venice California. See my blog post about this event here. We’re reading again this Sunday April 24 at 4 pm at Pages: a bookstore in Manhattan Beach California. We’ve modified the program a bit; however, we are carrying through the same theme: WRITING HEALING POETRY Turning Grief into Art We hope you’ll join us. Each of us will read thirteen to fourteen poems. Mine are mostly in my memoir in prose and poetry, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Chanel will read from her book of poetry, Vanilla Milk, and Alexis will read from her poetry chapbook, State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies. I can attest that the poetry is fabulous, and I know you’ll like the refreshments as well. … [Read more...]

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I’m getting ready for a big long walk

  I’ve started training in earnest for the May 21 American Foundation of Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness overnight walk in San Francisco for suicide awareness and prevention. I walk in memory of my son Paul who took his life in 1999 at age 27. He was bipolar and severely depressed at the time of his death. The recent data, according to AFSP, about suicide is astounding: Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. General In 2014 (latest available data), there were 42,773 reported suicide deaths. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 15 and 64 years in the United States. Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. A person dies by suicide about every 12.3 minutes in the United States. Every day, approximately 117 Americans take their own life. Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of … [Read more...]

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Theep and Thorpe – what a great title!

When my Facebook friend, Lillian Nader, announced the release of her book Theep and Thorpe, the title so intrigued me I had to learn more. With that I asked her to be my Choices guest and tell our readers how she conceived and wrote her new book. Thank you, Lillian, for accepting. I'm so pleased to introduce you and your book here. My BIG Announcement! by Lillian Nader I am so happy to announce the release of my book, Theep and Thorpe: Adventures in Space, on March 25, 2016. It is available now in paperback at Amazon.com. It’s a book for young readers and for those who are young at heart. The kindle version will also be available soon. The Story Behind the Story. The concept of Theep and Thorpe began many years ago when my artist friend, Angelo Divino, created images of two space beings. I asked if I could write about them and he said yes! Their names came to me first as I pondered the idea of how space beings might communicate. I decided they would know one another by their sou … [Read more...]

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Don’t be afraid to submit

Three out of five isn’t bad. In the last couple of months I’ve submitted five pieces to contests and anthologies – mostly at the urging of my recent poetry instructor, Thresha Haefner at The Poetry Salon. And I found out that submitting really pays off. It’s like lottery tickets. If you don’t buy one, you have no chance of winning. In all I submitted three poems, a poetry chapbook, and an excerpt from my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. Two of the three poems were accepted – one is still in review, and the excerpt was accepted to appear in a suicide loss anthology. Unfortunately the chapbook didn’t make it, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. I’ll submit it again and again to wherever seems suitable. And so as not to keep you in the dark, here are the two poems that will come out soon: “Stop and Go” will appear in Yellow Chair Review’s In the Words of Women anthology, and “Remnants” will appear in the 2016 Porter Gulch Review. Stop and Go On the drive up the coast … [Read more...]

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Thank you, Denis Ledoux

Denis Ledoux, creator of The Memoir Network and a memoir-writing mentor, just posted a wonderful five-star review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. His words make me feel so proud that I couldn't resist sharing them here. Denis' review: I would have been proud to have written this book. How to add something new to a memoir that has received such a huge and positive response of reviewers? This is a good book that griped me from the beginning. The subject is tragic. Being a widower myself who has gone through his own overwhelming grief, I can attest that Madeline Sharples' observation and her writing of that observation are so accurate. So much here resonated with me. It was hard to read at times as this memoir evoked sorrow for Madeline Sharples (and for me) but it was also supportive to read about the author's journey. Madeline Sharples is clearly a polished writer and it was often a pleasure to read a turn of phrase she had crafted and then to reread it. The book … [Read more...]

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Introducing Patti Hawn, author of Good Girls Don’t

A few weeks ago two friends told me about Patti Hawn and suggested I meet her. After all, she lives in my hometown, she’s written a memoir, and she’s about my age. Without missing a beat, I sent her a private message on Facebook and suggested we get together. And she accepted and named one of my favorite restaurants where we could grab lunch  - I liked her already. We met for lunch a few days later (a blind date, so to speak), and we talked for an hour and a half without stopping. We also exchanged memoirs. Thus a beautiful new friendship was born. I read Patti’s memoir, Good Girls Don’t, almost immediately and was taken by how detailed and intimate it is (I’ve shared my review at the end of this post). So I asked her if she’d write a guest post for Choices about how she wrote her deeply personal memoir with such clarity.   Here’s Patti: The Gift of Memories By Patti Hawn I wrote my book Good Girls Don’t shortly after reuniting with the son I surrendered to adoption … [Read more...]

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Three memoir-writing tips from Pamela Jane

My Choices guest today, Pamela Jane, shares how she wrote her memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story. It took her twenty-two years. However, it was well worth the time and effort. Here is Pamela Jane and her three tips for those of us struggling with our own memoir writing. Please give her a warm welcome. She will gladly respond to the comments you post below.   Shaping Your Narrative What to Leave in and What to Take Out of Your Memoir  by Pamela Jane "The writer of any work, and particularly any nonfiction work, must decide two crucial points: what to put in and what to leave out..."  Annie Dillard, author of An American Childhood You want to write a shapely story with a taut narrative thread, a story that will draw readers into the world you are creating. But how do you know what to leave in and what to take out, especially in a memoir? In early drafts everything you write seems evocative and beguiling. There are so many different roads to take, … [Read more...]

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Reading about Corita Kent at {pages}: a bookstore

This past Thursday evening I attended a book reading at my local independent bookstore, {pages}. April Dammann, author of Corita Kent. Art and Soul. The Biography. (Angel City Press), spoke to us about the wonderful artist and teacher of the 1960s formerly known as Sister Mary Corita. I was most interested in attending this event because I have four of Corita’s serigraphs hanging on my family room wall. I fell in love with them in the 1960s when I first heard of this rebellious nun, modern artist, and activist for social justice who combined bright colors, whimsical shapes, and political and/or literary messages in her artwork. And I still enjoy having her work in my house. Her work is relevant. Her messages are universal.   For example, she wrote two messages in the Life piece (upper right): “Life is a complicated business fraught with mystery and some sunshine.” P. Roth “Let the morning time drop all its petals on me. Life I love you. All is groovy.” Simon & … [Read more...]

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A successful writers conference appearance

Early Saturday morning, my friend Eleanor Vincent (author of Swimming with Maya) and I drove to the Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys, California to participate in the Digital Author & Indie Publishing Conference. Tony N. Todaro, CEO of West Coast Writers Conferences invited us to appear on a panel discussing Building a Platform and Social Networking later in the morning. Our first task was to be interviewed separately by Nicole Baker, Manager of Author Education at Author Solutions – for twenty minutes on camera. And even though we were each given a list of questions and knew the answers cold, we each churned the night before about what we would say during the interview. I came up with a bulleted list of notes a few days before and felt well-prepared; however, my answers rolled around my head all night. Instead of taking my usual early morning walk on Saturday, I closed my office door  at 6:00 am and went over my notes for an hour. As it turned out, all my churning w … [Read more...]

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A fruitful poetry workshop

February has been a busy month - complete with a new regime of tennis lessons and practice matches, a poetry workshop, and a focused effort to walk more miles a day to get ready for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's AFSP Out of the Darkness 16-18 mile walk in May. The poetry workshop ended last week, and right now I like being off the hook to come up with another new poem. However, I very much liked the small group – there were six of us including the instructor – and the friendly but pointed critiques we gave each other on our work. To start the weekly three-hour workshop off, the instructor would give us a warm-up prompt that required us to write something – poetry or prose – in real-time and then share it with the group. One week she asked us to write down an unusual gift we’ve given or received. I wrote down: TisBest gift certificates I give to my nieces and nephews that enable them to make a donation to a charity of their choice. She also asked us … [Read more...]

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How I got my book published

Now that this piece was rejected for inclusion into the Authors Publish anthology, I'm free to post it here. Hopefully my experience and perseverance and will to get my book published will inspire other authors to keep sending their work out. Please don't give up. It's worth it in the long run. How I Got My Book Published By Madeline Sharples Two years and sixty-eight queries later I finally got a book contract with a small press – the now defunct, Lucky Press. I found Lucky Press through the the firstwriter.com Publishers Instant Alert Service, and followed the submittal instructions so carefully that in her response, the publisher told me my query letter was perfect. (The instructions said: Send query by email with cover letter, short bio, how you can help with marketing, 300-500 word synopsis, and first chapter, all pasted into the body of the email. No attachments. Write "Manuscript Query" in the subject line.) With that and her request to send her my manuscript, I thought … [Read more...]

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Do you have an organized place to write?

As much as I like to say I'm an organized person and that I have a place for everything, after reading Emily Johnson's suggestions, I realize I have a lot to learn and a lot to do. I'm very happy to welcome Emily here today. She has some great ideas on organization which will not be hard to implement. Here's Emily: A Little-Known Way to Boost Productivity: Workplace Organization by Emily Johnson  Once your workplace is well-organized, you can work faster as there is nothing distracting. In fact, your workplace impacts creativity, concentration, and cleverness. If you want to enjoy the working process, don't waste time on extra things, and grow revenue, pay attention to your workplace organization. First things first: answer the following questions. Do you…: ...have two zones for work and relax? ...set up a proper lighting? ...have an ergonomic office chair? ...keep your table clean? …use modern gadgets? If you have at least one negative answer, then you need to lear … [Read more...]

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Journaling – one of the greatest investments of my life

Dawn Herring, creator of the #JournalChat Live Facebook Group, and my journaling mentor, has started off 2016 with a #JournalChat Live open house. She has asked us to share if journaling has been one of the greatest investments in our lives. Dawn says, “We keep journals to express ourselves, to create positive change, and become more personally empowered, right? So, we may see journaling as one of the Greatest Investments of our lives AND/OR, we may have experienced clarity and clear direction as a RESULT of our journaling practice that has led us to something that truly changed our lives for the better.” Her statement is indeed true for me. Here is why. My Journaling – My Greatest Investment By Madeline Sharples During lunch with a new friend last week, she asked me about my writing projects. I shared that I am writing a lot of poetry these days and that I’m also revising my novel – for about the 15th time. Then I told her I journal every day. That made her back straighten and … [Read more...]

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