The suicide risk is high for ages 10 to 24

Since our son Paul's death by suicide as a result of his bipolar disease in 1999, I have made it my mission to help erase the stigma of mental illness and work hard toward preventing suicide. I applaud Jennifer McGregor's work to help teenagers who are suicidal.  I certainly wish I had had her advice when my son was struggling with his mania and depression. Thank you very much, Jennifer, for writing this piece for Choices. Your words are very helpful. How To Help A Teenager Who Is Suicidal by Jennifer McGregor   Photo via Pixabay by Giesje Death by suicide is a serious problem in America, and it doesn’t affect one particular age group. In fact, young people ages 10-24 are highly at risk, as suicide is the third leading cause of death. The reasons vary, as do the solutions, so it’s important to know what the warning signs are and how to address them. Because the teen years can be so full of emotion and distress – especially where school and friends are concerned – it’s d … [Read more...]

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A week in New York City

We walk amidst the crowds, some barreling into us on our side of the sidewalk as we tally 43 miles for the week. We push into the subway cars, careful not to get stuck in the sliding doors as we crush into others standing in the aisles. Sweat pours down our faces and soaks our backs. We wait in long lines for museum tickets to see the first masterpiece Rembrandt ever painted at age twenty-three, Manus X Machina fashions, Diane Arbus photography, Degas charcoal and pastel drawings, Pergamon Greek and Roman artifacts, Turner’s whaling landscapes, and the constructionist Bauhaus artist and writer, Maholy-Nagy. Culture abounds even at night. How can a New York experience not include theater? One play is terrific: A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. The other, The Humans, not so much. And we eat and eat and eat – one place better than the other: Chazz Palminteri’s Ristorante Italiano, Locanda Verde on Greenwich Street, Lusardi’s with dear friends, MOMA’s T … [Read more...]

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Why eating healthy matters

Francie Healey, my WOW! Women on Writing guest today, has recently published Eat to Beat Alzheimer's, a guide for people concerned with memory loss and the effects of dementia. Her topic is of special interest to me. I have for most of my life eaten healthy, and I continue to reap its benefits. At age seventy-six, I am still trim and fit, and feel as strong mentally as I did twenty years ago. I thank my father for introducing me to a healthful lifestyle. Even in the 1940s he shopped at health food stores and followed the advice of  Gayelord Hauser, a nutritionist and self-help author. I am pleased to welcome Francie Healey and her thoughts on why eating healthy matters. Why Eating Healthy Matters to Me  by Francie Healey Nurturance has always been something I’ve looked for. I think I have traveled along a path that many would be familiar with. I looked for nurturance in other people to give me the love and kindness I craved. I looked for nurturance in fad diets to get the results … [Read more...]

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Finding love and Michael French

Today I'm participating in a group blogging! WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about finding love in unimaginable places. Why this topic? We're celebrating the release of Michael French's twenty-fourth novel. Once Upon a Lie (Terra Nova Books) is an exploration of the secrets families keep, and the ways those secrets can tear a family apart. Visit The Muffin to read what Michael has to say on finding love in unexpected places and view the list of all my blogging buddies. Visit Michael's website  to find out more about the author. We also have a review of the novel here (and a giveaway). So I've decided to post a couple of poems as my contribution to the topic of "finding love in unimaginable places." One is about the night my husband and I fell in love (it appears in my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On): Forty (plus) Years He folds her in his arms and looks down at her with his deep blue eyes and a small, closed-mouth smile that sh … [Read more...]

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A month of culture

After seeing the movie “A Bigger Splash” yesterday, I felt the need to discuss some of the cultural events I’ve been to lately. Though reading is a huge part of my writing life, so are opera, theater, museum exhibits, and films. I think authors can gain perspective and insights from watching as well as reading. The events we watch “show” us life, which may be harder to discern from reading a book. “A Bigger Splash,” starring Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes, is a treat for the senses besides being a complicated love story. Fiennes, who barely stops talking, is a bundle of energy and movement throughout, while Swinton captures our attention by hardly uttering a word. The remote Italian island of Pantelleria where it is set is spectacular. Unfortunately, that’s all I’ll tell you – except that the food looks so beautiful and delicious, you’ll walk away very hungry. I don’t want to spoil it for you in hopes you’ll see it yourselves. “Disgraced,” a Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning pl … [Read more...]

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What’s a platform anyway?

A few weeks ago I was a panel member at a writer’s conference workshop. The subject was building a platform. Today, I’d like to share a few points that we made at the workshop. But first, here’s my go-to person for all things writer-ly, Jane Friedman, who tells us what platforms are and are not: "What editors and agents typically mean by platform They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience. Let’s break this down further. Visibility. Who knows you? Who is aware of your work? Where does your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence? Where do you make waves? Authority. What’s your credibility? What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role. Just take a look at any graduate of the Iowa MFA program.) Prov … [Read more...]

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A little novel excitement – short-lived

I was on two panels last weekend at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference – one on memoirs and the other on building a platform. After getting much kudos I was feeling pretty good, so good that I jumped at the chance to present a short pitch to a literary agent about my novel. I had a synopsis with me and I knew my story cold, so why not? When it was my turn I told the agent about my book. He smiled and told me to tell my story without a lot of details. When I finished, he nodded his head and said, “I like it.” He then asked me to send him a synopsis by email. He didn’t want the hard copy I had with me. I was stoked. When I got home I decided to rewrite my synopsis. And thanks to Jane Friedman I found a wonderful resource: How to Write a 1-page Synopsis by Sooz. The outline was easy to follow. And in most cases I was able to use some of the synopsis I had already written. I also wrote a cover/query letter that included a recap of my meeting with the agent to refresh … [Read more...]

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Please welcome Dorit Sasson

Dorit Sasson has just  published her memoir about being a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces: Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces (She Writes Press). And, as if being in an army wasn't brave enough, Dorit has taken the next brave step - she fought off her inner critic nay sayers during the whole memoir writing process. Please welcome Dorit today and read how she chased her inner critic demons away. Working with the Inner Critic When Writing a Memoir by Dorit Sasson Somewhere along the writer's journey, the writer confronts the inner critic. It often likes to say: "Why the heck are you writing this? You know you aren’t going to write like your favorite authors, so just quit now!” Most people don’t understand a writer’s daily battles. They don’t care. They just want the book. They see the author’s life from the sidelines. The author cranks out a book, becomes published, gets on the New York Times or Amazon bestselling list, gets … [Read more...]

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Busy times – it’s all good!

For the last ten days I was working in my old technical writer/proposal manager capacity - helping a small business write and deliver a proposal to the National Science Foundation. The proposal was due yesterday, and I'm proud to say we got it in electronically as required with two hours to spare. Within minutes of finishing the proposal work,  I changed modes and started thinking about the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference happening this weekend. I'm scheduled to appear on two panels tomorrow, and up until yesterday I had done nothing to prepare. This morning I went into my files and found notes from past panels I've appeared on, and  found what I needed to provide some good information on writing a memoir and building a marketing platform, using the social networks. (This blog was the first thing I did to start building my platform prior to the publication of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.) One more thing that's happening at the conference is an oppor … [Read more...]

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What do you wish you knew before you turned 40?

A few days ago, Naturally Savvy, for which I am the Savvy Over 60 contributor, posted my article: “Ten Things I Wish I Knew before I Turned 40.” I put a lot of thought into that article, and even though I came up with ten things as my editor suggested, I know it is still incomplete. I didn’t address religion, or money, or women’s equality – a subject so much in the forefront today. I also didn’t discuss marriage, or children, or what to do during retirement, or politics. The list is a work in progress. The list will never be complete. Perhaps to entice you to go over to Naturally Savvy to read my article and other articles I’ve contributed, I’ll give you a few examples from my list. But really I’d love for you to share your list either here or at the Naturally Savvy link. Only spend time with people you care about. Life is too short to feel obligated to be with people we don’t care about. Learn to excuse yourself gracefully. Gently fade away. And believe me they won’t mis … [Read more...]

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Congratulations, Keith Alan Hamilton!

My poet and walking friend, Keith Alan Hamilton, has just released his new book of poems: Peace Out Poems about My Abnormalities Normality. The poems are about stigma, mental illness - including depression and bipolar disorder, and suicide. "I hope for those who read it, it will be of benefit to them.  There is a huge stigma overshadowing those who suffer from mental conditions like depression or being bipolar.  Even more so for those who have committed suicide.  That reality will not change until my type of story is told and understood.  To me, the stigma overshadowing a day-to-day survivor is even worse.  When you are a depressive with thoughts of suicide cycling in your head day in and day out..... it is far harder to survive and keep going than it is to submit.   It is easier to be considered mentally ill and medicated, or to have taken ones life than being someone who successfully copes day-to-day and is a productive contributor to life.  If we are going to show others that … [Read more...]

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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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