Seventeen years ago

Tomorrow it will be seventeen years since our son Paul died by suicide. Tomorrow my husband and I will visit his grave, leave a small stone, as we do every year on his birthday and death day. Today like all days is a time to reflect. I wrote the following poem a few years after he died. It is 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. Yes, we have survived all these years, but the grief has never gone away. I’ll Always Remember I’ll always remember he slept without closing his eyes all the way I’ll always remember he walked fast and way ahead of us I’ll always remember he had long, thick, black eyelashes surrounding clear blue eyes I’ll always remember he played the piano, legs crossed at the knees, leaning way down over the keyboard I’ll always remember he liked to wear second-hand clothes and didn’t mind if they were ripped I’ll always remember the way he stood at the pantry … [Read more...]

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August small stones

Now that I'm on day 16 of the September Pebbles 2016 challenge I thought I'd post my entire list from the Awake August 2016 Small Stones challenge. According to the page guidelines post "No advertising. No selling. Just your thoughts and ideas and have fun.This page is for your small poems and thoughts, please share and enjoy each others talents. Everyone is individual and that makes this page brilliant." When the Awake August challenge was over, people in the group decided to keep posting, so the page admins changed the challenge to September Pebbles. I'll post those sometime next month. A young girl with white-pale skin and wine-red hair visited for a week. We kissed goodbye this morning. The strains of “Unchained Melody” bring back memories of 1955 and two besotted teenagers swaying in time on a hot August night. A long walk with a friend on a hot summer day brings a connection of compassion, understanding, and love. We can’t stop talking. An orange-streaked sky … [Read more...]

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Always remember

The September 11 attacks killed 2,977 people and injured more than 6,000 others, not including the 19 terrorists responsible for the attacks. These immediate deaths included 265 on the four planes, 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon. We must always remember! The gallery at the September 11 Memorial Museum has photos of all but 10 people killed either on September 11, 2001 or February 26, 1993 when the World Trade Center was bombed (a total of 2983). It has room for 3,000 5-by-7-inch portraits, arrayed in 250 columns and 12 rows. Credit: Ángel Franco/The New York Times … [Read more...]

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New writing and old

I've started to write about something new. I haven't a clue yet where it's going so I don't want to reveal the topic yet. I just want to let you and the world know. That's a way to keep me accountable. I can't go ahead and disband this new writing project because I've now put it out there. You all know and I know you'll keep me going. I'm also going through some poems I've written over the years. I'm looking for material to submit. I wrote the one below back in 2011 at my favorite poetry workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur California. Unfortunately my favorite three poets/instructors, Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar, aren't doing this workshop anymore, though I went to a workshop at Esalen with Joseph about a year ago. That was wonderful as well. So the theme for this poem was "changeability." We were asked to make changes from line to line, using word series, thoughts, length of line, and language. Other aspects of this theme are: anaphora - repetition of th … [Read more...]

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Review of Ronald Chapman’s A Killer’s Grace

I'm pleased to have read and written a review of Ronald Chapman's book A Killer's Grace in time for his WOW!Women on Writing virtual book tour. Today, September 1, is the publication of the book's second edition.  As you'll read, A Killer's Grace is a wonderful work. I hope you'll all get your copy (see the links below). You won't be disappointed. *** My Review of A Killer’s Grace A letter from a serial killer awaiting execution changes New Mexico reporter Kevin Pitcairn’s life. His investigations into the content of the letter drag him into his own dark past, that of a never-convicted murderer and an alcoholic. His journey draws the readers of A Killer’s Grace by Ronald Chapman into the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous and the close relationships Pitcairn made there, his love for Maria Elena who stays by his side even when she disagrees and fears his involvement with the serial killer’s story, how walking with his dog companions in the early morning hours calms him after nightmares l … [Read more...]

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Regina Brett’s life lessons

My friend Linda Appleman Shapiro, author of  She's Not Herself (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Dream of Things), sent these 45 lessons to me and asked me to share them with my friends. What better way than to post them here on Choices? I hope you'll read them through to the end and marvel with me at the wisdom of this beautiful and stylish 90-year-old woman, Regina Brett. Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, said, "To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more: Life isn't fair, but it's still good. When in doubt, just take the next small step. Life is too short, enjoy it. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will. Pay off your credit cards every month. You don't have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself. Cry with someone. It's mo … [Read more...]

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Turning grief into art

Chanel Brenner, Alexis Rhone Fancher, and I are reading our poetry tomorrow night at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Tustin, CA. Our theme is turning grief into art. Each of us has lost a son, and each of us have turned to writing as a way to deal with our grief. There is no cure for us, however, writing can be a soothing balm. If you live in the Los Angeles area, please join us tomorrow night in Tustin. … [Read more...]

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Two newly published poems

I've had several poems published over the last couple of months. I wrote the first was in response to one of Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides Wednesday prompts. I think it's the first one of his I ever responded to. The prompt asked us to: "...write a box poem. This poem is either about a box or includes a box somewhere in the poem (or title). Don’t be afraid to poem outside the box this week (sorry, I had to say it)." Thank you Editor Ted Badger for including my poem in your Lucidity Poetry Journal International (a venue for understandable verse). Things in Boxes He left a black canvas box filled with his music recordings next to his bed, the cassette tapes neatly packed in order of performance. And on his closet shelf we found a cardboard box filled with little games, cars, toys, 1984 Olympic souvenirs, and Russian buttons and buckles his uncle brought back for him. He fit these favorite things together like an intricate puzzle, before he left his body … [Read more...]

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Happy sixth anniversary

Our son and daughter-in-law were married in our garden six years ago today. That is significant not only as a celebration of their love for each other, but that they wanted to get married at the sight where my son's brother, our son Paul, took is life in 1999. For a long time Ben didn't want to be here, but that all changed on his wedding day. The wedding was beautiful and the event was not tarnished by unhappy memories. My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On was published less than a year later. It is, as the subtitle says, A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Although the story is sad, the memoir is also about survival. That said, I decided to end the book with an Epilogue about the Wedding in the Garden, on a very upbeat note. Here is the poem that ended the Epilogue. I hope you'll read the memoir and entire epilogue as well. And if you have read Leaving the Hall Light On, please leave a review here. Five star reviews help t … [Read more...]

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Memoir or fiction? That is the question!

David W. Berner, my WOW! Women on Writing guest today, and I have something in common. After writing memoir we both turned to fiction—stretching ourselves, as David says, as writers. We both took a true story, settings, and characters and made up things—let our imagination have its way with us—to enhance the story's effect. My fiction book—though not ready to be published yet—takes off in a whole new direction from the true facts. My family members would definitely know the people and places I write about, and might even have a problem with the way my fictionalized version of our family history turns out.  Well, I'll deal with that when the time comes. I applaud David for using his wonderful memoir, reporting, and teaching skills to become a successful fiction writer. His first fiction work: Night Radio: A Love Story, has already received rave reviews. Thank you, David, for being here at Choices today and telling us about your journey into fiction writing—a story I very much relat … [Read more...]

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Writing small stones teaches focus and brevity

I joined the Awake August 2016 challenge to write small stones every day in August. I did the same challenge a few years ago (in January 2011 and 2012) and found the results the same. Writing brief poems, essays, descriptions, thoughts, and ideas are a worthwhile challenge. It has taught me to focus on a single thing and write briefly about it. Like the challenge creators, Kaspalita and Satya Robyn, say, it is a mindfulness writing booster. For more information about them and their work, visit their website, Writing Our Way Home: Engage with the world through mindful writing. So whether my first five days of small stones are what Kaspalita and Satya had in mind, here they are. What do you think? My August Small Stones A young girl with white-pale skin and wine-red hair visited for a week. We kissed goodbye this morning. The strains of “Unchained Melody” bring back memories of 1955 and two besotted teenagers swaying in time on a hot August night. A long walk … [Read more...]

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Not a lot of writing going on now

  For the last couple of weeks I’ve been really caught up in the election. I couldn’t take my eyes and ears off of the conventions, nor can I stop reading about it in the newspapers and online. I'm also glued to the news shows every evening. Therefore not a lot of writing is going on in my life right now. In the last election I refused to post anything – either here or any of my other social media networks – about politics or my views about politics. I didn't want to offend any of my memoir customers who had different political views than mine. This election is too crucial for me to keep silent. And already I'm sure you can tell I’m with Hillary. There is no way I would vote for a person like Donald Trump. But this is not to say I feel she is the lesser of two evils. I’ve felt all along that she has the most experience for the job of president of the United States, and she has respectful relationships worldwide that she can call upon when needed in our dealings with … [Read more...]

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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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