Please welcome award-winning author Fiona Ingram

Our Choices guest today is Fiona Ingram while on her WOW! Women on Writing tour of The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper - the third in the series of award-winning books for middle grade students. Please help me welcome Fiona. I also welcome her thoughts about writing for kids - something I've never attempted. Here are her wise words about how to create characters kids will relate to. Writing and Creating Characters by Fiona Ingram Creative writing for kids is one of the most challenging and fulfilling aspects of the classroom. Many teachers who are not writers may struggle to explain the nuts and bolts of writing in relation to the imaginative and creative process involved in making a story. Children may also not grasp the solid hard work involved in creating the structure and plot of a good story. Here are some easy tips to make the creative writing process both successful and fun. Writing can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of your life. There are … [Read more...]

What’s next to write?

Now that my novel is going through a final professional edit and hopefully getting ready to shop around. I’ve been thinking about what’s next for my writing life. For a long time, I’ve thought that there isn’t another book in me, but now I’m not so sure. Could I write another memoir? I’m at that stage in my life when I have almost all of it to look back on, so I could write a memoir from an old wise woman’s approach to turning eighty. I could write about the secrets of staying married to the same man for over forty-eight years and living in the same house for thirty-nine years. Really where have all those years gone? And really that brings up another big question – how much time do my husband and I have left anyway, and what are we doing to prepare for our last years? Or better yet, how we’re handling our lives right now as we age – at different paces. Yes, another memoir or even two are a real possibility. The options are endless: how we're still working at surviving the loss of … [Read more...]

Got poem?

It's been a while since I've shared some of my poetry with you. The following pieces have been published in the Story Circle Network's True Words section of their quarterly journal. I've had a wonderful response to my poems from Story Circle, certainly motivating me to keep submitting. And, as I've said before, I'll only post  poems here that have been already published so as not to lose an opportunity to get any unpublished ones accepted. So many contests and journals won't accept poems if they have been published elsewhere - even on a personal blog like this. I hope you enjoy these four: Nadia We sat across the table covered with a crisp white cloth. Her face glowed in the light, her radiant smile punctuated by deep, long dimples in each cheek. Simply dressed in black slacks and a white sweater she looked comfortable in her own skin. She spoke confidently in English. And, when speaking her native Italian, she spoke slowly so we could understand her words. At … [Read more...]

Please welcome JoAnn Simon, author of Rose Colored Glasses

JoAnn Simon's experience taking her first art class reminds me of mine. I went with two girlfriends, straddled a sit-down easel, and began to draw a still life, using a charcoal pencil. The teacher came around and showed me almost immediately what I was doing wrong. But, I continued taking that once-a week-class for years and years progressing from charcoal to pastel to oils and then to acrylics. The bonus: after class we always stopped for coffee and dessert. So I very much welcome JoAnn here today as she shares about her first art class experience that has continued on for the last twenty years. Her memoir, Rose Colored Glasses: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Hope, launched on July 23, 2018. I also thank WOW! Women on Writers for inviting Choices to join JoAnn's blog tour. “Seeing Art Through the Artist’s Eye” by JoAnn Simon I always appreciated art and often wondered how the artist became so inspired to create a piece that evoked so many emotions and feelings.  Then I took an … [Read more...]

More about our water damage

Part Two As planned, the water mitigation folks from Servpro arrived early Monday morning, June 25, with water testing devices in hand, which they scanned over all walls and floors to determine the extent of the damage. As they found damage, they marked the areas with dark blue masking tape. By the end of the day I saw dark blue masking tape in the kitchen, the hall backing up to the kitchen, parts of the dining room, and essentially the whole first floor, including Bob’s office, the laundry room, the bathroom, and my office. The only room not affected downstairs was the guest bedroom down at the end of the hall. That meant they would need to pack out all our stuff from our kitchen cabinets, the china closet that stood in the upstairs hall, and everything from the laundry, bathroom, and our two office closets downstairs - including removing our closet built-in cabinets and shelves. The next step was taking the affected walls and ceilings down to the studs and pulling up the r … [Read more...]

We had huge water damage at our house

Part One On June 22 2018, while my husband and I were out-of-town, I got word from our son Ben that there had been a “minor emergency” in our house. He had just heard from our cleaning lady, Elma, that water was pouring out of our bathroom ceiling like rainfall. In her words, it was a “total disaster.” I immediately called our go-to home contractor, and since this was a Friday afternoon, none of the staff was available. I was referred to a plumber who had worked at our house before. He too was out-of-town and unavailable. But he suggested I get the water turned off as soon as possible. My next thought was to contact our next-door neighbor, Ron (we call him Ron Next Door). Since his house has the same floor plan. I thought he’d know where to turn off the water at our house. Sure enough he did. Also, he could see from his yard that part of our outside wall was already wet from the leak. Thankfully, about an hour later Ron called me back. He was able to get his plumber to come … [Read more...]

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...]