Walking – one step at a time for change

Every morning I leave home at seven to take a ninety-minute walk. I’ve been doing that since March 23 the day after my gym closed because of the coronavirus  quarantine. My goal is to walk at least eleven thousand steps a day, and so far I’ve been doing that. But every day I ask myself isn’t time to quit already? My upper left leg hurts and still I walk on, my right big toe hurts and still I keep going, and I getting bored with it. Frankly, what I’d like to do is get back to the gym – and that’s not possible yet. Gyms will open up again during the last stage of Governor Newsom’s reopening plan and even when it does, I’m not sure if I’d want to go over there and get too close to everyone else working out. That’s the way I am about venturing out anywhere these days. And the latest George Floyd protests and riots and looting have only made me more scared. The crowds assembling all over the country will be sure to infect each other, and we’ll be left with coronavirus case and deat … [Read more...]

What I think about these days

A friend recently asked me what I think about during the many hours a day when I’m not very busy with my writing or cooking chores. And surprise, surprise, I said: Donald Trump, a person I have no nice thoughts about whatsoever. He is a bad man and a bad president. I don’t want my life to end before we have gotten rid of him. I also think about death. I equate my death with two things: keeping safe from the coronavirus and keeping safe from Donald Trump. In my mind, they go hand in hand. In fact Donald Trump is the reason the people of our country have been so affected by the virus – Donald Trump lied that it was a problem when it first came to the forefront. He didn’t want a nasty thing like a virus pandemic to wreck his chances of getting reelected. So he pushed questions and information about it away. Even now when we have had over one hundred thousand deaths in the United States, he still won’t talk about it. He says and does anything he can to divert our attention away from … [Read more...]

What it takes to write a book

Getting my first novel published just over a year ago is undoubtedly the thing I’m most grateful for. That it wasn’t hard to find a publisher for it and that I found a wonderful illustrator to do the cover art also were part of that mix. However, the work leading up to it was hard and long. I started writing the novel in 2010 at a UCLA four-day workshop called How to Write Your First Novel. I decided to take that class to get away from the frustrations of trying to get my memoir published. I was querying like mad but nothing was working, so a change in pace was necessary. I already had an idea – taken from the life story my aunt wrote not long before she died. She wrote about a young man – actually a teacher – who took her to school plays and concerts when she was a senior in high school. When her brother – actually my father – found out he wasn’t Jewish, he made his family move to Chicago from their small town in mid Illinois so that she could find a nice Jewish man to marry. … [Read more...]

And you thought you were finished: the revision process

For some unknown reason the post below (originally posted on November 16, 2016) disappeared from this website. So I'm reproducing it again now. And it makes perfect sense since I'm knee-deep in revising my new memoir. *** My publisher advised me to revise the second half of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, almost entirely when she decided to publish my book. To that end I used many of the steps I learned while working as a writer-editor-manager of proposals to the U.S. Government to revise my book. Here is my revision process. 1. Plan before doing. I created a revision plan based on notes from my publisher and advice from my first reader. Then I got my publisher’s buy-in. 2. Read before revising. Since I hadn’t looked at my draft for almost two years, I read it front to back with my revision plan in hand. I marked up a hard copy with a red pen and made no electronic changes until I was through. Wow! did I find lots of things to edit, including typos, awkward sentences, repe … [Read more...]

Introducing Save the Cat®

Today we heartily welcome Save the Cat's WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR of Save the Cat! Structure Software and Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. About Save the Cat!® Save the Cat! provides writers the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels based on a series of best-selling books, primarily written by Blake Snyder (1957- 2009). Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet). Our books, workshops, story structure software, apps, and story coaching teach you everything you need to unlock the fundamentals and mechanics of plot and character transformation. Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their website. About the Save the Cat Structure Software Save the Cat! Story Structure Software is adapted from the Save the Cat! methodology to help screenwriters and novelists unlock the fundamentals of plot and character transformation. The Story Structure Software is a virtual writer bo … [Read more...]

Mental illness and suicide go hand in hand

This year for my May 20 birthday I’ve asked my Facebook friends to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in memory of our son Paul Sharples who took his life on September 23, 1999 after a seven-year battle with bipolar disorder. The point here is that we need to erase the stigma of mental illness to save people from suicide. The two go hand in hand. Here are my thoughts on  erasing the stigma.   My family is rampant with mental illness. But as far back as I can remember not a one of my relatives used those words. My mother told me my grandmother had a “nervous breakdown” after her oldest daughter, my mother’s sister, died of uterine cancer. She was hospitalized and given electric shock treatments and then she seemed fine. Also two of my uncles had to be hospitalized for “depression.” In good times one uncle spoke five languages, remembered stories of his childhood in Lithuania and Russia, and told the corniest jokes to anyone who would listen; but w … [Read more...]

I’ve been reading and reading and reading

Since I've been reading a lot during the coronavirus shutdown, I thought I'd share a few of the books I've read recently. I usually commit to reading twenty-five books on the Goodreads yearly reading challenge, and it looks like I might surpass that goal if I keep on reading like I am now. Here's a few I liked and recommend. American Dirt: Lydia Quixano Pérez runs a bookstore in Acapulco, Mexico, where she lives with her husband, Sebastián, who is a journalist, and their son, Luca. When a man starts visiting her store, buying books and striking up a friendship, she has no idea initially that he will be responsible for turning her life upside down. But Lydia and Luca will have to flee Acapulco, setting them on a journey they will share with countless other Central and South Americans-turned migrants. ...From the colossal opening chapter to the epilogue, American Dirt is a novel of crisp writing, urgent pacing, and remarkable empathy. It deserves the attention of a large au … [Read more...]

My coronavirus life redux

I'm in a writing group that usually meets once a month. Except now during the corona virus stay at home orders, we're meeting twice a month - what else do we have to do - in one of those ubiquitous Zoom meetings. By the way, that is working out very well. So mostly we write about how we're doing during this pandemic. And some of our writing has turned out to be pretty grim - and very honest about how we're feeling. That's how people in writing groups should behave, right? The piece I wrote at yesterday's meeting, using the prompt to write a lost or found poem, went like this: Today has probably been the worst of all days since we were told to stay home. I’ve lost my enthusiasm – even for sitting down and writing here this afternoon. No, don’t worry. I’m not sick. I’m just down in the dumps. And even though I’m still walking every morning and writing my April poem a day and journaling, I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything. Shouldn’t we use this at home time to write, co … [Read more...]

Poem a day coronavirus rant

I've participated in the Writer's Digest Poem A Day challenge in November and April since 2007. This April I'm having a tough time staying away from the coronavirus pandemic topic and how it's affecting me as I participate in social distancing. As a result many of my poems are about the COVID-19. Here's a small sample from the fourteen I've written so far, and please remember these are just first drafts. Write a new world poem. There are new worlds and there are new worlds. You could write a poem about discovery of an actual planet. Or maybe your new world is actually a state of mind—or a series of books! In a way, I consider each new challenge a bit of a new world. Let’s explore this one together. The outdoors near my home has become a whole new world for me. For years I exercised indoors in a dingy lit gym surrounded by folks I’d see everyday - some saying hi others too intent to break a smile. Now my gym is closed, and those folks are scattered in all direc … [Read more...]

Kindness matters – especially now

During these trying times, when safety and health are foremost, we know that kindness matters. I go for a walk every morning and pay close attention to keeping my six-foot distance from other people around me. Some practice the distance rule, while others pay no attention at all. Especially those wearing masks. They must feel that their mask takes the place of social distancing. I would say they are just rude and irresponsible. How hard would it be to do that little side step maneuver to get out of someone’s way on the sidewalk or walking trail? I found this quote a while ago: “Being rude is easy. It does not take any effort and is a sign of weakness and insecurity. Kindness shows great self-discipline and strong self-esteem. Being kind is not always easy when dealing with rude people. Kindness is a sign of a person who has done a lot of person work and come to a great self-understanding wisdom. Choose to be kind over being right, and you’ll be right every time because kindness is … [Read more...]

Socializing during the COVID-19 quarantine is fun

One of the things that I find encouraging even as we are in the COVID-19 quarantine at home mode, is that we’re reaching out socially more. We’re doing FaceTime and Zoom and contacting family and friends by text and telephone. In the last couple of weeks our dinner party group has been sending each other fun video clips and quotes that are keeping all our spirits up. And tomorrow night – the night our dinner party was to occur, we’re getting together on Zoom for happy hour. It will be great to see each and chat for an hour or so. Here's a fun one: Socializing more has been on my list for some time. I wrote about it in one of my new memoir’s chapters. Here is what I wrote: Another thing that is important to my mental well-being is to get more social. I need to make more lunch dates for me and dinner dates and for Bob and me. We need to get out more instead of plopping ourselves down in front of the television screen every night at six to watch two hours of news. And while we’re … [Read more...]

What’s my coronavirus lockdown life like

The coronavirus, COVID-19, has indeed affected my life, as I’m sure it has affected yours. We’re all in it together to try to survive - helping ourselves and others to stay safe and healthy. I live with my eighty-three year old husband of almost fifty years, so his health and safety are on my mind much more than mine. He has had, over the last few years, mild pulmonary problems and is under a doctor’s care for high blood pressure. Fortunately, I don’t have any of the usual old folks’ ailments. I may be turning eighty in two months, but my body has never acted like it. So what’s my usual lockdown day like? First of all, I get up early. In the normal past I would get up before daylight and go to the gym every day. These days I wait until sunrise and then take a morning walk every day. I had until four days ago the perfect route. I would walk from my house to the beach and walk along the full length of the beach Strand. Unfortunately, the Strand and the beach are now closed, and … [Read more...]

Find out if you have a healthy relationship today!

Carrie T. Ishee began her WOW! Women On Writing tour of Seduced into Darkness just two days ago on March 23rd. We are very happy to welcome her here on Choices today. Her story of hope for survivors of abuse will surely captivate our readers. She has also written a guest post about the signs of a healthy relationship versus a toxic relationship and how to set boundaries to see if a person is safe for you. Here she is: A Healthy Relationship versus A Toxic Relationship by Carrie Ishee, M.A, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC,PCC, Author of Seduced into Darkness:  Transcending My Psychiatrist’s Sexual Abuse I came to this wisdom when recovering from the psychological and sexual manipulation I experienced when I was a college student suffering from panic attacks and depression.  What was supposed to be a professional, healing relationship was hijacked and turned into an inappropriate personal relationship that focused on his needs, his wants, his desires.  I now support others to develop a h … [Read more...]

Quarantini, anyone?

I first heard of the quarantini from Jane Fonda a couple of days ago. She’s stuck at home just like the rest of us in California (the governor’s orders) and suggested we try one. Derek Brown, author of “Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World” and owner of the Washington, DC, cocktail bar Columbia Room, says, “It’s the drink you make with what you’ve got in your cabinets or freezer, and is best enjoyed with whomever you’re cooped up with — or perhaps a neighbor in need.” And  if you do have the ingredients, here’s Brown’s recipe: A Quarantini that can be made with common at-home drink ingredients. 1½ to 2 ounces of a not-necessarily-sweet base spirit, like vodka or gin — or another of your choice ¾ ounce of citrus (such as lemon or lime juice), whose vitamin C is great for immunity ½ to ¾ ounce of simple syrup to sweeten things up. (Simple syrup, as its name suggests, is simple to make. Just boil equal parts sugar and water until they … [Read more...]

We welcome Linda Rosen while on her WOW! book blog tour

Linda Rosen, author of The Disharmony of Silence, is on Day 10 of her WOW! Women On Writing book blog tour. Choices is pleased to welcome her and her thoughts about how being outdoors helped inspire her creative self. I know the feeling. I walk outdoors a lot - especially to the beach - and I always welcome ideas the eventually become part of my creative material. Here's what Linda has to say: Get Outdoors, Inspire Your Creative Self by Linda Rosen Why is it that I always come up with great dialogue while swimming laps with the sun glistening on the water? No, I’m not talking to myself out loud. Swimmers nearby would wonder about my sanity. It’s my characters who are talking to each other, in my head, and sometimes even arguing. Simply gliding through the water, hearing its soft splash as my hand reaches forward and slips down into the aqua pool, completing a stroke, relaxes my mind and when the mind is clear, creativity flows. One doesn’t have to swim to create gems. Being … [Read more...]

Assembling a Life by Martha Clark Scala

I met Martha Clark Scala at an Esalen Institute poetry workshop in January 2000 about four months after my son Paul took his life. The workshop was instrumental in bringing poetry writing into my life. I wrote one that weekend that Martha added to her piece, "I'm Not Contagious, published in a The Compassionate Friends newsletter. We have been friends ever since. I was particularly intrigued by her latest writing work - a biography about her father, Geoff Clark - called Assembling A Life, Choosing the Artist in My father (and Myself). The way she put it together reminds me of the sculpture discipline called Assemblage, where bits and pieces of found items make up the sculpture piece. I have one hanging on my office wall made up of a piano's hammers, pieces necessary to determine the voice of a piano. It is special to me because our son was an accomplished jazz pianist. About the book If you have any desire to honor a departed loved one by … [Read more...]

Our beloved high school friend had a stroke

Ten of us met for lunch last Saturday at El Cholo in La Habra. It was to be a reunion of sorts with high school friends and to welcome Ann and Jack who drove in from Tucson. Unfortunately, what we all hoped would be a happy reunion turned out very sad. There were tears immediately when Wendy and her husband Doug arrived. For some this was the first time to see her since her massive stroke in the fall of 2018. Bob and I and Lee and Chris had seen her six months earlier. In my mind she had not improved. Actually, she seemed much worse. But she insisted on coming out to see us all for what we learned later would be her last outing. In four days’ time she was going to be moved to a home that specialized in caring for stroke victims like her. The night her stroke happened she was giving a talk about her newly published book - one of many she has written throughout her life. Wendy, a professed Wiccan, had a Ph.D., and had been the head of women’s studies at the California State University … [Read more...]

I love romantic poetry. Don’t you?

Choices is so pleased to host the poet, Valerie Nifora. Her book of romantic poetry, I Asked the Wind, is her first published book, and it comes highly recommended as you can see below. Thank you WOW! Women On Writing for arranging for Valerie Nifora to visit Choices while on her virtual book tour - you must have known we love to read and write poetry as well. Love, the major theme in Valerie's poetry, is also a major theme in her life. Her guest post today shares her thoughts about what her children taught her about love. Yes, it's a miracle indeed. What My Children Taught Me About Love by Valerie Nifora When my first son was born, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Motherhood was not something that I ever thought I would tackle. What I learned in the sleepless nights, skinned knees, fevers and hospital visits, was that I love my sons in a way that I never thought possible. What my children have taught me about love, is it is limitless. It’s amazing how being r … [Read more...]

What do I see for the future

This is another possible chapter that I’ve written for my new memoir about aging successfully. Again, I’d love to know what you think. Would a memoir with these kinds of thoughts and information interest you?  I’m optimistic. I think Bob is caring about his body more. He’s gotten himself some pills which he thinks will help him get stronger and more in balance. I think his willingness to do something about his state of health is a good thing. I just wish he’d eliminate sugar and cut down on his alcohol intake. But I wouldn’t say that to him. Also, he’s committed to personal training once a week, spending another hour or so at the gym on another day of the week, and walking several times a week. That’s all good. We walked the other day and he’s definitely moving better and seems less wobbly. I think the illnesses of some of our friends have gotten his attention. They’ve certainly gotten my attention. I used to say I’d probably be ready to give up my health program as I got olde … [Read more...]

Today Sarah Dickinson tells us how to be self-aware in our writing

Today at Choices our WOW! Women On Writing book tour guest is Sarah Dickinson, author of Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction. Her book, told through letters, is an intimate and raw look at the current face of addiction and recovery. We're pleased to have Sarah here: Being Self-aware in Your Writing by Sarah Dickinson Every year there is anywhere from 600,000 to one million books published in the U.S. alone. While those numbers are indeed impressive it’s overwhelming when you consider the work and passion that goes into creating each one. Indeed, writers everywhere have an endless list of factors to consider before they can even begin their own “Once upon a time.” We could talk writing styles, technique, point of view, plot development or even character creation. Sadly, we do have to save those topics for another day. Because today, we are going to talk about being self- aware in your writing. You may ask why is being self-aware so important in writing. It matte … [Read more...]