Welcome! Mary Maurice, author of the Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe

Choices is very pleased to have Mary Maurice visit while she's on her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour of The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe. She has also given us her thoughts about the failing use of the word, Please - a word that has always been well-used in my family - along with its companions, Thank You. At least Ms. Maurice has a sense of humor about it. Here are her thoughts! PLEASE, WHERE ARE YOU? by Mary Maurice Has anyone seen, Please? You know, to please or not to please, that is the question. Whether it is pleasurable to please, or polite to say please, is becoming a mystery to people, at least that what it seems to me as I pace through this unconscious society. Just another word that’s lost its meaning and status in our vocabulary. I can still hear Mom saying. “What’s the magic word?” Or maybe it’s what the techno world is turning humans into. Rude, insensitive, self-indulged individuals, who think because they have the world at their fingertips, as they thumb … [Read more...]

A favorite recipe

Here’s a change of pace. Enough of the writing stuff for moment. Instead I’d like to share a recipe I made for a dinner party of twelve last night. The event was scheduled to take place in our house but since we’re still not living there since our water damage, our dear friends offered their beautiful home and their always gorgeous table settings and flower arrangements. That left my husband and I, who were still considered the hosts, to organize the dinner. As hosts we were responsible for the main course, side dish, wines, and other libations. I was also responsible to give cooking assignments to the other couples who brought delicious appetizers, salad, and dessert. However, cooking my dishes in two strange kitchens was a challenge. I did some prep work in our temporary home’s kitchen, which lacked some essential equipment – measuring spoons and cups and a citrus squeezer. While I was out shopping for the needed ingredients for my recipes I bought those items too, knowing full … [Read more...]

My novel is finished – now what?

I had every intention of submitting my finished novel to a small press I heard about a few years ago that publishes American Jewish Experience fiction. I kept checking back and kept checking back to see if they were still around over the years. But when I pulled up their website again yesterday, I found a new note pertaining to their guidelines - they will only look a fiction works that are represented by an agent. That of course stopped me dead. Now I am on the lookout for a small press that will be interested in coming of age/immigration/feminist themes and maybe willing to go with the American Jewish Experience theme as well. Looks like a very tall order to me. I'll also make friends with the agents I've met through the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society, whom I've heard on panels many times. Maybe I can persuade one of them to represent me. In the meantime I want to thank all of the people who helped me with the book along the way. The following  is what I wrote for the … [Read more...]

What! An alcohol fast in September…

Whether it is scotch, chardonnay, even coconut liqueur, or my favorite red zinfandel, I’m going off all of it in September. About 30 years ago after too many celebrations in December leading up to the new year, my husband and I decided to take an alcohol fast in January. And believe me that wasn’t easy. We had both been used to a glass or two or wine every evening, so not reaching our for that fine crystal stem and pouring in a beautiful red liquid alcoholic substance into its bowl took a conscious effort. But after a few days we both liked the results – more clear headedness, less sleepiness during the day, better sleep at night, a nice cleansing feeling inside, and of course a great feeling of accomplishment when the month was over. After a few years of fasting in January I decided on a two times a year fast – every January and July, which often led me to ask myself if I would let go of alcohol all together. Though I never took that big step, I’ve kept up the alcohols fasts e … [Read more...]

My thoughts about the film The Wife (spoiler alert!)

The new film, The Wife, with Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, brought up a lot of memories of my writing career. Early on in her studies, Joan Castleman, the character Glenn Close plays in the film, was told she could get nowhere as a female author. It was the year 1958 – the same year I started college as a journalism major. Castleman, already recognized for her writing skills, says she couldn’t live without writing. I too was hell-bent on having a career in writing though I was discouraged as well. My father made it clear I should study to be a teacher – after all that’s what girls in my generation did – or skip college altogether and become a secretary. Of course, the Castleman character in movie and I were on totally different paths in our writing. My forte was journalism; hers was fiction. I persisted and got a job right after graduating from college at a fashion trade magazine, which I quit after three weeks because my male boss verbally abused and harassed me. A few w … [Read more...]

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...]