Review number 220 is a true gift

Thank you, Janine Ward, for this sensitive and insightful review of Leaving the Hall Light On.  I won't say more. The review speaks for itself. Inspirational. For anyone who has known untouchable, unimaginable grief that no one deserves and on one survives without lifetime scars, Madeline Sharples' Leaving the Hall Light On is a must read. It is a book that will shine light into the broken crevices of the soul, and if you are healing, if you feel you are alone, Madeline's book is the perfect company. It is her transformative story about accepting the grief of unanswerable questions, parenting into the unknown territories of mental illness, losing everything and deciding to live anyway. Along the way she describes it in detail, the intersections she crossed and why she turned the way she turned, proving that anyone can survive anything if we put our minds into it and one foot forward, one day at a time. Joy can return, it will never be the same but the capacity to accept what it … [Read more...]

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Still here – old memories and feelings of guilt

I received a surprise Facebook private message two mornings ago that brought up a lot of old memories of our deceased son Paul and many old feelings of guilt about what I could have done to save him. Even though he's been gone from our lives for almost eighteen years, those things can come up without warning any time of day or night. The note, I'm sure, didn't intend to promote those old feelings. It was a lovely compliment about my book and how my book will help the writer with her work as a therapist. However, when I read it at four in the morning, I was through sleeping for the rest of the night. Here's the message I received from a young woman who was in Paul's high school class at Crossroads in Santa Monica. I don't remember ever meeting her until she asked me to be her Facebook friend a few weeks ago. "For seven years Leaving the Hall Light On was on my Amazon wish list because I graduated from Crossroads with Paul. When we found out at our reunion that he had died fr … [Read more...]

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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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Reading about Corita Kent at {pages}: a bookstore

This past Thursday evening I attended a book reading at my local independent bookstore, {pages}. April Dammann, author of Corita Kent. Art and Soul. The Biography. (Angel City Press), spoke to us about the wonderful artist and teacher of the 1960s formerly known as Sister Mary Corita. I was most interested in attending this event because I have four of Corita’s serigraphs hanging on my family room wall. I fell in love with them in the 1960s when I first heard of this rebellious nun, modern artist, and activist for social justice who combined bright colors, whimsical shapes, and political and/or literary messages in her artwork. And I still enjoy having her work in my house. Her work is relevant. Her messages are universal.   For example, she wrote two messages in the Life piece (upper right): “Life is a complicated business fraught with mystery and some sunshine.” P. Roth “Let the morning time drop all its petals on me. Life I love you. All is groovy.” Simon & … [Read more...]

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How I got my book published

Now that this piece was rejected for inclusion into the Authors Publish anthology, I'm free to post it here. Hopefully my experience and perseverance and will to get my book published will inspire other authors to keep sending their work out. Please don't give up. It's worth it in the long run. How I Got My Book Published By Madeline Sharples Two years and sixty-eight queries later I finally got a book contract with a small press – the now defunct, Lucky Press. I found Lucky Press through the the firstwriter.com Publishers Instant Alert Service, and followed the submittal instructions so carefully that in her response, the publisher told me my query letter was perfect. (The instructions said: Send query by email with cover letter, short bio, how you can help with marketing, 300-500 word synopsis, and first chapter, all pasted into the body of the email. No attachments. Write "Manuscript Query" in the subject line.) With that and her request to send her my manuscript, I thought … [Read more...]

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Leaving the Hall Light On is a top 12 book!

Nancy Mills, founder of the Spirited Woman, put out this post this morning. I'm so proud to have Leaving the Hall Light On on the Spirited Woman top 12 book list. THE HOLIDAYS are such a glorious time to gift a book or to buy one as a gift for yourself. On our Holiday Top 12 Book Pick list, we've included an array of gifted authors to help inspire and uplift you. We urge you to support these spirited talents! Save this list all year round! A great book resource for you. WRITING SPIRIT - by New York Times bestselling author Lynn Andrews, invites readers into her world. Lynn explains how being true to your Spirit is the key to fulfillment in your work.  She leads you on a journey into yourself finding the truth within you, your creative soul and teaches you what it truly means to be a writer. www.lynnandrews.com. EXUBERANT WOMEN DON'T AGE - NO TIME TO WASTE - by author Elizabeth Upton is an empowering guide for women of all ages and all walks of life. While many … [Read more...]

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A walk for suicide prevention

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know how obsessive I am about writing. My life is about the actual writing or thinking about writing when I'm not at my computer. I also am obsessive about exercise. I workout in some way every day - either at the gym or taking long walks in my beautiful beach neighborhood. Working out and writing were instrumental in saving my life after my son Paul died by suicide in 1999. Since my son's death I've also become obsessive about working toward erasing the stigma of mental illness and helping to prevent suicide. I've volunteered and participated with others whose mission aligns with mine. I've also written much about mental illness and suicide here and in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. This coming June 27-28, I'll take an amazing journey in Boston - another way to memorialize my son and show what I stand for.   The Out of the Darkness Overnight Experience is a 16-18 mile walk over the course of one nigh … [Read more...]

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Author David Berner discusses writing about our lives

Our Choices guest today, David Berner, shares with us the essence of memoir writing. He tells us what it is not - a series of diary entries that relate every detail of a life - and what it is - a story that begins with a moment rounded out with the details related to that moment. My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On, begins with the moment of my son's suicide. The rest of the book details the events leading up to that moment and its aftermath. David Berner's memoir, Any Road Will Take You There, starts with a five-thousand mile road trip  that enables him to find peace and fulfillment in being a dad after a series of heartbreaking and life-changing personal events. Please welcome David Berner. Making the Choice to Write About Your Life by David Berner A woman came up to me after a workshop I conducted several years ago about writing memoir. She held in her hand a thick manuscript and told me she was writing about her life, one full of adventures, one she wanted to share. “I’ve star … [Read more...]

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Launching a CD takes months

For the last several days I’ve been on a mission to finish all the online “paperwork” necessary to produce the CD of my son Paul’s music. On July 11, I wrote that the CD was almost ready, giving credit to the folks who have helped me with this project. However, little did I know how much more work I had to do. Doing the job of picking out the music, enhancing the music, and building the CD took months. While producer Patrick von Wiegandt  made the music sound so professional he also provided his expertise about what the launching of a CD entails. Early on he directed me to two sites: CDBaby for digital sales NationwideDisc to produce hard copy CDs complete with a sleeve with front and back cover art (artfully created by my photographer friend, Paul Blieden). It literally took me months to fill our their very detailed forms. I won’t go into all the gory details here. Let it suffice to say, that I’ve just finished – hopefully in enough time to have everything ready for the lau … [Read more...]

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How my memoir came to be

I wrote the following piece a little over a year ago for the Women's Writing Circle. I'd like to share it with you now. When I Knew I Had A Memoir I returned to writing regularly when our son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in March 1993. He had just turned 21 and was a senior at the New School in New York City. Early on during his illness I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992), and her suggestion to write morning pages resonated with me. Because I was employed full-time then, I didn’t always write in the morning, but I always finished my three pages before the end of the day. So writing about my son’s bipolar disorder and later about his 1999 suicide death became my therapy. Writing during the most stressful time of my life became an obsession and a balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. Besides journaling I began to take writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers Program and Esalen Institute in … [Read more...]

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Stanley Family Foundation donates $650 million to psychiatric research

A donation of $650,000 for psychiatric research is so important to those with mental illness and their families and friends that I had to share this complete article from yesterday's "New York Times." My son Paul was struck with his first manic break when he was a senior in college in New York at age 21. He believed that people were poisoning his food, drinks, and cigarettes and were lurking in doorways out to get him and his girlfriend. He also became freaked by the constant sirens going off in the city. He was prescribed lithium during his first hospital stay, but he didn't stay on it consistently - he felt it interfered with his creative abilities (he was a jazz musician) - and unfortunately that was his downfall. After seven years of alternating manic and depressive behavior and many hospitalizations, he killed himself. You can read his story in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His S … [Read more...]

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A new milestone: 175 reader reviews

In the last 30 days my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On has received three new reviews. As a result it has reached a milestone: 175 reviews total - 113 with five stars.  I’m always thrilled with the five-star reviews, of course; however, the last three have all been terrific. Twenty-seven days ago, Michael Knezic’s five-star review said: “Heartbreaking! “I thought that the book was very well written and put you right there with the family. I don't know how difficult it was for them to write this book but I think it puts the reader right there with the family. It opens your eyes!!” On July 7, Bridgette Carpenter’s four-star review said: “A sad story about parenting a severely mentally disturbed son. “…The book is very sad…. It is so terribly sad that the parents could not keep their son in an institution where he would have been required to take his medicines and he would not have been able to injure himself. Their son was an adult so he couldn't be forced to take his medicines a … [Read more...]

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My WOW blog tour dance card is filling up

I'm always thrilled to host authors on a Women on Writing WOW blog tour. WOW created such a great tour for my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, when it first launched, I never hesitate to return the favor. Right now I have six authors scheduled to appear here on Choices in the next few months. I don't think it hurts to give you a little advance notice, but I won't spoil the fun now with too many details. I'll just give you their names, book titles, and dates they will be my guests. Elizabeth Maria Naranjo, The Fourth Wall on August 4 Paige Strickland, Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity on August 11 Lorraine Ash, Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life on August 20 Tara Meissner, Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis on October 1 Kathleen Pooler, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse on October 7 Jerry Waxler, Memoir Revolution, on November 5 However, by no means is my calendar fully booked. Plea … [Read more...]

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Burning moments and magical thinking in our memoirs

It turned out that I led the memoir workshop: “Telling Healing Stories – How to Write A Compelling Memoir” on my own at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference last Friday. Thankfully I had the material prepared, so when my workshop mate didn’t show up, I just waded right in. I discussed the four aspects of all good literature: plot, theme, structure, and voice and gave the group a list of universal themes (which I’ll discuss in a future post). I also explained how the plot is made up of a series of events – or as they have been called – burning moments. For example, the disposition of clothes and possessions of a loved one who has died is a huge burning moment. In one of my favorite memoirs, The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion describes in meticulous detail the items in the plastic bag she brings home from the hospital after her husband died. She says, “…I remember combining the cash that had been in his pocket with the cash in my own bag, smoothing the bills, taking spe … [Read more...]

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Little Free Library

We installed our Little Free Library last week, and I couldn't be happier. The library box started getting action almost immediately - the first fifteen books I put into it are almost all gone and have been replaced by people who stop by. The plaque on the top of the box encourages neighbors to: Take A Book - Return A Book. Here it is, standing just back of the sidewalk in the front corner of our yard. When I first posted about it on Facebook a lot of friends wanted to know where I got it. Here is the Little Free Library website. It offers several different models and many kinds of plaques and accessories. It also provided instructions for making a stand, which our handyman easily and quickly built for us. Here are the Little Free Library site's own words on their wonderful invention. Once you visit the website you'll find out the possibilities for its look and use are endless. Plus I think it's a great way to promote reading - imagine a place to borrow a book right in your neighb … [Read more...]

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Can’t help showing this off

My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On recently received its 109th 5-star review. The reviewer said it's one of the greatest books he's ever read. How could I not brag about it and show it off? Here's the review You can take your love with you, by israel eichenstein: "Madeline Sharples is one courageous parent. This is one of the greatest books I have ever read. Paul her son was bi-polar and tragically took his own life. Madeline and her family have through their pain taught the world the dangers of bi-polar and its devastating effects. But as I read the book through tears and waves of emotion, the overwhelming love for Paul shines brightly on almost every page. A life lost , especially your own child can make you a bitter and broken person. Madeline would not allow herself and her family to wilt under such incredible pain and sadness...she put herself out there in front of the whole world, told her story with love for her Paul and offering guidance to others that are affected by t … [Read more...]

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Some stuff about me

With a birthday coming up next month I've been doing a lot of reflecting and a lot of thinking about the future. However, since my suggestion of a book everyone should read is Ram Dass' Be Here Now, I thought I'd share a recent interview that tells about me right now. 1. What is one book everyone should read? Be Here Now by Ram Dass 2. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Peanut butter and blueberries 3. Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book, Leaving the Hall Light On. My book has much to share with anyone grieving the loss of a loved one or suffering any kind of loss. 4. Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?  I’m currently working on a historical fiction book based a bit on my family’s history, yet with a twist. I also want to have a book of poetry published. And I'm almost through producing, with the help of an expert recording technician, a CD made of my son’s jazz music. I hope to have it out in th … [Read more...]

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How writing a memoir helped me heal

In mid April Eleanor Vincent, author of Swimming with Maya, and I will lead a workshop titled Telling Healing Stories: Writing A Compelling Memoir at the Story Circle Network's Writers Conference in Austin TX. I have written and spoken much about writing to heal.  In the next couple of weeks I'll again share some of these thoughts. How Writing A Memoir Helped Me Heal Writing has been part of my life since I was in grade school. However, when my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and after his suicide I needed to write down my feelings daily. Writing in my journal became an obsession and a balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. I had used journaling during an earlier stressful period of my life to rant. So I felt that writing would help me again during what turned out to be the most stressful time of my life. Early on during my son’s illness I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992), and her suggestion to write morn … [Read more...]

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Five star review number 105

The 105th five star review arrived on my Amazon page on January 29. I was so impressed with what Stace of Australia wrote about Leaving the Hall Light On and her sensitivity to our son Paul's and our family's struggles, and the different ways people react to physical vs mental illnesses, I wanted to share it with your here. The gist is: mental illness is an illness just like a physical illness and needs to be recognized as such. "I really related to this book. Having experienced major depression I knew a lot of the scenarios and can imagine how Madeline's son Paul felt. How scared and alone he would have felt. This book is so heart felt and detailed. It's a real life experience that they can't take back but have learned so much from. I felt so sorry for Paul's family and friends. In some places in the book I felt angry with the parents for criticizing their son after he'd passed away, but at the same time I knew that they're hurting and angry that he left them. It hurts to hear … [Read more...]

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Book reviews matter

I’ve written about book reviews before. Frankly I wish they’d all go away. But since I’m an author I have to live with them. I also know that reviews matter. Good ones help sales. Bad ones hurt author’s egos. I reblogged a post about reviews from Kristen Lamb last June. She and I are on the same page about writing bad reviews. We just won’t. We know how much they hurt, and why hurt our author friends and colleagues? And, I’ve had some reviews of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On that were pretty ego-hurting. However, I’m fortunate that most been very positive. Like the one posted on Amazon yesterday. It is so in tune with my sentiments and what I wanted to get across in my book, I have to share it here. My only connection to the reviewer is she contacted me about how to get permission to use a Paul Simon song quote in her own book, and I gave her the information. When she told me she read my book, I asked if she’d write a review. Yesterday she contacted me again to tell me she … [Read more...]

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