103 five-star reviews – oh my!

I'm so honored to have received a five-star review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, especially, from Linda Appleman Shapiro who is a professional Psychotherapist/Addictions Counselor (M.S., A.S.A.C.) She is also certified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Ericksonian Hypnosis/ Named Best Blogger in the field of Mental Health by WELLsphere and finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for FOUR ROOMS,UPSTAIRS: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness.  Thank you so much, Linda. I am proud to publish your review verbatim here. *** Linda Appleman Shapiro's Review of: LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide We live in an age where telling one's personal story is nearly epidemic. There are those who gain fame from revealing salacious facts about their lives, appearing on television talk shows and then writing memoirs because audiences embrace their narcissism, gain … [Read more...]

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Wonderful book club experiences

In the last week I’ve had two opportunities to discuss my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, and most specifically bipolar disorder and surviving suicide at two book club meetings.  One was in the San Diego area, about an hour and a half from my home; the other in Palos Verdes Estates about ten miles south of where I live. Both of the invites came from long-time friends. Even so, I felt very honored to be asked.  And since I feel the intimacy and the openness of a book club discussion is a wonderful way to promote a book and a cause, I don’t mind traveling long distances to attend.  On Friday night I met with ten women. Yesterday eighteen women huddled around me firing questions left and right.  That’s how I like it. Though I might say a few introductory words, I like the discussion to be in the form of questions and answers. That way I can discuss what my audience wants to hear.  And both groups wanted to discuss the subje … [Read more...]

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Does changing a book cover grow sales?

About a week or so ago, my publisher, Mike O’Mary of Dream of Things, suggested we change the cover of the ebook edition of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I suspect the main reason was that sales were falling off, and the book needed a little boost. However, in his explanation to me he said:   “I decided to recommend a cover using a photo of Paul. I picked the photo of him as a college freshman. It's a great photo of Paul, and I think a lot of potential readers will be hooked by the image of a handsome young man who looks happy and healthy. He looks like someone you'd want as your own son or brother or partner. They will identify with him before they even know what the book is about.  I think all of that will be enough to get more people to read the description of the book -- and once they read the description, I believe they will want to read the book because they will be stunned that such a thing could happen to a person who could have been their own son or brot … [Read more...]

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The psychology of memoir writing – Jerry Waxler (Part 2)

I'm so pleased to have Jerry Waxler back here with us. He has so much knowledge and interesting information about memoir, I'm sure we could go on and on. However, we'll touch on just a few topics here and hopefully you'll buy and read his book Memoir Revolution to learn more. Back to Jerry. In Memoir Revolution you talk about the psychology of memoir writing. I’m interested in that aspect as well and would like to ask you a few questions about it.   Madeline: Please discuss Dr. Pennebaker and his contribution to memoir.   Jerry: Dr. James Pennebaker is a researcher who studies the positive influence of writing. In a landmark study he demonstrated that students who wrote in their journals about some serious emotional dilemma ended up visiting the infirmary fewer times than students who merely wrote unemotional events, like what movie they saw. The results show in a controlled scientific way that writing heals not only the mind but also the body. Such research hel … [Read more...]

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Live radio and a rave review

I was thrilled to be interviewed by Cyrus Webb yesterday on his live blog talk show, Conversations LIVE! Radio. We discussed mental illness, suicide, and finding meaning in life after unthinkable tragedy. What I took away from that conversation is the importance of having these conversations – openly and truthfully – without pretense. That these are hard subjects is a given. But we must bring them into the light so that others will benefit. If we say the mental illness and suicide words often enough we will have a chance of erasing stigma. Only then will people begin to acknowledge their illnesses and seek help. Only in that way can we save lives.   I was also most impressed that Cyrus acknowledged his failed suicide attempt almost at the start of our interview. This shows the extent of the honesty in our discussion. Here’s the interview. Please listen. As my publisher at Dream of Things, Mike O’Mary said: “Could be the most important 20 minutes you spend today.” And … [Read more...]

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Revisiting some probing questions

Laura Dennis graciously hosted me on her blog, The Adaptable (Adopted Mommy Expat on Fridays, June 14, 21, and 28. She asked me a series of questions about my book, Leaving the Hall Light On, my son Paul's bipolar disorder and suicide, and my grieving and surviving process. I think her probing questions are worth repeating and showcasing here. On Friday June 14, she asked: Are There Early Indicators for Bipolar Disorder? Laura writes, "The death of a child is unfathomable. The suicide of one’s young adult child after his suffering through years of a mental illness? Awful beyond words. … Painful to the point of, How do I get beyond this and not kill my own self? … Devastating, like, I’ll just live on anti-anxiety pills for the rest of my life. Which came first, the bipolar or the stress? Laura– Paul–your eldest son and the one you lost to suicide, was a creative, gifted musician. In trying to make sense of his death, you discuss events that could have indicated he wa … [Read more...]

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Facebook like-my-page event TODAY only

Even though I still question the usefulness of Facebook fan pages, I like the likes, so to speak. But I always wonder if my likes even care about buying my book. Nevertheless, I'm participating in an event sponsored by the Online Book Publicity Group. It's called the Biggest Ever Fb Page Like-fest, hosted by Hajni Blasko. Here's her instructions: INSTRUCTION! PLEEEEEEASE READ. - Have an active Facebook page related to the Publishing Industry - Willingness to return the favor and like the pages of others. HOW TO POST YOUR LINK - Copy and paste ONLY your facebook page URL as a Comment to the top post of mine. - This event is not to promote your book to other authors, since that doesn't really work. It is strictly to gain more Likes. Therefore, do not include any text with your link. - Once copied wait for and leave on the preview ON, allowing others to easily like your page. HOW TO LIKE OTHERS - Please return at a later time and before the 28th 10:00. - Click on View … [Read more...]

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Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews? by Kristen Lamb

Reviews have been on my mind again lately - especially bad ones, especially those written by people who don't appear to have read the book. I took special notice of Pamela Paul's words in an interview in this month's Poets and Writers, which I think all reviewers should take to heart, Paul is the new editor of the New York Times Book Review section. “Nearly every writer writes a book with a great amount of attention and intention and hopes and dreams. And it's important to take that effort seriously and to recognize that a book may have taken ten years of a writer's life, that the writer has put heart and soul into it. And it behooves us, as book-review-editors, to treat those books with the care and attention they deserve, and to give the writer that respect." Then I found this wonderful post on Kristen Lamb's Blog on the same subject. I personally will not write a bad review because I know from my own experience that they hurt. Please let me know what your think. Here is K … [Read more...]

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Southern Writers Magazine Suite T Blog

I was honored to be asked to write a post for the Southern Writers Magazine Suite T blog this week. For those of you who haven't seen it, I've reblogged it here. Please go over and read some other blog posts - actually explore the whole site. It's a wonderful place to promote your book. You even have an opportunity to post an audio excerpt from your book and showcase your book trailer. My audio excerpt is at Take Five and my book trailer is at Must Read TV. Also find out about guest posting here.   Writing to Heal and Save Lives   By Madeline Sharples   I aspired to be a writer since grade school, and by the time, I was in high school I was determined to be a journalist. Working on the high school newspaper made me even more determined. As it turned out, I attended the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism and took all the courses necessary for the degree. However, I transferred to the University of California at Los Angeles for my senior year because of … [Read more...]

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Forty-three years

My husband Bob and I are married forty-three years today. I'd say it is a miracle considering all the nay sayers at the time we said, "I do." My parents were openly hostile to our getting married since my husband was not our same religion. Don't I look a little up tight at the scene - a judges chamber? Since we had both been married before, we had a tiny wedding - about ten witnesses at the ceremony and for dinner at a local restaurant afterward. But that didn't matter to us. We were confident about what we were doing. And that has never changed even though we experienced the greatest loss any mother and father can have - the death of a child. Yet now we still can laugh out loud at all those folks who predicted our marriage would never last. I wrote the following poem after forty years. It's included in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.   Forty Years (now forty-three)   He folds her in his arms and looks down at her with his deep blue eyes and a small, … [Read more...]

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Memoir – a way of keeping a loved one alive

Before I had any inkling that I would write my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living withHer Son’s Bipolar and Surviving His Suicide, I wrote to keep the memory of my oldest son Paul alive. It was almost an obsession. I continually wrote down everything I could remember. I didn’t want to forget one thing about him. Possibly his last photo   It turns out my notes and journal entries were a huge help when I began to put my memoir together. My journals – even short entries – informed and rounded out my writing immensely. What else is memoir but memories? Here is a list of memories I wrote down in the early days after Paul’s death. I’m especially glad to have them this month – my birthday month – one of the times I miss him the most. 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 … [Read more...]

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Support your favorite indie authors

I sometimes feel like a nag, asking my readers to post a review if they like my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. And I get disappointed when so many say, "yes they will," but fail to do so. After reading Betsy Graziani Fasbinder's suggestions on how to support your favorite indie authors, I think I will try her approach in the future. While I have a very generous and engaged publisher, Dream of Things, and I am continually promoting my work, I now feel empowered to ask my readers to help. Here are Betsy's suggestions. How to Support your Favorite Indie Authors A few hints from Betsy Graziani Fasbinder Betsy Graziani Fasbinder ▪ Friend and befriend: Check out and “like” fan pages on Facebook, author profiles on Goodreads, and Amazon and other online booksellers, as well as LinkedIn. The small task of “friending,” “liking,” “endorsing,” or “following” seems trivial, but it helps indie authors and their books become visible. ▪ It takes a village to promote a bo … [Read more...]

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Happy rebirthing [via Eleanor Vincent]

[This is a reblog of Eleanor Vincent's post today - by permission] I’m throwing a party for the rebirth of Swimming with Maya. Thanks to the power of networking, it has a new life as a paperback and eBook. But in 2010, the future of my book did not look bright. Capital Books, the independent publisher that issued the hardback in 2004, was closing its doors. My beautiful book about raising daughters and rebounding after loss would be pulped. I tried everything I could think of to sell the remaining hardback copies – and had some success. But even if I sold them all, the book would still slowly fade and die. I considered the Author’s Guild program “Back in Print” that creates print-on-demand books for authors in situations like mine. But I’d have to live with a generic book cover and format, and no marketing support for the book. Sadly, this story is not uncommon. Small publishers close their doors with alarming frequency. And big publishers – those consolidated megaliths – … [Read more...]

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I have to brag

Emma, one of the three founders of the blog Book Geeks Unite, posted this review of Leaving the Hall Light On. It's so awesome, I have to share it. "Madeline Sharples’ Leaving the Hall Light On chronicles one woman’s challenges, grief and ultimately her healing as she and her family battle one son’s seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder and his untimely death by suicide. As I was searching for words to describe this book (words usually come easy to me), I could not find them. What to say about this book? Where are my words? Can you say you enjoyed a book about a mother’s grief over her son’s death? Not just his death, his suicide? I cannot say I enjoyed reading about her pain. What I can say is that this book completely engulfed my emotions. There were several times while reading, I realized I was not breathing. I had to remind myself to breathe. I realized that is a sign that I am “in” the book. The author had somehow allowed me in. I realized she had written me in … [Read more...]

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Could writing help the Boston survivors?

  The bombings in Boston have left me in tears. Every time I hear the news, see the photos of those who died or were wounded, I want to curl up and block it all out. It is much the way I felt after my son took his life in 1999. These kinds of tragedies bring all those sad feelings back.   Perhaps this will help. In my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, I told how I survived through writing. It is my belief that those who have experienced such a tragedy – and I suspect that is everyone – need to find a creative outlet. Hopefully the survivors of the Boston tragedy will also find their way.   Here’s 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 began to write down my feelings daily. I needed to. Writing in my journal became an obsession, a balm, and the only way I could express my feelings. It gave me a way to organize my fears, p … [Read more...]

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A successful library event

Since my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On has been checked out of my local Manhattan Beach Public Library many times, the library director asked me to come there to speak. The date we decided on was last Wednesday evening, March 20. I was asked to supply the library with a jpg of my book cover and a brief description of my topic: Writing was healing because it helped me put my pain on the page. Instead of carrying it with me every moment of the day and night, I found a place where I could have a little relief. There was so much I couldn’t say out loud to anyone. And since there was so much sadness, anger, and grief in me, I needed a place to put it. Writing was like repeating a mantra as I kept my fingers moving. And I wouldn’t let anything get in my way. I recommend writing or another creative outlet to those who are looking for ways to heal. After that I was on my own. My instructions were: you have an hour and a half from 7:00 to 8:30 pm to speak. That was it. I was lef … [Read more...]

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New book reviews

An author loves to get notes from readers. I've gotten quite a few since my book was released in May 2011, for which I am very grateful. I was so taken by the one I recently received that I have to share it with you here: “I just finished Leaving the Hall Light On this morning. I wrote my review on here and Amazon. As a published author I know how fulfilling it is to receive feedback from readers. I write you this message today because I would request that you read my review. I am a writer, nurse, mother, and wife who suffers with Bipolar 1 disorder. I would like for you to know that I felt Paul's soul in the core of my bones. I know intimately the feeling of quietly walking down the hallway as to not disturb my loved ones, locking the bathroom door, and making the decision to end my life. As I sit here this afternoon writing this message I struggle to stay out of the bathroom today. I began reading the book through the eyes of someone who suffers from mental illness, but f … [Read more...]

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It takes a village to write a book

When Eleanor Vincent and I were at pages: a bookstore the other night discussing our memoirs and how writing helped us heal, we continually mentioned how it takes a village to write a book. I’m now in the process of writing a novel, and I continue to believe in the importance of many helping hands in the process. I’ve just completed a novel revision workshop and got useful comments from my instructor and classmates. I also belong to a writing group, and I’ve used the resources of The Next Big Writers website to get reviews of my book as I review the work of others. Here I discuss how I got my memoir written and published, not only once but twice. A member of my village helped me connect with my current Dream of Things publisher when my first publisher went out of business. Even though writing is a lonely business, a village of resources helped and nurtured me from the time I started writing my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I started with journaling, at first sporadically a … [Read more...]

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A successful bookstore reading and discussion

My friend, Eleanor Vincent came down this weekend to fulfill our commitment to do a reading and discussion at my local independent pages: a bookstore. She arrived on Saturday afternoon, and after much stalling we got to work planning the event Sunday morning after breakfast. We quickly decided to alternate two or three readings with short chats related to them, and then open the discussion to the audience. We chose on our reading portions – I chose two and Eleanor chose three – and then we practiced and timed the whole piece, including our remarks. I also created an agenda so we could each have one at the ready as we sat in front of the attendees later in the afternoon. I had already purchased a few bottles of wine and sparkling water and some veggies and dip to serve. Mike O’Mary shipped us books to sell. Eleanor’s went directly to Pages. Mine came to my home. With all that we declared ourselves ready – mainly because we are very knowledgeable about our books’ messages and the co … [Read more...]

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Writing Life Stories

We were out to dinner with our friends Patti and Pat the other night and Patti shared with me that she’s taking a writing class at her church. I’ve never known that Patti had an interest in writing, so I was fascinated to know that this is a class in lifestory writing – a topic that’s been very much on my mind lately. I also discussed it with a friend who works at the Jewish Home for the Aging in Los Angeles, suggesting they offer a class for the folks who live there. As people age, we mustn’t lose their stories. We must find a way to record and save their stories for future generations. I would love to teach the class should the Jewish Home decide to offer it. Writing life stories has become all the rage. We’re in the so-called Memoir Revolution with volumes written about how to write your life story or memoir and how to produce it into a book. One in particular is Sharon M. Lippincott’s The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing: How to Transform Memoires into Meaningful Stories. I’v … [Read more...]

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