Denis Ledoux’ new memoir brings sadness and pain (Part Two)

As promised, here is the second part of Denis Ledoux' guest post about memoir writing and his experience writing about his childhood. To refresh your memories about Part One, here is the link. I think all memoir writers will find the second part of his post just as fascinating and instructional. Writing more deeply If I write about them [his parents]in psychological terms, and include something about their woundedness—their earlier trajectory in life—and simply not having the information available to them—to some extent, perhaps due to lack of education and resourcefulness, perhaps due to certain romantic bent, then I am revealing something to the world that my parents may not have wanted me to reveal, to broadcast in a memoir. In writing this book which is clearly my memoir and not theirs but which includes much information about my parents, I feel that, to some extent, I am betraying them. Both my parents are gone now, and yet I have some loyalty to them. Isn’t it incumbent o … [Read more...]

Living among different cultures is great material for a memoir

Our Choices guest today, Neill McKee, writes about living in and learning about a very different culture, in his new memoir, Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah. His description of how he chose to find work in a world of more sunshine reminds me of my family's adventures living in the South Pacific in the mid 1970s. We lived on a tiny Marshall Island, called Kwajalein, for nineteen months, and it was definitely a life-changing experience - exactly the way Neill feels about his sojourns. Thank you, Neill, for stopping by Choices on your WOW!Women on Writing book tour. We are very interested in knowing about your successful and long career that all started in Borneo. About  Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah by Neill McKee I grew up in Ontario, Canada. As a kid, I dreamed of escaping my industrially polluted hometown for a cleaner, greener world full of sunshine—possibly in Asia or Africa. In college I studied psychology, philosophy and playwriting, but I di … [Read more...]

Denis Ledoux’s new memoir brings up sadness and pain (Part One)

While I'm writing a new memoir about aging and what I'm doing to get along during the last years of my life, memoir guru and teacher, Denis Ledoux, is writing a memoir about his early childhood. I very much appreciate his sharing his thoughts about this new project with our Choices readers, in spite of the sadness and pain the writing has brought up. Denis' classic book on memoir writing I've posted Part One of his guest post. I plan to post Part Two one week from today, February 11.   Why Does the Truth Have To Be Coupled with Pain? Part One by  Denis Ledoux My new memoir is about my early years, my childhood. Much about this time in my life has a context that is unique and consequently different from that of my contemporaries. This memoir has a place in the world of memoirs, and I want it to find that place, but it has also brought up some pain which I do not want. My parents were thoughtful and loving people so their behavior towards me is not an issue. I am not … [Read more...]

Welcome Jane Bertrand – hiker extraordinaire!

I thought I was pretty adventuresome when I hiked down and up the Grand Canyon at age seventy-six - a feat I had put first on my Bucket List nine years before. Well, Jane Bertrand's proclamation of wanting to reach the high point in every one of our fifty United States certainly beat me out. And I'm happy to say I was very glad to read  her memoir You Started What After 60?: Highpointing across America about her extraordinary accomplishment. Please welcome Jane during her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour.  Here Jane Bertrand traces her love of hiking back to Girl Scout Camp Natarswi, located at the foot of Katahdin in Maine, the Northern terminus for the Appalachian trail. ​ After attending college out-of-state, she would return annually for her two-week sacrosanct vacation in Maine.  Over the years she would continue to climb Katahdin, first with her sisters, later with her own children, and finally with adult friends who shared her love of the mountain. Yet not u … [Read more...]

Thoughts about my new memoir

As my husband is about to turn eighty-two and I am closing in at age turning seventy-nine this year, I felt that I’m at that stage in my life when I have almost all of it to look back on. That thought led me to the idea of writing 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, the options are endless: how we’re still working at surviving the loss of our son in 1999, what we eat, how we sleep, my health and exercise program, about our travels, and what do two people at our age do all day. I've gotten a good head start on this project and have … [Read more...]

Writing memoir helped me deal with grief

As I am inching toward December 31, which would be my son Paul’s forty-seventh birthday, I think it makes sense to revisit some of the tools I used in dealing with the grief I felt after his death and still feel now. Memoir writing and writing in general were/are a huge help. Maybe that’s why I’ve turned to memoir again. I’m almost twenty thousand words along on a new one; however it’s not about Paul, as my memoir, published in 2011, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, is. Here’s a piece I wrote early on about how writing memoir, journal entries, and poetry all worked for me. In fact, everything I wrote in the piece below still applies today. How Memoir Writing Helped Me Deal with Grief I signed up for a writing class three months after my son Paul’s death. We sat in the instructor’s living room on couches and big easy chairs in a comfortable and forgiving atmosphere. Each week the instructor told us t … [Read more...]

Writing up a storm

I got a note back from a writing friend after I congratulated her on her new book of poetry. She said she hopes I’m writing up a storm. We met years ago at a poetry writing workshop at Esalen in Big Sur California. Plus, I took two of her classes through UCLA’s writers program: How to Write Your First Novel and her Novel Three class. Well, I think I am writing a lot. Today for instance I’ve already written to two poem-a-day (PAD) prompts – one to make up for yesterday and one for today. Plus I have this list of writing yet to accomplish: this blog post, another thousand words or so of my new memoir, and my everyday journal entry that usually goes about five hundred words. That’s a big assignment, but isn’t that what we writers are supposed to do? Another thing that’s on my writing plate is querying small presses, hopefully to get them interested in publishing my novel. So far I’ve queried three. It’s very slow going and, as I’ve said before, a scary one. My son is an actor and … [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...]

How I created my book and got it published

I belong to a writing organization called  Independent Writers of Southern California. We meet locally in a  small satellite group once a month, and this last month our leader asked me to speak about how I got my memoir published. Here are my notes from that talk. 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 and later, after reading and doing the exercises in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Putnam’s Sons, 1992), I kept my fingers moving across the pages of my journal every day. I still do. After amassing about three years’ worth of journal entries I began to think about turning them into a book – a book very much different from the one that was eventually published. But, I was not a creative writer. My writing experience consisted of writing, editing, and training engineers to produce reports and proposals in the aeros … [Read more...]

A journey out of the darkness and into the light

I was very interested in having Sebastian Slovin appear here today. He has a story to tell about what he learned from his father's suicide, just as I had a story to tell about what I learned from my son's suicide. We are definitely kindred spirits even though our experiences were quite different. However, one thing is certain. Suicide is a death different from all others, and it leaves the survivors broken, guilty, and always searching for answers to "why?" Mr. Slovin appears here courtesy of the WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour of his memoir Ashes in the Ocean, published in March 2018 by Nature Unplugged. About Ashes in the Ocean Vernon Slovin was a legend. He was one of the best swimmers in his home country of South Africa, and for a time in the world. He prided himself on being the best. The best in sports, business, and life. He had it all, a big home, athletic prestige, fancy clothes and cars, and a beautiful wife and family. Everything was going his way … [Read more...]

Writing in the Dominican Republic

I met Lindsay de Feliz, author of What About Your Saucepans? and Life After My Saucepans, through a wonderful Facebook group called We Love Memoirs, and it was instant admiration. Her story is gutsy, heroic, and so, so different from my own that I had to share it with you. When I asked her to be a Choices guest she immediately said yes, and within a few days she sent me a story about her writing life in the Dominican Republic. My Writing Life in the Dominican Republic – Every Cloud has a Silver Lining by Lindsay de Feliz I was not a writer when I arrived in the Dominican Republic in 2001; I was a scuba diving instructor. I used to write a long email once a month to around 100 friends and family and often they would say you should write a book, but I didn’t think about it until I was shot in 2006 and was no longer able to work in diving. I was shot at 10.30 at night, and I remembered the first 15 minutes but then had no recollection of anything for around 6 hours, although I am told I … [Read more...]

My memoir still has legs

Three Things: My memoir got its 223rd review on Amazon today. On Saturday 10 am I'll be on a memoir-writing panel called Thanks for the Memories at the Genre-LA writers conference at the Los Angeles Valley College. Sunday I'll be online all day at We Love Memoirs Sunday Spotlight. I actually thought I'd be done with book marketing a year after the memoir was published. Was I wrong! It seems that this book keeps re-emerging and providing inspiration for would-be memoir writers or the right words of encouragement for those also affected by mental illness and suicide. I feel so grateful for that. Here is its latest five-star review from Lindsay De Felix: on Amazon for Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. This is a very hard book for me to write a review on. It is about a subject which I have no knowledge of – a bipolar son who commits suicide. I don’t know anyone well who suffers from bip … [Read more...]

How journaling helped B. Lynn Goodwin decide to marry at age 62

B. Lynn Goodwin used her journals as the foundation of her memoir, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62. Well, I have to say I did the same when I started my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I had pages and pages of journal entries that I meticulously copied from my handwritten notebooks to computer Word files, and my book was off and running. For me, writing in my journals helped me heal after losing my son too suicide. For B. Lynn Goodwin, journal writing helped her to decide whether to jump into a marriage with a two-time widower at age 62. We both agree that journaling is like having a secret friend that we can trust with anything in our minds and hearts. Here is B. Lynn Goodwin and her thoughts about the benefits of journaling for her. Need a Venting Partner? Try a Journal by B. Lynn Goodwin When I was dating Richard, I had crazy thoughts running through my head. What did I know about love or commitment or becoming a wife? I didn’t even tell my friends about him at fi … [Read more...]

A room of my own – revisited

This morning I talked to a man I recently met at my gym while we both worked out on the elliptical. That’s a new one for me. I usually plug in my ear buds, listen to music, read my New Yorker, and hardly say a word to anyone while I exercise. And he was very inquisitive – he asked about my back ground, my religion, my home town, my current home town, how long married, where I’ve traveled, and of course the dreaded question – number of children. That question always stops me in my tracks – even now, over 18 years since my son Paul left us. And I told him truthfully that Paul took his own life because he had bipolar disorder. As a result I resurrected a piece I wrote for the now defunct Red Room site in 2013 – about the room I’m in right now – my private writing space. Even my husband knows not to bother me in here when my door is closed. In rereading this piece today, I can honestly say, not a lot has changed. He’s still in my room with me. My Private Island - A Room of My Own … [Read more...]

Introducing Fiona Simon

I'm pleased to introduce you to Fiona Simon and her new book, Gambling on Granola, published on January 1, 2018 (Terra Nova Books). In Gambling on Granola: Unexpected Gifts on the Path of Entrepreneurship, Simon shares a tale that is uplifting and inspiring but also raw and honest. This is a business memoir but also a love story―the love for her daughter, of a journey in uncharted waters, of the products and company she created, and of the continued challenge to follow her dream. We see her growth and healing over fifteen years, as mistakes, weaknesses, and naiveté evolve into resilience, resolve, and inspiration. For Fiona, it started out as all new businesses do―with an idea. But her world quickly became more complex as she established her company, developed new product lines, forged personal relationships in a competitive environment, grew her business, and held onto her deepest values―all while raising her daughter, Natalie, as a single mom. Praise for Gambling with Gra … [Read more...]

Dr. Leona Stucky writes about violence against women

Dr. Leona Stucky has written an eye-opening account of the violence she experienced in her own home as a young Mennonite woman in her memoir, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God. She calls this treatment the Invisible American War. The numbers of those affected are staggering, and bringing their turmoil into the light still escapes us. Dr. Stucky says there is denial about the violence against women and men in America. To. This. Day. Choices readers: please tell us your ideas of how to bring these atrocities into the light. We need your help. Public Denial of Violence Against Women by Dr. Leona Stucky The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God is an historical personal account of a young Mennonite woman who finds herself on the front lines of the Invisible American War. I remember the breathless reaction I had when, years after my war experience, I read in Jeff Wolf Wilson’s book, Children of Battered Women, that during the same years that the US lost 39,000 sold … [Read more...]

A review of Farewell, Aleppo by Claudette Sutton

It is a pleasure to showcase Claudette Sutton's memoir, Farewell, Aleppo: My Father, My People, and Their Long Journey Home on Choices today.  I hope you'll all read her book. You will certainly learn a lot about the history and culture of the Jews who came from Aleppo, Syria. Book synopsis: The Jews of Aleppo, Syria, had been part of the city’s fabric for more than two thousand years, in good times and bad, through conquerors and kings. But in the middle years of the twentieth century, all that changed. To Selim Sutton, a merchant with centuries of roots in the Syrian soil, the dangers of rising anti-Semitism made clear that his family must find a new home. With several young children and no prospect of securing visas to the United States, he devised a savvy plan for getting his family out: “exporting” his sons. In December 1940, he told the two oldest, Meïr and Saleh, that arrangements had been made for their transit to Shanghai, where they would work in an uncle’s … [Read more...]

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 di … [Read more...]

Three things

First. This is the last day the Kindle edition of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, will be on sale for $.99. So please grab your copy before midnight. Here’s what a few reviewers had to say about it: ...Leaving the Hall Light On left me in tears. It is a heart wrenching book; I could not put it down.  Anyone who wants to learn how to live with children or adults with bipolar disorder, must read this book. ...I could imagine that this book might be helpful for those dealing with bipolar disease or suicide in the family, but for those of us fortunate enough not to have yet experienced those problems, it also provides a very real look into how good but human people deal with the cruelty of fate. ...Suicide does not just end one life, it can destroy others. Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide is the … [Read more...]

We celebrate in May

With Mother's Day and my birthday and our anniversary in the month of May, we had a lot of celebrating to do. We also celebrated the online release of our son's new movie, Gentlemen's Fury, now streaming on Vimeo On Demand. Believe me, in the old days when I first started going to movies I never would have dreamed we could see new releases from our television sets. So here are a few photos from this May and one from our wedding day, May 28, forty-seven years ago. And yes, they all said it would never last. May 28, 1970 May 28, 2017 May 23, 2017, release of Gentlemen's Fury on Vimeo On Demand One more thing. My memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On was released on Mother's Day, 2011. It now has 218 reviews on Amazon and is ranked 4.3 out of five stars. Plus last month it was on a list compiled by Erin Burba of BookRiot of the 100 Must-Read Biographies and Memoirs of Remarkable Women. So I celebrate the anniversary of that event too. … [Read more...]