A new review

My memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, currently has 217 reviews over at Amazon. The last one is a gem that I'd like to share with you. Though I personally know the reviewer, I don't think that swayed her choice of words and her feelings about the book. She's a professional writer and reads voraciously. So thank you so much, Barbie, for this very thought-provoking review of my memoir. A Broken Heart Madeline Sharples' book is so much more than a memoir, in many ways it is as if you are reading her diary. A book of thoughts addressing memories while trying to understand, to sort through years of heartbreaking and stressful events, hoping to find an answer and to heal. I would bet a very similar emotional battle is felt by all those who have lost loved ones to suicide. So many parts of this book I can relate to but with a twist. My dad's abuse of his medication affected his personality and mood changes, and escalated his dementia. The guilt I felt not being able to get … [Read more...]

342 total views, 4 views today

Letters from World War I France

Hubert William Kelley's letters home from France during World War I are extraordinary. And that his daughter became the editor of The Weeping Angel: Letters and Poems from World War I France is also extraordinary. Thank you Crystal Otto and Bring on Lemons for hosting a virtual tour of this book. About The Weeping Angel Now, on the Centennial of World War I, Hubert Kelley’s wish is realized with the publication of The Weeping Angel, his account of the war in northern France as he lived it.  Told through letters and poems, Kelley writes home to his Kansas City family with vivid descriptions of day-to-day life on the edge of the battlefield.  Enlisting right after graduation from Central High, he claims to play the bugle to be accepted and proves to be a talented raconteur and observer. Although he could not play the bugle and never learned, he became the regimental poet of Company D of the Twelfth Engineers and found his true vocation as a writer. Mary Kelley, his daughter, … [Read more...]

374 total views, no views today

A wonderful surprise

I got a huge and wonderful surprise yesterday from my author and poet friend Jessica Bell, of Vine Leaves Press. She tagged me in a Facebook post to tell me that my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On was on a list compiled by Erin Burba of BookRiot of the 100 Must-Read Biographies and Memoirs of Remarkable Women. As I looked at the list I couldn’t believe my memoir was among those written by the likes of Mary Karr, Joan Didion, Cheryl Strayed, Sonia Sotomayor, Madeleine Albright, Maya Angelou, Anais Nin, Malala Yousafzai, Patti Smith, Katharine Graham, and Nora Ephron, memoirists and authors I’ve admired for almost forever. But it is indeed true. Leaving the Hall Light On is number 80 on the list. Here are the first twenty and the last twenty of the books listed. Please click on the BookRiot link to see the rest and to read the description of each book. The first twenty: Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock. The Liars’ Club … [Read more...]

494 total views, 2 views today

Shirley Melis writes about dancing through grief

I feel so grateful that I got the chance to interview Shirley Melis as she participates in her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. As I'm no stranger to grief I was interested in how she deals with it and writes about it. Ultimately for both of us, we've learned to survive. Thank you, Shirley, for being here at Choices today. About Banged-Up Heart:  is an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early—and of the strength it takes to fall deeply in love a second time, be forced to relinquish that love too soon, and yet choose to love again. When her husband of thirty years dies suddenly, Shirley Melis is convinced she will never find another man like Joe. Then she meets John, a younger man who tells her during their first conversation that he has lived for many years with a rare but manageable cancer. She is swept off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and within months, made brave by the early death of a friend’s husband, she asks him to marry her! What foll … [Read more...]

2,171 total views, no views today

Author Rebecca Fitton finds writing is healing

I'm pleased to introduce Rebecca Fitton and her new book of poetry, Wave Rider, as she embarks on her WOW! Women on Writing book tour.   Wave Rider is a poetic reflection of author Rebecca Fitton’s long journey to heal from sexual abuse, abandonment, and neglect, building a new world based on wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Her journey has taken a lifetime. To use the metaphor of waves, sometimes the undertow nearly drowned her—but she survived. Now her beautiful and profound book offers inspiration to others who have also suffered greatly from abuse. Here's my Review Rebecca Fitton’s Wave Rider, a book of poetry, shares her beginnings as an abused child and her rebirth later in her adulthood. She divides her book of poems into three sections: Darkness: her poems of her life with a mother who doesn’t want her and an uncle who abuses her. She lived in this frozen, silent darkness until she was forty years old. In a poem early in the book, she writes, “I learn … [Read more...]

1,933 total views, 2 views today

Thoughts of gratitude in the new year

The holiday season has come and gone once again. As always, I view it as bittersweet. The holidays bring up too many reminders of my son Paul who died just three months shy of his 28th New Year’s Eve birthday. We visited his gravesite on his 45th birthday – as we do on his death day and birthday every year. I also view the holiday season with gratitude. Besides my continued good health, the love and support of so many family members and friends, and my ability to live a productive life, that I can even think in terms of being grateful is a miracle. However, as bad as life was after Paul died, and as much as I continue to miss him, I have found out that with such a tragedy come unexpected gifts. Paul’s death has made me a stronger person, physically and emotionally. It was as if I accomplished getting stronger through brute force. I met and interacted with people who had been through similar experiences; I took writing classes and workshops; I went back to work outside my home with … [Read more...]

2,118 total views, no views today

Review number 214!

Thank you so much Christine L. Miller, Ph.D  for this wonderful review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Dr. Miller has an enormous sense of what my family and I went through during our son/brother, Paul's battle with bipolar and after his suicide death seventeen years ago. Though it has been that long, Paul is still missed - forever. Thank you, Dr. Miller, for your sensitivity and understanding. Madeline Sharples’ book about her son Paul’s suicide and its aftermath is a searingly honest portrayal of the most intimate details of family life, encompassing everything from mundane daily events to the emotional vortex they were all thrown into.  There is no sugar-coating how difficult the onset of his psychotic bipolar disorder made their lives, no shying away from the occasional resentment she felt about his mental illness dominating their daily existence, or how his unapologetic re-entr … [Read more...]

2,151 total views, no views today

Let’s celebrate with Linda Appleman Shapiro

Linda Appleman Shapiro's memoir, She's Not Herself is celebrating its second anniversary. And it has a lot to celebrate. Just take a look at these wonderful reviews: “An honest and compelling story by a brave and gifted writer.” ~ Wally Lamb – NY Times best-selling author of She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True, and many other novels. Winner of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s Kenneth Johnson Award for the anti-stigmatization of mental illness. “A story that applies to us all – truthful, carefully crafted, and created with a clear-eyed affection.” ~ Watts, M.D., poet, writer, musician, NPR commentator “We identify with the author’s sense of alienation from the first chapter and agonize with her longing for a normal life. She's Not Herself is a revelatory account of someone who grew up with a mentally ill parent and grew up to become an effective, loving mother and a successful professional healer.” ~US Review of Books, Barbara Bamburger Scott “I lov … [Read more...]

2,329 total views, no views today

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...]

2,791 total views, 2 views today

Happy sixth anniversary

Our son and daughter-in-law were married in our garden six years ago today. That is significant not only as a celebration of their love for each other, but that they wanted to get married at the sight where my son's brother, our son Paul, took is life in 1999. For a long time Ben didn't want to be here, but that all changed on his wedding day. The wedding was beautiful and the event was not tarnished by unhappy memories. My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On was published less than a year later. It is, as the subtitle says, A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Although the story is sad, the memoir is also about survival. That said, I decided to end the book with an Epilogue about the Wedding in the Garden, on a very upbeat note. Here is the poem that ended the Epilogue. I hope you'll read the memoir and entire epilogue as well. And if you have read Leaving the Hall Light On, please leave a review here. Five star reviews help t … [Read more...]

2,888 total views, 2 views today

Memoir or fiction? That is the question!

David W. Berner, my WOW! Women on Writing guest today, and I have something in common. After writing memoir we both turned to fiction—stretching ourselves, as David says, as writers. We both took a true story, settings, and characters and made up things—let our imagination have its way with us—to enhance the story's effect. My fiction book—though not ready to be published yet—takes off in a whole new direction from the true facts. My family members would definitely know the people and places I write about, and might even have a problem with the way my fictionalized version of our family history turns out.  Well, I'll deal with that when the time comes. I applaud David for using his wonderful memoir, reporting, and teaching skills to become a successful fiction writer. His first fiction work: Night Radio: A Love Story, has already received rave reviews. Thank you, David, for being here at Choices today and telling us about your journey into fiction writing—a story I very much relat … [Read more...]

3,147 total views, no views today

A little novel excitement – short-lived

I was on two panels last weekend at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference – one on memoirs and the other on building a platform. After getting much kudos I was feeling pretty good, so good that I jumped at the chance to present a short pitch to a literary agent about my novel. I had a synopsis with me and I knew my story cold, so why not? When it was my turn I told the agent about my book. He smiled and told me to tell my story without a lot of details. When I finished, he nodded his head and said, “I like it.” He then asked me to send him a synopsis by email. He didn’t want the hard copy I had with me. I was stoked. When I got home I decided to rewrite my synopsis. And thanks to Jane Friedman I found a wonderful resource: How to Write a 1-page Synopsis by Sooz. The outline was easy to follow. And in most cases I was able to use some of the synopsis I had already written. I also wrote a cover/query letter that included a recap of my meeting with the agent to refresh … [Read more...]

4,057 total views, no views today

Please welcome Dorit Sasson

Dorit Sasson has just  published her memoir about being a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces: Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces (She Writes Press). And, as if being in an army wasn't brave enough, Dorit has taken the next brave step - she fought off her inner critic nay sayers during the whole memoir writing process. Please welcome Dorit today and read how she chased her inner critic demons away. Working with the Inner Critic When Writing a Memoir by Dorit Sasson Somewhere along the writer's journey, the writer confronts the inner critic. It often likes to say: "Why the heck are you writing this? You know you aren’t going to write like your favorite authors, so just quit now!” Most people don’t understand a writer’s daily battles. They don’t care. They just want the book. They see the author’s life from the sidelines. The author cranks out a book, becomes published, gets on the New York Times or Amazon bestselling list, gets … [Read more...]

4,133 total views, no views today

Congratulations, Keith Alan Hamilton!

My poet and walking friend, Keith Alan Hamilton, has just released his new book of poems: Peace Out Poems about My Abnormalities Normality. The poems are about stigma, mental illness - including depression and bipolar disorder, and suicide. "I hope for those who read it, it will be of benefit to them.  There is a huge stigma overshadowing those who suffer from mental conditions like depression or being bipolar.  Even more so for those who have committed suicide.  That reality will not change until my type of story is told and understood.  To me, the stigma overshadowing a day-to-day survivor is even worse.  When you are a depressive with thoughts of suicide cycling in your head day in and day out..... it is far harder to survive and keep going than it is to submit.   It is easier to be considered mentally ill and medicated, or to have taken ones life than being someone who successfully copes day-to-day and is a productive contributor to life.  If we are going to show others that … [Read more...]

4,285 total views, 2 views today

A wonderful 5-star review

Thank you so much for this great review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. That makes 206 reviews total, with 66 percent of them with five stars. This review made my day. "as she explores on the page what it is like to attempt to create normalcy within a family life ... Exploring the real life story of the unspeakable tragedy of losing a son to suicide, author Madeline Sharples has written an affecting and heart wrenching memoir entitled LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON. A deeply personal and first hand account of struggling with her son’s battle with bipolar disorder and the effect on the family, the memoir delves deeply within the author’s consciousness, as she explores on the page what it is like to attempt to create normalcy within a family life where little exists. She tells her story with courage and abiding honesty never shirking from the hard truths of a life filled with so ma … [Read more...]

4,455 total views, no views today

How photos, poems, and quotes can add to your writing

Our poetry reading yesterday afternoon at Pages: a bookstore was a huge success. I read many of the poems 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, plus a few newer poems. Using that material and receiving so many kudos from those in attendance yesterday makes me so happy that I never faltered about adding poems (and photos and quotes) to the book. Almost as soon as my memoir was published one of the first reviewers said, “….The poetry and photographs add an extra dimension that is missing from most memoirs like this since as a reader you get much closer to the reality of what is being described on the page….” (Mark Shelmerdine, CEO, Jeffers Press). Another reviewer said my book is “poetically visceral.” Those statements helped validate any misgivings I had in adding other creative works into my manuscript. I really hadn’t thought of putting photos in my book until my publisher sugge … [Read more...]

5,141 total views, 2 views today

Thank you, Denis Ledoux

Denis Ledoux, creator of The Memoir Network and a memoir-writing mentor, just posted a wonderful five-star review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. His words make me feel so proud that I couldn't resist sharing them here. Denis' review: I would have been proud to have written this book. How to add something new to a memoir that has received such a huge and positive response of reviewers? This is a good book that griped me from the beginning. The subject is tragic. Being a widower myself who has gone through his own overwhelming grief, I can attest that Madeline Sharples' observation and her writing of that observation are so accurate. So much here resonated with me. It was hard to read at times as this memoir evoked sorrow for Madeline Sharples (and for me) but it was also supportive to read about the author's journey. Madeline Sharples is clearly a polished writer and it was often a pleasure to read a turn of phrase she had crafted and then to reread it. The book … [Read more...]

5,177 total views, 2 views today

Introducing Patti Hawn, author of Good Girls Don’t

A few weeks ago two friends told me about Patti Hawn and suggested I meet her. After all, she lives in my hometown, she’s written a memoir, and she’s about my age. Without missing a beat, I sent her a private message on Facebook and suggested we get together. And she accepted and named one of my favorite restaurants where we could grab lunch  - I liked her already. We met for lunch a few days later (a blind date, so to speak), and we talked for an hour and a half without stopping. We also exchanged memoirs. Thus a beautiful new friendship was born. I read Patti’s memoir, Good Girls Don’t, almost immediately and was taken by how detailed and intimate it is (I’ve shared my review at the end of this post). So I asked her if she’d write a guest post for Choices about how she wrote her deeply personal memoir with such clarity.   Here’s Patti: The Gift of Memories By Patti Hawn I wrote my book Good Girls Don’t shortly after reuniting with the son I surrendered to adoption … [Read more...]

7,692 total views, 2 views today

Three memoir-writing tips from Pamela Jane

My Choices guest today, Pamela Jane, shares how she wrote her memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story. It took her twenty-two years. However, it was well worth the time and effort. Here is Pamela Jane and her three tips for those of us struggling with our own memoir writing. Please give her a warm welcome. She will gladly respond to the comments you post below.   Shaping Your Narrative What to Leave in and What to Take Out of Your Memoir  by Pamela Jane "The writer of any work, and particularly any nonfiction work, must decide two crucial points: what to put in and what to leave out..."  Annie Dillard, author of An American Childhood You want to write a shapely story with a taut narrative thread, a story that will draw readers into the world you are creating. But how do you know what to leave in and what to take out, especially in a memoir? In early drafts everything you write seems evocative and beguiling. There are so many different roads to take, … [Read more...]

8,203 total views, 2 views today

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...]

6,192 total views, no views today