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 age … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

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 ot … [Read more...]

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 s … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

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 i … [Read more...]

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 surr … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

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 thou … [Read more...]

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. Whi … [Read more...]

Body image problems? Read Destiny Allison’s memoir

I'm excited. I'm one of the chosen few to participate in a pre-launch blog tour to introduce my readers to Destiny Allison. Her memoir, The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage On Ourselves, is her fourth book and due for release in January 2016. This is my chance to publicize this memoir right at the beginning because I know Allison is gearing up for some big publicity, which will include virtual tours and exposure in some of the leading print magazines. You have a chance to get in right at the beginning! You can say, you read all about it on Choices first. Also, Allison has written a post especially for us, which she tied into an earlier post here about Margaret Atwood's brilliant novel, The Handmaid's Tale. Questioning the Behaviors We Deem Acceptable By Destiny Allison Thanks for having me on your blog today, Madeline. I enjoyed your post about The Handmaid’s Tale. It is one of my all time favorite books and first introduced me to the plight of women past … [Read more...]

How I’m finding my muse again

I’ve had a tough time getting back to my writing routine since completing my recent consulting job. While consulting I did manage to write a journal entry almost everyday, but that was the extent of my writing practice. Besides the grueling proposal work I lived out-of-town in a hotel and ate bland uninteresting food – for about four months. I had hardly anytime to do anything else besides work. There were no muses in that hotel room, believe me. The first thing I did when I got home was sleep. I napped several times a day for two weeks, until I finally felt like myself again. Although I worked out in the early mornings as usual, not long after breakfast I needed my first nap. Finally I started to look for something to kick-start my writing, to bring back my muse. I had put my list of poetry prompts into my Dropbox folder so I’d have it handy while I was away, but I never once opened that file. I didn’t even update it with the prompts that came by email every Wednesda … [Read more...]

Susan G. Weidener finds writing as a way of healing

I am so pleased to have Susan G. Weidener with me today on her second stop of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. The third book of her trilogy, A Portrait of Love and Honor, was just released, and I'm happy to say, I read it and loved it as I did her other two books, Morning at Wellington Square and Again in A Heartbeat.   Here Susan tells us how writing is healing for her. I can totally relate. Writing has been my healing balm ever since my son's death in 1999. But enough about me. Here's Susan. Writing As a Way of Healing By Susan G. Weidener In the Bible, Lot’s wife ignored the angels’ warning not to look back when she and her family were fleeing a devastated and rotting Sodom. We all know what came next.  As she glanced over her shoulder, she was instantly turned into a pillar of salt. For many, this story became a cautionary tale. See? This is what happens to a curious woman who looks back at her past. The story of Lot’s wife is a favorite … [Read more...]

More bragging

Even though I've bragged all over Facebook and Twitter I thought I'd do a little bragging here as well. The reason is that my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On is a finalist in the memoir, autobiography, biography category of the Independent Author Network's book-of-the-year award. And I've never been a finalist before. I'll know the outcome on August 15; however, being a finalist is all good as far as I'm concerned. The whole idea for submitting my book was to get it out there some more. So many people have told me how much they've benefitted from reading it that I'm always looking for ways to inspire more people to read it. Take a look yourselves. There's a sample on the right sidebar of this blog. Otherwise, my August has started with a bang. I'm back at my consulting job for one more month, and then I'll be free to go back to my full-time writing life. I can't wait. I also look forward to this job being finished so I can tell you what more I've learned about writing a … [Read more...]

Lily Iona MacKenzie and her views about poetry

Please welcome Lily Iona MacKenzie on her second stop of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. Her new novel Fling! was just released and can be purchased through her publisher Pen-L Publishing as well as the Amazon link given below. Lily also writes reviews, essays, memoir, short fiction, and poetry. Here she relates her thoughts about poetry and perception and exploring the world from various angles like we do in photography. I find her ideas very interesting since I like to write poems that reflect the scenes I photograph. Please take a look at her poems in the collection published in 2011, called All This.               POETRY AND PERCEPTION by Lily Iona MacKenzie Many of my poems reflect a continuing interest in perception and how we try to capture fleeting moments with language. The art that comes closest to what I'm trying to do in poetry is photography, the exploration of things in the world (and in ourselves) from various angles. The attempt to pene … [Read more...]

We Love Memoirs – Sunday Spotlight

I had a fabulous experience yesterday - Sunday June 21. I was in the hot seat for the We Love Memoirs’ Sunday Spotlight. We Love Memoirs is basically a Facebook social group consisting of memoir writers and aficionados that allows no self promotion. That is except for the Sunday Spotlight. For that one day I was told I could promote, post relevant photos, links, and information about my writing work, and talk about it until I couldn’t talk (actually tap on my computer keys) anymore. Also those coming on-line to chat with me were told they could ask me ANYTHING, and that I'd be there to answer their questions ALL DAY LONG. So I sat down at my computer at 9 am and except for two 15 minute breaks and an hour for lunch (I needed to pay some attention to my husband on Father’s Day), I was online fielding questions and comments until 5:15 pm. The interesting thing is the people on-line were from the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, other foreign countries, and the US †… [Read more...]

Denis Ledoux redux

I'm so happy to have Denis Ledoux return to Choices. His knowledge of all things memoir is priceless. His website The Memoir Network and his books are huge resources for you who are writing memoirs now or about to get ready to start one. I wish I knew Denis when I was writing mine. When Denis was last here, his subject was: Writing Painful Memories: Three Tips To Make It Easier. Today he discusses Writing Your Memoir: This Might Be A Challenge. Without further ado, here's Denis. Writing Your Memoir: This Might Be A Challenge by Denis Ledoux Your initial—and perhaps most fundamental—challenge as you settle into writing your memoir will probably not be scheduling, nor discipline, nor writing itself—although these challenges are not to be dismissed. It is likely to be something more fundamental: Your initial challenge is likely to be how you think about writing and about yourself as a writer! Without addressing this—and in a positive way, you are not likely to have … [Read more...]

What’s in a book title?

The title of my memoir is Leaving the Hall Light On (Dream of Things). A lot of people ask me what the title means. Here's an explanation. At first I believed—my magical thinking—that if I left the hall light on, if we didn’t move away from our house, if we didn’t change our telephone number, Paul, our son who took his life at age 27, would know how to make his way back. Paul would know we were still here waiting for him. For a long time I waited for that familiar sound of his Volvo coming into the garage, the sound of the door from the garage slamming as he entered the house and went down the hall to his room, the sound of him walking around the house at night, the sound of the door opening and closing as he went in and out of the house. In fact, for a while I thought I heard those sounds. And for a long time I left most of the things in his room alone for fear of removing his presence there. For a long time I refused to give away his things in case he would need t … [Read more...]

Six features of life-changing memoirs by M. Shannon Hernandez

I'm so happy M. Shannon Hernandez has agreed to return to Choices to discuss memoir while on her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. We met her here before with her thoughts about journaling, and since I think journal writing is a great way to jump-start a memoir, it is fitting to have Shannon tell us how to write a life-changing memoir. Shannon recently launched: Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher. She shares her vast experience in providing us with the six features of life-changing memoirs. How to Write a Life-Changing Memoir By M. Shannon Hernandez Life-changing! That is a tall order, isn’t it? If you are an author, you most likely want to change lives with your words. Not only am I a connoisseur of memoirs, I also have written a memoir, and I coach memoir writers to turn their memories into manuscripts. I have spent much time dissecting memoirs. Here I discuss:  Six Features of Life-Changing Memoirs  1: Narrow your focus waaaa … [Read more...]

Myrna J. Smith and her thoughts on memoir

My WOW! Women on Writing blog tour guest today is Myrna J. Smith, author of God and Other Men: Religion, Romance, and the Search for Self-Love - her first book. A huge welcome, Myrna. Since Myrna's book is a memoir, I asked her to write a post about other memoirs that resonate with her. Here is what she has to say. Memoirs that Spoke to Me By Myrna J. Smith Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes has all the qualities of a good novel: sex, violence, thievery, suffering, death, and, most importantly redemption. Amazingly it is a memoir, not a piece of fiction. We wonder, how so many terrible things could happen to one family? And how could young Frank come out of that suffering to live such a rich life in America? McCourt lives in Catholic Ireland and suffers from Catholic guilt. He really believes the consumptive Theresa would go to hell because of their sexual transgressions on the green sofa. He thinks he deserves punishment for a hundred other sins, including masturbation. … [Read more...]