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...]

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Journaling – the perfect sleeping potion

As a person who journals everyday I can see the benefits of doing morning pages every morning and journaling just before going to sleep. I've journaled both ways. Right now I journal in the morning. I decided to switch over from night journaling because once in a while I'd nod off while writing. You can only imagine what funny gibberish I found on my page the next morning as a result. Mari L. McCarthy, our WOW! Women on Writing blog tour guest today and author of Journaling Power, is an advocate of writing at night as a way to get a good night's sleep. By the way, she writes in the morning as well. Please welcome Mari to Choices. Sleep Tight Every Night By Mari L. McCarthy Do you have trouble getting off to sleep at night because your mind has gone into overdrive? Or do you drop off only to wake in the early hours with your head full of worries? I used to suffer with insomnia until I discovered a creative cure with absolutely no side-effects: writing therapy in the eve … [Read more...]

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Turning grief into art

This past Saturday afternoon I read poetry about the death of my son and its aftermath at Beyond Baroque, a literary arts center in Venice California. Two women, Chanel Brenner, and Alexis Rhone Fancher, who also experienced the death of their sons joined me. We were pleased to read before a packed standing-room-only crowd. We each started our poetry reading with our views about writing as healing. Here's mine. How Writing Helped Me Heal by Madeline Sharples My son Paul died by suicide on September 23, 1999. He was twenty-seven years old. Poems just started coming out during a writing workshop shortly after his death. Poetry seemed to be the only way I could really express my emotions. Writing allows 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 anger and grief in me, I needed a place to put i … [Read more...]

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You’re invited

On December 12 at 4 pm I'll be reading poems with two of my fellow poets, Chanel Brenner and Alexis Rhone Fancher. Our topic is Writing Healing Poetry  Turning Grief into Art.  Each of us write about the deaths of our sons. We'll be at Beyond Baroque, a literary arts center in Venice CA that offers public poetry readings, free workshops, and a bookstore. It's website states: "Beyond Baroque is one of the United States' leading independent Literary | Arts Centers and public spaces dedicated to expanding the public's knowledge of poetry, literature and art through cultural events and community interaction. Founded in 1968, Beyond Baroque is based out of the original City Hall building in Venice, California. The Center offers a diverse variety of literary and arts programming including readings, workshops, new music and education." This will not be my first time reading there. When I attended writing workshops with Jack Grapes, the last class in a series was always held at Beyond Bar … [Read more...]

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Writing a memoir – a mixed bag

There are so many lessons for all of us in Joan Rough's story about her relationship with her mother. My mother was always difficult and got much more so after my father died and as she aged. I never thought of her critical treatment of me as abuse, but surely it was, and I, like Joan, need to find forgiveness and move on. Thank you Joan for being my guest here on Choices today and for relating your thoughts on writing your memoir - indeed, writing a memoir is a mixed bag because it stirs so much up. I can't wait for ME, MYSELF, AND MOM: A Journey through Love, Hate, and Healing to come out so I can read it. Down and Up, Writing Memoir By Joan Z. Rough Writing memoir can a mixed bag. It can fill us with laughter or bring tears of sadness.  It can remind us of joyful times, or the anger and terror we have forgotten about … sometimes on purpose.  For me, it was a revisitation of those moments when I felt helpless, hopeless and alone. When I began writing ME, MYSELF, AND MOM: A Journ … [Read more...]

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Drum rolls for my guest Marie Abanga

I'm so pleased to introduce my guest Marie Abanga, author of My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption, a book written in a voice so raw and open it almost takes my breath away. Here she  tells how she created her book almost in complete secrecy because of what she calls her "embarrassing and shameful revelations." Please welcome Marie. I am so glad she persevered and successfully completed her memoir project. My Memoir Writing Journey by Marie Abanga Hi there, my name is Marie Abanga, author of the memoir My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption. I was so happy when one of my favorite authors, Madeline Sharples, offered to host me on her blog. She asked me to do a post on my memoir writing journey for other beginners like myself. I sort of knew what memoirs were and had read several. But I had not come across one with such embarrassing and shameful revelations like I included in mine. There may be worse ones out there, but the authors … [Read more...]

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My Gutsy Story Anthology

I’ve been so proud to be a part of the group of sixty-four writers who participated in the 2013 edition of  the My Gutsy Story Anthology: True Stories of Love, Courage and Adventure from Around the World, conceived and edited by Sonia Marsh. The anthology has won three awards so far: 2014 ELIT Gold Award for Anthologies 2014 International Book Awards Finalist 2013 Benjamin Franklin Award Silver Honoree Winner at the Paris Book Festival Sonia is now taking submissions for the all-new 2015 anthology. I encourage you to submit your story now. Click here to find out how. Here’s the piece I wrote for the 2013 edition. And if you like my piece, I promise you, you won’t be disappointed in the sixty-three other stories in this wonderfully inspiring book. You can buy it here. My Gutsy Story When my older son Paul died by suicide in 1999 after a seven-year battle with bipolar disorder, I knew I had to find ways to keep myself busy and productive or else I would wallow away in my grief. At t … [Read more...]

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Telling Healing Stories Resources

Eleanor Vincent and I had a great time last week presenting our Telling Healing Stories workshop at the Story Circle Network Writers Conference in Austin Texas. I'll be sharing about the experience in the weeks to come here and at The Memoir Network. In the meantime I thought you'd be interested in the list of resources we offered our workshop participants. Hopefully they will be useful to you. TELLING HEALING STORIES RESOURCES BOOKS Writing Resources Sheila Bender, Writing Personal Essays Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones Vivian Gornick, The Situation and the Story Stephen King, On Writing Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird Denis Ledoux, Turning Memories into Memoirs Sharon M. Lippincott, The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, The Heart and Craft of Writing Compelling Description Deena Metzger, Writing for Your Life Maureen Murdock, Unreliable Truth Nan Merrick Phifer, Memoirs of the Soul Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman, The Emotion T … [Read more...]

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Introducing Denis Ledoux of The Memoir Network

I'm so pleased that Denis Ledoux, founder and president of The Memoir Network, found me. I am now a subscriber to his newsletter and a huge proponent on his thoughts about writing as a way to heal. I am definitely going to mention his guest blog post tomorrow when Eleanor Vincent and I lead a workshop called Telling Healing Stories at the Story Circle Network's writers conference. His network is also on the list of resources we'll give our participants. If you don't know Denis and The Memoir Network, I feel honored to introduce him to you now. Writing Painful Memories: Three Tips To Make It Easier by Denis Ledoux Memoir writing is a generally pleasant experience and, by its very nature, promotes healing and growth. But, there are times in writing when pain arises spontaneously and surprises us or times when we know the experience will be painful even before we start. What to do? Sooner or later, pain seems to come with memoir writing. Sometimes we can handle this pain easily … [Read more...]

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Using memoir writing to deal with grief

On Sunday I’ll co-lead a workshop called Telling Healing Stories at the Story Circle Network’s writers conference in Austin TX. One of our goals for this workshop is provide the tools for our participants to address ways to transform a loss or crisis into readable and inspiring prose. It has been proven that writing is healing, and I happen to think that any creative outlet is beneficial to recovering from a traumatic event in our lives. My son Paul killed himself in September 1999 after a seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder, and I signed up for a writing class three months after his 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 to write a journal entry. He didn’t specify a subject. This was a beginner’s class. All he wanted us to do was learn to “write like you talk,” and to write in a voice that came from deep within our bellies. And then we’d come back the next week … [Read more...]

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The healing powers of journaling

This is the second in my series about writing to heal. I've also found the healing powers of journaling, which I first wrote about for Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas' anthology: Returning to the Circle: Inspirational Wisdom from Women for Women. The Power of Journaling A friend gave me a little leather (or faux leather) bound five-year diary complete with tiny lock and key when I was in high school. And for a while I wrote in the teeniest script about typical teen-age angst – especially about my first crush who gave me my first cigarette and first French kiss and then dumped me for a girl he met at summer camp. I think my parents must have thrown that diary out when they sold our house and moved to California because I never saw it again after I went away to college. I took up journaling again during my thirties while my husband and our two sons and I lived for nineteen months on a remote island in the South Pacific. I felt so isolated on this tiny island that the best I could do … [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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Why I turned to digital journaling

Journaling remains a major force in my life. Rarely a day goes by that I don't write a journal entry.  I find the time to write down at least no matter where I am. M. Shannon Hernandez recently posted my thoughts on digital journaling at her The Writing Whisperer blog. I feel so honored to be her guest poster. Here's Why I Turned to Digital Journaling  Writing for Healing I turned to journaling regularly in 1993 just after my son Paul was diagnosed bipolar, and I continued on after his suicide death in 1999. Journaling became my therapy. Keeping my fingers moving across the page was both an obsession and a healing balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. As a result I have become a huge proponent of journaling as a way to heal. I still journal every day. At first I wrote in notebooks – the finer the better. I especially love the ones I bought in France and later found at Banner Stationer’s in El Segundo California – Clairefontaine. The pages are very t … [Read more...]

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Company is coming: Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera

Heather Friedman Rivera, Ph.D. in Parapsychic Science and co-founder with her husband Mark of the PLR Institute, an organization for advancing past life research, will be my guest here on Choices this coming Wednesday January 22 and next Sunday January 26. She’ll discuss how her second book, Quiet Water – a past life novel, released in September 2013, and the first of a trilogy called the Golden Raven Series, came about. It’s a fascinating story. Please come back for Parts One and Two next week. I read Heather’s first book Healing the Present from the Past: The Personal Journey of a Past Life Researcher  (January 2013) last year. It is about her recent research and her healing journey through past life regression. Here is my review. As you will see I am still skeptical about this whole subject matter, but I am drawn to it as well. I give author Heather Friedman Rivera huge kudos for getting this reader to read and finish Healing the Present from the Past: The Personal Journey o … [Read more...]

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Writing to heal and survive

This is a repost (with changes) from one I wrote last year at this time - near the time of our son Paul's December 31st birthday.  I’ve written about writing to heal, I’ve talked about it in front of groups, and I must say, I’m still doing it. I journal, I write pieces for other websites and here about writing to heal from our tragedies, and I’m still reaping its benefits. I suggest, even if you’ve never written a word in your life, start journaling. You don’t have to show what you write to anyone, so you’re free to write down anything you want any way you want. And then you may be surprised. You may want to go public with your writing. Sharing our stories can be very healing to others. 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. … [Read more...]

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My writing life is heating up

Here’s what’s going on. This week I learned that one of my poems was accepted to appear in the Story Circle Network’s 2103 Anthology, and that the proposal Eleanor Vincent and I wrote to present a workshop at SCN’s 2014 conference was accepted. Our workshop is called “Telling Healing Stories: Writing a Compelling Memoir.” Added to the excitement is that the conference takes place in Austin Texas next April 11 through 13. I’ve always wanted to travel there, so here’s my chance. I also began attending a weekly poetry workshop – recommended by my writing friend, Chanel Brenner (see her guest post here). My first assignment was to bring in six copies of my portal poem – which means that I read the first version of it at the first meeting and then I am required to rewrite and share the rewrites at each of our next five meetings. This poem had to be a first draft and one that makes me cringe when I read it. So I picked one I wrote at Esalen last summer that really got slammed by one of … [Read more...]

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Please welcome Sherrey Meyer

I am thrilled to have Sherrey Meyer here as my guest today. She echoes my thoughts about the benefits of writing to heal, and provides Dr. Pennebaker's proof that it is so. Yes, for me writing is a way to put my pain on the page. It is a soothing balm. What do you think? Benefits of Writing Your Story by Sherrey Meyer In 2001, when my mother died, the story of our lives together had traversed many years and battled many storms. Yet at the end, something unusual and unexpected happened. I tucked that memory away knowing it was possibly the core for a memoir. When I retired in 2006, I remembered how often I had said, “When I have time, I want to write a book.” Little did I know when I began accumulating my memories on the computer and sorting through family photos the benefit writing this story would give. Never had it occurred to me that writing could be a restorative, healing process. With each word typed, I felt changes taking place. The invisible scars created by years of ver … [Read more...]

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Still writing to heal

I've written about writing to heal, I've talked about it in front of groups, and I must say, I'm still doing it. I journal, I write pieces for other websites and here about writing to heal from our tragedies, and I'm still reaping its benefits. I suggest, even if you've never written a word in your life, start journaling. You don't have to show what you write to anyone, so you're free to write down anything you want any way you want. And then you may be surprised. You may want to go public with your writing. Sharing our stories can be very healing to others. 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 … [Read more...]

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Diversions still help

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I’ve agreed to take on a consulting job for a few weeks. Actually I signed on because I was told the assignment would be over before Christmas. Yet as soon as I arrived, I found out it goes into January as well. So, I offered a compromise. I’ll work in the last week of December (two weeks beyond my initial commitment) – tomorrow and Friday and during the first week of January, and then I’ll be finished – just in time to get ready for my husband Bob’s hip replacement surgery the following week. It’s not that I don’t like the job. I’m working as a technical writer and advisor to young engineers, helping them write and produce a proposal – something I’ve done in the aerospace business for years. The work is always interesting especially when the engineers are receptive and smart. However, it takes me over an hour each way to get back and forth. In my old work life I never spent more than ten minutes commuting each way because early on, my husband and I … [Read more...]

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About NaSmaStoMo – National Small Stone Month

A Stone Called Son I've been living with a stone for a long time. See how it rests on a little silk pillow called heal. The stone and the pillow are both comforting and calming. So when I heard about NaSmaStoMo I was immediately interested. Just the word stone drew me in. And of course since this is a writing challenge I was drawn in even more. Fiona, who created NaSmaStoMo, has asked us to "to write a small stone - a polished moment of paying proper attention - every day during the month of January." Fiona explains: "I’m a believer in making use of the writing process to help us connect with ourselves and with the world." And with that I was hooked. I've dabbled in Haiku and writing Twitter length poems. I think this will be a continuation of those practices. I've also taken several poem-a-day for a month challenges. So, for me NaSmaStoMo is perfect -- a perfect way for me to start my 2011 writing year. For more information about NaSmaStoMo and how to join us go to: h … [Read more...]

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