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...]

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Burning moments and magical thinking in our memoirs

It turned out that I led the memoir workshop: “Telling Healing Stories – How to Write A Compelling Memoir” on my own at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference last Friday. Thankfully I had the material prepared, so when my workshop mate didn’t show up, I just waded right in. I discussed the four aspects of all good literature: plot, theme, structure, and voice and gave the group a list of universal themes (which I’ll discuss in a future post). I also explained how the plot is made up of a series of events – or as they have been called – burning moments. For example, the disposition of clothes and possessions of a loved one who has died is a huge burning moment. In one of my favorite memoirs, The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion describes in meticulous detail the items in the plastic bag she brings home from the hospital after her husband died. She says, “…I remember combining the cash that had been in his pocket with the cash in my own bag, smoothing the bills, taking spe … [Read more...]

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Favorite books and what I’m reading now

Now that I work as an author people ask me what books I’m reading and would recommend. That is a tall order. I think our reading choices are very personal. Besides I’m not a very good person to ask. I seem to fall in love with the book and author I am currently reading. Right now I’m reading two books chosen by my two book groups: A Regular Guy by Mona Simpson, the sister of Steve Jobs, and Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948, by Madeleine Albright. I’m not sure if I’ll finish A Regular Guy – it is a poor excuse for a story about her brother. I liked his biography (see below) much better. Prague Winter, crammed with historical details, is definitely a must read. My real interest in it is how her Jewish family survived the holocaust. My three favorite books in 2013 were: 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I never thought a Stephen King novel would top my list. I read his wonderful book On Writing, but steered clear of his gruesome novels. This book is not … [Read more...]

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Magical thinking revisited

I wrote the following piece for the Bereaved Parents Newsletter, lovingly produced by Peggy Sweeney of The Sweeney Alliance and her Journeys Through Grief blog. And I'm thrilled to share that it's listed on the newsletter's Top Ten for 2012. The Sweeney Alliance is a nationally recognized company that provides help to families and professionals coping with grief and stress. Since 1990, they have developed and facilitated specialized programs that teach children and adults how to reinvest in life and living following a life-altering event such as the death of someone loved, divorce, violence, neglect or disability. Here's how to contact Peggy. Peggy Sweeney, Founder and President The Sweeney Alliance 1601 Quinlan Creek Drive Kerrville, TX 78028 Phone: (830) 377-7389 E-Mail: peggy@sweeneyalliance.org Here's my article: Magical thinking is an ancient idea that if a person hopes for something enough or performs the right actions, an event can be averted or turned around. … [Read more...]

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Magical Thinking – Does It Make Sense?

On May 10 the Journeys Through Grief newsletters published my article about magical thinking in the bereaved parent issue. I thought I'd reprint it here for those of you who might have missed it. Peggy Sweeney does a fantastic job of reaching out to those who grieve, and I'd like to get the word out any way I can. Here's the link to my article on the site and the Journeys Through Grief home page. Here is my article: Magical thinking is an ancient idea that if a person hopes for something enough or performs the right actions, an event can be averted or turned around. Though this kind of thinking made no sense to me, I couldn’t stop doing it in the first months and years after my son’s suicide death. I didn’t want to believe that my son was really gone – I didn’t want to believe that it was true, that I would never see him, talk to him, or hold him again. Magical thinking was my way of hiding that reality from myself. My healing friend Joan Didion in her book The Year of … [Read more...]

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