Should we let a family member read our drafts?

When I finished revision nine of my novel, I decided to let my husband read it. He’d been asking for a long time, and I always held back from letting him. I had heard early on that asking family members – especially such close ones – and good friends to read our work could be a problem. It they hate the work they would be reluctant to tell the truth, and if they love it, they may have a subjective rather than objective point of view. Well, I decided to risk it anyway, and considering how hard he worked on reviewing, I’m not sorry. He saved a copy and renamed it with his initials and started going through it – marking edits and/or typos in red font and inserting questions and comments along the way highlighted in yellow. He also created a separate timeline in a Word table. That is really his forte – he’s a numbers guy. And, he found a lot of inconsistencies in my dates (my novel is divided in three parts – each starting with a date in story’s history) and inconsistencies in the birth … [Read more...]

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Review number 220 is a true gift

Thank you, Janine Ward, for this sensitive and insightful review of Leaving the Hall Light On.  I won't say more. The review speaks for itself. Inspirational. For anyone who has known untouchable, unimaginable grief that no one deserves and on one survives without lifetime scars, Madeline Sharples' Leaving the Hall Light On is a must read. It is a book that will shine light into the broken crevices of the soul, and if you are healing, if you feel you are alone, Madeline's book is the perfect company. It is her transformative story about accepting the grief of unanswerable questions, parenting into the unknown territories of mental illness, losing everything and deciding to live anyway. Along the way she describes it in detail, the intersections she crossed and why she turned the way she turned, proving that anyone can survive anything if we put our minds into it and one foot forward, one day at a time. Joy can return, it will never be the same but the capacity to accept what it … [Read more...]

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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 died fr … [Read more...]

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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 story of … [Read more...]

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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...]

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May is mental health month

With mental health care on the chopping block, it is important to keep in mind organizations that can help. Here's a list of groups I've compiled, which also include suicide prevention sites. Helpful Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Organizations American Foundation for Suicide Prevention bringchange2mind Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Healthline NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Stop A Suicide Today Survivors of Suicide Bereavement Support Association, Inc. The Compassionate Friends The Jed Foundation My son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder soon after he turned twenty-one. And after struggling with it for almost seven years, he took is life at age twenty-seven. Suicide is a huge risk for those suffering with mental illness. We must continue to work hard for health care parity, i.e., that treats physical illness and mental illness equally. It didn't exist when Paul was s … [Read more...]

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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...]

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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...]

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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...]

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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...]

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Turning grief into art

Chanel Brenner, Alexis Rhone Fancher, and I are reading our poetry tomorrow night at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Tustin, CA. Our theme is turning grief into art. Each of us has lost a son, and each of us have turned to writing as a way to deal with our grief. There is no cure for us, however, writing can be a soothing balm. If you live in the Los Angeles area, please join us tomorrow night in Tustin. … [Read more...]

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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...]

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The suicide risk is high for ages 10 to 24

Since our son Paul's death by suicide as a result of his bipolar disease in 1999, I have made it my mission to help erase the stigma of mental illness and work hard toward preventing suicide. I applaud Jennifer McGregor's work to help teenagers who are suicidal.  I certainly wish I had had her advice when my son was struggling with his mania and depression. Thank you very much, Jennifer, for writing this piece for Choices. Your words are very helpful. How To Help A Teenager Who Is Suicidal by Jennifer McGregor   Photo via Pixabay by Giesje Death by suicide is a serious problem in America, and it doesn’t affect one particular age group. In fact, young people ages 10-24 are highly at risk, as suicide is the third leading cause of death. The reasons vary, as do the solutions, so it’s important to know what the warning signs are and how to address them. Because the teen years can be so full of emotion and distress – especially where school and friends are concerned – it’s d … [Read more...]

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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...]

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Busy times – it’s all good!

For the last ten days I was working in my old technical writer/proposal manager capacity - helping a small business write and deliver a proposal to the National Science Foundation. The proposal was due yesterday, and I'm proud to say we got it in electronically as required with two hours to spare. Within minutes of finishing the proposal work,  I changed modes and started thinking about the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference happening this weekend. I'm scheduled to appear on two panels tomorrow, and up until yesterday I had done nothing to prepare. This morning I went into my files and found notes from past panels I've appeared on, and  found what I needed to provide some good information on writing a memoir and building a marketing platform, using the social networks. (This blog was the first thing I did to start building my platform prior to the publication of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.) One more thing that's happening at the conference is an oppor … [Read more...]

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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...]

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$.99 sale today through Sunday

My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide went on sale today through Sunday for $.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. We’re doing this promotion in honor of my participating in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s 16-18-mile suicide prevention Out of the Darkness walk in San Francisco on Saturday, May 21, and Mental Health Month. I immediately shared this promotion on my Facebook pages and with a few Facebook suicide survivor sites. Plus many of my friends also shared. As a result I’ve gotten a few kudos from people I didn’t know had read it: “This is a very good book. I encourage every survivor to read it.” “Thank you for writing and sharing your book. It helped me so much. So much of what you wrote felt like I was saying it. Some things you wrote I was even afraid to admit to myself and yet you were strong enough to share. Thinking of all of you this weekend. Thank you.” “A ve … [Read more...]

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Another novel milestone met

I just sent off draft seven of my novel to another reviewer. I very much value this person’s judgment because of her experience editing books for the Oxford University Press and that she helped me revise and edit my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.   I spent the last two and a half months working on this draft, looking for repetition, places where I told the story rather than showed it, and rewriting in response to some earlier review comments. As a result I cut out almost five thousand words. It’s now down to 85, 485 words. It’s still a little heavy for a novel, but in the right range. I’ve asked this reviewer to especially assess the content - are the story and its characters worth even pursuing at this point. My problem is the more I read and work on this material these days, the less confident I get. I said I don't need her to edit, except for giving me possible suggestions on where to delete/add stuff. After I sent my manuscript off to my reviewer today, my h … [Read more...]

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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...]

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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...]

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