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 … [Read more...]

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...]

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 oppo … [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...]

$.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. T … [Read more...]

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 t … [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...]

We’re taking the show on the road

Last December, Chanel Brenner, Alexis Fancher, and I read poetry about the deaths of our sons at Beyond Baroque, a literary arts center in Venice California. See my blog post about this event here. We’re reading again this Sunday April 24 at 4 pm at Pages: a bookstore in Manhattan Beach California. We’ve modified the program a bit; however, we are carrying through the same theme: WRITING HEALING POETRY Turning Grief into Art We hope you’ll join us. Each of us will read thirteen to fourteen poems. Mine are mostly in my memoir in prose and poetry, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Chanel will read from her book of poetry, Vanilla Milk, and Alexis will read from her poetry chapbook, State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies. I can attest that the poetry is fabulous, and I know you’ll like the refreshments as well. … [Read more...]

Don’t be afraid to submit

Three out of five isn’t bad. In the last couple of months I’ve submitted five pieces to contests and anthologies – mostly at the urging of my recent poetry instructor, Thresha Haefner at The Poetry Salon. And I found out that submitting really pays off. It’s like lottery tickets. If you don’t buy one, you have no chance of winning. In all I submitted three poems, a poetry chapbook, and an excerpt from my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. Two of the three poems were accepted – one is still in review, and the excerpt was accepted to appear in a suicide loss anthology. Unfortunately the chapbook didn’t make it, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. I’ll submit it again and again to wherever seems suitable. And so as not to keep you in the dark, here are the two poems that will come out soon: “Stop and Go” will appear in Yellow Chair Review’s In the Words of Women anthology, and “Remnants” will appear in the 2016 Porter Gulch Review. Stop and Go … [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...]

Reading about Corita Kent at {pages}: a bookstore

This past Thursday evening I attended a book reading at my local independent bookstore, {pages}. April Dammann, author of Corita Kent. Art and Soul. The Biography. (Angel City Press), spoke to us about the wonderful artist and teacher of the 1960s formerly known as Sister Mary Corita. I was most interested in attending this event because I have four of Corita’s serigraphs hanging on my family room wall. I fell in love with them in the 1960s when I first heard of this rebellious nun, modern artist, and activist for social justice who combined bright colors, whimsical shapes, and political and/or literary messages in her artwork. And I still enjoy having her work in my house. Her work is relevant. Her messages are universal.   For example, she wrote two messages in the Life piece (upper right): “Life is a complicated business fraught with mystery and some sunshine.” P. Roth “Let the morning time drop all its petals on me. Life I love you. All is groovy.” … [Read more...]

A successful writers conference appearance

Early Saturday morning, my friend Eleanor Vincent (author of Swimming with Maya) and I drove to the Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys, California to participate in the Digital Author & Indie Publishing Conference. Tony N. Todaro, CEO of West Coast Writers Conferences invited us to appear on a panel discussing Building a Platform and Social Networking later in the morning. Our first task was to be interviewed separately by Nicole Baker, Manager of Author Education at Author Solutions – for twenty minutes on camera. And even though we were each given a list of questions and knew the answers cold, we each churned the night before about what we would say during the interview. I came up with a bulleted list of notes a few days before and felt well-prepared; however, my answers rolled around my head all night. Instead of taking my usual early morning walk on Saturday, I closed my office door  at 6:00 am and went over my notes for an hour. As it turned out, all my churni … [Read more...]

A fruitful poetry workshop

February has been a busy month - complete with a new regime of tennis lessons and practice matches, a poetry workshop, and a focused effort to walk more miles a day to get ready for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's AFSP Out of the Darkness 16-18 mile walk in May. The poetry workshop ended last week, and right now I like being off the hook to come up with another new poem. However, I very much liked the small group – there were six of us including the instructor – and the friendly but pointed critiques we gave each other on our work. To start the weekly three-hour workshop off, the instructor would give us a warm-up prompt that required us to write something – poetry or prose – in real-time and then share it with the group. One week she asked us to write down an unusual gift we’ve given or received. I wrote down: TisBest gift certificates I give to my nieces and nephews that enable them to make a donation to a charity of their choice. She a … [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...]

Journaling – one of the greatest investments of my life

Dawn Herring, creator of the #JournalChat Live Facebook Group, and my journaling mentor, has started off 2016 with a #JournalChat Live open house. She has asked us to share if journaling has been one of the greatest investments in our lives. Dawn says, “We keep journals to express ourselves, to create positive change, and become more personally empowered, right? So, we may see journaling as one of the Greatest Investments of our lives AND/OR, we may have experienced clarity and clear direction as a RESULT of our journaling practice that has led us to something that truly changed our lives for the better.” Her statement is indeed true for me. Here is why. My Journaling – My Greatest Investment By Madeline Sharples During lunch with a new friend last week, she asked me about my writing projects. I shared that I am writing a lot of poetry these days and that I’m also revising my novel – for about the 15th time. Then I told her I journal every day. That made her back stra … [Read more...]

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 p … [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...]

After a two-year hiatus, I’m returning to Esalen

I'm kicking off the holiday season by going back to Esalen in Big Sur California tomorrow to take a five-day poetry workshop with Joseph Millar. But I've made up my mind already. Just being back at Esalen after a two-plus-year break is all that matters. Of course I love being there to write. But what I really I love is just being there - period. I've worked with Joseph many times before, usually when he leads poetry workshops with Ellen Bass and his wife Dorianne Laux - a fantastic trio of poetry brilliance. He also helped edit a lot of the poems that appear in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. He has a wonderful gift for honing in on the good and what can be improved about the poems he hears and reads. Here's a little information about Joseph that I lifted from his website: Joseph Millar's first collection, Overtime, was a finalist for the 2001 Oregon Book Award. His second collection, Fortune, appeared in 2007, followed by a third, Blue Rust, in 2012. Millar grew up in … [Read more...]

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 Bey … [Read more...]