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 … [Read more...]

5,517 total views, no views today

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.” Simon & … [Read more...]

5,488 total views, 4 views today

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 churning w … [Read more...]

6,230 total views, 2 views today

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 also asked us … [Read more...]

6,330 total views, 2 views today

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 thought … [Read more...]

6,648 total views, no views today

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 straighten and … [Read more...]

10,524 total views, no views today

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...]

5,580 total views, no views today

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. While many … [Read more...]

4,908 total views, no views today

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 Pen … [Read more...]

5,776 total views, 6 views today

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...]

4,866 total views, 2 views today

Book reviews – a roller-coaster ride

This week my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, received six new reviews for a grand total now of 198 reviews since its release in 2011. However, the reviews were not all good - three 2-stars and three 5-stars. Happily though, the week ended with two of the five-star reviews, leaving me with a huge sigh of relief. Even after all this time, my stomach turns over every time I see that a new review has been posted.  I don't suppose that feeling will go away as long as I put my writing out in public. Here are the two five-star reviews that came in, in the last two days. Thank you so much Sara and Joanne. Thank you for sharing your lives with my readers. Your words honor me and my book. A Must  Read: I found this book when I was still in the early stage of my son being diagnosed, fighting the struggle of his almost everyday behaviors, and at that point I was open to anything. Even with my son being substantially younger than Madeline's son, the book touched me and although I am for … [Read more...]

6,074 total views, 2 views today

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 and … [Read more...]

7,151 total views, no views today

A special to honor the Out Of Darkness walk

The Boston Out of Darkness overnight walk for suicide prevention and awareness is the night of June 27 – less than two weeks away. And I’ve been very aggressively training for it. I’ll need to walk 16 to 18 miles that night, so I want to be well prepared. Yesterday I walked almost 10 miles, so I think I’m right on track to be able to complete this personal challenge. I'll be posting photos of my team S.O.L.E.S. and me in this hat. In case you’re wondering why the walk is at night, here are my thoughts – it’s to bring the suicide word out of the darkness. We need to speak that word so we can help prevent it. If people will talk about their suicidal thoughts maybe others can help prevent those at risk from acting upon their thoughts. I wish my son had talked to my husband or me. I still think after almost sixteen years that maybe I could have changed his mind had he only told me what he was thinking. Here's one of the S.O.L.E.S. team captains, Deborah Lee Rose, wearing the&n … [Read more...]

4,236 total views, 2 views today

Let’s stop the suicide epidemic!

Suicide Prevention Includes Caring for the Bereaved I'm so glad Franklin Cook and I found each other. He's an expert on the effects of exposure to suicide on family and friends and has been part of a groundbreaking document he discusses below. I was so deeply affected by my son's suicide I considered suicide myself. Instead I decided to be an advocate for erasing the stigma of mental illness and helping to prevent suicide*. Looking at the effects of suicide on loved ones and working to help assuage their unique kind of grief  is one way to do that. Please help me welcome Franklin Cook, my Choices guest today. He's an expert on grief after suicide. Groundbreaking Guidelines Address Grief, Trauma, Distress of Suicide Loss By Franklin Cook A historic document, Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines, was announced earlier this month at theAssociation for Death Education and Counseling conference in San Antonio and at theAmerican … [Read more...]

6,278 total views, 2 views today

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 them when he … [Read more...]

3,580 total views, no views today

I’ll be at the Big Story Writers Conference on Saturday

A West Coast Writers Conference Production, The Big Story Writers Conference will be held this weekend at the Los Angeles Valley College from Friday, February 20 through Sunday, February 22. Here’s the program. For fiction, nonfiction, and screen writers it will be chock full of workshops, seminars, and lectures with forty speakers, veteran educators, industry experts, publishing professionals, literary agents, publishers, and best-selling authors. And I’m happy to say I’ll be one of them. I’ll appear on a panel discussing: How to Write a Book Proposal that Sells (geared to nonfiction authors) The panel description says: “Nonfiction authors have a special task of developing a book proposal that actually speaks for them -- even before the book is written. This panel of veteran authors will explain the elements of the proposal, and how to structure a successful one.” That special task can be very daunting. However, the main lesson I learned in writing my book propo … [Read more...]

3,770 total views, 4 views today

Sales are down

Maybe reading a heartfelt and sensitive review will help get you over to Amazon to buy a copy of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. "A beautiful yet heartbreaking story..a must read! As parents, we do everything we can to help our children become strong, healthy, well adjusted and morally upright adults. Yet there are obstacles that we cannot foresee and cannot even begin to understand until we see all of our efforts unravel right before our eyes. This is what Madeline and her family experienced with Paul. He developed a severe mental disorder that caused him to become someone that his family could barely recognize. As hard as they tried to understand, encourage, and help Paul, his illness took over time and again. The ebbs and flows, the highs and lows, the abstract hope and then disillusionment became their norm. In the end, no amount of intervention helped Paul to overcome his disease … [Read more...]

3,816 total views, 2 views today

A walk for suicide prevention

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know how obsessive I am about writing. My life is about the actual writing or thinking about writing when I'm not at my computer. I also am obsessive about exercise. I workout in some way every day - either at the gym or taking long walks in my beautiful beach neighborhood. Working out and writing were instrumental in saving my life after my son Paul died by suicide in 1999. Since my son's death I've also become obsessive about working toward erasing the stigma of mental illness and helping to prevent suicide. I've volunteered and participated with others whose mission aligns with mine. I've also written much about mental illness and suicide here and in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. This coming June 27-28, I'll take an amazing journey in Boston - another way to memorialize my son and show what I stand for.   The Out of the Darkness Overnight Experience is a 16-18 mile walk over the course of one nigh … [Read more...]

3,820 total views, no views today

Saying thank you to a reviewer pays off

After three years since its launch, my book, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, is still getting some wonderful reviews on Amazon. I can't help sharing this latest one: Incredible Book! This memoir is simultaneously heart-wrenching and incredibly hopeful. Madeline's story is a true triumph of the human spirit's ability to endure even the most nightmarish of scenarios. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone - whether you live with mental illness, have a loved one who does, have lost someone to suicide, or just looking for a beautiful story illuminating the human condition, you should read this book. Exquisite. This review touched me so much that I was moved to thank the reviewer. In doing so I found out more about her and her family: Oh wow, it's an honor to have you read my review and reply back to me! Your book has had such an impact on my life, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder m … [Read more...]

4,275 total views, 2 views today

How technical writing helped me write memoir and fiction

I fell in love with writing in grade school and took journalism and was on the newspaper staff in high school. I attended the University of Wisconsin as a journalism major, then transferred to UCLA my senior year to complete a degree in English. Because jobs for women journalists were few in the 1960s in Los Angeles, I began a long career as a technical writer and editor, proposal manager, web designer and content developer in the aerospace industry. And I must say that was a great choice because my job paid very well, and I’m still able to work from time to time as a consultant years after I officially retired (I’m just about to embark on a four-month job to help a group of engineers write a proposal to the U.S. Air Force). Plus, I’ve been able to transfer what I learned as a technical writer over to my memoir and fiction writing. Here are six things I learned: Plan before you write. I had an outline before I started my memoir and a list of scenes that guided my fiction b … [Read more...]

4,748 total views, 6 views today