May flowers and memories (small stones)

I just finished my tenth month writing small stones. The only break was during  my husband's Grand Canyon accident and recovery in November - December 2016. Here are my May small stones, including a couple of photos I posted with the words. By the way, the admin of the small stones  Facebook page, Ger O Neill, creates a new name for our group every month. Last month the name was May flowers and memories. This month we're writing Jewels of June. May flowers and memories May Day and the beginning of mental health month. A great day for people watching and writing at a little café. Congress is trying to decimate mental health care. If they pass the amended American Health Care Act (AHCA), millions of Americans will lose their mental health coverage. Please tell your congress representatives to vote No on AHCA. How can so many things in my house go wrong at the same time? My stove cooktop, a water heater, and dryer are all dead. And service people are nowhere in sight. Frus … [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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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...]

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Calling all poets

Having just released Volume 3 of The Great American Poetry Show, it's time to start submitting to Volume 4. I've been working as co-editor of this poetry anthology for many years - this last release took five years from start to release - reading and evaluating hundreds of poems. However, the publisher and co-editor, Larry Ziman, always makes the final decisions about which poems eventually go into the anthology. Please visit the TGAPS website to submit (we accept previously published and simultaneous submissions) and/or order any of our three volumes. And if you do get a copy, please let us know what you think.   … [Read more...]

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Thank you, Keith Alan Hamilton, for your beautiful photo and words

My dear friend and poetry and photography buddy Keith Alan Hamilton has created a blog to, as he says, “independently publish online the art of its author ~Keith Alan Hamilton~ and other Artists. The blog’s primary goal is to make available a freely accessible and affordable medium which will provide the creative spirit greater recognition, distribution & readership over the internet." Keith has also created The Hamilton Gallery where he showcases the work of other artists as well (including me). He has just surprised me with the most touching poem to accompany the photo he took when he visited my husband and me in Manhattan Beach . Thank you my dear friend Keith for your wonderful and kind words and spectacular photograph. I couldn’t help sharing work with my readers.   when you have the realization
 you are experiencing
 the essence of greatness
 no matter how
 momentary the happening a sense of the spiritual
 emerges……
all in the cosmos appears … [Read more...]

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Please welcome Toni Piccinini, author of The Goodbye Year

I’m so pleased to host Toni Piccinini during her WOW! Women On Writing blog tour. Her memoir, The Goodbye Year, is an inspirational, honest, and hilarious tale of Toni’s approach to the end of an era in the Piccinini household. For many mothers, a child’s senior year brings about a serious look back on the past eighteen. Every event—from Halloween to Mother’s Day—becomes The Last Time. Toni Piccinini knows exactly what that’s like, and in The Goodbye Year, she offers the loving support every soon-to-be Empty Nester needs. Think of Toni as your bossy-but-loving Italian auntie, with modern sensibilities and a packed pantry. With the wisdom she’s acquired from saying goodbye three times to her own children, she reassuringly holds your hand while encouraging you through the insanity of the college application process, the rejections and the acceptances, and the teary dorm drop-offs. Even better, she reminds every mother that the best is yet to come—freedom, creativity, flexibility, and t … [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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Africa Trip Part 5 – Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Because we only stayed in Lake Manyara one night and had the same guide, Ray, from our arrival there until we left Tanzania at the Kilimanjaro airport two days later, I’ve decided to lump our days in both places together. Plus, their landscape and weather are similar – dry, dusty, with mostly red clay soil. After a long plane ride to Lake Manyara, Ray picked us up in an enclosed truck with an open roof where we could stand up and take our photos by leaning out through the top. However, since I’m so short, I had to continually climb up and down from my seat so I could get my camera and head out there. Once we arrived at the national park and had our picnic lunch we proceeded to look for game – as we’ve done for the last eight days. And while I was beginning to feel ready to stop this, I began to click away with great enthusiasm, climbing up and down off my seat, and soon as I  saw more elephants, giraffes, and a lion relaxing in a tree.   We stayed at the Lemala camp at … [Read more...]

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Africa Trip Part 4 – Serengeti, Tanzania

After a plane ride, a long drive in a car with a young and sophisticated woman at the wheel, careful and thorough customs checks when leaving Kenya and later arriving in Tanzania, and another plane ride, we arrived in the Serengeti. It turns out the Serengeti is located just a couple hours drive from where we were in the Masai Mara, but because of some kind of feud between the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments the nearby border was closed causing us to unnecessarily spend hours and the big bucks to get to our first Tanzanian destination.   However, all was forgiven when our guide Nathan met us at the airport. Throughout our three-day stay there, he took us on what I thought were the most interesting game drives of our entire time in Africa – imagine seeing a mother and baby rhino before we even arrived at our next tent camp, the Olakira.   On that first drive we also saw two kinds of vultures, storks, hippos, elephants, and Masai giraffes. But the rhinos were the find o … [Read more...]

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Africa Trip Part 3 – Masai Mara, Kenya

After our two nights in Samburu, we flew to the Masai Mara region in the southeast corner of Kenya. Here at 6000 feet altitude, the weather was cool. And each night while there we experienced enormous rains, such that our guide Simon insisted on rolling up the sides of our jeep and giving us ponchos to wear. However, the animal and bird sightings there were spectacular. Even in the air before we landed we saw wildebeest, zebras, and giraffes below  - though in Masai Mara the giraffes, instead of being reticulated with patches of color outlined in white, are spotted. The zebras, the common Burchel, are smaller with wider spaced stripes than the Grevy's (my favorite because of the swirly look). Every zebra has unique stripe formations. Simon picked us up at the airport and was our guide during our stay. He also took us on a game drive as soon as we landed over a landscape called the Savanna – large plains with sporadic trees, mostly Acacia. And almost immediately he showed us … [Read more...]

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Africa Trip Part 2 – Samburu, Kenya

We left our Nairobi hotel bright and early on Sunday morning, September 2, and flew via Air Kenya to our first safari stop, Samburu, Kenya. The flight was approximately one and one-quarter hours, and every seat in the twin-engine plane was full. We landed in Samburu on a dirt runway and as soon as we deplaned we met our guide, Bon-i. Take a look. No words could describe his wonderful African costume and beaded accessories. Almost immediately he piled Bob and me and our traveling companions, Joel and Susan, and our duffle bags, various backpacks, jackets, hats, scarves, and camera equipment into his open-sided four-wheel drive vehicle, and we set out on our first game drive.   Bon-i, who is very knowledgeable about the game and birds and landscape of the Samburu reserve, told us right away his goal for us was to see the Samburu special five: Grevy’s zebra (a larger animal with narrower stripes than the plain zebra), Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and the beisa o … [Read more...]

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Africa Trip Part 1 – Nairobi

Since so many people have asked about our trip to Africa, over the next few weeks I'll share some highlights at: Nairobi, Samburu, Masai Mara, Serengeti, Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro crater, then back to Nairobi. Part 1 - Nairobi We arrived at the Nairobi airport at 2 am. The place was practically deserted and that was good, since the main terminal’s welcoming hall, destroyed by a fire two weeks earlier, was nothing more than a large tent. We got our luggage quickly and met our tour group driver, Martin, outside. Since it was so early in the morning Martin said we should have no traffic, and we’d be at our hotel – the Norfolk – in about ten minutes.By the way, I keep wondering if the airport fire was a warning from the terrorists who attacked the mall in Nairobi several weeks later. But we'll never know about that for sure, will we?  And then almost right after we left the airport we passed a horrific accident. The car involved looked like it went through a mangler, and we learne … [Read more...]

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Wonderful book club experiences

In the last week I’ve had two opportunities to discuss my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, and most specifically bipolar disorder and surviving suicide at two book club meetings.  One was in the San Diego area, about an hour and a half from my home; the other in Palos Verdes Estates about ten miles south of where I live. Both of the invites came from long-time friends. Even so, I felt very honored to be asked.  And since I feel the intimacy and the openness of a book club discussion is a wonderful way to promote a book and a cause, I don’t mind traveling long distances to attend.  On Friday night I met with ten women. Yesterday eighteen women huddled around me firing questions left and right.  That’s how I like it. Though I might say a few introductory words, I like the discussion to be in the form of questions and answers. That way I can discuss what my audience wants to hear.  And both groups wanted to discuss the subje … [Read more...]

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Does changing a book cover grow sales?

About a week or so ago, my publisher, Mike O’Mary of Dream of Things, suggested we change the cover of the ebook edition of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I suspect the main reason was that sales were falling off, and the book needed a little boost. However, in his explanation to me he said:   “I decided to recommend a cover using a photo of Paul. I picked the photo of him as a college freshman. It's a great photo of Paul, and I think a lot of potential readers will be hooked by the image of a handsome young man who looks happy and healthy. He looks like someone you'd want as your own son or brother or partner. They will identify with him before they even know what the book is about.  I think all of that will be enough to get more people to read the description of the book -- and once they read the description, I believe they will want to read the book because they will be stunned that such a thing could happen to a person who could have been their own son or brot … [Read more...]

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Favorite trip photos

I think I’m finally over the jet lag from our trip. Last night I slept without waking at four in the morning, and I feel very well rested today. I’ve heard that it takes a day for each hour we travel away from our time zone, and at one point we were twelve hours on the other side of our clock in Dubai. So it’s close. Today it is exactly eleven days since we returned home.   Although the main intent of our trip was to go on an African safari, besides visiting Kenya and Tanzania we also spent several days in London before Africa and a night in Dubai and four nights in Paris after our African adventure. It was a trip of a lifetime. I’ll never forget it. I’ve already posted a few of my favorite safari photos – and I promise to post more in the next weeks. However, today’s photos show some our favorite sights in London, Dubai, and Paris.  My third time on the London Eye.  Try it. It's a great ride.    Stonehenge - an amazing site    The "silver guy" in fron … [Read more...]

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Welcome the editors of the new anthology, Beyond Belief, The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions

I'm so excited to offer you a giveaway of the anthology Beyond Belief, The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. This is also your opportunity to join Cami and Susan for a discussion on: "Why Women Stay in Religious Communities." Thank you, WOW Women on Writing, for inviting me to host Cami and Susan today. Beyond Belief addresses what happens when women of extreme religions decide to walk away. Editors Cami Ostman (a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian)and Susan Tive (a former Orthodox Jew) have compiled a collection of powerful personal stories written by women of varying ages, races, and religious backgrounds who share one commonality: they’ve all experienced and rejected extreme religions. Covering a wide range of religious communities—including Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Calvinist, Moonie, and Jehovah’s Witness—and containing contributions from authors like Julia Scheeres (Jesus Land), the stories in Beyond Belief reveal how these … [Read more...]

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Back to work

First of all I want to thank all my friends who participated in the Choices Guest Post Festival from the end of August to mid September:  Susan Weidener  Deborah Kalan  Viki Noe  Ace Antonio Hall  Meryl Hartstein  Chanel Brenner  Eleanor Vincent  Jerry Waxler  Sherrey Meyer  Linda Joy Myers  Karen Levy  Kathy Pooler  You all certainly raised the bar over here. During the last three and a half weeks the number of views more than doubled because of your contributions. So it’s time for me to get back to work. I need to keep the momentum going by posting myself and hosting guests as much as possible. Please let me know if you’d like to share your writing story on Choices in the near future.  On Wednesday, my guests will be Cami Ostman and Susan Tive who will share about their anthology, Beyond Belief: what happens when women of extreme relig … [Read more...]

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Introducing Karen Levy and her new book, My Father’s Gardens

Karen Levy's book, My Father's Gardens, was released last April to rave reviews. I'm pleased to introduce her and her book to you. My Father’s Gardens is the story of a young girl who comes of age in two languages, and on two shores, between warring parents and rules that change depending on the landscape and the proximity of her mother. Struggling to find her voice and her place in the world as a result of her frequent travels between her native Israel and the United States, she feels that she must choose a place to call home. As her scenery alternates between warm Mediterranean and snow capped mountains, loud-mouthed Israelis and polite Americans, so do her loyalties: Is she more Israeli or American? How will she know when she has arrived? And while she chooses she is slowly transplanting bits of her father’s gardens on foreign soil.   This story will appeal to young adults, people with duel citizenships, those who live in dysfunctional families, and those who are tra … [Read more...]

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Welcome to my guest blog fest

For the next three and a half weeks I’m going to turn Choices over to the voices of other wonderful and experienced writers. I’ve asked twelve people whom I’ve either met personally or online to tell you about their lives, their writing, and their marketing experiences. I feel so fortunate that they have agreed to be my guests and participate in this blog fest. I hope you will keep coming back to read more and more as the days go by. You’ll find the information interesting and very helpful. Here’s my guest blog fest lineup in order of appearance:   August 24: Susan Weidener An author, editor and former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Susan leads writing workshops and started the Women's Writing Circle, www.susanweidener.com a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia.       August 26: Deborah Kalan Deborah has been writing about real life since she was in the fifth grade and received a diary with lock and key fo … [Read more...]

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Fun poetry prompts

View from Highway One, Big Sur, California Getting back to my poetry workshop in Big Sur a couple to weeks ago, I’ll give you some fun prompts where we were asked to write poems using a list of prescribed words. We also discussed: Controlling image poem – where an image, such as a tree or a broom, is something for the readers to hang onto while the poem takes us for a ride.   Long armed poem – scoops in a lot of information, goes on and on, and is tied together in the end – somehow. Leap poem– where the poet leaps into seemingly unrelated material and then ties it all together by asking a question or making a statement over and over. It’s also possible to write a leap poem by telling a story and then leaping into metaphor. Lyric poem– it has a song-like element that uses repetition of words and sounds, also asks a question or makes a statement over and over. Rhyme could definitely work here as well. Persona poem – a monologue in the voice of the character th … [Read more...]

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