Author Rebecca Fitton finds writing is healing

I'm pleased to introduce Rebecca Fitton and her new book of poetry, Wave Rider, as she embarks on her WOW! Women on Writing book tour.   Wave Rider is a poetic reflection of author Rebecca Fitton’s long journey to heal from sexual abuse, abandonment, and neglect, building a new world based on wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Her journey has taken a lifetime. To use the metaphor of waves, sometimes the undertow nearly drowned her—but she survived. Now her beautiful and profound book offers inspiration to others who have also suffered greatly from abuse. Here's my Review Rebecca Fitton’s Wave Rider, a book of poetry, shares her beginnings as an abused child and her rebirth later in her adulthood. She divides her book of poems into three sections: Darkness: her poems of her life with a mother who doesn’t want her and an uncle who abuses her. She lived in this frozen, silent darkness until she was forty years old. In a poem early in the book, she writes, “I learn … [Read more...]

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Let’s celebrate with Linda Appleman Shapiro

Linda Appleman Shapiro's memoir, She's Not Herself is celebrating its second anniversary. And it has a lot to celebrate. Just take a look at these wonderful reviews: “An honest and compelling story by a brave and gifted writer.” ~ Wally Lamb – NY Times best-selling author of She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True, and many other novels. Winner of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s Kenneth Johnson Award for the anti-stigmatization of mental illness. “A story that applies to us all – truthful, carefully crafted, and created with a clear-eyed affection.” ~ Watts, M.D., poet, writer, musician, NPR commentator “We identify with the author’s sense of alienation from the first chapter and agonize with her longing for a normal life. She's Not Herself is a revelatory account of someone who grew up with a mentally ill parent and grew up to become an effective, loving mother and a successful professional healer.” ~US Review of Books, Barbara Bamburger Scott “I lov … [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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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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Memoir or fiction? That is the question!

David W. Berner, my WOW! Women on Writing guest today, and I have something in common. After writing memoir we both turned to fiction—stretching ourselves, as David says, as writers. We both took a true story, settings, and characters and made up things—let our imagination have its way with us—to enhance the story's effect. My fiction book—though not ready to be published yet—takes off in a whole new direction from the true facts. My family members would definitely know the people and places I write about, and might even have a problem with the way my fictionalized version of our family history turns out.  Well, I'll deal with that when the time comes. I applaud David for using his wonderful memoir, reporting, and teaching skills to become a successful fiction writer. His first fiction work: Night Radio: A Love Story, has already received rave reviews. Thank you, David, for being here at Choices today and telling us about your journey into fiction writing—a story I very much relat … [Read more...]

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What’s a platform anyway?

A few weeks ago I was a panel member at a writer’s conference workshop. The subject was building a platform. Today, I’d like to share a few points that we made at the workshop. But first, here’s my go-to person for all things writer-ly, Jane Friedman, who tells us what platforms are and are not: "What editors and agents typically mean by platform They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience. Let’s break this down further. Visibility. Who knows you? Who is aware of your work? Where does your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence? Where do you make waves? Authority. What’s your credibility? What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role. Just take a look at any graduate of the Iowa MFA program.) Prov … [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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Please welcome Dorit Sasson

Dorit Sasson has just  published her memoir about being a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces: Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces (She Writes Press). And, as if being in an army wasn't brave enough, Dorit has taken the next brave step - she fought off her inner critic nay sayers during the whole memoir writing process. Please welcome Dorit today and read how she chased her inner critic demons away. Working with the Inner Critic When Writing a Memoir by Dorit Sasson Somewhere along the writer's journey, the writer confronts the inner critic. It often likes to say: "Why the heck are you writing this? You know you aren’t going to write like your favorite authors, so just quit now!” Most people don’t understand a writer’s daily battles. They don’t care. They just want the book. They see the author’s life from the sidelines. The author cranks out a book, becomes published, gets on the New York Times or Amazon bestselling list, gets … [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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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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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...]

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Three memoir-writing tips from Pamela Jane

My Choices guest today, Pamela Jane, shares how she wrote her memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story. It took her twenty-two years. However, it was well worth the time and effort. Here is Pamela Jane and her three tips for those of us struggling with our own memoir writing. Please give her a warm welcome. She will gladly respond to the comments you post below.   Shaping Your Narrative What to Leave in and What to Take Out of Your Memoir  by Pamela Jane "The writer of any work, and particularly any nonfiction work, must decide two crucial points: what to put in and what to leave out..."  Annie Dillard, author of An American Childhood You want to write a shapely story with a taut narrative thread, a story that will draw readers into the world you are creating. But how do you know what to leave in and what to take out, especially in a memoir? In early drafts everything you write seems evocative and beguiling. There are so many different roads to take, … [Read more...]

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How I’m finding my muse again

I’ve had a tough time getting back to my writing routine since completing my recent consulting job. While consulting I did manage to write a journal entry almost everyday, but that was the extent of my writing practice. Besides the grueling proposal work I lived out-of-town in a hotel and ate bland uninteresting food – for about four months. I had hardly anytime to do anything else besides work. There were no muses in that hotel room, believe me. The first thing I did when I got home was sleep. I napped several times a day for two weeks, until I finally felt like myself again. Although I worked out in the early mornings as usual, not long after breakfast I needed my first nap. Finally I started to look for something to kick-start my writing, to bring back my muse. I had put my list of poetry prompts into my Dropbox folder so I’d have it handy while I was away, but I never once opened that file. I didn’t even update it with the prompts that came by email every Wednesday. So that … [Read more...]

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Susan G. Weidener finds writing as a way of healing

I am so pleased to have Susan G. Weidener with me today on her second stop of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. The third book of her trilogy, A Portrait of Love and Honor, was just released, and I'm happy to say, I read it and loved it as I did her other two books, Morning at Wellington Square and Again in A Heartbeat.   Here Susan tells us how writing is healing for her. I can totally relate. Writing has been my healing balm ever since my son's death in 1999. But enough about me. Here's Susan. Writing As a Way of Healing By Susan G. Weidener In the Bible, Lot’s wife ignored the angels’ warning not to look back when she and her family were fleeing a devastated and rotting Sodom. We all know what came next.  As she glanced over her shoulder, she was instantly turned into a pillar of salt. For many, this story became a cautionary tale. See? This is what happens to a curious woman who looks back at her past. The story of Lot’s wife is a favorite at memoir … [Read more...]

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We Love Memoirs – Sunday Spotlight

I had a fabulous experience yesterday - Sunday June 21. I was in the hot seat for the We Love Memoirs’ Sunday Spotlight. We Love Memoirs is basically a Facebook social group consisting of memoir writers and aficionados that allows no self promotion. That is except for the Sunday Spotlight. For that one day I was told I could promote, post relevant photos, links, and information about my writing work, and talk about it until I couldn’t talk (actually tap on my computer keys) anymore. Also those coming on-line to chat with me were told they could ask me ANYTHING, and that I'd be there to answer their questions ALL DAY LONG. So I sat down at my computer at 9 am and except for two 15 minute breaks and an hour for lunch (I needed to pay some attention to my husband on Father’s Day), I was online fielding questions and comments until 5:15 pm. The interesting thing is the people on-line were from the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, other foreign countries, and the US – so when … [Read more...]

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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...]

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Comparing writing a proposal to writing a book

I finally have a break from work. Yes, it’s Sunday and I have the day off. For the last five weeks I’ve been knee-deep in working with a team of engineers writing a proposal to the U. S. Air Force. And, I’d like to share some of the steps they have gone through – some very similar to those we take as fiction and nonfiction authors and some not. Plan. Start with an outline or a plan – the engineers produced annotated outlines and planning documents called story maps that showed where on each page of their sections their graphics and text will layout on the page. I started both my memoir and novel with outlines. I know some of you are panzers, but I like to have a plan before I write. Review. We spent a lot of time reviewing these plans for compliance with the proposal instructions and technical soundness. I was very fortunate to have a friend review my original memoir outline and another person review my revision plan when I was getting it ready for publication. Having fresh eye … [Read more...]

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Leaving the Hall Light On has legs!

This month has ended with the 124th five-star review of my book, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Published four years ago, this makes me  feel my memoir still has long legs, that there are many others who can relate to the story I tell about our son's bipolar disorder and suicide, and of how they affected the lives of my husband, our surviving son, and myself.  The book ends on a high note - the marriage of our surviving son, but don't get me wrong. The grief will never end, I still miss our son desperately, and my memories of him are alive and active, but I've been able to move on and live a full life without him. We all have. Here's what the latest reviewer on Amazon had to say: Amazing story of a mother and her family's journey through the wilderness of suicide grief. This painfully honest memoir, parallels the experience I recently have had with my son's 3 year battle with schizophrenia and hi … [Read more...]

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Denis Ledoux redux

I'm so happy to have Denis Ledoux return to Choices. His knowledge of all things memoir is priceless. His website The Memoir Network and his books are huge resources for you who are writing memoirs now or about to get ready to start one. I wish I knew Denis when I was writing mine. When Denis was last here, his subject was: Writing Painful Memories: Three Tips To Make It Easier. Today he discusses Writing Your Memoir: This Might Be A Challenge. Without further ado, here's Denis. Writing Your Memoir: This Might Be A Challenge by Denis Ledoux Your initial—and perhaps most fundamental—challenge as you settle into writing your memoir will probably not be scheduling, nor discipline, nor writing itself—although these challenges are not to be dismissed. It is likely to be something more fundamental: Your initial challenge is likely to be how you think about writing and about yourself as a writer! Without addressing this—and in a positive way, you are not likely to have an easy tim … [Read more...]

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