Assembling a Life by Martha Clark Scala

I met Martha Clark Scala at an Esalen Institute poetry workshop in January 2000 about four months after my son Paul took his life. The workshop was instrumental in bringing poetry writing into my life. I wrote one that weekend that Martha added to her piece, "I'm Not Contagious, published in a The Compassionate Friends newsletter. We have been friends ever since. I was particularly intrigued by her latest writing work - a biography about her father, Geoff Clark - called Assembling A Life, Choosing the Artist in My father (and Myself). The way she put it together reminds me of the sculpture discipline called Assemblage, where bits and pieces of found items make up the sculpture piece. I have one hanging on my office wall made up of a piano's hammers, pieces necessary to determine the voice of a piano. It is special to me because our son was an accomplished jazz pianist. About the book If you have any desire to honor a departed loved one by … [Read more...]

What do I see for the future

This is another possible chapter that I’ve written for my new memoir about aging successfully. Again, I’d love to know what you think. Would a memoir with these kinds of thoughts and information interest you?  I’m optimistic. I think Bob is caring about his body more. He’s gotten himself some pills which he thinks will help him get stronger and more in balance. I think his willingness to do something about his state of health is a good thing. I just wish he’d eliminate sugar and cut down on his alcohol intake. But I wouldn’t say that to him. Also, he’s committed to personal training once a week, spending another hour or so at the gym on another day of the week, and walking several times a week. That’s all good. We walked the other day and he’s definitely moving better and seems less wobbly. I think the illnesses of some of our friends have gotten his attention. They’ve certainly gotten my attention. I used to say I’d probably be ready to give up my health program as I got olde … [Read more...]

How I spend my time

I’ve been working on a new memoir for the past year or so about aging successfully. One chapter is like this one about how I spend my time. So I’d like to try my thoughts out on you. Would you be interested in a memoir with information like this? I spend a lot of my time at my desk in my writing room. I d write a lot but I must make a true confession – I also spend a lot of time on the internet and on social media because I have a great relationship with my Facebook community. This morning I got out of bed at five forty-five, went off to the bathroom, got on the scale after shedding my pajamas, and then I dressed in my leggings and shirt to go to the gym. Once there, I vary my workouts. Lately I stay on the elliptical for about thirty-five minutes and then walk on the treadmill for twenty-five to give me a full hour of cardio and about nine-five hundred steps. I am truly obsessed, probably motivated by my Fitbit, with getting at least twelve thousand steps every day. After … [Read more...]

Where did I go?

I apologize for my long absence from here. I spent from December 8 to January 9 working on five proposals over at the aerospace company I retired from in 2010. I've done a few gigs there before, but this one was especially grueling such that it gave me little time for myself, let alone to pursue any of my usual writing and reading projects. My new memoir sat dormant, my reading was almost nil - though I finally finished Toni Morrison's Sula in the first week of January. It literally took me over four weeks to read about one hundred and fifty pages. Also, I didn't write any poetry or my favorite small stones (little two-three line observations). And, needless to say, my review of my friend's six hundred page book stopped cold in its tracks. Even my daily gym workouts had to be curtailed. Though I thought I'd start right up again this past Friday - my first day off - I could barely keep my eyes open to do anything. All I wanted to do all day was sleep, and so I did. I also slept … [Read more...]

What to know to appear on a writer’s conference panel

The following article was published on December 18 at: I'm so pleased to have another article there. How to Prepare to be on a Panel Discussion By Madeline Sharples I’ve been on many panels at local writer’s conferences. And just having finished appearing on a panel, some of the things I’ve learned have come into focus. Here’s my list: Know your topic cold – make sure you know the topic you plan to speak about very thoroughly. On my recent panel we discussed writing best-selling memoirs, something I know a lot about. My goal was to convince the audience to find a way to write a memoir with a universal theme – that will appeal to readers beyond the author’s family and friends. We also discussed the differences between memoir (a small portion of a person’s life story) and an autobiography (a total life story) and the differences between memoir and fiction. A memoir is nonfiction. Know who your panel mates will be and their backgrounds – usually the faculty is listed wi … [Read more...]

Writing in the Dominican Republic revisited

Instead of just referring to my post about Lindsay de Feliz, I've decided to copy and paste it here. That is because I learned yesterday that Lindsay was brutally attacked and murdered in her home country, the Dominican Republic. I am so saddened and shocked by this news, I just feel I have to share about the wonderful work she was doing when she was alive. I loved her memoir, What About Your Saucepans? and recommend you all read it. Plus she was such a great supporter of the work of her fellow memoir writers. Rest in peace, Lindsay. I will miss you very much. I send much love and condolences to your family. Writing in the Dominican Republic MARCH 25, 2018 BY MADELINE SHARPLES 6 COMMENTS (EDIT) I met Lindsay de Feliz, author of What About Your Saucepans? and Life After My Saucepans, through a wonderful Facebook group called We Love Memoirs, and it was instant admiration. Her story is gutsy, heroic, and so, so different from my own that I had to share it with you. When I asked … [Read more...]

Welcome back, Barbara Barth!

Choices is so pleased to welcome Barbara Barth back for her second visit, thanks to WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tours.  She was first here in June, 2010, so of course lots has happened in the meantime. One thing for sure is she's written a new book called The Unfaithful Widow Ten Years Later. And in the last ten years she has been fortunate to have many girlfriends who keep her company and lift up her spirits. Here's Barbara and how she's thrived surrounded by her girlfriends. My Women Friendships by Barbara Barth  I am always perky in my writing, always upbeat, and hate to complain, but of course, I do at times. My girlfriends know that about me, which is a wonderful thing. I can gripe, let my hair down, and not worry someone will judge or criticize me. Instead, a downbeat moment becomes laughter and I need that. Girlfriends that are kindred spirits, some I’ve known all my adult life and some more recent that I’ve cliqued with, who are strength when I feel a bit lost, … [Read more...]

My website is back on the air

After five days of being off-line, my website, Choices, is back on the air. And with the promise that it will never go down again. Thank you to my server and maintenance managers, Francisco Artes and Tom McGuire! These guys have my back. Starting tomorrow, I will resume my normal posts. Hopefully, you my devoted readers, will give let me know what kinds of things you'd like me to write about. Until then, please remember I'm the author of these great books - a historical fiction novel and a memoir, and I'm always looking for more people to read them: and … [Read more...]

Yes! Writing is calming

Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer, published by She Writes Press, is a memoir about how Antoinette Truglio Martin found the courage to navigate her first year of breast cancer treatment. It’s the story of how a community—colleagues, family, friends—rallied to support her. The book is moving, brave, informative, and occasionally funny—and it speaks to us all. I turned to journaling when my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and after his suicide death. The page became a healing balm for me. Eventually I included those  journal entries in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Suicide and Surviving His Suicide. Like Antoinette, my writing kept me calm and focused. Here is her essay on how she benefitted from writing in her journals and emailing her community after her cancer diagnosis. How Writing Calms the Nerves by Antoinette Truglio Martin I don’t run. I don’t sit still long enough to mind my brea … [Read more...]

Why I Write and What I Write

I wrote the article below for the Southern Writer’s Magazine’s Blog a few months ago. It is still very relevant now. Why I Write and What I Write At this point in my life by all rights I should be retired. I’ve just turned seventy-nine, and no where does it say I need to keep sitting at my computer every day and write. But I do sit there – usually from ten in the morning until about two in the afternoon. Sometimes I’ll even go back for more later in the day. I got into this habit in the early 2000s when I started writing my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On (Dream  of Things). That expanded to writing poetry, essays for my blog and other people’s websites, and journaling. By the time my memoir was published in 2011, I was already working on my historical novel, Papa’s Shoes, which has just been released by Aberdeen Bay publishers. And that’s not the end of it. I still write poetry – I write at least one poem a week except in November and April when I write a poem a day to me … [Read more...]

On a conference panel? Come prepared

Since the publication of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On (Dream of Things), and now the publication of my historical novel, Papa's Shoes (Aberdeen Bay), I've been asked to appear at many writers conference panel discussions. Actually I've been asked to speak on my own - which I did once - but I always prefer to among three to four others on a panel. This last Friday evening I appeared on the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference panel "Writing a Best-Selling Memoir" with four other authors. One authored two biographies of well-known television stars, one wrote a book she called a fictionalized memoir, one was an agent and lawyer who discussed some of the legal issues of writing memoirs, and the moderator, who was a public relations specialist and editor. That said, I was really the only true memoir author on the panel. By the way, the agent/lawyer emphatically said there is no such thing as fictionalized memoir. It's either fiction or memoir, but not both. And I emp … [Read more...]

How to build your brand

I recently shared my thoughts about branding building with my publisher, Aberdeen Bay, Author Community in the hope this would be helpful to other authors. Aberdeen Bay published my historical novel, Papa's Shoes, in May 2019. Building A Brand  by Madeline Sharples Before I discuss what I did to create my brand, I need to emphasize why an author – or any business person for that matter – needs a brand. We must market ourselves so that potential readers will know about us and our books. If people don’t know we exist, they won’t know what we have to offer. In addition, a strong brand lets customers know what to expect, represents us, helps us stay focused on what we’re offering, and helps connect us with our customers. As a result of a strong brand, it will provide value to what we are offering. I can’t emphasize this enough. People need to hear about us if we are going to sell our books. And if we’re perceived as experts as a result, we will stand apart even more from our co … [Read more...]

Writing a memoir? Stick to it!

Yesterday I participated as a panel member discussing "How to Develop Your Memoir with Appeal to the Widest Possible Audience" at the Genre-LA Creative Writing Conference. Unfortunately the room was not full, but the four of us on the podium spoke from our experience writing, editing, and marketing memoirs to get an interested and inspired response from those who did attend. I think the most important point we made was in answer to this question: Defining a memoir’s theme or focus can be overwhelming – how can aspiring memoirists choose which events, memories, or moments to include, and which to leave out? My answer to that would be: Don’t write a complete autobiography. Pick a subject that’s timely and universal. For example, my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, is about our son’s mental illness and suicide and how our family survived it. And right now mental illness and suicide are in the forefront. Suicide of young men especially is an epidemic though women are more … [Read more...]

Yes, seventy is fabulous!

I’ve been seeing in the news that “seventy is the new fabulous.” For example this article in the Los Angeles Times on February 5, names so many over seventy women who are still with it and productive and in a word, fabulous. Nancy Pelosi, Glenn Close, Judi Dench, Betty Buckley, Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Bette Midler to name a few. And we mustn’t leave out eighty-five-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsberg who is still on the Supreme Court bench even after recent cancer surgery. She is my all-time hero. That gets me to my success after the age of seventy. I had lunch with a cousin yesterday who congratulated me on writing a novel Papa's Shoes that will come out this spring by Aberdeen Bay publishers. Look what you did and at your age, she commented. Yes, that’s right. Though I don’t work a full-time job anymore I still work every day in my home office,  beginning to market my novel and writing my new memoir (coincidentally about healthy aging), blog posts, poems, and jou … [Read more...]

Denis Ledoux’ new memoir brings sadness and pain (Part Two)

As promised, here is the second part of Denis Ledoux' guest post about memoir writing and his experience writing about his childhood. To refresh your memories about Part One, here is the link. I think all memoir writers will find the second part of his post just as fascinating and instructional. Writing more deeply If I write about them [his parents]in psychological terms, and include something about their woundedness—their earlier trajectory in life—and simply not having the information available to them—to some extent, perhaps due to lack of education and resourcefulness, perhaps due to certain romantic bent, then I am revealing something to the world that my parents may not have wanted me to reveal, to broadcast in a memoir. In writing this book which is clearly my memoir and not theirs but which includes much information about my parents, I feel that, to some extent, I am betraying them. Both my parents are gone now, and yet I have some loyalty to them. Isn’t it incumbent o … [Read more...]

Living among different cultures is great material for a memoir

Our Choices guest today, Neill McKee, writes about living in and learning about a very different culture, in his new memoir, Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah. His description of how he chose to find work in a world of more sunshine reminds me of my family's adventures living in the South Pacific in the mid 1970s. We lived on a tiny Marshall Island, called Kwajalein, for nineteen months, and it was definitely a life-changing experience - exactly the way Neill feels about his sojourns. Thank you, Neill, for stopping by Choices on your WOW!Women on Writing book tour. We are very interested in knowing about your successful and long career that all started in Borneo. About  Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah by Neill McKee I grew up in Ontario, Canada. As a kid, I dreamed of escaping my industrially polluted hometown for a cleaner, greener world full of sunshine—possibly in Asia or Africa. In college I studied psychology, philosophy and playwriting, but I di … [Read more...]

Denis Ledoux’s new memoir brings up sadness and pain (Part One)

While I'm writing a new memoir about aging and what I'm doing to get along during the last years of my life, memoir guru and teacher, Denis Ledoux, is writing a memoir about his early childhood. I very much appreciate his sharing his thoughts about this new project with our Choices readers, in spite of the sadness and pain the writing has brought up. Denis' classic book on memoir writing I've posted Part One of his guest post. I plan to post Part Two one week from today, February 11.   Why Does the Truth Have To Be Coupled with Pain? Part One by  Denis Ledoux My new memoir is about my early years, my childhood. Much about this time in my life has a context that is unique and consequently different from that of my contemporaries. This memoir has a place in the world of memoirs, and I want it to find that place, but it has also brought up some pain which I do not want. My parents were thoughtful and loving people so their behavior towards me is not an issue. I am not … [Read more...]

Welcome Jane Bertrand – hiker extraordinaire!

I thought I was pretty adventuresome when I hiked down and up the Grand Canyon at age seventy-six - a feat I had put first on my Bucket List nine years before. Well, Jane Bertrand's proclamation of wanting to reach the high point in every one of our fifty United States certainly beat me out. And I'm happy to say I was very glad to read  her memoir You Started What After 60?: Highpointing across America about her extraordinary accomplishment. Please welcome Jane during her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour.  Here Jane Bertrand traces her love of hiking back to Girl Scout Camp Natarswi, located at the foot of Katahdin in Maine, the Northern terminus for the Appalachian trail. ​ After attending college out-of-state, she would return annually for her two-week sacrosanct vacation in Maine.  Over the years she would continue to climb Katahdin, first with her sisters, later with her own children, and finally with adult friends who shared her love of the mountain. Yet not u … [Read more...]

Thoughts about my new memoir

As my husband is about to turn eighty-two and I am closing in at age turning seventy-nine this year, I felt that I’m at that stage in my life when I have almost all of it to look back on. That thought led me to the idea of writing a memoir from an old wise woman’s approach to turning eighty. I could write about the secrets of staying married to the same man for over forty-eight years and living in the same house for thirty-nine years. Really where have all those years gone? And really that brings up another big question – how much time do my husband and I have left anyway, and what are we doing to prepare for our last years? Or better yet, how we’re handling our lives right now as we age – at different paces. Yes, the options are endless: how we’re still working at surviving the loss of our son in 1999, what we eat, how we sleep, my health and exercise program, about our travels, and what do two people at our age do all day. I've gotten a good head start on this project and have … [Read more...]

What’s happening?

Isn’t it funny how some of us start conversations with people these days with this question: “What’s Happening?” And then the poor person being asked the question is in the hot seat having to come up with a quick and meaningful answer. Well, my answer today is: writing is happening in my life. I feel like I’ve been at my computer these last few days since the new year and even before the holidays, almost non-stop. And that’s a good thing. I gotten myself back into writing small stones, which are a couple of lines about anything. This month I started writing one every day, concentrating on a theme that has to do with something I observe in nature. By the way, I’ve written small stones for years, but recently took a break from them. I’m glad to be back. There’s a Facebook group in case you’re interested in joining in. This month they’re called January resolutions – the name changes every month. My main project, however, is my new memoir about aging. I wrote a list of thirty topics … [Read more...]