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...]

Writing memoir helped me deal with grief

As I am inching toward December 31, which would be my son Paul’s forty-seventh birthday, I think it makes sense to revisit some of the tools I used in dealing with the grief I felt after his death and still feel now. Memoir writing and writing in general were/are a huge help. Maybe that’s why I’ve turned to memoir again. I’m almost twenty thousand words along on a new one; however it’s not about Paul, as my memoir, published in 2011, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, is. Here’s a piece I wrote early on about how writing memoir, journal entries, and poetry all worked for me. In fact, everything I wrote in the piece below still applies today. How Memoir Writing Helped Me Deal with Grief I signed up for a writing class three months after my son Paul’s death. We sat in the instructor’s living room on couches and big easy chairs in a comfortable and forgiving atmosphere. Each week the instructor told us t … [Read more...]

What’s next to write?

Now that my novel is going through a final professional edit and hopefully getting ready to shop around. I’ve been thinking about what’s next for my writing life. For a long time, I’ve thought that there isn’t another book in me, but now I’m not so sure. Could I write another memoir? I’m at that stage in my life when I have almost all of it to look back on, so I could write 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, another memoir or even two are a real possibility. The options are endless: how we're still working at surviving the loss of … [Read more...]

My memoir still has legs

Three Things: My memoir got its 223rd review on Amazon today. On Saturday 10 am I'll be on a memoir-writing panel called Thanks for the Memories at the Genre-LA writers conference at the Los Angeles Valley College. Sunday I'll be online all day at We Love Memoirs Sunday Spotlight. I actually thought I'd be done with book marketing a year after the memoir was published. Was I wrong! It seems that this book keeps re-emerging and providing inspiration for would-be memoir writers or the right words of encouragement for those also affected by mental illness and suicide. I feel so grateful for that. Here is its latest five-star review from Lindsay De Felix: on Amazon for Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. This is a very hard book for me to write a review on. It is about a subject which I have no knowledge of – a bipolar son who commits suicide. I don’t know anyone well who suffers from bip … [Read more...]

How journaling helped B. Lynn Goodwin decide to marry at age 62

B. Lynn Goodwin used her journals as the foundation of her memoir, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62. Well, I have to say I did the same when I started my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I had pages and pages of journal entries that I meticulously copied from my handwritten notebooks to computer Word files, and my book was off and running. For me, writing in my journals helped me heal after losing my son too suicide. For B. Lynn Goodwin, journal writing helped her to decide whether to jump into a marriage with a two-time widower at age 62. We both agree that journaling is like having a secret friend that we can trust with anything in our minds and hearts. Here is B. Lynn Goodwin and her thoughts about the benefits of journaling for her. Need a Venting Partner? Try a Journal by B. Lynn Goodwin When I was dating Richard, I had crazy thoughts running through my head. What did I know about love or commitment or becoming a wife? I didn’t even tell my friends about him at fi … [Read more...]

Introducing Fiona Simon

I'm pleased to introduce you to Fiona Simon and her new book, Gambling on Granola, published on January 1, 2018 (Terra Nova Books). In Gambling on Granola: Unexpected Gifts on the Path of Entrepreneurship, Simon shares a tale that is uplifting and inspiring but also raw and honest. This is a business memoir but also a love story―the love for her daughter, of a journey in uncharted waters, of the products and company she created, and of the continued challenge to follow her dream. We see her growth and healing over fifteen years, as mistakes, weaknesses, and naiveté evolve into resilience, resolve, and inspiration. For Fiona, it started out as all new businesses do―with an idea. But her world quickly became more complex as she established her company, developed new product lines, forged personal relationships in a competitive environment, grew her business, and held onto her deepest values―all while raising her daughter, Natalie, as a single mom. Praise for Gambling with Gra … [Read more...]

Dr. Leona Stucky writes about violence against women

Dr. Leona Stucky has written an eye-opening account of the violence she experienced in her own home as a young Mennonite woman in her memoir, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God. She calls this treatment the Invisible American War. The numbers of those affected are staggering, and bringing their turmoil into the light still escapes us. Dr. Stucky says there is denial about the violence against women and men in America. To. This. Day. Choices readers: please tell us your ideas of how to bring these atrocities into the light. We need your help. Public Denial of Violence Against Women by Dr. Leona Stucky The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God is an historical personal account of a young Mennonite woman who finds herself on the front lines of the Invisible American War. I remember the breathless reaction I had when, years after my war experience, I read in Jeff Wolf Wilson's book, Children of Battered Women, that during the same years that the US lost 39,000 … [Read more...]

Should we let a family member read our drafts?

When I finished revision nine of my novel, I decided to let my husband read it. He'd been asking for a long time, and I always held back from letting him. I had heard early on that asking family members especially such close ones and good friends to read our work could be a problem. It they hate the work they would be reluctant to tell the truth, and if they love it, they may have a subjective rather than objective point of view. Well, I decided to risk it anyway, and considering how hard he worked on reviewing, I'm not sorry. He saved a copy and renamed it with his initials and started going through it marking edits and/or typos in red font and inserting questions and comments along the way highlighted in yellow. He also created a separate timeline in a Word table. That is really his forte he's a numbers guy. And, he found a lot of inconsistencies in my dates (my novel is divided in three parts each starting with a date in story's history) and inconsistencies in the birth d … [Read more...]

We celebrate in May

With Mother's Day and my birthday and our anniversary in the month of May, we had a lot of celebrating to do. We also celebrated the online release of our son's new movie, Gentlemen's Fury, now streaming on Vimeo On Demand. Believe me, in the old days when I first started going to movies I never would have dreamed we could see new releases from our television sets. So here are a few photos from this May and one from our wedding day, May 28, forty-seven years ago. And yes, they all said it would never last. May 28, 1970 May 28, 2017 May 23, 2017, release of Gentlemen's Fury on Vimeo On Demand One more thing. My memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On was released on Mother's Day, 2011. It now has 218 reviews on Amazon and is ranked 4.3 out of five stars. Plus last month it was on a list compiled by Erin Burba of BookRiot of the 100 Must-Read Biographies and Memoirs of Remarkable Women. So I celebrate the anniversary of that event too. … [Read more...]

A new review

My memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, currently has 217 reviews over at Amazon. The last one is a gem that I'd like to share with you. Though I personally know the reviewer, I don't think that swayed her choice of words and her feelings about the book. She's a professional writer and reads voraciously. So thank you so much, Barbie, for this very thought-provoking review of my memoir. A Broken Heart Madeline Sharples' book is so much more than a memoir, in many ways it is as if you are reading her diary. A book of thoughts addressing memories while trying to understand, to sort through years of heartbreaking and stressful events, hoping to find an answer and to heal. I would bet a very similar emotional battle is felt by all those who have lost loved ones to suicide. So many parts of this book I can relate to but with a twist. My dad's abuse of his medication affected his personality and mood changes, and escalated his dementia. The guilt I felt not being able to get … [Read more...]

Letters from World War I France

Hubert William Kelley's letters home from France during World War I are extraordinary. And that his daughter became the editor of The Weeping Angel: Letters and Poems from World War I France is also extraordinary. Thank you Crystal Otto and Bring on Lemons for hosting a virtual tour of this book. About The Weeping Angel Now, on the Centennial of World War I, Hubert Kelley's wish is realized with the publication of The Weeping Angel, his account of the war in northern France as he lived it.  Told through letters and poems, Kelley writes home to his Kansas City family with vivid descriptions of day-to-day life on the edge of the battlefield.  Enlisting right after graduation from Central High, he claims to play the bugle to be accepted and proves to be a talented raconteur and observer. Although he could not play the bugle and never learned, he became the regimental poet of Company D of the Twelfth Engineers and found his true vocation as a writer. Mary Kelley, his daughter, … [Read more...]