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...]

Let’s erase the stigma of mental illness

In the aftermath of the mass killings and injuries in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio this past weekend, I've been thinking a lot about the role people with mental illness play in such events. Mental illness runs in my family. My son suffered with bipolar disorder and as a result killed himself almost twenty years ago. But none of the mentally ill people I know (or knew) are violent. My son was a gentle person - so were  my relatives - unless you characterize suicide as a violent act. I don't. I agree with his doctor who said my son had to release the pain he was in and that's why he took his own life. I'm also on the side of a study done in 2017 by MentalHealth.gov. They say: "It is a myth that people with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable." The Fact Is: "The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%–5% of violent acts can be attributed to … [Read more...]

Two new reviews worth bragging about

Pat Seitz and I attend a monthly Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) writing group where we discuss our published books and books in progress plus hear a lot of good information about what resources out there for us struggling authors. I was pleasantly surprised at one meeting when Pat said she wanted to buy and read my book. Since I carry a box of books in the trunk of my car, I was ready to accommodate her immediately, and I happily signed a first edition hardback copy for her. I also gave her a discounted price, something I always do for other authors when we're at meetings and writers conferences. And Pat graciously wrote a fabulous review of Leaving the Hall Light On - unfortunately Amazon wouldn't publish it since she didn't buy it from the Amazon site. Here's Pat: Madeline Sharples' painful, powerful story, Leaving the Hall Light On, is phenomenal. Her fascinating story has turned the light on the darkness in my family's disconnect and … [Read more...]

Yes, I have to weigh in on the most recent celebrity suicides

I’ve been grappling with the two suicide deaths by famous people last week – Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Both successful and productive. Both seemingly having no reasons to end their lives. So what made them do it? I’ve heard that Spade was suffering from depression and was getting help. I've recently learned that Bourdain also had bouts of depression, and that in his early days he had drug and alcohol problems. Needless to say, they both had their demons. However, they say it isn’t only mental illness – it could be what’s going on in our world, including poverty, homelessness and unemployment or stress on the job – that trigger suicide. In a recent "New Yorker" article, Andrew Solomon states: "There is another factor that should not be underestimated. On a national stage, we’ve seen an embrace of prejudice and intolerance, and that affects the mood of all citizens. My psychoanalyst said that he had never before had every one of his patients discuss national politics repeatedly, … [Read more...]

Fiction: another way to erase stigma

My guest today, Joanell Serra, explores the idea of reducing the stigma of mental illness by openly describing the mental illnesses fictional characters experience. That is to say, being open and communicative about mental illness in fiction and/or real life helps reduce stigma and paves the way to recovery rather than hiding some pretty grotesque characters in corners as was done to Miss Havisham, in Charles Dickens Great Expectations. With that in mind it is easy to understand that the characters in her debut novel, The Vines We Planted, are deeply portrayed and very well written so that they can work through the many emotional and challenging issues they encounter in her book. Please help me welcome Joanell Serra during her WOW! Women on Writing book tour. Can we reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness through fiction? by Joanell Serra When we think of characters with mental illness in fiction, there are many extreme examples to choose from: Billy Pilgrim from V … [Read more...]

Renee Antonia writes about learning to breathe

I am pleased to welcome Renee Antonia here at Choices. She's participating in a WOW! Women on Writing tour of her book, I'm Not Okay. Renee has written a sensitive and meaningful guest post about her struggle with anxiety and how she found a community of people going through the same thing that helped her through. With mental illness it's always best to communicate our stories. That provides a two-fold benefit: it helps erase stigma and helps us understand and rid ourselves of the demons that plague us. Thank you for telling us your story about overcoming your demons.   Learning to Breathe While You’re Drowning By Renee Antonia There are many times throughout my busy work week that I realize I haven’t stopped to take a breath.  Between working, writing, friends, and family I forget to breathe. After one of these realizations, I stopped and asked myself why?  Why do I work myself so hard that I forget to stop and take a breath?  To embrace and enjoy what I have?  To be … [Read more...]

A journey out of the darkness and into the light

I was very interested in having Sebastian Slovin appear here today. He has a story to tell about what he learned from his father's suicide, just as I had a story to tell about what I learned from my son's suicide. We are definitely kindred spirits even though our experiences were quite different. However, one thing is certain. Suicide is a death different from all others, and it leaves the survivors broken, guilty, and always searching for answers to "why?" Mr. Slovin appears here courtesy of the WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour of his memoir Ashes in the Ocean, published in March 2018 by Nature Unplugged. About Ashes in the Ocean Vernon Slovin was a legend. He was one of the best swimmers in his home country of South Africa, and for a time in the world. He prided himself on being the best. The best in sports, business, and life. He had it all, a big home, athletic prestige, fancy clothes and cars, and a beautiful wife and family. Everything was going his way … [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...]

Review number 220 is a true gift

Thank you, Janine Ward, for this sensitive and insightful review of Leaving the Hall Light On.  I won't say more. The review speaks for itself. Inspirational. For anyone who has known untouchable, unimaginable grief that no one deserves and on one survives without lifetime scars, Madeline Sharples' Leaving the Hall Light On is a must read. It is a book that will shine light into the broken crevices of the soul, and if you are healing, if you feel you are alone, Madeline's book is the perfect company. It is her transformative story about accepting the grief of unanswerable questions, parenting into the unknown territories of mental illness, losing everything and deciding to live anyway. Along the way she describes it in detail, the intersections she crossed and why she turned the way she turned, proving that anyone can survive anything if we put our minds into it and one foot forward, one day at a time. Joy can return, it will never be the same but the capacity to accept what it … [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...]

Jennifer McGregor writes about PTSD and its risks

Please welcome back Jennifer McGregor. Today she writes about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its effects on those who have it. The good news is: if treated correctly, PTSD doesn't have to mean a life of depression and addiction or a death sentence. PTSD: What are the Associated Risks? by Jennifer McGregor Image via Pixabay by googles People who suffer from PTSD will experience symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, paranoia, and depression. These are to be expected after a PTSD diagnosis. What is less commonly known are the coinciding effects PTSD can have on someone. Too often, one mental illness can trigger other illnesses, risks, or symptoms that may not be directly associated with PTSD. Here are a few of the associated risks to be on the lookout for if someone you love has been diagnosed with PTSD. Social Isolation is Very Common When a person is suffering from PTSD, they tend to withdraw into their homes, afraid of experiencing a trigger. The home is … [Read more...]

Thoughts of gratitude in the new year

The holiday season has come and gone once again. As always, I view it as bittersweet. The holidays bring up too many reminders of my son Paul who died just three months shy of his 28th New Year's Eve birthday. We visited his gravesite on his 45th birthday as we do on his death day and birthday every year. I also view the holiday season with gratitude. Besides my continued good health, the love and support of so many family members and friends, and my ability to live a productive life, that I can even think in terms of being grateful is a miracle. However, as bad as life was after Paul died, and as much as I continue to miss him, I have found out that with such a tragedy come unexpected gifts. Paul's death has made me a stronger person, physically and emotionally. It was as if I accomplished getting stronger through brute force. I met and interacted with people who had been through similar experiences; I took writing classes and workshops; I went back to work outside my home with … [Read more...]

Three ways to overcome addiction

  Since I've become an advocate of erasing the stigma of mental illness and suicide prevention I like to host writers who have healing ideas that could help people at risk. Jennifer McGregor has been my guest before you can read her previous article here. I'm delighted to have her back. Her words make a lot of sense to me. Please join me in welcoming Jennifer to my website, Choices.  Three Mood-Boosting Activities for Those Overcoming Addictions by Jennifer McGregor Many people with mental illness find themselves self-medicating. Acquiring mental health care is very difficult for a number of people thanks to the ongoing stigma against mental illness. Whether a person goes undiagnosed or simply cannot afford care, self-medication is a rampant problem among those with mental illnesses. Self-medication, unfortunately, often leads to addiction, worsened symptoms of mental illness, and suicide. Preventing suicide is a crucial component to addiction recovery. So, if you … [Read more...]

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...]

I did it. Seventeen miles in eight hours and still here.

A few thoughts about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention AFSP San Francisco Out of the Darkness suicide awareness and prevention walk this past Saturday night: Last year in Boston we felt the pain walking in the cold and rain; this year we felt the pain trudging up hill after hill. Those were just small reminders of the pain our loved ones felt and had to release when they took their lives. It was fitting for us to feel that pain, but we will never know an nth of it. I also felt so blessed to walk with Team S.O.L.E.S. Everyone took such good care of each other, worrying where the laggers were and waiting so we could all be in the mile-marker photos. And once we were finished at 3:26 am we all held hands, walking along side the luminaria and under the I-did-it-arch. Thank you Keith Alan Hamilton, Deborah Lee Rose, Debi Hoyles-Girardi and your friend Jen, Joanne Marrazzo Fry, Aaron D. Schwartz, Christy Heitger-Ewing and your husband Eric. You all made my night worth while … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

Welcome our guest Linda Appleman Shapiro

Thanks to WOW! Women on Writing blog tours I'm pleased to welcome author and psychotherapist Linda Appleman Shapiro. I feel so fortunate to have her here on the first day of her tour to promote her new memoir, She's Not Herself: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness, published in September 2014 by Dream of Things. Here's Linda, as she speaks openly about mental illness coming out of the closet and constantly being in the news. Most importantly, she personalizes what it is like to live with a family member suffering from a mental illness by sharing her experience growing up with a mother who suffered from major depressive disorder.  An Open Discussion about Keeping Secrets about Family Illnesses by Linda Appleman Shapiro Secrets about an illness in a family is the breeding ground for a wide range of emotional problems, and, yes, even mental illness.  I've learned this not only from personal experience, but also from 30 years as a psyc … [Read more...]

CD launch time is almost here!

I'm getting more and more excited. We're having a party to launch the CD of my son Paul's music this coming Thursday. I just ordered refreshments, I'm thinking about the logistics of bringing CDs and books to the venue, and I'm in the process of making up the program all the details that go beyond producing the actual CD. From the FB event and eVite invitations, we've received definite and maybe RSVPs from 45 people so far. It looks like the event will be well attended. Hopefully more people will tell us yes in the next couple of days maybe some of you who read about it here, today. Here's the details: Date: Thursday September 25, 2014 Time: 7 to 9 pm Place: Pages: a bookstore Address: 904 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach CA And here's a photo of the actual CD. My husband Bob Sharples wrote: "This compact disc is an introduction to the jazz piano of our son, Paul Sharples. Listening to it brings to me memories of evenings when Paul simply played for himself in o … [Read more...]