How my memoir came to be

I wrote the following piece a little over a year ago for the Women's Writing Circle. I'd like to share it with you now. When I Knew I Had A Memoir I returned to writing regularly when our son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in March 1993. He had just turned 21 and was a senior at the New School in New York City. Early on during his illness I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992), and her suggestion to write morning pages resonated with me. Because I was employed full-time then, I didn’t always write in the morning, but I always finished my three pages before the end of the day. So writing about my son’s bipolar disorder and later about his 1999 suicide death became my therapy. Writing during the most stressful time of my life became an obsession and a balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. Besides journaling I began to take writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers Program and Esalen Institu … [Read more...]

A new milestone: 175 reader reviews

In the last 30 days my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On has received three new reviews. As a result it has reached a milestone: 175 reviews total - 113 with five stars.  I’m always thrilled with the five-star reviews, of course; however, the last three have all been terrific. Twenty-seven days ago, Michael Knezic’s five-star review said: “Heartbreaking! “I thought that the book was very well written and put you right there with the family. I don't know how difficult it was for them to write this book but I think it puts the reader right there with the family. It opens your eyes!!” On July 7, Bridgette Carpenter’s four-star review said: “A sad story about parenting a severely mentally disturbed son. “…The book is very sad…. It is so terribly sad that the parents could not keep their son in an institution where he would have been required to take his medicines and he would not have been able to injure himself. Their son was an adult so he couldn't be forced … [Read more...]

Paul’s CD is almost ready

Last December I wrote that I was intent on putting out a compact disc of my son Paul's music and have all proceeds go to charities that work toward erasing the stigma of mental illness and/or preventing suicide.  And I am pleased to say that it is almost ready to go. My plan now is to launch it sometime in the week of September 23 to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of Paul's death. As the date gets closer, I'll let you know where and when the launch will take place. I must credit the three people who have helped make this project a reality: Martin Borsanyi, Paul's friend from their Crossroads high school jazz ensemble days, copied all of Paul's music from the original cassette tapes that Paul left us onto CDs Patrick von Wiegandt, a brilliant recording artist and singer and musician (he leads a band called Swanky), produced and engineered all the songs. He also helped me pick the songs for the CD and the order in which they will appear. Paul Blieden, photographer ext … [Read more...]

Drumroll please for my WOW guest Sue Silverman

Please give Sue Silverman a huge welcome. I'm so glad she agreed to stop at Choices while on her WOW - Women on Writing blog book tour. I can relate to Sue Silverman author of The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew. I too was a nice little Jewish girl looking over at my WASP grade school classmates and wishing for their long blond waves, blue eyes, clear skin and willowy bodies instead of my frizzy dark hair, short and stocky frame, and my best feature, my hazel eyes, always hidden behind thick glasses. Unlike Sue, I did not experience an abusive upbringing. However, I write about the other taboo subjects that darkened my history: mental illness and suicide. I feel our frank and raw writing goes a long way to erasing the stigma associated with such topics. Plus, writing these hard stories can be healing. Putting your pain on the page can be very liberating. That said,  I’m excited for you to read Sue's thoughts about writing about taboo subjects. Writing T … [Read more...]

Five star review number 105

The 105th five star review arrived on my Amazon page on January 29. I was so impressed with what Stace of Australia wrote about Leaving the Hall Light On and her sensitivity to our son Paul's and our family's struggles, and the different ways people react to physical vs mental illnesses, I wanted to share it with your here. The gist is: mental illness is an illness just like a physical illness and needs to be recognized as such. "I really related to this book. Having experienced major depression I knew a lot of the scenarios and can imagine how Madeline's son Paul felt. How scared and alone he would have felt. This book is so heart felt and detailed. It's a real life experience that they can't take back but have learned so much from. I felt so sorry for Paul's family and friends. In some places in the book I felt angry with the parents for criticizing their son after he'd passed away, but at the same time I knew that they're hurting and angry that he left them. It hurts to hear … [Read more...]

Book reviews matter

I’ve written about book reviews before. Frankly I wish they’d all go away. But since I’m an author I have to live with them. I also know that reviews matter. Good ones help sales. Bad ones hurt author’s egos. I reblogged a post about reviews from Kristen Lamb last June. She and I are on the same page about writing bad reviews. We just won’t. We know how much they hurt, and why hurt our author friends and colleagues? And, I’ve had some reviews of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On that were pretty ego-hurting. However, I’m fortunate that most been very positive. Like the one posted on Amazon yesterday. It is so in tune with my sentiments and what I wanted to get across in my book, I have to share it here. My only connection to the reviewer is she contacted me about how to get permission to use a Paul Simon song quote in her own book, and I gave her the information. When she told me she read my book, I asked if she’d write a review. Yesterday she contacted me again … [Read more...]

103 five-star reviews – oh my!

I'm so honored to have received a five-star review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, especially, from Linda Appleman Shapiro who is a professional Psychotherapist/Addictions Counselor (M.S., A.S.A.C.) She is also certified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Ericksonian Hypnosis/ Named Best Blogger in the field of Mental Health by WELLsphere and finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for FOUR ROOMS,UPSTAIRS: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness.  Thank you so much, Linda. I am proud to publish your review verbatim here. *** Linda Appleman Shapiro's Review of: LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide We live in an age where telling one's personal story is nearly epidemic. There are those who gain fame from revealing salacious facts about their lives, appearing on television talk shows and then writing memoirs because audiences embrace their narcissism, ga … [Read more...]

I have to brag

Emma, one of the three founders of the blog Book Geeks Unite, posted this review of Leaving the Hall Light On. It's so awesome, I have to share it. "Madeline Sharples’ Leaving the Hall Light On chronicles one woman’s challenges, grief and ultimately her healing as she and her family battle one son’s seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder and his untimely death by suicide. As I was searching for words to describe this book (words usually come easy to me), I could not find them. What to say about this book? Where are my words? Can you say you enjoyed a book about a mother’s grief over her son’s death? Not just his death, his suicide? I cannot say I enjoyed reading about her pain. What I can say is that this book completely engulfed my emotions. There were several times while reading, I realized I was not breathing. I had to remind myself to breathe. I realized that is a sign that I am “in” the book. The author had somehow allowed me in. I realized she had … [Read more...]

Kudos to celebrities who work to erase stigma

Catherine Zeta-Jones checked into a mental health facility this Monday for bipolar disorder treatment. And I applaud her. She is proactive and committed to periodic care. What’s so important is that this news, so openly provided, helps erase stigma. "It’s not easy,” she says. “I’m not the kind of person who likes to shout out my personal issues from the rooftops, but with my bipolar becoming public, I hope fellow sufferers will know it’s completely controllable. I hope I can help remove any stigma attached to it, and that those who don’t have it under control will seek help with all that is available to treat it." Many other famous people have been afflicted with mental illness. The list is long. Some have managed to control their disease; others have not. I became interested in working to erase stigma after my son’s suicide as a result of his bipolar disorder. I wrote earlier about my conviction that his death might have been avoided had he not been affected by … [Read more...]

Thoughts about the horrific Sandy Hook massacre

Four days ago a 20-year old man took his mother’s assault weapons, killed her, and then went to a local school and killed twenty children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults before he killed himself. So much has come up for me since then – besides the tears. The senselessness of it, the grief of parents losing a child, the struggle of young children to get their arms around such a profound loss. Our whole country and probably the world are in mourning now, and we are all at a loss about what we can do. Right now all I can do is think and cry about it. However, as I watched Bob Schieffer’smorning talk show yesterday while I was working out, two things came up for me – aside from the enormity of the numbers of guns bought and sold in our country and the senseless numbers of gun murders – over 32,000 a year. It is totally clear that we have the right to bear arms. There is no way we’ll be able to remove guns from our country. That said, can’t there be a better way to control … [Read more...]

Answering questions about bipolar disorder and suicide at SkatingThru2012

Dr. Pam Young, former professor and current Holistic Health Practitioner, was the ninth host of my three-month marathon virtual book tour, AKA blog tour. She graciously posted this Question and Answer session with me on her blog SkatingThru2012 on November 6. I thank her so much for her support and all the work she did to put this post together. I have been so fortunate to have so many folks join me on this tour. Author Madeline Sharples Answers Questions About Bi-Polar Disorder & Suicide Posted on November 6, 2012 | 3 Comments Memoirs can educate us by showing how one dealt with a particular circumstance. In that way, they offer a sort of lighted pathway. Such is the case with Leaving the Hall Light On by Madeline Sharples whose book tour included an invitation to bloggers to post questions about her experience not only to promote her book, but also to facilitate her mission since the death of her son: “…to raise awareness, educate, and erase the stigma of mental illness a … [Read more...]

My paperback launch is August 6

Since Dream of Things will launch the paperback edition of Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide this Monday, August 6, I thought I’d share the newest reviews posted on Amazon in the last three weeks. They are all five-star. I couldn’t be happier about the wonderful response to my memoir. I hope these reviews will entice you to read the book yourselves. Madeline Sharples propels her readers through a startling emotional landscape of those left behind after suicide, in "Leaving the Hall Light on." Incredibly intimate and revealing….Her imagery, scenes, and movement through her family's recovery expertly nail the high art of the memoir.Ruth Belanger It took considerable courage to write this book. Madeline Sharples describes a path from guilt and grief to recovery. Life goes on but it requires personal fortitude. Anyone who has experienced the suicide of a family member will find Madel … [Read more...]

Farewell, Lucky Press! What’s next after a publisher quits?

Right in the midst of saying goodbye to friends from Tuscon on Saturday morning, I got the news that Lucky Press was going out of business – on April 30 – that's today! That announcement gave me a whole three day’s notice. What a shock and what a scramble. It took me the better part of that day, a sleepless night, and until the next morning to get over it and consider this event an opportunity, not a disaster. First, I decided my book is way too important to abandon now. Actually I should have seen the writing on the wall when Janice, the owner of Lucky Press, informed me about a month ago that she would not produce my e-book in May as promised. She had been in ill health and just moved. Plus creating graphic designs seems to be her passion and provides her real livelihood. However, I was fortunate that she resonated with my book and offered to publish it. Her attention to detail with my text, photos, and book design was flawless. I am very proud of the book she produced. An … [Read more...]

LA Times Festival of Books – was it worth it?

I spent most the last couple of days at the LA Times Festival of Booksheld at the University of Southern California campus. And most of the time I hung at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society booth. I'm holding Paul's Putting a Face on Suicide poster I was pleased to bond with several of the GLAWS members who volunteered to provide hospitality to people interested in joining our group and to help those of us who paid for a selling and signing place at the booth. Here I am with author and actor, Ace Antonio Hall, my GLAWS colleague I also learned a thing or two about my author colleagues. Most were lovely and friendly but as expected kept to themselves and their customers during our signing sessions. However, the woman next to me used her space as well as mine until I told her next time she needs to pay for two places, not one. She didn’t bat an eye and just leaned over my table space to yet again sign one of her posters for someone. But I won out in the end. My friends in cha … [Read more...]

Book clubs – a way to sell books

Two Tuesdays nights in a row I had the pleasure of being the guest of honor at book club discussions of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living With Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide (Lucky Press, 2011). Last week we had just a short question and answer discussion about the how I prepared the book and the benefits the writing of it had in my healing process. Only one person asked the questions. Last night in a room full of fifteen or so women, the questions kept flying from each one of them, starting with did I think I left anything out of the book to how do I feel twelve years later as I speak about the loss of my son. Does it still affect me emotionally? We also discussed what stigma is and does it still exist, psychopharmacology versus talk therapy, jails versus hospitals in caring for the mentally ill, and whether or not I think my son’s former girlfriend has read my book (I don’t think so, but of course I’ll never rea … [Read more...]

Treatment Not Jail; Incarceration Will Fail

I participated in my very first press conference yesterday – about the failure of the jail system in treating the mentally ill. The system doesn’t have the training, experience, or facilities to treat the mentally ill. They belong in hospitals or other health care facilities. Nancy Speer whose son Ben Warren has been incarcerated in the Santa Barbara jail for eleven months organized the event and spoke out in front of the jail about her son’s treatment and condition – he supposedly has self-mutilated himself and has refused food and water. On two occasions he was sent to a local hospital’s psych ward and rehydrated but not medicated and brought back to psychological balance. Now he is back in jail in a safety cell naked and only covered with a light quilt. Neither his mother nor his psychiatrist is allowed to visit him. Nancy Speer speaking yesterday in front of the Santa Barbara jail Nancy then introduced me. However, I could not speak from my experience with the inhum … [Read more...]

Book Fair – Lessons Learned

Since I wrote my last post about going to participate as an exhibitor at the Ventura County Author Book Fair last Saturday, November 5, I thought I’d follow up with some observations. The Good Things · I sold seven books. · I gave away lots and lots of bookmarks. · Many people shared their stories of suicide and mental illness in their families when they came by my table, and I got to tell them about the Putting A Face On Suicide project when they admired Paul’s poster. · I was at a table at a good location in the room. It faced the center of the room, I felt sorry for the folks who sat at the room’s perimeter and had to face the wall. · I had a successful reading – I spoke about the book briefly, read the piece about comforting someone who is grieving, and I read five poems · I met some wonderful authors – one who works in oncology who told me a statistic I never knew, that many people who are diagnosed with cancer commit suicide. So she took a … [Read more...]

I’ve gotten involved

I joined the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Alive and Running 5K committee several months ago. It was in fulfillment of a promise I made to myself - to start volunteering again once my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, was published and on the market. I even wrote about my need to get involved in a charity again in my book. This committe is a great place to start. It gets me more acquainted with all the services Didi Hirsch provides to prevent suicide and erase the stigma of mental illness, and it's a finite assignment. The event takes place on September 25, and then the need to meet stops. Plus, I've participated in this event for the last several years since my son Paul died. I've attended several meetings so far - although I feel like I'm not making a significant difference yet. But there's still time. I've begun to ask others to enroll in the event via emails. and I'll ask several local businesses related to fitness and 5 and 10K walk/run events to display … [Read more...]

Radio interview report

My first radio interview, on Smart Women Talk Radio, started at eight in the morning Pacific time last Tuesday, July 5. I called in and talked to the producer, and then the co-hosts, Katana Abbott and Vicky Trabosh came on for a little off-the-air chat. They explained they would talk amongst themselves for the first few minutes of the show, introduce me, and then we'd do the interview - like having a conversation, they said. Five minutes before the hour was up, they'd say goodbye to me and finish the show. So in all, I'd say I was on the air about forty-two minutes. They had asked for questions in advance, so I was very prepared with my answers to the ten I provided. In fact I had my notes up at the ready on my computer screen. However, the interview turned out to be pretty much off the cuff. And like the interview I had for the article in my local Beach Reporter newspaper, that was just fine with me since I know my material cold. I listened to the recording this morning. and it … [Read more...]

WOW blog tour stop No. 9

Today I'm the guest of Cindy Hudson's MOTHER daughter BOOK CLUB READING TOGETHER FOR life CINDY HUDSON AND HER DAUGHTERS My topic today is: does the stigma of mental illness still exist. And since this is a site intended for discussions between mothers and daughters, I decided to provide simple facts about what mental illness looks like and what stigma looks like. Just like they talk about drugs and sex, kids need to know about depression and mental health issues. So please take a look at this great mother daughter blog site at: 




http://motherdaughterbookclub.com/ And yes, the stigma of mental illness still exists. … [Read more...]