How photos, poems, and quotes can add to your writing

Our poetry reading yesterday afternoon at Pages: a bookstore was a huge success. I read many of the poems 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, plus a few newer poems. Using that material and receiving so many kudos from those in attendance yesterday makes me so happy that I never faltered about adding poems (and photos and quotes) to the book. Almost as soon as my memoir was published one of the first reviewers said, “….The poetry and photographs add an extra dimension that is missing from most memoirs like this since as a reader you get much closer to the reality of what is being described on the page….” (Mark Shelmerdine, CEO, Jeffers Press). Another reviewer said my book is “poetically visceral.” Those statements helped validate any misgivings I had in adding other creative works into my manuscript. I really hadn’t thought of putting photos in my book until … [Read more...]

We’re taking the show on the road

Last December, Chanel Brenner, Alexis Fancher, and I read poetry about the deaths of our sons at Beyond Baroque, a literary arts center in Venice California. See my blog post about this event here. We’re reading again this Sunday April 24 at 4 pm at Pages: a bookstore in Manhattan Beach California. We’ve modified the program a bit; however, we are carrying through the same theme: WRITING HEALING POETRY Turning Grief into Art We hope you’ll join us. Each of us will read thirteen to fourteen poems. Mine are mostly in my memoir in prose and poetry, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Chanel will read from her book of poetry, Vanilla Milk, and Alexis will read from her poetry chapbook, State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies. I can attest that the poetry is fabulous, and I know you’ll like the refreshments as well. … [Read more...]

Don’t be afraid to submit

Three out of five isn’t bad. In the last couple of months I’ve submitted five pieces to contests and anthologies – mostly at the urging of my recent poetry instructor, Thresha Haefner at The Poetry Salon. And I found out that submitting really pays off. It’s like lottery tickets. If you don’t buy one, you have no chance of winning. In all I submitted three poems, a poetry chapbook, and an excerpt from my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. Two of the three poems were accepted – one is still in review, and the excerpt was accepted to appear in a suicide loss anthology. Unfortunately the chapbook didn’t make it, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. I’ll submit it again and again to wherever seems suitable. And so as not to keep you in the dark, here are the two poems that will come out soon: “Stop and Go” will appear in Yellow Chair Review’s In the Words of Women anthology, and “Remnants” will appear in the 2016 Porter Gulch Review. Stop and Go … [Read more...]

Time to put my ass in the chair

I’m a little late getting started this year. Two much movie going I guess. Last week we saw three more movies: The Big Short, Concussion, and Brooklyn. All great – I’d give them all an A. But now it’s time to get back to work. I told myself – I guess the word is resolved – to open up my novel again and see if I can bring it back to life. I put it aside at the end of last April when I went to work my consulting job in Colorado and sent it off to several beta readers. I was also devastated by one particularly scathing review that literally stopped me in my tracks. But, enough is enough. I’ve put a lot of work into that book. I cannot just throw it all out. I was also encouraged by the movie Brooklyn. Like my novel it’s about immigrating to America. Of course our stories are very different but it makes me feel that immigration stories are still alive and well – not like the scathing reviewer said. Plus there are several boarding house scenes in the movie that … [Read more...]

Turning grief into art

This past Saturday afternoon I read poetry about the death of my son and its aftermath at Beyond Baroque, a literary arts center in Venice California. Two women, Chanel Brenner, and Alexis Rhone Fancher, who also experienced the death of their sons joined me. We were pleased to read before a packed standing-room-only crowd. We each started our poetry reading with our views about writing as healing. Here's mine. How Writing Helped Me Heal by Madeline Sharples My son Paul died by suicide on September 23, 1999. He was twenty-seven years old. Poems just started coming out during a writing workshop shortly after his death. Poetry seemed to be the only way I could really express my emotions. Writing allows me put my pain on the page. Instead of carrying it with me every moment of the day and night, I found a place where I could have a little relief. There was so much I couldn’t say out loud to anyone. And since there was so much anger and grief in me, I needed a place to p … [Read more...]

You’re invited

On December 12 at 4 pm I'll be reading poems with two of my fellow poets, Chanel Brenner and Alexis Rhone Fancher. Our topic is Writing Healing Poetry  Turning Grief into Art.  Each of us write about the deaths of our sons. We'll be at Beyond Baroque, a literary arts center in Venice CA that offers public poetry readings, free workshops, and a bookstore. It's website states: "Beyond Baroque is one of the United States' leading independent Literary | Arts Centers and public spaces dedicated to expanding the public's knowledge of poetry, literature and art through cultural events and community interaction. Founded in 1968, Beyond Baroque is based out of the original City Hall building in Venice, California. The Center offers a diverse variety of literary and arts programming including readings, workshops, new music and education." This will not be my first time reading there. When I attended writing workshops with Jack Grapes, the last class in a series was always held at Bey … [Read more...]

A couple PAD poems

I'm knee deep into poem writing these days. Here's a couple from the first four days of the November 2015 poem a day - PAD - chapbook challenge. I haven't done a careful edit of these yet, but you'll get the idea what I was up against given the prompts. I always enjoy Robert Lee Brewer's prompts. They are designed to stretch our skills and give us a topic we can have fun with - or not. Day 2 Write a surrender poem. A person can surrender to the authorities or a mob, but people can also surrender to a feeling or to music. Or leftover Halloween candy (at least, “my friend” has had that problem). I hope you surrender to your poetic impulse. It was almost 11 pm when he arrived at Grand Central. Tall, lean, perfectly quaffed in a hand-tailored sports jacket. But not to look too stuffy he wore it with jeans, an open collared blue shirt, polished tan wing tips, and carried a scuffed old briefcase. He walked through the station without looking side to side, with an air of conf … [Read more...]

I’m proud to say, “I am a writer.”

I subscribe to Joe Bunting’s The Write Practice. He sends me an email everyday on some facet of writing. Today’s was particularly relevant to me since he encouraged his readers to: “Be brave. Be bold. Claim your title. Say it with me: ‘I am a writer.’” That’s what I did yesterday while Stewart at the Apple store was helping me set up my new iPhone. When Stewart asked what I did, without hesitation I told him, “I am a writer.” And he wanted to know immediately what I write. It turns out that I’m still in my poetry practice phase, so I told him I’ve been getting back on my writing feet by writing two or three poems a day using prompts I get online. However, I also shared that I have a published memoir out, Leaving the Hall Light On, and I’m working on a novel. At that point I gave him my author business card. With that he shared with me that he has a degree in creative writing from a local university. And you guessed it. We were off and running. Wit … [Read more...]

Lily Iona MacKenzie and her views about poetry

Please welcome Lily Iona MacKenzie on her second stop of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. Her new novel Fling! was just released and can be purchased through her publisher Pen-L Publishing as well as the Amazon link given below. Lily also writes reviews, essays, memoir, short fiction, and poetry. Here she relates her thoughts about poetry and perception and exploring the world from various angles like we do in photography. I find her ideas very interesting since I like to write poems that reflect the scenes I photograph. Please take a look at her poems in the collection published in 2011, called All This.               POETRY AND PERCEPTION by Lily Iona MacKenzie Many of my poems reflect a continuing interest in perception and how we try to capture fleeting moments with language. The art that comes closest to what I'm trying to do in poetry is photography, the exploration of things in the world (and in ourselves) from various angles. The attempt to pene … [Read more...]

Through My Eyes by Regina A. Walker

I have always loved New York - the sounds, the smells, the people, the sights. I love it even more after experiencing Regina Walker's new book - Through My Eyes, a photo journal in photography and poems. I wrote on Facebook the other day, "Everyone needs this book." I think the beauty of the images and words in it will grab you as much as they do me. My fellow poet and dear friend, Keith Alan Hamilton, wrote the Foreword. He says, "...I think you will find in this book the combination of her imagery and words go way beyond the magical, as well as the mystical...." Her publisher, William S. Peters, Sr. at Inner Child Press also raves about her work, "The first time i had the opportunity   to   view   Regina’s   work   through   her   lens,   i   was   tremendously intrigued by her eye and her ability to Capture a unique perspective of the subtleness of life all about us. Over time i knew i had to get more involved with her work. . . my soul screamed it’s  necess … [Read more...]

My life changed in an instant

I started my long-awaited consulting job this past Wednesday and with that my life’s daily routines  changed in an instant. I get up more than an hour earlier so I’ll have enough time to workout before I have to be at work – at 7:30 am!!!! Also, the amount of time I have to train for the Boston Overnight walk in June has been cut in half. I drive to work rather than walk downstairs to my home office. I need to be dressed in business clothes with makeup on rather than in my grubbies and no makeup when I work at home. I haven’t watched any television for the last several days – I sure miss my daily dose of Jeopardy – nor have I read one word of any of the books stacked on my beside table. But most important of all, most of my writing time has been snatched away. So far I’m clinging to daily journaling – usually right before I go to sleep, but my other writing has stopped. I was going great with the April Poem A Day prompts – until this week. Though th … [Read more...]

Draft five of my novel is with five beta readers

  Last June I sent Draft Four of my novel-in-progress to five beta readers. This past Sunday I did it again. I sent Draft Five to five different beta readers. I also sent the manuscript to one of the first five beta readers and asked her to let me know if she thinks I created any damage as a result of all the cuts, changes, and rewrites I made to this latest draft - to comply with current guidelines for lengths of novels, I cut almost 9000 words. Hopefully, I left enough in tact that I didn't ruin anything. However, I have a safety net. I have saved every single draft of my novel. I can always add something back in if necessary. You can probably tell from the above, I consider getting my novel out in public both scary and exciting. However, it gives me a much-needed break from it. I've asked my readers to send me their comments by June 30 or sooner, so now I have time to blog, write some new poetry (I plan to participate in Robert Lee Brewer's April Poem A Day C … [Read more...]

Ageism doesn’t apply

I’m Going Back to Work I wasn’t looking for consulting work when I retired in April 2010 at the age of seventy. I was intent on working as a creative writer rather than a technical writer and proposal manager. For me it was either now or never. And I succeeded. In the last four and a half years I had my memoir published, I’ve written for several websites, I’ve written poems for two books of photography, and co-edited three poetry anthologies. Now I’m knee deep in revising my first novel. So really I have no time to work a day job, as they like to say. Actually, in the last couple of years I worked a couple of short-term consulting jobs – helping a group of engineers write proposals to the U.S. government. And it was easy-going back. I found that once I walked in the door I got into the swing of the work immediately. It was like I’d never been gone. Of course after doing the kind of work I did for almost thirty years, I shouldn’t have had any doubt that I co … [Read more...]

Writing work check-up

On January 5, 2015, I wrote a short writing to-do list for the coming few months. Today, since it's almost the end of January, is a good time to take stock. I'm pleased to report that I'm moving right along on my novel revisions. I've incorporated my red lines and yellow highlights into my online Revision 4 chapter files up to page 124. That means I have only 54 single-spaced hard-copy pages to go. Of course that doesn't mean that I'm finished finished. As I've revised I've tagged many many pages that I need to go back to. Like yesterday for instance. I was working on Chapter Seventeen which required that I add a new subsection at the chapter's end. I wrote it. I stepped back from it, I thought about how John Updike writes incredibly detailed descriptions, and I realized I wrote only the bare bones so far. I need to go back to that little subsection and add and add and add more. Remember the old adage - show don't tell? Well my bare bones only tell. I haven't written the … [Read more...]

A new poetry project

Poetry has been on my mind this past week. I submitted a new poem to the Writer's Digest poetry contest, and I sent several poems to my friend Keith Alan Hamilton as my first contribution to our joint endeavor of an anthology of poems and smart phone images. I'm also again participating in Robert Lee Brewer's November Chapbook Challenge although as of today I'm about six days behind. Since I won't share the poem I submitted to the contest, here are a couple from my project with Keith. I'd love to know what you think. Morning Walk I walk in the dark of the morning. watching as gray clouds move toward the horizon’s edge, and the sun begins to peek out. It’s almost a tug of war, the dark gray versus the sun’s rays that burst forth to take over the night sky. Then, almost in an instant the sun’s warmth rests on my shoulders and I forget the chill of the dark.                 The Lone Poles … [Read more...]

Meditation practice

I’m meditating again with Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. Their latest twenty-one day series started on August 11 and goes to the end of August. As they say:  “Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience™ makes meditation easy, fun, and inspiring, offering daily guided audio meditations via an online, interactive program. Enjoy easy access to the daily program anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone, tablet or computer. Join our global community on each 21-Day Meditation Experience. Together, we will create lives filled with increased peace, joy, and wellbeing.” I usually meditate before going to bed. It relaxes me and better prepares me for sleep. My husband chooses to meditate in the morning right after he wakes up. But when is not the operative word. What’s important is making the time to do it. That’s what I really like about these Oprah and Deepak 21-day meditation experiences. They get me back into it. Without their prodding, I don’t meditate regul … [Read more...]

The blog-a-day-challenge is over

  Today is the last day of my self-inflicted July blog-a-day challenge. You can probably hear me breathing a sigh of relief as I look out my office window. Though I’m glad I achieved my goal - there were many times in the month when I was tempted to call it off - I’m happy to tell you that I’m not ever going to do that to myself again. Here’s why: Thinking up a blog subject thirty-one days in a row is hard. As a result I know my posts were repetitive and sometimes uninteresting. I should have asked more writing friends to make guest appearances to help mix it up a bit. It was time-consuming. It took me more time to decide on a post subject than it took to write about the subject. It put unneeded pressure on me. What did I need that for? Well, I decided on this scheme while I was waiting for comments on my novel from my group of beta readers. I felt I needed another activity to keep me busy. I was definitely wrong about that. I also pressured … [Read more...]

Keith Alan Hamilton’s photo at Times Square

I'm so excited for my poet and photographer friend, Keith Alan Hamilton. His photo, Transition Flutter-Fly, will be shown at New York City's Times Square this very day. He'll be in the crowd with a butterfly shirt on, so if you're in the vicinity, please go by and say hi. Give him a hug for me too - I wish I could do it myself. I've known Keith for several years. We first met on Facebook when I joined the Poets, Writers, Photographers, Musicians, Artists ~ Networking group he created. We later met for dinner in Boston, and he also visited my husband and me in California. We discussed putting together a book of poems with images. That is still in the works. I've written several blog posts about Keith and his poems and photos (see this one). His devotion to his creativity is catching. Here's Keith's butterfly photo: And here's a photo of Keith so you can easily recognize him:     … [Read more...]

Works in progress

Today is a good day for sharing some poems – written in response to Robert Lee Brewer’s weekly prompts on his website Poetic Asides. But please understand that these are all works in progress – if I ever submit them for publication alone or in a collection, they will undergo much-needed editing. Prompts 1. Write a poem about an unstoppable force Can’t Stop Writing I write I’m compelled to write articles, blog posts, my novel, my poems. I cannot stop the force that makes me write and I don’t want to. But it leaves me no peace from my spinning mind and its continual search for the right words in every piece. 2. Write a poem that deals with cruelty More Cruel than Safe We see the young man through a narrow slat in his door. He lies naked on cold cement. A thin quilt covers him. He has no bed or other furnishings. Scratches and cuts cover his body. One gash goes from his wrist to past his elbow, another on his arm‘s underside. Self in … [Read more...]

April PAD challenge poems

To stay on the poetry theme, I’m going to share a few of the poems I wrote during Robert Lee Brewer’s April 2014 poem a day challenge. This year he asked a daily guest judge to determine each day's winner. I haven’t heard any results yet, but no matter. I feel like a winner just having produced thirty poems during the April challenge. Day 7 Write a self-portrait poem. Two Self-portraits Dorianna sits lonely and forlorn in my attic. Her wrinkles deepen her liver spots multiply and enlarge her hair grows dirty white, straggling down to cover her sagging breasts that splay over her bloated belly. The joints of her hands swollen, stiff, grow more immobile by the day. All the while I live downstairs. My face clear, almost devoid of age, my figure svelte and supple, my legs always yearning to keep moving. Here I sit tapping my fingers quickly on the keyboard to keep up with my racing mind. I wonder when Dorianna and I will meet. Day 16 Write an ele … [Read more...]