My Gutsy Story Anthology

I’ve been so proud to be a part of the group of sixty-four writers who participated in the 2013 edition of  the My Gutsy Story Anthology: True Stories of Love, Courage and Adventure from Around the World, conceived and edited by Sonia Marsh. The anthology has won three awards so far: 2014 ELIT Gold Award for Anthologies 2014 International Book Awards Finalist 2013 Benjamin Franklin Award Silver Honoree Winner at the Paris Book Festival Sonia is now taking submissions for the all-new 2015 anthology. I encourage you to submit your story now. Click here to find out how. Here’s the piece I wrote for the 2013 edition. And if you like my piece, I promise you, you won’t be disappointed in the sixty-three other stories in this wonderfully inspiring book. You can buy it here. My Gutsy Story When my older son Paul died by suicide in 1999 after a seven-year battle with bipolar disorder, I knew I had to find ways to keep myself busy and productive or else I would wallow away in my grie … [Read more...]

Can’t help showing this off

My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On recently received its 109th 5-star review. The reviewer said it's one of the greatest books he's ever read. How could I not brag about it and show it off? Here's the review You can take your love with you, by israel eichenstein: "Madeline Sharples is one courageous parent. This is one of the greatest books I have ever read. Paul her son was bi-polar and tragically took his own life. Madeline and her family have through their pain taught the world the dangers of bi-polar and its devastating effects. But as I read the book through tears and waves of emotion, the overwhelming love for Paul shines brightly on almost every page. A life lost , especially your own child can make you a bitter and broken person. Madeline would not allow herself and her family to wilt under such incredible pain and sadness...she put herself out there in front of the whole world, told her story with love for her Paul and offering guidance to others that are affected by t … [Read more...]

Some stuff about me

With a birthday coming up next month I've been doing a lot of reflecting and a lot of thinking about the future. However, since my suggestion of a book everyone should read is Ram Dass' Be Here Now, I thought I'd share a recent interview that tells about me right now. 1. What is one book everyone should read? Be Here Now by Ram Dass 2. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Peanut butter and blueberries 3. Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book, Leaving the Hall Light On. My book has much to share with anyone grieving the loss of a loved one or suffering any kind of loss. 4. Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?  I’m currently working on a historical fiction book based a bit on my family’s history, yet with a twist. I also want to have a book of poetry published. And I'm almost through producing, with the help of an expert recording technician, a CD made of my son’s jazz music. I hope to have it … [Read more...]

Using memoir writing to deal with grief

On Sunday I’ll co-lead a workshop called Telling Healing Stories at the Story Circle Network’s writers conference in Austin TX. One of our goals for this workshop is provide the tools for our participants to address ways to transform a loss or crisis into readable and inspiring prose. It has been proven that writing is healing, and I happen to think that any creative outlet is beneficial to recovering from a traumatic event in our lives. My son Paul killed himself in September 1999 after a seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder, and I signed up for a writing class three months after his 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 to write a journal entry. He didn’t specify a subject. This was a beginner’s class. All he wanted us to do was learn to “write like you talk,” and to write in a voice that came from deep within our bellies. And then we’d come bac … [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...]

Why I turned to digital journaling

Journaling remains a major force in my life. Rarely a day goes by that I don't write a journal entry.  I find the time to write down at least no matter where I am. M. Shannon Hernandez recently posted my thoughts on digital journaling at her The Writing Whisperer blog. I feel so honored to be her guest poster. Here's Why I Turned to Digital Journaling  Writing for Healing I turned to journaling regularly in 1993 just after my son Paul was diagnosed bipolar, and I continued on after his suicide death in 1999. Journaling became my therapy. Keeping my fingers moving across the page was both an obsession and a healing balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. As a result I have become a huge proponent of journaling as a way to heal. I still journal every day. At first I wrote in notebooks – the finer the better. I especially love the ones I bought in France and later found at Banner Stationer’s in El Segundo California – Clairefontaine. The pages a … [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...]

Revisiting some probing questions

Laura Dennis graciously hosted me on her blog, The Adaptable (Adopted Mommy Expat on Fridays, June 14, 21, and 28. She asked me a series of questions about my book, Leaving the Hall Light On, my son Paul's bipolar disorder and suicide, and my grieving and surviving process. I think her probing questions are worth repeating and showcasing here. On Friday June 14, she asked: Are There Early Indicators for Bipolar Disorder? Laura writes, "The death of a child is unfathomable. The suicide of one’s young adult child after his suffering through years of a mental illness? Awful beyond words. … Painful to the point of, How do I get beyond this and not kill my own self? … Devastating, like, I’ll just live on anti-anxiety pills for the rest of my life. Which came first, the bipolar or the stress? Laura– Paul–your eldest son and the one you lost to suicide, was a creative, gifted musician. In trying to make sense of his death, you discuss events that could have ind … [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...]

Could writing help the Boston survivors?

  The bombings in Boston have left me in tears. Every time I hear the news, see the photos of those who died or were wounded, I want to curl up and block it all out. It is much the way I felt after my son took his life in 1999. These kinds of tragedies bring all those sad feelings back.   Perhaps this will help. In my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, I told how I survived through writing. It is my belief that those who have experienced such a tragedy – and I suspect that is everyone – need to find a creative outlet. Hopefully the survivors of the Boston tragedy will also find their way.   Here’s how writing a memoir helped me heal: Writing has been part of my life since I was in grade school. However, when my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and after his suicide, I began to write down my feelings daily. I needed to. Writing in my journal became an obsession, a balm, and the only way I could express my feelings. It gave me a way to organize my fe … [Read more...]

A successful library event

Since my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On has been checked out of my local Manhattan Beach Public Library many times, the library director asked me to come there to speak. The date we decided on was last Wednesday evening, March 20. I was asked to supply the library with a jpg of my book cover and a brief description of my topic: Writing was healing because it helped 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 sadness, anger, and grief in me, I needed a place to put it. Writing was like repeating a mantra as I kept my fingers moving. And I wouldn’t let anything get in my way. I recommend writing or another creative outlet to those who are looking for ways to heal. After that I was on my own. My instructions were: you have an hour and a half from 7:00 to 8:30 pm to speak. That was it. I was … [Read more...]

My writing life in 2012

Writing became a way to live with my son Paul’s bipolar disorder and to survive his suicide as a result. However, I never dreamed it would become my way of life. I still cannot get through the day without writing something. However, in the last few years it has become more than a balm to ease the pain. It has become a joy and a way to meet and interact with some very wonderful writing friends. Like writing, I can never have enough Buddhas (Richard Stock photo) With that in mind, I thought I write down a few of the highlights of my writing life from 2012, starting with my first publisher’s decision to go out of business. At first I was indeed devastated and then so angry. She closed down with four days warning and cut off our websites even before that. But the devastation and anger were very short lived. I reached out to a few writing friends – especially Keith Alan Hamilton – and got some suggestions about where to query. However, my dear friend and mentor Mark Shelmerdine … [Read more...]

Still writing to heal

I've written about writing to heal, I've talked about it in front of groups, and I must say, I'm still doing it. I journal, I write pieces for other websites and here about writing to heal from our tragedies, and I'm still reaping its benefits. I suggest, even if you've never written a word in your life, start journaling. You don't have to show what you write to anyone, so you're free to write down anything you want any way you want. And then you may be surprised. You may want to go public with your writing. Sharing our stories can be very healing to others. Writing has been part of my life since I was in grade school. However, when my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and after his suicide I needed to write down my feelings daily. Writing in my journal became an obsession and a balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. I had used journaling during an earlier stressful period of my life to rant. So I felt that writing would help me again during what … [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...]

Finding music in my life

Today’s post is in participation with Women On Writing’s mass-blogging event, Everybody is Talking About Finding the Music in Life. We are celebrating the release of Sonia’s Song by Sonia Korn-Grimani. To read Sonia’s post and follow our symphony of participating bloggers visit The Muffin. Share your comments on any participating blog for a chance to win a copy of Sonia’s Song! One reader will also win! I will send in the name of one commenting visitor to be entered into the WOW drawing for a copy of Sonia’s Song in either print or ebook (winner’s choice), and from those entries one winner will be chosen at random. (The contest is open until 11:59 pm Thursday, October 18th—I will send in my randomly chosen reader’s entry by noontime Friday, October 19th (Mountain Time) My jazzman. That he was. I couldn’t do this topic justice without writing about my son Paul and his music. We lost him to suicide in 1999 as a result of his bipolar disorder. Very ear … [Read more...]

Suicide statistics

This is September, the month our older son Paul died by suicide after his seven year battle with bipolar disorder. On September 23 it will be thirteen years. And the pain of his loss is still here. Most Septembers or Decembers (his birth month) I like to post about resources that help erase the stigma of mental illness and/or provide help in preventing suicide. Today I’m doing my volunteer job at the Facebook group site: Putting a Face on Suicide – mainly a memorial site for those of us left behind after the suicide of a loved one. As soon as I logged in, I found the words and photo shown below. If the magnitude of this data doesn’t remind us how important suicide prevention is, nothing will. In the next 985 minutes 1478 people will take their own lives. In the blink of an eye 8868 family and friends will survive them and be profoundly affected. Those are some of the statistics; and these are their faces … Click this link to download a high resolution 11 x 17 inch P … [Read more...]

Goodreads giveaway and launch press release

My publisher, Dream of Things, has officially launched the paperback edition of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, with a Goodsreads giveaway. Please enter to win one of five copies and tell your friends. The giveaway opportunity ends on August 28, 2012. Mike O'Mary, owner and publisher says: This week is the official launch of the trade paperback edition of Leaving the Hall Light On by Madeline Sharples. Previously available only in hardcover, this is a powerful book that aligns perfectly with the Dream of Things goal to bring you "distinctive voices, meaningful books." Read on for more details -- and get 20% off the cover price of Leaving the Hall Light On at the Dream of Things website <http://dreamofthings.com/ hall-light>when you use coupon code "Light" at checkout. Also, if you are a member of Goodreads.com, be sure to enter the Goodreads Book Giveaway to be eligible to win a free copy of Leaving the Hall Light On. Goodreads <http://ww … [Read more...]