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...]

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 sold … [Read more...]

Larry Kilham – thoughts on fiction vs. nonfiction

Choices is so excited to have Larry Kilham here today - the last day of his WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. His work with creativity, invention, and artificial intelligence is fascinating. Please check out his latest book, Free Will Odyssey. You won't be sorry. Larry has also written a post especially for Choices about his thoughts on writing fiction vs. non-fiction. I can relate since I've also written both. Here is what Larry Kilham has to say: Fiction vs. Nonfiction by Larry Kilham I have written about an equal number of fiction and nonfiction books. Each time I start thinking about my next book, I confront the difficult decision about which modality to use. With fiction, you are not held to a high standard about detail and truth. Writing a nonfiction book, on the other hand, about a current topic like addiction generally requires a team of researchers and a noted research institution in order to gain gravitas and establishment acceptance. Nonfiction is clearly the … [Read more...]

Eric Trant returns to Choices. Hello Eric!

Please welcome Eric Trant back to Choices - his second stop on his WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. His new book, Risen, is in the historical supernatural fiction genre. How much more creative can a guy get! Before I go into details about the book, Eric will share his thoughts about a career in the arts - something I can seriously relate to. My husband worked his entire career in science and engineering (I like to call him a rocket scientist), and I worked as a technical writer in the aerospace business. However, both our sons chose careers in the arts. Our older son was an accomplished jazz musician and composer before his untimely death in 1999, and our younger son is an actor and movie maker. However, each found realistic ways to earn a living while pursuing their dreams - one as a computer expert, and the other is a tennis instructor. Eric Trant has some very wise words about the situation we and so many other parents find ourselves in. "Is a Career in the Arts … [Read more...]

Shirley Melis writes about dancing through grief

I feel so grateful that I got the chance to interview Shirley Melis as she participates in her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. As I'm no stranger to grief I was interested in how she deals with it and writes about it. Ultimately for both of us, we've learned to survive. Thank you, Shirley, for being here at Choices today. About Banged-Up Heart:  is an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early—and of the strength it takes to fall deeply in love a second time, be forced to relinquish that love too soon, and yet choose to love again. When her husband of thirty years dies suddenly, Shirley Melis is convinced she will never find another man like Joe. Then she meets John, a younger man who tells her during their first conversation that he has lived for many years with a rare but manageable cancer. She is swept off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and within months, made brave by the early death of a friend’s husband, she asks him to marry her! … [Read more...]

Author Rebecca Fitton finds writing is healing

I'm pleased to introduce Rebecca Fitton and her new book of poetry, Wave Rider, as she embarks on her WOW! Women on Writing book tour.   Wave Rider is a poetic reflection of author Rebecca Fitton’s long journey to heal from sexual abuse, abandonment, and neglect, building a new world based on wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Her journey has taken a lifetime. To use the metaphor of waves, sometimes the undertow nearly drowned her—but she survived. Now her beautiful and profound book offers inspiration to others who have also suffered greatly from abuse. Here's my Review Rebecca Fitton’s Wave Rider, a book of poetry, shares her beginnings as an abused child and her rebirth later in her adulthood. She divides her book of poems into three sections: Darkness: her poems of her life with a mother who doesn’t want her and an uncle who abuses her. She lived in this frozen, silent darkness until she was forty years old. In a poem early in the book, she writ … [Read more...]

The jazz age, Chicago, and murder – read Sugarland

I’m happy to introduce Martha Conway and her new book, Sugarland: A Jazz Age Mystery, to my Choices readers as part of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book (blog) tour. About Sugarland: In 1921, two women, a black jazz pianist named Eve and a white nurse named Lena, join forces after a drive-by shooting nearly kills them. Eve is looking for her missing stepsister, and Lena wants to find out who murdered her brother, a petty bootlegger killed in the shooting. Sugarland recently received a Reader’s Favorite Book Award. Genre: Historical Fiction Hardcover: 314 pages (also available in paperback and e-book) Noontime Books: June 1, 2016 ISBN: 978-0991618552 About the author: Martha Conway’s debut novel 12 Bliss Street (St. Martin’s Minotaur) was nominated for an Edgar Award while Thieving Forest won an Independent Publishers Book Award, the Laramie Award, a Reader’s Choice Award and the 2014 North American Book Award in Historical Fiction. Her short fiction h … [Read more...]

Review of Ronald Chapman’s A Killer’s Grace

I'm pleased to have read and written a review of Ronald Chapman's book A Killer's Grace in time for his WOW!Women on Writing virtual book tour. Today, September 1, is the publication of the book's second edition.  As you'll read, A Killer's Grace is a wonderful work. I hope you'll all get your copy (see the links below). You won't be disappointed. *** My Review of A Killer’s Grace A letter from a serial killer awaiting execution changes New Mexico reporter Kevin Pitcairn’s life. His investigations into the content of the letter drag him into his own dark past, that of a never-convicted murderer and an alcoholic. His journey draws the readers of A Killer’s Grace by Ronald Chapman into the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous and the close relationships Pitcairn made there, his love for Maria Elena who stays by his side even when she disagrees and fears his involvement with the serial killer’s story, how walking with his dog companions in the early morning hours calms him after … [Read more...]

Memoir or fiction? That is the question!

David W. Berner, my WOW! Women on Writing guest today, and I have something in common. After writing memoir we both turned to fiction—stretching ourselves, as David says, as writers. We both took a true story, settings, and characters and made up things—let our imagination have its way with us—to enhance the story's effect. My fiction book—though not ready to be published yet—takes off in a whole new direction from the true facts. My family members would definitely know the people and places I write about, and might even have a problem with the way my fictionalized version of our family history turns out.  Well, I'll deal with that when the time comes. I applaud David for using his wonderful memoir, reporting, and teaching skills to become a successful fiction writer. His first fiction work: Night Radio: A Love Story, has already received rave reviews. Thank you, David, for being here at Choices today and telling us about your journey into fiction writing—a stor … [Read more...]

My Choices guest today is: Jennifer-Lynn Keniston

My Choices guest today is Jennifer-Lynn Keniston, author of Afta-U. Here she tells us how she balances the fear and thrill of writing dark novels. Like Jennifer-Lynn, I believe that balance is the key to success in all our live's undertaking. I welcome Jennifer-Lynn, and I wish her huge success in all her writing. How to leave the rollercoaster of emotions on the page/computer screen when stepping away from writing a dark novel by Jennifer-Lynn Keniston As a child, I could ride all the rides in an amusement park including the big rollercoasters with daring declines and twisting turns. From what I can recall, a rollercoaster ride can be both thrilling and terrifying. When I sit down to write more dialogue and piece together a dark novel, it is like I am sitting on an amusement park rollercoaster all over again. And I’m hoping I haven’t eaten too much cotton candy and fried dough before the ride starts. Emotions begin to battle one another. Now a days though, I have vertigo s … [Read more...]

Susan G. Weidener finds writing as a way of healing

I am so pleased to have Susan G. Weidener with me today on her second stop of her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. The third book of her trilogy, A Portrait of Love and Honor, was just released, and I'm happy to say, I read it and loved it as I did her other two books, Morning at Wellington Square and Again in A Heartbeat.   Here Susan tells us how writing is healing for her. I can totally relate. Writing has been my healing balm ever since my son's death in 1999. But enough about me. Here's Susan. Writing As a Way of Healing By Susan G. Weidener In the Bible, Lot’s wife ignored the angels’ warning not to look back when she and her family were fleeing a devastated and rotting Sodom. We all know what came next.  As she glanced over her shoulder, she was instantly turned into a pillar of salt. For many, this story became a cautionary tale. See? This is what happens to a curious woman who looks back at her past. The story of Lot’s wife is a favorite … [Read more...]

Here’s Jennifer Roland on awakening your muse

My guest today is Jennifer Roland, author of 10 Takes on Writing - her interviews with ten authors who live in the Pacific Northwest. This is her second stop of her Wow! Women on Writing virtual book tour. Please welcome Jennifer and her words about finding inspiration about writing and how to keep our seats in the chair even when your muse has escaped out the back door. For me, walking - especially on the beach works. I look at the ocean, take pictures of the gardens I pass along the way, look up at the clouds, and pretty soon, I'm ready to sit down and write. Please share what you do to awaken your muse. Here's Jennifer:  How to Find Inspiration — Even When It Seems Impossible by Jennifer Roland As writers, we have a love/hate relationship with the muse. When the muse comes to visit, it’s all wonderful. The ideas flow. Every word is a little bit of magic, and they come together with ease. So what’s the problem? That darn muse doesn’t come every da … [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...]

Great writing advice from David Berner

I can relate. It took 68 queries before I got the "yes I'd like to publish your memoir." And like David Berner, author of There's a Hamster in the Dashboard, I kept submitting. I persevered. I believed I'd find a home for my book—even though the subject matter is mental illness and suicide. So, here's my plea to all writers: David has given you great advice. Read it, believe it, and keep writing and submitting - always with the positive attitude that your "yes" will come in time. Please welcome David as he tours his new book with WOW! Women On Writing. The Best Way to Submit Your Creative Nonfiction to Small Publications and Literary Journals By David W. Berner I received more than 30 rejections to the manuscript for my second book, Any Road Will Take You There. Thirty. Each one of them arrived as an email, one after the other in a steady beat for about two years. “But these are good rejections. They like the story,” said my agent. The editors did like the … [Read more...]

Six features of life-changing memoirs by M. Shannon Hernandez

I'm so happy M. Shannon Hernandez has agreed to return to Choices to discuss memoir while on her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. We met her here before with her thoughts about journaling, and since I think journal writing is a great way to jump-start a memoir, it is fitting to have Shannon tell us how to write a life-changing memoir. Shannon recently launched: Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher. She shares her vast experience in providing us with the six features of life-changing memoirs. How to Write a Life-Changing Memoir By M. Shannon Hernandez Life-changing! That is a tall order, isn’t it? If you are an author, you most likely want to change lives with your words. Not only am I a connoisseur of memoirs, I also have written a memoir, and I coach memoir writers to turn their memories into manuscripts. I have spent much time dissecting memoirs. Here I discuss:  Six Features of Life-Changing Memoirs  1: Narrow your focus waaaa … [Read more...]

Myrna J. Smith and her thoughts on memoir

My WOW! Women on Writing blog tour guest today is Myrna J. Smith, author of God and Other Men: Religion, Romance, and the Search for Self-Love - her first book. A huge welcome, Myrna. Since Myrna's book is a memoir, I asked her to write a post about other memoirs that resonate with her. Here is what she has to say. Memoirs that Spoke to Me By Myrna J. Smith Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes has all the qualities of a good novel: sex, violence, thievery, suffering, death, and, most importantly redemption. Amazingly it is a memoir, not a piece of fiction. We wonder, how so many terrible things could happen to one family? And how could young Frank come out of that suffering to live such a rich life in America? McCourt lives in Catholic Ireland and suffers from Catholic guilt. He really believes the consumptive Theresa would go to hell because of their sexual transgressions on the green sofa. He thinks he deserves punishment for a hundred other sins, including masturbation. … [Read more...]

What are you afraid of?

I'm very pleased to welcome Karen Jones Gowen during her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. Her book, Afraid of Everything really got me thinking about fears and how hard it is to overcome them. When I was a young girl I was terrified of heights and flying, stemming from my favorite uncle’s death in an airplane crash. As I grew older, I rationalized that if I continued to have these fears, I couldn’t see and do the things I wanted to. Especially because I had to fly to most places I wanted to go. So I clenched my teeth and whitened my knuckles and flew until my fears grew less and less. However, I also encountered freeway phobia in my mid thirties. I got over that by telling myself I had to drive on the freeways – they were essential routes for someone living in Los Angeles. Therefore, I was gentle with myself, promising myself I could exit a freeway anytime I wanted to. I also opened the car’s window and let in a lot of fresh air. Of course the main antidote for all my fea … [Read more...]

Author David Berner discusses writing about our lives

Our Choices guest today, David Berner, shares with us the essence of memoir writing. He tells us what it is not - a series of diary entries that relate every detail of a life - and what it is - a story that begins with a moment rounded out with the details related to that moment. My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On, begins with the moment of my son's suicide. The rest of the book details the events leading up to that moment and its aftermath. David Berner's memoir, Any Road Will Take You There, starts with a five-thousand mile road trip  that enables him to find peace and fulfillment in being a dad after a series of heartbreaking and life-changing personal events. Please welcome David Berner. Making the Choice to Write About Your Life by David Berner A woman came up to me after a workshop I conducted several years ago about writing memoir. She held in her hand a thick manuscript and told me she was writing about her life, one full of adventures, one she wanted to share. … [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 psychot … [Read more...]