A terrific voting poem

I took writing classes from Jack Grapes for many years. I wrote much of my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On there. And still I go to an occasional workshop or poetry refresher. Jack has always been my favorite writing instructor. And he is a wonderful writer and actor as well. I received the following poem in an email the other day and feel it's very much worth sharing with my readers here. It validates the importance of voting and now that we finally know the results, it confirms how voting is a  power we must not throw away. I voted. I hope all of you did too. Hopefully you feel as happy with the presidential election results as I do. Here's Jack. Lori and I voted yesterday. We got to our local polling place at 9am, an hour before they opened. That great art-deco building, the Saban Theater, on Wilshire Blvd. Got a parking spot directly in FRONT of the place. Sacre Bleau! We expected long lines. Except for the guy taping up voting directions and an American flag, … [Read more...]

What’s my coronavirus lockdown life like

The coronavirus, COVID-19, has indeed affected my life, as I’m sure it has affected yours. We’re all in it together to try to survive - helping ourselves and others to stay safe and healthy. I live with my eighty-three year old husband of almost fifty years, so his health and safety are on my mind much more than mine. He has had, over the last few years, mild pulmonary problems and is under a doctor’s care for high blood pressure. Fortunately, I don’t have any of the usual old folks’ ailments. I may be turning eighty in two months, but my body has never acted like it. So what’s my usual lockdown day like? First of all, I get up early. In the normal past I would get up before daylight and go to the gym every day. These days I wait until sunrise and then take a morning walk every day. I had until four days ago the perfect route. I would walk from my house to the beach and walk along the full length of the beach Strand. Unfortunately, the Strand and the beach are now closed, and … [Read more...]

Quarantini, anyone?

I first heard of the quarantini from Jane Fonda a couple of days ago. She’s stuck at home just like the rest of us in California (the governor’s orders) and suggested we try one. Derek Brown, author of “Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World” and owner of the Washington, DC, cocktail bar Columbia Room, says, “It’s the drink you make with what you’ve got in your cabinets or freezer, and is best enjoyed with whomever you’re cooped up with — or perhaps a neighbor in need.” And  if you do have the ingredients, here’s Brown’s recipe: A Quarantini that can be made with common at-home drink ingredients. 1½ to 2 ounces of a not-necessarily-sweet base spirit, like vodka or gin — or another of your choice ¾ ounce of citrus (such as lemon or lime juice), whose vitamin C is great for immunity ½ to ¾ ounce of simple syrup to sweeten things up. (Simple syrup, as its name suggests, is simple to make. Just boil equal parts sugar and water until they … [Read more...]

What do I see for the future

This is another possible chapter that I’ve written for my new memoir about aging successfully. Again, I’d love to know what you think. Would a memoir with these kinds of thoughts and information interest you?  I’m optimistic. I think Bob is caring about his body more. He’s gotten himself some pills which he thinks will help him get stronger and more in balance. I think his willingness to do something about his state of health is a good thing. I just wish he’d eliminate sugar and cut down on his alcohol intake. But I wouldn’t say that to him. Also, he’s committed to personal training once a week, spending another hour or so at the gym on another day of the week, and walking several times a week. That’s all good. We walked the other day and he’s definitely moving better and seems less wobbly. I think the illnesses of some of our friends have gotten his attention. They’ve certainly gotten my attention. I used to say I’d probably be ready to give up my health program as I got olde … [Read more...]

Today Sarah Dickinson tells us how to be self-aware in our writing

Today at Choices our WOW! Women On Writing book tour guest is Sarah Dickinson, author of Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction. Her book, told through letters, is an intimate and raw look at the current face of addiction and recovery. We're pleased to have Sarah here: Being Self-aware in Your Writing by Sarah Dickinson Every year there is anywhere from 600,000 to one million books published in the U.S. alone. While those numbers are indeed impressive it’s overwhelming when you consider the work and passion that goes into creating each one. Indeed, writers everywhere have an endless list of factors to consider before they can even begin their own “Once upon a time.” We could talk writing styles, technique, point of view, plot development or even character creation. Sadly, we do have to save those topics for another day. Because today, we are going to talk about being self- aware in your writing. You may ask why is being self-aware so important in writing. It matte … [Read more...]

How I spend my time

I’ve been working on a new memoir for the past year or so about aging successfully. One chapter is like this one about how I spend my time. So I’d like to try my thoughts out on you. Would you be interested in a memoir with information like this? I spend a lot of my time at my desk in my writing room. I d write a lot but I must make a true confession – I also spend a lot of time on the internet and on social media because I have a great relationship with my Facebook community. This morning I got out of bed at five forty-five, went off to the bathroom, got on the scale after shedding my pajamas, and then I dressed in my leggings and shirt to go to the gym. Once there, I vary my workouts. Lately I stay on the elliptical for about thirty-five minutes and then walk on the treadmill for twenty-five to give me a full hour of cardio and about nine-five hundred steps. I am truly obsessed, probably motivated by my Fitbit, with getting at least twelve thousand steps every day. After … [Read more...]

Writing in the Dominican Republic revisited

Instead of just referring to my post about Lindsay de Feliz, I've decided to copy and paste it here. That is because I learned yesterday that Lindsay was brutally attacked and murdered in her home country, the Dominican Republic. I am so saddened and shocked by this news, I just feel I have to share about the wonderful work she was doing when she was alive. I loved her memoir, What About Your Saucepans? and recommend you all read it. Plus she was such a great supporter of the work of her fellow memoir writers. Rest in peace, Lindsay. I will miss you very much. I send much love and condolences to your family. Writing in the Dominican Republic MARCH 25, 2018 BY MADELINE SHARPLES 6 COMMENTS (EDIT) I met Lindsay de Feliz, author of What About Your Saucepans? and Life After My Saucepans, through a wonderful Facebook group called We Love Memoirs, and it was instant admiration. Her story is gutsy, heroic, and so, so different from my own that I had to share it with you. When I asked … [Read more...]

My Author Learning Center interview clips

Last March I sat down with the Author Learning Center  President Keith Ogorek for an interview about writing, getting published, and marketing. As its website says: The Author Learning Center (ALC) is a one-of-a-kind online author education community designed to help educate, motivate, and support you at every stage of your writing and publishing journey, including marketing your book.  The ALC offers content on writing, editing, publishing and marketing from a variety of industry experts, agents, best-selling authors, publicists, and editors. In addition, the ALC gives you access to unique tools, the Book Launch Tool and Author Circles, to help you reach your goals. Here are the topics and the interview clips. In the future I'll post other ALC interview clips. Getting a Publishing Deal for My New Historical Novel, Papa’s Shoes: A Polish shoemaker and his family settle in small-Town America (Aberdeen Bay). Getting Reviews and Testimonials Through a Virtual Book Blog Tour … [Read more...]

What do you think about these quotes about writing?

One of my friends collects interesting quotes about writing. He sent me these the other day. He must have known I collect writing quotes as well. Though I don't agree with all of them, I'd love to hear your reactions. Please comment below. “It’s a lousy, stupid thing to do. You start out thinking people are going to admire you and love you and respect you, but really, nobody gives a shit. It’s a terrible life.” ~Nelson Algren “Writing is like prostitution. First, you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, and finally, you do it for money.” ~Moliere “If you can’t annoy somebody there is little point in writing.” ~Kingsley Amis "In him [and I'm sure today he would have added "and her"]  no simple feeling exists anymore. All that he sees, his joys, his pleasures, his sufferings, his despairs, become instantaneously subjects of observation. He analyzes in spite of everything, in spite of himself, without end, hearts, faces, gestures, intonations . . . … [Read more...]

Denis Ledoux’ new memoir brings sadness and pain (Part Two)

As promised, here is the second part of Denis Ledoux' guest post about memoir writing and his experience writing about his childhood. To refresh your memories about Part One, here is the link. I think all memoir writers will find the second part of his post just as fascinating and instructional. Writing more deeply If I write about them [his parents]in psychological terms, and include something about their woundedness—their earlier trajectory in life—and simply not having the information available to them—to some extent, perhaps due to lack of education and resourcefulness, perhaps due to certain romantic bent, then I am revealing something to the world that my parents may not have wanted me to reveal, to broadcast in a memoir. In writing this book which is clearly my memoir and not theirs but which includes much information about my parents, I feel that, to some extent, I am betraying them. Both my parents are gone now, and yet I have some loyalty to them. Isn’t it incumbent o … [Read more...]

Thoughts about my new memoir

As my husband is about to turn eighty-two and I am closing in at age turning seventy-nine this year, I felt that I’m at that stage in my life when I have almost all of it to look back on. That thought led me to the idea of writing a memoir from an old wise woman’s approach to turning eighty. I could write about the secrets of staying married to the same man for over forty-eight years and living in the same house for thirty-nine years. Really where have all those years gone? And really that brings up another big question – how much time do my husband and I have left anyway, and what are we doing to prepare for our last years? Or better yet, how we’re handling our lives right now as we age – at different paces. Yes, the options are endless: how we’re still working at surviving the loss of our son in 1999, what we eat, how we sleep, my health and exercise program, about our travels, and what do two people at our age do all day. I've gotten a good head start on this project and have … [Read more...]

What’s happening?

Isn’t it funny how some of us start conversations with people these days with this question: “What’s Happening?” And then the poor person being asked the question is in the hot seat having to come up with a quick and meaningful answer. Well, my answer today is: writing is happening in my life. I feel like I’ve been at my computer these last few days since the new year and even before the holidays, almost non-stop. And that’s a good thing. I gotten myself back into writing small stones, which are a couple of lines about anything. This month I started writing one every day, concentrating on a theme that has to do with something I observe in nature. By the way, I’ve written small stones for years, but recently took a break from them. I’m glad to be back. There’s a Facebook group in case you’re interested in joining in. This month they’re called January resolutions – the name changes every month. My main project, however, is my new memoir about aging. I wrote a list of thirty topics … [Read more...]

Writing memoir helped me deal with grief

As I am inching toward December 31, which would be my son Paul’s forty-seventh birthday, I think it makes sense to revisit some of the tools I used in dealing with the grief I felt after his death and still feel now. Memoir writing and writing in general were/are a huge help. Maybe that’s why I’ve turned to memoir again. I’m almost twenty thousand words along on a new one; however it’s not about Paul, as my memoir, published in 2011, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, is. Here’s a piece I wrote early on about how writing memoir, journal entries, and poetry all worked for me. In fact, everything I wrote in the piece below still applies today. How Memoir Writing Helped Me Deal with Grief I signed up for a writing class three months after my son Paul’s 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 t … [Read more...]

What’s next to write?

Now that my novel is going through a final professional edit and hopefully getting ready to shop around. I’ve been thinking about what’s next for my writing life. For a long time, I’ve thought that there isn’t another book in me, but now I’m not so sure. Could I write another memoir? I’m at that stage in my life when I have almost all of it to look back on, so I could write a memoir from an old wise woman’s approach to turning eighty. I could write about the secrets of staying married to the same man for over forty-eight years and living in the same house for thirty-nine years. Really where have all those years gone? And really that brings up another big question – how much time do my husband and I have left anyway, and what are we doing to prepare for our last years? Or better yet, how we’re handling our lives right now as we age – at different paces. Yes, another memoir or even two are a real possibility. The options are endless: how we're still working at surviving the loss of … [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...]

Another pitch about journaling

One of my friends who is still working full time shared with me her desire to do something besides work - something creative. I suggested classes at our El Camino Community College and the South Bay Adult School maybe in jewelry making or to learn a new language. But she said she’d like to get into writing. I asked her if she journaled. With that she pushed herself away from the table and leaned her body against the back of her chair, like she was physically moving away from that subject. After a long pause, she told me she couldn’t write down anything private for fear of it getting into the wrong hands. Of course, that’s a common fear amongst those of us who journal, but it hasn’t stopped me. When I first started journaling regularly back in 1993, 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, CA by Clairefontaine. The pages are very thick and slick and don’t show through to the b … [Read more...]

Revisiting journal writing

My writing in the last couple of weeks has been made up mostly of journaling. That has inspired me to revisit a piece I wrote about how important I think journal writing is and share it with you. The Power of Journaling A friend gave me a little leather (or faux leather) bound five-year diary complete with tiny lock and key when I was in high school. And for a while I wrote in the teeniest script about typical teen-age angst especially about my first crush who gave me my first cigarette and first French kiss and then dumped me for a girl he met at summer camp. I think my parents must have thrown that diary out when they sold our house and moved to California because I never saw it again after I went away to college. I took up journaling again during my thirties while my husband and our two sons and I lived for nineteen months on a remote island in the South Pacific. I felt so isolated on this tiny island that the best I could do was write long rants every morning before the … [Read more...]

Writing poetry again

I've been writing poems to Writers Digest Poetic Asides blog editor, Robert Lee Brewer's prompts for years at least since 2009 when I first entered his poem a day challenges in November and April. As a result, I have reams of poem-a-day poems, and poems to his Wednesday prompts. Right now, my Wednesday prompt document is eight-three pages and has 27,084 words. So when I decided to declare victory on my novel at least for now, I thought: why not go back to my Brewer poem document and write poems for all the prompts I've skipped over? I missed quite a few in the last few weeks because I was working, and I'm sure there must be many throughout the document as a whole. Another thing I want to look at is: are there any good enough to submit for publishing? As far as I know there is only one the first one on the list that's been published (actually twice). Here's the prompt and poem. For this week's prompt, write a box poem. This poem is either about a box or includes a box … [Read more...]

Three things

First. This is the last day the Kindle edition of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, will be on sale for $.99. So please grab your copy before midnight. Here's what a few reviewers had to say about it: ...Leaving the Hall Light On left me in tears. It is a heart wrenching book; I could not put it down.  Anyone who wants to learn how to live with children or adults with bipolar disorder, must read this book. ...I could imagine that this book might be helpful for those dealing with bipolar disease or suicide in the family, but for those of us fortunate enough not to have yet experienced those problems, it also provides a very real look into how good but human people deal with the cruelty of fate. ...Suicide does not just end one life, it can destroy others. Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide is the story of … [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...]