Why I became a writer

When my son Paul died in 1999 at age twenty-seven, I took the advice of several people to see a therapist. The one I chose to see led a survivors of suicide support group sponsored by the Didi Hirsch Mental Health center. The group met once a week for six weeks and consisted of people who had lost friends, loved ones, and acquaintances to suicide. There was one other mother in the group who also lost a son – she found his body hanging from their second floor stair well. She hated the group as much as I did and was brave enough to quit after two or three sessions. I lasted the whole six weeks. But after I went to a private session with the leader – who finally admitted to me that she didn’t lose anyone one she loved to suicide, I quit her too. I made up my mind not to see anyone who had not experienced the kind of loss I was going through. That’s when I turned to writing. Four months after Paul died I began going to Jack Grapes’ writing class. I went every Wednesday morning and … [Read more...]

My new poetry chapbook has been released

Cyberwit.net has published my second chapbook called Then and Now. Two years ago they published Moving On. What a great surprize when they offered to publish a second book. Amazon posted the following review of one of the poems: Not Out of the Woods This poem conveys a sense of worry, uncertainty, and emotional distress experienced by the narrator in relation to someone they care about. The language used is straightforward and direct, reflecting the narrator's immediate thoughts and concerns. The opening lines set the tone by quoting the doctor's assessment that the person in question is "not out of the woods yet." This phrase is commonly used to describe a critical or precarious situation, suggesting that the individual's condition remains serious. The narrator describes the person as still lying in bed, mostly sleeping and nonresponsive. The mention of the person's inability to remember their son's name or location indicates a decline in cognitive function, … [Read more...]

Twenty-three years

To commemorate the twenty-third anniversary of my son Paul's suicide death, I'd like to tell you a bit about the memoir I wrote in his memory. It took eighteen years to write it and get it published, but it was all worth it. When it first came out, I thought if it helps just one person it will have been worth it. And from the comments and reviews the book has received it has helped way more people than that. The death of a child is the hardest thing a parent can ever go through, so knowing there are others out there with the same experience is a big help. Also I just heard from my publisher, Dream of Things, that in the last two years, my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, has sold more than seventy-one hundred copies. So it is still applicable and worth reading even after all this time. A few of its early accolades: "A moving read of tragedy, trying to prevent it, and coping with life … [Read more...]

This is suicide prevention month

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and so perfectly aligned yo my son Paul’s suicide death. He left us by box cutter on September 23, 1999, twenty-three years ago. And ever since I’ve wanted to help save others from that same fate. I wrote my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, with that in mind, telling the story of my son and his mental illness and creativity and the long line of relatives who were also mentally ill – all signs that suicide was on his menu. I want people to be aware of the dangers and risks. I've participated in two overnight suicide prevention walks, sponsored by the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and joined groups geared to getting the suicide prevention word out. This month AFSP is asking for funds to support 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and of course trying to get folks to rally in support of suicide prevention. "About National Suicide Prevention Week "The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) recognizes the month … [Read more...]

On sale during Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and in its honor, my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, is on sale for $0.99 until May 31. SHOP HERE My memoir has been lauded as a mental health resource. Here are excepts from a few reviews: Leaving the Hall Light On has undoubtedly assisted those affected by mental illness and suicide in one way or another to feel less alone.   Many thanks to Sharples for sharing such a tragic story of love and loss and also for offering resources for guidance and help at the end of her book. I applaud her courage and honesty, and believe her story will help those who may be going through similar experiences.   I bought Leaving the Hall LIght On about 2 weeks ago. I read it voraciously. Why? Because I am a mother who lost her son to suicide in Nov. 2021. He was Bi-polar. I could've written parts of this book as well. Madeline Sharples as a grieving mother is very honest about her pain, her son's pain, husband's pain and the periphery … [Read more...]

Remembering Paul – again!

Paul's birthday was yesterday - New Years Eve. And yesterday he would have been fifty years old. To me that seems like yesterday though I'm probably no different from other mothers who remember the births of their children in vivid detail no matter how long ago they were born. Paul was only twenty-seven when he died in 1999. Here are some wonderful photos to share. … [Read more...]

A little reminder

I think it's time to remind my readers that I have written a few books besides all this blog stuff. Here's some information about a couple of them: Papa's Shoes: A Polish shoemaker and his family settle in small-town America - an award winning historical novel published in April 2019. Here's a few comments about this five-star rated book. "From an insightful storyteller, Papa's Shoes, is a heartwarming story of courage and love. Author Madeline Sharples has created an epic journey with intriguing twists and surprises along the way. From days of old in Poland to cultural and economic realities in America, this is an awe-inspiring novel about families, generational history, and the incredible power of change. You truly won't want to put it down!" --D.A. Hickman, author of Ancients of the Earth: Poems of Time "Author Madeline Sharples tells the intimate story of an American family, of immigration, tragedy, renewal, and love with grace and the delicate touch of a poet. There's a raw … [Read more...]

Keeping my son’s memory alive

Today is the twenty-second anniversary of the suicide death of my older son Paul. And as is my tradition to visit his gravesite on his death day and birthday every year, I will go to Hillside Cemetery in Culver City, CA this afternoon. Until my husband Bob died last November, we always went to visit Paul’s grave together. The first time I went alone was on Paul’s birthday, last December 31. When Paul died, Bob and I disagreed about what to do with his body. I wanted him buried and in place close by so I could visit his grave. Bob wanted him cremated – which wasn’t very usual for Jewish people. The rabbi we consulted said we could do anything we wanted, so we chose both. He was cremated and buried, which served us both very well. Isn’t it interesting that I have recently moved to a place that is about a two-minute drive away? Visiting Paul’s gravesite on his birthday and death day every year is just to make me feel better. I don’t believe he knows or would even care that I’m there. … [Read more...]

Crazy about books? Meet LitNuts!

Choices is happy to introduce you to LitNuts. Here's what they are all about. For Readers So, LitNuts brings you books of short stories, essays, or poetry that many other newsletters refuse to include (because collections don’t sell as well as novels). LitNuts also features new releases and award-winning books that other newsletters exclude because of price. (Many newsletters feature ONLY ebooks priced at $2.99 or less, which is fine – but not all great books are $2.99 or less!). And authors, you'll be happy to hear that LitNuts founders Mike O’Mary and Kathleen Meyer handled publishing and marketing for an indie press for more than 10 years. This is important because that means they understand the challenge of getting your books in front of readers. For Authors LitNuts is an affordable vehicle that focuses on indie books and has engaged subscribers. Their goal is to help authors increase their book’s sales rank with online retailers, generate more reader reviews, and … [Read more...]

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...]

And you thought you were finished: the revision process

For some unknown reason the post below (originally posted on November 16, 2016) disappeared from this website. So I'm reproducing it again now. And it makes perfect sense since I'm knee-deep in revising my new memoir. *** My publisher advised me to revise the second half of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, almost entirely when she decided to publish my book. To that end I used many of the steps I learned while working as a writer-editor-manager of proposals to the U.S. Government to revise my book. Here is my revision process. 1. Plan before doing. I created a revision plan based on notes from my publisher and advice from my first reader. Then I got my publisher’s buy-in. 2. Read before revising. Since I hadn’t looked at my draft for almost two years, I read it front to back with my revision plan in hand. I marked up a hard copy with a red pen and made no electronic changes until I was through. Wow! did I find lots of things to edit, including typos, awkward sentences, … [Read more...]

Mental illness and suicide go hand in hand

This year for my May 20 birthday I’ve asked my Facebook friends to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in memory of our son Paul Sharples who took his life on September 23, 1999 after a seven-year battle with bipolar disorder. The point here is that we need to erase the stigma of mental illness to save people from suicide. The two go hand in hand. Here are my thoughts on  erasing the stigma.   My family is rampant with mental illness. But as far back as I can remember not a one of my relatives used those words. My mother told me my grandmother had a “nervous breakdown” after her oldest daughter, my mother’s sister, died of uterine cancer. She was hospitalized and given electric shock treatments and then she seemed fine. Also two of my uncles had to be hospitalized for “depression.” In good times one uncle spoke five languages, remembered stories of his childhood in Lithuania and Russia, and told the corniest jokes to anyone who would listen; but … [Read more...]

Company is coming

Ever since my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, has been in print I’ve been a huge advocate of WOW! Women On Writing – a global magazine that promotes the communication between women writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers and readers. WOW organized my memoir book tour in 2011 and my historical novel, Papa's Shoes', tour in June 2019. In exchange I host on my website Choices many of the other writers that WOW! organizes tours for. Hosting is a great way for my blog to welcome new voices and new books – other than my own. And in keeping with that, in the next two months I’ll welcome five authors while on their WOW! Women On Writing virtual book tours. Each of them has written a guest post related to the substance of their book and writing. On February 10, Jackie Rodriquez, author of Georgia Stories on My Mind, an anthology of heartwarming stories shaped by local traditions and legends. In her guest post she’ll give us advice on how to market our writing on social … [Read more...]

Thinking about Kobe

It seems like the whole world is in shock since Kobe Bryant and his thirteen-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash this past Sunday. I certainly am. He was an inspiration on and off the court for many people around the globe. And we are left devastated after his sudden and tragic death. But not only that, it has brought so much sadness up for me since I experienced firsthand the loss of my son, Paul. Of course, that’s not the same as Kobe’s wife Vanessa’s loss. She lost her husband and her daughter – they always say it can be worse, something I’ve never wanted to believe. It seems like I gravitate to those who have suffered horrible losses – like Chris Erskine, a LA Times columnist who lost his wife and his son in the past couple of years. And today I read an article by another LA Times staff writer, Sandy Banks, whose column this week is about the loss of her husband twenty-six years ago, leaving her and their three little girls. One thing that popped … [Read more...]

My website is back on the air

After five days of being off-line, my website, Choices, is back on the air. And with the promise that it will never go down again. Thank you to my server and maintenance managers, Francisco Artes and Tom McGuire! These guys have my back. Starting tomorrow, I will resume my normal posts. Hopefully, you my devoted readers, will give let me know what kinds of things you'd like me to write about. Until then, please remember I'm the author of these great books - a historical fiction novel and a memoir, and I'm always looking for more people to read them: and … [Read more...]

Yes! Writing is calming

Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer, published by She Writes Press, is a memoir about how Antoinette Truglio Martin found the courage to navigate her first year of breast cancer treatment. It’s the story of how a community—colleagues, family, friends—rallied to support her. The book is moving, brave, informative, and occasionally funny—and it speaks to us all. I turned to journaling when my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and after his suicide death. The page became a healing balm for me. Eventually I included those  journal entries in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Suicide and Surviving His Suicide. Like Antoinette, my writing kept me calm and focused. Here is her essay on how she benefitted from writing in her journals and emailing her community after her cancer diagnosis. How Writing Calms the Nerves by Antoinette Truglio Martin I don’t run. I don’t sit still long enough to mind my … [Read more...]

Why I Write and What I Write

I wrote the article below for the Southern Writer’s Magazine’s Blog a few months ago. It is still very relevant now. Why I Write and What I Write At this point in my life by all rights I should be retired. I’ve just turned seventy-nine, and no where does it say I need to keep sitting at my computer every day and write. But I do sit there – usually from ten in the morning until about two in the afternoon. Sometimes I’ll even go back for more later in the day. I got into this habit in the early 2000s when I started writing my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On (Dream  of Things). That expanded to writing poetry, essays for my blog and other people’s websites, and journaling. By the time my memoir was published in 2011, I was already working on my historical novel, Papa’s Shoes, which has just been released by Aberdeen Bay publishers. And that’s not the end of it. I still write poetry – I write at least one poem a week except in November and April when I write a poem a day to … [Read more...]

On a conference panel? Come prepared

Since the publication of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On (Dream of Things), and now the publication of my historical novel, Papa's Shoes (Aberdeen Bay), I've been asked to appear at many writers conference panel discussions. Actually I've been asked to speak on my own - which I did once - but I always prefer to among three to four others on a panel. This last Friday evening I appeared on the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference panel "Writing a Best-Selling Memoir" with four other authors. One authored two biographies of well-known television stars, one wrote a book she called a fictionalized memoir, one was an agent and lawyer who discussed some of the legal issues of writing memoirs, and the moderator, who was a public relations specialist and editor. That said, I was really the only true memoir author on the panel. By the way, the agent/lawyer emphatically said there is no such thing as fictionalized memoir. It's either fiction or memoir, but not both. And I … [Read more...]

How to build your brand

I recently shared my thoughts about branding building with my publisher, Aberdeen Bay, Author Community in the hope this would be helpful to other authors. Aberdeen Bay published my historical novel, Papa's Shoes, in May 2019. Building A Brand  by Madeline Sharples Before I discuss what I did to create my brand, I need to emphasize why an author – or any business person for that matter – needs a brand. We must market ourselves so that potential readers will know about us and our books. If people don’t know we exist, they won’t know what we have to offer. In addition, a strong brand lets customers know what to expect, represents us, helps us stay focused on what we’re offering, and helps connect us with our customers. As a result of a strong brand, it will provide value to what we are offering. I can’t emphasize this enough. People need to hear about us if we are going to sell our books. And if we’re perceived as experts as a result, we will stand apart even more from our … [Read more...]

A little bragging is in order

Since my new historical novel, Papa's Shoes, was published by Aberdeen Bay about a month and a half ago, it has received some fabulous reviews. And even a few requests for a sequel - stay tuned about that. Here are three five-star examples: A Love Story with Acceptance, written by Lisa. Oh my goodness, I enjoyed reading this book so much. The story line starts with Ira, father & husband, and his journey of leaving Poland to make a life for his family in the United States of America. Once in America, as he is saving money to bring his wife and sons to join him, he receives news that all but one son died of the plague. Ugh! He returns and takes care of business then returns to America with his wife left to raise their remaining son and the baby on the way. Ruth, his wife, mails a pink string to Ira once Ava is born. When enough funds allow, Ira sends for Ruth, Charlie (their oldest son), and Ava. This is when the story shifts from one of Ira and Ruth to that of Charlie and … [Read more...]