Welcome to our film and media maker guest today

Thank you, Neill McKee, for honoring our Choices blog with your presence today. Also for writing us a guest post about how important writing about our careers and life stories is. Neill is currently on his Women on Writing book tour. Here'a Neill: The benefits of writing about your career and life story by Neill McKee As is documented in my travel memoir, early in my career, I became a filmmaker and later a multimedia producer. After 45 years of such work, I decided to switch to creative nonfiction. Many people become consultants in their specialized fields in their senior years, but I had little interest in that. I had all these stories in my head about my varied life: growing up in a small industrially-polluted town in Ontario, Canada, and learning how “to escape” its confinements and stinks; my searching years at university, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life; and then a dramatic transition when I became a volunteer teacher in Sabah, Malaysia on Borneo Island. … [Read more...]

A memoir travelogue you’ll love

I'm pleased to share information about Katie R. Aune's new book, Finding Katya, part memoir and part travelogue.     Wouldn't we all want to have the opportunity to start over and tour another part of our world? Well, you can do it by reading Katie's compelling book. Here's some information about it. *** Book Summary Finding Katya is the inspiring and compelling story of one woman who ditches everything to embark on an unconventional adventure through the former Soviet Union. On her 35th birthday, Katie Aune was at a crossroads. Still reeling from a difficult breakup and longing to find more meaning in her life, she hopped on a one-way flight to start a year-long journey of discovery. Once a Russian and East European Studies major in college, Aune plotted a course that would take her through all 15 states of the former Soviet Union. In a book that is part memoir, part travelogue, Aune takes readers along as she discovers places that are far off the … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

Memoir class prompts

I've been attending a memoir class for almost a year at my new senior living community. I love the class and have written some interesting essays as a result. I thought I'd share a couple of recent ones with my readers. One prompt was to write about a best friend. My response was this: A First Best Friend Early during my Swift Elementary grammar school years I met Phyllis. She lived down the block from me at a residential hotel – the Sovereign – on Kenmore Avenue in the northside of Chicago. She was tall, had short curly blonde hair, and a pale complexion. In those days I had long dark brown hair and I was short, chubby, and olive skinned. But that didn’t stop me and Phyllis from becoming friends. I had to walk right by her hotel to go to school, so I would pick her up and we would walk together. Two other girls in our class – Vicky and Lynn – also lived at the Sovereign, and although we were friendly with them, we didn’t invite them to walk with us. Phyllis lived with her … [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...]

Read how Nancy King breaks the silence!

Choices is so happy to be part of sharing the moving memoir, Breaking the Silence by Nancy King. Please welcome Nancy while she's on her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. About Breaking the Silence: Secrets. Lies. Silences. Stories told by parents and their families to protect themselves. A father who defends his wife despite her damage to their daughter’s health and welfare. A mother, shielded by her husband, who perpetuates murderous acts of violence against the daughter, and keeps secret her husband’s sexual “play” with the young girl. And yet … Nancy King, determined to learn the truth of her childhood and the heartbreaking effects it has had on her adult life, uncovers the secrets. Sees through the lies. Breaks the silence. Empowered by the stories she told herself as a child, she learns to use stories as part of her work as a university professor teaching theater, drama, world literature, and creative expression. Gradually, with the help of body work and therapy, she … [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...]

Neill McKee is in the spotlight!

I'm so pleased to tell you about Neill McKee and his historical travel memoir, Guns and Gods in My Genes. This is the second day of his WOW! Women on Writing tour. About the book: Neill McKee, author of the award-winning travel memoir Finding Myself in Borneo, takes the reader through 400 years and 15,000 miles of an on-the-road adventure, discovering stories of his Scots-Irish ancestors in Canada, while uncovering their attitudes towards religion and guns. His adventure turns south and west as he follows the trail of his maternal grandfather, a Canadian preacher who married an American woman in Wisconsin, and braved the American Wild West from 1904 to 1907, finding a two-story brothel across from one of his churches and a sheriff who owned a saloon and dance hall, while carrying a gun with 20 notches, one for each man he had killed. Much to his surprise, McKee finds his American ancestors were involved in every major conflict on North American soil: the Civil War, the … [Read more...]

Please welcome adventurer, Rita Pomade

We are so happy to host Rita Pomade during her WOW! Women on Writing virtual book/blog tour. Rita is the author of the memoir, Seeker: A Sea Odyssey, the story of two people who meet in Mexico and fall in love.   And we thank Rita for writing this wonderful guest post: The Benefits of Spending Time Abroad When I was a child I refused to finish my porridge and was told to think of the starving children in China. I remember asking where China was and being told it was on the other side of the world. At five years old I started to dig my way there. I dug a hole so deep a board had to be placed over it. The next summer I returned to my hole, and shoveled until I hit water. My trip was aborted. The exploration of another culture would have to wait. As soon as I could afford it, I was off to Mexico. I stayed seven years. My foray into this foreign culture expanded me in every way possible. Its landscape was different from anything I’d known before, from its vast deserts … [Read more...]

I Am Not! by Rachel Boehm is brutally honest!

I'm very honored that Anne O'Connell, publisher of Rachel Boehm's new memoir, I Am Not!, asked Choices to participate in this first virtual book tour. Plus Rachel has generously written a guest post for us about her mantra - "Whatever happens, I'll handle it." Here's Rachel: Whatever happens, I’ll handle it.  by Rachel Boehm, Author of  I Am NOT! The affirmation has been my mantra for about 13 years; said now with ease and conviction, a confidence that would surprise the person I was when I first learned it. Thirteen years ago, I began my journey of healing and reclamation after years of verbal and emotional abuse from school and workplace bullies; gender bias; perfectionism; and disordered eating as I sought to achieve societal and industry norms (I was an actor and singer). Thirteen years ago, when I walked into a therapist’s office, I could not have envisioned the vibrancy of my life today. As if my life and vision then were lived through the Inkwell filter on … [Read more...]

What it takes to write a book

Getting my first novel published just over a year ago is undoubtedly the thing I’m most grateful for. That it wasn’t hard to find a publisher for it and that I found a wonderful illustrator to do the cover art also were part of that mix. However, the work leading up to it was hard and long. I started writing the novel in 2010 at a UCLA four-day workshop called How to Write Your First Novel. I decided to take that class to get away from the frustrations of trying to get my memoir published. I was querying like mad but nothing was working, so a change in pace was necessary. I already had an idea – taken from the life story my aunt wrote not long before she died. She wrote about a young man – actually a teacher – who took her to school plays and concerts when she was a senior in high school. When her brother – actually my father – found out he wasn’t Jewish, he made his family move to Chicago from their small town in mid Illinois so that she could find a nice Jewish man to … [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...]

Assembling a Life by Martha Clark Scala

I met Martha Clark Scala at an Esalen Institute poetry workshop in January 2000 about four months after my son Paul took his life. The workshop was instrumental in bringing poetry writing into my life. I wrote one that weekend that Martha added to her piece, "I'm Not Contagious, published in a The Compassionate Friends newsletter. We have been friends ever since. I was particularly intrigued by her latest writing work - a biography about her father, Geoff Clark - called Assembling A Life, Choosing the Artist in My father (and Myself). The way she put it together reminds me of the sculpture discipline called Assemblage, where bits and pieces of found items make up the sculpture piece. I have one hanging on my office wall made up of a piano's hammers, pieces necessary to determine the voice of a piano. It is special to me because our son was an accomplished jazz pianist. About the book If you have any desire to honor a departed loved one by … [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 … [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...]

Where did I go?

I apologize for my long absence from here. I spent from December 8 to January 9 working on five proposals over at the aerospace company I retired from in 2010. I've done a few gigs there before, but this one was especially grueling such that it gave me little time for myself, let alone to pursue any of my usual writing and reading projects. My new memoir sat dormant, my reading was almost nil - though I finally finished Toni Morrison's Sula in the first week of January. It literally took me over four weeks to read about one hundred and fifty pages. Also, I didn't write any poetry or my favorite small stones (little two-three line observations). And, needless to say, my review of my friend's six hundred page book stopped cold in its tracks. Even my daily gym workouts had to be curtailed. Though I thought I'd start right up again this past Friday - my first day off - I could barely keep my eyes open to do anything. All I wanted to do all day was sleep, and so I did. I also slept … [Read more...]

What to know to appear on a writer’s conference panel

The following article was published on December 18 at: I'm so pleased to have another article there. How to Prepare to be on a Panel Discussion By Madeline Sharples I’ve been on many panels at local writer’s conferences. And just having finished appearing on a panel, some of the things I’ve learned have come into focus. Here’s my list: Know your topic cold – make sure you know the topic you plan to speak about very thoroughly. On my recent panel we discussed writing best-selling memoirs, something I know a lot about. My goal was to convince the audience to find a way to write a memoir with a universal theme – that will appeal to readers beyond the author’s family and friends. We also discussed the differences between memoir (a small portion of a person’s life story) and an autobiography (a total life story) and the differences between memoir and fiction. A memoir is nonfiction. Know who your panel mates will be and their backgrounds – usually the faculty is listed … [Read more...]