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Sunday, June 30, 2013
Saturday, June 22, 2013
This essay is part of an occasional series by authors who have written memoir with honesty, courage and skill.
I first "met" Madeline Sharples online about a year ago. Her memoir had been drawing attention as a testament to a mother's love and desire to help others in the wake of her son's suicide following a long mental illness. As her story was about love, loss and grief, it drew me. My review of "Leaving the Hall Light On" speaks for itself. Please welcome Madeline to the Circle.
So writing about my son’s bipolar disorder and later about his 1999 suicide death became my therapy. Writing during the most stressful time of my life became an obsession and a balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts.
Besides journaling I began to take writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers Program and Esalen Institute in Big Sur California. Then four months after Paul died, I started working with Jack Grapes, a Los Angeles based instructor who teaches method writing.
After writing about Paul and our family in poetry and prose in Jack’s workshop for about a year, he and my classmates started to say I had to get my story out in the world. Jack suggested I write a memoir. But, I put it off for a while. I was still too engulfed in grief to think about taking on such a project. Finally about a year later I began to take my journal entries, pieces from writing classes and workshops, poems, and new writing – and turn them into a book. However, I didn’t have a clue what to do next.
My first thought was to write a memoir in poems since I already had a poetry manuscript. However, I met a former literary agent through our younger son Ben who read my poems. She suggested I organize a book in prose, which included poetry, according to the order of the poems in the manuscript. She also gave me writing prompts that helped me round out my material.
Then I began compiling - first by reading through my journals, underlining everything I thought applicable, and transferring that material into book files on my computer. It took a long time. Once in a file I moved pieces around according to my outline. Then I wrote some more, edited, worked with a paid editor, revised according to my editor’s notes, edited, revised again until I had a draft manuscript. At that point the work really began.
I began to query agents and small presses, sending out my manuscript whenever I got a request for it. And two years and 68 queries later I finally had a book contract with a small press.
But, not so fast. My publisher asked me to revise the second half of the book completely. That took another six months with a lot of help from three writing friends in organizing, looking for repetition and inconsistencies, and line by line editing.
Finally after writing journal entries, workshop pieces, new pieces, and poems from as early as 1993 I had a memoir that was first published in May 2011 – pretty close to twenty years later.
Using a lot of my source documents helped me create a raw and honest book that offers parents and siblings who have experienced a child’s or a brother or sister’s death ways to get out of the deep dark hole they are in. I have created my book for anyone who has experienced some kind of grief in his or her lives.
The major reason I decided to write my memoir was to keep my son’s memory alive and share my experiences with others who might benefit from them. Through that process I also discovered my lifelong mission – to work to erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide in the hope of saving lives.
Facebook author page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Madeline-Sharples/145268628820134?ref=mf
Monday, June 17, 2013
It seems writers have often led a solitary and isolating life. Is technology isolating us even more or is it bringing the world to our doorstep? Th is is the first of an occasional essay on social media and the writer's life.
is is the first of an occasional essay on social media and the writer's life.
That Third Reality ~ By Edda R. Pitassi
That Third Reality ~ By Edda R. Pitassi
It was a lovely June morning, and I was driving to the Saturday seminar I had registered for at my college’s Alumni Weekend festivities. The lecture, “What’s Trending,” being given by a favorite English teacher, would provide both light and shadow to the rest of my day.
Booklovers among us cried out, “Why doesn’t anyone read anymore?”
One of us answered: “You know what Steve Jobs said…'people don’t read anymore.’"
“We could spend hours talking about the changes in storytelling, journalism and media,” the teacher said.
We could, but we will not, is what he meant to say.
Will phrases – or sentences -survive?
Will words still matter?
Will the structure of language – as we have learned and understood it in our lifetime – become extinct?
Will new generations speak and write only in fragments, and will we of an older culture still be able to understand them - and each other?
What is a Communications or Journalism degree worth in today’s expanding Mobile/ Digital /Technology World?
Wouldn’t students and colleges both save many thousands of dollars just by having teachers learn and teach the newest ‘Apps’ and work with students on how to use them for digital storytelling?
My thoughts continued as I drove the verdant Pennsylvania countryside:
Should I still keep trying to write and publish short stories?
Should I learn how to write poetry instead?
As a published author, is there an audience for my work outside of cyberspace?
It’s so crazy out there…who will listen?
Where? On the run?
What are your thoughts on how social media affects the writer?
Monday, June 10, 2013
Women only groups have great value as a place to share, empathize and validate as I learned firsthand by attending a woman's writing retreat which was the catalyst to my memoir journey for Again in a Heartbeat five years ago.
I can only imagine how different my life would have been if I had not been there.
And while it is true that people are responsible for their actions, it is also true they are not responsible for society’s stereotypes and social actions.
Many of our writers have never before been heard. The read-around is their time to tell their stories, read them aloud and "test drive" their voices in a supportive, nurturing and learning environment.
Mary Pierce Brosmer, founder of Women Writing For (a) Change, writes in her book of the same name about her group's read-arounds:
“WWfaC read-arounds are radical in that they are simply and persistently by, for and about women’s words. Radical in that we are going to the imbalance in our culture, and on a small scale, attempting to heal the attention deficit women and girls have historically experienced by keeping our attention on women’s – and girls’ words.”
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
|Boyd and Penny|
Many people are afraid to criticize, and a group of people who only compliment your writing is not worth your time. I have left such groups.
Also, consider the value of a group or an occasional meeting within a group in which no comments are allowed. You might be surprised at how liberating that is, and that sometimes you write better in that environment.
It is helpful to read your writing aloud to others. For some reason that I can’t claim to understand, I learn by listening to myself read aloud. It tends to highlight awkward phrasing or weak action descriptions.
It’s just plain fun to share with like-minded people who are hooked on writing. That in itself is a good enough reason to join a writing group. If you can’t find one, start one yourself. I did that when I lived in Boston, and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. You can start out small with just one or two other people.
Our writing prompt for Saturday: "Write What Should Not Be Forgotten" ~ Isabel Allende Using dialogue and two characters, write a scene (either from your own life or from your imagination) that you feel should not be forgotten. Try this in 1,000 words.
However, if this prompt does not suit, bring whatever your muse desires. I look forward to sharing our writing together.