Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tree trimming rant - a new poem


The tree trimming was yesterday.
And with his long-handled ax
he hacked the trees
stripping off leaves and
giant birds of paradise
until only bare branches and trunks
were left.
His onslaught hit the ground
leaving broken and bent petals,
the red succulents flattened
and spent.

Of course it got its intended result –
Light pouring through.
I can’t wait for the shade
to come back.

Coral Tree Before

 Coral Tree Today 
(2 weeks after the hack job)

 Poor Eucalyptus and Palms

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Poetry Pact Blogfest - About family feuds

I’ve been surrounded by family feuds almost all my life. My father never spoke to two of his brother-in-laws, and he refused to talk about it or respond to my mother’s pleas to make amends with his enemies. There were reasons, there were always reasons, mostly having to do with money and business. These family feuds caused a lot of strain and crying in our family. My mother had to see her brothers and their families on her own, and that wasn’t easy in the 1950s and 1960s when she couldn’t even drive a car. Sometimes my dad would drive her to see them and sit outside with a tightly shut mouth and his arms tightly folded across his chest until she was through visiting.

Later on in my generation, my brother’s wife decided she didn’t want to speak to me for while. I never knew why, and thankfully we’ve kissed and made up. She also stopped speaking to her sister for a time as well. My brother didn’t speak to his brother-in-law either.

I never could understand that kind of behavior. We’re on this planet for too short a time. These people must not get that, or they think maybe they’ll get a second chance to be real human beings. But I know that’s not true. My favorite uncle died when I was nine and as much as I daydreamed about him coming back, of course he never did. After the death of my son, I tried magical thinking again, but as we all know, it doesn’t work.

With all the fragility of life, I wonder why people are so mean to each other. We’re here once, so it’s important to make a real effort to get along – especially with family.  

Thankfully my sister and I both feel the same way. She is my baby sister, nine years younger than I. However, we are very close.

My baby sister Sheila and me

We've talked about the family feuds, and we made a pact several years ago that we’ll always be there for each other no matter what – unimaginable good or bad – things happen. We will always be together as sisters.  The thought of never speaking with each other again appalls us. 

Speaking, sharing, loving, visiting, hugging, caring for each other if needed – that’s what being sisters is all about.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Blatant Bragging

Really I don't do this very often, but I couldn't help it today.

Mentions of my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On or me have occurred in each of the last three days. And they are all good. 

On Saturday I found out that the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society Literary Landscapes magazine is now available. And an excerpt from my memoir is there. Here is the link and a picture of the cover. Please take a look. The GLAWS writers are a very talented bunch.  We write in all genres.

On Sunday Marty Tousley, creator of the Grief Healing website, sent me a Facebook message that she had finished her read of Leaving the Hall Light On and liked it well enough to post it on her Pinterest board called Books Worth Reading and on her list of books for adults on her websites's Grief Healing Books resource. Here's what Marty had to say:

"A mother's brutally honest and heartfelt account of living through her son's bipolar disorder and surviving his tragic death by suicide. This is a powerful story, told with amazing openness and truth. A must-read for anyone seeking to better understand and appreciate the enormous challenges of chronic mental illness and its devastating effects on a family."

And bright and early this morning Sonia Marsh founder of the Gutsy Living site, posted My Gutsy Story on her blog. She'll start the voting for the four June stories submitted in June on June 28. Please go over there, read the entries, and vote. Voting stays open until July 11. I hope you'll vote for mine.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dream of Things

For the last 40 years or so, I have had a serigraph on my wall created by (sister) Corita Kent with the quote from G.B. Shaw: "Some people see things that are and say why? I dream of things that never were and say why not." Seems like synchronicity to me that my new publisher is Mike O’Mary of Dream of Things.

I met Mike through my friend, mentor, and go-to person for all things related to publishing, Mark Shelmerdine, CEO of Jeffers Press. I contacted Mark as soon as I heard Lucky Press, the first publisher of Leaving the Hall Light On, had decided to go out of business. However, I also took Mark’s advice and waited to contact Mike until I had time to distress and unwind while on vacation. That said, I wrote to Mike the Monday after we returned home. And Mike responded favorably from the start. I am so fortunate for that.

Since Mike decided to become my publisher – he’ll publish paperback and eBook editions by the end of July – we’ve been busy. We first created a new book description with review blurbs to post on my Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Red Room pages. Mike has already posted them, and I think they make a big difference. And even though Lucky Press made the corrections to the text that I had indicated and provided me with final native and pdf files, Mike and his wife Kathy each went through the manuscript with very precise eagle eyes.

Guess what?

They each came up with many more typos to correct. I must reiterate here that it is so important to have new and fresh eyes look at our material before we post or go to press with anything. I can't tell you how many typos I find on my blog posts after the fact. It's disgraceful.

We also decided to provide a list of book club discussion topics at the back of the book. We both came up with a list and then Mike merged them. Finally, I decided to redo the Acknowledgments page – you’ll have to read the new edition to see if you’re on it – and now we’re ready to go.

I can’t tell you how excited I am with my new publishing arrangement. Thank you Mike and Mark for making this happen. 

And now on to a marketing plan. Mike has the best ideas.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Entering a novel competition is a lot of work

I’ve been inspired to enter the Strongest Start Novel Competition 2012, sponsored by The Next Big Writer website. I heard about the contest through Women on Writing, WOW, the group that put together my blog tour after my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, launched last year.

Here is what WOW had to say:

If you've been working on a novel, or have one written already, polish your first three chapters and consider entering this competition. TheNextBigWriter is an online workshop. By entering, you receive feedback on every chapter you submit. This is a great opportunity to have your work-in-progress reviewed, and you may even win! You do NOT need to have completed your entire novel, so this competition is open to those who have started or are working on their novels. There is NO ENTRY FEE, but membership is required.

So I thought why not? Why not is actually a very good question. First I worked and worked on my first three chapters to get them ready for submission by the June 22 deadline. And even though I knew that I would have to review other people’s chapters in order to get mine reviewed and even uploaded, I really didn’t know the extent of it.

I started the process yesterday and uploaded Chapter One. I could do that without any review credits. Then I began reading and amassed enough review credits to upload another chapter. Instead, based on the reviews I received, which were all very helpful and encouraging, I decided to upload a revision of the first chapter. So today I’m reading and reviewing in order to gather enough credits to publish Chapter Two. I’m just hoping I can read and review enough to get this all done by Friday. However, I do have a safety net. I understand I can borrow credits if I don’t make my quota in time.

I have to say, based on the reviews I’ve received, this is a very worthwhile site especially for people like me who don’t get a lot of feedback on their writing. It’s an online workshop. I plan to keep uploading more of my novel even after the contest submittal period is over. Besides, I’m getting a lot of ideas just by reading other people’s chapters. And even though the contest is for novels, the site is open to writers in all genres. I’ll probably post some poetry there as well.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day sadness

On this day I think a bit about my dad, but just a bit. He’s been dead since 1975 - over thirty-seven years. He’s vague in a lot of ways. Yet I still remember vividly his last year and half and his courageous battle against cancer. I think he waged the battle to please my mother. His own heart wasn’t in it. Finally, and I was so proud of him for this, he said he was through. He just wanted more and more morphine to aid him in dying. That was the most courageous part. Standing up to her and dying on his own terms.

Dad and Paul, 1973

What makes me more sad today is what Bob has been through. He was the father of three sons and now only one is living. His first son, Eric, was born with Down syndrome during his first marriage. He died in 2004 accidentally, choking on a peanut butter sandwich.

Bob and Eric

Our older son Paul was born perfectly healthy and was fine and brilliant until his first manic break at age twenty-one. He was then diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder. At age twenty-seven – five years before Eric died – he  took his own life in our home as a result. Bob found his body in our downstairs bathroom. You can read all about that in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.

Bob and Paul, 1973

Bob doesn’t talk much about either of these deaths. Yet, many times I see him with tears in his eyes while watching something on television or hearing a piece of music. Just the other day he cried while listening to John Lennon because John reminds us of our Paul. Lennon was Paul’s hero and musical muse.

I think that is what makes me the saddest. Bob holds all his feelings in – and he works to drown them out.

Yet his life as a father isn’t all bad news.

Bob and Ben, 2012

Tonight we’re having dinner with our surviving son Ben. Ben is the light of our lives. Even with what he’s gone through – the loss of his brother – he is the most loving and caring person I know. He is a great husband, friend, teacher, and mentor. Never a conversation goes by without an “I love you” at the close. I love to watch Bob and Ben in a hug. And thankfully Ben and his wife, Marissa live close by. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

 Paul and Ben, 1977

Ben and Paul, 1994

Bob and Ben, Maui

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's all about win-win

What an honor that Marla Miller, one of my favorite people, invited me to join a panel discussion yesterday as part of her Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference afternoon workshop. I’ve known Marla for a year or so, at first virtually. I think she found and made a comment on one of my articles at More Magazine online. Then we became Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn friends, and now I see her occasionally at Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society events. In person. She has been super supportive of me and my book. She invited me to be guest on her blog, Marketing the Muse, and posted my video on her wonderful Women Over 45: Speak site.

So when she asked I didn’t hesitate. A ninety-mile drive back and forth to Santa Barbara from my home in Manhattan Beach. No problem. Like we said at the end of the workshop yesterday, it’s all about win-win.

Plus I got to meet three other wonderful women who were on the panel with me. Sheri Fink spoke about being a self-published children’s book writer with two number one books for sale on Amazon already, Gale Carline who writes mysteries (also self-published) and humor columns, and Jennifer Aderhold who is creating a site called BeA intended to help the entrepreneurial author create the writing business and author's brand they have always dreamed of having. And of course Marla kept the conversation moving and the questions coming from workshop attendees.

Jennifer, Gayle, and Sheri (from the top)

 Marla's the one with the same hair color as mine

Our topic for the afternoon was platform building and marketing strategies. We all shared our own views and experiences and got a lot of feedback from our audience.

And Lisa Angle of Ninety Degrees Media served as videographer. Marla promises to send us all a video of the afternoon’s events. I’ll post it as soon as I get it. Then you’ll see and hear the details.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ask the author

One of the best experiences I had while we were on our recent trip to New England and the East Coast was being a guest at my great niece, Anna’s first grade class in Fairfax, Virginia. The class was working on a poetry unit. They had spent a lot of time in the last two months writing and illustrating Ouch, Acrostic, Animal, Color, and Haiku poems in preparation for a program for family and friends called Poetry and Punch.

At first I thought Jessica, the teacher, wanted me to give them a lesson in writing Haiku – the poetry form they were currently working on. But, no. They already were writing them and knew all about the form. So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was going to have a Question and Answer session with them. Jessica had the children sit on the rug in the front of the room and introduced me as Anna’s Aunt Madeline, the author. She then gave them the opportunity to ask me any questions they had about my work as a writer and author. And from the very first question I knew I was really in for a treat. These children knew exactly what to ask.

(stock photo - not from Anna's class)

Here are some of the questions they asked me:

Writing related questions:
Do you write chapter books?
What are the names of your books?
How did you learn to be a writer?
How did you get your first job?
Where do you write?
Do you write children’s books?
How do you make a book after you write it?
And a few personal questions:
How do you spell your name
Why did you change your last name when you got married?
What is your husband’s name?

After the Q and A, they went back to their tables and continued writing while Lyssa and I went around the room and helped them with wording and spelling. They then went back to the rug and volunteered to share their poems in practice for the poetry event the following week when they’ll get a chance to recite their poems to an audience with the help of a microphone.

I was indeed impressed with the creativeness of the teacher, the inquisitiveness of the students, and the work they are doing in class. I’ve always loved poetry – even as a child – but I didn't have lessons in writing poetry until much later in my life.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Enter to win the new anthology - Poetry Pact 2011

I’m so pleased to be a part of a Facebook poetry group called Poetry Pact. Started 18 months ago by my author colleague Jessica Bell, her goal was for us to write and post a poem a day for a year. When I joined the group I did not commit to either a poem a day or even a poem a week, but I did post over 30 poems onto the site in 2011. And I’m proud to say, several of them were chosen for our first (I hope annual) anthology, Poetry Pact 2011, Volume 1, edited by two of our group poets: Angela Felsted and Richard Merrill. (Angela became our Poetry Pact leader in 2012.)

I can’t tell you enough what a supportive group this is. The membership is small – we keep it a secret – so that we can all get a chance to Like, comment, and critique each other’s work. I have received so many good suggestions on how to improve my poems from this group. The critiques are always given with complete professionalism and care, never making me feel put down or discouraged as a result. It is wonderful to be a part of such an excellent group of poets who come from all over the world.

Here’s a list of the anthology contributors: Angela Felsted (Author), Jessica Bell (Author), Jim Murdoch (Author), Laurel Garver (Author), Lydia Kang (Author), Madeline Sharples (Author), Richard Merrill (Author), Kerala Varma (Author), Glynis Smy (Author), Alaine Benard (Author), Artemis Grey (Author), Roslyn Ross (Author), Angie Ledbetter (Author), Caleb Mannan (Author), Emily Kruse (Author), February Grace (Author), Janice Marie Phelps (Author), J.R. McRae

I encourage you to go to Amazon and purchase a copy. All proceeds will be donated to: Direct Relief International, a charity that provides humanitarian aid worldwide.

And to get you even more interested, I’m offering a free copy to the lucky commenter on this blog post. Just leave a comment by next Friday, June 15, 2012 at 12 midnight PST, and I’ll do the rest. I’m also giving away a copy over at Goodreads, in the giveaway arranged by Jessica.

But, there’s one more thing:
Angela has started a Blogfest to encourage our readers who have their own blogs to put up a story about a secret pact they have made, a friend they are close to, or a close knit group that has helped them through hard times on any day between June 27th and June 29th. On Saturday, June 30th, Angela, after reading each story, will announce six winners. Go here to see the prizes. Please sign up and get busy writing your story.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Overcome by writing

I’ve really been working away at my novel – at least the first three chapters. I'm getting them ready for a First Three Chapter Strongest Start competition that I plan to enter by June 22. I actually printed out a copy of the first 35 pages in no time at all with our brand new Epsom Artisan printer and did a line-by-line edit on the hard copy. Like back in the good old days. But even after reading it through, I still wasn’t satisfied with the opening – which I think is the most important part of the book. 

Well, I had an epiphany while I was on the elliptical this morning – even through the Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee on the TV, the article I was reading in The New Yorker about the artist Christian Marclay who created a digital piece of art called The Clock, which I’m dying to see, and the mix of music on my iPhone – I was able to think about writing. That’s how it has totally taken over my life. It’s on my mind constantly. I’m never bored with it. There’s always something to write about either in my head or on the page.

Timepieces of all kinds are the stars of the

Christian Marclay video “The Clock”