Memoir Book Discussion: Leaving the Hall Light On by Madeline Sharples

by Matilda Butler on June 22, 2011

catnav-book-raves-active-3Post #87 – Women’s Memoirs, Book & Video Raves – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

JOURNALING, MEMOIR: PATHS TO HEALING


Kendra Bonnett and I are delighted to be part of a blog book tour organized by WOW! Women on Writing for Madeline Sharples’ new memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On — the story of her son’s bipolar disease diagnosis and his suicide.

Women’s Memoirs seeks to bring together multiple facets of memoir writing, including journaling and writing and healing. When WOW contacted us to see if we would be interested in Madeline Sharples memoir, we realized that this would be an important book to share with you because it began as journaling for healing and moved on to a published memoir. Before we begin our interview, I want to let you know that Paul Sharples, Madeline’s son, both composed and played music. She is sharing one of his compositions that he played not long before his death. It’s one of her favorites. Perhaps you’ll want to play it while you read our conversation with Madeline.

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memoir-healing, memoir and journaling, autobiography, memoir and suicideWelcome Madeline to Women’s Memoirs. We are pleased to have an opportunity to talk with you and to learn more about your new memoir. Here’s our first question:

memoir, memoir writing, journaling, autobiographyWomen’s Memoirs: You have been a writer for many years. Yet you specifically kept a journal to write about your son’s bipolar disorder and subsequent suicide. Could you share that story with us?

memoir, memoir book, memoir writing, depression and suicide, journaling, writing and healing, bipolar diseaseMadeline Sharples
Writing has been part of my life since I was in grade school. However, when my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and after his suicide I needed to write down my feelings daily. Writing in my journal became an obsession and a balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. I had used journaling during an earlier stressful period of my life to rant. So I felt that writing would help me again during what turned out to be the most stressful time of my life.

memoir, memoir writing, journaling, autobiographyWomen’s Memoirs: Writing is healing in many different ways. Based on your experience, how did writing help you in your healing process? Do you have any specific recommendations or thoughts for women who need to heal.

Madeline Sharples Early on during my son’s illness I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and her suggestion to write morning pages resonated with me. Because I was employed full-time then, my writing didn’t always take place in the morning, but I always finished my three pages before the end of the day.

memoir, memoir writing, memoir and healing, healing and writing, journaling, autobiography, memoir bookRight after Paul died I received a gift of Anne Brener’s book, Mourning & Mitzvah: A Guided Journal for Walking the Mourner’s Path Through Grief to Healing It was the only self-help book I even opened, and I somehow felt compelled to write an answer to every prompt in the book.

Writing was healing because it helped me put my pain on the page. Instead of carrying it with me every moment of the day and night, I found a place where I could have a little relief. There was so much I couldn’t say out loud to anyone. My husband worried I was having a breakdown even if I cried too much. And since there was so much anger and grief in me, I needed a place to put it. Writing in those days was like repeating a mantra. I just kept moving my pen across the page. And I wouldn’t let anything get in my way.

I recommend writing or another creative outlet to women who are looking for ways to heal. My husband and I also found many diversions – working out, work, movies, plays, opera, reading, traveling – that helped. I also recommend that women take good care of themselves and not let others tell them how long it should take to heal. Everyone needs to express their grief and take time to heal in their own way and own time.

memoir, memoir writing, journaling, autobiographyWomen’s Memoirs: When did you decide to take your journals and writing and turn them into a book? Were there any unexpected results from creating a book based on these experiences?

Madeline Sharples I finally decided to take my journals and other written pieces and turn them into a book when one of my writing instructors kept telling me to get my story out. And the more he said it and the more the rest of the class agreed, the more empowered I felt. However, I didn’t have clue what to do next. Fortunately I met a former literary agent who read my poetry manuscript and suggested I organize my book in the order of the poems. She also gave me writing prompts that helped me round out my material.

Throughout the writing, the querying, the revising, and even now during the marketing, I have had a village of qualified professionals who have been a huge support. These people have made my writing life so much easier. That was a true gift and the most unexpected result of all.
memoir, writing and healing, journaling, memoir writing, depression and suicide, bipolar and suicide

memoir, memoir writing, journaling, autobiographyWomen’s Memoirs: Thank you Madeline. It’s been a pleasure having you visit Women’s Memoirs blog and we wish you success with your memoir.

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