Madeline Sharples, author of Leaving the Hall Light On, launches her blog tour!

Monday, June 06, 2011
& Book Giveaway Comments Contest

We are honored to introduce you to Madeline Sharples, a talented poet and memoirist who began her career in creative writing later in life. When Paul, Madeline's oldest son, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she turned to poetry for comfort and clarity. After his death in 1999 she found the spilling of pain onto paper was salve to her soul.

Poetry and journal entries converge in Madeline's moving memoir, Leaving the Light On. With her candid, heartfelt approach, Madeline reveals the strain mental illness places on the individual and their loved ones. She shares with us the grief and guilt experienced by survivors of suicide. Finally, she shows us the strength of a family and the amazing ability we all possess to heal and move forward.

Madeline completed her memoir in her newly remodeled writing sanctuary, originally Paul's room, because he had always been her muse. (Photo by Paul Blieden; click to enlarge)

Leaving the Hall Light On is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores.
ISBN: 978-0-9846317-2-8
Publisher: Lucky Press
Format: Hardcover with dust jacket; 336 pages; photographs
Download two sample chapters here (PDF).

As a tribute to Paul, and to all the children loved and lost, we would like to share the book trailer for Leaving the Hall Light On and the music of Paul Sharples. You can listen to more of Paul's music here:

Book Giveaway Contest: If you would like to win a signed copy of Leaving the Hall Light On, please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in a random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, June 9th at 11:59 PM, PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #LightOn, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day, Friday, June 10th. Good luck!

---------- About the author

Although Madeline Sharples worked most of her professional life as a technical writer and editor, grant writer, and proposal manager, she fell in love with poetry and creative writing in grade school. She pursued her writing interests to high school while studying journalism and writing for the high school newspaper, and she studied journalism in college. However, she only began to fulfill her dream to be a professional writer late in her life.

She co-authored a book about women in nontraditional professions called Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994) and co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show, volumes 1 (Muse Media, 2004) and 2 (August 2010). She wrote the poems for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). She is pleased that many of her poems have appeared online and in print magazines in the last few years.

She and her husband of forty years live in Manhattan Beach, California, a small beach community south of Los Angeles. Her younger son Ben lives in Santa Monica, California with his bride Marissa.

Visit Madeline Sharples at:
Her blog, Choices:
Red Room:

---------- Interview by Robyn Chausse

WOW: Welcome, Madeline! Let's start at the beginning. You studied journalism but ended up as a technical writer; how did you feel about that?

Madeline: At the time I graduated college there weren't a lot of opportunities for women in journalism--certainly not like now. After having a disastrous experience writing for a fashion trade magazine I started working in the aerospace industry as a writer/editor of technical manuals. By the time I retired I was a proposal manager as well as a technical writer/editor, and I wrote content for and designed websites. I had many other careers during my professional life: real estate salesperson, programmer, fund raiser for non-profits, and I took some artistic detours into drawing and painting, sewing, needlepoint, knitting, and quilting. But I never gave up on my goal to be a writer. I started taking writing workshops and classes in the mid 1990s and have been practicing creative writing ever since. It's really never too late to follow your dream.

WOW: You're right. If we desire it, we should reach for it! You were first published as co-author of Blue Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs. How did that come about?

Madeline: My co-author, Trudi Ferguson, a Ph.D. in behavioral science, and I are in the same book club. She had the idea and interviewed the women profiled in the book, and she asked me to help her organize the material and write the chapter unifying text. I was thrilled to be asked. It was my first foray into book publishing.

WOW: From there you went on to publishing poetry; can you share a little about this transition?

Madeline: After my son died, poetry just seemed to come out of my pen. I was in an Ellen Bass "Writing About Our Lives" workshop at Esalen Institute at Big Sur, CA, and I wrote two poems in response to her prompts. One of them was almost immediately published in The Compassionate Friends newsletter. I learned more about writing poems in a workshop that I took for many years in Los Angeles, and as a result I began to think: there is a poem out there everywhere. No matter what situation I'm in, I always say, "Now, there's a poem." Of course, I continue to be motivated by my publishing success and the poem a day challenges that I regularly participate in.

WOW: How did the writing of a memoir come about?

Madeline: My memoir came about from my journals. I started journaling in spiral notebooks, and when I began to think that I'd like to create a book out of that material, I began to highlight the relevant text and then type it into my computer--a long, arduous job. I also had a lot of poems that eventually became my first poetry manuscript. I discussed my memoir idea with and showed the manuscript to a young woman, a former literary agent, who suggested I use the order of the poems in the manuscript as the outline for my book. She then gave me more prompts to help round out my story. From that I created my first draft. After I got my publishing contract last July 2010, I revised the original outline quite a bit, but some of that early material and the poems still survive in the final manuscript. By the way, because the book evolved from my poetry manuscript I insisted in keeping them in. Fortunately, my caring and sensitive publisher, Lucky Press LLC, asked that I add more to the final version.

WOW: I'm glad you mentioned that. When there is something an author feels strongly about she needs to speak up. Those poems are so much a part of you and your experience of that time, I can't imagine not including them in your memoir.

Writing a memoir and deciding to publish one for the world to see are two very different experiences. Share with us your decision to publish Leaving the Hall Light On.

Madeline: Absolutely right. Deciding to publish this memoir was terrifying, though I never considered not publishing it, if I had the opportunity. I was encouraged by my writing instructors and mentors to get my story out to the world. I feel if my book helps just one family get through what my family has been through it will be a success. That motivation is much stronger than my fear of having my raw and painful experience out there for everyone to read.

WOW: If it isn't too prying...what emotional healing or shifting do you feel touring with this book that is different from merely writing the memoir?

Madeline: Writing is a very lonely occupation. I did a lot of internalizing during that process. I feel that telling others my story and getting their feedback will help complete my goal to get my story out in the world. However, I expect that to be very stressful--it's like reliving some of the worst parts of my life every time I tell it or write about it again. I gave a reading the other night and as soon as I spoke the last word, I felt a pain like a punch in my gut--like how I felt during the stress during my son's bipolar disorder and after his death. It's a reminder that the grief is always there. Thankfully, though, my book has an upbeat middle and end--about how my family and I survived.

WOW: Grief can be suffocating and crippling, it takes a strong soul to find a way through it and be able to function and thrive again. I see you as an inspiration to others that there still is life to be lived. Where do you go from here? Are you working on another project?

Madeline: I am always writing. Right now I'm mostly journaling, blogging, and participating in poetry challenges--it's about all I have time for. I try to write several poems a week and, during challenge months, one a day. I've experimented with 140-character poems lately and will have two published by Folded Word on Twitter soon.

I've also started a novel. When I was at the height of my frustration about getting rejected from one agent after the other, I decided to take a break from my memoir and attend a workshop about writing your first novel. I was very nervous about that because fiction isn't normally my forte. However, I had an idea that my workshop group and instructor liked. And surprise, surprise they were also very encouraging about my fiction writing. After the workshop I wrote at least 300 words a day for several months until I got my publishing contract. I picked it up again after I completed my memoir revisions, taking an online novel writing class with the same instructor. It's back on the shelf again until I come up for air after all the book touring and marketing. Right now I have a good scene outline, about 114 pages (38,000 words), and lots of research left to do.

WOW: How exciting! Keep us posted on your novel!

---------- Blog Tour Dates:

Join Madeline on her tour! Check out these dates and mark your calendar. You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar here.

June 7, Tuesday @ White Elephants
Madeline Sharples visits Chynna Laird at White Elephants to discuss her experience as mother of a child with bipolar disorder. What are the signs? Come find out.

June 8, Wednesday @ Writing Come Hell or Highwater
What does it take to write a book? Madeline says it takes a village! Stop by today for a behind the scenes look at the work that goes into producing a book. You can also enter to win an ebook copy of Madeline's memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.

June 9, Thursday @ The Gift
Stop by The Gift for an informative interview with Madeline Sharples, author of Leaving the Hall Light On. Chynna will also be sharing her review of Madeline's beautiful memoir and offering you a chance to win an ebook copy!

June 10, Friday @ A Slice of Life Writing
Revisions, they seem to go on forever! Come on over to A Slice of Life Writing to hear what Madeline has to say about the revision process. Comment for a chance to win an ebook copy of Leaving the Hall Light On!

June 13, Monday @ Rage Against the Washing Machine
With all the coverage of special needs children, is there still a stigma placed on mental illness? Come hear a mother's opinion.

June 14, Tuesday @ A.L.L. Between the Lines
Mommy Lebron reviews Madeline's memoir Leaving the Hall Light On. Comment for your chance to win an ebook copy!

June 15, Wednesday @ Words from the Heart
It is the worst experience a parent could do you survive the death of a child? Madeline shares her insights. Leave your comments or questions today for a chance to win an ebook copy of Leaving the Hall Light On.

June 20, Monday @ Thoughts in Progress
Your friend has lost her child, what can you do? Most people place comforting a grieving person among the top ten most awkward situations. Join us at Thoughts in Progress for a grieving mother's perspective on what really does help. Enter to win an ebook copy of Leaving the Hall Light On.

June 21, Tuesday @ Mother Daughter Book Club
It can hold people back from seeking help...but is there really still a stigma on mental illness? Come over to get a mother's opinion. Leave your comments or questions for a chance to win an ebook copy of Leaving the Hall Light On.

June 22, Wednesday @ Women's Memoirs
It is one thing to journal about your most painful experiences and another thing to write a memoir about them! Madeline shares the experience of writing her memoir with the ladies at Women's Memoirs.

June 23, Thursday @ Colloquium
Some of us use journaling to explore our feelings, but what about writing a memoir? Join us today as we explore memoir writing as a means to deal with grief. Come back on the 27th for Mason's review of Madeline's book. And be sure to enter Colloquium's contest for a signed copy of Leaving the Hall Light On.

June 27, Monday @ Colloquium
Mason Canyon reviews Madeline Sharples' memoir Leaving the Hall Light On and someone wins a signed copy! Will it be you?

June 28, Tuesday @ The Cottage Bookshelf
Come to The Cottage for a candid talk about the services available to families to families dealing with mental illness. Where do you turn to? How do you choose? Madeline shares her insight. Our host, Kimberly, will follow with her review of Leaving the Hall Light On!

June 29, Wednesday @ National Association of Memoir Writers
Memoir writers come from all walks of life--Madeline was a technical writer for an aerospace company! Join us as she shares her journey today at the National Association of Memoir Writers. Leave a comment or question and you may win a signed copy of Leaving the Hall Light On.

July 1, Friday @ Women's Memoirs
Come to Women's Memoirs for an interview with Madeline Sharples about her experience marketing her book via a blog tour!

To view all of our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar here.

Get involved! 

If you have a blog or website and would like to host Madeline or schedule a tour of your own, please email Jodi and Robyn at:

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a signed copy of Madeline Sharples' hardcover book Leaving the Hall Light On!

Here's how to enter: 
1. For your first entry, just leave a comment on this post! Leave a comment or ask Madeline a question, to be entered in a random drawing.
2. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #LightOn, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet.

The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, June 9th at 11:59 PM, PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day, Friday, June 10th, and if we have the winner's email address from the comments section or profile, we will also notify the winner via email. Good luck!


Leslie said...

The nugget -- one of many I got from here -- is: "When there is something an author feels strongly about she needs to speak up." I think this important to know & be reminded of from time to time. This memoir looks very intriguing. It sounds like the author put her heart & soul into it. That is not an easy task when it comes to memoir/personal essay.

Anonymous said...

Hi Madeline, Best of luck with your new book. You honor your Paul well. Thank you for sharing. ~ Mike Purcell [PAFOS]

Unknown said...

Thank you for writing this book. My middle child has bipolar and attempted suicide at age 13. She was not successful. She struggles every day but manages to stay ahead of the disease.
God did not take Paul. Satan took him to test your faith. I know you say you don't believe in God, but he believes in you. He gives each of us a choice in life. Sometimes we can't live with life. It is hard to loose anyone we love. I think of my mom and dad everyday. I know I too, will be gone one day and my children will think of me. That is the journey of life.

I hope you can talk with God one day. He is still there for you.

This book will help others cope and deal with this unforgiving disease. Thank you so much.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Hi Madeline,

Thank you for sharing your story. As a survivor of suicide (my mom committed suicide when I was twelve), I know it's not an easy subject to talk about. But talking about it and writing about it is a necessary part of healing. I'm looking forward to reading your book. I'm sure I'll relate to a lot of what you've written.


madeline40 said...

Thanks so much for your comments about my book. It was hard to write and it is still hard for me to read. I just needed to get it out so others would know it's possible to survive a parent's worst nightmare.


Dolores Gamble said...

Hi Madeline, I have a brief, odd story about how I come to be commenting on your post. I walk almost daily on the path in Manhattan Beach with my dog. I have often looked at the bench with the name Paul Ian Sharples and dates on it and wondered about him. I was always saddened when I saw the brief span of those dates. I walked by today and sat at that bench looking up at the hawks' nest above. I looked at Paul's name and decided I would see if I could find out who he was. So, I searched his name online and came upon your book and profile. I was so moved by your family's story and so inspired by you. I will recommend this book to by book club and wish you the very best.

Toby Lynne said...

I too lost my adult son and it is the hardest hardest thing ever to live through. Greg died of Hodgkin's Lymphoma seventeen days before his 25th birthday. I have also had struggles with mental illness myself, being diagnosed at one time as bipolar but now I'm not so sure its mental illness at all. Maybe just exhaustion from having your word crumble too many times.

I can relate to a lot of what this story reveals. Although I found peace in a closer relationship to God.

Life is a tough tough thing...

madeline40 said...

Thank you so much Delores. Your story is amazing. We probably have seen each other a million times. If you and your book club would like, I would be glad to sign their books and answer questions. You could leave a note in my mailbox. The bench faces our house -- the one with the red tile roof and mustard color stucco. In any case, I'd love to meet you. All best, Madeline

madeline40 said...

Toby, thanks so much for sharing your story with me. Stess is one of the causes of bipolar, so indeed you may have had synptoms caused by stress. I'm glad you have been able to find peace. I wish you all good things.

Diane Yaris Adkins said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I commend you on your mission on erasing the stigma of mental illness. Your memoir is a beautiful tribute to Paul and gives insight to your strength in surviving this tragedy. This book will help so many with their healing. The more I get to know you, the more my respect for you grows. Best of luck to you!!

madeline40 said...

Diane, I appreciate your support so much. This was such a hard book to write, and it is so fulfilling to have you understand what it took. xoxo

Kate Briand said...

would love to read this, thank you for being brave enough to write and publish, journaling is what saved me after my husband's suicide in May of 2009, his depression was terminal

slb3334 said...

My step dad is bipolar and would like to learn more about it.

madeline40 said...

Dear slb3334,
Thanks for your interest. Of course there is a lot of material about bipolar disorder in my book. You could also go to the NAMI - National Association of Mental Illness - online for more information. I hope this helps. I think your gaining knowledge about it will be a great benefit to your step dad. Best of luck. Madeline

dwarzel said...

Count me in, please!

dwarzel at

April said...

I want to win this!:)

Anonymous said...

I like the title of your book!

elka said...

I"m trying to win this book for dear Harry!

Debbie Kennedy said...

Books created from the heart are the best stories ever told. Would love to read this. Thanks for the opportunity and for sharing your story.
cleaningrhouse at yahoo dot com

janeh said...

I'd very much love to own this book..... said...

Thank you for sharing, I appreciate your honesty on sharing about such a tough issue.
Diane Baum

susansmoaks said...

i would love to read this
susansmoaks at gmail dot com

Erin Cook said...

sounds like a keeper to me, your a very talented writer Madeline. I really want to win this book ! I am inspired writer as well Thanks for the giveaway

madeline40 said...

Thank you all for your comments. I'm so excited that you'd like to read my book. Makes it all worthwhile. No matter who wins a copy, I hope you all will read it sometime. With love, Madeline

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book . I hope i win

Anonymous said...

i tweeted!/JCoyne1031/status/79041201948467200

WOW! said...

Happy Friday!

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments. We held a random drawing (via for Madeline's book, Leaving the Hall Light On, and the winner is... Elka!

Congratulations, Elka! Please send your mailing address to and we will forward it to Madeline. Since you left your e-mail address, we'll also send you an e-mail with this same info.

For everyone else: be sure to check out the rest of the stops on the tour for more giveaways, interviews, and fantastic advice from Madeline Sharples. :)

madeline40 said...

Congratulations Elka!
I hope you'll tell me what Harry thinks about the book.
All best,

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