Friday, October 30, 2020

Never Say Hopeless


I was stunned to see that it had been almost a year since I last wrote a blog post. Really???

Then I reflected on the past year and realized that if I had not been forced to stay home and be productive, this book probably would not yet be released. No one has ever experienced a year quite like 2020, and I hope and pray that 2021 is not more of the same. The most difficult part has been not being able to travel to see family and friends, but it also made me thankful for the dear friends who have been part of our limited circle during these pandemic months.

Never Say Hopeless was in the works for several years, put on indefinite hold by having the privilege of spending quality time with my mom before her passing in 2018. When she went to heaven, I had difficulty generating enthusiasm for returning to this project. She was my biggest cheerleader, and losing her was huge. I spent time traveling, thinking that would fill the void, but then I was stuck staying home I began digging back into the manuscript. And, finally, here it is! Available on Amazon in paperback and in e-book on Kindle. It will also be available on Nook soon, I hope. The Barnes and Noble website was hacked recently, and they are rather backlogged in processing the new Nook e-books.

The setting is predominantly the coastal town of Pawleys Island, South Carolina. It happens to be just up the road from where I live. This area is a hidden gem, but I believe that it has been discovered by those of us who exited the Northeast in search of snowless winters and lovely beach walks. The story incorporates a few of the local restaurants and locations that we enjoy, so it is a fun read for residents who like to have some familiarity with the setting.

The story began with my first book, Eyelash, which I call my experiment in writing. I then took the time and effort to truly study how to write fiction and penned Never Say Perfect. The story ends with Never Say Hopeless, and while I originally thought there might be a fourth book in the series, I wrapped up the story in this final release. I tried to write each book as a stand alone novel, but reading them all in order is probably somewhat advantageous. 

In Never Say Hopeless, Laina's friend, Connor Blake (whom we met in Never Say Perfect) is a Private Investigator and asks Laina to go to Pawleys Island to spy on a client's husband. Her assignment was to live in a rented beach house next to the subject and report back on his activities. It sounds fairly simple, but what she uncovers is far more than a case of infidelity. I don't want to say too much more at this time and spoil the suspense and shock of what she finds.

I write to entertain and inspire, so there is always the theme of how our faith can get us through whatever we have to face in life. This year is a great example. I keep calling 2020 The Lost Year. I can hardly wait to pack some luggage and go visit family, but it takes faith that this will all be possible sooner than later. 

So, dear friends, I trust that you will enjoy Never Say Hopeless. I thank you for your patience in waiting for this book's publication to become a reality! I always love to hear from readers at the following email address: Please visit for more information.

May God bless you all and keep you safe!

Much love,

Mary Anne Benedetto

Monday, November 18, 2019

Why I Stopped Writing for Four Years

My dear friends,

I know it has been forever since I have written a blog post. To give you the condensed version, with caring for my mom and then her subsequent passing, I needed ample time to recover and adjust. She was so dear to me, and I was blessed to be able to have her close to us during her final six years. Her loss was devastating, even though I am well aware that this is the normal cycle of life. She enjoyed a reasonably healthy 90 years, and I firmly believe that she is looking down from Heaven. I know she and Dad have enjoyed their reunion in the sky.

Time has been essential in coping and healing. Travel has been beneficial. Family has been a blessing. So, finally I feel as though I can finish what may very well be my last book, Never Say Hopeless.

In September of this year, I loved going to my 50th high school class reunion in Southern California, where I had the privilege of hanging out with dear old friends and spending time in the town where I grew up. That week brought back so many fond memories, but it was shocking to see how the area has grown over the years and how crazy the traffic has become. Mom and Dad would be so surprised to see our small town of Hesperia, California now.

The adventure continued with a twenty-day cruise leaving the port of Los Angeles on the Ruby Princess and taking us to some of the most beautiful places in the world. With four days at sea while we sailed to Honolulu and another five days at sea to travel to Tahiti, I actually felt relaxed enough to tackle editing the Never Say Hopeless manuscript. Since I had not laid eyes on it in probably about four years, I started at the beginning and made a multitude of changes. At least it is once again a work-in-progress instead of sitting on my desk untouched!

I wish everyone blessed Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons for 2019 and assure you that this book will become a reality in 2020, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

A very special thank you to those who perpetually ask when this book will be released. You give me the encouragement that I truly need in order to finalize this project.

All the very best,

Mary Anne Benedetto


Monday, May 14, 2018

My Year of Firsts Begins

One week before Mother’s Day, this enormous black cloud rolled in and hovered over me. Initially, I could not comprehend it. Then my friend, Chloe, gave it a name: The beginning of the year of firsts.

My mom and I have always been close. Before Dad passed away, she and I were sitting by his bedside. He looked over at us and said, “You are two peas in a pod.” Since March of this year, one of those peas has vanished from the pod.

When a loved one for whom you have been chief caregiver passes away, there are a multitude of details that must be handled with accuracy and a lucid mind. There is literally no opportunity to fall apart. Each item on the list is managed, crossed off, and one moves on to the next task.

Then the year of first commences. It could be Thanksgiving, Christmas, a birthday or anniversary, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day when a huge dose of reality engulfs you. That loved one is no longer present to celebrate in any traditions you may have enjoyed with them.
Mother's Day 2016
As the warm, fuzzy commercials, advertisements and Facebook references to moms bombarded us in the days preceding this Mother’s Day, I became increasingly weepy every time I heard or saw one. It emphasized to me that I would no longer spend Mother’s Day taking Mom to church and a nice brunch. It was my pleasure to honor a woman who was the best mom, friend, confidant, prayer warrior and role model anyone could ever imagine.

Prior to her March, 2018 passing, Alzheimer’s had changed her over a period of a couple of years from a sharp, organized, articulate, detail-oriented woman to someone who could no longer pay a bill, make a grocery list, or remember what was said five minutes ago. Somehow it never robbed her of her sweet, caring personality, however. She always greeted everyone with a big smile.

Was it stressful to be in charge of her well-being for many years? Yes. Is it, in some strange way, a relief not to have that level of responsibility on my shoulders? Yes. But I miss her smile and positive attitude. I miss taking her to play Bingo or listen to a gospel group at her Assisted Living residence. I miss just sitting and chatting with her.

A caring friend, Allison, sent me flowers, knowing that this Mother's Day would be a difficult time. I am trying not to feel sorry for myself, but the tears just fall from my eyes like a drippy faucet that will not stop. Then I get a grip and remind myself that she lived a good, long life. She enjoyed ninety reasonably healthy years and knew that she was dearly loved. Now she and Dad are two peas in a pod in heaven. That is my comfort.

Mother’s Day is only the beginning of my year of firsts. I believe I had better get accustomed to it, knowing that time helps make it just a little bit easier. But it will never be quite the same. 

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Clara's Legacy

I cannot believe that I have not posted since August. It has been a wild and crazy time in my life with Mom’s health declining and the necessity of moving her to Assisted Living. The good news is that she has adjusted well, says she loves living there, and I have the peace of mind that she is where she has caring, 24/7 help if needed.

As Mom celebrates her 90th birthday this month, I wanted to take time to reflect on some special attributes of this amazing woman.
Just a few things that quickly enter my mind are her:

·        Tenacity in leaving a summer job in New York City to return to North Carolina and marry my dad. She was madly in love with him, and nothing could stop her.

·        Insistence that her children use proper English and not say words such as “ain’t.” I appreciate that about her. She emphasized the importance of being the best you can be and making a good impression.

·        Demeanor as a true southern lady—always kind, gracious and as sweet as a tall glass of sugary iced tea.

·        Adventurous spirit in packing up and moving West when Dad was in search of the perfect place to live. Originally destined for Arizona, there were multiple moves in southern California that summer and again in the fall before finally settling in Hesperia, California. I believe that she would have moved to Tasmania if she thought it would make Dad happy.

·        Many years as Dad’s business partner, right hand person and confidant. They were a dedicated, successful entrepreneurial team.

·        Talent for organization, anticipation and details that served her well in her professional, as well as her personal life.

·        Inherent ability to run the show while making Dad feel as though he was in charge

·        Strength and courage to handle everything after Dad passed away following over fifty years of marriage

·        Downsizing on her own in her late seventies to a two-bedroom apartment from two houses and garages filled with mountains of possessions collected over the years, along with Dad’s mechanical equipment and items that had belonged to her parents and her aunt.

·        Encouragement and excitement every time I published a new book.

·        Spiritual beliefs and faith that she passed along to her children to be sure that we would never face the difficulties of life alone.

Happy birthday, Mom. You deserve the very best!

Mary Anne Benedetto is the owner of A Writer’s Presence, LLC, a writer, speaker, blogger, Certified Lifewriting Instructor, and an affiliate teacher with the The Memoir Network.  Author of 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, she offers beneficial tips, hints and critical steps in memoir writing in order to remove the “overwhelmed” factor in memoir projects.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Your Story Matters-Segment 9

Your Story Matters!

Memoir Writing Instructor Answers Your Questions

Every life is made up of stories—some are deliriously happy tales, others are devastatingly sad, and our life experiences represent every imaginable kind of emotion in between. We all have family history and life stories, and the sad truth is that if we don’t preserve them, they are permanently gone. There is no rewind. There is no going back to capture them.

Question 9.  There is one period in my past that is so difficult to think about. I lost my dad to cancer and my husband to heart disease within six months. It was the darkest time of my life. I am not sure how to write about it or if I am even able to revisit that deep, dark cavern of memories. Any advice for this situation? 

Answer 9. I am so sorry for your loss. When my dad passed away, I experienced sadness like I had never known. It did not dissipate quickly, so I can only imagine how it was for you to lose two close loved ones in such a short period of time. 

It is a fact of life, however, that sad and tragic events over which we have no control will take place as we travel through this journey. We typically lose friends and family and must deal with the grief associated with that loss. It is the normal cycle of life, though at the time it occurs, it seems anything but normal. 

When an elderly loved one passes, we can usually console ourselves with the fact that they lived a long life. When someone we love who was younger passes, we cannot help but feel that they were taken too soon. Then we remember that it is not up to us. When someone’s time on earth is over is not our decision. It is simply what happened, and we are left to cope with the results. 

Sadly, when such events take place in rapid succession, there is no time to recover before once again facing the mourning process and the intense and present feeling that we may never want to laugh again. Yours was a double whammy, so it is certainly understandable that you were shaken to the core. 

These events are a part of your history, and family members and loved ones may better understand you if they read your story and your feelings about that time of your life. They will have a clearer picture of who you are and where you have been.  

Reflecting on a difficult time in your life may not be at the top of your list of pleasant and desirable activities, but those painful experiences made a definite impact on you. Below is a list of suggestions on how to tackle this situation in your writing. You may find it easier to take it slowly and deal with only one item each time you write. Or perhaps there may be times when your writing is flowing so fruitfully, you continue working through the list. I hope that these ideas are helpful and enable you to share your feelings about this grim period. 

1-Write about pre-illness distinctive characteristics and specific incidents that represent who your loved one was, how he lived his life, what made him special to you and others.  

2-Think about when your loved one first became ill. Write about the initial symptoms, the doctor visits, what type of treatment plan was recommended/selected. How did he react/cope with his diagnosis and subsequent journey? 

3-Were there any humorous incidents that happened during this time? (I realize this sounds almost inappropriate, but if you can think of any, it would be great to share them.) 

4-What was the impact on you and other family members? 

5-Was there an opportunity to share the important conversations with your loved one that you desired? If not, you may choose to write what you wish you could have said or asked him. 

6-Write about the day your loved one passed. Share your feelings as well as the facts. 

7-Write about his funeral service/memorial service and anything significant to you about that day. 

8-What do you miss most about this dear one? 

9-How has your life changed since that difficult time? 

10-If you could advise others who are going through a similar situation, what suggestions can you offer them for coping and moving forward? 

Review what you have written. Consider any other beneficial aspects of the story that you may wish to add. 

Writing about this time in your life could ultimately serve as an emotionally cleansing experience. You may find that returning to that time and digesting your feelings could give you a different perspective, offering you clarity and the opportunity to decide exactly which specifics in these thoughts and stories will make the final cut of your memoir project.

Wishing you the best in your writing journey. Your stories are a priceless legacy!
Mary Anne Benedetto is the owner of A Writer’s Presence, LLC, a writer, speaker, blogger, Certified Lifewriting Instructor, and an affiliate teacher with the The Memoir Network.  Author of 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, she offers beneficial tips, hints and critical steps in memoir writing in order to remove the “overwhelmed” factor in memoir projects.

Visit Mary Anne at

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Your Story Matters-Segment 8

Your Story Matters!
Memoir Writing Instructor Answers Your Questions

Every life is made up of stories—some are deliriously happy tales, others are devastatingly sad, and our life experiences represent every imaginable kind of emotion in between. We all have family history and  life stories, and the sad truth is that if we do not preserve them, they are permanently gone. There is no rewind. There is no going back to capture them.

Q8. I have started my memoirs so many times and get bogged down at about age 11. I feel overwhelmed when I think about the scope of this project spanning so many years. Do you have any tips on how to proceed and help me not want to stuff into a drawer what I have written and just give up?

A8. THE MEMORY LIST-Okay, this is a basic, essential step. When I studied memoir writing under Denis Ledoux’s teaching-see, one of the first important tools he told us about was creating the Memory List. This is where you start with a piece of lined paper and begin to jot down any memories that come to mind—not paragraphs, not even whole sentences—just enough to remind you later of what you were thinking about. It is not in chronological order, but just any highlights that you can recall that you may like to write about—it does not even mean that you HAVE to write about every item, but this is a great start. And you continue adding to the list any time you think of more events, people and places from your journey through life.

The memory list is a brilliant idea from a renowned memoir expert, but I humbly decided to take it one step further. I found that some people (including me) prefer to sort of compartmentalize their thoughts. So I came up with what I call the Decades from the Memory Bank Lists.

·         Start with one sheet of lined paper for every decade that you have been alive.

·         Sheet 1 will have the heading: Years 0-9 and add what those years were

·         Sheet 2 will be Years 10-19 and add what those years were

·         Sheet 3 will be Years 20-29 and add what those years were

And so on until you have a separate sheet for each decade of your life including the current one.

As you sit down to think about your memories, jot down what enters your mind, writing on the appropriate sheet for the decade of that memory. Within each sheet, you do not need to put the items in chronological order—they just need to be shown within the correct decade.

You will find that one memory definitely leads to another, and as you start jotting down memories, sometimes the thoughts will enter your mind faster than you can write down the key words.  Just take your time, and do not feel rushed or pressured.

Your objective is to recall as many pertinent events, feelings, people, places and situations that had an impact on your life as you possibly can.

Examples from my lists are:

Years 0-9 1952-1961:

Thought Aunt Sis (MY MOM’S AUNT) was actually a witch because I saw her with her hair down, and it was very long and gray. At age eight, I had only previously seen her hair tightly twirled into a neatly bobby pinned bun.

First time I saw the Pacific Ocean in Southern California-completely mesmerized

Years 10-19 1962-1971:

Favorite teacher of all time-Mr. Don Myers-5th & 6th grades

Another great teacher-Mr. Robert Brimhall-11th & 12th grade English

Wild and crazy experience at Fillmore West in San Francisco in 1969

Years 20-29 1972-1981:

First job in Albany, NY

Birth of son, Kenneth Scott-God’s gift to me

Think about stories that represent lessons learned, turning points, significant influences.   If you get stuck, try writing this on a separate sheet of paper:

If _________________had not occurred, I would never have _______________. This is another tool to get the memory juices flowing.

Just keep adding, adding, adding to your Decades from the Memory Bank Lists, and this will be your resource material from which you will write many stories. When you are comfortably settled in to write, you can refer to these lists, choose one of the entries and allow the words to flow onto the paper or through your fingers on the keyboard. 

Even if you are not sure you want to share a particular story, you can still jot it down on your List. You can even write the story, but whether or not you choose to include it in your final product is up to you in the end.

If you go blank when you are working on your memory list, write on each decade sheet where you lived during those years. Try to visualize the residences. What was happening in your life at that time?

Think about this question: How has your life been blessed?  Or perhaps you feel just the opposite—how has your life been cursed? Write about your feelings on this topic. Again, you may not end up sharing all of it in your final product, but they prompt a reflection of memories.

You do not want to try to complete all sheets in one writing session. That could prove to be really stressful.  These lists will take shape over time, so patiently keep adding to them as you think of more memories. It is also a good idea to keep a small note pad handy—even on your nightstand. You never know when a memory will enter your mind. It could be in the waiting room at the dentist’s office or when you have just crawled into your cozy bed at night.

Try to visualize your great, great-grandchildren reading the stories you have written. Remember that this is the only way they will ever know who you really were.

Take a few moments and start your memory lists. You will be amazed at the ideas generated. 

A very special thank you to Denis Ledoux for this incredibly beneficial step. His program offers methods of digging under the soil through the many existing layers and unearthing our memories during the writing process.

Remember-Your stories are a priceless legacy!

Mary Anne Benedetto is the owner of A Writer’s Presence, LLC, a writer, speaker, blogger, Certified Lifewriting Instructor, and an affiliate teacher with the The Memoir Network.  Author of  7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, she offers beneficial tips, hints and critical steps in memoir writing in order to remove the “overwhelmed” factor in memoir projects.

Follow Mary Anne: