Conference Testimonials

To Sheila, Meg and Jack, thank you for being such good teachers and so inspirational.  I learned more in 3 days with you than I did at all the other conferences (3) that I have attended in the past 3 years.

— Mary Lou Todd

“I also wanted to thank you again for a great conference. Just days after meeting with you individually and Jack in the manuscript group I felt my writing turn a necessary corner. It is a great feeling except for the fact that now I`m writing late into the night!”

Pat La Pointe

What a wonderful weekend I had in Arizona! Once again the three of you gave a fabulous conference. You each bring a tremendous body of knowledge to those of us who aspire to the writing life, and your skill and kindness in teaching us makes the experience rich and pleasurable. Thank you so much. Each time I meet and work with all three of you, I gain skills, knowledge and an ever-increasing enjoyment in the process of writing.  See you at the next one! 

Carolyn Terry

“I loved the conference. Some professional institutes offer helpful assistance, but not personal connections; some offer friendships and networking possibilities, but little in new techniques. There also those that offer the best of both, but a sterile convention hall environment. PT was excellent in all three regards. I`m still glowing.”


“Six of my new poems have been accepted for publication. All germinated in last April’s conference in Pt Townsend. How about that?  I am so thankful for you and the healing I have experienced. I hope you understand the power of your work and your importance to all of your students.”

— Gary Anderson

“Attending the “Writing It Real” Conference in Port Townsend was, for me, a weekend of inspiration! I especially enjoyed the warm and welcoming community of writers! But your in-class exercises with Meg Files and Jack Heffron invited a roll of energy, up-beat and positively, motivating!” 

“I did treat myself to one of the best teaching teams! Thank you. I would love to attend again!”

“Thank you for a wonderful experience. I came away with both some specific ideas for what to do with the pieces I brought and, perhaps more importantly, with a sense of what might help me with all of my writing. This morning I did a little “__ is like___” in my early morning journal writing and came up with the beginnings of a little essay. And that felt very satisfying.”

“We`re home now with much to do: Scripts to rewrite, books to buy Lessons learned, now to apply Watch modifiers, don`t leave `em dangling Expunge exposition, delight and excite. Like Momma, the reader knows best.

We caress our keyboards afresh Letters and words screen in military line. Port Townsend inspired, the faculty challenged, Colleagues flattered, encouraged Those two days in sun by the sea.”

“Graci, graci to all of you for sharing your wisdom and writing passion with all of us – AND for welcoming us, at all levels of ability, to the higher bar, as individual as that is. You are a fine trio together. What great chemistry.”

“Wonderful–you all create something profound, cooperation rather than competition (true, deep support).”

“Excellent teachers! Well organized.”

“This was a wonderful experience. I learned so much.”

“This experience has built my confidence, given me encouragement and provided me with concrete guidance for improving my writing. Thank you.”

“I loved that the conference is limited to 30 people and is such a warm and encouraging environment.”

“Thanks to Sheila and Jack, Meg, Dana, and all my co-participants for a completely satisfying weekend. The workshop increased my confidence as a writer (Look, I`m even able to say “as a writer”!) and taught me important techniques that I know will improve my writing immeasurably. It was a beautiful combination of learning, fun, and friendship which I would definitely do again.”

I wanted to let you know the cotyledon you nourished has sprouted well. My first children’s book, Substitute Groundhog (Whitman), was named a Junior Library Guild Selection, and was recently bought by Scholastic for paper and audio. I’m told it immediately sold out and they were unable to fill their orders with the initial print run! My third children’s book will be out in March.

At your workshop, I won the “Worst Beginning Line” contest, which might seem inauspicious. However, it gave me confidence that I could create what my audience would like. Thank you for all the inspiration and humor you bring to the process.

This conference is the best thing I have ever done for myself in a very long time. Speakers were excellent, the organization was fantastic and all the personal touches were very much appreciated. I feel full!

What a fantastic experience. Loved the intensity & full immersion for the weekend. Loved the camaraderie of fellow writers & teachers. I feel so inspired & energized for the return home in terms of my writing.

Thank you for organizing such a personable, inspiring conference. I had such a special time, and would love to come next year.

— Pat Miller

“I wanted to write, be with the writers, learn something, and get inspired and motivated. I got it all! Even sunshine.”

This conference was more than I could hope for. It was well organized yet flexible and accepting of writers at all levels.”

“Thank you so much for such a personable and helpful conference!”

“I expected a week of learning and growing, but I couldn`t have predicted the directions they would lead. I learned to hear the poet in my heart. The door to publishing was opened and I`m not nearly as afraid to walk through.”

“The community of writers, the professional approach to serious craft, the expertise of the facilitators, the variety of the curriculum and the perfect pace – bravo!”

“I wanted the peace and time to start writing again and it was fulfilled.”

“Thank you! I`m inspired and dedicated! Can`t wait for next year!” “I`m impressed with the spirit of the workshop participants. I`ll be back next year!”

“The conference exceeded my expectations in almost every way. I gained greater understanding of the craft, of various approaches to writing, of good workshop technique, and of the community of writers. I felt very much at home and nurtured as a professional by professionals.”


What Writing Professionals Say About the Conference Faculty

“Sheila Bender is an extraordinary teacher in person and on the page. In Writing and Publishing Personal Essays, her enthusiasm, her wit, and her expertise provide us with exciting ways to approach the art of creative nonfiction. This book is chock full of useful instructions and prompts that will keep you writing a long time.”

—Brenda Miller, author of Season of the Body: Essays, Tell it Slant:Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction

“Jack Heffron`s Writer`s Idea Book has quickly become a favorite among writers, no matter what their experience level. The thought-provoking prompts alone make this a valuable tool any writer can use for their own projects.”


“Meg Files performs the most ancient story-teller`s art: she insistently leads her characters to the precipice of loss, despair, submission to the large terrors and small anomies of their times; and then allows them to achieve a kind of grace and hopefulness in the very teeth of the abyss–in her own unforgettable phrase, `human and winged.`”

Ron Powers, author of Far From Home and Cruel Radiance 

May 11-15, 2012 + optional trip to Izmir area, including Ephesus
Learn, Become Inspired, Build a Bridge to Another Culture

Conference Fee: $550
Optional Three-day add-on Trip: about $450

With Sheila Bender, Yesim Cimcoz and Susan Bono
Optional 3-Day Trip Extension to Ephesus Area May 16-18

Sheila Bender joins Susan Bono, editor of Tiny Lights, and Yesim Cimcoz of the Writing Istanbul Project in guiding poets and writers of personal experience in writing and touring the amazing city of Istanbul. We have an optional add-on trip following the workshop for those who want to see more of Turkey. Spouses, friends and partners are welcome to join us in activities surrounding our writing groups work.

For Writing Istanbul, we have a fabulous affordable residence, RoomsGalata, in the old city to meet in, as well as cafes to meet in, tours and in-city transportation arranged as well as help booking your room and airport pick up and drop off. The three-day add-on trip will be a wonderful customized tour easy to book. We have filled the Rooms Galata with our earliest registrants and now we are suggesting these hotels that are a short walk away:  Nuru Ziya Suites or  Stories Apart (make sure you choose the one in Kumbarachi).

During our time in Istanbul, we’ll be touring, writing, and meeting together, in groups led by our three instructors and aided by Turkish members of the Writing Istanbul project. We’ll meet all together, too, for workshops, sharing writing, and learning about personal writing in Turkey.

Some of our special activities include a whirling dervishes performance, a visit to a hamam (a Turkish bath), and a celebration dinner cruise down the Bosphorus.

Our Conference Agenda

This taste of Istanbul is not touristy. It allows participants a true feel for the day-to-day life of the city, while including important historical and civic sites.

First Night. Friday
Workshop opening in the residence cafe of Rooms Galata; faculty and participant introductions; meet Writing Istanbul guides.

Day 1, Saturday
09:00 – 11:00 Turkish breakfast and workshop
11:15 – 13:30 Walk through Taksim Beyo?lu and Galata
13:30 – 14:30 Meet for Lunch
14:30 – 16:30 Writing and Sharing at the Residence Cafe.
16:30 – 19:00 Free time
19:30 – 22:30 Dervishes show
More links: Beyouglu Galata

Day 2, Sunday
09:00 – 10:00 Breakfast at the residence, writing workshop
10:00 – 11:45 Visit Hagia Sofia Mosque
11:45 – 12:45 Visit the Underground Cistern
13:00 – 14:00 Meet for Lunch
14:00 – 16:00 Writing and Sharing
16:30 – 17:45 Back to residence
Evening FREE Options and guidance available for those who want to go out on their own
More links: Sultanahmet, the “Old City”

Day 3, Monday
09:00 – 10:00 Breakfast at the residence, writing workshop
10:00 – 10:45 Boat ride to Kuzguncuk on Asian Side
10:45 – 13:00 Walk around Kuzguncuk
13:00 – 14:00 Meet for Lunch
14:00 – 16:00 Writing and Sharing
16:30 – 17:45 Back to residence by boat
Evening: Hamam

Day 4, Tuesday
09:00 – 10:00 Breakfast at the residence and workshop
11:15 – 10:45 Go to the Grand Bazaar
10:45 – 13:30 Walk and shop around Grand Bazaar
13:30 – 14:30 Meet for Lunch (place to be announced)
14:30 – 15:00 Back to residence
15:30 – 18:30 Meet Turkish author and share writing
19:30 – 21:00 Festive last night Dinner

Link about how to dress!

Link about how to tip!

Link about bargaining for purchases!

Optional Add-on Trip

Day 1

Early morning pick up from our hotel with flight from Istanbul to Izmir. From there, transfer to Selcuk via air-conditioned bus. After checking into the Kalehan Hotel in Selcuk, our memorable visit to Ephesus will begin. The tour includes one of the Seven Churches of Revelation, the Temple of Artemis (One of the Seven Wonders of Antiquity) and the House of the Virgin Mary. Dinner and overnight in Selcuk.


Day 2

After breakfast, drive to Pamukkale to view the extraordinary formations of travertine and walk around the ancient city of Hierapolis, the Monument and Thermal Baths and the magnificent Necropolis, house of the dead. Return to Selcuk for overnight.

Day 3

After breakfast and checkout, a day in Selcuk to spend as you choose. This ancient city is full of Roman aqueducts, old fortresses, mosques, museums, and storks! Day tours to other nearby sites are also available through our travel agency. Depart Selcuk for an evening flight back to Istanbul. Transfer to your hotel included.

Cost: About $400 USD


  • Tours: Hotel pick up and drop off, English Speaking Tour Guide, lunch, Museum Fees, All Needed transportation by non-smoking and air conditioned tourist vehicles.
  • Hotel: Kalehan Hotel
  • Transportation: Return Flight Ticket between Istanbul and Izmir. Airport Transfers in Istanbul and Izmir
  • Taxes: Local Taxes and service charge.


Excludes: Tips to driver and guide, drink at lunch, dinner, personal expenses.

For those seeking overnight accommodations at the airports, we can offer suggestions through our tour group on this 3 day add on trip,

Email Writing It Real for more information and to reserve your spot. We are taking payment for the conference fee of $550 by check made out to Writing It Real and mailed to 394 Colman Drive, Port Townsend, WA 98368 by March 15. After that, the conference fee will be $575.