About Sheila Bender

Sheila Bender has worked with people who write personal essays, poetry, nonfiction books, stories, writer’s journals, and application essays since 1980, helping them acknowledge a place for writing in their lives. Learn about her instructional books, memoir and poetry at About Sheila.

Endings Part One

Here is a video I prepared for a program online called Eleven Stories. I hope you enjoy my talk (with documents in there so you can follow along as I read and lecture).  I will post Endings Part II next week. I’d love to hear from you about how this information helps and/or what questions … Continue reading

Continue reading

An Approach to Writing Flash Nonfiction

Flash prose, sometimes called flash literature, is creative writing between 500 and 1500 words. This term includes further subgenres prose poetry, short essays and vignettes. Like the longer essay, or something now called short memoir, the flash personal essay evokes experience and arrives at discovery through the writer’s telling. Because it is short, it maintains a firm focus … Continue reading

Continue reading

Sheila Bender Offers Tools for Writers on Breaking Their Silence

Earlier this month, I spoke with Linda Joy Myers of the International Association of Memoir Writers as a guest on her podcast series Breaking the Silence (the player link for you is below). I spoke about tools for getting to your subject when you feel unable to address your material. That happens when you are … Continue reading

Continue reading

Author Experiences with Book Titles

Have you had a difficult time finding a title for your work? Needed help from others or resented help from others when you thought your title was just right? Here are 12 stories by 12 writers about how titling worked for them. I think you’ll enjoy the read and realize that there are two kinds … Continue reading

Continue reading

More on How to Write the How-to Essay (and Why)

I’ve been teaching the how-to essay again and reading models. I love how the how-to format offers the personal essayist a structure that inspires poignancy, honesty, and humor. Here is an excerpt from my book Writing and Sharing Personal Essays. And for after you’ve read about this style essay and the sample essay in the … Continue reading

Continue reading

Endings: From Seeds Planted in the Openings

We have to leave a story, of any length, both satisfied and wishing the story stays with us—having fallen in love with the protagonists or having been at least drawn close to their situations, we want to carry the characters inside of ourselves, as if they are friends we know we won’t see again, people … Continue reading

Continue reading

To Follow the Right God Home

I wrote this essay a year after my widowed mom moved from the home she had shared with my dad after his retirement. It was a new time in our lives, my mom widowed, my husband and I stepping up to help her during a time of health problems caused by ignoring her needs while … Continue reading

Continue reading

‘Tis the Season for Lists

[Note: I originally posted the following article in December, 2007. It’s holiday preparation time again and lists keep us sane. They can also keep us writing! Try the exercise I am suggesting based on writing lists poems. Try it more than once during this season of shopping lists, invitation lists and gift lists.] You might … Continue reading

Continue reading

Deepen Your Writing: 20 Prompts Using Point of View

Many of us writing memoir are used to writing from the first person (I) point of view. Others of us write fiction in the first person, often as an autobiographically-based main character. Some of us write in third person (he or she) when we want to tell an autobiographical story but feel too close to … Continue reading

Continue reading

Wash and Shine the Fruit of Your Labor

I believe that we write in three stages–we act as playful inventors on the page, move on to the task of shaping our experience, and finally edit what we have written. Although these stages sometimes overlap a bit, on the whole, they are best thought of as separate. Just as we must never short circuit … Continue reading

Continue reading

Get Real Response to Your Writing from Anyone

We too often receive unhelpful, even harmful, response from first readers of our early drafts. We may feel our writing is being ripped apart or our readers are more interested in fixing punctuation and grammar than in our subject and feelings. Or we may hear, “That’s nice,” which is deflating and doesn’t really help us move deeper into our … Continue reading

Continue reading

All Done Not Writing

This week’s article is a reprint of one that first appeared in 2003. Time flies; when we look back, the lessons we have learned seem to shine brighter. My grandson Toby turned 17 months old this October 1.  He has been talking for months and he loves words.  “All done Mommy phone,” he says when my … Continue reading

Continue reading

Writing Prompts To Anchor Summer

Originally published in in the summer of 2005, this article is filled with writing exercises inspired by the summer holidays. I think they will come in handy again to help you keep on writing, even though summer is loaded with traditional holiday social demands and active outdoor recreation. Learning the history of holidays can provide writers with prompts that … Continue reading

Continue reading

Submissions Wanted – Venues for Publishing

Here’s an ongoing list of places seeking submissions. Check back frequently for more listings and please add in any venues of which you are aware. We all appreciate learning of opportunities for sending our work out for consideration.

Continue reading

Celebrate National Poetry Month by Writing Poems! Yes, Even If You Think You Can’t!

National Poetry Month started yesterday. This week’s article is an oldie but goodie, originally published in 2007 and updated for 2014. In Port Townsend, the daffodils have been up several weeks. As usual out here, it looks like we’ll get rain this next week and certainly lots during the month of April, but I remind … Continue reading

Continue reading

What I Was Thinking

This article first ran January 24, 2008, after a visit from my grandsons. Their visit over this past Martin Luther King three-day weekend had me thinking again about the way watching children’s reactions to our adult judgments and commands can help us become kinder to our writing and our writing selves, so we can better … Continue reading

Continue reading

Where Have You Published Lately?

Go on! Brag a little or a lot. Include your blog url, literary journals, anthologies, books, plays produced–wherever we can find your writing. By learning where one another publishes as well as reading your work, we learn. Let us help you build an audience! 

Continue reading

More Than Your English Teacher Ever Told You

When an irate reader wrote the editors of Writer’s Digest Magazine because of “incorrect” grammar I used in a poem, I was concerned.  I had written “my sister and I” after a verb:  “the ones my father gave my sister and I.”  The reader, a retired English teacher, said the magazine had certainly scraped the … Continue reading

Continue reading

Sparking Young (and Older) Writers’ Minds Using Abantu

What is Abantu? Years ago during a summer writing workshop at Centrum Foundation in Port Townsend, WA, poet Robert Hass (who went on to serve as a recent U.S. Poet Laureate) taught students a short couplet form that he had read was an oral tradition among the Bantu people of Africa.  In class, he recited … Continue reading

Continue reading