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.

Embedded in The Dogs of Babel

On my vacation this year along the shores of Lake Michigan, I was reading the last chapters of an advance reading copy of The Dogs of Babel on the day it appeared in bookstores across America.  Little, Brown and Company introduced the book at this year’s Book Expo America to stimulate interest among booksellers, and … Continue reading

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Writing a Father’s Day Poem

When I was writing monthly poetry writing columns for Writer’s Digest Magazine, I created strategies for writing poetry that utilized as a jumping off place the topical thoughts our culture promotes each month.  I wanted to help those who wanted to write poetry liberate themselves from the influence of the advertising buzz and Hallmark card … Continue reading

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Behind the Scenes

This essay first appeared in slightly different form in The Diarist’s Journal, Volume II, Issue #2 The first week of my first graduate poetry-writing workshop at the University of Washington, our teacher William Matthews came to class in paint-stained clothes.  A new arrival at the University, he was just moving into his house on Seattle’s … Continue reading

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What I Learned at the Halfway House

When my daughter told me to read a personal essay in her school’s alumni magazine, I did.  I enjoy finding the many places personal essays inhabit and I appreciate their great value.  In this case, Stanford sophomore Sheena Chestnut wrote a narrative about using a personal story to help others learn a sophisticated use of … Continue reading

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An Interview with Writer’s Boot Camp Program Director, Robert Morgan Fisher

I had lunch recently with novelist and screenwriter Robert Morgan Fisher, who supervises the online screenwriting program at Writer’s Boot Camp (WBC) in Santa Monica, CA.  His first novel, called Set the Poem Free, won 2nd place in the 2000 Publishing Online North American Fiction Open.  He was awarded $5,000 and briefly published online.  The … Continue reading

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Tips on Places to Publish, Interesting Journals, and other Resources

The Diarist’s Journal is published three times a year in February, June and October by Hollie Rose. The publication is a rich and lively discussion of journaling, diary keeping, and the community surrounding it. The journal is calling for submissions of reviews of diary-form novels as well as opinion pieces on keeping diaries for publication, … Continue reading

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Research and Creative Writing

Novelist and poet Meg Files recently spoke on a panel at the Associated Writing Program’s annual meeting.  She talked about researching for writing her novels. After her talk, Meg and I conducted an email interview about how her research affects her writing, her imagination, and her teaching. What research did you do for your first … Continue reading

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Creating Psychological Time in Narratives

Recently, I had the good fortune to study with Jack Grapes on Tuesday afternoons along with a dynamic group of poets, novelists, screenwriters, and monologue writers.  Together we learned Jack’s method of enhancing writing and hooking readers into our stories and events. In a handout that Jack has given me permission to quote, he summarized … Continue reading

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Revising the Poem “A Different Christmas”

When Karen Rippstein wrote to me that she wanted my help in shaping a poem from a prose piece she had written about a specific Christmas with her daughter, I was intrigued. Most of the people I’ve worked with bring poems or essays and want to stick with the genre while revising.  But after writing … Continue reading

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An Email Chat with Sebastian Matthews, Founding Editor of Rivendell

As I prepare the following interview with Sebastian Matthews, I’m thinking of an encounter I had at a workshop I co-taught for teachers early this spring at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District.  An administrator for the Peer Assistance program smiled broadly after hugging one of the attending teachers hello. She turned … Continue reading

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Finding Your Writing’s Occasion

Poet Stanley Plumly, a teacher of mine, used to say that poems must weigh more at the end than at the beginning. What matters to us has emotional weight, and as with poetry, the personal essay supplies a vehicle for writers to find out what matters and to feel the weight of what matters. As … Continue reading

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Migael Scherer’s Writing Made a Difference to Journalists

When writing moves us to struggle against a taboo, especially one that demands silence, we can expect powerful resistance.  It is natural to feel alone, even besieged.  The resistance to our words comes both from ourselves and from others.  If we respect the struggle of our readers to understand with us, so also may come … Continue reading

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Listening for A Poem’s Discovery

If March comes in like a lion, they say, it’ll go out like a lamb and vise versa.  I’d like to combine this notion with an idea that Keats termed “negative capability.” He said that a good poem holds within it one thing as well as its opposite.  For example, when we eulogize someone’s death, … Continue reading

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Janice Eidus’ Correspondence, Part Two

After our initial correspondence, posted on 12/12/02, author Janice Eidus answered some more questions I posed based on what she’d written to me.  I am delighted to share the continuation of our correspondence this week: When you do decide to write an essay, are you exploring issues that are the same or different than the … Continue reading

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Q-A with Editorial Assistant Meg Leder

Ok, you asked what I’ve learned that I might want to pass on to those who Meg Leder was the Writer’s Digest editor who worked with me on Keeping a Journal You Love and A Year in the Life: Journaling for Self-Discovery.  Recently, she made a career move and left Cincinnati and Writer’s Digest Books … Continue reading

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Writing On Love: Lessons From Pablo Neruda and Christopher Smart

About 1020 words In these days just before Valentine’s Day, it seems as if every shop window, radio and TV commercial has turned the volume up on love. “Don’t forget, don’t forget, don’t forget,” whether the one you love is spouse, partner, grandchild, parent or pet, you must tell the one you love — by … Continue reading

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An Email Interview with Sue William Silverman

When fiction writer Janice Eidus (see the From Our Correspondents article of 12/12/02) introduced me to the work of nonfiction writer Sue William Silverman, I knew I wanted to find out what she had to say on memoir writing.  After I read both of her memoirs, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You and … Continue reading

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Carrying Back to Carry Forward

Sheila Bender, July Poetry Column, 1295 words When an author repeats the same word or words at the beginning of a series of sentences the technique is called “anaphora.” In Greek, it means “a carrying up or back.”  With repetitions, words gather power and resonance.  Anaphora offers an organizing strategy, which allows for deepening of … Continue reading

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Writing All That is Unsolved in Your Heart

Category: Instructional Exercises So many times we find that what we are writing sounds dry and dull compared to what we wish to be writing or what we admire in other’s writing.  “How can we make our work matter?” we ask ourselves, “How can we endow our writing with richer more resonate meaning?”  Or sometimes … Continue reading

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Carrying the Raindrops

When my daughter was 14 months old, we lived in Seattle, and she and I spent a cold, cloudy winter afternoon at the Woodland Park Zoo.  Her favorite animals were the uncaged pigeons she realized she could send into flight by running towards them.  A day later when we saw the newspaper’s front page, we … Continue reading

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