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.

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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Correspondence with Fiction Writer Janice Eidus

This fall I corresponded with novelist and short fiction writer Janice Eidus to investigate how fiction writers use personal experience in their writing.  I have admired Eidus’ fiction and her teaching for many years now and in 1997, I invited her to contribute to my book, The Writer’s Journal: 40 Writers and Their Journals, published … Continue reading

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Using Quotes to Spur Your Writing

I like to keep quotes in an 8 by 5 inch blue-cloth covered three-ring binder. I write down or tear out quotes that strike my fancy.  They come from books and magazines, affirmations I wish to repeat to myself, fortunes from cookies, remarks during a lecture, writings in a program, overheard dialog or something a … Continue reading

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More Than Your English Teacher Ever Told You – Part II

I’ve been editing essays this fall for professionals who are applying to graduate school programs. As always, I am pointing out passive voice constructions and instructing the applicants on how to make them active constructions, and I’m also pointing out dangling modifiers and suggesting alternative wording. I know from looking at my own drafts and … Continue reading

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Bringing Dear Mom: Remembering Our Mothers Into the World

When her mother’s Parkinson’s had progressed, Patricia Hassler quit her job and became her mother’s caretaker.  Realizing she needed a creative outlet, she answered an ad in a local paper for a columnist to write about a nearby suburb where her husband was teaching. The newspaper editor also wanted features about what was going on … Continue reading

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