Sheila Bender Writing It Real

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.

Writing to Explore Influence and Admiration, Part 1

Writing a litany of praise for anyone to whom you owe gratitude for life lessons will work in interesting ways if you take on the seemingly unpraiseworthy as if it were praiseworthy. You will get interesting results that push your writing past easy sentimentality or blinding anger to the important waters of insight. Praising What … Continue reading

Learning from Others’ Pieces Written in the Second Person

A participant in my recent online class,”You: Writing in the Second Person” shared a website with us: Dead Housekeeping: Moody Home Tips, which features a string of short pieces in the second person contributed by writers on subjects as disparate as how to feed the yellow cat, how to have a house guest, and how … Continue reading

Recipes for Living Our Lives

We all have favorite recipes we’ve used for food preparation and sets of instructions we have followed to succeed in putting something together. What recipes or instruction sets might we write up concerning what we have learned in negotiating other aspects of our lives: instructions for facing disaster, surviving loss, or failure? What would we … Continue reading

Continue reading

Omniscient Narrator–Have fun with the all-seeing!

I’ve made a short video for a program called 11 Stories that has “aired” for the people in that program. I am sharing it with Writing It Real members this week. In the video, I give a lesson on the third-person omniscient point of view in writing.  I think those of you writing flash nonfiction or fiction … Continue reading

Continue reading

Writing for Young Children: What’s an Easy Reader?

Author Beth Bacon is teaching her popular online workshop “Writing for Young Readers ? Words of Honesty, Hope, and Wonder” for Writing It Real members March 15 – April 12, 2018. When I called Beth recently and asked her how things were going, she was very enthusiastic about a new batch of easy readers she … Continue reading

Continue reading

You: Writing in the Second Person

There are many strong essays and stories written in the second-person point of view. One I’ve come across recently, “Bread” by Margaret Atwood, is especially instructive for its use of scenes to build an argument.  With just the right details of place, situations, and people in those places, the you (who is her character and … Continue reading

Continue reading

For Writers, “Finders Keepers” Can Mean “Finders Re-arrangers”

[This article appeared in slightly different form in 2014 — ed.] As writers, our ears are tuned for measuring the quality of the words we hear around us. Sometimes, our ears catch speech we think is pure poetry or could be if read that way. We find that with a little rearranging these words express more humor, more … Continue reading

Continue reading

The Flash Sequence: A Form for Saying the Unsayable

The flash sequence uses poetic leaps of association for examining the impact of difficult-to-articulate circumstances. Sometimes it is accomplished in journal entries, other times with meditations about place, or people or objects. Sometimes it is composed of collections of scenes. Whatever the container of the sequence, the form is undoubtedly a psychological exploration, often of … Continue reading

Continue reading

Anna Quinn’s Novel The Night Child Holds Lessons for Writers

In The Night Child, Nora Brown, descends into the kind of fragmentation that results when traumatic events have been repressed, her world becomes anxious and dark. In Anna Quinn’s skillful hands, both the world inside of Nora (who is no longer able to repress terrifying memories) and the world of loving people in her adult … Continue reading

Continue reading

January 2018 Favorite Online Sites for Reading and Publishing

As writers. we should always be on the lookout for interesting and helpful resources online as well as places to publish our own work. I share a lot of resources on Writing It Real’s facebook page and on Pinterest at The Writing Life. But there are many, and I would like to share my current favorites … Continue reading

Continue reading

To Explain How a Poem Grows

This winter’s holiday school break, my grandson, now 15 and a half years old and equipped with his driver’s permit, took a two-week intensive driver’s education class. I certainly felt the passage of time as I remembered using an image of my son Seth receiving his driver’s license as I wrote a poem for him … Continue reading

Continue reading

A Writing Exercise to Help You Arrive at Deep Material

Many say that the hardest part of writing is moving from daily activities to being able to create work that transcends the daily. There are ways, though, to launch new writing that unexpectedly gets you to your deepest material while allowing you to make the shift easily. What follows is an exercise that is meant … Continue reading

Continue reading

It’s Writing It Real 2018 Contest Entry Time!

Whether you are writing poetry, fiction or nonfiction, our first contest of 2018 is for you. The theme is: “A New Season.” And that can mean season of the year, turning over a new leaf, of one’s time in life, of one’s health and fitness, or of one’s way of thinking, It can mean taking on … Continue reading

Continue reading

Writing to Remember and Be Joyful Even After Loss

The winter holidays are thought of as a time of joy, a time to chase away the northern hemisphere’s winter dark with lights, candles, sweets, gifts, gatherings and community festivities. To be sure, all of this is important, but for many, the holidays also yield deep longing for those who have died or are suffering … Continue reading

Continue reading

A Talk for All Writers

Listening to successful children?s book writer Patrick Jennings during an interview with him for ?In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life,? I realized again how much authors of books for young readers have to teach all of us who write. Listen to my recent interview with Patrick, in which he reads from his … Continue reading

Continue reading

Writers’ Strategies, Questions, And a Writing Exercise

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing memoirist and novelist Pam Houston. At the time of the interview, her book, Contents May Have Shifted, was Port Townsend?s Community Read. I did the taping on behalf of our local library. In this podcast, Pam talks about her writing and, in particular, the writing … Continue reading

Continue reading

Write Your Own Manifesto

For several years now, I have been interviewing writers, editors, writing program directors and publishers for ?In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life,? my regular program on KPTZ FM radio. At Writing It Real, we archive the programs, after they have aired, to maintain permanent links to all of the interviews. Over the … Continue reading

Continue reading

A Must Read for Personal Essayists: “Learning to Drive” by Katha Pollitt

This is a revised and updated article based on one from 2002 when I first read “Learning to Drive: A Year of Unexpected Lessons” by Katha Pollitt, published in The New Yorker magazine. I hope you’ll read the essay and go on to read my discussion of it, which includes an excerpt of review of the film (now … Continue reading

Continue reading

Cider Mills and Burning Leaves: Writing Fall

For us in northern states, fall brings shorter daylight, leaves to rake and cider mills to visit where we sip fresh apple cider and eat sweet doughnuts. We fill a nip in the air. In warm climates, fall begins the season of visitors with full hotels, gift shops and restaurants. Around the country Thanksgiving dinners … Continue reading

Continue reading

Self-Portrait, Self-Portrait on the Wall, A Writing Exercise

Years ago one of my writing students wrote this line in class, “Ms. Failure paints her self-portrait, then hangs it on a wall in your world without asking permission.” He was speaking, he told us, of a time when he was “not facing the realities of the world.” His imagined self-portrait both set him straight … Continue reading

Continue reading