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.

The Non-Writing Writer

When Writing It Real member Jean Erler sent me the following essay as part of work she wanted to further develop, I knew that Writing It Real members would relate to what she was describing, a stance we writers take all too often toward our role as authors. I helped Jean polish the essay, and I … Continue reading

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Writing Does Make a Difference: A Conversation with Barbara Field On Expanding Women’s Voices Through Writing

I was fortunate to meet Barbara Field when we both presented several years ago at the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference in Washington State. When I heard from Barbara about recent developments in her writing life, I was eager to share what she’s  been up to in joining new projects. The work she tells us about … Continue reading

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Dreaming a Job, Defining as Essay

On a writing retreat, I read through a manuscripts-wanted listing in an arts commission newsletter and noticed a magazine asking for short essays by women on work. I thought about my work roles and how I felt about them–mother, teacher, co-owner of my husband’s computer networking business, poet. How I wished that my “job” as … Continue reading

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Letter to a Columnist

I have always been a reader of letters to Ann Landers and other newspaper columnists to whom the public writes. Even after my own children were grown, I continued to read the Sunday column in Parade Magazine, in which teens wrote in about their concerns, and the following week, other teens responded with what they … Continue reading

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A New Year’s Greeting

Dear Writers, It’s New Year’s time, time to reflect and encourage ourselves to set goals we long to achieve. For me, it’s also the time of year that marks the anniversary of the snowboarding accident that took my son’s life. At the end of December 2000, friends and family gathered in Seattle and in Port … Continue reading

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Interview with Essayist Joni Cole

Joni Cole, author of Another Bad-Dog Book: Tales of Life, Love, and Neurotic Human Behavior, offers valuable information for writers in her recent interview for Writing It Real members. If you haven’t yet, you will want to read an excerpt from her book. Sheila How did you go about writing and collecting these essays? Joni … Continue reading

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Writing Better Holiday Letters

The holidays are a time of turning to traditions that symbolize our love and connection to our families, friends, communities, earth, and the divine.  With the pragmatism characteristic of Americans, many of us have made holiday card sending into a vehicle for mailing yearly catch-up letters.  These letters allow us to perform the task of … Continue reading

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Writing For Thanksgiving–Rituals and Memories

Each year in the US, the period of time from the last days of summer through the end of December seems more and more like an overgrown garden. It is hard to perceive the holidays separately from one another. There are no pathways between them, no mulch to keep them apart. How can we sort … Continue reading

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Turning Interests into Books

I enjoy exchanging information with those I meet, especially about books and writing. A summer day at the beach with my youngest grandson Rafe led to discovering an interesting writer and later to learning her writing and publishing story. My five-year-old grandson Rafe wanted to connect with two little girls he’d met at camp who … Continue reading

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An Interview with Personal Essayist Sandra Hurtes

Learning what keeps other writers on task with particular pieces that are difficult to finish affirms for me that as a writer, I must obey the call of the initial inspiration, even if obeying that call means sitting down again and again through draft after draft to find what I was meant to discover. It … Continue reading

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Editing Your Story: Tight Editing Helps Writers Find the Gold

Finished writing has to sound natural, but it isn’t “just like talking.” When we talk, our listeners are aware that what we are saying is our story. As authors, we send our words out into the world without our gestures and tones of voice. When people read our words, they have to feel that what … Continue reading

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A Jumpstart for Writing Your Memoir: Lessons from Dr. Audrey Young’s Book

In a local bookstore, I came across What Patients Taught Me: A Medical Student’s Journey, a memoir by Audrey Young, MD, about how her medical school training in a special University of Washington program facilitated her growth as a person-centered physician. I read the book’s preface standing there by the staff picks. During her rotations … Continue reading

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Raspberry Picking

I’ve been teaching several classes this month that concentrate on moving writing forward by using details–specific images that come in through the senses–and by receiving first reader response to drafts. That made me think of posting Chapter Eight from Writing In a New Convertible with the Top Down, a book I co-authored years ago with … Continue reading

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Self-Editing Tips

Several years ago, I wrote Perfect Phrases for College Application Essays, a book for high school students. No two application essays should be alike, so the “perfect phrases” refers to phrases useful for researching oneself for subjects to write about and phrases useful for making transitions. I learned quite a lot in deconstructing the essay … Continue reading

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Mining Words and Word Histories for Writing Personal Essays

It wasn’t all that long ago that I finally developed the habit of not relying on context alone to understand a word new to me, but instead began looking it up and thinking about the dictionary definition. This way, I have added many words to my vocabulary from textbooks and articles: “synecdoche,” “vatic,” “orphic,” “hagiography,” … Continue reading

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Inspiration from “Back in Eugene: Three Vignettes”

At this past April’s Writing It Real in Port Townsend Writer’s Conference, participant Janet Love read the following vignettes to the group. She had the idea of developing a piece about exploring her life since moving she from northern California to Eugene, Oregon by being sure to mention one of her three children in each … Continue reading

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How a Community Newspaper Works

Many of us who write from personal experience have ideas for columns and features appropriate, we think, for our local newspapers, but we may never have talked with a newspaper editor to find out what things look like from their side of the desk. I became acquainted with Kasia Pierzga, the Whidbey Examiner’s owner, publisher … Continue reading

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On Writing Grief

At times of loss, those of us who write have a strong tool to use in working through our emotions. Whether our loss is a pregnancy, a child, a spouse, a parent, a marriage, our health, a job, an opportunity or a location, writing can help us find a sense of our new selves, selves … Continue reading

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From the Editors of Ashland, Oregon’s Ashland Creek Press

I belong to a book promotion group with fiction writer Midge Raymond, author of the short story collection Forgetting English. When she shared the link to a promotional video she and her husband, novelist John Yunker (The Tourist Trail), created, I clicked right over to their YouTube video called “Love in the Time of Amazon.” … Continue reading

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Music of the Spheres

This week we are proud to post our second place winner in the recent WIR writing contest. Music of the Spheres By Charles Blondino He sits into the leather chair large enough for three of him. “I just learned to play this,” he says and lifts his guitar. We both watch the fingers of the … Continue reading

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