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.

To Follow Your Words, Not Your Keys, Home

Years ago, a poet friend of mine, Jim Mitsui, ended a poem with an image of people “following their keys home.” That image has lingered with me as a lesson about what the writing life saves us from, which is the dullness of always expecting the expected, and what it requires of us, which is … Continue reading

The Honor of Writing a Foreword to an Anthology

The following is the 2013 foreword I was honored to write for the anthology Times They Were A’Changing: Women Remember the 60s and 70s, edited by Linda Joy Myers, Amber Lea Starfire and Kate Farrell. Paying tribute to the vibrant decades during which I was a college student and next a mom to two young children was certainly a … Continue reading

Beach House: How do writers get the conscious mind to meld with the unconscious?

What follows is Chapter Five from the forthcoming updated edition of Writing In A New Convertible with the Top Down: A Unique Guide for Writers. In 1992, Christi Killien Glover and I began an exchange of letters to explore and articulate our writing processes. We wanted to help new writers invest in the magic of … Continue reading

A Lesson About the Value of Writing from Henrik Ibsen’s Play Peer Gynt

Flying home from Scandinavia in late August, a little uncomfortable in the cramped airline seat, I was remembering stretching my legs on a trip I’d made to Norway years before.

On Writing Personal Essays: Rest Assured, It’s More Than “Only” the Personal

As personal essayists, we sometimes worry whether people will be interested in what we have to say since our material is “just” personal experience. That worry exists alongside its cousins “Who am I to write about this or to tell my family’s secrets?” and “What if my experience rubs people the wrong way and is judged harshly by others, especially people … Continue reading

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

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 awe, more despair, or more of the irony and quirkiness of … Continue reading

You Could Be Writing, Not Waiting to Write: Four Very Portable Short Forms

Before appointments, when a meeting hasn’t started, when a bus hasn’t come, when a friend is late, when you have finished something and still have time before the next thing in your day, when you arrive early to work — do you write or reflexively check your email or text a friend or leaf through … Continue reading

It Wraps Back on Itself: Writing the Roundel

This, my second week in Denmark visiting my daughter and her family, I continued with my idea of writing more poetry in form. I flipped through the book my younger grandson, who had used it in third grade, had given me, A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, and stopped on … Continue reading

Writing Dispatch from Denmark: Northern Jutland Pantoum

I am in Denmark for the month of August visiting my daughter and her family. She and her husband are here working, and the international school my grandsons attended is out for the summer. My job is being nanny, but it’s more like company, for the boys. An enthusiastic traveler, Emily makes sure weekends are full. On my first … Continue reading

We All Have Opinions: The Argument and Persuasion Essay

…reason works better when emotions are present… –Rollo May, The Courage to Create There are times in your life when you desire to persuade others to take action or change their thinking.  Letters to the editor and op-ed sections of newspapers and magazines contain writings from personal experience motivated in this way. Using personal experience in persuasive … Continue reading

An Ode to the Author of Blue Willow

I was reading a magazine article recently in which authors wrote about pivotal books they’ve read. What book would I name, I wondered. Immediately, I saw myself at my fourth grade desk in the 1950’s at Franklin Elementary School in Union Township, New Jersey. I am unwrapping a book I ordered from the Scholastic Book … Continue reading

Interview with Memoirist Sue William Silverman

I am pleased to publish this interview with award winning memoirist Sue William Silverman about the writing of her newest memoir and her advice to those of us who write from personal experience. The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, follows two earlier memoirs, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I … Continue reading

Digesting World News

This essay originally appeared in Writing It Real August 2006. The question I was exploring is still one many of us ask when we consider the world’s situation: Where is our writing in all this? How should it matter? Every time I open my computer, I look at the upper right-hand corner of the screen to … Continue reading

Need to Breathe New Life into the Journal Keeping Habit? Hire the Journal Keeper Within

It’s spring — we’ll be getting busy with outdoor chores, vacations and other summer activities before long. Less time for writing, you might be thinking. But an effective way to keep up your writing is to commit to keeping a writer’s journal where you can explore language, memories, writing ideas and more. But when in … Continue reading

Celebrating and Learning from Poets — Final Four!

As April and National Poetry Month come to an end, we finish our series of poets on their poems. Stan Rubin, Michael Spence, Nicole Persun and Nancy Levinson have each offered us a poem along with their thoughts about writing it. I follow their work with writing prompts based on their contributions. Stan Sanvel Rubin … Continue reading

Celebrating and Learning from Poets — Another Batch of Three

This week I am posting poems by three more poets whose work I have been following. Each has offered words about the creation of the particular poem included. And, as before, you’ll find writing ideas from me based on each of the poems. Let these poems live inside of you for a bit after reading … Continue reading

Celebrating and Learning from Three More Wonderful Poets

We present three poets, offering one of their poems along with words about its creation. My writing ideas are each based on one of the poems and are useful whether you are writing poetry or prose.

Celebrating and Learning from Three Wonderful Poets

It’s National Poetry Month and I am celebrating poets I know whose work I have been following both in their books and by attending readings in my town and surrounding areas. Each of the next weeks, I will publish a poem by each of three of these poets along with their own words about their … Continue reading

Are You Worrying About What’s Happened to Your Creativity?

Our creativity is an eternal light. It burns even when we are not paying attention to it. It doesn’t need relighting so much as finding where it lights our path.

On the Courage to Create

Creativity in one’s thinking and in one’s art is unsettling, both to the artist and to audiences. The courage to create must be born again and again.