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.

A Coming-of-Age Vignette, Sage Advice, and the Writing Exercise They Inspired

When you read the following excerpts from Rhonda Wiley-Jones’ memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away, you’ll likely remember incidents from your own youth when you learned important things about yourself, perceptions that allowed you to see yourself in new ways. I’ve included a writing exercise to use … Continue reading

Foreword to Times They Were A-Changing

It was an honor to be asked to write the foreword to the newly released anthology Times They Were A-Changing, edited by Linda Joy Myers, Amber Lea Starfire, and Kate Farrell, whose selection of forty-eight powerful stories and poems by women about life changing experiences in the ’60s and ’70s vividly re-creates those two decades … Continue reading

Writing a Eulogy Starting with a Remembered Trait

When asked to write a eulogy for a family member you cared for, you may find that your memories and those of others who knew the person you are writing about might span a lifetime but with gaps. Thinking of a physical trait you strongly associate with the person who has died and opening the … Continue reading

On Writing for Weddings

In writing a wedding speech, we reflect upon our lives, our hopes and dreams and the hard work of relationship.

On Writing the Eulogy

As writers, we are frequently the ones asked to write eulogies for friends and family members. Even if we are not asked, we may feel moved to write eulogies to honor those we loved and then to share our writing with a literary audience. Reading author David Reich’s eulogy for his father and considering the … Continue reading

A Keynote Address Using Personal Experience

As the writers among our circles of family, friends, colleagues and associates, we are often approached to write addresses and eulogies, toasts and speeches. On September 19, 2013, I presented the keynote address at Providence Hospice of Seattle’s annual Pediatric Luncheon. It is a fundraiser for the organization’s work with grieving and terminally ill children and … Continue reading

If You Write Prose, You Can Write Poetry

A few years ago, Kathy Lockwood, one of my distance learning students, was having trouble writing poems because she was moving. She had to clean out and reduce her belongings, pack things up and move on, though she and her husband weren’t exactly sure where his work would be taking them. When she called for help, … Continue reading

The Work of an Opening — To Achieve an Engaging, Smooth and Useful Beginning

Julaina Kleist-Corwin’s story is our third place winner in the spring/summer 2013 Writing It Real writing contest. Guest judge Terry Persun wrote to us that he chose the story because he liked the pacing and grew “to know the characters, all the while not knowing which to trust or which he liked better.” He also … Continue reading

Look, Listen, Touch, Smell, Taste: 7 More Ideas for Your Writer’s Journal

There is a pleasure in the thought that the particular tone of my mind at this moment may be new in the universe; that the emotions of this hour may be peculiar and unexampled in the whole of eternity of moral being. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, April 17, 1827, Charleston, South Carolina How can you … Continue reading

Keeping Journals Can Help Writers by Inviting Scrappiness

In an essay William Matthews wrote as a contribution to my anthology The Writer’s Journal: 40 Writers and Their JournaIs, later reprinted in Keeping a Journal You Love, the late poet suggested that a journal “en­courages scrappiness. Things needn’t be finished, just stored, the way one might ‘store’ a five-dollar bill in a trou­ser pocket in the closet … Continue reading

Writing Important Life Occasions

Our lives present us with births, deaths, marriages, anniversaries, and other beginnings and endings. The following prompts excerpted from A Year in the Life: Journaling For Self-Discovery can help us focus our attention on our joy or grief and keep us from the stumbling block of thinking too hard instead of just writing for awhile. Birthdays … Continue reading

Interview with Memoirist Barbara McNally on The Writing of Unbridled: A Memoir

When otherwise good girl Barbara McNally is caught having an affair (for the second time), her marriage ends within weeks and with it, so does the image she created for her two teenaged girls and the man she married right out of college. In her book Unbridled: A Memoir, Barbara (whose website is here) begins … Continue reading

Visual Art Helps Us Write Grief’s Wisdom

I am pleased to post an excerpt from my new book, Sorrow’s Words: Writing Exercises to Heal Grief, now available on iTunes and Kindle. A year ago, when Beth Bacon of Zoyo Branding, asked if she could publish a digital book for me, I knew immediately I wanted to create a book from teaching material I developed for those … Continue reading

In May I Rush to Use Sensory Details

As adults, we are so used to summarizing and editorializing. We have learned that abstractions are considered “smart” in writing and having opinions makes us sound even smarter. That’s what our teachers wanted from us on papers and on essay tests. But creative writing, whether that is in poetry, fiction, personal essay or in longer … Continue reading

TIL – A Strategy for Travel Writing

My daughter Emily took a trip with her husband, children, and parents-in-law to India, where her husband has many relatives. During the three-week trip, I was very happy to be able to follow her travels through photos and writing she shared on Facebook. Her Facebook posts took a form that made me think of William … Continue reading

Writing the Situations Life Throws Your Way – An Interview with Thelma Zirkelbach

Former romance writer Thelma Zirkelback has two books out now (and a blog) on the subject of widowhood, one an anthology she co-edited of writings by women who have coped with their new life situation (On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties) and the other a memoir about her interfaith marriage and and the loss of … Continue reading

Change It Up: Trying New Forms Encourages the Writing Mind

“Grandma, do you know what limericks are? I wrote one today. Do you want to hear it?” my 11-year-old grandson Toby asked after telling me about a guest poet’s visit to his fifth grade classroom. Of course, I wanted to hear it. Toby recited: In the Sounds of the Night In the sounds of the … Continue reading

On Writing and Publishing Poetic Memoir, An Interview

Nancy Smiler Levinson set herself the goal of writing about what she was living through during her husband’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The result was a powerful, filled with love, and ultimately affirming memoir, all in free verse, Moments of Dawn: a poetic memoir of love & family, affliction & admiration.  A professional writer for decades, Nancy … Continue reading

Facilitate Poetry’s Ulterior Purpose

April is National Poetry Month. That means nationwide, the month of April is filled with even larger numbers of poetry related events than other months of the year. Hopefully, reading about them in your local newspapers and on websites will encourage you to attend, and listening to poets will spark your interest in participating in … Continue reading

April Book Giveaway!

Announcing a fabulous book give away to celebrate National Poetry Month!  Visit Susan Rich’s The Alchemist’s Kitchen blog here and  you can enter to win a free book by an award winning poet or author. Keeping our work circulating is so important. You might want to organize writers in your area to do something similar … Continue reading