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.

An Interview with Kate Kelsall

Although trained as a clinical social worker and as a Certified Public Accountant, Kate Kelsall is currently writing and speaking and inspiring many with her twice weekly blog. Kate has Parkinson’s disease (PD) and through her efforts, many others with the disease are finding support and activities and coming to understand how much they can … Continue reading

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The Gestures I Remember Him By

Winter is one of the birthday seasons in my family. Among those birthdays, my late father’s comes February 20 and then mine, March 6th. Growing up, I marveled about how both he and I were Pisces, when we seemed so different in our temperaments. Like many men of his era, Bert J. Lillian equated vulnerability … Continue reading

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Learning the Art of Public Speaking Can Help Writers

People have told me that fear of public speaking ranks high among the biggest fears we have. I know from my experience as a poet and writer who has given and attended readers for almost 30 years, that reading our writing before others, whether as open mic participants, workshop members or featured readers, gives us … Continue reading

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Writing Childhood’s Dark Side

Writing It Real contributor Janice Eidus’ newest novel, The War of the Rosens, is the story of 10-year-old Emma Rosen, a thoughtful girl who is writing poetry amidst the anger, confusion and angst of her leftist and atheist father Leo, her subservient socialist mother Annette and lovelorn older sister May. Amidst May’s hateful ripping up … Continue reading

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More on Awakening the Travel Journal Keeper Within

In 1991, I edited a book called The Writer’s Journal: 40 Contemporary Writers and Their Journals. Novelists Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Robert Hellenga contributed journal entries that they had made while on trips. Sharing those entries with readers of The Writer’s Journal, both writers talked about a way in which their particular entry ended up … Continue reading

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A Found Exercise

You may have read that since 1976, Lake Superior State University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has published a yearly list of words/phrases to ban from the Queen’s English. This week, the school released words chosen from over 2000 nominations on the basis of misuse, overuse, or general uselessness in the committee’s eyes. The list’s publication … Continue reading

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21 Free Gifts from the Virtual World

After all the gift giving, charitable donations and holiday trips away this time of year, you’ll find the free resources listed below particularly attractive. Each link has inspiration and information to help you fill the well of your creativity. Stock up and let the generosity of writers, editors and publishers help you make and keep … Continue reading

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First You Have to Teach a Lesson

In How I Learned to Drive, Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, the main character enters, stands center stage and addresses the audience. “Sometimes to tell a secret, you first have to teach a lesson,” she announces. The lesson the play uses as its central theme is one about driving–the connective tissue of the play is … Continue reading

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Words for the Groups in Our Lives

This past spring, writer Jody Bower created a testament to the close circle of friends she has shared her adult life with. In writing about them, for them and for herself, she evokes a kind of organism made of lives that look distinct but are of one piece, like a stand of Aspens. There are … Continue reading

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First Words

Do you have a memory of an early piece of writing you did? A memory that has with it the feeling of enjoyment–that you really liked being able to articulate your experience and thoughts in words? I remember sitting down to my little desk in third grade to write the Chanukah scene for our class’ … Continue reading

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2007 Bedell Nonfiction Now

On November 1-4, I attended the Bedell Nonfiction Now Conference at the University of Iowa. The conference’s mission is to explore the history, present, and future of nonfiction in its myriad forms, and, as you might expect, the conference was packed with excellent panels, speakers, and readings focused on personal experience writing. Thursday November 1, … Continue reading

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Interview with Rodney L. Merrill

Rodney L. Merrill contacted me for an interview about writing from personal experience. He explained that for his doctoral thesis, he is conducting a “research study on how skilled personal essay writers go about writing personal essays and how this process might be applied to improve the teaching of writing and writerly practice in the … Continue reading

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Writing With Sense of Place

Writing that rivets its readers requires evocation of place, situation, and at least one person to inhabit the place and deal with the situation. This is true for all writing, even the most lyrical, imagistic or self-reflective. In her novel Veil of Roses, author Laura Fitzgerald makes use of opportunities to describe Tucson, AZ, where … Continue reading

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Interview with Laura Fitzgerald

Each year, I spend the month of February teaching writing in Tucson, AZ, and each year I learn about authors fostered by the ongoing program at Pima Community College. The following interview is with an author who credits the Wednesday night writing class she took at Pima while her kids were preschoolers for the start … Continue reading

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A Writing Lesson from Morrie, Rilke, and Coleman Barks

Years ago, I read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, a man who was Morrie Schwartz’ college student at Brandeis University. The narrative is about weekly visits to see his former professor, who is dying. What is so inspiring in this account is the teacher’s voice and thoughts as he prepares to die but must … Continue reading

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Cider Mills and Burning Leaves

For many of us, fall brings leaves to rake and sometimes to burn. It brings memories of visiting cider mills and eating sweet doughnuts as we sipped fresh apple cider. This week, take a moment to describe fall days either from the past or from right now. Begin by listing images of the season in … Continue reading

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Journaling Exercise to Get You Writing

I’ve been talking with parents these past few weeks about how their kids are doing with their return to school and all the newness: new teachers, new classrooms, new classmates, new textbooks, new notebooks, and new clubs to join. I know that when I am faced with so much new, I get especially concerned with … Continue reading

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Hiring the Journal Keeper Within

…the heart…and the learned skills of the conscious mind… make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen. Mary Oliver A Poetry Handbook Years ago when I was helping my husband start a computer networking training and consulting business, he and I attended a time management seminar put on by The … Continue reading

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Poetry is a Chance to Live Without Looking Away

I spent a lovely day this week reading three books of poems I’ve wanted to sit down with for some time: The Love Hunter and Other Poems by Meg Files, Boxing the Compass by Holly J. Hughes, and Small Knots, poems by Kelli Russell Agodon. Reading these three collections, one after the other, I understood … Continue reading

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Creating A Lyric Essay Using the Interview Approach

I spent my summer writing a book called Perfect Phrases for Writing the College Application Essay. My effort was to come up with sentences (sometimes questions, sometimes statements) to help those who have to write the application essay focus and draw specific details from their experience and then organize the details into compelling personal statements. … Continue reading

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