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.

Where Does Creativity Start?

You may think that being creative requires that you have an idea for a finished product. But an important attribute of creativity is that it produces what it will, not necessarily what you were thinking it ought to. You may think creativity requires completing laborious hours of work. But many people experience creativity seeming to … Continue reading

Member-to-Member

Do you have a writing question your peers can answer? Do you have answers your peers might find useful? Books you are reading to tell us about, references and activities for writers? Interact here! … Continue reading

New Year’s Thoughts and Advice From My Correspondence With My iPad Mini

December 31, 2013 Dear Mini, Today marks our six-month anniversary of being together!  Six months! And you, my love, remain ever fresh and surprising, ever so original! We haven’t parted for even a day since that July afternoon when I gave in to the gleam in your eye and brought you home. I want to … Continue reading

A New Year’s Vow: Believe What You Have to Say Is Worth Writing

Whether we live on farms or in city apartments, grow up in logging camps or in suburban homes, move all over the world or remain in just one town, take on unusual jobs or work at home, we too often get to thinking that whatever we would write would not be important or interesting enough … Continue reading

Create the Mother Lode: Exercises for Short Writing That Leads to More Writing

[This excerpt appear in slightly different form in the anthology Women Writing On Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing, edited by Carol Smallwood and Suzann Holland.] Even when life seems too busy to “really” write, you can work on gathering and storing images, details, and reflections about family life, personal experiences and memories. The brief … Continue reading

Our Writing Minds Depend on This

Writing depends on our willingness to observe closely and our ability to allow ourselves to engage emotionally with what we are observing. So often, though, we don’t remember to take time to look around rather than look only at our screens because of the mad crush of email, texts, instant messages, facebook posts, tweets, and … Continue reading

That Crazy Little Thing, a Novel that Tackles What’s Big for a Writer and Her Characters

That Crazy Little Thing a debut novel by Kate Bracy has garnered wonderful reviews from readers and critics because of the author’s writing, the way she has developed her characters and how they explore issues of love — between friends, parents and their children, and adults looking for partners who understand them. Following Kate’s answers … Continue reading

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