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 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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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He’s Over Sixty and He’s a Rapper! Interview with Robert Komishane

Robert Komishane is a Port Townsend, WA poet who turned in middle age to rap and hiphop for inspiration when he wanted to switch from writing free verse to writing in form. Four and a half year’s later, he’s still having fun and gaining attention for his efforts. I interviewed Robert via email to learn … Continue reading
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An Interview with Playwright Mara Lathrop

Have you thought about writing for the stage or about reading plays as a way to understand the role of dialog in moving a story forward and keeping your writing “in scene”? If either is true for you, you will find playwright Mara Lathrop’s experience and the resources she shares invaluable. If you haven’t yet … Continue reading
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Five Tips for Inspiring Quality Writing from Life Experience

Tip #1 — Find An Occasion Poet Stanley Plumly says that poems must weigh more at the end than they do at the beginning. As with poetry, the personal essay and memoir supply a vehicle for writers to find out what matters and to feel the weight of what matters. As writers, we take ourselves, and … Continue reading
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A Children’s Book From the Heart: Interview with Penny Holland

Creating stories to delight children and help them understand sophisticated social concepts is a primary objective of children’s book authors. But it is often hard to cut to the essence of situations in language children understand. Penny Claire Holland had the story for a children’s picture book many years ago, but let her manuscript sit … Continue reading
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The Third Law of Motion – An Interview with Meg Files

This week’s interview is with my colleague Meg Files about her process for writing The Third Law of Motion, her newest novel and the book’s impact on its audience. You can study with Meg at our April Writing It Real conference in Nashville or our June Centrum Creative weekend intensive in Port Townsend, WA. Sheila Your … Continue reading
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Interview with Poet and Memoirist Kim Stafford

Memoirs are high on my reading list. Memoirs that tell authors’ stories of grieving and healing are at the top. This week, I am posting an in-depth interview with writer Kim Stafford, whose brother committed suicide. As a writer, Kim sets out in his book 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do, A Memoir to explore … Continue reading
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Our Dreams Choose Us

After I began studying with poets at the University of Washington in the early 80’s, I had a closet in my bedroom under my house’s eaves converted into a writing nook with a skylight. Sitting there at night, I could see the stars and sometimes the moon. During the day, sunshine and Seattle’s famous clouds, … Continue reading
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