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.

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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Floating Bridge Press: Poetry From the Upper Left Hand Corner

This summer, Writing It Real in Port Townsend Writer’s Conference faculty member, Susan Rich suggested we do an article on Floating Bridge Press, a community-based nonprofit, of which she is a member, that has published 17 books of poetry and almost a decade’s worth of the annual poetry anthology Pontoon. I am pleased this week … Continue reading

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Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me A Writer by Barbara Sjoholm

Barbara Sjoholm‘s memoir in essays, Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me a Writer, Seal Press, 2006, evokes a 1970s-style Bohemian travel life and will arouse memories in many readers. Those who knew they wanted to write when they were young will remember the way they looked at the world, what they saw and felt. And … Continue reading

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Trusting Scrappiness

I have been reading Sebastian Matthews’ book, In My Father’s Footsteps: A Memoir, about growing up the son of the late poet William Matthews. I was fortunate to have William Matthews as my thesis advisor at the University of Washington. Years after my graduation from the program in creative writing, I edited a book about … Continue reading

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Defining and Writing the Lyric Essay

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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Self-Publishing Books on Grief, Part Two

This week, as we continue our series of interviews with authors who have self-published, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Turner about This Might Help, the book he and his wife Phyllis put together. Like author Janice Urie, who we interviewed last week, Sam and Phyllis have experience with the grief of losing a … Continue reading

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Self-Publishing Books on Grief, Part One

There are a lot of small-world stories in the writing world. Here’s one of mine: In 2000, I was asked by Writer’s Digest Books to judge personal essays. From over 3500 essays, for first place, I chose an essay by Janice Urie about the death of her 13-year-old son, Sean. For me, Janice’s writing was … Continue reading

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Writing from the Experience of a Career that Stumbled

This week, we have the second in our series of interviews with writers who have self-published. Each of these writers reports on the successful experience they have had. Adina Sara published her collection of poems and personal essays about being a legal secretary–her view into the work world and the world of those who work … Continue reading

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On Self-publishing

This week we begin a series on self-publishing, the outgrowth of interviews I’ve been doing with authors who have taken a variety of routes toward self-publishing. Cindy La Ferle and other authors have shared details from their publishing experiences in interviews as well as excerpts from their books, both of which I will be publishing … Continue reading

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Starting with Pieces Yields a Whole

Following my reading of and writing in response to Impassio Press’s anthology In Pieces, An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing, I began a book American philosopher Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything. The rich effects of reading each continue to bounce together in my mind. Wilber’s book offers a stirring discussion of the view that … Continue reading

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On In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing

What definitions, thoughts and dreams I’ve snagged from In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing, edited by Olivia Dresher for Impassio Press. In her introduction, Dresher, a fragmentary writing enthusiast, introduces fragmentary writing this way:  “lack of a traditional beginning or end. Instead, the two are merged into a brief and concentrated middle, “a short … Continue reading

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Recognizing Fragmentary Writing as a Genre

  Sheila Olivia, I was introduced to your press when one of your authors, Sandi Sonnenfeld, asked me to write a blurb about her book, This Is How I Speak, which is a memoir in diary form. I have been intrigued ever since with your idea of committing your press to publishing what you call … Continue reading

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An Interview with John Nemerovski

In this week’s article, we interview John Nemerovski, who writes about technological subjects for a non-technical audience. His online articles, and now podcasts, are filled with personal anecdotes, quirky observations and bits of his own life including activities with friends, family and his much-loved dog Butzie. John’s articles and reviews almost always take on aspects … Continue reading

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Perfect Phrases for Writing About a Significant Experience

Writing about a significant experience or ethical dilemma: A part of our mind, the part that was trained in school, feels we should know what we have to say before we write it down. However, in writing the personal essay and poetry, we can't know what we have to say; we must write in search … Continue reading

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