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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Are My Heroes — A Letter to Writers

You may have taken time away from writing while preparing for the holidays, but now’s the time to jump back in to reach your writing goals. This week’s article from the Writing It Real archives first appeared in 2006. If offers support for taking the place of writing in your life seriously and a writing … Continue reading

The Holiness of the Heart’s Affections

The following article about trusting our need to write was first published in Writing It Real on December 25, 2003.  As this year draws to a close, it seems timely again to remember that as artists, we must overcome  whatever lack of courage  we harbor and meet the world’s sadness as well as its joy with … Continue reading

Authornomics Interview with Sheila Bender

Authornomics is an author interview series created by Andrea Hurst and Associates agency. The August 16, 2012 interview I did for the series was chosen as one of their year’s best. The many good questions the agents there asked gave me the opportunity to discuss writing and the writing life in ways meaningful to me. … Continue reading

Writing Between the Lines: A Personal Essay Writing Idea

I receive news headlines online from the Washington Post. It is unusual for one of their tech headlines to capture my interest, let alone to inspire a creative writing idea. But yesterday, a headline about a tech book review caught my eye because of the book’s title: The Human Face of Big Data: How information … Continue reading

Community “Book-Excerpt” Book Club – Considering the Work of AE Russell

Once a month, we’ll post selections from an author’s work for the Writing It Real community to contemplate, consider and remark upon as writers. I’ll follow each month’s excerpt with questions to spark comments from Writing It Real readers. We’ll all grow as a result of considering the associations, thoughts, understandings and arguments that arise. … Continue reading

A Holiday Letter

After a request from a Writing It Real member to write more on the topic of composing holiday letters, I decided first to write my holiday letter and see what lessons came. I started with the scene of a recent night’s wakefulness and let that scene lead me to associations concerning some of the events … Continue reading

Want to Start a Fresh Essay? Write From What is Unsolved

If you have been having difficulty finding topics or ways into the areas that you most want to explore in your writing, try the following exercise I developed from reading Rilke’s Letter to a Young Poet to refresh your approach to writing personal essays. You may want to send your results in as entries to … Continue reading

A Writing Lesson from the Journaling Ideas of Author David Mas Masumoto

This time of year we cope with a lot of activity. Social engagements and gift shopping, worrying about how to spread a gift buying budget around and the need to travel distances or entertain out-of-town family sweep away our writing time. Sometimes, our very sense of ourselves as writers disappears. Ironically, this very same time … Continue reading

The Enneagram and Me: Writing Is My Spiritual Practice

In 1988, while I was living in Berkeley with my husband Kurt, who was on a computer network assignment, I came across a book: The Enneagram: An Ancient system for Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life,by Helen Palmer. I couldn’t put the book down as I read descriptions of nine personality types and found … Continue reading