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.

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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What Keeps Us Writing?

Most of us writers collect quotes from writers on writing. Whether we hang them above our desks, write them in journals, put them in our email signatures, or use them as epigraphs for our own writing, they remind us of what we find most important about writing and encourage us to keep on writing, even … Continue reading

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About the Three-Step Response

Reprinted with permission of Writer’s Digest Books from Writing Personal Essays: How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page by Sheila Bender, Writer’s Digest Books, 1995 About The Three-Step Response To help the writer understand what kind of contact his or her writing makes, my responsibility as a reader of the work is to: … Continue reading

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An Interview with Author and Law Professor Martha Grace Duncan

I met Martha Grace Duncan and became aware of her work when she made a research trip to Seattle for a personal essay she was writing about her stepmother. When I first learned she’d come to research for a personal essay, I immediately admired her commitment– many people believe only novels and other book length … Continue reading

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Interview with Author and Editor Allison Gilbert

Always Too Soon: Voices of Support For Those Who Have Lost Both Parents is a collection of intimate interviews about the journey traveled by those whose parents have both died. Some of the book’s contributors are famous (Rosanne Cash, Ice-T, Geraldine Ferraro, Mariel Hemingway) and others are not, but all have important perceptions to share … Continue reading

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“Heat” – Riley Ellen Martin’s Third Place Winning Essay”

Following this prize-winning essay, Sheila discusses the author’s way of putting description, metaphor making, example, comparison and contrast and cause and effect to good use in developing a humorous essay that clearly defines the experience of menopause and the mental and emotional states it encompasses. Heat by Riley Ellen Martin The open window brings the … Continue reading

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A Dime in My Pocket: A Memoir

Following this prize-winning essay, Sheila discusses the author’s craft and technique for creating an essay that uses imagery and details to work toward a felt understanding. A Dime in My Pocket By Kelly Sievers I scooted a chair close to my father’s bed, pulled the side rail down, and released his hands from restraints. In … Continue reading

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“I Do, Undone” – Catha J. Loomis 1st Place Essay

Following this prize-winning essay, Sheila discusses the author’s craft and technique for creating a successful personal opinion essay. I Do, Undone by Catha J. Loomis Shocked by a message on the answering machine, I dashed upstairs and turned on the computer, hoping for some online confirmation. “Oh my God,” I yelled. “It’s true!” “It” was … Continue reading

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