Sheila Bender

Class Title: Finding Deeper Meaning in Your Writing
Instructor: Sheila Bender
Class Term:
We are not accepting any more enrollments for Sheila's class; the class has started.


Join us in doing three writing exercises a week for five weeks that help speed writers on their writing way via experiments with metaphor and simile, evocative description, and excavating deep meaning from the details and images, while we also concentrating on finding a work's structure, overcoming writer resistance, and staying excited about writing projects.

Class Description

Using a Google Groups private group "classroom," participants will post the results of three free-writing exercises a week for gleaning response from classmates and the instructor. By working with images, metaphor, simile, story structure and our own moods as writers, we'll produce the kind of starts and kernels useful for finishing poems, stories , short memoir and even book-length work. The instructor will be sure to propose where you will take your writing starts next after class ends. Many of the exercises are based on ones in the instructor's book, Writing in a Convertible with the Top Down.

At the end of this class, students will be able to:

  • Enjoy free writing and feel it is taking them somewhere
  • Understand the value of metaphor and simile for finding deeper meaning
  • Sustain their commitment to writing
  • Imagine successful structures for short and longer work that will come of the starts in this class
  • Freewrite for future writing without impediment

Instruction/Communication Method: The instructor will post lessons and her responses in the class' Google Group as will participants. Participant posts will also include their writing questions to which the instructor and other participants will reply.


  • Unit 1: Practice with Metaphor and Simile: Three exercises for loosening up and recognizing which metaphors carry weight for the writers writing. The instructor will respond to the writing results and offer models from the work of published writers for group discussion.
  • Unit 2: Practice Keeping One's Writing from Being Boring: Building on the use of metaphor and similar, the three exercises this week will help writers produce results that surprise them. The instructor will offer response that will help the writers know where to go next in using the surprises to develop longer writing.
  • Unit 3: What is structure in a poem, essay, story or book? Three exercises for thinking about your own work's future structure. The instructor will help each participant hone and clarify a structure that will benefit the writing they are creating in the exercises.
  • Unit 4: How to keep on keeping on using others' writing to inspire you. The instructor will offer two exercises based on published writing and ask each participant to propose and use an exercise of their own based on someone else's published work.
  • Unit 5: Students will write a narrative about new insights they've learned about writing and their own process from creating work during this class.

Student Skills, Equipment, and Time Required

Beginning to advanced writers who want a boost in their writing; Internet, email. Instructor will help those new to Google Groups.

Time Commitment: Three to four hours per week

Tuition/Fees for this course

SCN members: $192. Non-SCN members: $240.

Instructor Bio

Sheila Bender is the founder and publisher of Writing it Real, a web community dedicated to helping those who write from personal experience. Her newest books include Writing Personal Essays: Sharing and Shaping Personal Experience, Writing in a Convertible, Sorrow's Words: Writing Exercises to Heal Grief, Creative Writing DeMystified, the memoir A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief and the poetry collection Behind Us the Way Grows Wider. She teaches on line and in-person at venues across the West.

Social Media:

Praise for Sheila's Classes

  • I have been working with Sheila Bender for 10 years. I will say this: she is the best writing instructor I've ever had and I've been studying writing with many different instructors for about 45 years. She never makes you feel as if you have failed with a writing and should just give up. She gives you positive encouraging feedback with specific concrete suggestions for improvement and extension. I think everyone should give her classes a try. —Elizabeth W., Sunnyvale CA

  • Sheila Bender had wonderful insight into my writing and was very encouraging. —Joy S., Temecula CA

  • Sheila Bender's feedback is great and always thought-provoking as well as encouraging. —Lauren R., Austin TX

  • Sheila Bender is a very gentle editor and made very helpful suggestions to improve our writing exercises as well as compliment us on our writing when appropriate. I hope she can attend a future writing workshop weekend so we can benefit from her writing experience live. Thank you. —Ann H., Akron OH

  • Sheila Bender is a wonderful teacher. She offers insightful comments on her students' writings along with effective suggestions to improve the pieces. I always enjoy learning something new from Sheila's classes that helps me create stronger pieces of writing. —Cyndi L., Riverton UT

  • This class gave me ideas I can carry on with in my writing. The assignments were short enough to not cause stress but also full of kernels for further writing. —Lucy P., Sarasota FL

  • Flash fiction is a new approach for me but I found that I am comfortable there. I wrote some things I did not think I could, and was happy with the result. I plan to continue with this form of fiction/memoir. —Lucy P., Sarasota FL

  • Sheila Bender's feedback and suggestions for revisions were both encouraging and helpful, and the readings were engaging. For me, this was a great jumping-off point for further writing using the epistolary form. —Karen S., Framingham MA

  • I felt as if a master teacher/author/poet was guiding my learning. —Joan C., Coeur d'Alene ID

  • Sheila Bender is great at helping students get to the root issues in their writing. Her thoughtful insights and feedback helps writers stretch further than they thought they could. —Stephanie P., Sierra Vista AZ

  • Sheila Bender is a thoughtful and encouraging writing mentor. She helps the writer stretch and improve her craft, while also assisting her in building confidence. —Judy M., Zionsville IN

  • Today a pianist-composer being interviewed on the radio said "dancing is a way of listening to music." Then I thought of the varied ways that Sheila Bender showed us in which we could write. I think I'm as about on fire as I've ever been to re-write from old journals, as well as write afresh. So thanks, Sheila, for the lessons on "writing as a way of listening to our hearts." —Anne W., West Chester PA

  • I enjoyed the challenge of writing outside my comfort zone with different genres [in Sheila Bender's class]. I feel less fear now in trying new things. —Lucy P., Sarasota FL

  • I went into [Sheila Bender's] course with the hope to get moving on my memoir. In fact, I loved the assignments so much, I decided not to go forward with a book-length memoir and write short pieces instead. This course will take you in directions you never dreamed of going, no matter your experience level. I wrote things that surprised myself and I'm a veteran writer (40 years in the business). —Candice R., Fredericksburg VA

  • Sheila Bender's wise and insightful editing opened up an exciting vision of writing possibilities for me. I have a brand-new confidence that my writing might be publishable. —Lauren R., Austin TX

  • The lesson plan was strong. We were challenged with a variety of writing exercises. Sheila Bender's comments and suggestions are insightful. She teaches how to edit to make your writing stronger. —Cathy S., Shipshewana IN

  • The course promised to introduce writing strategies, and it did. I tried every strategy and found some success with all. Sheila Bender's comments are helpful and insightful. —Denise J., Baton Rouge LA

  • Sheila Bender has a wonderful way of teaching that includes concrete feedback that has helped my writing immensely. —Aviva S., Denver CO

  • To write with Sheila Bender is like having an insightful editor on my shoulder to nudge me to go deeper, say more. Thank you. —Anne W., West Chester PA

  • Sheila Bender is an outstanding teacher and kind and helpful in nurturing poets and their work. —Kathryn S., Cary NC

  • Sheila Bender's class, Writing Poetry to Say the Unsayable, inspired me to write 7 new poems! She gave us clear instructions, and prompts, and then we were on our own to create. With her clear instructions and example readings I felt just challenged enough to try new styles. Her critiques were helpful and encouraging. —Barbara T., Napa CA

  • Sheila Bender is a great instructor. She always had wonderful ideas to help everyone's writings. I found her feedback on my writing very inspiring because she gave me different ways to look at things. When you take a class with Sheila, you learn, and you get the best! She really cares about your writing and wants you to succeed. She truly is a teacher! —Cyndi L., Riverton UT

  • Sheila Bender is a great teacher and writing coach. I found her in depth critiques and suggestions enormously helpful. The course introduced me to forms of writing that were unknown to me in a very clear and productive way. I definitely would take another class with Sheila. I recommend her highly to anyone wanting to grow their work—whether prose or poetry. —Kathryn S., Cary NC

  • Sheila Bender is one of the best writers I've ever worked with. The quality and quantity of her responses were outstanding. —Lori T., Hawthorne NJ

  • Sheila Bender's course was very helpful and I am glad I joined her class. —Jamuna A., San Ramon CA

  • With Sheila Bender, you get as much out of the class as you put into it and I mean that in a positive way. She was willing to read and comment on whatever you posted or re-posted. —Maya L., Milford PA

  • Excellent feedback and attention to detail. I found Sheila Bender very attentive with everyone's writing. She often offered feedback that would stimulate you in a new direction or become clearer in what you wanted to say. —Marilyn K., Plainfield ON CANADA

  • Sheila Bender's course was well organized ... and accommodation was made cheerfully for late assignments. Feedback from our instructor was timely and very helpful, with a caring and interested attitude. I ... learned a lot about expanding my repertoire, and was pushed a little, gently, to try writing styles I didn't know about. I'm a better writer for having taken this course. —Barbarann A., Medina OH

  • I admire Sheila Bender's teaching and editing skills, having taken classes with her before. This was just enough for a busy summer for me and definitely met my expectations. The readings were interesting and enjoyable. —Carol R., Seattle WA

  • Sheila Bender is such a wonderful writing instructor! Her prompts are inspiring and her feedback is generous, in-depth and always helpful. It was a delight to take yet another online writing class with her - and it won't be my last! Thank you so much, Sheila! —Laurie T., Istanbul TURKEY

  • Sheila Bender critiques in such a way that you not only learn how to improve your writing, but how to improve your own self editing and how to critique others in a way that helps others. The class itself was great and I found myself writing beyond my comfort zone without fear. Sheila did an excellent job and I would definitely take another class with her and I would absolutely suggest it to my friends. —Denise H., Palatine IL