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Featured Online Class on Short Forms

Writing Short, Writing Deep

WRITING SHORT, WRITING DEEP: Prose Poetry, Short Memoir, Epistolary, Flash Non-fiction, Flash Fiction, and More  by Sheila Bender

START DATE: Monday, September 23, 2024

END DATE: Sunday, November 3, 2024

DURATION:  6 weeks

LOCATION:  Private Google Group

FEEDBACK:  Detailed Instructor Feedback and Encouraging Peer Workshop

COURSE DESCRIPTION:  Each week students will complete a piece of writing inspired by strategies for evoking life experiences. The instructor will be posting links to work by well-published writers of short prose. Participants will read from samples of “lyric memoirs” and “lyric novels” built from smaller pieces as well as selections from authors who write moving vignettes, prose poems, flash fiction and flash nonfiction. Not only is there a growing market for short writing, writing short helps us get quickly to the best writing we have inside. Over six weeks, you’ll produce six pieces and create many more ideas for future (after the class finishes) short writing as well as learn where these pieces are found and may be published. Classmates are encouraged to respond to one another’s work using a three-step response method the instructor will share.


To help writers
  • become aware of and learn from masters of short writing
  • succeed in writing in the short form
  • experiment with new forms for short writing
  • discover the markets that publish short writing
  • learn how to create longer work from short writing

I came into the course not really confident with short writing, and have come out of it feeling like I've found a whole world of writing that I'm keen to explore. ~ Miranda Overett

Sheila, thanks for these lessons introducing me to more short forms than I was aware of. It’s been interesting, engaging, and enlightening. I also learned from you different ways of looking at what I’ve written than how I’ve been doing in the past. ~ Marilyn Morton

I signed up for Sheila’s class during the pandemic because I desperately needed some structure to my days and craved deadlines to meet during this time of no time. I had also been going through a period of not writing except in my journal and hoped for a kick in the pants to get me moving. The class was perfect for me because it allowed me to write in short micro bursts but by the end of the six weeks I had completed an essay—something that I hadn’t been able to do for such a long time! The flash pieces unlocked some creative doors that I was able to walk through, and almost without my realizing it, ideas and enthusiasm started flowing. Sheila’s suggestions and edits helped me see my writing through a different lens and improve it immeasurably. At the end of the class, I have three pieces that, with more work, might be in shape to be submitted for publication. In the long run, though, the best result of the class was to interest me in my own writing again! ~ Nikki Hardin

We did it with wonderful inspiration from Sheila. Each day I was excited to see what was coming from Sheila and all of you. Sheila brought me out of the Covid fog where I was languishing. ~ Marion Karian

This was my first online class, and because my system isn’t compatible with Google it took a while to work out the kinks. During the adjustment, Sheila was the epitome of patience. Although out of my comfort zone, I learned so much from Sheila’s critiques as well as from my fellow classmates. A great way to spend a pandemic. ~ Mary Shehadey

Thanks Sheila, you’ve been an outstanding instructor. Challenging, creative, specific yet gentle in your feedback. I cannot thank you enough. ~ Christy Schwan

“Writing Short, Writing Deep” called to me. This assignment in particular, to write a flash piece, in this moment, resonated strongly. I received it as an invitation to be still and to let it flow. ... Most of all, I’m very appreciative, Sheila, of the curriculum you designed, the care you took with our writing, and the encouragement and enthusiasm you provided. ~ Joan Weber

So many things about this class and your methods improved my writing. The reader response approach for feedback you suggest, where we tell the writer what feelings their words evoke in us along with questions that arise, provides a clear framework for critique. Your feedback on my writing not only encouraged me, but also provided specific ways to improve my technique. I was excited to try the prompts, which also gave me a sense of the many different approaches to expression, from writing "in scene" about why I am moved by a vivid memory, to a second-person narration in epistolary form, to prose poetry. I will benefit from your craft expertise and warmth as a teacher for time to come, and will definitely take another of your classes! ~ Marilyn Guggenheim

I’ve taken several classes with Sheila. Always, she’s provided generous support, great tips for writing skills, and the kind of encouragement that makes me want to write more. I look forward to the process of learning how to write better. I think due to her instruction, I am becoming a better writer. ~ Cassandra Hamilton

Sheila, I will take every possible class you teach that I can get to. Your insight, knowledge, and incredible warmth and encouragement made our class the highlight of all those I’ve ever taken. Can’t thank you enough. ~ Shirley Clukey

This has been the most wonderful and challenging workshop I’ve ever taken. You introduced me to authors, techniques and mind-blowing assignments. Before this workshop, I would have never thought of writing a memoir in an essay format. You taught me a very powerful lesson of how writing to myself through a historical figure (very mysterious) can heal the spirit within, softly approaching life’s most heart wrenching problems on paper. I can’t wait to sign up for another one of your thought provoking workshops online. ~ Cheryl Kesling

I have taken several online courses with relatively famous women writers, and you have been the most giving and involved with genuine feedback and follow-through. I thank you for that. I have learned from reading your remarks to others and the assignments have been thought-provoking and challenging—just the right mix for an aspiring writer. ~ Lori Talarico


Week One: A Short Study in Prose Poetry
Many writers are “afraid of poetry” and wonder what a prose poem is. Reading many samples, we’ll investigate the form, diminish fear of writing in it and see how helpful understanding prose poetry is for writing short.

Assignment: The instructor will provide model poems and a selection of exercises to help participants shape their own prose poem or prose poem influenced prose. She will respond to everyone’s posted writing with suggestions for future after class finishes revision.

Week Two: A Short Study of Memoirs Written in an Accumulation of Short Pieces
There are many cutting edge strategies for approaching the writing of a memoir. This week the instructor will provide samples from some successful memoirs made up of short pieces.

Assignment: With exercises to make a healthy start on creating your own memoir in short pieces, the instructor will provide a variety of approaches to your subject. She will respond to everyone’s posted writing with suggestions for future after class finishes revision.

Week Three: A Short Study of the Epistolary (Letter) Form
This form is an old-time form that is effective in helping us tell life stories. This week we will read some profoundly moving letter-form essays.

Assignment: The instructor will offer exercises for writing successfully in this form, which can help writers create stand-alone short form pieces or become part of a larger project. She will respond to everyone’s posted writing with suggestions for future after class finishes revision.

Week Four: A Short Study of Sudden or Flash Non-Fiction
There are many venues for publishing life stories written in under 1,000 words. We’ll become acquainted with them and some of the best of their material and then practice writing a sudden nonfiction story.

Assignment: The instructor will offer exercises to choose from in writing a sudden non-fiction story. She will respond to everyone’s posted writing with suggestions for future after class finishes revision.

Week Five:  A Short Study of Sudden or Flash Fiction
There are many venues for publishing fictional stories written in under 1,000 words. Many them are biographical or take off from an incident or perception that is true. We’ll become acquainted with many inspiring flash fiction stories and practice one.

Assignment: The instructor will offer exercises to choose from in writing a sudden fiction story. She will respond to everyone’s posted writing with suggestions for future after class finishes revision.

Week Six: A Short Study of Writing in the Smallest of Fragments toward an Accumulation
Writers keep notebooks of observations, over heard conversations, and inner perceptions and epiphanies. We’ll examine some of the published writing of this sort.

Assignment: The instructor will offer exercises to help you keep this kind of notebook and in her responses to what you post, she’ll propose ways this writing might come together to become a short piece with depth.

Materials needed:  The instructor will post each of the 6 weeks’ lessons with exercises and models at the opening of each week so students can work on generating that writing on their own time, at their own speed during the week. She will respond to posted work within 24 - 48 hours so the writer can get started on revising. Revisions can be posted at any time during our six weeks together.

Sheila Bender

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR:  Sheila Bender, founder of, is the author of many books on writing, including the popular Writing Personal Essays: Shaping and Sharing Your Life Experience and Creative Writing DeMystified. Her memoir is entitled A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief. Her newest book, Since Then: Poems and Short Prose will be available in spring 2022. She has been updating previously published books. Two of them are now available in print and digitally on Amazon and through bookstores: Writing in a Convertible with the Top Down, co-authored with Christi Killien Glover, and Sorrow’s Words: Writing Exercises to Heal Grief. As a writer, teacher and editor, she believes that writing so others understand our hearts and minds helps us understand ourselves, heal grief and sadness and grow. She has presented at conferences and writers' centers including Centrum Foundation's summer Port Townsend Writer's Conference, the Whidbey Island's writer's conference workshops, the Writer's Workshoppe in Port Townsend, WA, and the Kahini writing program's writer's workshops and served as a Distinguished Lecturer in Poetry at Seattle University.

COST:  $210. The class will use a Google Groups format, to which the instructor will provide access and help learning the ropes.

BUY NOW:  Writing Short, Writing Deep, by Sheila Bender (6 weeks, starting 9/23/2024) Limit: 12 students. Early registration is recommended.

This class is full. Please check here for our current schedule.

For Class Session Starting 9/23/2024


Additional Testimonials for Sheila Bender:

. . . this has been a very productive class for me. I’ve learned a lot and feel like I have grown a lot in the process. ~ Margaret Riordon

My participation in Sheila’s “Creating the Five-Minute Memoir” class greatly expedited my work on my own memoir. Every single prompt resulted in an essay that I will easily be able to incorporate into my book; moreover, they are also evergreen and can be written from again and again. Sheila’s advice, edits, and coaching not only improved my writing, but also delivered a boost of confidence about the themes in my book. As part of our work together, she brilliantly whip-stitched my inner and outer questions together, a step that will save me untold hours as I go forward. Sheila is unique among teachers in that I believe she cares as much about her students as people as she does about their writing. This is my first class with her, and I know it will be one of many, many more! ~ Ashley Memory

Sheila, Thank you for another great writing course. I appreciated having the specific instructions each week and reading well-written models on the topic. And thanks for your invaluable feedback. ~ Debra Gilbreath

Thank you for your amazing insights and knowing just the right way to pluck at my threads to help me to open to the page. That in itself is a very rare and admirable art. ~ Cassandra Hamilton

First, I just want to say thank you for this course. I began focusing my time on writing last fall, but found that I needed some guidance. I was looking for a new perspective, a container that would help to create a form for what I was trying to capture. You have introduced some new authors that will help me to move in new directions. ~ Debra Gilbreath

What I am particularly struck by with Sheila is that she presents a great comforting wisdom from her background and experience; yet she also has an enthusiasm for the craft of writing that feels like she just got started yesterday. The enthusiasm is contagious and really inspired me to open up and let my inner critic take a break... it is a great skill and talent to mix nurturing support with honest critical comments. I feel Sheila possesses that type of talent and finesse. ~ Wendy A. Johnson


Notes: Upon successful completion of payment, your name, email address, and contact info will be submitted to your instructor.

Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:

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