What I Do
I love teaching—it’s the natural outgrowth of my own writing process, and I enjoy helping students and clients realize their visions in their own writing. I can work with you on shorter or longer projects, and can offer feedback on projects in any stage of development.
I’ve taught creative writing to undergraduate and MFA students around the US and internationally, teaching at schools including Hollins University, the University of Iowa, Chatham University, Warren Wilson College, and Antioch University Los Angeles. I’ve been a mentor in SUNY Stonybrook’s Bookend program, and have taught in the Iowa Summer Writers’ Festival, the Southhampton Writers’ Conference and for Catapult in New York. I’ve also run private writing workshops, both in New York City and Sacramento.
I believe deeply in the process of revision, and in the way a work deepens and grows and changes over drafts. I can work with clients on macro level issues—plot and architectural concerns in a story, finding ways to focus a narrative and make it more urgent. I also look at micro level issues–examining a work line by line, looking at sentences to evaluate whether they are clearly conveying your meaning to the reader. Working on a manuscript with a client is a collaborative process, and I’m happy to brainstorm possible ideas with you, helping you find the path you want to take for your manuscript. I can also help clients applying to MFA programs in creative writing, in either fiction or nonfiction. I am familiar with the MFA admissions process and I can help sharpen your manuscript and personal statement and consult on programs that would be right for you.
Short story consult: A consult for writers working on a short story or essay. I’ll critique one short story or essay, up to 25 double-spaced pages, which includes line edits, an editorial letter and 1-hour talk via phone or Skype.
MFA consult: A consult for writers applying to MFA programs in creative writing. I’ll critique a manuscript, up to 25 double-spaced pages, which includes line edits, an editorial letter and 1-hour talk via phone or Skype. I’ll also read and edit your 500 word personal statement and offer suggestions for MFA programs that would best fit your needs.
Novel/story collection consult: A consult for writers working on a longer project. I’ll critique your novel or story collection customized to what you need. If you need a macro, more plot-oriented read and critique, we can work on that, or I can do a more in-depth critique that involves a line edit, or both. All critiques involve an editorial letter and a Skype discussion to discuss your particular concerns in writing your novel or story collection.
All editorial services may include handouts and materials that I use in my university teaching.
Writing Coach: Need a guide to help you with your writing process or project on an ongoing basis? Regular coaching sessions can help you focus or outline a project or come up with a plan to write it. Coaching can be organized in many ways—you can send me work on a regular basis, you can check in with emails or scheduled calls to bounce ideas off me. I can also give you directed writing prompts to help you explore specific issues in a manuscript. As a coach, I can help you come up with a plan to you complete your project and be there for you along the way.
“Karen Bender was an essential guide during my formative writing years. She helped me push my short story characters further than I would have ever pushed them, and she even allowed me to workshop this story two times in class, so I was able to try out different techniques multiple times and see what stuck. A phenomenal writer, reader, and teacher.” –Garrard Conley, author of BOY ERASED, Riverhead Books
“Karen E. Bender is one of those rare teachers who, despite her incredible success, makes you feel like you are the most important person in her world when she is working with to you. This presence and care inspires her students to create the best work of which they are capable. Her insights into how texts work are incredibly keen; she knows how to dig into a piece of writing and figure out exactly what the writer is up to. She opens up her heart and her mind to her students, molding them not only into better writers but into better humans, into more eloquent, effective, and empathetic versions of themselves.” –Ellen Louise Ray, St. Albans Writer in Residence
“Karen E. Bender is an inspiration in and out of the classroom. Her enthusiasm is wonderfully contagious but also deeply rooted in her love for writing, which she takes seriously, along with her students, regardless of their experience or talent. I can honestly say I’ve never known a better teacher of creative writing.” Paul Matthew Maisano, author of BINDI, Lee Boudreaux Books/Little Brown
“Karen is the ideal adviser for an MFA consultation. She is kind, honest, generous, and amazingly insightful. She truly cares about helping aspiring writers, and I could not have asked for a better experience. With her advice on my manuscript and personal statement, I was admitted to my two top choice programs.” – former consulting client