Elizabeth Benedict

January 5, 2019

What I've Been Up To Lately:

The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers, first published in 1996, has led me to all sorts of conversations and invitations. I've gotten letters about love from prisoners, accolades from writers I admire, and given workshops and talks at libraries, writers' conferences, and universities.

One of the more unusual invitations was to join a conversation about l'affair Clinton-Lewinsky, days after the scandal broke in January 1998.

In a New York City restaurant, I spoke with Erica Jong, Francine Prose, Nancy Friday, Patricia Marx, and others, about our initial racy thoughts on the titillating news of the President and the Intern. Francine Prose wrote up the convo for The New York Observer, and I didn't think much about the article for 20 years.

My views, of course, changed radically as the story developed and darkened in hideous ways. More recently, we've examined the matter through the #MeToo lens, and that's now part of the story. But those first few days were full of jokes and innuendos and saucy what-would-you-have-done conversations.

Though it's hard to remember now, Clinton was something of a rock star president, and his personnel decisions and policies promoted women and women's rights. He's the guy who made Ruth Bader Ginsburg a justice of the Supreme Court. Sitting around that restaurant table 20 years ago, for that moment in time, we were wannabe groupies. The Observer piece captured that relatively innocent phase of the scandal.

Fast forward to the summer of 2018, when the media were getting ready to promote the 20th anniversary of Clinton's impeachment. Slate's popular podcast, Slow Burn, asked me to remember the scandal as we'd experienced it back then.

You can listen to the episode, "Bedfellows," free on iTunes. I'm talking at minutes 14.50 and 38.00, on Season2 Episode 7

Or you can read the Slow Burn transcript here.

Two months after Slow Burn posted, ABC's 20/20 asked me to participate in a sort of repeat of that early conversation. It was a much smaller group this time—Francine Prose, Lisa Chase, and I—and the mood was decidedly different. The 20/20 show on the 20th anniversary of Clinton's impeachment airs on ABC January 10, 2019.

I'm writing this before I have more specific information on the broadcast. Watch this space or turn on 20/20 on January 10th.

Thanks for checking in.
~ Liz

Ask a woman about her hair, and she just might tell you the story of her life.

Me, My Hair, and IMe, My Hair and I (click here for a tease) is on sale now. It has garnered rave reviews in PW, Kirkus, and BookRiot, and mentions in Sheen Magazine and on many blogs. In advance of publication, a number of essays are appearing in major magazines and on websites, including Vogue.com, Harper's Bazaar (August issue), Saturday Evening Post, and Quartz. com. Click on the book for the latest news! We'll be celebrating the publication in NYC, Washington DC, and Boston this fall.

FOR THE LATEST NEWS ABOUT the book, please visit my blog by clicking HERE: http://elizabethbenedict.blogspot.com


My new essay, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Money" appears in the 50th anniversary issue of Salmagundi, with a group of essays on money I edited by Ricky Moody, Howard Norman, and Phillip Lopate. Salmagundi is the international quarterly founded in 1965 by Robert Boyers, now housed at Skidmore College. For a copy of my essay, please email me with the title of the essay in the subject line of the email.

From my essay about money: "In Light Years, James Salter writes: "Life is weather. Life is meals." But no, life is money. Money and stories of money. Who among us does not have a hundred of them? A thousand? Anecdotes, dominant narratives, comedies, tragedies, aphorisms, moral tales, and of course jokes. They come bunched in themes. Wanting money. Needing money. Feeling foolish for wanting more. Feeling crappy for not having it. Fighting over it. Having it, then losing it. Getting too much too fast — all those sad lottery stories that I read and think, I wouldn't do that if I won $400 million! Anger at those who have too much. At leaders who answer only to money, who choose money over justice, corporations over people, profits čber alles."

My first two novels, Slow Dancing and The Beginner's Book of Dreams, are now available as e-books for all devices through Open Road Media.

Take a listen to my recent conversation about writing about sex in fiction, with Late Night Library's Doug Silver.

My first anthology, Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives (with contributions by Cheryl Strayed, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Safran Foer, Michael Cunningham and many others), was chosen as the Barnard summer reading book for incoming first-years, and I gave a keynote address at Barnard's orientation in August 2013. Buy the paperback or the e-book for your Kindle here.

What My Mother Gave Me

Thanks for making What My Mother Gave Me a New York Times Bestseller!

Visit the book blog for the latest news!

Watch the You Tube video of our evening at the New York Society Library with contributors Margo Jefferson, Martha McPhee, and Roxana Robinson.

Listen to our NPR interview, on "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin.

We're one of Amazon's Top-10 Book Picks for Mother's Day!

Click here to see photos of the gifts from the book and the mothers - and submit a photo and story of your own.

Huffington Post: "A Book My Grandmother Would Like—Finally!"

LISTEN IN! If you couldn't make our DC debut at Politics & Prose with Susan Stamberg & Eleanor Clift, you can listen here, thanks to Slate!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Wed. May 1st, 7pm, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA. Join Mameve Medwed, Charlotte Silver and me.

Tues. May 7th 6.30, New York Society Library, 53 E. 79th St., NY NY, RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. Join Margo Jefferson, Martha McPhee, Roxana Robinson, and me.

Thurs. May 9, 7:30pm, Greenlight Books, Fulton St. Brooklyn, Join Mary Morris, Maud Newton, Elissa Schappell, Emma Straub, and me.

Our kick-off event: Tues April 9, Susan Stamberg, Eleanor Clift & me at Politics & Prose

Click here to read about other events & latest anthology news

Click here to send in photos of your mother's best gift to you & to see photos of the gifts & the mothers in the book

Click Here to Read PW's Rave!
"Each essay is beautifully crafted, and editor Benedict provides the perfect balance of emotions. For anyone trying to understand mother-daughter relationships, this collection provides the answer."

Do you have a favorite gift from your mother? An object, a trip you took, a way of being that comes directly from her? After my mother died, I became obsessed with a beautiful scarf she gave me several years before, her last present to me—which you can see part of in the picture to the right. I wore the scarf around my neck in winter and got compliments often. Whenever I thought I'd lost it, I panicked, but I never spoke to anyone about what it meant to me—because I couldn't put my complex feelings into words.

Last year I began to wonder if other women had such a gift from their mothers, and I asked thirty remarkable women that question. Here are their answers. And my own too. Watch for the schedule of events beginning in April. Pre-order. Tell your mothers, tell your daughters, tell your friends. From Cathleen Schine: "WHAT MY MOTHER GAVE ME is a gift to all of us." READ MORE...


Now in Paperback (& Kindle & Nook)!!

Mentors, Muses & Monsters
Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers
on the People Who Changed Their Lives

From my preface to the paperback: "Every book is special to its author or editor, but this anthology has a particular place in my affections for several reasons. When I asked the writers whose work you are about to read to contribute to the collection, I knew what they wrote would be good — but there was no way of knowing just how good each of these essays would be.

As they arrived in my e-mail inbox, one after another, and I read them sitting at the screen, I often felt the wind knocked out of me. It was clear from the depth of feeling and the care lavished on each sentence that the writers had devoted themselves to this project, to these tender and complex tributes to the people, books, and events that had altered the course of their lives...."

Click Here to Request...

"Murder One: Mad Dog Taborsky and Me,"
Notable Essay, Best American Essays 2009

Click Here to Read...

"A History of Violence" on the Death Penalty
in Connecticut from the NY Times

"A Chat with Scott Turow"

"If I Could Speak Chinese,"
on Narrative Magazine.

"Will Adopt Asian Girl, No Problem,"
on The Huffington Post.

"Losing Mum and Pup,
A Liberal's Guilty Pleasure"
on The Rumpus

Do You Need an MFA to be a Writer?

Click Here to Read...

Click Here to Listen...

Elizabeth Benedict on ABC Radio Australia talking about The Joy of Writing Sex, August 2009

The Joy of Writing Sex

Available in paperback.


The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers is the classic guide to writing excellent sex scenes, used in writing programs in the US and abroad. With her characteristic wit and insight, Benedict offers practical advice on writing about sex, along with 45 examples from contemporary fiction, and interviews with 15 writers, including John Updike, Carol Shields, Alan Hollinghurst, Dorothy Allison, Russell Banks, Stephen McCauley, John Casey, and Edmund White.

"Read it because it will teach you everything you need to know about writing good fiction, whether your characters are having sex or having breakfast. This book is a course unto itself, and Elizabeth Benedict is a very fine teacher." - Peter Carey

cover image

"Her wit is as sharp as her eye, and twice as fast. She writes the hard, horrifying truth about human nature, and it is addictively entertaining... A rare find...." - Newsday

Available in paperback.


cover image

"The great life of this book arises out of Benedict's judicious and sometimes startling mastery of language. The casual dialogue here and the descriptions of the ordinary remind me of Raymond Carver's short stories." - Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air, NPR

Available in paperback.

Other News Items

"Happy families are all alike. Every happy family touched by murder is shattered in its own distinctive way." Read Elizabeth Benedict's recent New York Times Op-Ed about her family history and the evolution of her thoughts on the death penalty.

Look for Elizabeth Benedict's contribution to Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave (W.W. Norton) edited by Ellen Sussman.

Elizabeth Benedict's interview on Writers on Writing, UC Irvine's KUCI radio program with Barbara deMarco, recently became available for download here as part of KUCI Talk On Demand Archive.

Essays Available

Elizabeth Benedict's essay, "What I Learned About Sex On the Internet," published in Daedalus, was chosen as a Notable Essay of 2007, in The Best American Essays 2008 (Houghton Mifflin). Please click here for a free copy of the essay.

"Mad Dog Taborsky and Me," is Elizabeth Benedict's new essay in Daedalus on the effect of her uncle's infamous murder on her family. In 1960, Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky was the last man executed in New England for 45 years, until 2005. Benedict grew up haunted by the murder that took place two months before her parents' wedding, but did not learn the adult version of the story until after her parents died in recent years. Click here for a free copy of the essay.

Elizabeth Benedict
photo: Daniel Lake

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Free Essays

What I Learned About Sex On the Internet
Mad Dog Taborsky and Me