Elizabeth Benedict

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elizabeth Benedict
Benedict at the Martha's Vineyard Book Festival, 2019
EducationBarnard College
  • Writer
  • Editor
  • College Admissions Consultant

Elizabeth Benedict is an American author best known for her fiction, her personal essays, as the editor of three anthologies, and for The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers. Her novels are: Slow Dancing, The Beginner's Book of Dreams, Safe Conduct, Almost, and The Practice of Deceit. Her first memoir, Rewriting Illness: A View of My Own, was published in May 2023.[1][2] She lives in New York City and works as a college admissions consultant.[3][4][5][6][7]



Her first published short story, "Feasting," was selected for the 1983 O. Henry Prize Short Story collection.[8] Her second story, "A Fifty Percent Chance," published in Seventeen magazine in 1982, earned a National Magazine Award.[9] Her first novel, Slow Dancing (Alfred A. Knopf), was a finalist for the 1985 National Book Award[10] and the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize.[11] Her novel Almost, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, was selected as one of Newsweek's Best Fiction of 2001.


Benedict's Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers (Story Press) was first published in 1996. A second edition, published in 2002, was updated to include the new role of the Internet and the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal in writing about sex in fiction The book was also published in the U.K., Germany and Australia[12][13][14][15]

Benedict teaches workshops on writing about sex in fiction at writers' conferences and has appeared on radio shows discussing the issue in the U.S., UK, and Australia.[16][17][18]

The Joy of Writing Sex led The New York Observer to include Benedict on its panel on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, described in Francine Prose's article, "New York Supergals Love That Naughty Prez" Benedict defended then-President Clinton's conduct, saying "Nobody is aggrieved here. Monica's not complaining, Hillary's not complaining. The only person who cares is Ken Starr."[19][20][21] Benedict reaffirmed her defense of Clinton in a retrospective of the scandal on the Slate podcast "Slow Burn", in 2018.[22]

Benedict's first memoir, Rewriting Illness: A View of My Own, an account of her experience with lymphoma, was published in May 2023.[1][23]

In 2024, Benedict published an essay in Salmagundi about her personal correspondence with American writer James Salter, in which Salter discussed his complex feelings about his Jewish identity and decision to change his name from James Horowitz to James Salter. Salter had previously refused to discuss these matters publicly.[24]

Benedict's book reviews, personal essays, and articles have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Salmagundi, Tin House, Daedalus, Harper's Bazaar, Esquire, Real Simple, Allure, The American Prospect, and The Rumpus. Her short fiction and memoir have appeared in Narrative Magazine.[25]

Elizabeth Benedict speaking at Islanders Write in Martha's Vineyard, July 2022


Benedict is the editor of three anthologies. The first, Mentors, Muses and Monsters: 30 Writers on the People who Changed Their Lives (2009, Free Press, Simon & Schuster), was inspired by an essay she wrote for Tin House about her mentor at Barnard, Elizabeth Hardwick.[26] It includes essays by other Barnard alumnae Mary Gordon and Sigrid Nunez. Nunez's essay on Susan Sontag was the inspiration for her 2011 memoir about Sontag, Sempre Susan.[27]

Her second anthology, What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts that Mattered Most (2013 Algonquin Books), was a New York Times Bestseller.[28] Her third, Me, My Hair and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession (2015, Algonquin Books) includes essays by Maria Hinojosa, Marita Golden, and Jane Smiley.


Growing up in New York City has been a noted theme of Benedict's fiction and nonfiction. About her second novel, The Beginner's Book of Dreams, Kirkus Reviews wrote: "Benedict handles Manhattan life, in this case a young girl's exploration of semi-fraudulent Manhattan life, superbly—with the vibrancy of The World of Henry Orient (that underappreciated book by Nora Johnson) or with the emotional dislocations of the better work of John O'Hara and Richard Yates."[29]

Benedict at the 2019 Islander's Write Festival in Martha's Vineyard

Benedict's personal essay, "Murder One: Mad Dog Taborsky and Me" was published in Daedalus in 2008[30] and explored the effect of the murder of her mother's brother on her parents' marriage and her own life. In 1960, Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky was the last man executed in the state of Connecticut until 2005, after being released from death row for the murder of Benedict's uncle. Once released, he committed a series of murders that terrorized central Connecticut in 1956 and 1957.

College essay coaching and teaching[edit]

Benedict is the founder and president of Don't Sweat the Essay, Inc., which focuses on coaching students for college and graduate school application essays. She has written frequently on the subject for Huffington Post.[31][32]

Benedict has been on the fiction faculty of the New York State Summer Writers Institute, at Skidmore College, since 1997[33]


  • Slow Dancing (1985)
  • The Beginner's Book of Dreams (1988)
  • Safe Conduct (1993)
  • The Joy of Writing Sex (1996, revised 2002)
  • Almost (2001)
  • The Practice of Deceit (2005)
  • Rewriting Illness: A View of My Own (2023)
  • Mentors, Muses and Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives (Editor) (2009)
  • What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Writers on the Gifts that Mattered Most (Editor) (2013)
  • Me, My Hair and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession (Editor) (2015)


  1. ^ a b Frank, Joan (May 11, 2023). "Elizabeth Benedict's 'Rewriting Illness' injects tragicomedy into a personal account of cancer diagnosis and treatment". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  2. ^ REWRITING ILLNESS | Kirkus Reviews.
  3. ^ "The Writer's Almanac for Friday, December 20, 2019". Garrison Keillor. December 20, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  4. ^ Birnbaum, Robert (September 20, 2006). "Author Interview: Elizabeth Benedict". Identity Theory. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  5. ^ Baird, Robert. "Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives, edited by Elizabeth Benedict". Bookforum. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  6. ^ Shea, Jack (July 24, 2019). "Getting into College: Guide Elizabeth Benedict advises high schoolers not to 'Sweat the Essay.'". MVTimes. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  7. ^ "Contributor: Elizabeth Benedict". HuffPost. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  8. ^ "The O. Henry Prize Stories". randomhouse.com. December 24, 1999. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  9. ^ "11 NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS PRESENTED BY EDITORS' GROUP". The New York Times. April 25, 1984. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  10. ^ "Elizabeth Benedict". National Book Foundation. December 10, 2015. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  11. ^ "Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist – Awards". LibraryThing. December 24, 1999. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  12. ^ Newman, Remi (September 19, 1996). "Elizabeth Benedict". My City Paper. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  13. ^ "Joy of writing sex". WritersServices. June 4, 2014. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  14. ^ "Review: Book Club – Disgrace". The Guardian. June 14, 2002. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  15. ^ "How to Get It Down" by Glendinning, Vectoria – The Spectator, Vol. 289, Issue 9077, 2002". August 20, 2019. Archived from the original on April 6, 2020. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  16. ^ "Program Listings for Weekend Edition Saturday". NPR. June 8, 1996. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  17. ^ BBC (November 12, 2004). "Radio 4 – Woman's Hour -Joy of Writing Sex". BBC. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  18. ^ "Thursday 06 August 2009". Radio National. August 6, 2009. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  19. ^ McManis, Sam (April 13, 2015). "Sex on the page: Often cringe-worthy, occasionally uplifting". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  20. ^ McCrum, Robert (June 9, 2002). "How to Write a bestseller". The Guardian. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  21. ^ Prose, Francine (February 9, 1998). "New York Supergals Love That Naughty Prez". The New York Observer. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  22. ^ Neyfakh, Leon. "Slow Burn: Bedfellows". Slate. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  23. ^ REWRITING ILLNESS | Kirkus Reviews.
  24. ^ "Guest Column Becoming Unbecoming Jewish". Salmagundi Magazine. Retrieved May 17, 2024.
  25. ^ "Elizabeth Benedict". Narrative Magazine. May 9, 2009. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  26. ^ Benedict, Elizabeth (November 30, 2010). "Magical Meetings". Barnard. Barnard.
  27. ^ Force, Thessaly La (April 4, 2011). "Sigrid Nunez on Susan Sontag". The Paris Review. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  28. ^ "Workman Publishing". Workman Publishing. March 20, 2020. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  29. ^ Benedict, Elizabeth. "The Beginners Book of Dreams". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  30. ^ Benedict, Elizabeth (2008). "Murder One: Mad Dog Taborsky & Me". Daedalus. 137 (3): 115–124. doi:10.1162/daed.2008.137.3.115. JSTOR 40543803. S2CID 57559644.
  31. ^ "Getting into college". The Martha's Vineyard Times. July 24, 2019. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  32. ^ "Contributor Elizabeth Benedict". HuffPost. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  33. ^ "Writers Institute Faculty". Skidmore College. Retrieved April 5, 2020.

External links[edit]