“Her workshops have been the best
learning experiences I’ve ever had.”


Janet Benton and The Word Studio

After earning a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College, Benton began her career in publishing as a full-time intern at Ms. Magazine and The New York Beat. She went on to become news editor at the Brooklyn Heights Press, then assistant editor at Working Woman Magazine. She earned an MFA in English/fiction writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst while teaching writing courses at the university, working as associate director of the Cummington Community of the Arts, and managing a scholarly journal on nineteenth-century women writers.

After graduation, Benton had some wonderful jobs: writing and editing alumni publications as Associate Director of P.R. at Hampshire College, then acquiring and editing nonfiction and fiction as associate editor at the University of Massachusetts Press. In 1996 she began an editorial business that was soon serving major nonprofit clients—including museums and universities—as well as individual authors. Since moving to Philadelphia in 1997, she has edited, managed projects, and written for many influential projects in Philadelphia’s civic life. Clients have included History Making Productions, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the National Constitution Center, Eisenhower Fellowships, Eden Foods, Mambo Sprouts Marketing, Open Society Foundations, The Reinvestment Fund, the Next Great City Coalition, Focus on the Health of Women, and Penn Praxis at the University of Pennsylvania. She has co-written and edited documentaries on Philadelphia history and helped to form a series on women’s history. Since 2010, her primary focus has been working with fiction and nonfiction writers as a teacher and mentor.

Benton has taught creative writing, editing, grammar, and/or composition at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the University of California, Davis; the University of the Arts; and Temple University’s continuing studies program. She has taught private fiction workshops since 1999 and teaches regularly at conferences, libraries, and other venues.

Her historical novel, Lilli de Jong, came out from Nan A. Talese/Doubleday in 2017 and was called a “monumental accomplishment” by Kirkus Reviews. Since her novel came out in May 2017, she has done over a hundred book events (and counting). To find out about upcoming appearances, see the Events tab at her author website.

Benton has been awarded academic-merit fellowships, fiction awards, and a two-month residency at the writers’ colony Hedgebrook.


Selected Nonfiction

ESSAY, “What Makes a Story ‘Big’ or ‘Small’?” July 13, 2018, on Signature Reads.

ESSAY, “7 Works of Historical Fiction That Changed Me,” July 13, 2018, on Knopf Doubleday Reading Group Center.

ESSAY, “Stories Have Made Me Who I Am,” July 9, 2018, on Read Her Like an Open Book.

ESSAY, “The Power of a Diary,” May 16, 2017, on Read Her Like an Open Book.

Essay, “In storytelling, finding joy and understanding” (The Weight of a Story), Sunday Commentary section, March 19, 2017, in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

ESSAY on how sensory data makes readers keep reading, May 18, 2017, in Signature: Making Well-Read Sense of the World.

ESSAY, “In the Name of Fairness, Don’t Erase Women’s History,” March 20, 2016, Philadelphia Inquirer.

ESSAY, “A Feminist’s Daughter Finds Love in the Kitchen,” October 6, 2013. Read in the New York Times.


Selected Fiction

Debut novel Lilli de Jong, the diary of an unwed Quaker mother in 1883 Philadelphia who decides to try to keep her baby, published by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday in May 2017. Out in audio book, e-book, and large print. Paperback released by Anchor in July 2018.

A story published in 2013 in the online magazine Switchback, “Instructions for Failure,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, as was “For Objects Do Sustain” in 2014 by the Green Hills Literary Lantern. “The Reason I’m Here” appeared in the winter 2013 issue of The Tulane Review.


Documentary Films

DOCUMENTARY, script co-writer for “Promise for a Better City (1944-1964).” Episode 3 in the series Philadelphia: The Great Experiment. Aired on 6ABC.

DOCUMENTARY, script editor and team member for “Fever: 1793.” Episode 2 in the series Philadelphia: The Great Experiment. Aired on 6ABC. Winner of three Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards.

More on Documentary Work >>*need to enable page for link to work

“Janet is a miracle worker. She’s teaching me about writing and editing and cheering me on through the whole process.”
— Rebecca Matthias, author of Motherswork: How a Young Mother Started a Business on a Shoestring and Built It into Multi-Million Dollar Company and author of two self-published novels