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

Elvedine Wilkerson, retired principal, School District of Philadelphia


Janet Benton and The Word Studio

Benton founded The Word Studio in 1996. She was soon serving major nonprofit clients—including museums, universities, other cultural institutions, and publishers—as well as individual authors. As a writer, editor, and teacher of writing, she helps individuals and organizations craft powerful communications. She has edited, managed projects, and written for many influential projects in Philadelphia’s civic life, including books and documentaries. And she has worked with influential Philadelphia writers and writers throughout the United States and abroad. Individuals working in many fields, from public health to fiction writing, from history to leadership development have come to Janet for help developing and sharpening their projects and skills. Since 2010, she has been focused almost entirely on working with individual authors as a mentor, teacher, and editor. Also in that period, she co-wrote or edited several documentaries.

Benton’s debut novel, Lilli de Jong, was released by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday in 2017 and by Anchor (as a paperback) in 2018. It’s also out in audio book, e-book, large print, and Hebrew editions. Lilli de Jong was chosen as a Best Book 2017 by Library Journal, one of NPR's Best Books of 2017, a Bustle top debut novel of 2017, a Goodreads semifinalist for best historical fiction 2017, and a BookBub top historical novel of 2017. Kirkus Reviews called it a "monumental accomplishment." Her intense, concerted efforts for the year leading up to launch and since its release have increased publicity, reviews, sales, and readership. Since her novel came out in May 2017, she has done over a hundred book events (and counting), and her work vastly increased publicity, reviews, sales, and readership for the novel. To find out about upcoming appearances and much more, see www.janetbentonauthor.com.

Benton is on faculty at the MFA program at Drexel University.

Janet has edited dozens of books, including Don Campbell’s The Mozart Effect, Pam Jenoff’s The Kommandant’s Girl, and Gerda Lerner’s Fireweed, and many of them have won prizes. She has worked as a writer and editor with dozens of organizations, including 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. She served as ambassador for the Authors Guild Regional Chapter in Philadelphia, fostering community and educating writers through public and members-only events

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 wrote and edited alumni publications as associate director of public relations at Hampshire College, then acquired and/or edited nonfiction, fiction, and poetry as associate editor at the University of Massachusetts Press.

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. She is now on the faculty in fiction at the new low-residency MFA program at Drexel University.

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, in Signature Reads. (Read on blog here.)

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 (also see text here).

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

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

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


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.


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, large print, and 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.

“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 of two self-published novels