Remembering Instructor Shelley Singer

Mark Dahlby  |  November 15, 2022  | 

Longtime instructor Shelley Singer passed away on Thursday, November 10, 2022. Below, founder Mark Dahlby reflects on a work relationship that spans the age of the internet itself.

When sent out an email in 1995, listing its first classes to be offered, Shelley Singer was one of the teachers. She continued teaching for Writers for decades, a resource for her students as she worked to move her students in whatever direction they wanted to go with their writing.

Shelley was an experienced teacher when she joined Writers, and a published novelist. She continued publishing, totaling over a dozen novels. I think that inspired her students, seeing that she could do it, was doing it even with other demands on her time. And I think they knew that her intention to help other writers was genuine; they could relax and trust her direction.

I enjoyed every one of the many conversations we shared over the twenty-four years we worked together. It was talking with a friend, an engaging friend. She had a great sense of humor, always just and accurate, and flavored by Chicago where she’d had a career in Journalism. And where she got to know cops and criminals, corruption and justice or lack thereof, and where she learned to write on deadline. All this helped her as a novelist, and the skills she developed and passed on helped her students.

She was patient and supportive while the school stumbled through various technologies as the early Web, and Writers, grew. I appreciated her steadiness, her calm when there was chaos around some new techno disaster. She had seen much and had been seasoned by the times in which she lived, by the prejudices she witnessed and experienced. But she remained good-hearted throughout. She was the kind of person, you realized soon after getting to know her, who would tell you the truth, and that you could completely trust.

Earlier today I thought about how many students she taught over her career. The number is certainly in the thousands. Those who connected with her often returned. I remember one years-long period during which a group of mystery writers took one of her classes again and again, as a group, writing entire novels as Shelley gave feedback chapter by chapter. She cared.

Many of Shelley’s students’ lives were enriched by knowing her. As was mine.

She gave a lot. And she did a lot of good. I don’t know that there’s a better epitaph.

Mark Dahlby

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  1. Mary C. on November 15, 2022 at 11:17 am

    Shelley Singer was an excellent teacher. I took several of her courses, and know the entire class benefited from her experience, just wit and kind suggestions. Mark Dahlby’s comments ring true. She will indeed be missed. We could all learn from the grace of her light touch.

  2. Jim Beyer on November 15, 2022 at 11:25 am

    I remember taking a class with Shelley I think sometime in the 90s. She was great. I was very saddened to read of her passing, but thank you for the moving epitath.

  3. Beth H. on November 15, 2022 at 12:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing a little bit of Shelly’s history, Mark. I was in Shelly’s writing fiction class – (the last one) 🙁 this fall for the 4th or 5th time (one loses track). I’m so sorry to hear of her passing! Her words of advice and analysis were always useful. We struggled together as a class through yet another electronic platform – Canvas. I’m sorry for her loss to the writing community. I will miss being able to depend on her for feedback and structure. She did good.

  4. A R Kennedy on November 16, 2022 at 2:14 am

    I learned to write from Shelley. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to write my first novel. To date, I’ve written 12 novels. It is all thanks to the strong foundation taught by Shelley.
    My condolences to her family.

  5. Kathy Garland on November 17, 2022 at 2:33 pm

    So sad to hear of Shelley’s passing. What a shock to the writing community. I took her fiction-writing class and learned a lot from her. She was so giving and made a huge difference for her students.

  6. Roxana Trabulsi on March 18, 2023 at 3:50 am

    I just recently emailed Shelley to let her know that the manuscript she edited for me was just released as my debut novel in January. I thought it odd that I hadn’t heard back and found out this sad news when I investigated further. She was so gracious and helpful throughout the time that I worked with her. This is such sad news and such a loss to the writing community. My deepest condolences to Shelley’s family.

  7. Patsy Ford Roberts on August 24, 2023 at 6:59 pm

    Yes, I miss her.
    We ( our group) met at the College of Marin, then Fairfax, then Petaluma, then Bodega Bay in the fog, and again in Petaluma with that beautiful garden and the crows bathing in the fountain.
    All those years, she made me feel fine about my writing. Comfortable and accepted. Thank you Shelley from the bottom of my heart, Patsy

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