“Reading and Writing the Personal Essay” (Eight Weeks)

Private workshop in Skokie. Ongoing. March 6 – May 1, 2019; Wednesday afternoons, 1-3 pm. For more information, email Ellen at

“Essay as Song: What the Essayists Can Learn from the Songwriters” (Single Session)

That song that’s in your head – the one that is sticking with you because of its melody or key lines – is a lot like a short, well-crafted essay. A song’s intro or hook, pre-chorus, verse, chorus, refrain, bridge and outro mixed with the elements of essay  – scene, detail, language, pacing, storyline, voice and theme – can provide structures for powerful personal essays. Music and essay share the knack of saying a lot with very little. There are seven notes in music’s language arsenal and but millions of key signatures, chords, melodies, rhythms and harmonies. The same is true for what writers can do with the 26 letters in our alphabet. In this single-session class, we’ll look at songs that illustrate this song-essay link well and talk about ways they can offer fresh architectural blueprints for your essays under construction.  Ellen Blum Barish will guide participants through the elements of song that translate well to essay and can make essays more passionate and poignant. This class will include close readings – and listening – of song and essays, a craft discussion and Q & A.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019; 6:30-9 pm at StoryStudio Chicago.

“Writing for Self Discovery: Making Art from Life”

In this five-week workshop, we will read selections from published essays and memoirs and discuss how these reflect the writer’s life. Using writing prompts and gentle, encouraging feedback, we’ll find out how to do this on our own. This workshop is designed to inspire beginning writers and those returning to the page after a long break.

April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, 2019; Five sessions. Ice House Gallery. Monday evenings from 6:15 – 8:45 pm.


Looking for a lively speaker with engaging content on writing to present at your next event? Let’s talk about ways I can inspire your audience to write from their lives, whether it’s getting started, keeping it going or knowing when the work is done.

I have presented interactive presentations, workshops and courses at Northwestern University, North Park University, Dominican Universities, Columbia College Chicago, Elmhurst College and Oakton Community College and The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

I have also facilitated workshops presentations at Story Studio Chicago, Off Campus Writers Workshop, Ragdale, Lighthouse Writers Studio, The Women’s Exchange, Writers Workspace, New Trier Extension, Skokie Public Library and Beth Emet The Free Synagogue.

Topics have included:

“Writing for Personal Discovery: Making Art from Life”

“The Power of Personal Narrative”

“Identifying Your Writer’s Voice”

“Reading and Writing the Personal Essay”

“Writing What Matters Most”

“So That Your Values Live On: Writing Your Ethical Will”

“Writing the Spiritual Essay”

“Writing Family Secrets”

I am also happy to customize a presentation for your group’s unique interests. Email me at so that we can schedule a time to talk about it!



Want to learn more about how you can benefit from one-to-one writing coaching?  See the Coaching page of this site or email me at


Winter Writing Workshop in the Woods, Glencoe

Saturday, January 14, 2017

“Mamapalooza” at Bookends & Beginnings Bookstore, Evanston, Illinois, May 8, 2016  with authors Michele Weldon and Nina Barrett

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Chicago Jewish Authors Series at Max & Benny’s, February 2015



Thread: The Live Lit Reading Series, April 2016

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Story Sessions at The City Winery, October 2015


Story Sessions, July 2014

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“Stories from the House of Truth,” Beth Emet The Free Synagogue, June 18, 2015


Story Sessions photos by Jill Howe