Ellen Blum Barish

Ellen Blum Barish
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That memorable moment in your book group. That book list that got you to register for another English lit class in college.

These are the moments that I am going for in my workshops. To resurrect the joy of talking about detail, scene, language, pacing, storyline, structure, theme and voice in writing. What was the author trying to say here? What is the thread? Is there a larger idea? Why did she choose this word over that one? What makes the work sing? Does the metaphor work?

We read a published essay or section of memoir that I send via email link along with a writing prompt. When we gather together, we have a lively discussion of the piece and one or two student-generated works. We talk about what worked and what didn’t and why in a gentle and supported way.

You will be introduced to new writers and learn how to talk about a piece of personal narrative beyond “I loved that” or “That didn’t work for me.” I ask that we say why we feel this way by offering concrete language for discussion (see Ellen’s Eight.) 

My mission is to stimulate, inspire and move you to generate new work.

I’ve taught writing in Chicago-area academic settings since 2004. Northwestern University (where I still teach.) Columbia College Chicago. Oakton Community College. Elmhurst College. North Park University. Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

I’ve taught writing in adult education venues such as Story Studio Chicago, Lighthouse Writers Studio, Lighthouse Lit Fest, Ragdale, Off Campus Writer’s Workshop and New Trier Extension. I’ve taught writing to small private groups in coffeehouses, art studios, library auditoriums, writers group gatherings and residencies, women’s centers, bookstores, professional offices, the back rooms of bars and restaurants, log cabins in the words, in living rooms and online.

I also teach, present and speak on writing topics in Jewish and interfaith settings that have included Chicago Jewish Authors Series, Soul Space Interfaith Retreats, Beth Emet The Free Synagogue, Temple Sholom, and Beth Chaverim synagogues.

Upcoming Workshops & Events


“Writing Reunion.” The Writer’s Room. Single session, online. Friday, February 4, 2022, 1- 4 pm (CT).

“How Can Writers of Trauma Avoid Being Retraumatized?” Story Studio Chicago, single session workshop, online. 6:30 – 8:30 pm (CT.  February 28, 2022.

“Making Art from Life: Writing Personal Narrative for Legacy, Publication or Discovery.” Skokie Public Library. April 6, 2022. 6- 7:30 pm.

“Writing Wrongs.” Lighthouse Lit Fest. Single session, online. Tuesday, June 14, 2:30-4:30 (CT).

Previous Workshops

  • Writing the Lost Loved One
  • Writing as Time Travel: Memory in Memoir
  • Setting the Pace in Creative Nonfiction
  • Leaving a Legacy By Letter
  • Eight Essential Elements of Essay
  • Truth in Memoir
  • Essay as Song: What Essayists Can Learn from the Songwriters
  • One True Sentence
  • Inspiring Sparks for Spiritual Self Care
  • Writing for Personal Discovery: Making Art from Life
  • Life Stories & Legacy
  • Reading and Writing the Personal Essay
  • Writing Wrongs
  • The Power of Personal Narrative
  • Finding Your Writer’s Voice
  • Winter Writing Workshop in the Woods
  • Writing Your Ethical Will: So That Your Values Live On
  • Intermediate/Advanced Memoir & Personal Essay
  • Writing Family Secrets
  • Find Your Story
  • Personal Essay & Memoir
  • Spiritual Journaling Workshop
  • The Craft of the Personal Essay
  • Turning Life Stories into Personal Essays
  • Writing the Personal Essay
  • Writing the Spiritual Essay
  • Writing the Radio Essay
  • Writing about the Body
  • Writing for Personal Discovery


Once I found my voice, it felt important for me to practice using it to inspire and stimulate other people. I am very vocal about encouraging people to tell their story and find their voice across professions and writing levels. 

I’ve spoken at artist retreats, writing studios, library auditoriums, women’s organizations, bookstores, professional offices, the back rooms of bars and restaurants, synagogues, mosques, churches and living rooms on a variety of topics relating to craft, creativity and the writing and publishing process.

  • On publishing two literary magazines and producing literary readings at Inside the Skev
  • On being a freelance writer and writing an essay collection at Northwestern University
  • On publication editing at Columbia College Chicago
  • On writing essays at Ragdale
  • On writing essays and finding one’s voice at Off Campus Writers Workshop
  • On writing alongside of a family life at Writers Workspace
  • On the power of personal narrative and writing wrongs at CG Jung Center
  • On essays and finding your voice at Skokie Public Library and The Women’s Exchange
  • On writing one’s Jewish journey at Beth Chaverim
  • On rediscovering my Jewish soul at Soul Space Interfaith Retreat
  • On caring for the sick at the Muslim Community Center of Morton Grove
  • On being a Jewish woman writer at The Jewish Women’s Center
  • On faith, doubt and interfaith work at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue

If you are looking for a lively and engaging speaker who will inspire an audience on craft, creativity, inspiration or the writing/publishing process, email me today.

“I heard Ellen speak and was so impressed that I asked her if she could help me with some editing and direction with a book. Ellen’s excitement was infectious. I came away with the fuel I needed to press on!”
— Janice Larosa, author of a memoir in progress

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