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 university classrooms, 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.

Upcoming Workshops


Coming in 2021 …

“What Makes a Memoir Spiritual?” Story Studio Chicago. Four sessions. Tuesday evenings from 6:30-9 (CT). February 2, 9, 16, 23, 2021.

“Writing the Lost Loved One” Lighthouse Lit Fest, June 10, 2021, 9-11 am (MT)


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 in university classrooms, 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