Lisa Cooper Ellison
Writer, Editor & Coach
What i do
“The best part of this work has been watching other writers blossom.”
About Lisa Ellison Cooper
Lisa Ellison is a freelance writer, editor, and writing coach. She teaches memoir and the art of story telling at WriterHouse, a nonprofit writing center in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her work and life story are forthcoming or have appeared on NPR’s With Good Reason, and in The New Guard Review, The Kenyon Review, Huffington Post, The Rumpus, The Guardian, and Streetlight, among others.
of their stories one word at a time.
“Lisa has read two manuscripts for me now, one a short piece of narrative nonfiction and one a full-length novel. Her feedback on both was excellent. She provided an overview document with detailed suggestions on the narrative arc, character development, and more. She also provided page-by-page suggestions and line edits on the entire manuscript. I would highly recommend Lisa even to the most experienced writer.”
“Since I’ve known Lisa Ellison (we met at the VQR conference in August 2015), her incisive commentary on my work has been extraordinarily helpful. It’s easy to see from the outset that she’s genuine and generous, and puts those traits to work in everything she does. Apart from the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing, which she is also good at, she got me to see my work in a different way and to imagine new possibilities. What more could you ask for?”
“Lisa is both an accomplished teacher and very talented practitioner of mindful writing. She is a very capable, empathic and insightful writing teacher, who creates and sustains a safe, warm space for students to learn and become successful mindful writers themselves. Lisa is nurturing, attentive and generous — everything one wants in a teacher of such a practice. Students will benefit from her kind, insightful and truly mindful attention, and will grow under her tutelage and guidance.”
Slow Pieces Blog
This summer, I experienced a similar backstory trap as I revised my memoir. Despite everything I tell students and clients, I found myself loading early chapters with backstory about my childhood experiences. The problem had my internal editor on high alert. Every move felt wrong, and yet I continued to scramble around in the past, believing it was all essential.
As I continued to wrestle with this problem, I researched common backstory traps to see which one I’d fallen into.
Every August, I drive to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for one of my favorite writing conferences. Equal parts writer reunion, learning lab, and opportunity to discuss all things creative nonfiction, HippoCamp offers new and established writers a chance to meet and exchange...
Dear Fragile Family,
Your letter contains two questions: Should I write this memoir, and should I publish it?
The answer to your first question is a resounding yes. As Joan Didion says, we write to understand ourselves. If this family pattern is still bothering you, it’s worth understanding. The writing process might shed additional light on your family situation and increase your compassion for them. Over time, the story you’ve always told might evolve. There’s only one way to find out: write it down.
In her Tin House podcast “How to Write a Kickass Essay,” memoirist Ann Hood says we should write like an orphan, especially for the first few drafts. Don’t tell anyone outside your writing group about this project, and definitely don’t show it to anyone else. As you write like an orphan, consider what else you need to tread through this forbidden territory. What messages do you need to counter? What family rules do you need to break? Who can cheer you on and offer support?