About lisa

Writer, Editor & Coach

about lisa cooper ellison

Lisa Cooper Ellison

Lisa Ellison is a freelance writer, editor, and writing coach. She teaches classes in memoir,  the art of storytelling, and experiential seminars at WriterHouse, a nonprofit writing center in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her work and life story have appeared or are forthcoming on NPR’s With Good Reason, The Kenyon Review,  Huffington PostThe RumpusThe GuardianStreetlightGravel Literary Journal, The Rusty Nail, Charlottesville Family, and The Healthy Living Directory. She is currently working on two memoir projects. In the Land of  Flood and Slaughter is a coming-of-age memoir about believing you’ve escaped a fate only to have it find you. Lucky Me is about traveling with a heavy metal band into a country that committed genocide and finding will to live after her brother’s suicide.

Before choosing to work as a freelance writer and editor, I spent eleven years in the helping professions—first as a special education teacher and then as a mental health counselor. While working in those fields, I developed strong active listening skills and helped clients revise their personal narratives and connect with their creativity. During that time, I wrote in the evenings, attended graduate-level MFA courses in fiction, and opted for professional assignments that furthered my growth as a writer.

In 2014, I took the plunge and started working on a memoir. As that project took shape, I also wrote freelance articles and personal essays for magazines and journals. I facilitated mindfulness-based writing groups and provided developmental editing for writers. Eventually, this led to my work as an instructor and writing coach.

John Irving writes, “Half my life is an act of revision.” For many people, that period of revision is a lonely one. That’s why I firmly believe in the power of creative support. For me, the best part of being an editor, coach, and facilitator has been watching other writers blossom.


Work with Lisa

Send me an email:

“Helping others harness the power of their personal stories is my passion.”

What I care about

In his book The Mindful Writer, Dinty Moore introduces us to the four noble truths of the writing life:

  • The writing life is difficult, full of disappointment, and dissatisfaction.
  • Much of this dissatisfaction comes from the ego, from our insistence on controlling both the process of writing and how the world reacts to what we have written.
  • There is a way to lessen the disappointment and dissatisfaction and to live a more fruitful writing life.
  • The way to accomplish this is to make both the practice of writing and the work itself less about ourselves. To thrive, we must be mindful of our motives and our attachment to desired outcomes.

As a writer myself, I experience this tension between my desire to create art that satisfies my ego and my desire to do something that’s for the greater good. I’ve found the greatest antidote to the ego is community. When we discuss our creative lives with others, we have the power to create works that transcend our meager existences. I care about helping other writers confront and accept these truths while they learn to own the power of their stories and turn lived experiences into art. I do this through nonjudgemental acceptance of the writer and their work, the use of mindfulness and other techniques designed to slow writers minds down enough to hear their inner truths, and instruction in the craft of storytelling.

professional organizations

Awards & Accolades

• T.A. for the 2019 Writer’s Hotel Conference

Honorable Mention in the Cville Weekly Fiction Contest
• WriterHouse Scholar and selected reader at the 2015 Virginia Quarterly Review Conference
• Helen Mercedes Rosebury Creative Writing Award

Recent Editing Projects

  • Developmental edits for books on leadership, mental health, and memoir, as well as personal essays.
  • Manuscript evaluations in fiction, memoir, personal essay, and nonfiction 
  • Coaching clients on topics including book, essay, and story structure,  how to maintain motivation during long projects, creating and maintaining a schedule for book-length projects, query letters, pitching to agents.
  • Developmental and copy editing for a behavioral health program policies and procedures manual at the Charlottesville Free Clinic
  • Co-editor for the Central Valley Counselors Association (CVCA) newsletter (2009 – 2012)
  • Updated and improved the 5-county 2010 Comprehensive Directory of Mental Health Services, published by James Madison University, and created an online version of this publication to increase access and improve use

Education & Professional Development

  • 2018 The Writer’s Hotel Conference attendee, returning in 2019 as a program T.A.
  • 2017 & 2018 HIppocamp Conference
  • 2017 AWP Conference attendee and tabling volunteer for Virginia Quarterly Review
    Writer House: Year-long MFA Courses in Memoir (2015 & 2016)
  • 2015 & 2016 Creative Nonfiction Conference
  • 2015 Virgnia Quarterly Review Conference: partial tuition scholarship, selected reader
  • James Madison University: Ed.S Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Spalding University: M.A.T. Learning and Behavior Disorders
  • University of Louisville: B.A. English Literature and Creative Writing, summa cum laudeI’ve had the privilege of studying under the following writers: Lee GutkindKevin HaworthPaul GrinerJeffrey SkinnerDinty MooreRachel Kaadzi GhansahSharron Harrigan, Elyssa East, Rob Spillman, Meghan Daum, and Allison K. Williams.


When we discuss our creative lives with others, we have the power to create works that transcend our meager existences.

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