Writer, Editor & Coach
about 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 New Guard Review, The Kenyon Review, Huffington Post, The Rumpus, The Guardian, and Streetlight, among others (see publications). The HeartSpeak Columnist for the Moving Forewords Memoir Collective, Lisa is currently working on Lucky Me, a memoir 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.
What I care about
- 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.
Awards & Accolades
T.A. for Megham Daum during the 2019 Writer’s Hotel Conference
2018 Michagonne Fiction Contest Finalist
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 Gutkind, Kevin Haworth, Paul Griner, Jeffrey Skinner, Dinty Moore, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Sharron Harrigan, Elyssa East, Rob Spillman, Meghan Daum, Robert Hoffman, and Allison K. Williams.