Ellen teaches fiction writing classes in the San Francisco Bay area and several international locations. Check here regularly for updated schedules, class openings, and registration information.

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Ellen also works one-on-one with writers. If you're looking for a book doctor or a writing coach, or if you'd like a critical evaluation of your manuscript, contact her by email.

Sonoma County Writers Camp

Ellen Sussman and Elizabeth Stark are founders and co-directors of Sonoma County Writers Camp, a fabulous four-day writing retreat in Occidental, California. There will be two sessions in 2017: May 3-7 and August 2-6. For more information and registration, go to the SCWC website

Stanford Continuing Studies

Ellen teaches a one day seminar each semester through Stanford Continuing Studies.
For information and registration:

Private Classes

Here's to a Creative New Year: One Day Class in Berkeley

Join me in Berkeley for a day of inspiration and creativity - a perfect way to start the new year. I'll provide prompts and writing exercises that will help you find new material for stories or novels. You'll learn about story structure and will leave class with a few stories sketched out and ready to roll. You'll learn about character development and will have a few new characters ready to enter your fictional worlds. And you'll play with stylistic choices so that your next stories might take you in new directions. We'll also talk about ways in which you can make the muse more available in this next year - how to nurture and encourage creativity.

This is a perfect holiday gift - for yourself or for someone you know who might be eager to explore writing as a creative outlet. The workshop is appropriate for writers at all levels, from beginning to advanced.

Date: Saturday, January 28
Time: 10 AM - 4 PM
Place: Catherine Hartshorn's house in Berkeley
Cost: $225, lunch included
Interested?: email

Memoir: How to Shape Your Own Story into a Book

You've got a personal story to tell. You're looking for a way to shape it, to turn it into literature. Let's examine that challenging genre, the memoir. How do find the right voice for your story? What's the best structure for it? What do you include in your story and what gets trimmed from the tale? How do you protect your loved ones? How do protect yourself? This seminar will address ways to find and identify material, shape lived experience into written form, share emotional impact with the reader, and make it all dramatic and compelling. Come to class with a vague notion of your story or a rough draft of a manuscript. We'll examine the ways in which you can create a powerful and emotionally engaging memoir. 

Date: Saturday, February 11
Time: 10 AM - 4 PM
Place: Ellen's house in Sebastopol
Cost: $225, lunch included
Interested?: email


I'll offer the BASS class at Myra Strober's house in Palo Alto. (Thank you, Myra!) We'll meet on two Saturdays in March and break each class up into two sections, morning and afternoon. That way you can take just one section or two or three or all four. (A majority of students do take all four classes -- this format might make it easier.) 

In this seminar, we discuss the stories in the Best American Short Stories 2016. Junot Diaz is the editor. For each class we talk about five of the stories in terms of what we, as writers, can learn from these masters. It's a fascinating class -- we learn so much about craft from these conversations. 

So pick a half-day, a full day, or both full-days! Here are the details. 

Date: March 11 and March 18
Time: 9 AM - noon1 PM - 4 PM (you'll be able to get lunch on Stanford campus if you sign up for the full day)
Cost: $90 for each half-day session, $360 for both full days
Location: Myra Strober's house in Palo Alto -- I'll send directions when you sign up
Interested?: email


Make 2017 the year you write your novel or memoir!

We'll meet at my house in Sebastopol, in Sonoma County, over 5 weekends during the year. For the first weekend, we'll have class on Saturday morning and on Sundaymorning, from 10 - 1. For the other weekends, we'll have class on Saturday morning and an optional "writing retreat" at my house on Sunday morning. On the Saturday night of the first weekend, we'll have dinner together, at a local restaurant. For the following weekends, we'll have lunch together, also at local restaurants. (For those of you who want to save the cost of a hotel, you can just come up for the class on Saturday, followed by lunch, and skip theSunday "write-in.") I'll provide you with a list of lodging options (from modest to luxury, airbnb to hotel) and you'll set up your own stay. (cost of lodging and dinner/lunch is not included in the class price.) I'll also provide a list of wineries, restaurants, beaches, etc. for your free time. Or you might choose to write during your free time. I love my new hood and will be delighted to share it with you all!

You begin this class with a vague notion of a novel or a memoir that you'd like to write. In our classes, I talk about each aspect of the process: pre-writing, developing characters, plot, voice and point of view, the problematic middle of a novel, endings, and rewriting. I don't read anything until you hand in your novel or memoir at the end of the year. This class is NOT a workshop -- you don't read other students' work and they don't read yours. This is a year for you to write a novel or memoir, to have a teacher and coach to guide you along the way, and to receive a thorough critique at the end of the year. I give you deadlines and I'm available to help you through the rough spots. I do a lot of cheering from the sidelines. And sometimes I pick up the whip as well. 

The cost is high. The reason for this is mostly the full critique that you receive at the end of the year. I do a line-by-line read and hand back a critique that is usually a 5 - 8 page single spaced document. You'll also meet with me for a private consultation twice during the year, usually at the midpoint and definitely after you receive my critique. I will also offer my help with query letters when you're ready to find an agent, even if that's years after our class has ended.

So: the cost. It's $4,500. Before you gasp, remember that it includes that critique. And you can pay on a three-part installment plan.

I also assign a "writing buddy" to each member of the class. Some students have had great success with this concept -- I know of one team that still meets ten years later. The writing buddies might choose to meet once a week to write at the same time (cafe writing!), they might choose to read each other's work, they might choose just to check in with each other at the end of each week to account for their productivity. I try to match writing buddies who are looking for the same thing.

Class dates:

Jan 14-15
Mar 4-5
June 3-4
Sept 23-24
Nov 11-12

If you are not available for any of the dates, we can use google hangouts or skype to connect you during class time. I also make an audio tape that I can send to you.

The rest of the year I'm available for consultation at any time, through email or phone calls. And of course, through the one on one in-person consultations.

If you have questions about this, please email me at I can also give you student testimonials -- I have plenty of those. 

The first SONOMA COUNTY WRITERS CAMP was a great success. 2017 dates to be announced soon.

I'm thrilled to announce the first annual Sonoma County Writers Camp!

Published Authors
Ellen Sussman and Elizabeth Stark, both acclaimed authors and writing teachers, have put together a wonderful four-day event. Held in the gorgeous setting-gardens, pond, meadow and woods-of theOccidental Arts and Ecology Center, just 70 miles from both San Francisco and Oakland, from Wednesday through Sunday, August 3 - 7, this will be an intimate, inspiring, enormously creative and productive adventure.

Meditative Dream Writing
We will begin each day with an optional "From Where You Dream" writing and meditation space-no talking, just sitting together to write and meditate before breakfast. (Or sleep in-it's your vacation!)

Generative Exercises and Guidance
After breakfast, we will gather in small groups to spend the morning engaged in creative, generative writing. Everyone will have the chance to work with Ellen for two days and with Elizabeth for two days, leaving camp with rich new pages and ideas. This is the perfect opportunity to launch, deepen or finish a project.

After-lunch Craft Talks
Elizabeth will talk on writing from where you dream, screenwriter Angie Powers on the possibilities of structure, and Ellen on how to develop your writing career.

Free Time
Write, read, swim, hike or relax, take a sauna or a hot tub, enjoy the beauty of the retreat.

Agents, Editors and Authors (Oh My!)
Late afternoons will feature special sessions including a Q & A and dinner with agents/ editors looking for new talent and another session and dinner with guest authors publishing in today's industry.

A third special afternoon session will be an open mike that will include on-the-spot, encouraging and specific response to your work from Elizabeth and Ellen.

A first evening welcome party with wine and treats will be followed on subsequent evenings by readings, featuring first Ellen and Elizabeth and then interested students. Dinners will be eaten all together, and will include our guests of the day-agents/ editors, authors, and Ellen and Elizabeth, so we will have the chance for great conversation and connection between faculty and students not always available at larger conferences.

Meals, Lodging and Location
Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided from the amazing gardens and chefs at OAEC-organic, vegetarian and delicious. Accommodations are in the new housing-two people per room with twin beds (that can be made into a single king for couples). There are three single room possibilities at a higher rate. OAEC is a magical, creative spot that we've lucked into as host for our writers camp. One-plus hours from the Bay Area and 15 minutes from the scenic coast. Hot tub, sauna, bathhouse and swimming pond. Trails through gardens and wild lands. Great outdoor living: amphitheater, outdoor dining, decks and a dock on the pond. Here's a visual tour:

Small, Limited Enrollment
For the first year, we are planning to limit participation to 16-24 people, so this will truly be an intimate, individualized emersion in creative writing, from production, to response, to career and life. The total cost,including tuition, housing in a double room, and meals, is $1595. For a single room the total cost will be $1895.

Interested? email

What Ellen's Students Have to Say

“I was an English major and have an MFA in creative writing and after years of workshops, Ellen remains one of my all-time favorite teachers. She has a natural talent for motivating students to write, handling the group critique dynamic, and helping you shape and push a story forward. I always left her classes with a spark of inspiration.” — Lolly Winston, NY Times Bestsellers Good Grief and Happiness Sold Separately

“Why take one of Ellen Sussman's classes? Inspiration. Not enough? How about the kind of criticism that will enable you to find your own voice and move your writing from the pedestrian to the distinctive? You want still another reason? Well, then there's this: with the class comes membership in a writing fellowship that brings both shared excitement and terror. Go for it!” — Keith Raffel, Dot.Dead

“Ellen is a perfect combination of tough coach and head cheerleader. She teaches with deep understanding how a writer stuggles. While creating a warm and welcoming environment, she challenges you to find depth in your work you never knew you could achieve.” — Shelly King, author of The Moment of Everything, coming 2014