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.


Ellen Sussman and Elizabeth Stark are founders and co-directors of Sonoma County Writers Camp, a fabulous five-day writing retreat in Occidental, California. There will be three sessions in 2020. For more information and registration, go to the SCWC website

April 29 - May 3: Feeding the Muse: how to nurture creativity, spark inspiration and master productivity

August 5 - 9: Talk to Me: voice and POV in fiction and memoir

Sept 30 - Oct 4: Learning from the Masters: Exploring Craft Through Reading and Writing

Published Authors
Ellen Sussman and Elizabeth Stark, both acclaimed authors and writing teachers, have put together a wonderful four-day event. This retreat is held in the gorgeous setting -- gardens, pond, meadow and woods -- of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, just 70 miles from both San Francisco and Oakland. It's 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.

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 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
We limit participation to 24 people, so this will truly be an intimate, individualized emersion in creative writing, from production, to response, to career and life. 

Interested? email

Stanford Continuing Studies

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

Private Classes


Make 2020 the year you write your novel or memoir!

This class, Novel/Memoir in a Year, will offer you guidance, support, craft lessons, deadlines, butt-kicking and a full critique of your novel/memoir at the end of the year.

Here's how it works:

We'll meet at my house in Sebastopol, in Sonoma County, over 5 weekends during the year. (Or, you'll join us via Zoom conferencing from anywhere in the world!) For the first weekend, we'll have class on Saturday morning and on Sunday morning. For the other weekends, we'll have class on Saturday morning and an optional "writing retreat" at my house on Sunday morning. (I offer office hours during the Sunday sessions.) 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 11/12
Mar 21/22
May 16/17
Aug 22/23
Oct 24/25

If you are not available for any of the dates, we can use Zoom conferencing to connect you during class time. I also make a video tape of each class 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 respond to this email and let me know your concerns. I can also give you student testimonials -- I have plenty of those. If you're interested, email me. If I don't know you, tell me a little about yourself and your interest in this class. I hope you'll join me on this fabulous journey!

If you have questions about this, please email me at


In this seminar, we discuss the stories in the Best American Short Stories 2019. Anthony Doerr 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. We'll meet on a Saturday afternoon and then the following Sunday morning for one weekend. Three weekends later we'll do the same. You can take just one section or two or three or all four. (A majority of students do take all four classes.) This class is very popular and fills up quickly! I only take 12 students in each session.

March 28, 1PM - 4PM
March 29, 9AM - noon
April 18, 1PM - 4PM
April 19, 9AM - noon
COST: $100 for each half day session. $400 for all four.
LOCATION: Lisa Friedman's house in Palo Alto.

I'll send directions when you sign up.

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