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Best-selling author and fabulous writing teacher Ellen Sussman joins us to talk about conflict–why it matters, why it’s hard to go there on the page, and how to get there. Why do we resist creating conflict in our stories?

What are we afraid of? Vulnerability, danger, melodrama,? We investigate some of the ways in which women, especially, might be socialized to avoid conflict, and the way that impacts our stories. This is an episode about permission and courage. We discuss narrative questions and uncertainty, tension versus conflict–clarifying definitions and nuances and approaches to raising the stakes in your story. We look at the strong relationship between character and conflict, and the necessity of character arc or transformation. Ellen gives us a clear pantser’s perspective on finding your way to character and conflict. That leads us into the pleasures and process a first draft writing, “wallowing in it,” and the long haul of revision, and why for some, it’s the other way around! Angie discusses switching hats from screenwriter to director, and what it teaches you about screenwriting. In the second part of the podcast, we discuss the benefits of writing retreats, and some suggestions for making them powerful, rejuvenating, productive and creative. We started the Sonoma County Writers Camp last year, and based on our experience, we give you some specific tips for making a writing retreat wonderful–and of course, you are invited to join us this May at ours!

Story Makers is a podcast that features in-depth conversations with accomplished writers, filmmakers and industry experts about story craft, technique, habit and survival–everything you need to know to stay inspired, connect to your creativity, find others’ wonderful stories and your own success.

The hosts:

Elizabeth Stark is a published, agented novelist and distributed filmmaker who teaches and mentors writers at

Angie Powers is a distributed filmmaker and published short story writer with an MFA in creative writing and a certificate in screenwriting from UCLA who teaches story structure at