Writing Circle Workshop: A Focus on Eight Contemporary Poets (Section 2)

with Susan Vespoli

writing circle workshop a focus on eight contemporary poets

Want to gather to write twice a week in the community of a writing circle? In this eight-week class, we will meet on Zoom twice a week to free-write, read and witness for classmates, fill journals with raw material to use in our own poems or short essays, while studying eight contemporary poets/essayists to model after and let their work influence our own writing.

On Zoom, we will:

  • Gather together in two writing circles on Zoom every week (Tuesdays and Saturdays). During each 90-minute circle, we will write as quickly as we can in time bursts (usually 10 to 12 minutes each) in response to creative writing prompts.
  • Witness and support each other in our writing practices.
  • This process is not only freeing and community building; it is also a way to tap into the untamed mind to find poems/essays just waiting to be written.

On the Class Site, we will:

  • Study a contemporary poet/writer each week. How have their life paths influenced their writing? What can we learn from them to use in our own writing?
  • Learn to sift through pages of raw writing to find the snippets that can be turned into poems or short essays.
  • Write a poem or short essay each week in response to assignments throughout the course.
  • Give and receive feedback on posted poems and short essays.

Whether you’re a seasoned poet looking for a way to deepen your poems, an essayist or free-write enthusiast, or anyone looking for an intimate writing community, this writing course is for you.

Zoom Video Class Schedule

Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time

Saturdays at 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m Pacific Time

Please note: This is a second, concurrent session of the course. If you have already enrolled, it may be in a session with Zoom meetings on Mondays and Fridays.

Susan created a very safe experience for all of us. She’s a fantastic facilitator.
—Andi Reed

Course Syllabus

Week One—Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye (born 1952) is an award-winning poet, songwriter, and fiction writer. The daughter of a Palestinian-refugee father and an American born mother, she spent her teen years in both Jerusalem and Texas.

Week Two—Billy Collins

Billy Collins (born in 1941) is an American poet who served as United States Poet Laureate for several years. He is well known for his conversational poems and sense of humor.

Week Three—Ellen Bass

Ellen Bass (born 1947) is an award-winning American poet and author of multiple poetry books and works of prose. She teaches poetry in Pacific University’s MFA program.

Week Four—Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown (born 1976) is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet who was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Week Five—Alison Luterman

Alison Luterman is poet, playwright, essayist, teacher, coach and improvisor. She has written multiple books of poetry and currently resides in Oakland, CA.

Week Six—Matthew Dickman

Matthew Dickman (born 1975) is an American poet, Guggenheim Fellow, and twin brother to Michael Dickman, also a poet.

Week Seven—Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz (born 1978) is a Pulitzer Prize winner, Latina and Mojave American poet, who was once a professional basketball player. She teaches as an Associate Professor at ASU.

Week Eight—Matthew Olzmann

Matthew Olzmann is an award winning poet who was born in Detroit, Michigan. He writes dazzling, humorous, and deep poetry, and currently teaches at Dartmouth, and the MFA program at Warren Wilson College.

Why Join a Writing Circle through Writers.com?

  • We welcome writers of all backgrounds and experience levels, and we are here for one reason: to support you on your writing journey.
  • Small groups keep our online writing classes lively and intimate.
  • Work through your weekly written lectures, course materials, and writing assignments at your own pace.
  • Share and discuss your work with classmates in a supportive class environment.
  • Award-winning instructor Susan Vespoli will offer you direct, personal feedback and suggestions on every assignment you submit.

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Student Feedback for Susan Vespoli:

The weekly meets up have been a blessing in these unusual times. I have felt lifted after every session. It's incredible to participate in a creative space that is encouraging and kind. Natalia Evans

Susan is inspirational--positive, thoughtful, and always willing to help. She is not just a teacher, but also a peer and a fellow writer guiding the class through the journey. John Johnson

Susan Vespoli is a wonderful teacher/facilitator. She creates a safe space for each group, gives us realistic timed writings with soft landings, and makes sure that no one is ever left out from reading. Most all of us show up for the twice-a-week group, and as the days go by, our writing gets deeper into meaning. We truly end each session not just knowing each other better, but with a deep caring toward each other. This is my fourth group in the circle with Susan, and I hope there will be many more to come. Andrea Gordon

Really great writing circle. Lovely group of writers, great feedback given and received, and a wonderful experience writing together. Made me realize the importance of a good writing community. Susan's writing circles are a gift. I learned so much from everyone, and am immensely grateful for the opportunity to write with this group. Amy Smith

Susan's class was a joy. It was well organized and interesting. Susan is a caring and very invested teacher. She was very present all during the class and her feedback was well thought and helpful. Ariela Zucker

I started taking Susan’s classes almost 2 years ago and never stopped.What a blessing for my writing and my mental health. Her writing circles are a place to let loose and get creative. She does an excellent job of making it a safe space to share. Wild writing has been pivotal for me as a writer. It is where I come up with new material for poems and prose, and has also grown into a spiritual practice. I have grown so much as a poet from Susan’s feedback and encouragement. Ten out of ten, highly recommended to take again and againDean Angeles

This was my first writing circle course; I've been dabbling in poetry for a while now but had not interacted with others in this sort of setting. Susan created a welcoming, open environment for all of the students and chose some terrific poems as prompts. I am now inspired to go to the next level and workshop my poems rather than just writing from prompts. Tom Kerr

Excellent. The whole class—teacher and fellow writers—are so supportive and encouraging. Cheryl Treiber-Kawaoka

This is my favorite of the three courses I've taken with Writers.com. The Zoom writing circles were incredibly powerful. Susan is a great facilitator. She was always timely in feedback and had a well organized course that was easy to navigate. Tamara Kreutz

Susan is a truly gifted teacher, whose presence and generous spirit create a safe environment in which to write and share freely. I appreciate her openness, the lack of judgement, and her willingness always to share her own writing. Lovely circle! Sarah Putnam

Susan was lovely and responded in a timely manner. She gave detailed feedback... The content of this class was PERFECT. Lessette F. Altamiranda.

Susan brought together a group of strangers from all walks of life and all points on the continent, and under her calm and insightful leadership encouraged us to find our own writing styles, speak our own truths, and support each other as a community. Jennifer Burton

Susan's feedback and promptness were very professional. Her lessons are packed with information and ideas.  And, after the class was completed, she kept the site open for additional time to finish assignments, which I greatly appreciated. I look forward to interacting with her in another class! Joan Connor

This was a terrific class. The lessons were well-organized and stimulating. They had excellent "lectures" and plenty of additional resources and ideas. I will be able to refer back to them for inspiration for months. Susan was a thoughtful and resourceful teacher. She was able to nurture an especially lively and collegial relationship among the class, as we discussed the lessons and responded to each other's writing. Please encourage Susan to offer this class again! Marge Osborn

I have taken a number of courses at Writers.com and I have always found the teachers did a good job. My all- time favorite teacher is Susan Vespoli. She did an excellent job of providing readings that set a creative tone and she chose excellent prompts. She assured us that it was not necessary to use what she provided. I appreciated the manner in which she responded to our shares. At no time did I feel that I was taking a risk in reading what I wrote because Susan had created such a safe place. Jane Knox

Taking Susan’s workshop helps me generate tons of ideas for my fiction writing. It also helps me write regularly. I cannot wait to join her next session. Sharon Mirza

The writing circles on Zoom have been my favorite part of this class. Being able to write at scheduled times rather than around the clock really helps me to set writing dates and to write with others. Also, I like the spontaneous nature of the writing on Zoom meetings, and being able to see and hear the other students and the teacher. Noa Granot

This class was amazing! Susan did a fantastic job with the curriculum and with keeping the group moving with discussion and encouragement. Susan created a very safe experience for all of us. She's a fantastic facilitator - providing poems and lines from those poems that somehow really tap into things for me. Andi Reed

Susan Vespoli headshot


Susan Vespoli learned early on that writing is a tool to stay sane, not to mention healthy. For years, she owned and ran a Montessori school where she taught young kids, but after a mid-life wakeup call, she sold everything, moved to a cabin in the forest, and set off to earn her MFA in poetry and nonfiction from Antioch University Los Angeles.

Since 2010, she’s taught adults: creative writing summer courses online through Prescott College, English classes in-person at Maricopa Community Colleges, and has led Wild Writing circles. Her poems and essays have been published or are forthcoming in spots such as Rattle, Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, Mom Egg Review, Nailed Magazine, Emrys Journal, Write Bloody, New Verse News, OVS Magazine, Verse Wisconsin, Role Reboot, and Pact Press.  She’s received three Pushcart Prize nominations for her poetry and is the author of Blame It on the Serpent (Finishing Line Press, January 2022), Cactus as Bad Boy (Kelsay Books, July 2022), One of Them Was Mine (Kelsay Books, 2023) and two chapbooks by dancing girl press.

Since Susan is a devout believer in the power of writing to heal/transform/illuminate, she practices what she preaches with daily morning pages a la the Julia Cameron Artist-Way technique and attends as many classes and workshops in writing as she can. She was trained as a Wild Writing teacher by Laurie Wagner of 27 Powers. She lives in Phoenix, AZ with her three poetic rescue dogs, Frida, Sasha, and Lulu.