Writing Circle Workshop: Writing for Happiness, Healing, and Health

with Susan Vespoli

writing for happiness healing and health

January 6, 2021 | 8 Weeks |

$395.00

Want to figure out a way to live a happier life, heal emotionally and/or physically from illness or loss, self-reflect for better understanding of past events, and channel your challenges into art? Pick up a pen and paper or open your laptop, because expressive writing can do all of the above: studies have proven that it can enhance memory, lead to insight and positivity, amp the immune system, soothe mood disorders, and spark some powerful writing.

Transformation can occur when writers tell their stories through poetry or prose. Write. Reframe. Rewrite. Understand.

In this class, we will:

  • Gather for two virtual writing circles each week on Zoom (Mondays and Saturdays — see time below).
  • Build a writing practice and community through the writing circles.
  • Learn and practice tools for writing expressively.
  • Learn ways writing impacts happiness, healing, and health.
  • Explore the work of writers and artists who have healed through their words and art.
  • Practice turning raw writing-circle fodder into finished poems or short essays.
  • Write poems and/or short essays in response to assignments/lessons/suggestions offered weekly on the class page.

At the end of eight weeks, you will come away with up to eight poems or short essays, the experience of writing in community during twice-weekly writing circles, and a better understanding of how writing can lead you toward wellness.

This is a terrific course, especially if you are looking for a safe, open forum to simply write and write and write!
—John Johnson

Writing Circle Times

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

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

Recommended – not required – Texts

Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg

The Story You Need to Tell by Sandra Marinella, MA, MEd

The Practicing Poet – Writing Beyond the Basics edited by Diane Lockward

Syllabus

Week One

Get on the bus! Taking a class is both a solo and group journey. We’ll be traveling together for eight weeks, so getting to know each other and forming a classroom community are key. In week one, we’ll cover etiquette and agreements for writing in a group and sharing our work. We’ll introduce ourselves, discuss our goals, and embark on our writing adventure. Week One Poetry/Essay Focus: Discover New Material.

Week Two

Get it out! Expressive writing is a valuable tool for getting the stories out of one’s head and onto the page. In week two, we’ll discuss scientific research that supports the healing potential of writing, discuss stream-of-consciousness messy writing, solo and group journaling, and writing from the “I.” We’ll also explore finding the best words to use. Week Two Poetry/Essay Focus: Find the Best Words.

Week Three

Why did they write it? In week three, we’ll explore how other writers and artists used their writing and art to heal. Poet Dorianne Laux said, “We’re all singing out of a wound, and that’s where our song comes from. The wound is singing. We’re singing back to those who’ve been wounded.” Week Three Poetry/Essay Focus: Make Music.

Week Four

What didn’t you know? What did the “old you” have no clue about until you experienced it? Becoming a parent? Getting divorced? Serving in the military? Surviving a hurricane? We’ll gather inspiration from professional essays, our own photos, memories, and brainstorm through journaling and writing circle. Week Four Poetry/Essay Focus: Craft Surprise.

Week Five

How do we deal with feelings on the page? In writing circle, we let them bubble up without any editing. This is where the insight and fresh views come from. If we want to transfer these wild words into poems or short essays for others to read, there are craft tips to use. Week Five Poetry/Essay Focus: Deal With Feelings.

Week Six

Time for a do-over. If you could rewrite a chapter of your life with a totally different outcome, what would it be? Here’s your chance to change your story by giving it another ending. We’ll also experiment with slipping into the observer’s role by writing in third-person point-of-view or penning the story from another character’s point of view. Week Six Poetry/Essay Focus: Transform Your Poem/Story.

Week Seven

One day everything changed! When has your life flipped on a dime? What major and minor turning points have you had in your life? Were these of your making or totally unexpected? In week seven, we will explore these forks in the road. Week Seven Poetry/Essay Focus: Achieve Tone.

Week Eight

Onward! What gifts, strengths, lessons have come from the obstacles? In our final week, we will tally the positives that came from the negatives, look at tools and tips to keep moving your writing practice forward, delve into the world of publishing, and write and workshop a final poem/short essay. Week Eight Poetry/Essay Focus: Revise and Rethink.

Questions about the course content? Contact instructor directly.
Learn more about how our courses work here, and contact us with any other questions.

Student Comments

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

About Susan Vespoli

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) 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.