with Elise Wiarda

While most of us don’t think of ourselves as poets, in a safe space and with the guidance of a gifted facilitator, we can unleash the poetry that resides within us. The benefits of creative expression as a path to healing are well known. Join us to experience the powerful, mysterious and often surprising gifts that emerge as you listen to poetry, participate in simple exercises to get the juices flowing, and then begin to write.

Our programs are also open to the community and tailored to meet the needs of people affected by cancer. Classes and workshops are free or low cost on a pay-as-you-can basis, ensuring that our programs are accessible to everyone.

Suggested Donation: $20

About Elise Wiarda

Elise Wiarda has been leading the poetry writing sessions, Speaking Our Truth, at Smith Center’s weeklong cancer retreats for many years. You could say that poetry is in her blood. She grew up in the Netherlands. Her mother, who died at the age of 101, knew more than 150 poems by heart in four languages, and read poetry to her children all the time. Elise’s daughter is a published poet and a tenured professor at Barnard. Elise has a long history in the art world, and for the past thirty years has been a mind/body therapist. She has a private practice in her home in Cabin John.

With Susi Wyss

Led by a therapeutic writing facilitator, this session is designed for people living with or affected by illness. Tap into the healing benefits of writing using prompts and other exercises in a playful and supportive environment. No writing experience necessary, just an open mind.

All materials will be provided, but you are welcome to bring any journals or notebooks that you would like to use.

About Susi Wyss

Susi Wyss was born in Washington, D.C. to Swiss parents. When she turned seven, her family relocated to Abidjan, Ivory Coast for three years—a period that would have a lasting impact on her view of the world.

After graduating from Vassar College, Susi pursued a career in international health, hoping she could make a positive difference in places like the ones she’d seen as a child. She earned a master’s degree in public health from Boston University and joined the Peace Corps, working on a child survival project in the Central African Republic. For the next 16 years, she visited and worked in more than a dozen African countries, eventually living for another three years in Abidjan. It was during this second stint in the Ivory Coast that she began writing fiction, much of it inspired by people she’d met, stories she’d heard, and experiences she’d had in Africa.

Upon her return to the U.S., while continuing her work in international health, Susi earned a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University. She subsequently took a two-year sabbatical to write The Civilized World, a novel-in-stories set in Africa that was published by Henry Holt in April 2011.

Since completing her debut book, Susi has been working on a second novel while also working as an editor at Jhpiego, a Baltimore-based international health organization. Her stories, including several from The Civilized World, have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Bellevue Literary ReviewBellingham Review, and The Massachusetts Review. She has served as an associate editor for the Potomac Review, and her writing has been recognized by awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

with Susi Wyss

Writing can be a wonderful tool for self-inquiry and reflection, thereby promoting wellness, healing, and a greater sense of wholeness. This workshop uses writing prompts and other exercises to delve into the self and tap into the subconscious. Join others in a supportive environment to collectively and individually explore the healing benefits of writing. All materials are provided.

Our programs are open to the community, and tailored to meet the needs of people affected by cancer. Classes and workshops are free or low cost on a pay-as-you-can basis, ensuring that our programs are accessible to everyone.

Suggested donation: $20

About Susi Wyss
Susi Wyss Writing Out the Storm Facilitator Smith Center

Susi Wyss is a public health professional, author, and therapeutic writing facilitator. Her public health career has spanned more than 25 years, most of it addressing women’s health in Africa. The author of The Civilized World, a novel set in Africa that was named “A Book to Pick Up Now” by Oprah Magazine, Susi’s writing has twice been recognized by awards from the Maryland State Arts Council. In addition to maintaining her own lifelong journaling practice, she has led writing and journaling workshops at the DC Rape Crisis Center and at Crossings Healing & Wellness in Silver Spring.