We’re thrilled to have kicked off the 2021 Salon Series with Voice of the New World: Starting Your Story with Tracy Sherrod. The evening featured a welcome from President and Publisher of the HarperOne Group Judith Curr and Author A.J. Verdelle joined for a lively conversation on how to establish a strong voice in your writing!
OPENING LINES: ESTABLISHING VOICE
Write an opening paragraph that communicates the race, class and setting for your main character without saying it outright. Once you’re done, spend the rest of the time revisiting and sharpening your first line only.
TAKEAWAY LINES: THE STORY CONTINUES
Knowing what you know now, write the second paragraph of your story or rewrite the sentence you shared earlier.
Tracy Sherrod is currently the editorial director of Amistad, an esteemed imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Her most recent publications include Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston, The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis, The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty and Defining Moments in Black History by Dick Gregory. She is working with National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson, Man Booker Prize Winner Paul Beatty, astronaut Leland Melvin, attorney Benjamin Crump, comedian Dick Gregory, Emmy Award Winner Steve Harvey, Rakim and many other impressive voices. Prior to joining HarperCollins Sherrod was a senior editor at Simon and Schuster. She has also held editorial positions with Henry Holt and Company, The Feminist Press, Essence magazine and Marie Brown Literary Services. Ms. Sherrod has been featured in many publications—Ebony magazine’s “Thirty Under Thirty” and Publishers Weekly “Young Turks to Keep an Eye On” among them. She has also been profiled or interviewed in Essence magazine, the Village Voice, Black Issues Book Review, Poets & Writers, Uptown Magazine, New York Press, The Source, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and has appeared on Book Span.
A.J. Verdelle is an award-winning writer and teacher. Her debut novel, The Good Negress, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Prize, the Los Angeles Book Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Fiction Award. The Good Negress won multiple national prizes—including the Vursell Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Whiting Award in fiction, and the Bunting Institute fellowship at Harvard University. Verdelle teaches undergraduates at Morgan State University and graduate students in the MFA program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Verdelle will publish a book about memories of her friendship with the great writer, Toni Morrison.