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One of the most effective ways in prose to, as Susan Sontag says, “preserve the works of the mind against oblivion,” is to craft a distinctive voice. Voice is made up of qualities that include diction and structural choices, syntactical usage, and a mindfulness of the acoustics of language. This craft lecture will present philosophies on voice and some of the rhetorical tools used to compose a remarkable one. It will include examples of those tools from published excerpts, as well as guide participants through a critique of those examples. The lecture will conclude with an exercise designed to challenge participants to employ some of the strategies covered.
Mitchell S. Jackson’s debut novel The Residue Years (Bloomsbury) received wide critical praise. Jackson is the winner of a Whiting Award. His novel also won The Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence and was a finalist for The Center for Fiction Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the PEN / Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, and the Hurston / Wright Legacy Award. Jackson’s honors include fellowships from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center, the Lannan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, PEN America, TED, NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts), and The Center for Fiction. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, The Guardian, Time Magazine, and elsewhere. His nonfiction book Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (Scribner) was published in the spring of 2019. He is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Chicago.
Jackson is also a well-regarded speaker who has delivered lectures and keynote addresses at events including the annual TED Conference, the Ubud (Bali) Writers and Readers Festival, and the Sydney Writers’ Festival, as well as institutions including Yale University, Brown University, Cornell University, and Columbia University. A formerly incarcerated person, Jackson is also a l justice advocate who, as part of his efforts, visits prisons and youth facilities in the United States and abroad.