The Writer’s Voice (Afternoon)

with Tom Perrotta


Some writers have an unmistakable signature—Joan Didion’s cool detachment, James Baldwin’s oscillation between sadness and anger, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s enchanting lushness, David Sedaris’s unshakeable insistence on the absurdity of life. Other writers are a little subtler in announcing themselves—Alice Munro, Willa Cather, Chekhov, to name a few—but no less distinctive once we get to know them.

Where do these remarkable voices come from? Parts of it must be the product of a writer’s conscious choices—style, tone, esthetic vision, etc.. But other elements are biographically determined—a writer’s race and gender and sexual orientation, the place where they come from, the history they live through. And then beyond that, there’s some kind of artistic alchemy that weaves all these unruly elements together to form a single literary personality.

In this master class, we’ll take a look at some writers with distinctive voices, and try to figure out what makes them unique. We’ll also do some in-class exercises to try to unlock and refine the individuality of our own voices.

In addition, we’ll have a daily workshop, in which we’ll read and critique one another’s work, keeping our focus on the centrality of the writer’s voice while also considering other elements that make for effective writing.  It’s my hope that the class will inspire each of us to sound a little more like ourselves, and a little less like everyone else.

4 Afternoons:  Monday 11/11–Thursday 11/14 | 1:30-4:30pm


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Tom Perrotta is the bestselling author of ten works of fiction, including Election and Little Children, both of which were made into Oscar-nominated films, and The Leftovers, which was adapted into a critically acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning HBO series. His other books include Bad Haircut , The Wishbones , Joe College, The Abstinence Teacher, Nine Inches, Mrs. Fletcher, and his newest, Tracy Flick Can’t Win (Scribner, 2022). His work has been translated into a multitude of languages. Perrotta grew up in New Jersey and lives outside of Boston.