Women’s History Month is a prime time to recognize trailblazing African American women writers. Zora Neale Hurston is one of them. She attended Morgan Academy, which is now Morgan State University, in addition to Howard University. Hurston is considered an anthropologist and one of the most influential writers of the Harlem Renaissance which was known as “a rebirth of African American culture and arts” in Harlem, New York, from the 1910s until the 1930s.

The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation is a D.C.-based nonprofit. It was named after Hurston and Richard Wright, who was another prolific writer.

B. Sharise Moore was named a Hurston/Wright Writer-In-Residence in February of 2023. The Baltimorean explained that she began writing because she was an only child who needed an outlet. Today, Moore is a mother, multi-genre author, former educator, curriculum designer and poetry editor of FIYAH speculative fiction magazine. Moore continues the tradition of celebrating Black culture.

“I didn’t have many friends, but I loved stories. I ate them up. However, none of the stories I read had any Black characters. I wanted to write stories that included Black people. I was about 10 years old when I started writing,” Moore said, reflecting on her childhood. “Stories and books are vital to human existence. They communicate and entertain. They provide lessons and histories that are vital to our existence. Through books, we maintain culture and continue legacy.”

To date, Moore has written collections of poetry, short stories, literature curriculum, novels and picture books. The wordsmith primarily writes fiction for young people. She is crafting a solution to increase awareness of Black books and authors.

“My first goal is to create a database of books by Black authors that target young people in the young adult, middle grade and picture book categories. Then, I’d like to create extension activities for a portion of those books that can be presented to students by educators,” Moore said, mentioning her goals while completing the Hurston/Wright Writer-In-Residence program.

The author also stated that she would like to complete the first few books of a middle grade magical realism series, and a picture book series, centered around Afrofuturism.

Community education activist and businessman Clyde McElvene, in addition to Marita Golden, a writer and educator, founded the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation. Khadijah Ali-Coleman, serves as the nonprofit’s executive director. She added that the mission of the nonprofit is to discover, mentor and honor Black writers.

Khadijah Ali-Coleman
Photo courtesy of Bayou Elom

“Since 1990, the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation has presented writing workshops, classes, public readings, writing competitions, and an awards ceremony—the Legacy Awards—locally and globally,” said Ali-Coleman. “The foundation has established a strong literary community among Black writers for over 30 years.”

Ali-Coleman added that the Writer-in-Residence program debuted in 2022.

“The Hurston/Wright Foundation’s Writer-in-Residence Program aims to provide published Black writers with funding to focus on their writing craft and individual writing projects. This program strives to enable them to make a meaningful impact on emerging Black writers and the community-at-large through workshops and community events,” said Ali-Coleman. “This year, the Hurston/Wright Writer-in-Residence program provides a stipend of $15,000 to two writers who have demonstrated community impact with their work as writers and global citizens. Selected from a pool of two dozen applicants interested in teaching with Hurston/Wright, this year’s 2023 Writers-in-Residence—B. Sharise Moore and Imani Cezanne—were selected based on their record of community engagement as writers, works-in-progress and published works.”

Black writers are also served through the nonprofit in a variety of ways including virtual workshops, in-person workshops and summer workshops. Writers must submit writing samples to request participation in them. Ali-Coleman said that six to 10 writers are admitted into a workshop each summer.

Additionally, Moore will facilitate a virtual workshop for parents and educators from June 26-29, 2023. It is intended for parents and educators who are interested in building engaging literacy learning experiences with books by Black authors that center the experiences of people of African descent.

Moore’s A Peek Into Picture Books: Tips on Writing and Pitching Your Picture Book to Agents virtual workshop will be held from March 8- 22, 2023.

“The course will discuss what it takes to write, edit and pitch a finished manuscript to agents. In this course, we will not only discuss picture book industry trends, but the importance of market analysis before completing and pitching your manuscript,” Moore said.

Visit www.hurstonwright.org to register for a virtual course, or to learn more about in-person workshops and more.

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