Tell the world your true story.

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I'm Shelley Sperry, and I run a one-woman writing, editing, and research shop called Sperry Editorial. I'm a Story Grid Certified Editor, specializing in narrative and “big idea” nonfiction. I provide developmental editing services to beginning and mid-career writers using the Story Grid method created by Shawn Coyne. Download my short guide to different types of editing here.

And if you're interested in writing nonfiction, please take a look at my article, "Think Big: Tackling a Big Idea Nonfiction Story." You might also find the downloadable Core Questions Worksheet for Big Idea Books helpful as a starting point. I’m working with several clients right now who are combining memoir and “big idea” stories, which is an exciting challenge. If you’re looking for a great book on the art of memoir, take a look at Marion Roach Smith’s The Memoir Project and her website, which is full of helpful advice and inspiration.

I also work with nonprofit and business clients as a writer, editor, and researcher. Some recent projects include educational posters about the geological wonders of Yellowstone National Parkblog posts about alternative schools; and white papers about worker exploitation, employing military veterans, and strengthening voting rights.

Pounding out a first draft is like hoeing a row of corn – you just keep your head down and concentrate on getting to the end. Revision is where fine art begins.

—Barbara Kingsolver


I offer a range of services to help clients tell better stories, including:

  • developmental editing based on Story Grid principles

  • researching, writing, and editing white papers, press releases, and web content

  • reporting and writing on current events related to education, labor, voting rights, and the environment

  • line editing of completed manuscripts

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What's Story Grid?

The Story Grid is a practical storytellers' toolkit developed by Shawn Coyne, an editor with more than 25 years experience helping writers craft stories that really work. Using Story Grid tools, I'll help you take a look at your book—or initial ideas for a book— to identify the type of story you're telling and to make sure the beginning, middle, and end will satisfy you and your readers. Then we'll dig deeper to analyze individual scenes using the same tools.

To learn more about the Story Grid approach, take a look at some of the most popular articles from Shawn's blog, or listen to the Story Grid podcast. If you enjoy dissecting plots and analyzing themes in films, then definitely subscribe to the Story Grid Roundtable podcast, a weekly deep dive into cinematic storytelling.

Writing about Reading

In 2019, I'll be launching a blog about reading, watching, and writing nonfiction stories. Until then, take a look at my post on the Story Grid site about Tackling a Big Idea Nonfiction Story.

For writers at all stages, I also recommend following Joanna Penn’s podcast and website, The Creative Penn, and reading Jane Friedman’s website and newsletters regularly.



About Me

I'm Shelley Sperry, an editor, writer, and researcher based in Alexandria, Virginia.

For many years, I felt that my writing was dependent on confidence. I remember waiting to feel ready. I remember holding out for my insecurities to ease. Thank God I started writing anyway, with all my self-doubt and apprehension, otherwise I’d still be waiting.

—Hannah Kent


In 2019 I'm working on a Story Grid Guide to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, which will be edited by Shawn Coyne. A sort of extreme version of Cliff's Notes, the Story Grid Guide will help writers understand how Baldwin constructed his groundbreaking book scene-by-scene. I'm also co-writing a parents' guide to alternative education with my sister, the founder of Alt Ed Austin.