Bookseller, Executive Director of Charis Circle, Writing Group Facilitator, Freelance Editor, Novelist, Softball Player, House Remodeler, Cook, Dog Mama.
Sometimes I imagine Elizabeth Anderson as one of those Indian women who walk with perfect grace while balancing great jars of grain, or in this case hats, on their heads. Or a character out of Dr. Seuss, wearing a stack of hats, each piled atop another and coiling snakelike to the rhythm of her steps. Elizabeth’s hats, “All [her] personal and professional interests and passions,” don’t fall off because they are “interconnected—holistic and integrated.” This multi-tasker is my book coach and editor, whom I’ve come to consider a friend.
Since her high school days, Elizabeth has been affiliated with Charis Books and More, a feminist bookstore in Atlanta’s bohemian Little Five Points. For the last seven years, she has run the Charis Circle writing group, Writing with Intent, a “bi-monthly booster shot of encouragement to keep writing, a support group for accountability,” for writers of all levels. This group is an off-shoot of the high school girls group Elizabeth joined—at her mother’s insistence. Soon, she was working at Charis part time opening boxes and running the cash register.
Perhaps, to keep my hat metaphor going, you might imagine Elizabeth wearing a mortar board. While earning her degree from Bard College in New York, she taught writing and ran groups at a juvenile detention center and at halfway houses and group homes. Of this experience she says, “For young people, especially those told their voices don’t matter, writing is an incredibly powerful tool for change…The main thing I saw, over and over again, was kids whose only option for expression was posturing around violence. They had to act tough, mean, not how they were at all…Watching them tell stories was like watching a flower unfurl.”
This same philosophy of giving voice to those kept silent is a hallmark of the feminist movement, which began in the 70s, emphasizing the writing of women and people of color, and children’s literature, all of which had been excluded from the canon of literary legitimacy. Prior to the 70s, classes in American literature did not include writers such as Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty, much less writers of color. Elizabeth calls the publication of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and, later, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple a “game changer.” And Charis, founded 38 years ago, now the oldest feminist bookstore in the nation, embodies Elizabeth’s belief that “writing and literature, even for pleasure, can be tools for personal and political empowerment.”
As of November 1st, Elizabeth has donned a stylish fedora to become the Executive Director of Charis Circle, a 501C3 literary non-profit. Charis Circle is the sister non-profit to Charis Books. Elizabeth is in charge of fundraising, planning, and organizational management, i.e. stewardship, of the long-term visioning for Charis Circle. Check out the Georgia Events page of this blog to see the list of after-hours events that Charis Circle sponsors and which Elizabeth plans, publicizes, and hosts.
See tomorrow’s post to learn about Elizabeth’s career as a freelance editor and to read her advice to aspiring writers. Plus learn about her own WIP, Paradise Park.
Elizabeth has agreed to answer any questions you might have, if you send them within one week of this post. So the deadline for questions will be November 28th. See Comments box to pose your question.