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Tina McElroy Ansa    

Author

Tina McElroy Ansa is a novelist, publisher, filmmaker, teacher and journalist. But above all, she is a storyteller. She calls herself "part of a long and honored writing tradition, one of those little Southern girls who always knew she wanted to be a writer." She grew up in Middle Georgia in the 1950s hearing her grandfather's stories on the porch of her family home and strangers' stories downtown in her father's juke joint. These tales inspired "Mulberry, Georgia," the mythical world of her four novels, Baby of the Family, Ugly Ways, The Hand I Fan With and You Know Better.

In March 2007, Ansa launched an independent publishing company, DownSouth Press, with a focus on African American literature, both fiction and nonfiction, established and emerging literary voices. Her fifth novel, Taking After Mudear, a sequel to her best-selling Ugly Ways, was the lead title on DownSouth Press's first list in 2008.

Ansa's first novel, Baby of the Family, was named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times, and made the African American Bestseller List for Paperback Fiction. Baby of the Family was chosen by the Georgia Center for the Book as one of the "Top 25 Books Every Georgian Should Read." The book was also awarded The American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults in 1990, and won the 1989 Georgia Authors Series Award. She and her filmmaker husband, JoneƩ Ansa, an American Film Institute Fellow, are currently adapting Baby of the Family for the screen in a feature film starring Alfre Woodard, Loretta Devine, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Vanessa Williams, Todd Bridges, Pam Grier, and Tonea Stewart.

Ansa's second novel, Ugly Ways, was named Best Fiction by The African American Blackboard List in 1994, and also earned Ansa an NAACP Image Award nomination. In 2005, the novel was included in the "Top 25 Books Every Georgian Should Read" by the Georgia Center for the Book. Award-winning actress Alfre Woodard has entered into a partnership with Ansa to bring Ugly Ways to the screen.

The Hand I Fan With, her third novel, is the beautifully erotic love story of "Lena McPherson" and the 100-year old ghost "Herman" she calls up to love and cherish her. The novel was awarded the Georgia Authors Series Award for 1996. Ansa also won this same award for her debut novel, Baby of the Family, and is the only two-time winner of the award.

Her fourth novel, You Know Better, told in the voices of three generations of the "Pines" women, is the story of "LaShawndra Pines," a 19-year-old "hoochie mama" who aspires to dance in the background of a music video. It addresses the contemporary issues and ethos of young people and received a Best Fiction Award from the American Library Association.

In 2005, Ansa was awarded the 2005 Stanley W. Lindberg Award for her body of work and for her contributions to the literary arts community of Georgia. In 2002, she was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent at the Gwendolyn Brooks Center of Chicago State University.

In 2004, Ansa established the Sea Island Writers Retreats on Sapelo Island, Georgia, offering seminars in fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and editing led by published writers and professional editors. The annual retreats seek to assist emerging and established writers in honing their writing skills. In 2006, she extended the retreats throughout the country with the Sea Island Writers Retreats... On the Road.

Together with Dazon Diallo of SisterLove Inc., in the spring of 2006, Ansa launched the South African African American SisterLove Sisters Sharing (SAAASSS) book program that collects sizable numbers of signed books from African American women authors to share with book clubs and organizations of women in South Africa. So far, the SAAASSS program has distributed more than 300 books through this ongoing effort.

Ansa has been a regular contributor to the award-winning television series CBS Sunday Morning with her essays, "Postcards from Georgia." She also writes magazine and newspaper articles, op-ed pieces, and book reviews for The Los Angeles Times, (New York) Newsday, The Atlanta Constitution, and the Florida Times-Union. Her nonfiction work has appeared in Essence, The Crisis Magazine, MS., America Magazine, and Atlanta Magazine.

She was a writer-in-residence at her alma mater Spelman College in Atlanta in the fall of 1990 where she also taught creative writing. In addition to touring for her books and giving lectures, she has presented her work at the Smithsonian's African American Center's Author's Series; the Richard Wright/Zora Neale Hurston Foundation; the PEN/Faulkner Reading Series, and fundraisers at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Schomburg Center, Savannah College of Art and Design, the Rosa Parks Museum, and the PEN American Center. She is on the Advisory Council for the Georgia Center for the Book and on the host committee for the Flannery O'Connor Awards.

Reflecting her concern with the issue of homelessness in this country, she has participated in fundraising events including readings at the SOS-sponsored Writers Harvest at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. She has also volunteered for fundraisers and house buildings for Habitat for Humanity and has read at the Atlanta-based fundraisers for Aid to Children of Imprisoned Mothers.

In 2001, she founded the Good Lil' School Girl Foundation to promote and honor women of color of all ages for their contributions to the arts, community, health, and spiritual growth. She has also established Good Lil' School Girl Book Clubs in grammar, middle, and high schools around the country.

Born in Macon, Georgia, Ansa graduated from Spelman College. Her first job after college was on the copy desk of The Atlanta Constitution, where she was the first black woman to work on the morning newspaper. During her eight years at The Atlanta Constitution, she worked as copy editor, makeup editor, layout editor, entertainment writer, features editor, and news reporter. She also worked as editor and copy editor for The Charlotte (NC) Observer. Since 1982, she has been a freelance journalist, newspaper columnist, and writing workshop instructor at Brunswick College, Emory University, Paine College, Perimeter College, and Spelman College, and has lectured at colleges, libraries, and cultural centers around the country.

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