Anna Caroline Harris ’07 was first introduced to Converse when a TV show described Converse College as ‘the Vassar of the South.’ Anna’s mother was so impressed by this reference to one of the most exclusive and highly regarded colleges in New York, that she encouraged Anna to consider Converse College. Anna visited our campus in her junior year of high school, and though uncertain about what she would be pursuing academically, she knew Converse was the college for her. “I fell in love with the campus and the people, Anna said. “The community acted as though they wanted me there and that genuine encouragement meant the world to me.
During her sophomore year at Converse, Anna began to explore the Creative and Professional Writing BFA program. “Growing up, I was always reading and writing–stories, poems,” Anna said. “ I credit my parents for that. They encouraged my younger brother and I to pursue creative interests, and they exposed us to the arts–music, theatre, and visual art.”
During a Jan term break, while participating in a workshop at the Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, Anna’s penchant for writing was re-awakened, despite her homesickness. “I was too homesick and naive to appreciate where I was and the gift I’d been given–to travel and write,” Anna shared. “ However, there was a breakthrough moment near the end of the trip. I wrote my first honest piece of writing, a poem, and my classmates–strangers from across the country–applauded me. It was a terrible poem, but it was honest, which meant I had potential for crafting human characters and universal truths.”
She has been drawn to poetry ever since. Upon returning to Converse after her Ghost Ranch experience, Anna devoted herself to the Creative and Professional Writing program where she honed her poetry skills. Converse’s Visiting Writer’s program allowed Anna to interact with contemporary working writers. Anna said, “Not only was I exposed to their work, but I had the opportunity to meet and study with these poets and listen to them talk about writing. I remember each of those experiences vividly. They are invaluable, as is the instruction I received from Rick Mulkey, Susan Tekulve, and the late Sam Howie.”
“At Converse, I also learned the value of saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities.”
Converse was where Anna, who is naturally shy and reserved, found a way to share her voice. She relished in the fact that her professors took her and her work seriously and valued their feedback so greatly that she still has many of her professors notes and critiques from her core classes.
In her senior year at Converse, Anna secured a publishing internship with the Hub City Writers Project.
After graduation Anna debated her options for the future. “In an effort to diversify my resumé, I applied to intern with Graywolf,” Anna said. “ I wanted to work as an editorial intern, but they offered me the position of Development Intern. At Converse, I also learned the value of saying “yes” to new opportunities.”
The position gave Anna invaluable tools, including the ‘in’s and out’s’ of writing inquiry letters and crafting effective grant proposals. “It may not be as exciting as reading the next Albert Goldbarth or Eula Biss in the slush pile,” Anna said, “but it is important–essential–work and it provided me with a skill set I didn’t have, and one that I draw from on a daily basis.”
Anna is now on the other side of higher education. She has graduated from student to teacher. An assistant professor at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, GA., Anna advises Sand Hills literary magazine and teaches courses in composition and creative writing, including Foundations in Poetry and Persona Poetry. Anna initiated Writers Weekend at the university, a throwback to her time at Converse and the role our visiting writers had in her life. “I had this idea for an emerging (visiting) writer’s series,” Anna said. “The event, modeled largely after events I attended and participated in at Converse, proved successful.”
The following year she secured additional funding which allowed for a two-day emerging writer’s conference, known as ‘Writers Weekend at Summerville.’ The conference’s purpose is to unite high school, college and university students, as well as community members of the Greater Augusta area with writers who are early on in their careers, or who are pursuing new interests or projects,” Anna said. “I find that authors in those positions are less jaded–more enthusiastic about their work and better able to relate to our students.”
I went after internships. I distinguished and professionalized myself. The potential for those things always existed, I’m sure, but I have no doubts that a women’s college helped me realize that potential and other goals.”
The popular conference has hosted many authors including Spartanburg’s Michel Stone and Converse’s very own Susan Tekulve. “Writers Weekend is my way of paying it forward,” Anna said. “I feel especially fortunate for my education, especially at Converse. I want my own students to have similar experiences, and some of them have.”
But Anna’s contributions to the writing world aren’t just at Georgia Regents University. She continues to freelance write and edit as well as participate in an expressive writing program at Georgia Regents Medical Center named ‘Write to Heal.’ The program, through guided writing, encourages healthy self-expression and strategies for coping with hospitalization for patients, their families and caregivers.
Anna’s pay-it-forward attitude was elevated at Converse. “At Converse, women don’t simply belong to organizations; they are the heartbeat. Converse women make things happen. I planned large-scale events. I gave speeches in front of my peers and professors. I went after internships. I distinguished and professionalized myself. The potential for those things always existed, I’m sure, but I have no doubts that a women’s college helped me realize that potential and other goals.”