Forever friends — in writing and in life

Tina McElroy Ansa (left) and Wanda Lloyd — in our younger years

Do you have a close friend that you don’t hear from for a long, long time, and then when you do get on the phone together, it is almost like it was yesterday when you last spoke?

I had that experience this week when I got a call from my college roommate, Tina McElroy Ansa. We talked for more than an hour.

Tina and I were assigned as roommates our freshman year at Spelman College. The college housing office paired us back in the day when there was no Facebook, no Internet and most of us didn’t even use “long distance” to touch base on the phone. We wrote a few letters over the summer after we got our room assignment but met for the first time on the day we moved into the dorm.

Tina and I had a lot in common. We both came from middle-income families in Georgia — me from Savannah and Tina from Macon. We both had families who instilled strong moral values in us and we both had family members who had been Spelman women before us.. We were both planning to major in English and we both liked to read.

But that’s about where the similarities ended. Tina was charming and willing to try new experiences in life. My personality was more serious and stilted and I thrived on planning and organization. Tina showed up with just her clothes and personal items, but she figured we would probably go shopping for room stuff like bedspreads for our twin beds. I showed up with matching bedspreads and, if memory serves me, curtains or something like that for the room (like anybody needs curtains in a dorm room).

Tina enjoyed a good card game at night down the hall; I stayed behind in our room to work on long-term assignments that were not even due for another week or two. Tina pulled some midnight oil to study; I was usually asleep by 9 p.m. I made up my bed every morning; Tina didn’t, asking “why, when I’m just going to get back in it tonight?”

Despite our differences, we both found our way to journalism and writing as career choices. Our rooming days ended after the first year but we are closer than ever today. Tina and I both worked for the Cox Atlanta papers back in the 1970s. For a short time we were even apartment next-door neighbors in Atlanta.

These days our conversations are about writing and changes in the media and publishing industries. I stayed with journalism, having worked for seven daily newspapers over my career. Tina left the newspaper business because she wanted to wrote novels. She has been extremely successful at it. (“Baby of the Family,” “Ugly Ways” and “Taking After Mudear” are three of her literary jewels).

These days we talk about good writing and bad manners. We laugh and cry on the phone, depending on whether we are mourning the loss of our youth (arthritis is a popular new topic for us) or the funny antics of our husbands, who tend to make us laugh uncontrollably when we all get together.

Now as we face our golden years, we sometimes find ourselves having to remind each other of names or circumstances, memory not being what it was when we were 18 years old with almost all of our futures ahead of us. But we are mighty proud of each other’s personal and professional accomplishments, and we constantly remind ourselves of the value of this long-term friendship.

To learn more about Tina McElroy Ansa and her writing, go to


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Author of the memoir "Coming Full Circle: From Jim Crow to Journalism." Available for book talks and signings, speaking. (Signed copies available on this site)

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