Lit Chat: Meet Elizabeth Tannen

Posted on Wed, Oct 21 2015 9:00 am by Molly Fuller


Elizabeth Tannen is the type of talent too big to fit on a business card. A teacher, poet, editor, speed talker, conference goer, essayist, blogger, Brooklyn native before Brooklyn was cool, MFA holder, red lipstick lover (and successful wearer—an important point of note), reading organizer, fiction writer, [and insert everything I forgot here], she is a freelance jill-of-all-writing-trades currently gracing our fair litropolis. Her CV is a laundry list of publishing credits, teaching experiences, and learning endeavors as long as the nouns she can list behind her name, so I offer you this hopelessly incomplete highlight reel of the powerhouse that is Elizabeth Tannen.

Highlight #1
After graduating from Macalester, Elizabeth applied for an internship at NPR’s All Things Considered (in very good procrastinator fashion, i.e., the day the application was due). Time was on her side as the editorial assistant left right as her internship ended, and she joined the team in D.C. full time. One of her more stress-inducing roles was as a booker, where she’d have four hours to chase down an assignment before it aired that afternoon. (Which I can’t help but imagine as an episode of 24; our young protagonist running around the streets of D.C. with a digital clock counting down in the corner. I’d watch that show.) She was eventually promoted to assistant producer, where she covered the political beat, and spent her mid-twenties flirting with said political types.

Highlight #1.5
Elizabeth left NPR to pursue an MFA and was slotted to attend the University of North Carolina Wilmington, but had a last-minute change of heart after having a dream about the University of New Mexico (and no, not an apropos southwestern peyote-induced dream). She loved her time in New Mexico and says Albuquerque is just as Breaking Bad depicts it.]

Highlight #2
Her MFA introduced her to her love of teaching, and after spending time in New York working a million odd jobs, she was awarded a residency at New York Mills—which, deceivingly, is not in New York, but at least it brought her back to Minnesota. Once the residency was completed, she headed back to Minneapolis where she started teaching at the Loft and the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (which recently became its own nonprofit!). She was inspired to volunteer with MPWW after hearing Wally Lamb speak on his experience teaching in corrections, and has since taught creative writing in four of the state’s prisons. She is currently working with the inmate-created Stillwater Writer’s Collective to edit the MPWW journal, gearing up for a class at the Loft on humor writing (registration is still open!), and teaching at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

Highlights #3&4
In Elizabeth’s (clearly limited) free time, she pursues her oldest and newest hobbies: her blog and her reading series. Dating in the Odyssey Years is easily one of the most honest, funny, and relatable blogs on life and relationships for the millennial generation, full of gems like, “I no longer feel a crush of disappointment each time I discover that a first date has zero sex appeal/is not my husband.” (We haven’t all gotten there, but it’s nice to know there’s hope, no?) Her series, 555 Reads, features five writers, each only reading for five minutes, at Five Watt Coffee, and is a reading series for people who don’t like readings (because no one has ever been suddenly won over by a writer at minute twenty-two). There isn’t an official site to learn more about this event, but if you’re reading this blog there’s a 99.9 percent chance someone has already invited you to attend (and attend you should!).

What’s next for Elizabeth? We can’t know because, as one agent put it, her life hasn’t arced yet. To keep up with her latest forays, visit her website, read her blog, or follow her on Twitter @odysseydater.

Molly Fuller is the former production editor of Coffee House Press and currently a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis. When not working, she can usually be found with her nose in book or crossword puzzle, or wrangling a wild animal someone misleadingly told her was a dog. You can follow Molly on Twitter @tamalebruce.