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Breaking the Silence: An Interview with Pearl Wolfe and Evelyn Anderton, authors of Walk Out the Door

Wolfe Anderton

Co-authors Pearl Wolfe and Evelyn Anderton each have over two decades of experience with issues related to violence against women. Both grew up in homes where domestic violence and child abuse were the norm, bringing an intimate perspective to their writing. In the 1990s, while working together in a Eugene shelter for those fleeing domestic violence, they witnessed daily the trauma and damage caused by violent relationships. They have co-authored a riveting new novel, Walk Out the Door, with Atmosphere Press that explores the process of leaving a relationship that confronts so many women facing such violence.

They are both recipients of the City of Eugene Human Rights Recognition Award for their dedication to the empowerment of women and the 2023 Women of Distinction Award from Soroptimists International of Eugene for their novel and work on domestic violence awareness.

Both authors have a history as activists focused on domestic violence, homelessness, and poverty. Wolfe has a B.A. in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin and an M.S. in Sociology from the University of Oregon. Anderton holds a B.A in English from UC Berkeley.

You can buy Walk Out the Door here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

While working together in the 1990s at Womenspace, an agency working to end domestic violence, we learned why our women didn’t walk out the door from violent relationships sooner or at all. There were few options for them. Not enough safe shelters, living wage jobs, adequate childcare, or affordable housing. When the police were called by their children or neighbors, it was viewed as a “domestic issue” between intimate partners. It was not their concern.

Womenspace began in 1977 during the decade when “We Will Not Be Beaten” became the mantra for women across the U.S. organizing to end domestic violence (National Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence).

Awareness of what the women and children needed was slowly expanding across the country largely because of the women’s movement. Safety was our priority, but education about battering was a close second. Knowing that we had to change society’s attitude, we started education programs in the middle and high schools, the University of Oregon, and Lane Community College. We also presented to elected officials, social clubs like the Rotary and Soroptimists, and to anyone who would listen. We gave hundreds of presentations annually to educate the wider community about their role in ending domestic violence.

Our message was a strongly feminist one: women need to be seen as equal to men socially, politically, and economically and cannot be dominated through violence and abuse.

As both activists and survivors of childhood domestic violence and child abuse, we felt we had an intimate perspective on this issue. Long after we left Womenspace, we knew that one way to reach a wider audience of women and those who could help them to understand their choices was through writing this piece of fiction.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

From co-author, Pearl Wolfe: My husband, Bill Goldsmith, and I owned and operated our six-night-a-week folk music club and restaurant from 1979-1988, featuring local, national, and international performers. We closed when the building’s owner replaced our café with a hotel at 1464 N. Hwy. 101, Leucadia. Bill and I are doing well and I’m writing to you to share some exciting news. I’ve co-written a novel using a music club as a backdrop for our story. Along with my friend and former colleague, Evelyn Anderton, we collaborated on Walk Out the Door, a domestic violence novel published by Atmosphere Press.

Bill and I moved to Eugene in June 1988 for me to attend the University of Oregon to earn an M.S. in Sociology. I later returned to social work and became the Assistant Director of Womenspace, the local battered women’s shelter. The novel creation was connected to that powerful work experience. The story is set at the Shady Grove Café which I loosely based on the Old Time Café. The book is strictly fiction, but I draw heavily on the Café for physical appearance, music presentation, and the feel our small club and community created.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

During the many book events since Walk Out the Door’s release, we’ve met survivors, friends, and family of those currently in abusive situations, along with concerned community members. We’ve witnessed readers purchase multiple copies of Walk Out the Door to help those they care about. One woman bought books to share with her two adult daughters to acknowledge their experience growing up in a violent home. The reading guide at the back of our novel offers questions for book clubs and support groups in domestic violence programs to use. We’ve learned that the novel’s resources page has been shared with schools, trauma programs, and mental health professionals. Many avenues exist to end domestic violence. Volunteering, educating, advocacy efforts, donating to support services, changing laws, and writing books and articles give voice to those who cannot safely speak out.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

One of our goals in writing Walk Out the Door was to show the dynamics in abusive relationships and help readers understand why abused women struggle to leave and how abusers use the non-violent, honeymoon periods to offer hope that they will change.

In writing fiction, we learned from each other and both improved our craft over time. We decided not to use our novel as a preaching pulpit about domestic violence. Yet we wanted to subtly educate our readers. Our mantra became “show it, don’t tell it.” Rather than saying that a male abuser is charming and charismatic, we show him acting in that fashion so it’s clear why the woman is drawn to him and falls in love with him. Dialogue is usually the best way to show the reality of how domestic violence relationships begin and continue. We don’t tell the reader. We show the reader.

How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?

We loved working with Atmosphere Press. We felt supported at every turn. I would tell a first-time author looking for a publisher that Atmosphere Press partners with you and guides you through a complicated process. We found a way together, as authors and publishing staff, to make our novel the best it can be. When a box of books arrived at my door with our author copies, I immediately called my co-author, Evelyn Anderton and she sped over so we could open the box together. When we each held a book in our hand, we screamed with sheer joy and the power of accomplishment. A life-changing moment. We wrote a novel and someone thought it was worth reading. Fifteen book events later and we have sold more books than we would have ever imagined. The emails we get from readers are incredibly powerful accounts of how moved they were by what we wrote, as survivors of domestic violence, family members, and friends. Our writing seems to be making a difference and that was all we wanted.

You can buy Walk Out the Door here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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