I’ve Moved! Sorta…

Hello, Lovelies!

While updating my layout, I ended up accidentally going for a full domain name, and in consequence you can now find my new entries on a new (shinier!) site. I’m very excited about the move, and am using it to plan out new and more consistent content (some life stuff, but a lot more writing tips and Rheumatoid Arthritis topics). In fact, there’s already a post about 5 Ways to Productively Procrastinate on Your Novel.

Check it all out at: http://www.alyssahollingsworth.com

Hope to see you there!

- Alyssa

In Which I Change My Mind

Remember that whole graduate school decision and soul searching?

I eventually settled on Chatham University. Their program offered opportunities to study across genres, something I was interested in exploring. They also had a cool Words Without Walls program, which really appealed to me. Chatham was a logical choice, and a lot of my professors encouraged me in that direction.

But two months after my decision to go with Chatham, I still felt a splinter of sadness. When I started packing up my dorm in May, I happened upon my postcards and letters from when I studied abroad. The sadness started to kick in again.

I found out that doing the cross-genre courses at Chatham would be extremely difficult because of the way classes are structured. I had a hard time filling in my classes when I registered because they either filled up very quickly or ended up getting canceled for low registration. I was uncomfortable that my first semester was going to put me behind because I had to take unnecessary classes, which didn’t bode well for the next two years. The administration was very kind about it and offered to help, but I still felt a little less than confident.

And then there was the slight problem of how I had never actually contacted Bath Spa and let them know that I’d be attending Chatham. Whenever I thought about doing it, I’d almost cry.

I visited Pittsburgh with my mom in May to check stuff out. The city was nicer than I anticipated and the campus was quite lovely. I could see myself making it into a home and being okay with it. But I also found myself comparing it to Bath, and considering Bath is one of my favorite places in the world… Well, I just didn’t want to be constantly in one place thinking about another.

There were other factors as well, some personal and some reasonable. I found out that between the federal loan I’d been approved for, the GI Bill, and some other financial possibilities, I could attend Bath Spa quite comfortably and leave with less debt than I’d have at Chatham.

(Also Bath Spa has both a swing and ballroom dance club, numerous historical reenacting club, and… (wait for it) an all things Welsh club! I’m just saying.)

So yesterday I decided to embrace changing my mind and I sent my acceptance to Bath Spa University.

Guys, I’m going back.

Look for Me, Baby (But, Baby, I’ll be Long Gone)

As May 11th approached and graduating college loomed on the horizon, I began to experience something a bit odd. I began to feel… nothing unusual.

I mean, there were times when I got a little sad. But these times weren’t super significant. I remember tearing up thrice:
1) When Dr. Watkins was singing a traditional bluegrass song at our literary magazine’s launch party, as he has almost all of the past eight semesters
2) When I left my last creative writing class for the last time
3) When I drove away from my last day of work

Considering many of my friends were in a near-constant state of tears, this surprised me. I am an easy crier, as anyone who knows me can testify. I cry when I am sad, happy, and especially (inconveniently) when I’m sincere or angry. I’d been expecting a lot of ~feelings~ related to graduating. Given that leaving my semester abroad was like falling through multiple glass windows, leaving a place that’s been my home for four years should’ve been at least a little hard.

As I watched the gates disappear in the rear view window, I realized I wasn’t leaving. I was moving.

To a normal and sane individual, I daresay these are the same things. But to a military brat, they aren’t.

Leaving is when you aren’t ready, when it’s a tear that’s creating a probably permanent divide. Leaving is putting an ocean and years between you and a place full of belonging.

Moving isn’t always easy. But it’s logical. It’s goodbyes, boxes, done. It’s routine. At least, that’s how the past several moves have felt, ever since my family moved out of my hometown in 2001.

The things that tugged at my sentimentality are the things I will never have again. The things that should have made me cry–hugging my friends and parting ways–didn’t.

When I lived in Chesapeake, a girl in my youth group once told me, “It must be hard leaving all your friends.” And I said, “Not really. The people who you truly care about and who truly care about you stay with you. The ones who don’t, don’t.”

So I found my instincts kicking in, and I looked at campus with dry eyes, not knowing when I’d return, and knowing very well that it wouldn’t be the same when I go back. I won’t be the same when I go back. But four years was a long time to settle. I’ve got my friends and good memories along for the ride–and that’s not something to cry over.

I won’t say a part of me isn’t tired of byes and boxes and beginnings. But most of me is ready for another adventure.

Spring Semester 2013: Greatest Hits

It’s that time again–the time where I sum up the greatest moments of a semester. This spring was my last semester at Berry College, so it’s fitting that some of these greatest hits were the best of all four years.

  • Senior road trip and Harry Potter World with a good friend.
  • The many, many lunches and dinners on the English Department’s tab, talking with witty students and hanging out with cool professors.
  • Getting a call in the office from The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.
  • Acceptance letters and emails from all my graduate schools.
  • Dinner at a sketchy but delicious Mexican restaurant with the SOUP team.
  • Joining my roommate and dear friend, Kyley, on her first flight.
  • 11:00 PM on a Thursday night when the Indiegogo campaign passed our goal of $6000 in 10 days.
  • Boston in the snow over Spring Break.
  • Adventuring into tall towers with daring friends.
  • Getting nominated as one of a handful of the best female student workers at the college.
  • My Ramifications staff presenting me with a small chest full of treasure.
  • Lunches with my coworkers–at Harvest Moon, and later at Outback.
  • Interviewing Kirsten Gates and having her story come together almost effortlessly. Seeing the story on the cover of the magazine.
  • Hanging out with Marcella and Casey after my senior reading, surrounded by English nerds.
  • The woman telling me she never understood how Rheumatoid Arthritis felt until I read my poem.
  • Wednesday nights with Michelle, Molly and Julie. Praying, laughing and crying together.
  • Receiving an award for my writing after working over five months on that portfolio.
  • Prep talks, Star Wars debates, and Star Trek discussions with Rick and Casey.
  • Fiction final with classmates wearing fake mustaches as they read from their portfolios.
  • Dr. Watkins’s hug as I walked down the street lined with professors after graduation.
  • Shaking President Briggs’s hand and walking away with my diploma.

Three Readings in 24 Hours

The last day of class also happened to be the launch party of my last edition of Ramifications—and by “my last edition” I mean the last copy of Ram I worked on as a staff member or editor. We opened the evening with a slam poetry competition that went surprisingly well (considering I didn’t even know if anyone was going to come for it). I don’t know much about slam poetry, I admit, but I really liked the poems that were performed. Afterwards we had an open mic for music and regular readings. I read one of my poems and one of my short stories, Thanksgiving in Philadelphia.

Dr. Watkins has always played old Appalachian/bluegrass ballads almost every launch party since I came to Berry. When he was singing this time was the closest I came to crying—not because it was a sad song (it wasn’t), but because for four years that’s been one of my favorite parts of the semester. So I teared up, but I didn’t cry.

Overall we had a great turnout and a lot of fun. After everyone left, my staff and volunteers presented me with a little chest filled with quill pens, inkwells and a journal. I nearly teared up again, but I held it together admirably.

The next day, “Reading Day,” I had two other readings. The first was a poetry reading celebrating the end of Poetry Month. People spread out blankets and set up folding chairs outside the library, and they had angel food cake and lemonade. Students and some faculty read their own poetry and a few favorite poems by famous authors. I read a couple of poems, including one called The Flare, which is about Rheumatoid Arthritis. After the reading, a woman I didn’t know approached me and said, “My daughter has Rheumatoid Arthritis, and your poem told me more about what that’s like than anything she’s shared, anything her doctors have told me, or anything I’ve read. Thank you.”

Right in the feels, guys. Right in the feels. It meant so much to me to hear that.

Later that night was my senior reading. The other creative writing majors and I went out for a pre-game to help people relax. (I relaxed over a big glass of tea—others chose different drinks.) It was interesting chatting with people who’d been my classmates for years but who I hadn’t really hung out with before.

After prep talking each other, we went to the reading. It was in the fancy Ford living room, which has a lot of Italian art and stuff. There wasn’t a huge turnout, but that was fine with me. Everyone did great. I read an excerpt from my 20 page short story, Bloodroot Blooming, and a little bit from Naan in the Afghan Village. We hung around afterwards eating the snacks and talking to professors and generally just goofing off. It was a lot of fun, and having so many readings this semester has helped me overcome some of my fear of reading in front of people. Perks of being a senior?

A Campaign for $6000 in 10 Days

Sometime last semester I stumbled upon Indiegogo while browsing Tumblr. I thought it was an interesting idea and mentioned it to Brin, the founder of the African SOUP (an organization I’ve worked with for a few years). This semester, we decided to go for it. I found myself making plans, putting together material, and getting ready for a huge campaign. Most Indiegogo campaigns are several weeks long. We decided to push the limit and make ours 10 days.

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The Role of Mythology in Fiction

So some people asked me to share my symposium presentation about building myth in creative writing. Your wish is my command! Here’s my abstract:

The world is not constructed simply of fact, but also of myth. The interplay between mythology, geography, culture and history is a relationship which fiction provides a perfect platform for exploring. This presentation will focus specifically on Welsh and Celtic mythology, a relatively unknown genre of myth, before exploring the ways studying the influences of myth can help create worlds in fiction. Welsh mythology is closely tied to its geographic roots, with many tales informing the listener specifically where the events are said to have taken place. This connection between land, history and legend will be examined in the stories Culhwch and Olwen from the Mabinogion and The Prophecy of Merlin from the History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, both of which have powerful connections with Welsh culture even today. Finally, an excerpt from my own work in progress, Blessings, will be read to demonstrate how I have utilized my research to create a world with its own myths, history, and place. Drafts and notes will be read to show how I created my world based on what I have learned about myths and fairytales in Wales.

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