Dear Dr. Tolkien

Wrote this while I was abroad, but I didn’t get the chance to take it to Tolkien’s grave. Thought I’d share anyway.

Dear Dr. Tolkien,

I wanted to thank you for changing my life.

When I was a little girl, my dad would read your books to me and my siblings. He read them three times to us, when I was eight, and again when I was twelve, and again when I was fourteen. When I was twelve I prayed for Frodo after he was stabbed. Later I remember running to the book and turning to the passage in the Mines of Moria, gasping in relief when I saw it said that Gandalf was gone, not dead.

I think I learned to love fiction as I listened to your books.

I think your books are why I began to love to write.

One day when you were writing your manuscript, your eyes were tired and you didn’t want to be working, and the words came out muddled and wrong. You couldn’t have known what those words would become. You didn’t know that one day my mother would read your words in her second edition of Lord of the Rings. You didn’t know my father would study your words in his college class. And you couldn’t have imagined a bunch of little American kids hanging on those words every night.

You couldn’t have known what those words would come to mean to me. It isn’t just a story. It’s the sound of my dad’s voice when he’s exhausted from working three jobs. It’s the smell of my mother’s edition—musty old pages wrapped in decades of my family. It’s the comfort on that night when my bloodwork came back bad, and I opened the book and read, “I do not believe this darkness will endure.”

One day those words stopped being yours and they became mine.

And that, I think, is the beauty of fiction. It just keeps growing, gathering lives and memories and interweaving them in a text.

That’s why I want to write.

Thank you, Mr. Tolkien, for your words. They have taught me that joy is sometimes like swords, that darkness will not endure, that healing doesn’t always come in this world. They have been my Sam when I thought I was carrying the Ring alone. Thank you.

Thank you for changing my life.


Alyssa Hollingsworth


my heart is flown (and hello)

Well, I’m back.

Being in the States is weird. I saw “chips and salsa” on a menu and thought to myself, “Gross! Who wants salsa on chips?” Then I realized I’d confused chips/French fries and crisps/chips.

I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet. At times it starts to hit me–that I really am back, and that chapter is over. I’m sure it will be hard when it sinks in.

I’ve started looking at graduate schools in the UK already. I’m by no means coming back to stay, and certainly not in the South. Nothing against the U.S. or the South, but I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.

I’ve at last officially moved from my old LJ. I decided it was high time I graduated myself to WordPress (gasp!). “But what?” you say. “You’ve already posted like 74 posts on this blog!” Yes. You will note I’ve moved my “Greatest Hits” (aka favorite or popular posts) from my old blog. I also posted all of my travel entries in folders organized by trip, because my family thought this would be a good idea. (I might be slightly insane for doing that. I’m not sure I’ve recovered. There were a lot of posts.) I’m not entirely happy with the layout on this blog yet, and will be making some alterations once I have money for a customization pack.

But from now on all content will be new and up to date! So follow along for the merry and insane adventures of your average arthritic traveling hopeful-author college student!

manuscripts and choirs

So, you may have been wondering why I was going to London yesterday. Luckily for you, I’m here to answer that question!

I went to London to check out the Writing Britain exhibit on at the British Library and to see my awesome cousin perform in a concert. Both of these things were exceedingly excellent.

I caught a train at about noon. For some reason the station was packed with guys in top hats (no complaints there) and ladies in dresses and fancy hats. I’m assuming there was a race going on somewhere? Or a wedding? Don’t know, but they were everywhere and it was insane. I was glad they weren’t going to London!

Train down was fine. The Circle Line was being weird and really confusing, but I outsmarted it and managed to get to Kings Cross (which is basically like my backyard at this point, I know it so well). I skipped merrily down the sidewalk and made my way to the library. I bought my shiny ticket and then was off to the exhibit.

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i will arise and go now, and go

Do you know what it is to be homesick for a place you haven’t left? I do.

Today as I rode the train to London, looking out the window, my throat tightened and eyes blurred. Again on the Tube. Tired, thirsty, hot and sick of the smell of people, I suddenly was struck with a longing that squeezed my chest.

I was playing a choral piece on my iPod from a Celtic CD. It happened to be the song I listened to on the bus as I entered the Highlands of Scotland. Some people say that books take you back to the places you’ve traveled. For me, it’s always been music.

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(Old) Magical Mystery Tour: Days Fourteen – Twenty

(Originally posted on June 15, 2012)

Day Fourteen we rested in my dorm in Reading. I think we might have walked to campus or something. It was chill time.

Day Fifteen we went to London to knock off a few things we wanted to see. We went to the British Museum, which was pretty cool because it was like walking through my Art History 101 class. It was less cool because there were a ton of school kids there, and as I’ve already mentioned I have an increasing abhorrence for school kids. Some of these school kids were climbing on the ancient Egyptian statues. Others just ran around taking pictures with their iPhones.

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(Old) Magical Mystery Tour: Days Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen (Inverness/Travel)

(Originally posted on June 12, 2012)

Day Eleven we said goodbye to our friendly Dutch hosts and got a bus to Inverness. On the way, we hopped off in what was supposed to be a Loch Ness town. It was really tiny, and over two miles from the Loch. So we didn’t really see anything other than the view from the buses. No sign of Nessie, sadly.

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(Old) Magical Mystery Tour: Days Seven & Eight (Edinburgh), Nine & Ten (Fort William)

(Originally posted on June 7, 2012)

Day Seven we got up and hit the road. It was a bus and then train ride to Edinburgh. For some reason, the rail line was very bumpy and left me feeling pretty nauseous. We caught a cab to our B&B. The driver was very nice and chatted with us about Edinburgh and gave us tips for getting around the city. It was sort of funny because I did most of the talking–I think Mom couldn’t really understand him.

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