Oxford Adventure: And So it Begins

Hello All!

Starting today, I am uprooting my life for five weeks–five weeks fulfilling dreams long held very near my heartbeat. “Uprooting” seems to have developed a bit of a negative connotation, but for me, in this moment, the syllables of it closely resemble those of “adventure” and even “reprieve.”

Here I am at the Greensboro airport waiting for my flight–flight 4131–to leave from gate 24. I’m not nervous. I have not been nervous about this trip in all the time since what is now a reality was just a hope. Maybe I am simply that confident in not only it’s success, but also in the incredible influence it will have on my life (in the most positive of lights).

Five lovely weeks of adventure in Oxford, UK studying Jane Austen, my favorite author, at Magdalen College of Oxford University. It is no less than a dream delightfully fulfilled!

It’s abnormally quiet in this airport… kind of like my plans for my time in England: quiet, moderate, not overly-adorned. And intentionally so. I wish to leave room for the unexpected–for true adventure.

I can, in this moment, imagine myself to be Catherine Moreland as she sets off from her beloved village and goes to embrace the unknown–Bath–and grand experiences. And to that imagination let me add:

“…If adventures will not befal a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad…” (Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, pg. 4)


Loveliness and Intentionality

Thursday Greetings,

I’m just going to say it. I think we’ve got life all wrong. It’s funny: I’m laying here on this log bridge crossing the tiny creek at the bottom of my yard listening to nothing and everything. Tbeauty 1he trickling of Trickle Creek, the soft then irritated blow of the wind, the birds layering their trills in the woods, the dogs barking every so often a few acres over… Everything. But then–then I think back on my mindset lately. I’ve been so busy. I’ve been overwhelmed, and haven’t taken all that many moments to think about the beauty of God’s creation or the beauty of the words in a novel I adore or the beauty of life itself.

Life is hard. We hear that all the time. We rant about it. We cry about it. We talk about how frustrated we are; we talk about how lonely we are; we talk about the anxiety in the world. And yes, those things are undoubtedly there and often, but I can’t help but wonder: Do we think that life in the past was somehow more perfect? Think on the Romantic Era. Do we think that the poets we love from that time had no distasteful life to deal with? Do you think that there were no life-capsizing storms that weren’t pretty? I doubt those storms were any more aesthetic than ours are before they were painted in the stunning hues of beautiful language.

Their world was so far from perfect, and one could argue it was farther from it even than ours. And yet, they wrote such passionate work on the loveliness of nature, the joys of love, and the contentment in the mundane. They said things like, “Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art…” (John Keats, “Bright Star…”) and “I could not love thee (Dear) so much,/Lov’d I not honor more” (Richard Lovelace, “To Lucasta…”). Even in writing on the heartbreak that often accompanies love or the anguish or fear they were experiencing, they did it in such a positively breathtaking way. The second of my above examples is from a poem about leaving the one you love and going to war, and John Keats, while dying, wrote the most astonishing poem on his fear of “ceasing to be.” We in our modern world, for some reason, think it is necessary to use foul, ugly language to describe what is foul and ugly in this world. But the truth is, we don’t. Somehow those masters of words used the most stunning vocabulary, the most beautiful metaphors, the perfect phraseology to describe even the things that were imperfect, and it amazes me.

Our issue is, we fail to recognize the loveliness of life. Simple, lovely life. Even in the imperfections, our marvelous human brains and hearts can find something beautiful, but we have forgotten how. That is why the Romantic Era is called the Romantic Era: They romanticized everything. Nowadays, that has a negative connotation, as if they were too naive or disconnected with reality. But honestly, was their endeavor so wrong? Do you think they were less happy for it? Could they have been any more miserable than the people in our world today? The most sought after thing is happiness and yet dissatisfaction is a common factor for a majority of human beings living on this planet… Maybe they Romantics had it right, even if we do say they were just dreamers. Maybe our own stubborn insistence to paint in shades of bitterness instead of grace is costing us just a little more peace and joy in the everyday.

I guess I’ve just grown weary of ugliness–of the foul nature of the world. My goal is to capture the beauty of it. It is, indeed, still there if you look for it… You don’t even have to look hard. You just have to look with intentionality. I believe we’ve got life all wrong because we only notice what is wrong in life…

But what of what is right–what is lovely?

With love,


GUEST POST: Past, Present, Period Dramas

Hello All!

Enjoy today’s guest post by Faith Brammer, Instagram’s @perioddramas!

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Nice to meet you all, I’m Faith.
I prefer to describe myself as a reserved extrovert who loves black coffee, Scottish accents, morning walks, autumn leaves, vintage dresses and a good book. I find my mind floating between the past, present and future, looking for something unknown to me.


Salutations world, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Faith and I’m an eighteen year old girl who was born and raised in the small suburbs of Ohio. At a young age, I developed an in interest in history and literature. I started reading historical American Girl books as a young child and I loved learning about girls of the past. I wanted to know more and more about the lives that came before me, so at age eleven, I started reading history books as a past time. I knew more about the American Revolution, Victorian Era and World War Two than the average seventh grader. I also began reading classic literature such as Little Women, The Secret Garden and Sherlock Holmes at age nine, and had no issue with the length or understanding the vocabulary. I devoured them. Of course, though I may have been precocious in some ways, I was still a little girl. I liked to play with dolls and dress up. However, while most little girls wanted to be Barbie, I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. I remember wearing a lovely red, ankle length prairie style dress that had a matching bonnet… on a daily basis. I didn’t want to wear jeans, I loved feeling as if I was connected with the girls I read so much about. I learned to bake bread from scratch (I made my first loaf at age eleven) and to sew my own dolls. I liked doing things the old fashioned way. I was young and naïve back then, I didn’t realize it was a bit odd or different. I was just happy being myself.

Flash forward several years and I still idealized and romanticized the past. I loved the Nancy Drew books and plaid skirts became part of my persona. I still hung out with girls who weren’t interested in history, but I always wished I had friends with similar interests. I longed for the days of swing dancing and juke boxes at parties, not Facebook stalking and music video watching. At age 13, I received a copy of Pride and Prejudice in a White Elephant Gift exchange. That was the start of a lifelong love affair. I adored Austen’s wit and fell in love with the character of Lizzie Bennet (and don’t forget Mr. Darcy). As soon as I finished it, I went and read all of Jane Austen’s other novels in quick succession and lost myself in daydreams of afternoon tea, balls and walking across the moors in long muslin dresses. The Bronte sisters also found a special place in my heart, as well as Charles Dickens. I was lucky enough to travel to England in 2013, and I felt so connected with all the historical places there. I felt at home. When standing alone on the moors of Yorkshire, I imagined Emily Bronte writing by candlelight and looking out the wide expanse of wild grass and heather, which would soon forever be associated with Wuthering Heights. I idealized the past perhaps more than I should have (racism and disease are undesirable), but at this time I was only a girl of 14. What else could be expected?

Come freshman year, I lost interest in boybands and Disney Channel sitcoms. They didn’t interest me. Everything in them seemed so vapid, immature and meaningless. I wanted something with substance. I discovered I had a love for the Celtic Fiddle, Jazz music… and period dramas. I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie, but once I hit high school, I really began to get into the period drama genre.  A new library I visited had a plethora of BBC and Masterpiece Theater productions on their shelves, dozens upon dozens of them. I spotted the 2011 adaptation of Great Expectations on the shelf and decided to watch it. I fell in love with the beautiful yet dark Victorian aesthetic and it became my new favorite show. I checked out more and more period dramas from that library, loving them all and falling in love with the language of the time, the wonderful costumes and the simple way they lived. Far From the Madding Crowd, one of my favorite books, was brought to life so wonderfully on the screen and it stirred something inside of me. I was passionate about it.

I began to struggle with fitting in when I was sixteen, I felt so alone. I was teased for my interest in history, my flowy skirts and dresses, and for carrying a book with me. I began drifting apart from my old friends. I didn’t fit in with them at all, and wasn’t okay with some of the things they did. I was called old fashioned, and I suppose I was. I felt that I was born in the wrong era. The way I dressed, behaved and thought was that of someone far older than me. Adults endearingly called me a “wise young girl”, but that only stirred up more teasing from my peers. As a teenage girl, I finally realized that I was different than everyone, but I didn’t know what I had done to deserve to be completely shut out. I listened to them talk about what they liked, but no one listened to me. Sometimes people wouldn’t even acknowledge me. I was hurt. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, like a misfit. I turned to books, who were there for me when people were not.  I lost myself in the world of yesteryear, wanting to escape the seemingly superficial city I was born in. I hated the monotony of modern life and the “mind forged manacles” that came with it. I wanted to leave technology, tabloids and traffic behind. I wanted to run away to Cornwall and live a Poldark-esque life (like I said, I WAS still a teenage girl). I was nervous for college and the future. I knew I was smart, but student debt and the horrible idea of sitting in an office from 9-5 terrified me. I wanted to find a way to make a living with a trade, I enjoyed physical work and often wished I could have just worked on a farm in the Scottish Highlands in 1888 or in a bakery in 1910. A simple life. I wasn’t sure who I was or who I wanted to be. I felt hopelessly lost, a romantic in an unromantic world.

I spent a good chunk of my teen years floating from place to place, trying to find somewhere I fit in. I had developed anxiety and trust issues from being rejected before, so I may have appeared cold or taciturn at times. I wasn’t, I was just scared. I was tired. I was lonely. However, one day I began a new class for school and met some really wonderful girls. I was wary at first. However, one girl asked me if I liked to read, and we got to talking about Jane Eyre. Another girl and I began talking about Jane Austen. However, there was also talk of lip gloss, Harry Styles and use of the word “fleek” by some girls. However, I found I didn’t mind. As annoying as I usually found it, these girls were nice to me and shared my interests. They didn’t just talk to me, they listened to me. They accepted me. We weren’t the same at all, but we all supported what one another liked and bonded over what common interests we did have while embracing what made us all unique.

There was a girl there who looked just like Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby. She had on a cloche hat and drop waist dress, and she complimented my 1940s style dress. We got to talking about many things and found out that we have a lot in common. We both love history and jazz, and hate the crazy obsession with technology going on in the world. We both love vintage fashion. However, we also have extreme differences. We may both love similar things, but she’s a Greaser and I’m a Soc. That’s okay though. Our differences have helped bring out new sides of each other, and now she’s one of my closest friends. I also reconnected with a girl from my childhood last year and we instantly fell back into a close friendship. It’s funny though, we’re polar opposites. I think we work because we know what it’s like to not fit and we accept people for who they are. I’m so thankful for both of them.

I’ve just turned nineteen , and I feel like I’ve finally begun to find my place in this crazy world. I also still have day dreams about walking the streets of a provincial town or going to a sock hop, but I’ve learned to embrace where I am.  I was put here for a reason, I have a purpose. I wasn’t put here by mistake. After so many struggles with insecurities and fitting in, now I’m able to laugh at myself and even make fun of the quirks I know I have, something I would have never done before. Guess what? I’m comfortable with them now.

I’ve had such a journey of self discovery throughout my teen years. I’ve discovered my own little niche where I fit, but I’ve also embraced lots of new things.  I still jam out to fiddle music in my car, but I also listen to indie rock. I like both Clueless and Sense and Sensibility. I still wear plaid skirts, but sometimes I wear them with a Riverdale or Spider-Mansweatshirt. I have used the phrase “on point”. I have learned to embrace where I am in life and my surroundings, while still staying true to myself. I’ve learned to find a balance. I’m making my way and creating my own person. I’m so thankful for where I’ve been put, because I realize that there’s so many ways I can help others and be a positive influence now. I plan to a pursue a career in hair, makeup, costume design and acting, in hopes of becoming involved in Masterpiece Theater someday. I currently run a successful Instagram account, @perioddramas, where I combine my passion for the past with 21st century technology. I’m so thankful for the little community and that I can show fellow history lovers that they’re not alone.

Lost Myself; Found Myself

Hello All!

Here I am, sitting at my elegant secretary desk, listening as the record spins on the player, sipping on some coffee in a dreadfully unromantic Styrofoam Coca-cola cup. What I really want to do is dump my mind onto this screen I’m staring at, but, for your sake, I’ll attempt to sort it into some kind of coherent thought beforehand!

Throughout my life, I have never been much of a worrier; especially long term. I try not to let things bother me, because I know, most often, they are beyond my control. That’s the person I strive to be: Joyful in all things, and fearful in few. But as Spring came to a close and Summer began (and maybe even before that), I found that slipping away. I was struggling to maintain that peace that I have held onto through Jesus, while fear and dread were gripping my heart more and more tightly as time went on. Where in the world was the Alyssa sense of adventure? It was like I didn’t understand myself anymore, because it didn’t feel like me. I felt like I had lost some part of myself, and what’s worse, I couldn’t figure out how to get it back. Where had this even come from? Normally, I can just push these feelings aside and barrel through, you know?

I had worked hard to get to the point I was at; what I wanted, was to be excited and confident about transferring to Salem College after earning my Associates. What I found, was that I was dreading it. Completely. I didn’t want to hate the thought. I didn’t want to feel unsettled in my stomach at the idea. I especially didn’t want to drop my head into my hands and shed tears about it late at night. But I was, and it was driving me crazy. Who even is this?

(Hang in here with me. I’ve got a point.)

I had just finished two years of college. It was a great experience. Well, most of the experiences were great… and the ones that weren’t; well, they were character building, right? I mean, really, I even cried on the way home from graduation. But the last two semesters, though successful academically, had been very stressful for various reasons and on multiple levels. To be transparent, I was just worn down. Absolutely exhausted. The excitement of completing my Associates was balanced out by (if not outweighed by) each reminder that I was really only halfway done.

It wasn’t that I was afraid of the work (although it’s never a pleasant thought, let’s be honest). It wasn’t that I was leaving home (it’s close enough to commute). But I just couldn’t shake the unfamiliar feeling of being terrified and stressed out to the maximum. I knew I was going to a place where my own ideas and standards were practically foreign. Where the ideas being upheld were so far removed from my own, that I would likely spend a solid portion of my time explaining myself, which, believe it or not, can be exhausting. Even for someone who is unashamed of their faith and personal values. I told myself, “Alyssa, you’re just going for your education. If you hate it, you get to come home everyday, and two years will go by quickly.” I guess it didn’t hit me how utterly pitiful this perception was. How “not me” it was. I, who believes in getting the most you can out of every circumstance. Who gives myself pep talks, and believes it when others say, “You can do it!”

(Again, stay with me!)

In the last couple weeks, however, I’ve felt things start to shift in my thinking. I attended a conference at the end of July (North American Youth Congress 2017), where God gave me a renewed sense of purpose. Ah! The refreshing contentment that comes with definite purpose! He opened my eyes to how twisted my perspective had been all summer… “Alyssa,” He said, “You’re not going there just to get your education and get out… You’re going to make an IMPACT. Education is just your bonus.” What a reminder! I had a “duh” moment. How could I have missed that? It’s not about getting something, it’s about giving the best of myself and sharing what I have experienced with others. As ironic as it may seem, that’s what I find brings true fulfillment. Since that moment, my excitement has grown. I know I am capable, because I am reminded who I am in Christ–I don’t have to rely on my own strength. He was the one that planted that joy and fearlessness in my heart to begin with, and He never removed it. I had just lost sight of it.

For anyone who is currently confused, this post is about having lost myself, because at some point, I lost the right perspective. This is my adaption of the “lost myself” story. Maybe it’s nothing like yours, but the point of this post is to encourage… You may not recognize yourself right now. Maybe you’re normally on top of things, and you’ve starting lagging behind. Maybe you’re a people lover, but lately, you just don’t want to deal with other people’s problems on top of your own. It might be something simple, like that you’re normally really good about reading books, but you just can’t seem to get around to it right now (been there, done that this summer). Or maybe you relate to my story: You’re normally the go-getter, but you’re just exhausted, and you know what, you just want to let things go. Whatever your story, take a minute right now: breath, reevaluate, pray; whatever you have to do. Question your perspective, and search out the right one. Know that this is just a chapter, not the end of the book.

~Ecclesiastes 3:1, I Peter 2:9, Jeremiah 29:11~

With love,



GWtW, P&P, and Other Obsessions

Hello All,

Enjoy this lovely, lovely guest post by Elissa McKinney–known to the Instagram world as the beloved @janeaustenhumor! I am excessively excited to have her as a guest here at Pen to Paper Collections!


My name is Eliunnamedssa McKinney, a Janeite and Iced coffee lover. I’m an introvert by nature and love spending my free time reading, cooking, taking long walks, and (#duh) watching period dramas.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that this has to be the most predictable way for me to start this post. Let’s just roll with it. 

Hey, hi, hello! My name’s Elissa, but most people call me Lue. I was born and raised in the wild spaces of the west; a farm girl with a reading addiction. 

Gone With the Wind was the book that started my affinity for Period Dramas. Rhett Butler was (and still is) my dream man. As a 19-year-old looking back at my 11-year-old self, it probably wasn’t the best story to be fantasizing about… But once I watched the movie, Clark Gable wrapped me up in his handsome mustache and there was no turning back. The summer of 2006 was spent on a make believe plantation in Georgia. A stack of hay bales was Tara. My cousin and sister were forced into being Civil War reenactors daily. They might still resent me for it, but we all got really good grades in history the next school year. You’re welcome, guys.

Now apparently, there is a limit to the number of times a “sane person” can watch Scarlett O’Hara throw a temper tantrum. For my mom, that limit had been exceeded. 

She loves the book, but if I’d quoted “Lawzy, we got to have a doctor. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies,” one more time, I think she may have sent me to off to live on an actual plantation. 

*Enter Pride and Prejudice*

It was a typical Thursday night “girls night” at our house. Manicures, face masks, and Italian sodas were happening. I started to pull out GWtW, but my mom said that she had a new period drama for us to try… I think you can probably figure out what happened next.

English Period Drama became my thing. I couldn’t get enough. Still can’t. 

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice laid the foundation for a lifetime of Austen love. 

I read all the novels, watched most of the film adaptions, and started expressing my enthusiasm for the genre by trying out recipes, phraseology and hairstyles from my favorite works. I also began to search for other PD authors and discovered Bronte, Hardy, Gaskell, Dickens and more. To quote Henry Nobley: “…the truth is, I enjoyed stepping into history. The idea of a simpler world where love is straightforward and lasting.” #relatable

Speaking of hashtags, in 2014 I created an Instagram account to connect with other Austen fans on the world wide web (specifically those who enjoy memes). I had no idea that three years later I would have over 16,500 followers. I am so grateful to be part of a community where people can come together and share a giggle about boiled potatoes, bonnets, or Darcy’s painfully awkward proposal. Yep. I adore our little corner of the universe. Jane Austen, “My heart is, and always will be, yours.”

Sincerely, Elissa

To the People Who Gave Me Everything I Needed

Thursday Greetings!

Maybe it’s one of those introspective times in my life when I’m preparing to charge full speed ahead, but I can’t do that until I look back on all the things that carried me steadily (and sometimes less steadily) to where I find myself right now.

I am one of those fortunate ones that can say they were readily handed everything they needed to succeed in life. Just like that.

To the people who gave me everything I needed:

I want to say thank you. In all the years that I’ve wanted to be a writer, I’ve been far less afraid of what critics may say than of not living up to what I know myself to be capable of doing. Do I say that out of conceit? By all means, no. I blame it entirely on you. In those years, I’ve been told the cons of a career in writing; I’ve been told to prepare for unemployment, but a great deal more importantly, I have never not been told that I can and that I will.

It is you, Dad, that reminds me my bestsellers will put you in a nice retirement home and talks about me as if I’m already Alyssa Dulaney: world renown author. It is you, Mom, that gently reminds me I actually have to write to get there, while simultaneously telling me how proud you are. I hear and appreciate every word. It is you, Jamie, my best friend, that mapped out fantastical plot lines and created whimsical names with me at ten years old in a backyard camp out. It is you, Misty, that reads my writing, exaggerates its quality, discusses it with me, and listens to me ramble on about ideas and dreams.

I could go on in a never-ending list–Brookie-lynn, Spencer, grandparents, strangers that have left such kind comments–but suffice it to say that in the mind of this young writer, the voices of faith in me have drowned out any roars of doubt, impossibility, discouragement, and even lack of faith in myself.

Only this afternoon, I rediscovered the photo book from my high school graduation. In it are comments from you all, my dear friends and family. Here are a few that made me tear up (maybe):

  • “Keep walking tall, standing strong, and HE is going to take you farther than you can ever dream.” -Dad and Mom
  • “I love you a latte and am excited to see God use you mightily.” -Spence (Big brother)
  • “I am so very proud of the beautiful, talented, and genuine person you are. I couldn’t have asked for a better sister or best friend.” -Brooklynn (Big sister)
  • “Oh my beautiful Alyssa, you’re one of the most sweetest, happiest, and anointed girls I have ever met.” -Jordan Parks
  • “And I hope your future is as excellent as boiled potatoes.” -Karaline
  • “You’re a very brave person, you’re funny, smart, capable, and are both anointed and empowered to do amazing things.” -Josh F.
  • “I also can’t believe I have managed to put up with you for 7 years… I love you anyways.” -Jamie Marie

So to you all–friends, family, strangers–thank you. You have given me, and continue to give me, everything I need to succeed in life. Because of you, I know that I can and that I will, whatever it may be that I am chasing or dreaming.