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!

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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.

A Reading Life: {Guest Post} How Jane Austen Changed My Life

I so enjoyed writing this guest post for Pages and Margins, an incredible and perfectly literary blog! Please read, and follow Beth’s site!

Pages and Margins

How Jane Austen Changed My Life

By Alyssa Dulaney


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Hello all! I am Alyssa—avid reader, aspiring writer, ambitious college student, and lover of coffee, Jane Austen, and Jesus. Did I mention blogger? I started Pen to Paper Collections having utterly no clue what I was doing, but knowing I wanted to share my passion for literature (and random musings) with others. I leapt blindly into the world of blogging. Two years later, I’ve yet to have it all figured out, because it’s a journey, as it must be with all things worth doing, but here I am. I’m honored that you are now a part of that journey!

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who was very fond of once-upon-a-times. She read many books; and not just the ones that were required. She carried them in her purse and in her heart, and she wrote them in her…

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Why This Busy Girl Loves to Make Extra Plans

I would say “Thursday Greetings,” but it’s 1:50 am, so there goes that.

Hello All!

Time and sleep are precious and limited commodities in my life right now. It often seems like reading, writing, and other things I love are taking a back seat, which breaks my heart. What’s a girl to do? Homework has a deadline, commitments must be fulfilled, and work calls my name.

I’m exhausted; but what keeps me going?

Plans.

In all the business and bustle of life, one thing I love the most is to have plans. What in the world do I mean? As if I don’t have enough on my plate! But hear me out. There’s just something about making an elaborate plan to do something that makes you happy. Yeah, it’s another date and time on your already-full calendar, but it’s not like the others. It’s escape time. This is why I go to theatricals on a more-and-more regular basis. If I were being completely honest, I would say it’s one of the things that keeps me sane. Just the knowledge that if I can survive until that Thursday evening (or whatever it may be), I can have a few hours to take in something wonderful and catch my breath from running life’s race…

Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. There are countless good things in it: my family, education, relationship with Jesus, books, and the list goes on. But great things can still be “busy” things when they are part of the day-after-day. So, I provide myself with something extra special (to me) to look forward to: something for which to count the days down. Recently, it has been another opera (La Traviata), which I went to a couple weeks ago; The Phantom of the Opera, which was a last minute plan that took place tonight;  and in only 14 days, a spring break trip to Vancouver Island. Some are big plans, some are small, some are last minute, and some have been on the calendar for quite some time, but they are all a block of time in which I am not a student, employee, or *fill in the blank,* but instead I can be the person I would try to be if I had all the time in the world.

Here’s my challenge for you: make some plans! If you’re feeling the blah of the mundane or just tired of pushing all day to crash at night, make a plan! Whenever, wherever. There’s something liberating about watching the time tick down on that countdown app. It’s not about forgetting to savor every moment, but it is about setting aside a time that’s tailor-made just for yourself. Then all those other moments seem a little more important, because they’re the stepping stones to the big shebang!

P.S. It’s okay to take yourself on a date. (Even on Valentine’s Day. I did!)

Gratitude and A New Year

Hello All!

The New Year season is a time of reflection and resolution, is it not? We think back on all the things we accomplished or experienced… or didn’t accomplish or experience; then, with fresh determination, we plan for what will be accomplished or experienced in the future.

I have been among the ponderers and planners of New Years. In 2016, my sister got married, my brother got engaged, twelve college classes were completed, I spent a week in Quebec, and I started a novel, among other things. Of the many events taking place in 2017, my brother will get married, I will graduate with an associates degree, and I will transfer to Salem College (hopefully). Aside from these are the things that I had hoped for or hope for in the future. Naturally, I had resolutions for 2016: I wanted to exercise more, I wanted to improve my piano playing, I wanted to become more fluent in French, and so on. This coming year, I wouldn’t complain were I to get fit, or finish the manuscript for my novel, or discover the love of my life, or…, or…, or… We all know the story.

My point is, we all come up with these grand schemes, and by all means, we can work toward them, but things don’t always work according to our carefully laid plan. In fact, they almost never do. Sometimes, I map things out in my head, then scold myself for doing so because now that I’ve got it all planned out, it is certain not to happen that way. C’est la vie–That’s life.

I am about to baffle you… Are you ready? Here goes:

I am thankful for all the things God has blessed me with–for every time He’s worked things out just like I thought they needed to be–but more than that, I’m so very thankful for the times that God withheld from me my own desires. For when things didn’t go just how I wanted them to, or in my own timing. For every relationship that didn’t start, despite how I felt in the moment. For every argument I didn’t win, every time I didn’t get my way, and every cancelled plan. Am I out of my mind? Maybe a little. But I believe that God’s plan for my life goes far beyond the human-sized life map I’ve drawn up. His ways are higher than my ways, and His timing is always perfect, even when it is ridiculously difficult for me to understand. So whether its 2016, 2017, or twenty years from now… Whether I’m where I had wanted to be in life or in a place I had never imagined for myself, I will be grateful in all things. I desperately hope you will join me.

One last thought for your New Years:

“Destinations are where we begin again.” –Josh Groban, “Believe.”

I thought this was suitable for the end of one year and the beginning of another. What does it mean from your perspective?

Happy 2017.

Love, Alyssa.

The Dulaney House at Christmas

There is now a grand total of seven stockings hanging… they have outgrown the mantle, so this year one hangs on either side of it as well. There would be nine, but Mum and Dad aren’t much interested in hanging some for themselves. Thus, seven it is–for my older brother, his fiance, my older sister, her husband, myself, my younger brother and my younger sister–all shadowing a dancing fire. The stockings, the fire, the tree–they are all mere spectators of our laughing family at Christmastime.

I’m learning that things like Christmas change as you, and those around you, grow up; but not necessarily for the worse. While some things do slink into the past, like having a the whole family there to decorate the tree, new things begin to emerge, like catching up over a cup of hot tea after the long (and eagerly) awaited arrival of my sister and brother-in-law. I know that things will never return to what they once were, but then, things don’t have to be the same to be marvelous. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year, no matter what.

I rather enjoy laying upside-down on the couch (feet in the air and all) in a Christmas sweater and Santa hat, surrounded by my family, listening and contributing to the endless chatter; most of which is provided by the 5 year old sister, who entertains us all. I love migrating to my Wurlitzer piano to play and sing Christmas hymns in constant anticipation of Dad’s inevitable request for me to “play softly” in light of his headache. I relish an evening devoted to a Hallmark Christmas movie and a cup of hot cocoa. I take great joy in the celebration of Jesus’ birth–the reason for the “Christ” in Christmas.

Times change, and traditions with them, but I will always cherish a Dulaney Family Christmas; may it be past, present, or future… Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to pour myself a hot beverage and check on the progress of the gingerbread houses!

The Merriest of CHRISTmases to you all and the most blessed of New Years.

Much love,

Alyssa Dulaney