A year and a half ago, 22-year old Alyssa experienced some bad rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups that could have changed her life forever. Nearly missing her chance to study abroad in college, Alyssa realized that moving past her condition was a blessing, and used her experience as the inspiration to begin her novel.
This fall, she began a one-year master’s program for creative writing at Bath Spa University in the UK, where she’s polishing off the finishing touches of her book before sending it off to agencies.
“I think that real blessings—the deep blessings that mold and change lives—are the things that unmake you,” Alyssa said. “Being blessed isn’t the absence of pain, but rather a joy or love that springs out of (and despite of) sorrow.”
Alyssa’s writing career is well under way. As soon as her semester at Bath Spa began, Alyssa traveled back to the States to receive an The Elie Wiesel Foundation Prize in Ethics third place award for her essay about visiting her sister in Afghanistan in 2011, despite the physical dangers and political instability. Her thoughts on terrorism’s aftereffects on American and Afghan cultures, and her revelation on loving people past their prejudices won third place in the prestigious contest.
While writing her essay, she developed an overwhelming love for the people of Afghanistan.
“I wish I could tell you all the little stories I saw while I was there,” she reminisced. “How I got to run with school boys in the mountains as they showed off their beautiful country, or hold the hands of a woman beaten by her husband, or watch our driver play with his toddler daughter, or see the old men on their bikes with roses twisted into the handlebars and blooming, or soothe the tears of a stranger as she confessed her terror that the Taliban will return.”
As she learned in Afghanistan, writing can be a therapeutic hobby, and she hopes to continue exploring that in the future.
“When something traumatic or painful happens to us, it is really important to talk through what happened with someone else, ideally someone supportive and/or trained,” Alyssa said. “I think that writing takes this a step further. Journaling privately gives you an outlet to really let yourself go—you can work through your thoughts and feelings and either burn it or save it to think over.”
In fact, Alyssa has been given incredible opportunities to use her gift and love of writing to help the of Afghanistan begin their own healing process.
An Afghanistan-based human trafficking rescue and aftercare organization called Hagar needs someone to capture women’s stories to broaden awareness, but lacked writers. Alyssa hopes to work with them in the future. Another opportunity she discovered is located in Bath, helping Afghan refugees come to a healing place via writing. Alyssa hopes to maybe connect with them while she is in Bath studying.
“Afghanistan is beautiful and mind-bogglingly complex, and I think that’s why I am hungry to learn and do more,” she said.
And by these plans of giving back to a community of people by teaching them the art of expression through writing, she’s one step closer to achieving her dream.
Alyssa | Website
Creative Writing Masters Candidate, writer • 23 • Bath, UK