Tag Archives: David James Poissant Creative Prose Reading Series

Alyssa Hollingsworth PortraitAlyssa Hollingsworth (13C) was already a prolific writer when she arrived at Berry. She further developed her craft through one-on-one interaction with English professors and relevant work experience as editor of the college literary magazine and as a writer for Berry magazine.

This fall, the now-published author returned to Berry as the featured speaker in the David James Poissant Creative Prose Reading Series. While on campus, she visited with former teachers and mentors and shared her talents with current students – praising Berry as the “creative space” that helped to fuel her success.

Five years have passed since the former Gate of Opportunity Scholar earned her Berry degree, during which time she has completed a master’s degree at England’s Bath Spa University and signed a two-book, two-continent publishing contract with Roaring Brook Press (MacMillan) and Piccadilly Press.

Earlier this year, she released her debut novel, The Eleventh Trade, which quickly rose to No. 1 on Amazon’s list of new children’s literature. The book tells the story of a young Afghan refugee who embarks on a mission to retrieve a traditional Afghan musical instrument stolen from his grandfather.

The origins of the story date back to an assignment Hollingsworth was given at Bath Spa to prepare a synopsis for a book she would never write. Later, her literary agent saw promise in the idea and asked her to flesh it out. She started writing in February of 2016; by year end the manuscript had been completed and sold to publishers.

Aiding the creative process was firsthand knowledge of Afghan culture Hollingsworth gained during a 2011 visit to the war-torn nation to see her sister, who was serving there at the time. Still, she faced the challenge of crafting a story that would be told through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy who had interests and perspective she lacked. To fill in the gaps, she reached out to her network of fellow Berry alumni to find people with knowledge in those areas.

“There were plenty of things that made me feel very unqualified to write this story,” she said. “But those places where I was completely out of my comfort zone provided really cool opportunities to call on the community around me. I had alumni friends who love Manchester United, or are middle school teachers, or have firsthand refugee experiences themselves. When I got in over my head, I could count on them to help me correct my mistakes. It was such a blessing to take a bit of the Berry community with me into my first book.”

Hollingsworth’s second book, The Invisible Boy, is due for release in fall 2019.

By student writer Kendall Aronson; photo by student Jacob Bushey

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