ELLE Talent Contest 2014: Finalist #3

Read Liz Gwinnell's entry


Back in August, we asked all wordsmiths to dust down their laptops and send us 'The Letter I Wish I'd Written.' Hundreds of incredibly emotive entries poured forth, and after much deliberating from the ELLE panel, we chose a winner, as well as four finalists. Read finalist Liz Gwinnell's letter below.

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Dear Sir

Please find enclosed a cheque for my extended stay at the Hotel California. .I am sorry this was not settled on departure but your hotel does not make it easy to check out.


One night back in June, I ran my Mustang off the Pacific Highway. It was getting dark and I was lost and a little frightened. It can be a bit scary and creepy on a dark desert highway when you are alone and your cell phone dies.

There was a shimmering light in the distance and I followed it. And suddenly, the dusky pink turrets and palm trees of the Hotel California rose out of the desert like a beacon in the night. I could hardly believe it.  As a teenager, that song personified all my hopes and dreams for the future but I never thought the hotel really existed.

When I rang the bell and told the receptionist what had happened, (her name was Tiffany and she wore her hair in a twist), she gave me the penthouse suite. Disappointingly however, there was no telephone, internet connection or electricity. Tiffany had to show me the way by candlelight!

When I got to my room I felt a little better when I saw the mirrors on the ceiling and the pink champagne on ice. It was a warm, sultry Californian night and when I opened my window, people were dancing in the courtyard below. They invited me to join them and I think this was when I started to lose track of time. Maybe I was intoxicated by their sweet summer sweat - I don’t know -but I recall they were wearing t-shirts. Some said “remember”, some said “forget”, others said “heaven”, a few “hell”.

Hours later, I left the party and returned to my room. I had just drifted off to sleep when some pretty boys - friends of Tiffany’s they said - woke me up to welcome me to the Hotel California. They brought steak and strawberries from the feast being held in the Master’s Chamber and for the rest of the night I kept hearing voices in the corridors whispering “welcome to the Hotel California”. It was all very strange.

In the morning, I went down to reception to check out.

This is when the problem started. Tiffany (such a lovely face!) smiled and said that although I could check out I could never leave. I thought she was joking at first, that this was the most amazing by-line to make guests feel that they would always be pulled back to and welcome at, the Hotel California. Then she pointed to the rider on the desk – something about all guests being prisoners of their own device - and she stopped smiling and locked the door.

I spent my time wandering around the hotel. I noticed that the paint on the walls was peeling and how old and worn the stone floors were. I found the “Be Beautiful Room” which led into the “Stay Thin room” and off that, the room of broken hearts with its empty bed, broken mirrors and cracked ceiling followed by the room of childless ambition with its empty cradles and glass eyed dolls. All the rooms had mirrored walls and ceilings and it was very disconcerting to see my reflection beaming back at me everywhere I went. It was only when I found the room without mirrors - the room full of books and paper and a desk covered in pencils and pens - that I found peace – and eventually, behind the bookcase, a passage leading back to the place I was before.

I wish to complain about being kept at the Hotel California against my will, particularly when I had no way of letting my folks at home know where I was. However I am a woman of principle and believe in paying my way and so I hope the check covers my extended – if unwanted – stay.

I expected so much from The Hotel California but what you promised in that song is not what you delivered. Oh and one more thing - you ought to start selling wine again. 1969 was a long time ago.

Read finalist Tamar Hodes' entry

Read finalist Emma Steven's entry

Read finalist Sonny Marr's entry

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