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October 3, 2009 / theoldsilly

Getting to Know More About Helena Harper

Fall Colors 2Fall continues to spread its magnificent colors across my home state of Michigan, and, as promised, today on the 3rd of October, I have another special treat for you – as enchanting as the view across the lake from mHelena Harper Picturey terrace. Two days ago I had the pleasure of introducing many of you to the poet, children’s book writer and educator, Helena Harper. The feature was very well received. If you missed it, just scroll down or click here.

Part two of the monthly Yahoo Group VBT-Writers on the Move feature I do, I’d like to start off with this from Helena-

Helena Harper Spreading Wings Graphic


The blank page calls,
the heart responds,
imagination spreads wide its wings
and launches into infinity…
Fingers dance,
words flow,
the page fills,
the soul takes flight
and the spirit sings.

Copyright © Helena Harper

Nice, eh? I thought so. I went to Helena’s website and found the following – a most interesting Q&A segment that gives come insight into Mrs. Harper the woman, poet, children’s book writer, educator, and life artist.


Have you always been interested in writing poetry? 
Actually, no! I’ve always loved to write, but my first love has always been writing fantasy stories for young children. I wrote poetry at school, of course, and every so often when I was on holiday, but it wasn’t a regular thing.

So, what prompted you to write your first book, It’s a Teacher’s Life?
Well, I’ve been a teacher for 20 years and about three years ago, when I was having a lovely holiday at a beautiful place in the country, I was inspired to write some poetry, and when I came home, I then had the idea to write some more poems about my life as a teacher. Each poem would concentrate on a different aspect of school life, such as the lessons, what went on in the staffroom, school trips, exams, report writing, and so on. I also wanted to pay tribute to some of the support staff who do so much to keep a school running, but are often forgotten about e.g. the cook, the caretaker/janitor, the nurse, the school secretary – the unsung heroes of life is what I call them.

Do you have a favorite poem? 
No, I can’t say I’ve got a favourite …

(Old Silly’s note: See the way she spells ‘favourite’? She’s British – a native of the original English speaking country. Take note, English majors. Okay, let me shut up. Please continue, Helena)

… each one is written from the heart and it’s impossible for me to single one out in particular. 

What prompted you to write your book, Family and More – (Enemies or Friends)?
I had the idea one day whilst driving to work. I was just thinking about my family and other people in my life who’ve had a big influence on me, one way or the other, and suddenly the idea popped into my head that I could write a second collection of poems about them and the lessons I’ve learnt from them. 

Why is it sub-titled, “Enemies or Friends?”
That’s got a lot to do with the fact that my mother is German and my father was English, and I just couldn’t get my head round the fact that, had I been born a few years earlier, all my German relatives would have been my ‘enemies’. To me they could never have been ‘enemies’, just ‘family’. It got me thinking about how futile it is to talk about so-called national divisions.

What did you find the hardest about writing your books?
Finding the time to finish them and then the editing, the endless checking and re-reading – it drove me crazy!

What was the easiest part? 
Just writing the poems – I was totally absorbed by the process and really enjoyed it.

How do you describe your style of poetry? 
Easy-to-read, easily accessible free verse. I want people to be able to read and understand what I’m writing about from the word go. I don’t like things to be hidden in obscurity. I write simply as I’m inspired to write. The poems I’ve had published in my two collections are really stories and character sketches that just happen to be in verse. One of the reviews on Amazon talks about me developing a new form of poetry, called the ‘anecdotal poem’, and I think that describes my style of poetry very well. (If readers would like to find out more about free verse, then I recommend this article Free Verse Poetry – An Art Form, written by Angela Saunders, poetry editor of Bella Online)

What’s the attraction of writing poetry as opposed to writing children’s stories? 
When I write poetry, I can concentrate on the rhythm and sound of the words and use vocabulary I wouldn’t be able to use in my children’s stories. It’s a marvellous linguistic challenge – the sound of words has always been something that’s fascinated me. It’s one of the reasons I studied modern languages. When I write my children’s stories, it’s more about escaping into a wonderful world of fantasy, leaving the mundane ‘real’ world behind – I find it wonderfully exciting and liberating.

When you’re not writing, what are you doing? Tutoring, translating, reading, walking, playing tennis or dancing, doing Pilates, spending time with my niece and nephew.

What are your future writing goals?
The illustrations for my first children’s picture book are being done at the moment and I then want to get the illustrations done for my second picture book. I’m really looking forward to having my children’s books published and going into schools to talk about them. Having been a school teacher for 20 years, I’m no stranger to the school environment, although it will perhaps be a little strange that I’ll be going into schools first and foremost as a writer rather than a teacher, although I hope everyone can learn something useful from my stories.


Last Thursday I called attention to her book, It’s a Teacher’s Life. Today the featured book of hers is Family and More (Enemies or Friends?)Helena Harper Family & More

Here’s a taste of what the book is about-

Who influences us in our lives? How do they influence us? Whom do we call an enemy? Whom do we call a friend? And why? Why do we have relationships at all?  These are the questions I’m exploring in this collection of poems (written in free verse) that examines the relationships in my own life. I have had to rethink my definition of ‘enemy’, not least because my father was English and my mother German and they met in the aftermath of World War II in Germany. I have also been forced to rethink my definition of ‘friend’, because if we learn something from someone that helps us to grow and develop as human beings, becoming more understanding and compassionate in the process, then surely most people we meet in life will be our ‘friends’?  Through the memories and experiences of the people in my life, others can hopefully reflect on their own and maybe come to understand themselves and their relationships better.


To read the blurb about and full cast of characters in this book click here, for some great excerpts, click here, and to get your copy, click here.

Helena likes to hear from her fans and readers – here’s her contact info:


 Author’s website:

 Authorsden website:

 Her blog:

 Twitter her at:

So that about wraps it up, I’d like to thank Helena for allowing me the privilege of having her and her literary contributions here on the Old Silly’s Free Spirit blog. Let’s all show Helena some love in the comments gallery – oh – she wanted me to let everyone know that she is traveling and without wifi this weekend, so please be patient if your comment asks a question or begs for interaction. On Monday and Tuesday she’ll be checking in to read and respond to y’all, so make sure and come back to read her replies.

And, before clicking off into the Blue Nowhere, make a note to drop in at Harry Gilleland’s blog today, he’s doing his part two feature on Yours Truly – it’s a good one, with a brand spanking new interview with me and also an interview with Louis Seiffer – the big meanie Satan wannabe character from my novel, Owen Fiddler.

Chow gang, love ya, toodles & bye bye!

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Leave a Comment
  1. Crystal Clear Proofing / Oct 3 2009 6:11 am

    Great interview, Marvin. Just like a book’s description on its jacket (hopefully) wanting to make you read the book – a good interview does the same thing. Wonderful questions!

  2. Michael Burke / Oct 3 2009 7:44 am

    That short poem, “The Writer” is awesome! Loved the whold post – Helena seems like a very interesting, talented and devoted writer, person and teacher.

    • Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:18 am

      Thank you so much, Michael, for your kind comments. I’m very touched!

  3. Cactus Annie / Oct 3 2009 8:05 am

    This two part feature on Helena has been one of my FAVOURITES, Marv! lol

    Seriously, love Helena’s answers to the interview and her poetry and books sound like marvelous additions to the literary world. “The Writer” is deep and yet easy to “understand” for us non poets – it lays out the mental/spiritual process that a good writer goes through. Sweet!

    • Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:24 am

      Thank you, Annie! You’ve made my day by saying that my poem is ‘easy to understand’ because as I said in my interview, I want my poetry to be accessible to all. Hope that prickly temper is behaving itself – LOL!

  4. Vivian Zabel / Oct 3 2009 9:36 am

    I can’t give this the time it needs. Will return when I can.

  5. Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. / Oct 3 2009 10:02 am

    Great job here, Marvin. This is an interesting post that taught me a lot about Helena.

    Helena, I enjoyed reading your poetry and your comments about your style of poetry. It reminded me of my own poetry, which shares this trait: “…Easy-to-read, easily accessible…I want people to be able to read and understand what I’m writing about from the word go. I don’t like things to be hidden in obscurity.” Of course, my stories are told in rhyming verse, whereas you prefer free verse…although I do write some free verse also. I also agree with you that the easiest part of being a poet is the writing of the poems and the total enjoyment in doing so. I very much enjoyed reading your interview.



    • Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:26 am

      Thank you, Harry – I love meeting poets with the same vision for their work as I have for mine! Pleased you enjoyed the interview.

  6. Nancy Famolari / Oct 3 2009 10:12 am

    Another great post, Marv. I particularly liked the promotional material in the email. Helena’s poetry is exactly what she’s looking for accessible and easy to read. I very much enjoyed the poem. Helena, good luck with your children’s books

    • Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:27 am

      Thank you, Nancy, for your comment – very much appreciated!

  7. unwriter1 / Oct 3 2009 10:19 am

    I agree with all the comments (saves me a lot of typing.) Another good interview.

    • theoldsilly / Oct 3 2009 10:47 am

      LOL, Unwriter – very thrifty of you! And thanks. 😉

  8. Karen Cioffi / Oct 3 2009 10:21 am

    The Writer is a beautiful poem! Also, I read Family and More – I thoroughly enjoyed it. It enlightened me to things I never thought of before and it also is beautifully written.

    Great post, Marvin,


    • Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:31 am

      Thank you, Karen, for your generous praise – if my book enlightened you in any way, then I’ve achieved one of my aims, and that’s a great feeling for a writer.

  9. Stanley Berber / Oct 3 2009 10:50 am

    Nicely done, Marv. And that Fall photo makes me want to drive up to Michigan! (smiles) Helena, your “The Writer” poem is remarkably good. I can tell from that, the excerpts Marv linked us to and the interview responses, you are a deep thinker with the ability to make your thoughts accessible to the average person. Special talent!

    • Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:32 am

      Many thanks, Stanley – I’m honored and humbled!

  10. John Standish / Oct 3 2009 10:55 am

    Great job, both of you! I had to chuckle at your remark about the Brit spelling of “favourite,” Marv. Also they spell flavor “flavour,” and color is “colour” and honor is “honour” center is “centre” and meter is “metre,” right Helena? Any other words us Americans are blotching up? (wink)

    • theoldsilly / Oct 3 2009 10:58 am

      LOL – hey thanks for the spelling lesson, John. Your “cheque” is in the mail, and thanks for contributing to the “programme.” 😉

      • John Standish / Oct 3 2009 3:55 pm

        LOL – thanks – will that be in US dollars or Euros? 😉

  11. Carolyn Howard-Johnson / Oct 3 2009 3:22 pm

    I came by because I wanted to burst my cheeks. Honestly, Marv. You write the best pitches. Helena, aren’t you just in love with this guy? It’s sorta the poet and the beast, don’t you think?

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Award-winning author of The Frugal Editor
    The Frugal Book Promoter

    • theoldsilly / Oct 3 2009 3:58 pm

      Ha! Thanks, HoJo – I figured that pitch would get YOUR attention. 😉

      The Silly Old Beast

      • Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:43 am

        Couldn’t have put it better, myself, Carolyn! Marvin certainly makes us all laugh…

        By the way, John and Marvin, I thought I’d show you that I can write ‘American’ – notice the spelling of ‘honored’ in my reply to Stanley! Many thanks, John, enjoyed your comments, though we’re still using pounds sterling here and not Euros!

  12. Barbra Kelser / Oct 3 2009 4:21 pm

    Loved the interview! I also thought “The Writer” was wonderful. And … lol, really enjoying the spelling US vs Jolly old England banter here in the comments. First time visitor here, I’ll have to come back. Helena, best wishes to your writing and teaching career!

    • theoldsilly / Oct 3 2009 4:28 pm

      Hi Barbra! Always glad to welcome new readers here at the Old Silly’s blog. Please do stop in often, and Helena will be visiting Monday and Tuesday after the weekend to reply to comments. Stay in touch!

      • Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:46 am

        Barbra, thank you for the kind comments and your wishes. I’m enjoying the banter re the spellings, too!

  13. kathy stemke / Oct 3 2009 4:43 pm

    I loved, “The Writer,” and I’m fascinated with the image above it. Fun post you guiz. that’s how we spell guys in New York! LOL

    • Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:45 am

      Thank you, Kathy. I found the image on photobucket and knew that was the one for my poem!

  14. Jane Kennedy Sutton / Oct 3 2009 8:14 pm

    Fascinating interview and Helena, I loved the poem.

    Marvin, I’m going to be in Michigan in a couple of weeks and hope I get to see some of those fantastic colors from that beautiful photo.

    • theoldsilly / Oct 3 2009 9:50 pm

      Hey Come on up, Jane – colors should be in high beam in a cupla weeks!

      • Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:52 am

        Pleased you enjoyed the poem and the interview, Jane. I agree with you about the photo – the COLOURS (!) are stunning. It seems to me that autumn comes earlier to the US than it does in the UK, because where I live the trees are really only just beginning to change COLOUR (!).

  15. Liana Metal / Oct 5 2009 10:31 am

    Lovely poem Helena! You’ve got a whole teasure inside your brain-you should be writing poetry non stop!

    Marvin, unorthodox way of attacting viewers! You won!!!
    You are very…amusing (if that’s the right word to say) LOL my English is L2-remember? Don’t get offended if I say somehting wrong.

  16. Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 11:59 am

    Liana – you’re so sweet! What a lovely comment to make! I love writing poetry, but if I were to write poetry non-stop, then I’d have no time for my children’s stories – and I love writing them just as much!!!!

    Haven’t been able to visit many people’s blogs this month for the VBT tour, what with Marvin having such a following and me going away for the weekend, but aim to do better next month. Thank you, my friend, for stopping by.

  17. Helena Harper / Oct 5 2009 12:02 pm

    Thank you, Marvin, for another wonderful feature – you certainly know how to pull out all the stops! I’ve really enjoyed being a guest on your blog and replying to everyone’s comments. It’s been great fun!

    • theoldsilly / Oct 5 2009 3:33 pm

      My pleasure, and glad to see you once again taking the time to interact with all the readers. Your replies are very – ehm, “colourful!” lol – We’ll do this again some time, I’m sure. 😉

      • Helena Harper / Oct 6 2009 4:26 am

        Look forward to it, Marvin – it’s been marveLLous!

  18. yvonne lewis / Oct 5 2009 3:18 pm

    I enjoy Helena Harper’s writting emmensly, thanks for the post most enjoyable.


    • Helena Harper / Oct 6 2009 4:27 am

      Thank you, Yvonne – hope you and your family are keeping well.

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