A native of England and a long-time teacher, Helena Harper’s first two books are poetry collections, inspired by her professional and personal life: It’s a Teacher’s Life…! and the recently released Family and More – Enemies or Friends?

Family and More is a lyrical collection of verse in which Harper recalls the people who have taught her precious life lessons. As the daughter of a German mother and English father, who met in Hamburg at the end of World War II, she explores notions of national and emotional boundaries, the horrors of war, self-discovery and love, returning time and again to that oldest and most emotive of themes: the infinite power of the human spirit.

Harper speaks with Write On! about her journey as a writer, her interest in poetry, and more.

Why did you write Family and More?
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, incorporating my reflections about my German/English background and my disbelief that relatives of mine would have been fighting each other in both World Wars, a fact that I had a lot of difficulty coming to terms with.

How was it different than/similar to writing It’s a Teachers Life…!?
I chose to write in the same style as I had for It’s a Teacher’s Life…! (stories in verse) as it came naturally to me. I was totally absorbed by the process, just as I had been for my first book, but I had much more revision to do than for my first book. After I had had it critiqued, I realised that I had to make it clearer to the reader what exactly I had learnt from each person. During the whole process, I came to a better understanding of each person and, through them, of myself and the events in my own life. Most importantly, perhaps, I began to see what my own role in life could be as a result of coming from the particular background that I have.

What prompted you to write your first book It’s a Teacher’s Life…!?
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.

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.

What is your favorite part of being a writer? The greatest challenge?
My favourite part: experimenting with language, sounds and rhythm, and letting the imagination take flight when I write my children’s stories. The greatest challenge: going through the publishing process, learning about marketing, and getting my children’s stories illustrated!

Advice for people who want to write from their own experience?
Write as it comes, from the heart. Then it will strike a chord with others.

Additional advice for writers?
If you want to write, just start to write, but try and attend/ follow some courses as well. I think everyone needs advice and guidance on their writing journey.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
I wish I had known more about the publishing process and, of course, marketing. I had no idea what social networking sites even were a few years ago! So these past two years have been a steep learning curve, and I’m still climbing!


Comments are closed.

  1. Nancy Famolari 12 years ago

    Very interesting interview. I love Helena’s poetry!

  2. Carolyn Howard-Johnson 12 years ago

    How lovely. I’ve read Helen’s book and found her extended idea of family captivating. Thank you Deb for bringing this piece to us. I believe poets are living in our golden age–the one where the self publishing begun by the likes of Walt Whitman is finally bearing fully ripened fruit for all poets. In fact, I recnetly started a regular feature of resources for poets in my Sharing with Writers newsletter.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Tweeting writers resources @frugalbookpromo

  3. Helena Harper 12 years ago

    Thank you so much, Nancy and Carolyn, for your supportive comments, and thank you, Debra, for hosting me. If anyone would like to read extracts from “Family & More”, they can at http://www.helenaharper.com/family-and-more.php. And here are a few purchasing links, if anyone is thinking of going one step further… 🙂

    Amazon US: http://amzn.to/doduYA
    Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/9PgNyk
    Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/ak9koL

  4. Author
    Debra Eckerling 12 years ago

    Thanks for your comments, Nancy and Carolyn. And thank you, Helena, for sharing your journey with the Write On! Community!

  5. Karen Cioffi 12 years ago

    I reviewed Family and Friends and loved the book. I agree with your advice for those who want to write also: just do it! 🙂

  6. Magdalena Ball 12 years ago

    Good interview Helena – I love the idea of experimenting with language, sounds and rhythm. That’s the heart of writing poetry, isn’t it.

  7. Janet Ann Collins 12 years ago

    I can certainly identify with needing to learn so much about marketing. The tech world is changing so quickly we must all stretch our brains to keep up.

  8. Helena Harper 12 years ago

    Thank you everyone for your comments. I do appreciate you taking the time to stop by.

  9. kathy stemke 12 years ago

    Great post ladies.

  10. VS Grenier 12 years ago

    Thank you for introducing us to Helena Harper. I’m not a poet and love reading about those who do write poetry. I guess I’m hoping some of their talent will rub off on me. LOL. Great post really.

  11. Dallas Woodburn 12 years ago

    This sounds like a marvelous collection! Thanks for the post, Deb and Helena.


We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, ASAP. Thanks!


Copyright © 2020 Debra Eckerling, Write On Online, All Rights Reserved.

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?