In one of my latest post  I told you I'd love to host guest posts to introduce the many interesting people I've known since I started blogging  with FLY HIGH ! less than a year ago. The blogosphere has been an inexhaustible source of knew experiences and knowledge to me and I've really met lots of people who share my interests, passions and fondnesses. I didn't know many in my real life and this has made me appreciate the Net so much! I've actually met wonderful people, mostly women,  who are passionate bloggers but also  much more...So I wanted to introduce them to all of you since each of them brings a very special story. The first is one of my latest buddies. I met her on Booksreads and we discovered we share much: we've got a degree in foreign languages, we've taught for twenty years in secondary schools, we love reading, we like blogging. She's now a tutor privately and a ... poet! Her first published collection is delightful and surprising , her poems are lovely vivid pictures of real life at school in a simple entertaining language. I'd never thought someone could write good poetry about school but ... Helena did it , and the result is extremely enjoyable!

Well , it's now time to introduce you ... HELENA HARPER.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, Helena.

Well, Maria, I live in England, but I grew up in a household that did things somewhat differently to other English households, because of my German mother (my mother met my father in Hamburg at the end of WWII, when he was a British soldier stationed there). At school, I enjoyed studying English and foreign languages and I went on to study German, Russian and International Relations at university. After university I went into banking, but I soon realised that was a big mistake because there was no outlet for creativity there! So I decided to train as a modern languages teacher and then started my teaching career. I've taught for 20 years as a secondary school teacher and now tutor privately.

2. We are colleagues, then! When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
 I've always loved writing. Even before I went to school and could write, I sat at a desk and wrote line after squiggly line on blank sheets of paper. The first story I remember writing was a story about pots and pans and other kitchen appliances who were having a competition to see who could be the cleanest. I really enjoyed writing that story and I still love to write those kind of stories, which is why I enjoy writing picture books and early readers. Part of me has never grown up!

3. You have a degree in modern languages and are a qualified teacher. Has this helped your writing?
Yes, definitely. My language studies have helped me appreciate the sound, rhythm and meaning of words and my teaching has taught me a great deal about what makes people tick.

4. 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.

5. So, what prompted you to write your first book “It's a Teacher's Life...!”
Well, about four years ago, when I was on a retreat 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.

6. Do you have a favourite poem?
No, I can't say I've got a favourite. Each one is written from the heart and it's impossible for me to single one out in particular.

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

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

9. 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.
10. You mentioned a second collection of poetry. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes, it's called 'Family and More – Enemies or Friends?' and it's like a poetic memoir, focusing on the people who've had a big influence on my life and the lessons I've learnt from them. My German/English background was a major inspiration for writing this book. At the moment, it's available as an ebook, but it's due to come out as a paperback this year with an extra poem and photos as well. So I'm excited about that!

11. 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.

Thank you so much, Helena!

 And  now , to give you all an example of Helena's talent I've chosen one of her poems I like best . I've picked it up from her blog.

Thank you for the breath that moves my body
and for the limbs that carry my spirit.
Thank you for the heart that beats in my chest
and for the mind that creates it.
Thank you for the fingers curling my hand
and for the toes dancing on my feet.
Thank you for the conscious energy surging through every cell,
connecting me to the ever-present ocean of eternity.
Thank you for the touch of my skin
and the comforting caress of warm water.
Thank you for the stillness of early morning
and the invigorating slap of cold air.
Thank you for the new spring life filling my eyes
and the symphony of bird song filling my ears.
Thank you for this land we belong to,
for the plants that talk to us
and for our sisters, the trees.
Thank you for warm smiles of family
and helping hands of strangers, friends in disguise.
Thank you for the laughter vibrating through my body
and for the words expressing from my mouth.
Thank you for the excitement of inquiry
and the fascination of discovery.
Thank you for bright patterns of T-shirt and trousers
and soft cuddles of dressing gown sleeves.
Thank you for the sweet melon melting my tongue
and the rich wine warming my throat.
Thank you for the dying sun
and for the colours that pulse
in unison with my soul.
Thank you for imagination's unfettered flights
soaring through infinite wonder and joy
and for inspiration, the whispered language of a loving soul.
Thank you for this magical, wonderful,
joyfully abundant, never-ending now.

Purchasing information for “It's a Teacher's Life...!”
Author: Helena Harper
ISBN: 978-1-84748-182-5
Publisher: Athena Press
Pages: 80
Available in paperback from all major online retailers, please see links below. Can also be ordered through any bookstore. Stocked by Haslemere Bookshop and Weybridge Books in the UK.
Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
Amazon CAN: http://bit.ly/5VhCPr
Barnes & Noble:
Google products:
Title: It's a Teacher's Life...! A Collection of Poems Set in a Girls' Private School


Helena Harper said...

Thank you so much, Maria, for this marvellous post! It's been wonderful to meet you and I'm so pleased you enjoyed my collection of poems "It's a Teacher's Life...!"

If any of your readers would like to read extracts from the book, then all they need to do is go to my website (www.helenaharper.com) or my blog (http://helenaharpersblog.blogspot.com)


Fiona said...

What a wonderful idea Maria! Helena is a very interesting woman, and I love the poem that you included in this post. Great work :)

Luciana said...

This you're doing is really nice! We can find other people that share the same interest that we do. I really enjoyed Helena's interview.

Helena Harper said...

Thank you, Fiona and Luciana, for your kind comments. It's nice to meet both of you!


P.S. If you'd like to take a peek into either of my books, you don't have to go to my website, just click on the Bookbuzzr widgets above. Happy reading and blogging to all!

Alexa Adams said...

It is a a marvelous notion and I was very interested to see how you intended to make the concept work, after reading your post announcing it. The poem has created the perfect atmosphere for my day - one of optimism, gratitude, and carpe diem. Thank you both, Helena and Maria, for a lovely post.

JaneGS said...

I really enjoyed reading your post, Helena--interesting life and your poem is magnificent--I may have to share it with my family next Thanksgiving!

Lovely idea, Maria--thanks.

Helena Harper said...

Thank you, Alexa and Jane, for your comments! I'm so glad you enjoyed the poem. Please feel free to share the poem, Jane, with whomever you wish, whenever you wish. The more, the merrier. Sharing and gratitude go hand in hand!