Monday, August 3, 2009

More about Helena Harper

Biography of Helen Harper

Helena Harper is a native of England, but she grew up in a household that did things somewhat differently to other English households, because her mother was German (her mother had met her father in Hamburg at the end of WWII, when as a British soldier he had been stationed there). This mixed background has had a profound influence on Helena and her understanding of so-called national divisions and whom we call an 'enemy' and whom we call a 'friend'.

From an early age she loved to read and write, particularly fantasy stories, and later she enjoyed studying foreign languages. At Surrey University she studied German, Russian and International Relations and spent considerable periods of time in Germany, Austria and Russia as part of the course. After university she went into banking, but soon realised that was a big mistake. “I felt like I was being suffocated,” she says of the experience.

She then spent a year teaching languages at a private school in London, and enjoyed it so much she decided she would get properly trained. She did a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Exeter University and then started her career as a modern languages teacher, a career which has lasted twenty years. During that time she has continued to write, concentrating primarily on fantasy stories for young children. However, in the past few years she has also discovered the joys of writing poetry for adults, and her first two books are poetry collections: It's a Teacher's Life...! and Family and More – Enemies or Friends?, which have been inspired by her professional and personal life.

Helena is now a private tutor and translator. She is continuing to write children's stories, and illustrations for her first children's picture book are now being done. Her aim is to see the book in print before the year is out. Many people ask Helena why she likes to write. She feels she can best express it like this:

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


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kathy stemke said...

Thanks for a great post. Way to go, Helena!

Vivian Zabel said...

Family life can make a big difference in how we observe things.

Before integration was big in schools, I attended integrated schools because the military was integrated. My father was stationed all over the world, and we knew people from other countries and cultures. Our neighbors might be Asian-American, African-American, or Native-American. We might visit Moroccan homes or French villas.

Helena, we're the winners.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting background. My childhood seems so boring in comparison, in a Happy Days sort of way.

I would think it would be easier to write about mystery and intrigue having parents from this era and living through the Cold War.

Stephen Tremp

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Helena's book is so interesting. I never thought of the dilemma and confusion a situation like her's could cause.

I highly recommend it - it is beautifully written.

Great post, Crystalee,

Karen Cioffi

Helena Harper said...

Thank you, Crystalee, for your post - much appreciated!

Vivian, you're so right when you say that family life can make a big difference to our attitudes. When I realised that German & English relatives of mine had fought against each other in the World Wars, it was then that the 'contradictions' in my background really came home to me. My book 'Family and More' is really my attempt to come to terms with those contradictions.

Stephen, many thanks for your comment. It wouldn't be easier for me to write about mystery and intrigue in a Cold War setting, because I'm not that way inclined, but each to his own!

Karen - I'm so pleased you enjoyed the book. If it gave you greater awareness in some shape or form, then that is a great reward for me.


Nancy Famolari said...

Excellent post. Helena's experience with a multi-cultural family sounds so interesting. I'm glad you included the poem. It was excellent

Donna M. McDine said...

I've enjoyed getting to know Helena more. Fascinating to say the least.

Donna M. McDine
Marketing Manager, SFC Magazine
SFC: Families Matter Blog
SFC Magazine Website

madcapmaggie said...

Helena, really nice to learn more about you. One of my aunts was German -- my uncle (great uncle, actually -- but he was only 8 years older than my mother) was a german war bride. They spoke german at home --

Helena Harper said...

Thank you Nancy, Donna and Maggie. Maggie - it's nice to meet you, too. I think there must be quite a few Americans who can relate to what I talk about in my book because there were German war brides who went to the USA just as much as those who went to England. My mother didn't speak German to us, one of the reasons being that my father could only speak a few words, but I think I inherited a feeling for the language. Your aunt or great aunt - do you know where she came from in Germany?