Thursday, January 19, 2012

Helen Howell - Letter from a Friend





If there's anybody I'd like to have for tea it's Helen A. Howell.

She has such a lovely, calming, creative presence in my internet world that I just want to reach out and give her a squeeze. It would be a long reach, however. Helen lives in Australia. I live in Canada. It's summertime for her right now, while I'm socked in under January snow. She gets parrots at her birdfeeder. PARROTS! Can you imagine? I get chickadees. We're about as opposite as opposites get but, like all my internet friends, distance and differences dissolve in a melting pot of writerly like-mindedness.

Helen is one of my Friday Flash friends (try saying that three times fast). I started writing flash stories two years ago – I can honestly say it was a pivotal moment in my life. Not only did I discover the joy of writing fiction, I also discovered a circle of people who would become as familiar to me as real-life friends and family. From comments on each other's stories, to chatting on Facebook and Twitter, these folks are on a first name basis with me. All I have to say is, "I was talking to Lou," or, "I got an e-mail from Linda," and my husband knows who I'm talking about. Helen is one of these special people.

Recognize this? ^_^ It's practically Helen's trademark. She sprinkles it everywhere, in her Facebook comments, on her blog, in her letters – it's like a little happy face breadcrumb and if you follow it you will find one of the loveliest, cheeriest, most creative people in this great big world – my friend, Helen.



10th January 2012
My Dear Friend,
Well, here I am on a dull day in January, when it’s supposed to be our summer, yet grey clouds are thrown carelessly across the sky like a discarded blanket. As I look out the window of my office, I see my darling little bird feeding table. It’s in the shape of a house, white roof and red body; it’s always alive with the comings and goings of the feathered kind. I do love my garden and the time I spend in it—an oasis in a busy world.

A lot of my days are spent at the keyboard, penning in the modern way my ideas for stories. I‘ve nearly finished the last lot of edits to my novel. Did I tell you that when I first started writing three and half years ago I jumped in the deep end? Oh yes, I jumped straight in and wrote a novel—a fantasy fiction for children from eight years upwards—it took me twelve months. It is this novel that I am finally polishing.
I began fiction writing at the age of fifty-six and half . I never thought that I could be a writer, let alone write a novel. Yet when I unleashed my imagination, gave it free rein, it surprised me at what I could accomplish. They say the pen is mightier than sword don’t they? It is how one uses those words that creates joy or unhappiness. Words have such strength don’t they? They achieved so much. The thrill of a story; the excitement of an adventure, the sadness of a loss, the cut of a knife. I hope the words I have created in the last three and half years have entertained and brought a smile to the lips of those who read me, or a gasp as I attempt to thrill and chill.

I’ve always been creative and as a child I use to play theatre with my friends. We’d set up a mock stage and perform for anyone willing to watch. Then like all small girls I took ballet classes—little did I know that I would go on to be a ballet teacher. At the age of fifteen I even won a choreography competition, where I also designed the costumes for the dance I created. Such a long time ago now, it almost seems like it was another life.

In my late thirties I took up watercolour painting. I loved the feel of being able to create pictures with the stroke of a brush . I guess I was more impressionist than realist and I went on to follow that pursuit for over 18 years and exhibiting my work at various art shows. Painting, I think, is a lot like writing. You start with a blank piece of paper, it holds so much potential, promise and as you make the first stroke the picture begins to reveal itself. One is pulling together a vision and transforming it into a reality. In my 'about me' on my writing blog, I wrote: “Writing for me is like painting pictures with words. It is an expression of thought, feeling and imagination all drawn together to form one glorious vision of an initial idea.”

Now having recounted my creative endeavours from early childhood onwards, I wonder why I thought I could never write?

There is one thing I would also loved to have been able to do—sing. Yes, of course I can sing, but not necessarily in tune! I marvel at those who possess amazing voices and think it would be so splendid to have been one of them. Nevertheless, I have been blessed with certain gifts of creativity and I should not discount those things that I can achieve.

Oh I don’t think that I ever mentioned to you that I use to read tarot professionally — 
Madam Helen delves into the future - well stumbles around a bit ^_^. I say use to, because late last year I retired from professional reading and also as the co-author of the blog Tarot Notes Major and Minor—my ex tarot partner now runs it herself. I have had a love of tarot that spans thirty plus years, and I never cease to be amazed at how these little pieces of cardboard can get to the root of a problem. Is it the cards or is it the reader that holds the magic? I’ll leave you to decide that one.

Oh look, I’ve babbled on for such a long time, but I do hope that you will have enjoyed reading this and perhaps feel that you have got to know me just a little better. Right, back to those edits or that book will never be finished!


With fondest regards,
Helen A. Howell

40 comments:

  1. My goodness, talk about multi talented.

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  2. What a wonderful letter, Helen! I started out painting as well, before moving on to jewelry design and FINALLY! writing.
    Cathy - I feel the same way about the fridayflash group. They marked a pivotal point for me too.

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    1. If you have any leftover jewelry you're not doing with, I'd be more than happy to take it off your hands... jest sayin....

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  3. Wow, Helen... I thought I was the latest to come to writing (started at age 44). You are so accomplished, and I love that you read tarot (I have an Arthurian deck I have been meaning to take out).

    Yes to gardens, to feathered friends, to that peace. Speaking of... peace!

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    1. I was 49 when I started writing fiction. It must be something about maturity that allows us to make up stories.

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  4. I still think it's adorable when Helen "throws glitter" on Twitter.

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    1. I think it's adorable that you think it's adorable.

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    2. •。★  ☾ °☆  . * ● ¸ .   ★ °

      ☆¸.✶*¨`* •.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*• ¸.¸.☆¨¯`♥´¸¸.☆¨¯`♥´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`

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  5. Hi Cathy, what a wonderful introduction I have a big smile ^__^ on my face now oh and it was so splendid that it more than deserves a couple of handfuls of sparkly glitter ☆:*´¨`*:..☆:*´¨`*:..

    Thank you all of you for such lovely comments. I would like to say that one of the best things I have done in my life, was to join the Friday Flash group. They are the most generous, friendly and supportive group I have ever met.

    Keep on writing everyone!

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    1. Hi Helen!!!!! (How on EARTH do you do those stars?????) I'm so glad you sent me a letter. You can write me any darn time you want! Hugs to you!

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    2. I just copy cut and past Cathy, - here's a selection for you to play with *˚★ 。* 。*。 • ˚ ˚ •。★  ☾ °☆  . * ● ¸ .   ★ °

      ☆¸.✶*¨`* •.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*• ¸.¸.☆¨¯`♥´¸¸.☆¨¯`♥´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`

      •*¨`*•. ☆ .•*¨`*•. Sparkly glitter makes the world just a little more brighter ^__^

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    3. Yes to the #fridayflash folk. I feel I cut my teeth there, at least my short story teeth. Other writing keeps me less involved but I still follow and post every now and then. Peace...

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    4. •。★  ☾ °☆  . * ● ¸ .   ★ °

      ☆¸.✶*¨`* •.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*• ¸.¸.☆¨¯`♥´¸¸.☆¨¯`♥´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
      Coooooollll!!!!!!

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  6. Great letter! Helen, you have so many talents -- you are blessed.

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    1. Isn't she? (Love your 'name' -Cocobird is fabulous!)

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  7. Helen, this is one of those letters that should be saved, to be read and re-read. It's very interesting. I especially enjoyed the comparison of writing and painting. How true! In both cases, you start with that formidable, but inviting, blank page. It was also interesting to find that you read Tarot. I read palms occasionally. It's amazing what one can see in the palm of a hand.

    Good luck with the novel!

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    1. Palm reading is so interesting, not that I can do it, only played it it. I'm glad you enjoyed the letter. ^__^

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  8. What a lovely letter, Helen :) As a child, I created theatre pieces, too, including a musical, lol. And perhaps there's hope for me yet as a writer - not even 46 yet, never mind 56! Thanks for sharing this :D
    Chloë

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    1. Thanks Chloe, you're never too old to try something else that's creative, I'm 61 this next birthday ^_^ Pleased you enjoyed the letter.

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    2. 46, Chloe? (a baby!!!!) :) •。★  ☾ °☆  . * ● ¸ .   ★ °

      ☆¸.✶*¨`* •.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*• ¸.¸.☆¨¯`♥´¸¸.☆¨¯`♥´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`

      (I'm likin' this glitter stuff, Helen)

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    3. LOL Cathy I can see you're enjoying that glitter! ^_____^

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  9. I love reading that it's summer there in the midst of this snowstorm. This is such an inspiring letter. A good sort to keep and read and read again.

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    1. We had a doozy of a storm yesterday -- guess it headed east! Here's some of Helen's glitter to keep you warm: •。★  ☾ °☆  . * ● ¸ .   ★ °

      ☆¸.✶*¨`* •.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*• ¸.¸.☆¨¯`♥´¸¸.☆¨¯`♥´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`

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  10. So many talents,Helen, and each in their way tell stories!
    Good luck with the edits! :-)

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  11. And some glitter for you too, Sue! •。★  ☾ °☆  . * ● ¸ .   ★ °

    ☆¸.✶*¨`* •.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*• ¸.¸.☆¨¯`♥´¸¸.☆¨¯`♥´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`

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  12. Ha! I knew it. Of course Helen is this multi-talented person she's shown herself to be. No surprise here.

    Perhaps a touch of envy... :-)

    You have a nice, light touch with the keyboard, Helen - the same thing required for watercolors, unless I miss my guess. 'Twas good to learn a little more about you. And, again, here's another vote for the #fridayflash community. A great bunch of writers and readers.

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  13. Kevin thank you so much for your very kind words - and thank you to all of you who have left such lovely comments, you are making my days so much brighter. ^_^

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  14. Hi Helen and Cathy, thanks very much for this post. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you better, Helen, and I'm happy and proud to have connected with you via #fridayflash as well. It was interesting to learn about your other artistic and professional pursuits like painting and reading tarot, and I now know that we're in the same boat trying to balance the tasks of editing a first novel and writing new flash fiction. Cathy, what a great idea to post letters like this from fellow #fridayflashers, thank you for doing so and I echo your thoughts on the #fridayflash community, the writers with whom I've been fortunate to connect among this group mean a lot to me too.

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    1. Thanks, Richard! Thanks for the follow, too.
      Friday Flash has truly changed my life. Jon Strother deserves a medal. I will have to get over there and read some of your stories and I am going to try to write more flash myself whenever this pesky novel of mine gets done. (I need a daily kick in the butt, I swear...)

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    2. Thanks in advance if you check out my stuff, and best of luck with your novel!

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  15. Hi Richard! Thank you so much for your great comments. I'm certainly in that boat with you, this novel was and is the first I've ever written and I have spent on and off a lot of time messing around with it.

    Thanks Cathy for inviting me to take part in a Letter to a Friend, I've had a lovely time! ^_^

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  16. I love these letters, it's so nice to be able to see how people progress on their journey, and it's lovely to get to know Helen a bit more.

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  17. Thanks Icy! I agree these letters are a fabulous idea and a little window into as you say how other progress on their journey.

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    1. I enjoyed your letter, Helen. What an interesting journey to becoming a writer!

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  18. Hiya Helen, what a wonderful letter, you are indeed a multi-talented lady. As for the singing, if it's any consolation, I sound like a scalded cat, maybe we should try a virtual duet some day? ^-^. :)

    You have been kind enough to send me the lovely glitter on more than one occasion, and now, by virtue of C+P, I can return the compliment, so here is some glitter from me to you... :)

    •。★  ☾ °☆  . * ● ¸ .   ★ °

    ☆¸.✶*¨`* •.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*• ¸.¸.☆¨¯`♥´¸¸.☆¨¯`♥´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`

    •*¨`*•. ☆ .•*¨`*•.

    I do hope that your treatment gives positive results, and very quickly too.

    Look after yourself Helen. Best wishes. :)

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  19. And hiya to Cathy too, who also merits some glitter

    •。★  ☾ °☆  . * ● ¸ .   ★ °

    ☆¸.✶*¨`* •.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*• ¸.¸.☆¨¯`♥´¸¸.☆¨¯`♥´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`

    •*¨`*•. ☆ .•*¨`*•.

    Best wishes Cathy. :)

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  20. Oh Steve glitter how wonderful! ^__^ I think we'd both need a couple of drinks before that duet though don't you tee-hee.

    Thanks for your good wishes, I'm hoping it will all sort out and being good and not staying on the computer too long. ^_^

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How's it going, eh? It's SO good to hear from you. Tell me every darn thing...