An Interview with Helen Beer

Thank you for allowing Haunted Waters Press the opportunity to showcase Anniversary Trek in the 2019 issue of From the Depths. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I live in a small town just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, and work as a remote sales engineer for a Midwestern industrial foundry. I've been married for 34+ years to a self-confessed geek, and we have one son who works as a contractor in Antarctica, Alaska, and Greenland seasonally, but whose roots are in Western Colorado. Our other kids have four legs--one horse and two cats.

Tell us about your writing process. Do you have any writing routines or rituals that you practice? Any writing quirks?
I write with a sense of urgency, as it has to be squeezed into already packed weekends. As someone who has worked from home for nearly two decades, I've been able to transfer that discipline to my writing. I sit, I write (and sometimes I produce worthless stuff, sometimes not). So many of my ideas come while traveling, sleeping, mucking stalls; then it's just a matter of recording those loosely-formed ideas, shaping them, and workshopping them with fellow writers on Zoetrope. Flash pieces always take me more time--it's as though the shorter the piece, the more rewriting goes into choosing just the right damn words. My record is twenty-three rewrites to one flash ending, embarrassing as that is to admit. Oh, and yes... I can be anal at times.

How do you handle writer's block?
Reading is the single most effective curative; although, in all honesty, the more frequent--and frustrating--issue I face is not having the time to release and record the flood of random ideas floating about in my head. I also absolutely love writer challenges--give me a first line, a theme, an image--and I'm off to the races. Some of these aren't winners (or even close to it), but I'm writing... and that's the point.

Where do you draw inspiration from? What was the inspiration behind Anniversary Trek?
I've always been drawn to complex familial issues in my writing--factors that stress marriages, for example. This story is but one of several exploring those themes. Our son is the adventurer in the family. He was a thru-hiker of the AT before college, and made lifelong friendships on the trail. Growing up in Northern Virginia, I hiked the AT on weekends, so never experienced the reflective solitude our son did. To this day, between his working seasons, he travels the world and hikes or mountain bikes in remote locales; in a way, writing this story was a vicarious means to "live" those experiences.

Did you face any challenges writing this piece?
Endings always challenge me; this piece was no exception. I wanted my protagonist to emerge from her journey with a fresh perspective, something learned from the experience, steps taken--literally and figuratively--towards healing, and handling grief in a healthier fashion. Oh, and yes, with an understanding that grief in and of itself is a journey--and unique to each person experiencing it. I'm hopeful I conveyed that successfully by the end.

What do you hope your readers take away from this piece?
Honestly? I hope readers recognize the familiarity, and universality, of one thing: that life really is about putting one foot in front of the other. Oh, sure, there may be bears and smelly farts along the way; but in every challenge there's an opportunity to learn, to find humor, to allow others to lend a hand.

Was there a defining moment that led you down this writerly path or a person who encouraged or helped shape you as a writer?
Both my parents were voracious readers; it was contagious. I've had some wonderful teachers and professors along the way, too. But I've always, for as long as I can remember, loved to read and write stories. And almost twenty years ago, I discovered Francis Ford Coppola's website, Zoetrope, and "met" hundreds of writers--many of whom I still call friends today.

Be the human your cat expects you to be. Never, ever stop learning. Oh, and yeah: Read more Chekhov!


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Read more Chekhov!

What is your favorite childhood book?
School for Young Riders, by the late Jane Marshall Dillon, probably tied with The Wishing Tree, by William Faulkner.

What are you reading right now?
A fellow Zoetroper's new novel, Find Sam, by Debbie Ann Ice.

What words do you live by? Do you have a personal motto?
Be the human your cat expects you to be. Never, ever stop learning. Oh, and yeah: Read more Chekhov!

What’s next? Do you have anything special that you’ll be focusing on in 2020?
Besides EBITDA! EBITDA! EBITDA! for work? Yes: Keep writing at least one story a week, and workshopping two pieces a month on Zoetrope (in the Long Stuff private office).

I'm also an obnoxious enabler for friends working on querying agents for their novels, as I don't have time to write my own... although there is an idea rumbling about, nagging me.

Thank you again for chatting with us. Finally, if you could share any advice for aspiring writers, what would it be?
One really good practice is outlined so well in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way--morning pages. Writing every single day is a very freeing act, and teaches one to accept one's own creativity.

And... read more Chekhov!


About the Author

Helen Beer sells for a living. She’s had success in short story contests, with multiple placements in both Moondance Film Festival and the Screencraft Cinematic Short Story competitions. Her work has appeared in Literary Potpourri, FRiGG, Typishly, Flash Fiction Magazine, 101 Words, Persimmon Tree, and The First Line, with an upcoming piece in Sky Island Journal. When not working or writing, she enjoys the Zen-like tranquility afforded by time spent riding her horse and mucking stalls.

Helen Beer and friends.

Share this Post

Leave a Comment