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Friday, October 10, 2008

Straigh From Hel

Today I'm interviewing Helen Ginger, Author, Editor and Ex-Mermaid.

If you weren't a writer, what would you do?

I used to teach public speaking at San Antonio College and also taught at Incarnate Word College. I really enjoyed teaching, but quit a month before my first child. So, if I weren't writing, I'd probably go back to teaching at the college level.

Where do you like to go to do your best work?

I have to have quiet so I work in my office and sometimes have to close the door to block out voices in the house. I spent four weeks at the Vermont Studio Center on a writing fellowship I received from the Brown Foundation. I had my own room with writing table and my meals were served in a communal setting with other artists. All I had to do was write. That was an amazing experience and my most productive stretch ever.

Do you listen to music or prefer silence?

Silence, although I can write with soft music in the background, but no words. If there are words in the song, I start to listen to it and sing it in my head. Then I can't hear my thoughts or the characters' voices.

What kind of research do you do for a project?

Depends on the project. I do a lot of Internet research. I check out or get books on certain subjects. Sometimes I look for travel books if I'm writing about an area too far away to physically visit. If it's a nonfiction project, I might travel to do interviews or other research.

What resources do you find most helpful?

Clearly the Internet. What did we ever do without it? Not just for looking up information, but for making a connection with people who can answer questions.

Which character you've created would you say is most like you?

There's a bit of me in all of them. The character I'm writing now may be most like me. Not in age – this is my first attempt at a young adult book. But she's like me in that she has a single parent and works hard to keep his trust and respect. She's stronger than I was at that age, though, and more adventuresome.

What are some of your hobbies?

Reading, definitely. Cross stitch. I tried knitting, but just could not loosen up. No matter how I tried or how big the needles were, my stitches were so tight I couldn't get the needles through. I used to do ceramics, even had my own kiln. Now I seem to sit my rear at the computer and not get up until I have to quit.

How does your family feel about your writing career?

My husband is very supportive. He always has been.

What is the hardest kind of scene for you to write?

Humor. I can write from the viewpoint of the serial killer as he's killing. I can write scenes that make even me bawl. But funny? That's difficult.
If there was one thing you could change about your work, what would it be?
A bigger desk and more time in the day. Honestly, I need a bigger desk and it's not like my desk is tiny. It's just covered and I need more room. And more time, of course. I have my own writing, my blog and another which is a co-op blog of editors, and my newsletter. Then there's networking online which takes up a chunk of each day. As a freelance editor, I edit for authors. Each manuscript takes time since I work through it at least three times. I'm also on call for two different companies to do edit and marketing work.

Do you have a website or blog? Tell us about it.

I have both.

My website is A lot of it is information about me, but it also lets readers know about the free weekly e-newsletter, Doing It Write, I've been writing for 9 years now. I also have a page about the editing work I do for other writers.

Then I have two pages for writers, one listing contests and one listing events. Then there are several pages of Writers Resources. Two of the websites pages have nothing to do with writing. I've belonged to a Bunco group for over twenty years. Those pages tell about our group then give recipes gathered from the group – really delicious recipes, I might add.

My blog is called Straight From Hel. It, like my site, is geared toward writers. Almost every post is about writing, the publishing business or writing events. Occasionally I'll get tagged and write something about myself, but probably 95% of the blog is about writing. You can find Straight From Hel at

What's the biggest mistake that new authors make?

Not spending more time editing before they start querying and not spending time prepping to promote as they write the book.
Edit, edit, edit. Vet it through a critique group or trusted readers. Let it sit after you've written it, then go back and read it again. If you can afford it, send it to a freelance editor like me.
Thanks for stopping by, Helen. It’s been a blast.

And, don’t miss a chance to read Helen’s blog, Straight From Hel at


Helen Ginger said...

Good morning Susie.

Eeek! My head looks big. Good thing I wasn't drinking coffee when that popped up. ;-)

Thank you for hosting me today. This is so much fun! If anyone has a question or comment, leave them here and I'll try to answer.

I'll be back!

Morgan Mandel said...

I like to listen to country music in the background or even TV when I write, but not too loud.

Don't cross stitch any more. Tried it about 20 years ago. I'm not patient enough, plus it's too hard on the eyes.

Morgan Mandel

Maryann Miller said...

Nice interview, Helen. And don't worry about the big head. We all know you are not an egotist. :-)

Helen Ginger said...

Hi Morgan.

You know, I've just recently started listening to country music. I hated it growing up since my mother loved it (rebellion, dontchaknow). But lately, I've re-discovered it and like it, primarily because I can actually understand what they're saying!

Helen Ginger said...

Maryann, you are quite sweet to say that.

In my little thumbnail picture, my head seems fine. When it comes out big, that's a different story!

zhadi said...

You and are much alike with the music in the background. Words in the music totally break my concentration.

I so envy you the writers retreat!

Helen Ginger said...

Dana, you can apply for a fellowship. The place is the Vermont Studio Center.