Monday, October 25, 2010

Essayist Wendy Helfenbaum answers our Q&A

As I mentioned in my first post Welcome to my new blog about Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart, one of the other essayists is Wendy Helfenbaum. Here is her Q & A about writing essays and her feelings of being part of this great book.

How long have you been writing essays? 
I think I wrote my first one in fourth grade. I love the freedom that essay writing affords, and I also enjoy incorporating dialogue, which is often the most challenging part.
When and where was your first essay published? 
My first paid essay, about how my husband proposed to me at an outdoor rock concert in New York City in the pouring rain, ran in Real Weddings Magazine about four years ago.
How did it feel when you discovered your essay had been chosen for inclusion in this book?
I was over the moon when my essay was chosen to appear alongside such incredibly gifted writers. Because essays are so personal, it’s hard to know which ones are going to strike a chord with readers.
Tell us a bit about the essay published Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart. What is it about and why did you write it? 
The title of my essay, ‘Tales from The Pit: I Was Squished Among the Masses in the Boss’ Promised Land’, popped into my head as I was literally being squeezed in a throng of rabid Bruce Springsteen fans right up against the stage, just before a concert in New Jersey. I turned to my husband and said, ‘You know, this whole crazy day leading up to us standing front-row center would make a great essay.’
When I read that FLX wanted to do an anthology about relationships, I thought it would be fun to think outside the box a bit. I knew people would be submitting heartfelt stories about their lovers, family and pets, so I wrote a rather quirky piece about the longest relationship of my life: the musical ‘union’ between my favorite musical artist and myself.
Had you tried the essay market before? 
I’ve had several dozen essays published over the last few years.
What does it mean to you to be published in this anthology? 
I’m very honored to be among this group of A-list essayists! Reading their stories has inspired me to push myself more to create great work.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with someone who says "I don't have anything to write about."?
I really believe that when it comes to writing about your own experiences, you almost have to step outside yourself and ask: ‘Why would anyone care about this? Did I learn something from this that someone else could learn from as well? Would sharing my story bring a smile to someone’s face, or make them feel better about something dumb that they did, or help them resolve a problem that I worked through?’ 
Everyone has something to share that would make an interesting read. But you have to be open to it.
Wendy Helfenbaum is a writer, television producer and translator in Montreal. Visit her at

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