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Helena Pielichaty

As a child

Helena was born in Stockholm to an English mother and a Polish-Russian father. She came to live in England when she was five. Her earliest childhood memory is of diving under a hedge in terror when an aeroplane flew low over the garden. That and picking scabs off her knees.

As an adult

Helena’s main career before writing was as a teacher, although her first Saturday job was selling fruit and vegetables on Pontefract market for which she was paid – wait for it – a pound a day! During her teacher training, Helena vividly remembers the lecturer talking about how to read out loud to a class and then demonstrating by reading an extract from The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byers. The reading almost sent her into a trance; she was so engrossed. From then on, her mission was to try to instil the same sense of awe and wonder in the children she read to, putting on many diabolically bad accents along the way. Reading to and alongside her classes remained the best part of the school day as far as she was concerned but once the National Curriculum was introduced and the class reader was squeezed out, the magic disappeared. Her favourite read-out-loud books at the time were Run for your Life by David Lean, The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall and later, Anne Fine’s Diary of a Killer Cat.

As an artist

Helena never planned to be a writer but the seeds were sown as a teacher. As well as reading other people’s stories out loud she wrote short plays and customised worksheets for her pupils. This created a nagging restlessness in her that she couldn’t fathom until she took maternity leave and moved to Nottinghamshire. In 1987, needing a diversion from discussing the merits of disposable nappies with other new mums, she enrolled on a creative writing course run by the WEA. The course, held in a leaky Scout and Guide Hut only lasted for six weeks but she describes it as ‘…like turning on a tap… one that I couldn’t turn off again.’ The very first short story she wrote ‘The Bogs’ became the third book she had published. It has been re-titled The Saturday Girl and is still in print.

Things you didn't know about Helena Pielichaty

  1. She is left handed
  2. She can’t sing for toffee
  3. She can touch her nose with her tongue
  4. She makes a mean apple cake
  5. Her favourite building is Huddersfield Railway Station
  6. Her greatest skill is in choosing exactly the right greeting card for people
  7. She cries buckets at sporting achievements, be it the egg and spoon race in a primary school or the Olympic 100 metres final
  8. Lions Midget Gems are her all time favourite sweet (and she’s got the fillings to prove it)
  9. She never eats cod because her grandma told her it was full of worms
  10. She was once asked by a magazine to choose the six people she’d like to have as dinner guests. She chose Lily Parr (footballer) Emily Davison (suffragette) Willy Russell (playwright) Kathy Burke (actress/director) Tom Cruise (actor) and Peter Kay (comedian). What a bunch!

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