Helen Wolkowicz

Helen Wolkowicz

For me, it's about passion. It began with Greek mythology. In Grade 4, my English teacher read some myths to the class; I was totally mesmerized and forever captivated.

At around age 10, I discovered the power of language. At any given time in my home, there were at least two-to-three different languages spoken. My father came from Eastern Europe and my mother from North Africa. It fascinated me to watch both sides of my extended family come together and navigate through cultural and linguistic differences. Speaking Spanish or French and observing that half of the people in the room didn't understand—well, let's just say this came in very handy to an impish character like me.

In university, I studied commerce—it was a practical decision. I had pushed aside my love of language and words because I didn't think I could earn a living from them.

After graduation, I trotted off to Europe for a 6-week backpacking adventure with one of my bffs. My knowledge of languages gave me tremendous freedom, while my friend inadvertently declared war on France —to a French soldier— I kid you not. "Où est la station de guerre?" she asked. Translation: where is the station of war? She was supposed to say, "Où est la gare?" Gare: A nice, little compact word that means train station.

The soldier's glaring look melted to hearty laughter as I waved my hands frantically, and sputtered that Canada and France were still very good buddies. If it weren't for this bff, I'd probably still be stuck in Italy trying to find my hotel! As it turned out, my buddy is a natural-born-human compass, while I discovered that I am geographically challenged.

Then it was time to grow up, so, I hit the working world, or maybe it hit me! For the first two years of my career I lived in Ottawa. The job was great and it launched my business career, but I was totally miserable. My friends and boyfriend were in Montreal. I stuck it out for two years; paid my dues, that type of thing. And, no, I didn't move back because of a guy...that'd be just plain stupid! My heart belonged in Montreal. By the way, I ended up marrying the guy.

I moved back to Montreal and continued to focus on my career. For the next 12 years, I had an amazing career in telecom. Life was good.

Until—

Life has a way of throwing you curve balls that punch you in the stomach and knock the wind out of you. That's what happened in 2000 when I was sitting at my desk one day. I was six months pregnant and I was in labour—but didn't know it. A few hours later, my daughter was born weighing a mere 1.6 lbs.

But she was a fighter, clung to life, and persevered through her myriad of health issues and crises. Luckily, this story has a very happy ending!

Refusing to stay locked away and buried, my passion for words bubbled up to the surface. I tossed the practical approach to life out on its butt.

I started to write.

Over the next couple of years, I wrote a whole bunch of picture book stories. They were the crappiest things ever—but my daughter loved them.

I tucked those horrible manuscripts away and only took them out to read to my child. That's when I decided that writing for children would be a hobby, something private and special to share only with my child.

I declared this safe and cowardly decision to one of my colleagues in my life-saving critique group. She suggested that I try my hand at writing for teens.

Teens?! What do I know about teens? Other than having been one myself like...umm, let's just say, it was some time ago.

I gave it a shot.

I loved it.

I was hooked.