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An Interview with Kristin Helms, author of Grace + Oak

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Kristin Helms is the author of Grace + Oak: Inspiration in Poetry and Photographs from Dover Publications (2020), and From Boardroom to Baby from Career Press/RedWheel Weiser (2018).

Her essay, Unraveled and Awake, was selected as one of the most compelling essays for the San Diego Library’s Decameron Project and chosen to be performed by an actor from Write Out Loud.

Kristin’s fiction is forthcoming in Creation Literary Magazine and her non-fiction has been published in Literary Mama, Home & Garden Magazine, Motherly, and HuffPost.

Her first manuscript won runner-up in the romance/women’s fiction category for Book Pipeline’s 2023 Unpublished Contest.

She resides in San Diego, California, with her husband and two children.



Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I was painfully shy as a child so I think writing helped me articulate things I wouldn’t otherwise say out loud. Then in fifth grade I had a teacher who really believed in my writing. He told me that one day I’d become a published author. I never forgot his encouraging words that gave me the confidence to keep at it.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

My longtime corporate career was in marketing, but I’ve literally had every job under the sun since I was fifteen years old—ha! I was a pizza maker, ad exec, waitress, gym towel folder, wedding planner, sales rep, retail associate, ice cream scooper, among other things. I think all these jobs gave me some really great perspectives on life and people.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

I knew I wanted it to be two words because I liked the idea of having balance—blending something delicate with something strong, like the makings of a person, and the ingredients it takes to succeed. I sent Meg Stone a bunch of word combos and the one that jumped out at her the most was Grace + Oak. I agreed.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

I remember being impressed with the quality of the hardcover and how heavy it felt. Like, wow—look at all this art we created! Also seeing my name and my dear friend’s name, Meg Stone, together on the cover was special.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Hmm, anything with an empowering undertone. “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten comes to mind. “Holdin’ My Own” by Eric Church. “Fly Away” by Tones And I. But the song I listened to over and over while writing the poems was “Keep the Wolves Away” by Uncle Lucius—not necessarily because of the lyrics, but because it struck the right tone with me at the time.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

The words and photos in this book invite readers to look inward for strength and acceptance and courage. The message is really—you have what it takes inside of you, so embrace it, own it, and watch how the world shifts and bends when you believe in yourself.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

It’s funny because I always think that the most rewarding part of publishing a book is going to be seeing it on a shelf, but I learned with both of my books now, the most rewarding part for me is during the creation period. Seeing it on a shelf feeds your ego, but creating it feeds your soul because you’re living your purpose and expressing your art. That’s priceless.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I have some big goals for 2024 as I shop around a women’s fiction/romance manuscript, finish writing another manuscript, and have some short fiction pieces being released in literary magazines. So, FICTION is my theme for the next year. I’m excited to explore this new genre.


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