Multi-talented Mary Helen Fein not only writes, she designs websites, paints and teaches Insight meditation. First let’s focus on Mary Helen the writer and ask about her historical novel, Stitches in Time, An Immigration Story, to be published in 2020 by She Writes Press.
I wrote this book to honor my grandmother, Helen Fein. She came alone on the boat from Europe in 1900. She was only sixteen. Once she got to New York, she worked hard in the garment district to bring over the rest of the family from Lithuania, a part of Russia at that time, and very anti-Semitic.
My Jewish ancestors faced life threatening discrimination and terror. In time, Helen made a wonderful life for herself and her family on a tree-lined street in the North Bronx that is the best part of my childhood. She was about fifty when I came along. I was born into difficult circumstances, but she stepped in. I credit her with giving me the love and stability that have allowed me to become a reasonably happy human being. She truly saved me. I wanted to tell the world about this wonderful woman.
Q: When did you start writing and how did your debut novel,Loss of Deliverance, come about? I have been writing since I was twelve years old. Writing was always my way to see things clearly. In college I was an English Major, but my writing teacher accidentally lost everything I had ever written. This was before copy machines. I didn’t write for a long while after that.
Around the year 2000, I felt a strong pull to write again. I had had these amazing experiences during the 60s and 70s, the hippie years. I spent several years on big sailboats, sailing out of Miami to Montego Bay, Jamaica, bringing back pot. Lots of pot. I wanted to tell the story.
I was twenty-five years old, living outside the law, having tons of money, and living a life where nothing made any sense. I wanted to tell how I got out of that life and finally found my way. Early one morning, the writing just started, all on its own. I woke up at 5am, every day, and wrote my brains out before work. It was an amazing experience.
When the book was done, I put it in a drawer for seven years. There were certain beloved family members who would not have understood, who would have been devastated to learn that I had led this life. Finally, in 2014, I self published on Amazon and Create Space. In the intervening years between writing the book and publishing it, I took every creative writing course I could find in local colleges and with local writers who taught, such as Pat Miller. I learned everything I could and worked hard to become a better writer.
Q: You teach meditation online and in person and we are wondering if you wrote scripts for your online guided meditation talks? Or did the talks spring naturally from your knowledge and meditation practice?
They sprang. I have led so many guided meditations that I didn’t need to write scripts. I have taught introductory meditation classes for about 15 years, and I have thought a lot about the best way to guide beginning meditators. Most new meditators get freaked out when they first realize the level of chaos that is going on inside their monkey minds. If they open their eyes and sneak a peek around the room, everyone else is sitting still and obviously having peaceful, enlightened experiences. Or so it seems.
I created an online introductory meditation course from which the insightTimer talks come. I have so much fun writing and doing artwork and design, but my work teaching meditation is important to me in a very special way, because it helps people.
People often turn to meditation when they are suffering, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share with them a practice that has made a difference in my own life. For me, it’s living with things as they are and not judging. We don’t really know what we are doing here on this planet. To me, it seems the best thing we can do is to be as kind as we can to one another.
Q: Did you design and create the contents of your own website?
I did. I feel so blessed to love writing and graphic design and also to be a techie nerd who can communicate. When the Internet arrived it was just what I had been waiting for. I feel like I have lived three or four lives, now that I am 75 years old. I was the young writer in college, then a painter in her garret studio, then lived an extra-legal life on the ocean for a few years, rejoined the world, went back to school and got a computer job in Corporate America.
A Hippie in Corporate America! I had the five-outfit-theory-of-happiness when I first started that job. In time I left the big time. I started my own small website design company, Parallax Design Group. Over the years we did hundreds of websites, many for Auburn, California, businesses. I loved making people happy with my work. I am only semi-retired, still doing websites for my favorite clients.
Q: What advice do you have for other writers?
Keep writing. You will get better and better. And know that Writing is Re-writing. Over and over, you can keep making it better and better.
Q: How can readers contact you?
I welcome the contact!