Helium is announcing a change to our writing process that will over the long run benefit both writers and readers.

As a writer, when you accept an assignment, we will now be requiring an “article headline”.  This headline should be different from the title being written to, and should be descriptive and unique enough to make it easy for a searcher to find your article through a search engine. This will provide an additional level of clarity to what your article is about, as well as a way of better distinguishing  one article under a title from another in that same title. We anticipate that over the long run, this will help Helium articles appear higher in search results making it easier for readers to find your articles, and raising the number of views.

This is a long-term proposition. These article headlines will be stored in our database, but they will not appear on the site until the Helium redesign is launched before the end of the year. We are starting this now so that new articles will benefit  from this change, but are also allowing writers who have existing articles to go back through “My Articles” and add these “article headlines” as well.

Now, for the details: these are the areas where you may see this new “article headline” entry field. The first is when you accept an assignment, or choose to Write Now from an article already on the site, you will now see this in Write Now:

And, under My Articles, when you choose Show Article Options, you will have the ability to add a headline to an existing article. The headlines will need to be in proper Helium format, with the first word capitalized, as well as any proper nouns such as a person’s name:

Since we are requiring that all new articles also have a headline, writers will see an error message reminding them to add a headline if they forget:

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Meet Alistair Marquis, CM of Flash Fiction

Alistair, who lives in Florida, has been a member of Helium since 2009 and the Flash Fiction CM since 2010. He has written nearly 150 articles on Helium.com

How did you first learn about Helium.com and what’s your favorite aspect of the site?

I first discovered Helium while searching for a place where I could share my work, as well as my thoughts and opinions, with other writers, in a place devoted solely to writing.  Little did I know how much I would grow both as a writer and as a person after becoming a part of the community. Not only am I now more confident in my abilities as a writer, but I’ve never been more passionate about the craft either, and I owe that to Helium.

What drew you to Flash Fiction?

Though Flash seems, at first, very limited because of the constraints of word counts, I found there to be something ultimately freeing about the restrictions, because the structure lends itself to the minute examinations of a single moment, instead of the explorations of broader ideas in much more general terms.  As a writer who revels in verbose description, this is something that I find very appealing.

I see your writing isn’t limited to Flash Fiction; you’ve written pieces for Humor, Reflections, Poetry and other CW channels. What’s your favorite type of creative writing, and why?

I think that there is something to be said for all of the different channels on Helium, but Flash Fiction is by far my favorite, not only for the reasons outlined above, but also because, for me, it combines the best of all the other channels in one compact package that, done correctly, explodes with the impact of every other form combined.  That being said, some ideas simply work better as a poem or a humor piece, so I’m happy to have those other avenues available to me when I feel like doing something different.

Whose writing inspires you?

First and foremost on my list of inspirational writers is, without a doubt, H.P. Lovecraft.  His work, for the most part, is all about setting a mood, and the mood that he sets is one of deep, unsettling fear.  His stories reach into a part of you that has yet to learn about fear and ultimately terrifies it with the implications.  Beyond Lovecraft, I owe a lot to Kurt Vonnegut, who taught me that it was okay to be unhappy, and that dark humor and sarcasm are incredibly effective tools.  F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck and Iain Banks are also immense inspirations.

What’s the best part of being a Helium channel manager?

I love being able to reach out to new writers or writers who are new to the Flash Fiction channel and congratulate them on their work.  It’s not always easy to try something new, or to attempt to do something familiar in a new way, and everyone, regardless of their history or confidence as a writer, appreciates compliments and encouragement.  The fear of the blank page or the empty screen never goes away, no matter how much you’ve written or how experienced you are, and it’s a challenge sometimes to fill the void with your thoughts in a way that makes you happy, so it’s always important to know that people are actually reading your work—even if it’s just a single person.

What are your favorite articles you’ve written on the site and why?

Most of my favorite pieces feature my masked alter-ego, Degage, who appears in numerous, loosely-connected stories about a shadow organization with undetermined motives.  Most of those stories deal with the inevitability of despair and the reasons why we wear masks.  Because Degage is essentially me, I love those pieces the most.  “The Swans” is one of my latest favorites.

A lot of my work is inspired by the feelings that are conjured within me by music, and “The Morgue” is one piece that embodies my attempt to convey these feelings, which are often undefined, even within me, in words.  Both “The Swans” and “The Morgue” feature links to the music that inspired them.

Who are your favorite Helium authors besides yourself and what do you like about their writing?

I have to admit that I rarely read anything on Helium that is not creative writing, so my favorite writers are those who have written creative writing pieces. Kat Apf fits my definition of “poet”, but not simply because she writes poetry. She is poetry, and her work is not to be missed. Darren Horton always succeeds in achieving unique views in his work. His stories are funny, dark and amazing, all at the same time. Rachel Howells never ceases to amaze, and I believe her to be one of the strongest writers currently active on Helium.

What tip would you give to a new Helium writer?

As I previously stated, the feeling of intimidation over writing never goes away, but the trick is to learn how to utilize that fear as a tool that drives you forward and makes you better. The only way that I see to do this is to keep writing, as often as you can, and listen to all of the feedback that you receive, even the comments that seem ignorant or insulting, because each comment comes from someone who read your work, and is a legitimate view on it. From this, you can learn what matters to you about the opinions of others, and what doesn’t.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re away from Helium?

From books and magazines to Helium articles and other websites, I read a lot.  Next to writing, it has been, and continues to be, one of the activities that satisfy those things that make me up as a person, and there are few things that bring me more pleasure. I also enjoy physical activities, and am often awake and moving early in the morning, when my mind is at its most open and creative. Living in Florida, I can’t do without the sunshine, and I take my exercise in that glorious light nearly every day.

How do you promote your Helium writing?

I use Facebook more than anything else, because it contains multiple outlets to share your work, and it’s also easier to interact with readers there.  Twitter and StumbleUpon are also valuable outlets, though I find them limited in terms of reader interaction. Of course, while electronic means are well and good, we shouldn’t forget that the world that exists in our immediate reality, the one in which our lives are actually lived, is just as, if not more, important to our existence as writers when it comes to promotion. I share my work the most with the people that I encounter in my day-to-day life, because it is more likely that I will hear their thoughts on it, especially the thoughts that occur to them days or weeks after reading a piece. Face to face feedback is still the most valuable, in my opinion.

Congratulations to our new Member of the Week!

Member of the Week: Matilda Willows

“You can’t achieve anything of value without really working hard to deserve it. “

Helium Member Since: November 2010

Articles on Helium: 373

About Matilda

Favorite quote:

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” – Bob Marley

Who inspires you?

This might seem as a bit of a surprise to some, but my inspiration is the rain. There’s something so magical, soothing and cozy about it that fills me with creativity and motivation. I usually feel I have to produce something beneficial, and this usually translates into a piece of writing for my studies or Helium … and sometimes a nice Black Forest Cake or something similar.  You could say I like to create some sunshine when there isn’t any.

What have you gained from being a member of an online writers’ community?

The main thing is the sense of being a part of a community. I feel people are at their strongest when they feel like they are welcome to or belong to a group. It also motivates me to strive to improve as I learn from some excellent writers.

What advice would you offer new Helium members?

I would advise them to not give up and to connect with other members, especially on the Helium Community Boards. I would also advise them to write about what interests them, and not worry too much about stars or percentages in the beginning, because starting out is usually always difficult, and that there are many helpful members that can offer support and guidance.

What are your future goals with regard to writing?

I hope to acquire time to dedicate more time to writing about Anthropology and Literature, and to of course improve my writing skills and write original, interesting and engaging articles.

What is the best life advice you’ve received?

You can’t achieve anything of value without really working hard to deserve it.

Articles by Matilda

Penguins in Pop Culture

Places to enjoy fall foliage in DC, VA, MD 

Tips to protect your computer from spyware 

Every Wednesday, Helium’s blog will feature a new Member of the Week. Member of the Week is chosen through a process of nominations and assessment by Helium community members and staff. If you know a great writer you’d like to nominate, send a link to that member’s About Me page along with an explanation of his/her accomplishments to sh.helium@gmail.com.

Congratulations to our new Member of the Week!

Member of the Week: Rachel Howells

“Enjoy the process and write every day, staying focused more on the quality of your writing than the quantity.”

Helium Member Since: June 2007

Articles on Helium: 220

About Rachel

What have you gained from being a member of an online writers’ community?

The support and encouragement of the Helium community has been hugely motivating for a procrastinator like me.

 What do you write about mostly?  Why do you write about this subject?  Do you consider yourself an expert in your field?

I mostly write creatively, but I also have an interest in social and environmental issues. I, however, have the most fun writing humor and poetry.

How do you promote your work?

Trying to get your articles read is almost as much work as actually writing the articles.  To do this promotion I use various social networking tools such as facebook, twitter, stumbleupon, my blog, linkedin, tumblr, dig and pinterest to name a few.

What advice would you offer new Helium members?

Do not obsess and fret about how your articles are rated because the rating process on Helium is fluid, but eventually it settles. Also, enjoy the process and write every day, staying focused more on the quality of your writing than the quantity.

What is the best life advice you’ve received?

My most recent best life advice came from a friend quoting Dan Millman: “Life has three rules: Paradox, Humor and Change.”

Articles by Rachel

Flash fiction: The frozen watch

Humor: House cleaning

The myth of sex addiction

Every Wednesday, Helium’s blog will feature a new Member of the Week. Member of the Week is chosen through a process of nominations and assessment by Helium community members and staff. If you know a great writer you’d like to nominate, send a link to that member’s About Me page along with an explanation of his/her accomplishments to sh.helium@gmail.com.

Congratulations to our new Member of the Week!

Member of the Week: Christopher Giofreda

“Read and write often. Reach out for help.”

Helium Member Since: January 2011

Articles on Helium: 101

About Christopher

Who inspires you?

Everyone. There are a lot of things churning inside of a human being. Sometimes things get in the way of seeing that but yeah, I respect people tremendously for their capabilities if not always their actions.

What have you gained from being a member of an online writers’ community?

I’ve gained some confidence that I can articulate things clearly. Maybe add to that the confidence to bid aggressively for jobs even if I feel that I cannot do them the best out of every applicant.

What do you write about mostly?  Why do you write about this subject?  Do you consider yourself an expert in your field?

The act of writing, chess, history. Nope, not an expert, but I am comfortable with where I am on my journey.

What motivated you to become a writer?

Causes I care about. I am a grant writer by trade and I love supporting environmental causes. Also the beauty in the world motivates me. There’s too darned much of it for me not to try to chronicle it.

What advice would you offer new Helium members?

Read and write often. Reach out for help. Don’t let one bad apple spoil your whole barrel.

What are your future goals with regard to writing?

Finish up the book of fiction I’ve been working on for eight years or so. Write more grants for local nonprofits too.

What is the best life advice you’ve received?

Pascal’s Wager. I am not trying to be cynical or funny.

Articles by Christopher

How board games teach children basic skills

Every Wednesday, Helium’s blog will feature a new Member of the Week. Member of the Week is chosen through a process of nominations and assessment by Helium community members and staff. If you know a great writer you’d like to nominate, send a link to that member’s About Me page along with an explanation of his/her accomplishments to sh.helium@gmail.com.

Meet Charlotte Mielziner, CM of Cuisine & Food

Charlotte, who hails from Springfield, IL,
has been a Helium member since 2007
and the CM of Cuisine & Food since 2010.
She has written more than 100 articles on Helium.com.


How did you first learn about Helium.com and what’s your favorite aspect of the site?
During a simple search for some little item of interest (I don’t recall what) I came across a Helium article. I was impressed with the depth of knowledge and nice crafting of the piece. I perused Helium’s site and signed on. I’m one of those people who get an interest, study the subject and want to share it with everyone they know—even some guy you randomly meet in a coffee shop. Helium fills my yen to start a conversation with a stranger about a totally random subject. And it gives me the freedom to work around the numerous other irons in the fire of my life.

Why were you drawn to the Cuisine & Food channel? 
Many years ago a boyfriend’s mom was kind enough to introduce my rural farm girl palate to fine food. While I could make fried anything, she opened the world of French cuisine to me. When she passed on, I was given her Gourmet Cookbook from the 1950s. It’s one of my prized possessions.

Over the years, I’ve taken more than 100 cooking courses, taught a few courses, started a couple of cookbooks (still working on them) and collected hundreds of cookbooks. I read them like some people read novels. One of the things I love about my husband is that he eats my mistakes! Unfortunately, when I create a new dish particularly well, he bemoans that I don’t cook with notes, so we’ll probably never see that dish quite like that again.

Well, writing and cooking…what wouldn’t draw me to the Cuisine & Food channel? A call for channel managers went out and I jumped at it. Here is where I belong.

As the Cuisine & Food CM, you’re the one to ask: Where’s your favorite place to eat?
About a mile away, nestled in a little house that is more than 120 years old is Stone Soup Cottage, the restaurant of world-class chef Carl McConnell and his wife Nancy. My favorite meal is whatever Carl is making; I’m always thinking I’m going to try to duplicate it.

What’s the best part of being a Helium channel manager?
I like rating articles against each other. It’s a great learning experience that has taught me about writing for an online audience. Plus I’ve gotten to see how Helium and its writers have grown, expanded and matured.

What is your favorite article you’ve written and why?
It might be Cookbook Reviews: The French Chef, by Julia Child. Her show made fine cuisine. She didn’t mind making mistakes like flipping an omelet and having it land all over the place. She truly enjoyed good food.

Who are your favorite Helium writers and what do you like about their writing?
Barry Parham is a hoot. He is the Dave Barry of Helium. Go read him! Rachelle de Bretagne and Gordon Hamilton are both excellent writers. They write cleanly, clearly and concisely. Rachelle keeps beating me in contests. Girl, you’re going down next time!

What tip would you give to a new Helium writer?
Go explore the site. Get lost. Find your way out. Rate some articles, and then rate a few more. Find your area of expertise and write to it, but explore other channels as well. Write for fun or write for extra money, but write because it comes from inside you. Oh, and always, always, always strive to improve.

How do you promote your Helium writing?
Social media is an excellent source for promotion. I go to the “My Articles” page and find articles that, although good, just aren’t getting views. Then I mention them on Twitter, Facebook—wherever. There are some new sites I want to make part of promoting as well, like Pinterest. My aim for April is to organize my promotions and make them a daily ritual.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re away from Helium?
Work the dogs. I train in obedience, rally and agility, three companion dog sports. Dogs provide a connectedness with a world outside of our understanding. Every once in a while, we cross the species and communication gap and are of one mind. It’s a beautiful thing. They are the embodiment of my favorite quote by Mother Theresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Dogs do just that. I also like to spend time with my hubby and daughter. It’s a good life.

Congratulations to our new Member of the Week!


Member of the Week: T.C. Leonard

“Tell people things they want to know instead of regurgitating someone else’s version of the facts.”

Helium Member Since: July 2007

Articles on Helium: 883

About T.C.

Favorite quote:

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.–Kurt Vonnegut

Who inspires you?

I think my father inspired me more than anybody.  He came from humble beginnings and managed to do pretty well for himself.  I hope to do half as well in whatever endeavor I choose.

What have you gained from being a member of an online writers’ community?

I have made several friends with common interests and have had critical feedback that has often shown me a better way of doing things.  I think forums such as the Poetry Coffee House at Helium are a great way of getting peer reviews.

What do you write about mostly?  Do you consider yourself an expert in your field?

Lately I write mostly poetry that makes sport of the world in which we live—particularly the plight of the typical middle-aged male.  That’s me!

What advice would you offer new Helium members?

Write in subjects that are your strengths, and don’t depend on Wikipedia (et al) as your source of knowledge. Tell people things they want to know instead of regurgitating someone else’s version of the facts.

What are your future goals with regard to writing?

I am the co-author of an unpublished manuscript.  I think my primary goal would be to get it published and see what evolves from there.

Articles by T.C.

Poetry: Boat Humor

Poetry: Spaghetti westerns

Poetry: Nonsense

Every Wednesday, Helium’s blog will feature a new Member of the Week. Member of the Week is chosen through a process of nominations and assessment by Helium community members and staff. If you know a great writer you’d like to nominate, send a link to that member’s About Me page along with an explanation of his/her accomplishments to sh.helium@gmail.com.