citizen journalism


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.

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.

Congratulations to Helium writer A.W. Berry, whose article entry to our recent contest, conducted in conjunction with our partners at GlobalPost and Universal Giving, was selected as the ultimate winner by a panel of judges from those two organizations.  A.W. was  awarded a $250 prize for his entry.

 

Congratulations to our new Member of the Week!

Member of the Week: Kimberly Napier

“My children told me that with all that I know, I should share it with others through writing.”

Helium Member Since: December 2011

Articles on Helium: 299

About Kimerly

Who inspires you?

My God, my family and my children.

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

I have a passion about history and houseplants. I know these topics are diverse but they are both a big part of my life. I am constantly reading history and am amazed at how much I did not know. Plants fascinate me because of the way that they work, similarly to people as far as circulatory system. It has always been difficult for me to admit that I am an expert because there are so many more knowledgeable people out there but yes, in these two fields, if I am not an expert, I am on my way to becoming one.

What motivated you to become a writer?

My children told me that with all that I know, I should share it with others through writing.

What advice would you offer new Helium members?

Find subjects that you enjoy writing on; this will produce the best articles that will draw people to your work.

What are your future goals with regard to writing?

I would enjoy writing for some professional publications, and of course, to keep writing for Helium

Articles by Kimberly

Grow your own culinary herbs 

The position of women in Medieval England 

Famous female pharaohs of Ancient Egypt 

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: Elisabeth McGrath

“To new members: write about what you know.”

Helium Member Since: August 2007

Articles on Helium: 186

       About Elisabeth

Who inspires you?

Rachelle de Bretagne. From the time I joined Helium, Rachelle has been an inspiring writer and mentor.

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

This community has given me invaluable encouragement and training in writing and editing. My writing skills have improved and most importantly, I’ve been befriended by writers from all over the globe.

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

Apart from poetry, I mainly concentrate on spiritual topics, to satisfy a need for self-improvements of the ethical kind. While not an expert, I have learnt a lot from Helium writers and the education is an ongoing process.

What advice would you offer new Helium members?

To new members: write about what you know. Embed appropriate links in your articles that support what you write. Let your articles simmer for a few hours or overnight before submitting; a fresh look may suggest improvements.

What are your future goals with regard to writing?

Future goals are to write more articles that comply with current Internet publication standards. Striving  to retain originality and freshness within the constraints of online publication is a recently-set ambition.

What is the best life advice you’ve received?

This too shall pass.

Articles by Elisabeth

The stigma of a mental health diagnosis

Should Jerusalem be split between the Israelis and Palestinians?

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: Gulrukh Tausif

“Always strive to improve the quality of your work and above all enjoy writing.”

Helium Member Since: October 2007

Articles on Helium: 303

                                            About Gulrukh

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

There is an incredible sense of satisfaction at being able to reach the world via my published words on Helium. I have received praise and feedback from teachers, parents and even school principals regarding my short stories and the experience has been euphoric and humbling at the same time. I have made lots of friends here and it has been an incredible journey for me.

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

I love to write short stories, mostly for and about children. I also like to write about current affairs, environment issues, parenting articles and about my religion because I feel that there are lots of misconceptions about Islam. I enjoy the challenge of sometimes choosing a topic that I am not familiar with so that I can research about things, events or places I do not know much about and come up with a great article.

What motivated you to become a writer?

I used to scribble on walls, newspapers and my mom’s best sofa as a toddler and was a voracious reader as well so I guess becoming a writer was a natural progression of events. I was very inspired by the movie “The Mighty” and Khalid Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner.” Both were about children and how they faced the challenges that life threw at them. My first story was also about a boy who chose to do what is right rather than what is easy.

What advice would you offer new Helium members?

Never give up on your dreams. Seek help from Helium’s incredibly friendly and helpful community. Always strive to improve the quality of your work and above all enjoy writing.

What are your future goals with regard to writing?

I am aiming to reach 500 articles on Helium and gain a gold badge in Creative Writing. I am also writing regularly for a very prestigious English magazine for children. It was actually after writing for Helium and getting feedback from members here that I plucked up the courage to submit my work there.  I hope to continue writing and enjoy my work.

Articles by Gulrukh

Short stories: Honesty

Short stories: The spirit of Ramadan

Drought in Kenya: No food means no school for children

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: Simon Wright

“Focus initially on what you are knowledgeable and passionate about; place a focus on quality.” 

Helium Member Since: January 2007

Articles on Helium: 1449

                                              About Simon

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

Being a member of Helium has provided an opportunity to write on a wide range of topics and hone my article writing skills. It’s also provided a route to learn from other skilled writers and to build up a large portfolio of articles.

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

I write mainly about finance, soccer and the art of writing. I have worked in banking for nearly 18 years, so I like to share my financial knowledge. I also consider myself to be very knowledgeable and passionate about soccer and my love of writing is what brought me to Helium.

How do you promote your work?

I mainly use Twitter (@Paperbackwright) but also LinkedIn and a personal website. Additionally, I make sure that my Helium Bio page contains useful information and I include my writing contact details on e-mail footers.

What motivated you to become a writer?

Reading “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien when I was about 10.

What advice would you offer new Helium members?

Focus initially on what you are knowledgeable and passionate about; place a focus on quality. It’s also worth looking at articles that are ranked highly and thinking about what attributes make them stand out.

Articles by Simon:

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.

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