Contributor Spotlight: Helen Sinoradzki

headshot1Helen Sinoradzki’s essay, “Slow as the Seep of Water” is featured in Issue 73 of the Bellingham Review.

What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?

I first read Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams while living in New Mexico and exploring adjacent Southwestern states. I admire the way in which she braids writing about the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah with her life experiences. I remember the moment at the Refuge when the road petered out to two rutted, puddled tracks and my husband and I stood beside the car, wildness on all sides. I spent twenty years in New Mexico, a time when I was trying to reconstruct my life, like Williams, after losing my faith. My essay pays tribute to the desert Southwest, where I found a measure of healing.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge the influence of Wallace Stegner, whose essays taught me the dangers of anthropomorphizing the desert, and of Mary Oliver, whose poetry offered a vision I could embrace.

Tell us about your writing life. How long have you been writing? What’s kept you writing?

Not long enough: I’ve done academic writing and technical writing but not nearly enough of the writing that doesn’t put food on the table but makes me happy. I keep writing because I’m miserable when I don’t.

I love revising better than writing and am most engaged when fiddling with a sentence.

What writing advice has stayed with you?

“The writer is the person who stays in the room,” says Ron Carlson in Ron Carlson Writes a Story, a book I recommend to anyone who wants practical advice about writing short stories. Carlson’s sentence gives me hope because it says persistence pays off, and it makes me gnash my teeth at how often I let myself be distracted.

What is your favorite book (essay, poem, short story)? Who is your favorite writer?

Favorite book: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, my vote for the Great American Novel

Favorite writers: Wallace Stegner, Elizabeth Strout, Edith Wharton, Raymond Carver, Alice Munro, Mary Oliver

What are you reading right now?

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell and The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

What project are you working on now?

A collection of linked short stories set in a small town near Omaha and taking place at different times, ranging from the 1920s to the 1980s. One of the stories appears in the latest issue of Alligator Juniper. I’m also experimenting with rewriting my memoir as a long (think 10,000 words) essay.

Anything else our readers might want to know about you?

I’m addicted to reading mysteries right before bedtime, particularly police procedurals, with an emphasis on British and Scandinavian authors, although I may be one of the few people who haven’t read Stieg Larsson. I once taught a course at UNM-Los Alamos titled “Women Sleuths by Women Authors.”

I love long car trips and hope to drive with my husband to the desert Southwest and hike in Zion, Bryce, and Mesa Verde once more before I die.

Where can our readers connect with you online?

HELEN SINORADZKI has published fiction and narrative nonfiction in various journals including Alligator Juniper and Pithead Chapel. She has written a memoir about her experiences in a Catholic cult. An English teacher turned technical writer turned indie bookseller, she now writes full-time. She was prose co-editor for three issues of VoiceCatcher. A native Ohioan, who has lived in nine states, she moved to Portland, Oregon, almost twenty years ago and plans to stay for the rest of her life.