Creative Writing

Things We Carry: helena grande

Things We Carry is a series of short interviews with current students, faculty, and alumni of the Creative Writing Program. These conversations are interested in the tactile elements of writing: what do we hold essential? What tools do we need in order to create? The things we find essential to our writing process reflect our beliefs about craft and process. 

This week, we were so happy to hear from helena grande, a second year student studying fiction at The New School.

Where and when are you writing these days?

I write first thing in the morning, almost straight from the bed. The only thing I do before sitting at my desk is coffee. So I am awake but not completely. I like early morning writing because it is the beginning of the day, a kind of in-between time. In-between sleep and awake. I like to think about people getting ready for work and school. There is a quiet activity going on in the background but everybody is still sleepy and moving slowly and speaking softly. Of course, I know this is a fantasy, but I like to think of this murmur before the day really starts and everything has a different pace. I need the weirdly slow but active pace of in-between time to write. I write fiction at my desk, but when I write poetry it is usually on the move, on the subway mostly.

Do you have any tools or tokens that are essential to your writing?

I’d say my tokens are my crystals. At one point in my life, friends started giving me crystals and they became very valuable objects to me. They are like amulets. I always have them on my desk or near me, and if I am not home I probably carry one in my pocket or bag. 

The crystals I usually have around are selenite which is a kind of cleanser. I also use it to clean the aura of certain objects (well only my tarot deck, but I’m getting very witchy now!). And amethyst which has calming properties. Recently, I bought a tiger’s eye that helps to clear the mind. 

I don’t know if I believe all this religiously, but it is true that having minerals around gives me a sense of groundedness. I am a very airy person who has many different ideas, usually at the same time, so I need tangible things that act like hooks to hold on to reality and not get lost in my head.

Pen and paper, laptop and wifi, or a combination? 

Laptop and wifi.

Do you have any habits or rituals that help you get grounded before you start writing? 

Drinking coffee. And if I have time and I am alone, breakfast reading and writing is the ultimate pleasure and inspiration.

You have been given a backpack and are being sent to a desert island for thirty days of uninterrupted writing time. What do you put in the backpack? 

I guess it’d be useless to bring a laptop, so lots of pens and paper. I’d also take books, water, snacks, and perhaps some kind of word game like scrabble for one person or a physical version of wordle, does that exist?

Are there any words or quotes that you find essential to your writing practice?

Right now, my bible is Joy Williams, so any of her short stories works. Sometimes just a few sentences help me set my writing mood, a rhythm somehow. This morning I read: Jone’s love is much too apparent and arouses neglect. He is like an animal in a traveling show who, through some aberration, wears a vital organ outside the skin, awkward and unfortunate, something that shouldn’t be seen, certainly something that shouldn’t be watched working. I don’t know, it sets my brain up for wacky and meaningful ideas.

helena grande is a second-year fiction student who is working on a novella about loss, translation, and the meeting points between memory and fantasy. She is the author of Speech Choke (Hocus Bogus Publishing, 2020). Her work has appeared in Dostoyevsky Wannabe, A*Desk, Fictional Journal, nY, and the Research Catalog, among others. Some of her new writing will be published this year in diSONARE and Editions Clinamen.

helena works as the readings coordinator for The New School’s creative writing program and as a teaching assistant at Parsons School of Design. She holds a fellowship from WriteOn NYC. In 2021 she received a Young Talent Award from the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds. And in 2020 she received a Literary Award for her book Speech Choke from the Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst.

You can find helena online at and Instagram @_helenagrande

Things We Carry is an interview series produced by Stuart Pennebaker.

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