Her name is Helga Schneider, and she resides in Frankfurt, Germany. She makes her living selling chairs… homemade by her of course. She has a dog named Bernie and an English Lop rabbit named Herman. Most of her friends are children.
Once upon a time, inspired in part by one of her young comrades, and also by the tragic local lack of Swiss cheese, Helga decided to take a camping trip. A camping trip to Switzerland. In the middle of the winter. Because I guess when a woman needs to have Swiss cheese, a woman will do whatever it takes to get it, right? It’s a completely logical decision!
But poor Helga, she had all sorts of problems as she tried to make her travel preparations. It seemed like she’d never get on that train to Zurich. So was she ultimately successful? Well, she did make it on the train eventually, but I don’t know if she ever completed her mission. Why?
See I never actually finished the story. Helga Schneider to Switzerland was my first attempt at writing a “novel” over ten years ago now. The actual memory of how it came about is fuzzy. But my friends and I were goofy middle school age girls that had an obsession with The Sound of Music. My brother and I were also learning world geography in school, and we had a fascination with the countries of Germany and Switzerland.
Out of all this somehow came Helga Schneider. As well as an entire cast of supporting characters. Local Deli owner, Peter Steinburg. Helga’s rival in the church woman’s fellowship group, Mrs. Beatrice Schultz. The Mary Poppins-ish Umbrella Lady, who peddled whatever the weather demanded (Pouring down rain outside? She’d be at your door with Umbrellas. Freezing your fingers off? Never fear, she’d have mittens by the dozen!).
My friends had characters too, and so did my brother. My mom even got on board and wrote about the dairy farmer and gourmet chef, Zelda Von Schneardenhook of Braunschweig (Sorry if I butchered her name, Mom 🙂 I know there were more that I can’t recall right now. We have many of the original stories saved, but I don’t have them to reference right now as didn’t bring them with me when I moved to Ohio 😦 Sorry Helga! I’ll come back and get you sometime!
But anyway, those were the days. We had grand plans for multiple series of books featuring these characters. Then we grew up and moved on. As I look back on it now, Helga Schneider, in all her hilarious misadventures, taught me so much
First of all, she ignited the creative writing spark in me. Ever since I started with Helga, I’ve been writing some sort of story. I learned that I loved writing. When we wrote those silly stories, we didn’t know any better.
Those stories weren’t necessarily “good” by the standards of the publishing world anyway. The plots were lacking. Some parts were incredibly dull, other parts were trying so hard to be funny that they didn’t even make sense. Helga and friends lived in Germany, but we were American kids, who had never really been anywhere. Did we research the countries and cultures of our characters? Of course not- if someone from Germany actually read those stories, they would probably laugh and throw the book or even be offended.
I simply wrote because I was in love with it. I didn’t care what other people thought- as long as they just laughed along with me at the silliness. Of course, as you get older, you lose your innocence. You begin to realize that many things in life aren’t so black and white. As I continued to write, I learned that there are so many elements that you have to take into account when you write, to make a good book. It was a lot- and still is a lot to take in.
Sometimes I get so caught up in getting the story right and making sure it has all the right things in the right places. I can lose sight of why I’m even writing it. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the blissful days of Helga. Now, of course, I realize that there is a place for this in writing, certain things are absolutely crucial to making a story good and realistic. I’m in the middle of that right now… editing a manuscript, doing a lot of research to make sure things are accurate, and trying to make it better overall.
But at the end of the day, and especially when I get frustrated, I have to remember why I’m writing. I have to remember Helga, and what she taught me. I write first because I love it. Because I have a story that I want to tell. I hope that people will read them and enjoy them, but if not, that’s okay too. The story was written. That is half the battle after all, and what matters most.
So thank you, Helga Schneider. For starting it all, for showing me so much. May I never, ever forget you. And thank you to my friends and family who also wrote and laughed along with those stories- Mom, Dad, Grandma, James, Cassidy, and Em. Those times meant the world to me ❤
To any other writers reading this… what about you? Do you have a distinctive character that started it all for you? One that helps keep you grounded today? I’d love to hear about them!
Thanks for reading guys 🙂