Helen Schulman was born in New York City, where she lives, writes, teaches. She received a BA at Cornell University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. She has published six novels. Her most recent novel, Come With Me, released on November 27, 2018. Its a book "about how technology breaks apart and then re-configures a family." Helen’s fiction, non-fiction, and reviews have appeared in such places as Vanity Fair, Time, Vogue, GQ, The New York Times Book Review, and The Paris Review. She co-edited with Jill Bialosky the anthology, Wanting a Child. She has written numerous screenplays, including co-writing an adaptation of her novel P.S., which was made into a film in 2004 starring Laura Linney. Helen has taught in graduate programs at Columbia University, New York University. She is a tenured Professor of Writing and Fiction Chair of the MFA Creative Writing Program at New School and is the Executive Director of WriteOn NYC which is a fellowship that trains MFA writing students for careers in teaching through providing underserved NYC children with writing instructors.
1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?
Lucifer in Milton's Paradise Lost, and Isabel Archer in Henry James' Portrait of a Lady, although, truth be told, I hate playing favorites.
2. When did you know you were a writer?
I knew I was a writer when I began a serious writing habit, meaning when I wrote regularly and diligently and put it first before everything else I did. Of course, life has intervened in this "habit of being" (I'm stealing the title of the Letters of Flannery O'Connor here) and there has been many a time when I could not put writing first: like when I had children, or when I had to take care of my parents, earn a living, stuff like that. But the need to write now is ingrained in my DNA and ideally, it is a continual practice, like exercise and brushing your teeth.
3. What are you currently working on?
A new book. Shhhh! Can't talk about it yet.
4. How has your writing process changed over the years?
This should be an addendum to question #2. When I was in graduate school I wrote late at night. When I got out I wrote early in the morning before work. When I had babies, I wrote when they napped and when I could get away to writer havens like Yaddo. There have been weeks and maybe even months when I have so much work to do teaching etc. that I have no time to write, and then it's catch as catch can. When that happens, it's almost as if the project I'm working on turns to marble, and I have to find some point of entry where I can make it elastic enough to start writing again. Now that I am on leave, I've had much more time for writing, and especially for reading, which has been an enormous, calming, enlightening pleasure.
5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.
I'll do it even better, one word: imperceptible. As in I proceed extremely slowly.
Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.