Writer, photographer and lover of the overlooked and forgotten

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Photo compliments of author

What would you like to know? I’m guessing you would like to know my slant, my background, what I bring to the party, what makes me tick. Not too much information, just enough. So here goes –

First, my last name is Greek. My grandfather immigrated from Greece in the early 1900s. A fellow immigrant helpfully translated our last name into (sort of) English. “Helentjaris” looks more complicated than it is: the “t” is silent, and, like most Greek names, the accent is on the next to last syllable. Helen — JAR — Us. As a result of the unique…


Create your own writing prompts with ease

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Photo compliments of author

Blank pages come in myriad forms. Ghostly rectangles on desktop screens. College-lined blue on white cheap paper. Yellow schoolchild tablets. Heavy pebbly stationary with a monogram. Yet they have a commonality: blank pages beg to be filled. With writing.

I prefer the blank white of my desktop. My fingers can fill a page up in no time at all, except when they can’t. When I’ve hit a wall and don’t know what to write next or what to write at all. Those are the times I need a prod, a prompt, a reset.


Designer Alissa Bertrand of Jabellafleur thrifts and upcycles her way to success

Three young girls in ruffly white dress stand before a woodland.
Three young girls in ruffly white dress stand before a woodland.
Photo compliments of Jabellafleur

The original shopper certainly must have paid a good price for the curtain. Textured as only real silk can be, the coral, bronze, and teal panel would have added warmth and sophistication to any home. But by unknowable means, the discarded piece made its way to a Georgia thrift shop and waited. Waited to be purchased for less than a dollar, waited to be hung on another curtain rod.

Then one day, Alissa Bertrand breezed in and, like a magician, plunked down ninety-nine cents and swept the piece…


Passed down for generations, a family’s history beckons to be known

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Image Library of Congress https://lccn.loc.gov/2017650227

Leggy geraniums splashed their red against the window. Through its panes, May watched streams of students, like bees winging to flowers, crisscross the University green. Ornate sandstone and limestone buildings ringed the oval lawn. Silent, sitting on a hard wooden chair at the end of the professor desk, she waited. With a start, she realized she’d been holding her breath.

Professor James T. Schmidt, Ph.D., French dialect expert, riffled through the papers in her shoebox with the precision and care of an archeologist. Every so often, he’d grunt “huh”…


Theatrical costuming wizardry tells us a story

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Photo by Anthony Rosset on Unsplash

The Times Square ticket agent shared bad news that April in 1968. Your Own Thing was sold out. I can still see him — a hefty old man with a New York accent. Most everyone was old to me those days. And I’m sure my heavy southern “Ohiah” accent sounded as peculiar to him as his did to me.

I was one of a hundred or so Ohio high schoolers bussed to study Eastern European current affairs in DC and New York City. For most, this trip was the first ever to a…


What are the advantages and disadvantages of swearing?

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Jonathan Bowers on Unsplash

Profane, obscene, crude, or vulgar words have power. For writers, they can add accuracy and vividness to your dialogue. Used indiscriminately, excessively, or sloppily, bad language hampers your writing success.

Words often or usually classified as profane, obscene, or vulgar easily reach our eyes and ears. Bad language is ubiquitous nowadays. These bons mots have crept into songs, television and movie dialogue, news reports, and fallen readily from the lips of the mighty. TV ads hint at them with snarky word play. Terms for excrement, sexual acts, and abbreviations for them pepper written posts with the casualness of a walk…


A nineteenth century girl flees by train

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Photo by Adam Bignell on Unsplash

Scurrying across the train platform, Lydia glanced over her shoulder. Dark grey clouds stretched from the horizon, barreling her way. An icy prickle of anxiety snaked up the back of her neck. She paused on the platform. What was she forgetting…She’d been so worried they’d catch her as she left.

A burly shoulder knocked her aside.

“Move long, Miss!” barked the conductor from his perch atop the steps. He jabbed a thumb skyward. “Cain’t you see a storm’s a’comin’?”

Tightening her grip on her valise, Lydia stumbled and nearly fell into the second-class…


A tale of Montreal in the 1970s and a cheese that screamed, “Steal me.”

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Photo by Elisa Michelet on Unsplash

June 1973, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

As a fit twenty-two-year-old, carrying her groceries up three flights of stairs to her apartment posed no problem. As a shoplifter, making it home undetected was the challenge.

Today, standing at the grocery cheese bin, a wedge of imported French grappe cheese, a favorite quarry, screamed, “Steal me.” So Gilly Smith did.

The Grappe, cured in the remains of winemaking, wore a pebbly coat of black grape seeds. Gilly loved the fruity echo of the cheese’s soft white interior. Though one of the most expensive cheeses…


You need to get married, girl

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Photo by Viva Luna Studios on Unsplash

“You need to get married, girl. I don’t know what’s wrong with you. You’re nineteen years old, gettin’ long in the tooth for many a man,” grumbled Lily’s mother, Zelda, shuffling her Italian tarot cards. “Want me to run the cards and see what they say?”

The air hung hot and sticky in the rundown parlor room. Zelda’s clapboard cottage squatted on the floodplains of Wheeling, just two blocks from the Ohio River. Homes up on the surrounding hills might snag a breeze or two, but no wind made it down to the flats.


Inspired by teenager Maria Lewis’s Civil War escape from enslavement

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Photo compliments of author

The white stallion’s muscles moved rhythmically under her. His rumbling hooves stirred up the only breeze blowing across the harvested ground. As the fieldstone wall loomed up, sweat dripped down and burned Lydia’s eyes. She knew the danger of jumping the stone wall but trusted the horse. There was freedom in being airborne, no matter how short lived. Pegasus, neglected since the Colonel’s death two days earlier, hankered for the jump as much as she did. Neither the other enslaved people, busy at work, nor the master’s family crying over…

Diane Helentjaris

Virginia writer and photographer with a love of the overlooked. www.DianeHelentjaris.com Photos at www.dianehelentjaris.zenfolio.com.

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