Helen Strahinich is a veteran education writer and the publisher and author of numerous titles at Read/Learn Press, launched in Boston in 2014.
Helen started out as a teacher in the Boston Public Schools, followed by a two-year stint as a reading specialist and supervisor at the Reading Institute of Boston. A move to New York City led to a long career in education publishing. Over the years, she has written hundreds of nonfiction articles, short stories, novellas, and poems for children and young adults. She has also developed reams of resource materials for teachers.
Helen previously published two young adult nonfiction books, one on the Holocaust (an early edition of her new, updated book; with Enslow Publishers in 1996) and the other on guns and gun control (with Walker company in 1992). Both books were big sellers that received glowing reviews.
Helen’s novel, The Secret of Jeanne Baret, tells the story of the first woman ever to sail around the world. Early in her career, Helen discovered a snippet about this adventuress in a young-adult nonfiction book. She spent over two decades researching and writing the novel.
Helen has been a guest speaker in many venues (libraries, book clubs, schools, and after-school programs), discussing the life and times of Jeanne Baret. She has also introduced the Holocaust to young adult audiences. This subject has added urgency today, with the last survivors now elderly.
A graduate of Brandeis University, Helen received an M.Ed. from Harvard University, where she taught at the Harvard Reading Lab, under Jeanne Chall.
Helen lives with her husband John, an ancient cat, and a Chihuahua named Lola.
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My Writing Story
Around the time I was finishing my novel, the trade book industry was changing dramatically, thanks to the recession of 2008 and the Internet. I had been working on The Secret of Jeanne Baret for many years and had received some promising feedback on the first ten chapters. I had had an interview with a high-powered agent who was extremely interested in the book, based on those first ten chapters. The book was still “in progress” at that time. By the time it was finally ready to go, the industry had contracted. Many companies had become part of big conglomerates or had gone out of business. The agent who had wanted to see my finished book was no longer in the business.
For six months to a year, I tried to find a top-notch agent, the only way of landing a top-notch book company. It did not happen, but there was a silver lining: Amazon’s book division now enabled writers to publish their own books.
I had been working in education publishing for many years, so I knew how to take a book to and through the production stage. I found a good company to create my cover and format my text for publishing. I came out with my novel at the end of 2014, and my first activity book/teaching guide, to accompany my novel, soon after that.
I learned more about book conferences, where publishers sold their books to educators. The first time I exhibited, I met a couple who, starting with one book, had developed a book company that now sold dozens of books by many authors. I figured, if they could do it, so could I.