An Interview with Michael Skillings–English Engineer Extraordinaire

An Interview with Michael Skillings–English Engineer Extraordinaire

This week, we interviewed Michael Skillings, a member of the USU Bull Pen Slam Team. Michael writes far-future sci-fi, fantasy, and occasionally also horror and poetry.

Helicon West: Could you tell us a bit about your background?

Michael Skillings: I grew up in Orem, Utah, which is nice enough. I love the mountains there. My sister and father and I used to do a lot of hiking and camping in the canyons behind my house. Not so much nowadays, though. I enjoyed high school at the time, but looking back, I am very grateful to have moved on. My first few years of college, I was pretty shut-in and socially isolated. It’s only been the last year or so that I’ve started to draw connections to Cache Valley and the people here, and Helicon West and writing in general has played a big role in that.

I’m currently a student at Utah State University studying electrical engineering, and I’m working as an engineering assistant at USU’s Space Dynamics Lab. When I graduate (eventually) I hope to work in the aerospace industry, maybe even for NASA in Florida. Some people are surprised to learn I’m studying engineering, even though I spend so much time and energy on writing. But ultimately, my major is nothing more than a major, and my job is nothing more than a job. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it, but it lets me pay my bills. I get my self-actualization other places, like in my writing.

HW: What role does writing play in your life?

MS: Well, first of all, I don’t actually write that much. At least, not that much that I can really show off. I’ve never finished a novel, and I only have a handful of completed short stories or poems. But I do spend a lot of time planning, outlining, and writing fragments of what will someday be full stories.

I write because it gives me a chance to explore the question of, what if I were somebody besides myself? What if I were a woman in a futuristic space army, or a robot ninja sworn to defend a city, or an all-powerful hyper-god pretending to be a man, or even just a college student at a different school? What would be different? More interestingly, what would be the same? I think exploring these ideas helps me better understand who I am in real life, and who I want to become. And, honestly, it’s just fun to imagine.

I struggle very much to find consistency with writing. Someday I’ll figure it out.

I’ve never published anything. I hope to someday. But ultimately, I write for myself, so I don’t worry too much about making sure my work is publishable.

HW: What advice do you have for up-and-coming writers?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to give advice. I still feel like I’m up-and-coming myself. But if I had to, I think the advice I’d give is, write something. Write anything. Write whatever’s on your mind. Sometimes, I feel pressure to work on a specific project or to set lofty goals. Sure, finishing things is important, but what I think is more important is that writing stays fun. Writing should be an escape. Don’t let it become another chore.

Michael will be reading some of his work at the Helicon West meeting on 23 March 2023.


Helicon West Features The USU Bull Pen Slam Team

Helicon West Features The USU Bull Pen Slam Team

On Thursday, 23 March 2023, Helicon West is pleased to feature the Utah State University Bull Pen Slam Team! The event will begin at 7:00 pm at the CacheARTS Thatcher-Young Mansion in Logan.

The readers for this event include Michael Skillings, Amrutha Smith, Jacob Livingston, Eliza Taylor, and Dominic Bentil.

The reading will be followed by an open mic, where all are invited to read up to seven minutes of their own original work! The open mic is uncensored and open to all.

March Update

March Update

Helicon West is proud to present our first generative creative writing workshop led by Shaun Anderson! The event will take place on 9 March 2023 and will be held at The Boarding House (394 Center Street) in Logan. A brief opportunity for sharing will take place after the writing session.

If you missed the February reading series, you can now watch it on our YouTube channel (or in the embedded video below). The February event featured Union of Table Scraps with readers Shanan Ballam, Isaac Timm, Aaron Timm, Britt Allen, Brock Dethier, and Millie Tullis.

Lastly, the March reading series event will take place on 23 March 2023 and will feature the USU Bull Pen Slam Team and will be held at the Thatcher-Young Mansion. More details will follow for this event.

We look forward to an exciting month and hope to see you soon!

Interview with Isaac Timm–The Other Half of a Helicon West Power Couple

Interview with Isaac Timm–The Other Half of a Helicon West Power Couple

This week, we interviewed Isaac Timm (he/him/his), who will read some of his work at the Helicon West meeting on 23 February 2023. Isaac is a poetry and fiction writer.

Helicon West: Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where did you grow up, and what did you study in school?

Isaac Timm: I was raised in a working-class family, or more truthfully as a member of the working poor in rural western Utah. I’m the first in my family with a college degree. Which proved fairly difficult, with a handful of learning disabilities, and Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disease.

My family struggled through most of the 1980s and 90s, when the prices of precious metal such as gold and silver fell, my father and family in general made its living by mining. Without that income, my parents, brothers and myself took any labor job to keep a roof over our heads.

While our father worked long hours, he imparted a love for reading, stories, and history. Some of my earliest memories are of my father reading to us with machine oil on his hands.

I earned two bachelor’s degrees at USU, in History and in English, so I didn’t stray to far from my father’s influence.

HW: What role does writing play in your life?

IT: Storytelling and stories were always important to me, and while reading and writing was difficult, I was also able to find shelter in stories, many told by my father.

Also, my brothers had very large personalities that overshadowed mine, so writing became a way to feel visible.

HW: How do you find consistency in your writing practices?

IT: Writing is my profession, so a consistent schedule is important. Not that I manage successfully scheduling, but I do manage to continue writing or revising at least four or five times a week. Also poetry comes easier to me than any other genre so I’m able to write a poem or at least a good fragment consistently. I keep notebooks near me all the time, and use my phone. I’ve been using Google docs a lot lately.

Not really an issue with poetry but when working on novels or short stories, I can get locked into the creative process and forget important tasks like eating, or looking up. So I need real scheduling, like writing or revising for a limited period per day, breaking writing time up, and not writing after six or eight. I try to keep a separation between writing time and personal time. One, to retain my sanity; two to remain married.

HW: What role does publication play in your writing?

IT: Most of my work that’s been published is through the League Utah Writers and can be found in multiple anthologies they’ve published. My poem “Prosody of Fuck” was published in Sugarhouse Review in 2020.

I’m terrible at sending my stuff out, and selling myself in general. Also getting to reading can be very limited due to my wheelchair, but the necessary Covid lockdown and my fear of public speaking are more to blame. If I didn’t have friends and mentors in my writing group and my writing community I’d never get anything out. Star Coulbrooke, Shanan Ballam, Brock Dethier, Tim Kellor and my wife are the reasons for the success I’ve had. Their faith in work is what keeps me going.

HW: What advice do you have for new writers?

IT: Create a mental distance between yourself and your writing. Don’t take criticism of your work personally. I understand that the act of creation is taxing, and the writer puts a lot of effort forward but the reader isn’t with you and doesn’t understand your motivation. Readers come to your writing with only their knowledge and experience. A rejection of your writing isn’t a rejection of you. 

Also, finding a group of trusted friends or writing group to read and review your work is important. It’s vital if you’re going to go public with your writing. Sharing your writing with others is a big step. Once you share a piece of writing, it’s out of your hands.

Isaac Timm

Helicon West Features Union of Table Scraps

Helicon West Features Union of Table Scraps

On Thursday, February 23, 2023, Helicon West is pleased to feature the Union of Table Scraps writing group! The event will begin at 7 pm at the Riverpark Senior Housing Clubhouse (784 Riverwalk Parkway) in Logan.

Union of Table Scraps is a local poetry writing group. The featured readers for this event will be Shanan Ballam, Isaac Timm, Aaron Timm, Britt Allen, Brock Dethier, and Millie Tullis.

The reading will be followed by an open mic, where all are invited to read up to seven minutes of their own original work! The open mic is uncensored and open to all.

Interview with Aaron Timm–One Half of a Helicon West Power Couple

Interview with Aaron Timm–One Half of a Helicon West Power Couple

This week, we interviewed Aaron Timm (she/her/hers), who will read some of her work at the Helicon West meeting on 23 February 2023. Aaron is a poetry writer, but she also dabbles in sexy short stories.

Helicon West: Could you tell us a bit about your educational background?

Aaron Timm: I grew up in Southern Utah, and it was a hellscape of bullying and adults in positions of power who did nothing to help me. I graduated from Hurricane high school and quickly failed out of what is now Utah Tech. It took me a long time to figure out what I was passionate about until my husband and I moved to Logan and we began attending USU. I found the English department and shortly after that, I found Political Science. In 2015 I graduated with two Bachelor’s degrees. 

While I do not work in any traditional sense, I have had the privilege of judging several writing contests, and I give as many free tarot readings as I can find time for. I will always dream of the day when I can teach about disability in literature and teach civics. I know that is an odd combo, but teaching in both of my passions would be amazing. 

HW: What role does writing play in your life?

AT: I write to express myself and, like many people, to confront my past and heal the wounds of the past. I have had the privilege of belonging to a poetry critique group since January 2019.

HW: What advice do you have for up-and-coming writers?

AT: I am not the best person to give advice, but I would say that if you want to write, make time to do it a little each week. I would also suggest sharing your writing at Helicon, because I would love to hear it.

HW: How did you get involved with Helicon?

AT: My husband and I were taking a summer workshop in 2009, it was one of those all day classes. Since we were creating poems the professor told us about Helicon. At that time summer Helicon was held once a month and at 6 instead of 7. This was awesome because it meant that we could check it out and then drive down to the Lyric to watch a play. Helicon was amazing, the readers were so passionate and very smart people said nice things about my writing which was a new experience for me. My husband Isaac and I became regulars and we even hosted summer Helicon a time or two. It has been great to be a part of the Helicon community and I cannot wait for the new library to be built so that I can be part of it again. COVID has thrown me for a loop and I have only been to one event since the old library closed. Well, except for the one held at our apartment complex. My first post COVID event was Helicon which is very appropriate as the friends we have made there have truly become our chosen family. I am a writer because of the people I met at Helicon readings. I have a full shelf of books bought from featured readers. Helicon was life changing for me and I cannot wait to be able to be more involved again. 

Thank you for letting me be part of this blog. I am excited to see the level of excitement the new Helicon team has. This event has been such a positive influence on the local community and that is clear in the drive and passion of those dedicated people who are making things run. I probably should say more, but I am at a loss for words. Helicon is amazing, I wish every community had something like it. 

Attached below are two poems that Aaron has written.


I am bleeding, and the blood tastes
like popcorn.
I am thinking of war poetry

I am bleeding, and the blood
tastes like popcorn.
I am thinking of stars

The sun over my shoulder
stuffs the Eastern sky with blue
My teeth bite down
squish a cloud of gauze.

I am bleeding.
My face is the moon
full, and radiant.

I am bleeding.
Cloud gauze shifts
stuffs empty sockets.

My full moon gauze face
I swallow buttered popcorn,
take two buses home.

End of days

I am being watched
Two cats, one black
The other tabby
Sit on either side of me

To be fed
The sun has not risen
The sky is flaming pink
It turns the yellow leaves

When I was six,
years before these cats
this morning, a boy
told me that the sky
would turn red
At the end of days

A week after his revelation
The setting sun stained
Wispy clouds a
Flame pink

I ran from room to room
My mother kept cooking
My father kept reading
My brother pushed his door shut
With his foot

How long did we have?
That boy never told me
I ran around again
Told everyone
“I love you.”

Then I sat on cool cement steps
Waited for the end

Aaron Timm

Teacher Feature—An Interview with Jessica Harrison Hahn

Teacher Feature—An Interview with Jessica Harrison Hahn

This week, we interviewed Jessica Harrison Hahn (she/her/hers), who will read some of her work at the Helicon West meeting on 26 January 2023. Jessica is a genre fiction writer, typically writing historical fiction, fiction, and sometimes speculative fiction. On rare occasions, she also writes flash nonfiction.

Helicon West: Could you tell us a bit about your background?

Jessica Harrison Hahn: I grew up and currently live in Davis County, Utah. My parents, though not artists or writers themselves, have always been supporters of the arts and of my writing. They also encouraged my decision to attend college with the goal of becoming an English and History teacher, which is my current profession. I attended Utah State University where I earned a major in English and a minor in History with teaching emphases in both. I also had the opportunity to work at the USU Writing Center where I cultivated a greater love of writing and the community writing creates. I now teach middle school English and am pursuing a Master of Arts degree in History through Eastern Washington University.

HW: What role does writing play in your life? 

JHH: When I was sixteen I was writing a story and I shared it with my aunt hoping for feedback. After she’d read it and marked some corrections for word choice and grammar, she asked me over to her house to talk about what I’d written. She offered wonderful verbal feedback, praised my creativity, offered helpful critiques of my characters and syntax, and asked me why I wrote. I explained that I liked the escape into another experience and it felt therapeutic to try and put a story together. Those same answers are still true now, but I’ve seen how writing is much more to me than an escape. I write to think. I often read with a pen in my hand, even if I never use it, because the writing instrument feels like a talisman for my thoughts and helps me focus. I am an avid journaler and use writing to think through my everyday life as well as some of the biggest decisions I face—and in that way, writing is still very therapeutic. Whether I am writing in my journal, jotting down thoughts about work, or building a creative piece, writing is an essential part of my life and how I express myself to myself.

HW: How do you find consistency in writing practice, and how do you find a healthy life-writing balance?

JHH: In terms of my creative writing, I try to keep time for it while balancing many other aspects of my life. My job can be demanding and most of my free time is filled with grad school work, so right now there is not an abundance of time for creative writing. I am fortunate to be a part of a writing group that meets bi-weekly and that time is often the only hours dedicated to creative writing. I hope to carve out more time for creative writing after my Masters program concludes. That being said, knowing that I have designated time to write and that I will use that time for writing makes it easy to step away and see to other responsibilities. In the seasons of my life where I wanted to write and didn’t, my life felt much more out of balance. But knowing that I have a sacred, deliberate writing time—however brief it may be—helps me to feel fulfilled in my writing and in my work and personal lives because I am finding a balance that works for me right now.

HW: Do you have any fun pre-writing rituals?

JHH: I don’t have a lot of writing rituals, though I know I have some preferences that help me feel ready to write.

When I feel stuck or I’m trying to think of how to continue a scene or story, I step away from my laptop and use paper and pen, usually a black pen. I think pen and paper help me slow myself down and not get so caught up in powering through a scene. They allow me time to sit with a scene and its characters until I get enough momentum that I can return to my computer, copy down what I’ve handwritten, and keep moving through the writing. I also build project-specific playlists. The tone of my music, if I choose to listen to it as I write, needs to match my writing. I also need music I am familiar with otherwise I get distracted by a new artist or song. 

If I’m really stuck, I’ll flip my notebook upside down or write from the side to try and get myself out of whatever groove I was in that clearly wasn’t working and find myself in a new, different groove. I typically write in the same places—at my desk or in my reading chair. I don’t do well writing in new spaces, though I often try. I love hiking and being outside and I’ll bring a notebook with me and try to give myself time to write at the summit of a hike or in a particularly beautiful place. But however good my intentions were, I never wrote a whole lot. For a while I was frustrated by how little I wrote in such inspirational places, but I realize that a majority of writing is just living and taking in one’s own emotions and experiences so that they are richer when it’s time to put them into writing. 

HW: What role has publication played in your writing career? Do you have pieces published? 

JHH: Publication is such a scary concept! I have wanted to be a published writer since I was in elementary school, which is a common and lovely goal! I have had minor publications in a poetry anthology when I was in high school, a short story in an online literary magazine, and an essay in a USU undergraduate argumentative writing collection. I have a novel burning a hole in my hard drive, waiting for me to finally put together a query letter to be sent to agents in the hope of publication.

HW: How do you craft a piece with the intent of publishing it?

JHH: I try very hard not to write with the intent of publication, but I also see that as a privilege I hold. I have a stable job and live in a double-income home and don’t rely on my writing to support any financial aspect of my life. I would love to publish more, but that is hardly ever my goal when I write. The dream of publication slowed down my writing process for years. I am one who gets caught up in what others might think of my writing and the fear of critique and failure stunted me as a writer. It wasn’t until I did some work on my mental and emotional health that I started writing for myself and my own enjoyment again (and that was when my writing not only happened, but got so much better). Writing to create a beautiful story based on something beautiful inside of you is the best thing a person can produce. Then revising and revisiting that work to turn it into something greater makes it, I believe, more publishable. Myself comes first, the story comes second, and publishing is a hopeful third. 

HW:  What advice do you have for up-and-coming writers?

JHH: My advice for other writers is to write because you love it. Let it frustrate you, let it make you cry or laugh, and love it. The best writing I produce comes from my heart and comes after I’ve given it time to sit inside my head. I don’t think I’ve ever had an immediate, original thought then wrote it down right away and had it be any good. I wish it was so easy, but time and attention make the best writing, at least for myself. 

Along with loving writing—write often. Allow space and time for writing, even if it’s in a journal or on your phone. I only have four hours a month dedicated to creative writing, but those four hours are exceptionally important and keep those skills working. 

Last advice of all, seek feedback and take it. That doesn’t mean you have to make the exact changes other people specify—definitely know you are in charge of your writing—but listen to what people tell you when they read your work. Then be brave enough to revise. Revision is hard and scary and it can be so difficult to get rid of good things in order to make room for great things, but it’s worth it. Your writing is not the sum of who you are, so don’t worry so much about perfect writing and focus more on what feels right and how you can make it even better from there.

Jessica Harrison Hahn

Helicon West Features Shaun’s Front Room

On Thursday, January 26th, Helicon West is pleased to feature Shaun’s Front Room Writing Group! The event will begin at 7pm at the CacheARTS Thatcher-Young Mansion (35W 100S) in Logan. 

Shaun’s Front Room is a local, generative writing group, where writers come together to write. The featured readers for this event will be Star Coulbrooke, Jay Paine, Jessie Hahn, Jack Bylund, Millie Tullis, and Shaun Anderson.

The reading will be followed by an open mic, where all are invited to read up to seven minutes of their own original work! The open mic is uncensored and open to all.

All Open Mic Night at Helicon West!

Helicon west presents (3).png

On December 8th, 2022, Helicon West invites you to join us for an all open mic night celebrating our seventeenth year! Our party will take place at The Annex (64 Federal Avenue) in Logan at 7pm.

There will be food! There will be coffee! There will be buckets of fun (metaphorically)! As always, Helicon West is free, uncensored, and open to all.





Helicon West Anthology: