Hélène James was a writer, dancer, herbalist and homeopath. She was a vivid, humorous and generous person with a tremendous zest for life. She divided her time between the historic Welsh town of Laugharne, the city of Swansea and the beautiful Greek island of Alonissos. She published two short stories in Shadow Plays (Cardigan: Parthian Press, 2010). On 8th September 2010 she died, too soon, in a car accident on Alonissos. Hélène should have had more years to come of writing, dancing, laughing. The joy of living one’s life to the full was her guiding idea. This new short story competition has been established to celebrate her life.

Like many creative writers, Hélène started writing when she was seven years old but it was only in later life, that she convinced herself to start taking her own writing seriously. She joined the Creative Writing MA course at Trinity College, Carmarthen. She was a vivid personality in the class: direct and open in her views but empathetic to others, and always accompanied by her little dog, Schizandra, who would obligingly jump into Hélène’s bag and sit quietly through lessons.

Helene was born in the UK and then lived abroad for many years with her family.  On her return, she undertook a degree in Archeology and supervised many digs, including one in Kidwelly Castle. She taught at a Homeopathic College and published academic papers.  She opened a Herbal Clinic in Swansea in 1981.

Her family: two sons, three sisters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, were very important in her life. She missed her husband, Colin Webb, who died a few years ago. Colin was the Portreeve of Laugharne in 2003 and the Western Telegraph records him, in his big gold necklace of cockle shells, accompanied by the Portreeve’s Lady – Hélène – judging the carnival float competition. Hélène revelled in the distinctive character of Laugharne, with Dylan Thomas’ writing shack overlooking the spectacular Taf Estuary. Hélène ran Nia Dance classes in the town hall. Her dog, Schizandra and her cat Leander, were her constant companions, going everywhere with her.

For the last couple of years of her life, Hélène became very close to Robin Bloor. They had many shared interests including writing. Hélène went for lunches and walks on Pembrokeshire beaches with her new friends on the Creative Writing course, entertaining us with wonderfully funny stories filled with her compassion and joy of other people. She enjoyed Middle Eastern Dance, and was an accomplished flautist and cellist.  Recently she had started to learn the guitar.

She sent us long emails from Greece, during the summer months, describing her writing life there, her efforts to tame the garden, spectacular sunsets and seascapes. She wrote in her own obituary, discovered by her sons amongst her papers, after her death:

‘She played hard and worked hard … but work is only an activity that fills time. She was determined to study the craft of writing and write novels concerned with contemporary issues.  Having a strong sense of injustice, her first novel examines the feelings of a joyrider’s victim.  Her writing explores human emotion and human suffering. Her work has a sense of optimism, showing a clear way to the restoration of happiness and well-being.’

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