Rancho Santa Fe writer’s coffee table book welds poetry and photography
Kristin Helms transitions from ‘how-to’ prose to artistic creation
For more than two decades since her early teen years, Kristin Helms clung to her copy of “100 Best Loved Poems” released by Dover Publications in 1995.
Now, by dint of hard work and a stroke of luck, the Rancho Santa Fe resident has her own book out on Dover’s Ixia Press in collaboration with her friend, Bay Area-based photographer Meg Stone.
“Grace + Oak: Inspiration in Poetry & Photographs” is a hardback, coffee table-quality volume that features dozens of inspirational poems penned by Helms and accompanied by Stone’s photos.
“It feels like it came full circle for me,” Helms said of the book getting picked up by Dover.
“You get a ton of rejections and then you get a handful of offers. ... When Dover came through with an offer, I was so excited because I knew Dover as a recognizable publisher.
“When I looked more into the Ixia imprint, it just seemed to align with ‘Grace + Oak, and our target audience, which was women. I can’t say enough good things about Ixia and Dover. They let us produce the exact book that we wanted to produce.”
Helms’ poems in “Grace + Oak” are uplifting in content, messages meant to inspire women. Stone’s pictures feature enchanting images of women photographed in settings along California’s coast from San Francisco to San Diego County.
“They all have an inspirational tone to them, kind of like an uplifting outlook,”, Helms said of her writing in this book. “Even if we’re talking about going through hard times, the poems always give some sort of hope. ...
“The best way I can describe it is they’re sort of like written mirrors for the readers to show them their own strengths and encourage them on their journey.”
Many of the pieces, like the poem that falls on Page 79, express the pursuit of exuberance amid uncertainty.
“Some days require champagne on rooftops simply because tomorrow is a gamble. But what we know for sure, what we have now, is this moment — a tiny celebration of breathing in this sunlight.”
“Grace + Oak” is an unequivocal pivot from Helms’ first book, “From Boardroom to Baby: A Roadmap for Career Women Transitioning to Stay-at-Home Moms,” which was published in 2017.
That 215-page paperback, available from careerpress.com and amazon.com, addresses challenges for women whose lives have shifted abruptly from meeting corporate demands and participating in board-room conferences to pushing strollers and changing diapers.
While “Grace + Oak” is a departure from that first book, it reflects a passion Helms has embraced since childhood.
“I’ve always sort of secretly written poetry,” she said. “I’d never shared it with anyone. Since I was little, I would always write poetry. So just recently with this book, I’ve decided to share it with the world.
“Probably like eight years old was when I really got into writing. I still have journals of all the poems I’ve written over the years — probably in the hundreds (of poems).”
The idea for doing a book pairing her poetry with photography came when Helms was planning some household redecorating.
“I was looking for a coffee table book,” said Helms, who is married and the mother of a 6-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy. “I wanted something that was really beautiful but also something that I would actually want to read. ...
“I was searching a long time on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and I found a couple of good ones, but not really a lot. And I thought, ‘What if I could create the book I was looking for for my living room?”
She pitched it to her literary agent, who was enthusiastic about the project. Then, she sought the cooperation of Stone. Together, they assembled samples to share with the agent.
“We were so nervous, obviously,” Helms said of the time when they awaited news from the agent. “She actually called us the next day. She said, ‘I just looked through the sample pages, and wow, this is magic..’”
The book received hearty endorsements from authors Amber Rae and Brianna Wiest. Wiest, who wrote “101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think,” had this to say about Helms’ and Stone’s work, a statement appearing on the back cover:
“In the manner that stars, when collapsing, are often breaking down into supernovas, so, too, do our lives often fall apart right before our most vital awakening. What Kristin Helms and Meg Stone have created here is simply that: the awakening.”
Information about Helms and her books is available by going to kristinhelms.com. She will be promoting the book in the following upcoming events:
Author appearance and book signing, Warwick’s La Jolla, 1 - 3 p.m., March 22
Bay Area book launch party, March 28 (time and location to be determined)
Author appearance and book signing, Barnes & Noble Encinitas, 1 - 3 p.m., April 4
San Diego launch party, Sea Biscuit Del Mar, Del Mar Plaza, 6 - 8 p.m., April 16
Get the RSF Review weekly in your inbox
Latest news from Rancho Santa Fe every Thursday for free
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Rancho Santa Fe Review.