Helen’s short listed submission, The Visitor, tackles gender, religion and compliance in a supernatural thriller. Read on for Helen’s q&a..

The Ed: Tell us a little about your ambitions as a writer. 

H.R. Schneider: My primary ambition for writing actually lies in the realm of non fiction. I am still in high school, but I would like major in journalism next year at college. I believe that journalism is best utilized to pursue social justice. Because of this, I would like my fiction writing to also have an aspect of social justice. I still have a long way to go as a writer, but I hope that whatever work I produce, whether fiction or non-fiction  can bring about some issue at hand and perhaps make a difference.

What role to paper books having in an increasing digital marketplace?

Writing is increasingly becoming digital; newspapers are online, and books can now be read on tablets. The appeal of this is the ease of carrying so many works on one device. But there is also a certain nostalgia about printed books. I once had a friend who loved the smell of an old book. I had a teacher talk of the notes she would take in her own copies of famous works. My favourite aspect of printed books’ appeal is probably how my sister’s bed is lined with the paperbacks she has fallen asleep with while reading. Readers and writers are sentimental people, and I don’t think we will sacrifice the nostalgia of a hard copy for the practicality of a digital one.

What authors to you admire, or aspire to be like, and why?

An author I especially admire is John Steinbeck. Steinbeck worked as a journalist during the Great Depression, documenting the hardship that was spreading across America. Many of his books are inspired by his experiences as a journalist, recording the lives of everyday people. His writing is reflective of the natural beauty of the very real world around us; from amazing yet ordinary characters, to chillingly vast yet simple descriptions of their environments. I also owe a lot to Leo Tolstoy, a writer who ranged from epic works like War and Peace to short stories about Russian peasants. He was quite a character himself, living like a serf on his estate to atone for the indulgences he had taken as a wealthy youth. After writing an essay on how his short stories affected the thoughts of world leaders, I won a trip to Russia to visit his estate and grave site with the Albany-Tula Alliance. The trip  not only taught me more interesting facts about Leo Tolstoy (he was a vegetarian like me!), but also broadened my entire world-view.

Tell us about an interesting habit you might have when writing.

One habit I have when writing is to occasionally start reading out loud whatever I am typing at the moment. It isn’t too bad unless I am in the same room as other people and start reading, say, an essay on Lysistrata or the surreal plays of Ionesco out loud.