In 1976 I followed in my father's footsteps as a writer and photographer, starting with a newspaper job for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey. In the years that followed I received a master's degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York; lived among the remaining potato farmers and fishermen on Long Island's North Fork, and then covered the dazzling highs and crippling lows of the technology industry from Route 128 in Boston. In 1991, I started a freelance career, becoming an international travel writer and photographer, principally for The Boston Herald.
My work has since appeared in a wide variety of publications from the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor and Washington Post to such magazines as Vermont Life, Northern Woodlands and New Jersey Monthly. Digital versions of my articles and editorials for a variety of print publications can be found by clicking the Pike Services tab above.
In the mid-1990s, my interest in photography led me to produce four illustrated books about specific North Shore communities along New Jersey's coastline. The Pike Books tab enables you to discover which ones.
After my father, Robert E. Pike, died in 1997, The Countryman Press, a division of W.W. Norton, negotiated for a new edition of his North Woods classic Spiked Boots. I wrote the foreword and supplied never-before-published photos from the Pike Archives, including a family snapshot of my dad, his uncle who raised him, and me in the parlor of the Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford, Vt.
Want to know about Tall Trees, Tough Men, Bob Pike's defining book on the logging industry in New England as the 19th century turned into the 20th? The link to the left will take you there.
When the 21st century began, I expanded my career in books by taking 46 travel essays and 400 photographic postcards culled from a now 6,000-plus personal collection to write Greetings From New Jersey, my first book for Rutgers University Press. Published in the fall of 2001, a second printing of A Postcard Tour of the Garden State took place in the spring of 2005.
In 2006 I produced a companion volume for children growing up in the Garden State subtitled A Workbook for Young Adventurers. I am grateful for the experts who endorsed this workbook. Currently out of print, the contents are undergoing a redesign into a mobile app!
My next book returned me to the start of my writing career in Asbury Park where I spent seven years examining the changing fortunes of a once-popular residential resort. With 200 rare images identified publicly for the first time and 60 mini-memoirs from those who lived, worked, worshipped, and were educated in this coastal city, Asbury Park's Glory Days bowed April 29, 2005. The paperback edition arrived in April 2007.
The state Chamber of Commerce commissioned New Jersey: Crossroads of Commerce. I tracked how key industries from the Dutch trading companies evolved to dot.coms over a 300-year span. Chapter 6 looks at 21st century trends in health care, the green movement, and transit villages. Published in 2008, I am honored this book can be found on the reference shelves of most public libraries.
The Spirited Ladies of Liberty Street is my ninth book and my first literary collaboration. Co-written with Frank "Pat" Dodd, a retired state Senator, this historical novel was released July 29, 2009. The narrative is equal parts mystery and moxie as it uncovers Dodd family secrets and connects them to historical events from Prohibition. As a result of this project, I've received material to write a new historical novel that explores the fall-out from a matriarch's decision to split the family estate between one son who loves the land and the other, the sea.
Asbury Park: Where Music Lives is Book #10, representing quite a milestone since Book #1 in 1995. I was chosen to manage the editorial direction and publication of a volume to complement the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibit New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music. On March 6, 2011 we debuted Where Music Lives with a "book jam" of the musicians whose memoirs now are a part of our nation's cultural history. Curating associated programs enabled me to use my skills honed during six years as an adjunct university lecturer. To find out more about my academic achievements, please click View my Linkedin bio in the upper right column.
Through it all, my longest-running research and writing project is a memoir about my dad. I've tried out various titles:
Missing Links after I discovered a over-populated back story of three wives, two stepsons, a second wife who put his last name on her own two sons' birth certificates, a son raised by another man, and at least two women who wanted to be the fourth Mrs...and me, the child my mother desperately wanted.
My Family and Other Strangers spooled out of the information revealed in thousands of letters Dad saved from all kinds of people, many of whom were central figures in my upbringing, yet not blood relatives I was taught to call "Aunt" and "Uncle".
A Suburban Jersey Girl's Search for Her Roots in Rural America is the latest, but clunky-sounding (yes? no?). It's based on my 2012 decision to sell the post-war cookie-cutter cape in which I had been raised to move to the North Woods. I live on the Connecticut River, not far from the original village settled by my ancestors who, themselves, moved out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony eight years before it ratified the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Their descendants, I've discovered, moved out. So, really, why am I (still) here?
A graduate of both public and private schools, I received a B.A. degree in English and French from Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, and a language certificate from La Sorbonne in Paris. In the tug-of-war between my French mother and Yankee father to name me, a hyphenated first name resulted: Helen-Chantal.
It's a pesky piece of punctuation that may have a greater role as I reprise blogging in 2014 blogging. Having a hyphenated life constantly reminds me of what I have in common with others while at the same time respecting our differences.