Writing Outside of My Head By Judy Penz Sheluk
official bio. I’m a first generation Canadian, born and raised in Toronto, the only child of two very strict immigrant parents who instilled my love of reading. Today I split my time between Alliston (a smallish town about 90 minutes NW of Toronto) and Goulais River (a really small town in Northern Ontario, with Lake Superior as my front yard and, occasionally, black bears in the back).
As a native Torontonian, I speak really fast (no southern drawls this far north) and pronounce Toronto “Tarrono.” As a Goulaigan (rhymes with Hooligan), I still speak fast, but I’m decidedly more laid back, and I’ve discovered a passion for sunsets over the water.
I’ve been writing stories “inside my head” for as long as I can remember. I’d start one on the walk to elementary school and finish it on the walk home. As I got older, the stories became more complicated, and it would often take several walks to complete a story. Years later, this practice would help me through hour-plus commutes into the city for my job as a Corporate Credit Manager. But here’s the thing: I never once wrote the stories down.
Fast forward to the year 2000. I’d been married a few years when I mentioned to my husband, Mike, that I’d just finished a really good story in my head. I thought he’d want to hear about it, but instead he looked at me as if I’d gone mad. (Did I mention Mike was an engineer?) “You write stories inside your head?” he asked, aghast. To which I replied, “Yes, doesn’t everyone?”
Apparently not. But give the man credit. That year, for my birthday, he not only bought me a computer, he enrolled me into a 10-week Creative Writing Workshop at our local library. I can remember being terrified. What if I couldn’t actually write the story “outside of my head?” But midway through the course, our first assignment was to write about a painful childhood or teenage memory. The result was Cleopatra Slippers and when I finished reading it out loud in class, I looked up to see a dozen tear-stained faces.
Cleopatra Slippers would eventually get published in THEMA Literary Journal in Spring 2005. I remember being paid $5 for it, and it was the finest $5 I’d ever received. There would be more acceptances, and plenty more rejections, between then and now, along with more than one career change. I also like to think my writing has improved with time and experience. But I wouldn’t be on WWK today if it hadn’t been for that 10-week workshop. If I hadn’t dared to write the story outside of my head.
Today, when someone tells me they have a great story idea, I always tell them the same thing. “No one can read the story inside your head.” And isn’t that lucky? Because sometimes, when someone really annoys me and I’m thinking of ways to kill them off in my next book…well, some things are better left “inside one’s head.” At least until the names are changed to protect the guilty.
Read the PDF version of Cleopatra Slippers here.
And now for some Shameless Self Promotion: Heartbreaks & Half-truths: 22 Stories of Mystery & Suspense is on sale for just .99 in the US and UK from Aug. 16 to 22, after which time it will revert back to $4.99 for the foreseeable future. Edited by yours truly, the collection includes my story, ‘Goulaigans,’ as well as stories by WWK bloggers KM Rockwood – ‘Burning Desire’ and Paula Gail Benson – ‘Living One’s Own Truth.’