My Publishing Journey: Small Town Life

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 10.24.21 AMFor those of you who don’t “know” me, I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Toronto has grown in leaps and bounds since I left at the age of 23, but even back then, it was a big city with subways and traffic gridlock (the Don Valley Parkway, which runs north-south, has justifiably earned the nickname the Don Valley Parking Lot).

Unlike a lot of 23-year-olds, I didn’t move to a bigger city. Instead, I moved to the relatively small town of Peterborough, Ontario, roughly 90 minutes northeast of where I grew up. I left for a good job (Personal Credit Manager – Canadian Division, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company) and stayed for about four years, earning a promotion to Canadian Division Credit Manager. At the time, I was the youngest Division Manager in the company’s history.

My first month in Peterborough was tough. It seemed as though everyone knew everyone and I was decidedly an outsider. Not only that, I was a “boss,” and  on top of that, I was from Toronto (city folk were treated with a modicum of suspicion). I can still remember the day  when a young woman by the name of Earlene invited me to her home for Sunday dinner. “My mom thinks you must be lonely,” she said, clearly nervous about inviting a manager (although not her manager) to dinner. I jumped at the chance.

It was clear that Earlene’s family lived a modest existence. There was homemade mac and cheese and coleslaw for Sunday dinner, and coffee with CoffeeMate (I’d never had CoffeeMate before that) for dessert. I think there might have been some sort of apple crisp or cookies, as well, although for the life of me I can’t recall. But that coleslaw was the best I’ve ever tasted to this day.

Earlene’s invitation and friendship led to many other friendships. By the time I left Peterborough four years later to move to the much bigger city of Mississauga (for another job opportunity, and with somewhat of a broken heart), I’d been a bridesmaid in two weddings.

It’s been a few years, and more than a few moves, since those Peterborough days, and sadly I lost touch with Earlene long ago, but I was reminded of the warmth and hospitality of small town life when I opened the September issue of The Briar Crier. The Crier is a community news magazine for the residents of Green Briar and Briar Hill, a golf course community  in the smallish town of Alliston, Ontario. It’s published locally by a wonderfully supportive woman, Marie Fischer. The September issue includes a two-page feature about my writing journey. Two pages. Now that wouldn’t happen in Toronto!

The article was written by BL Storrie, a talented and hard working freelance writer who took the time to interview me on my back deck on a warm summer afternoon. I’m so appreciative of (and somewhat embarrassed by) her kind words (honestly, I’m not that nice — though I do LOVE to golf). If you’d like to read it, here’s a link to the  PDF: P.22 23. And here’s a link to the full magazine: BRIAR_CRIER_2016_09_INTERACTIVE.

Do you have a small town story? I’d love to hear about it. Be sure to leave a comment! 



16 responses to “My Publishing Journey: Small Town Life

  1. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thank you for stopping by Kath…I would have thought a base would have been a bit like a small town unto itself.

  2. Growing up a Marine brat, I have no small town stories. But I loved this one.

  3. Judy Penz Sheluk

    True Susan, when I lived in Port Credit, I took the GO downtown every day.

  4. No small town tales from me (though we do drive through Norland on the way to the cottage) because I’ve been Big City all my life. Including doing 10 years in Mississauga, which I just saw then (and see now) as a massive bedroom community of Toronto (commute,commute,commute)

  5. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Kaye. My parents use to have a summer cottage on the Gull River near a town called Norland. Pop. 200. But I couldn’t imagine living there year round! Even pop. 1704 is very tiny…you truly must be a big fish in that small pond 🙂

  6. We’ve moved a LOT. I’ve done big (Chicago) to tiny (Holliday, TX, pop (1704 right now), but my grandmother lived in a very small town of about 500. They all have their pros and cons, but you do have to get to know the culture. I think that, by now, I could probably fit in most anywhere in the US. I think knowing different town cultures can be a huge advantage to a writer! Thanks for the post!

  7. Judy Penz Sheluk

    It sounds like an idyllic place to live, where you are now. Growth happens everywhere. I can remember when my husband and I first moved to Holland Landing (we moved last year), my mom said “they have houses that far north?” Now there are big box stores and the forests and farms have been replaced with housing. No condos — yet — but I’m sure there are plans for them! Of course, even where we used to live was once farmland. A builder once told me, “sprawl is the house next to yours.” He had a point.

  8. I’ve always enjoyed living in small town environments rather than big cities. I was born in Marietta, GA (Atlanta suburb) but grew up in Panama City, FL on the panhandle coast. The population was around 35,000, mostly spread out across the county. Beautiful place. Now, it has boomed into nearly a quarter million people, beach access is minimal, and the quaint homes/buildings have been replaced with big condos & hotels, etc. I left for the Blue Ridge mountains of northwestern SC a decade ago. Beautiful here, rural, farming, and laid back. Miss those beaches but love the mountains.
    Good luck with the books! 🙂

  9. Judy Penz Sheluk

    They certainly do, Susan. It would be nice to see Earlene again. Maybe this post will find her somehow. I’ve searched for her on Facebook but no luck.

  10. Susan Van Kirk

    So glad Earlene found you! I, too, grew up in a larger town of 35,000 but have lived in a small town of 10,000 for almost 50 years. I am related to no one in town, and, yes, it seemed like everyone was related to someone over those years. Small towns do give an author a great deal of material!

  11. Judy Penz Sheluk

    thanks Sheri. Golf is great — very humbling game — check your ego at the clubhouse! I hope you enjoy Skeletons.

  12. Judy Penz Sheluk

    My husband, Mike, was quick to point out that the dog was named and he wasn’t!

  13. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks so much Michelle. You certainly know me better than most. 8 hours to walk from one end of Bermuda to another…I still remember the size of my blisters and the way Ian laughed at us when we finally finished and dragged our tired butts back to the comfort of your couch. Then there was the three-day Bermuda Triangle. The Ottawa Marathon (which, btw, is the one thing YOU talked me into). A lot of miles on the road, a lot of stories!

  14. Michelle Banfield

    ha! I can somewhat attest to the fact that you’re “not that nice”… lol. Honestly Judy some of your writing makes me laugh out loud as I know you always write the truth and I can always hear your dry sarcastic sounding voice saying the words! You are truly genuine. People don’t have to “know” you “know” you. If they read your writing they “know” the real you! You’re awesome!

  15. eightpawswriting

    Wonderful interview! Always fun to learn more about you! Good for you, playing golf. My husband tried for a while to turn me into a golfer- never happened!
    So happy for you! Congrats on the success of Skeltons in the Attic. I have it and plan to start reading soon!

We love comments!