Before They Were Authors: Judy Penz Sheluk, Act I

One of the most common questions I receive when I attend author events is “What did you do before you were an author?” The question sparked the idea for a blog series, and so far it’s proven to be very popular with authors and readers alike. Because the reality is, none of us were born authors, and most of us have worked in a variety of jobs.

I was a teenager, about sixteen, when I got my first part-time job at a grocery store. It was called Sunnybrook Food Market and it was located at Midland and Lawrence in Scarborough, Ontario, about a mile and a half walk from my house, and a ten minute walk from school. To say Sunnybrook Food Market—long since out of business— was a discount grocery store would be putting a gloss on it,  but they were willing to train, and they paid us every Friday without fail.

Now you might be wondering how that job impacted my writing all these years later, and the short answer is, it didn’t, with one exception. There was another student there, Camilla. Once Camilla knew that I liked one of the stock boys, she made it her mission in life to date him. And she succeeded. Fast forward a few decades to The Hanged Man’s Noose and you’ll meet Camilla Mortimer-Gilroy. Those of you who have read the book know that Camilla is the woman responsible for breaking up Arabella and Levon’s marriage. Coincidence? I leave it for you to decide.

I left Sunnybrook a year later (not entirely my idea, if I’m being honest — it seems they actually expected me to pay for all the chocolate bars I ate). As for Camilla, I don’t know what became of her, and I don’t remember the name of the stock boy, but in my fictional world, they got married at eighteen and divorced at twenty. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

18 responses to “Before They Were Authors: Judy Penz Sheluk, Act I

  1. Kristina Stanley

    Ohhhh….maybe she’s a writer too. You just never know.

  2. Judy Penz Sheluk

    She probably doesn’t even remember me. Writers, we have long memories.

  3. Kristina Stanley

    I hope she read your book. Ha ha!

  4. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Yes, where is Camilla now, one wonders?? Thanks for stopping by Kristina~

  5. Kristina Stanley

    Great story. Little bit of revenge with your writing! Awesome.

  6. Judy Penz Sheluk

    It is a perk of being a writer, isn’t it Carol?

  7. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Truth really is stranger than fiction!


    If you put it in a book, who’d believe it!

  9. Judy Penz Sheluk

    It’s definitely one of the perks, Ellen!

  10. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Wow, Victoria, that is an incredible coincidence. Seriously you can’t make this stuff up!

  11. That’s a wonderful thing about being an author. We can make people who’ve wronged us fictionally miserable!


    That’s hilarious! One of the things my first husband and I had in common was that both our first employers–his in Chicago, mine in Detroit–were arrested for armed robbery. You can learn a lot in starter-jobs.

  13. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Sheri. Yes we do indeed use memories from real life, even if we fictionalize the heck out of them! Thanks for stopping by.

  14. Judy Penz Sheluk

    There is something very satisfying about that, isn’t there, Joanne? Thanks for stopping by.

  15. eightpawswriting

    Wonderful, Judy. I use memories also from real life. Now I’m going back to your story and reread. Great blog idea!

  16. Excellent post! Those adolescent experiences can linger for years, even a lifetime. As authors, we can “resolve” the situations to our satisfaction. 🙂

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