I write books. My brain injury made it possible because it took away my writing ability, my ability to see and write short stories. My writing returned after relearning, but it wasn’t the same at all as before my injury. At first, I could write only non-fiction, and so I started a political blog to give my angst an outlet. Then in 2009, after months of a story building up inside me, National Novel Writing Month kicked those fictional-story-producing neurons back into life. I wrote my first novel. Since then, every November, I write a novel, although last year, as an exception, my memoir. Short stories remain lost to me, but on top of novels, I’ve used the now-defunct ScriptFrenzy to write plays and screenplays and April’s Poem-A-Day challenge to write poetry.
I also take photographs. I had to relearn that, too. It took awhile, and my shaking hands didn’t help matters. But then I discovered how useful photography software can be. For years, I shot on instinct alone and played with my photos in Corel PaintShop Pro without thinking too much. As my brain healed, I began trying to achieve some image in my head as I played with effects. Some photos I leave alone and post to Flickr as is.
Writing runs in my family on my mother’s side, mostly as a hobby. Perhaps that’s why I began to write as a child even though none of my immediate family write. My stories come to me. Sometimes a character shows up. One time a character appeared to me and demanded I tell his story. I haven’t finished editing his yet; but he’s patient. Sometimes a plot or idea grows in my head. I never write them down. If they’re meant to become a book, they will reveal themselves more and more to me over the months until it’s time to do some research and write down their details.
My photography just is. Both my father and uncle took up photography as a hobby, my uncle more seriously later in life.
Each medium expresses a different part of me. Blogging and tweeting kind of marry the two; they’re conversational rather than story-telling, though. Being of British background, I do like a good chat . . . or debate.
Before my brain injury, I aspired to write as well as Charles Dickens. I loved how he created stories that were entertaining yet made sharp points about the social injustices he saw. Readers could read them at any level. I tried to do that with She, my first novel, as a vestige of my old self. But since then, no one person or event has inspired me. Instead I take in what’s going on around me and through Twitter, and somehow my chaotic neurons form ideas and stories.
Also, Justice kicks me in the butt to write. Always has, but the way people with brain injury are left to rot, are denied treatment, and whose existence and desire to dream like anyone else are denied period – viscerally moves me to barge through my brain-injured reading deficits in order to learn and write about brain injury and treatments that work. Every now and then I quit because the fight is exhausting and brain injury is relentlessly fatiguing, but I draw strength from the people I’ve met on Twitter and try to keep going.
I write outlines for my books based on screenplay principles since my attention span peters out within 3,000 words and my memory can’t hold an entire book in my head. I type on my laptop in my quiet office, one chapter per day, in one go so that I won’t lose track, following my outline, being motivated by NaNoWriMo pep talks, tweets, etc. But though my outline will tell me what to write, I don’t actually know what words, details, and dialogue will appear on the screen until my fingers tap them out. It’s rather surreal to have my subconscious write, but there you go. I used to like WordPerfect but had to give it up. I hate Word. Too distracting a display and too confusing to use. Luckily, through NaNoWriMo, I discovered Scrivener. Now that it has an iOS app that syncs with the desktop software, I can write or revise scenes or chapters on my iPhone when I’m out and about in places with white noise (almost as non-distracting as quiet spaces) while I have the energy to do so.
With Apple improving their cameras, I can use my iPhone to shoot photos of things that bug me or grab my eyes and demand I shoot. When I have a goal in mind, like the recent solar eclipse, I’ll take my Nikon D80 out. It’s far more versatile than the iPhone, but it’s heavy. Back at home, I’ll upload my photos to Corel — or perhaps I’ll use a couple of iPhone apps (though too often, I run out of energy to do anything with my photos) — and decide which photos are worth uploading to Flickr, which photos call on me to apply effects, and which photos to leave as is. I’d like to do way more of this, but my fatigue limits me a lot. And my writing takes priority. Every now and then, I work on my photography in bursts then have to set it aside once again.
I blog on my iPhone when out and about using the very nice, distraction-free IA Writer app. I rarely can get myself to blog when at home. I aim for once a week. Some weeks I can post more; sometimes I miss a week or two, then I start to feel angsty or kind of restless. My mind is telling me I need to write already!
I’m excited about my memoir, coming out now. The original edition of Concussion Is Brain Injury was based on my blog posts; this revised edition, subtitled Treating the Neurons and Me, has all-new content I wrote in Scrivener. The cover designer used an image I created from two of my photos. And I’m extending the book through the use of dedicated blog pages, which I can update easier than I can a book. It’s like a marriage of all my mediums!
Shireen Jeejeebhoy was born to English and Parsi parents, grew up in Bombay and Toronto, and received a B.Sc. in psychology from the University of Toronto. Her editorial work earned her a mention in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology (1988). After returning to school for writing, she brought her writing and research skills together as a Research Officer for the Task Force on Access to Professions and Trades in Ontario. She interviewed immigrants disheartened by their experiences here, as well as established Canadians trying to help these immigrants, and various experts. She also ran a desktop publishing and computer consulting business while writing articles for private Internet sites and professional newsletters on health and nutrition issues and cross-cultural counseling.
Her travel articles and photographs have appeared in the London Free Press and The Islander in the Victoria Times-Colonist, and The Medical Post. Her short story, “Like Beads of Time,” was selected for inclusion in WORDSCAPE 3, the Canadian Authors Association anthology. Her first book, Lifeliner: The Judy Taylor Story, won the 2008 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Award for best biography. Her first novel, She, was a finalist for the 2012 Canadian Christian Writing Awards. Eleven Shorts +1, her collection of short stories, is available in Kindle format and on Wattpad.com. Iguana Books published her latest non-fiction book, Concussion Is Brain Injury, which she wrote after suffering a closed head injury in a three-car collision.
Jeejeebhoy is working diligently on her next three novels, and when she is not writing, reading, or taking photographs, she hunts for good coffee and sensational chocolate.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love, contemporary fiction about one woman’s need to tell her story without shame.
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers Favorite Book Finalist
2016 USA Book News “Best Book” Finalist
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
“With tenderness, but without blinking, Linda K. Sienkiewicz turns her eye on the predator-prey savannah of the young and still somehow hopeful.” ~ Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of the #1 NY Times Bestseller, Deep End of the Ocean