It’s been a long journey from deciding I wanted to write for a living to seeing my first book published, and it’s not over yet.
I started life in London, England and was named Shireen Jeejeebhoy, OK, technically Shireen Anne Jeejeebhoy. My mother was very particular as to which spelling was used for my first name, and I like her choice. I sailed to Bombay, India at the age of 3 months with my parents, spent my formative years there, and arrived in Toronto on Valentine’s Day 1968. Education is hugely venerated in India, so I started reading very young, about 2 or 3 years old, and was writing in 2 languages by 4. Although I went to Montessori School in India, I’m a proud public school grad here in Toronto; I was surprised to discover that Judy Taylor also graduated from Jarvis C.I.
I always loved reading, and writing essays was my favourite part of high school. But I hated English, and focussed on math and the sciences. I especially enjoyed statistics. Strange I know. I worked summers in a nutrition lab, assisting lab technicians and Ph.D. students for six summers. Every summer started off with me calculating a year’s worth of chromatograms with my handy-dandy TI programmable calculator. Then I got to do the fun stuff, like feeding rats, making up their diets, or even better, working with human subjects. I conversed endlessly with my father, Dr. Khursheed N. Jeejeebhoy, about his work on our morning walk to the University of Toronto, and I saw firsthand the results of his genius when I attended barbecues hosted by Judy at her cottage home.
I graduated from Jarvis an Ontario Scholar and entered the Specialist program in Psychology at the University of Toronto. As part of my psychology degree, I undertook several research projects, one on people with eating disorders or living on Home TPN. I loved developing my questionnaires and interviewing all these interesting people, whether they were in a locked psychiatric ward or in my small interview room in the bowels of Sid Smith. I graduated in 1986 with an Honours B.Sc.
With my science background, I landed a job at B.C. Decker, first as a proof-reader, then as editor, where my work earned me a mention in the preface of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology (1988). During that phase, I attended several Freelance Editors Association of Canada seminars on editing, as well as on graphic design, and slowly my interest in writing emerged. I finally gathered my courage to follow my true path. Back to university I went to study creative writing under the tutelage of a true teacher; with the encouragement of my peers, I entered the Hart House Short Story Contest in 1988 and received an honourable mention.
At my next job, I brought my writing skills and my research skills together while working as a Research Officer for the Task Force on Access to Professions and Trades in Ontario. I interviewed immigrants disheartened by their experiences here, established Canadians trying to help these immigrants, and various experts. And I wrote about the immigrants’ experiences with language and competency tests.
Eventually I struck out on my own and ran a successful desktop publishing and computer consulting business for clients ranging from The Home Depot to individuals in professional practice. At the same time, I started establishing my writing credentials with articles for private Internet sites and professional newsletters on health and nutrition issues and cross-cultural counselling. I’ve also written travel articles, including photographs, for the London Free Press (1997) and The Islander in the Victoria Times-Colonist (1998), as well as a two-part feature article on Judy Taylor in The Medical Post (1998). My short story Like Beads of Time was selected for inclusion in WORDSCAPE 3, the Canadian Authors Association anthology (1997).
I started working on Lifeliner in 1991, and by 1999, I had finished the research. Unfortunately, right in the middle of writing my manuscript for Lifeliner in very early 2000, I suffered a closed head injury as a result of a three-impact car crash. Over the course of several years, I relearned how to write (still working on my reading), and with the help of some great people, finally finished my manuscript in the fall of 2006. And hallelujah!, self-published my book in 2007!
In the summer of 2008, I settled my personal injury lawsuit against the two drivers who caused my brain injury. It was like being released from prison. Since then, I joined Twitter, and I started scanning my old film photographs, learnt how to manipulate — or simply touch up — my photos in Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2, and read the Book of Job in the Bible. What started out as a personal study of Job turned into a group Bible Study and a 5-star rated series online. And it propelled me into working on my next book, a novel. I’ve started tweeting writing goal updates occasionally on my Twitter page, something new for me as I haven’t discussed my writing projects before mid-flow.