Shelley Brzak credits her achievements so far to believing in herself through tough times and naysayers.
After a 10-year effort, the Sylvan Lake writer and artist had her first book, “The Healing Thatch”, published as an electronic book on Amazon. In June 2011, she read portions of the book in a public reading with the Red Deer Arts Council. She is now working on another book, “Inside my Tub”, dealing with paranormal happenings.
“I just tell … younger people … and my kids, if you have a dream, just go for it,” said Brzak. “I just think, just believe in yourself … but to believe in yourself I found it really difficult.”
She draws much of her inspiration from the people in her life and her experiences, sometimes turning to her own dreams for ideas.
“You can’t be the writer you are if you don’t experience life,” she said.
Brzak’s life has certainly provided plenty of material for her writing. She lived in a van parked on the street in Medicine Hat for a week before securing a job and more permanent lodging.
“You got to do what you got to do,” said Brzak.
After a divorce and heavy drinking, she re-evaluated her decisions.
“I just looked at myself one day and went, ‘What are you doing?’” said Brzak.
Through her struggles, she said, her parents and children have always encouraged her.
“They’ve been my inspiration behind my back. They always said I could do it, even though other people said, ‘Are you in the real world?’ … Yeah, I’m in the real world,” said Brzak. She added that three of the characters in her first book are based on her children.
Those who doubted her added more fuel to her fire.
“The things that are hard in your life make you the person that you are,” said Brzak. “I think if you want to be a writer, you want to get noticed, you have to be different.”
Brzak is also an artist. She designed the cover for her first book after learning of the high cost of having someone else do it.
“I thought, ‘I can do that myself,’” said Brzak. “It’s alright if you’re an author, but not too many people design their own cover.”
Brzak, who grew up in Sylvan Lake, became interested in art after her mother took some of her work to the Benalto Fair. She was told she would be a great artist if she continued with it. Her art ranges from depictions of local scenery and still life, to more abstract images. She prefers to work with acrylics and pastels.
“When people see me I want them to go, ‘There goes that blonde girl … (she’s) a part of history,’” said Brzak.
She said she wants to leave something behind for her children to be proud of.
“Don’t let anybody take you down,” said Brzak. “If you’re a good person to yourself and other people around you … there’s no stopping you.”