Jenny Sheldon’s book launch last night was a stunner – equal parts love-in-the-air and determination, as the title I WILL: A MEMOIR of STROKE, RENEWAL and THE POWER OF SONG would suggest.
Guests were graced with a stand-out ‘a cappella’ performance by the choir which Jenny is associated with, The Sea Naturals, based in Cronulla. The launch was hosted at Ariel Bookshop in Oxford St, Darlinghurst, and was a hive of book buying activity.
Jenny may have wondered that she had so many friends – present to witness this major event in her life, the publication of her story of the stroke she suffered eleven years ago, co-written with Sharon Dean from northern NSW.
Jenny Sheldon described how, unable to speak after her stroke, she found her way back to expression through her love of singing.
She had been a teacher of Drama and English, and gained her Master of Arts in Drama from UNSW when she was about 35, a decade before her stoke hit.
After her stroke Jenny was moved into a rehabilitation centre and worked with physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists.
‘I managed to walk again and speech was coming, oh so slowly!’ Jenny recalled.
Then she turned to singing, which had been a major interest of hers all her life.
‘It was amazing. The right side of my brain knew how to sing and I could break into spontaneous song. I was always singing. So, singing was a major feature in my recovery. The right side of my brain had remembered how to sing and that was a special gift that I could draw on.
‘I had been dreaming of writing a story about my stroke from about three months after I had it but it wasn’t until I went to writing meet-ups at Sydney School of Arts & Humanities about four years ago that the story really got moving, through mentoring.
Speaking of her co-author, Sharon Dean, Jenny said:
‘Sharon was positive and clearly had a talent for writing. She made me go back to Alstonville and Ballina, interviewing people, and right back to the start of where I had the stroke. She made it easy and she encouraged me to write more scenes. Sometimes I didn’t know where to begin. I somehow managed. Sharon shaped the story for me from what I wrote, shaped it into the book it is today. A huge thank you to Sharon Dean. I couldn’t have written it without her.’
Copyright: text Christine Williams & photos Christine Williams and John Sheldon.