Elena Shelest (Author/Artist)
What is your favorite childhood memory?
I spent my childhood in Ukraine in the ‘90s. I think it was one of the best decades to grow up in. In the world before the Internet and high-tech video games, we all rushed outside after school. Kids in my neighborhood didn’t have many material possessions, especially during USSR times, but we still had lots of fun. I remember climbing trees and construction sites, rounding up stray dogs, and “rescuing” baby pigeons. We definitely used our imagination for games and mischief.
What’s something you wish was socially acceptable?
I wish that being honest and open without having to dance around the subject or avoid sensitive topics was the norm. When I first came to the States, I found it strange that random people smiled at me and asked how my day was. But I quickly discovered that they weren't really expecting the answer. Slavic people, on the other hand, don’t mind wearing a grumpy face if it matches the mood, but if they smile - I know that it means something more than just good manners. We can all learn from each other. Although it's great to try and be pleasant with everyone, sometimes I wish people had permission to take their masks off and be themselves. Cry if they feel sad. Sit quietly if they don’t want to chat. Lay things out on the table without hesitation. Not be afraid to say what they really think. But that’s in a perfect world.
When I write my blog posts, I try to be as candid as I would with a friend. I think readers appreciate it. Sometimes the truth is hard to digest, but it’s always nutritional and healthy at the end. In my fictional stories, my goal is to bring grains of truth as well, wrapping it inside fantasy, mystery, and adventure for a fun read.
What fictional character do you relate to the most?
That’s an easy question - Bilbo Baggins. I am fond of that hobbit. He didn’t look like a hero, but he was one, in his own way. A faithful friend, he showed courage when required. Like him, I prefer to stay at home with my tea and my books (Do I sound like an introvert yet?). But I don’t mind a good adventure or two, especially if it’s for a worthy cause. The main protagonist in my book, The Seven Lives of Grace, is also a fan of The Lord of the Rings. She gets to go on her own quest to discover who she truly is inside. At some point, we all need to face our insecurities, then go out of the front door, step into the road, and fulfill our destiny.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?
I would love to chat with Joanna Penn. She is a very successful self-published author. I love to listen to her podcast. She sounds like a fun person too. By the way, if anyone is looking for more resources and advice as an author, she’s the go-to expert.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Above all else, I am thankful for my faith, my family, and my creativity. It’s what makes my life meaningful and worthwhile. When I was younger, I was very driven. Still am, but now I try to slow down, keep my focus on things that matter most, and take time to appreciate what I already have. I even wrote a few blog posts on that. Too often, we rush through life without stopping to enjoy the moment. I try to resist the business mentality and be grateful for all the blessings.
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I think my parents did the best they could. They instilled into me the love of reading and encouraged me to pursue my talents. I think it was the most important gift. They allowed me to attend art college when there was little chance I would ever make money as an artist. I am thankful for that because I get to still enjoy painting and drawing. I also try to support my kids in whatever endeavor they want to pursue. Children know how to have big and reckless dreams, while adults often forget how to reach for the stars, settling for something they don’t like instead. It’s never too late to dream again. This is what I hope to inspire my readers to do.
Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Being a published author was my long-time dream, but it's already realized. I also always wanted to figure out a way to combine art and writing. There is a project in the works - an inspirational journal for women with my original drawings. This will be my first step toward realizing this vision. I am very excited and will notify all of my newsletter subscribers as soon as it comes out, so sign up if you’re interested.
Another dream of mine is to visit a different country each year and to use these experiences in my books. This one will take a lifetime to fulfill. The book I am currently working on is set in Istanbul, and that’s definitely will be a place to visit next. It’s an amazing city with a rich history that came alive for me during research. I loved learning about its culture.
If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?