Shelly Sanders has her feet planted in both Canada and the U.S., having been born in Toronto, Ontario and raised in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. She and her family returned to Canada the year she started high school, a transition she would not recommend! Upon graduation, she attended the University of Waterloo and received an honors degree in English literature. Then, she went to Ryerson (now Toronto Metropolitan University) for a graduate degree in journalism.

She began her writing career as a freelance journalist for Canadian national publications such as the Toronto Star, National Post, Maclean’s magazine, Canadian Living, Reader’s Digest, and Today’s Parent. When the internet dismantled traditional journalism, she decided to pursue her dream of writing historical fiction. Shelly wrote her first novel while completing a certificate in creative writing at the University of Toronto. Rachel’s Secret, Second Story Press, is inspired by her grandmother’s furtive Russian Jewish childhood. This young adult/crossover novel received a Starred Review in Booklist and was an iTunes Book of the Week. Rachel’s Promise and Rachel’s Hope followed, creating the award-winning Rachel Trilogy. Two of the three were named Notable Books for Teens from the Association of Jewish Libraries, Rachel’s Hope was shortlisted for the Vine Awards for Jewish Literature, and Shelly was chosen to be a TD Canada Book Week Author.

Shelly discovered her Jewish heritage when she was 18, and didn’t know about her Latvian Jewish roots until just a few years ago, when she found old photos of her great-grandmother taken in Dvinsk, the Yiddish name for Daugavpils, Latvia. Astounded, she started researching the country’s Jewish history as well as her own maternal ancestry. She traveled to Latvia where she discovered 26 relatives, all of whom were murdered in the Holocaust. This disclosure upended everything she thought she knew about her family. After further research and a second trip to Latvia, she wrote, Daughters of the Occupation (HarperCollins, 2022), a Canadian bestseller with a Starred Review from Kirkus. The novel is set during the Latvian Holocaust and explores intergenerational trauma, a phenomenon that runs through Shelly’s maternal side.

Her next novel, The Night Sparrow, will be published by HarperCollins (Canada and the US) in the spring, 2025.

In addition to writing, Shelly has taught journalism at Sheridan College, tutored at-risk children, and currently runs creative writing workshops. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, PEN America, and is the Canadian liaison for Artists Against Antisemitism. In her spare time, this mother of three adult children, enjoys painting, walking her dogs, tennis and paddle boarding.