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Author interprets dream and gets ‘Real’
Author Shelley Malcolm, right, and photographer Terilee Ouimette recently completed work on the book “Real,” a series of vignettes about Central Coast residents alongside photographs of their hands.//Mark Brown/Staff

Shelley Malcolm has never cared much for her hands.

The longtime Shell Beach resident and first-time author admits she often tried to keep her hands hidden and dreaded shaking someone’s hand.

She felt uncomfortable by her hands’ appearance: rough skin, age spots and a “weathered” look.

“Not that I dwelled on it all of the time, but I was aware of how over the years of too much hard work, worry and use that my hands were kind of embarrassing to me,” Malcolm said. “I had given up on ever thinking they could look feminine.”

It wasn’t until she had a vivid dream a couple of years ago — a slideshow so to speak, dozens of images of hands belonging to people she knew — that she realized a person’s hands mirror who they are.

“I recognized the people in the hands and they were all of these remarkable people who had inspired me somehow,” Malcolm said about the dream. “I recognized the authenticity of character in those hands, and how an individual's real self is reflected there, much more than in how we dress, wear our hair or our clothes.”

From that moment, Malcolm decided to publish a book, aptly titled, “Real,” which highlights the diversity of humanity and life by offering readers a snippet of 60 individuals’ lives — many of the subjects live locally — alongside photographs of their hands.

Malcolm wrote the book with the intent to inspire others “by using hands as a metaphor in order to focus on the value and beauty of authenticity, work, courage, compassion, devotion and perseverance,” she said.

“Real” features the stories of a homeless woman, professional baseball player, church secretary, barista, emergency room doctor, dancer, widower, veterinarian, and many more individuals and their hands. Subjects are identified by their first names only.

“Not using last names allowed us to provide a sort of anonymity, and also (provide for) the potential for a more universal reading experience,” Malcolm said. “I think that more people can relate to these situations.”

Chapter titles include Hope, Renewal, Dreams, Balance, Wisdom and Acceptance, Inspiration, Purpose, Life and Love.

“I had someone say it made them realize that they could be standing next to one of the (individuals) and not know it, and that they felt more compassionate or appreciative of strangers and the life journeys of others,” Malcolm added.

She partnered with photographer and friend, Terilee Dawn Ouimette, 29, whose first photograph was taken of her Canadian father’s hands when she was given a camera after graduating high school.

“I have always loved hands,” Ouimette said. “Hands are just something that I have always been drawn to in general.”

Ouimette, a professional wedding photographer, said working with Malcolm on “Real” was the perfect project for her and that the images in the book weren’t preconceived.

“The photos were never something that I thought about and planned,” Ouimette said. “They just happened naturally.”

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The young photographer and mother-to-be said working on “Real,” which began taking shape in December 2008, has changed her as a person and that the book is about “seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.”

“We all have such different stories,” Ouimette said. “Everyone has something great to offer. Sometimes we forget that. (This experience) will change me forever and how I view humanity and that individual person.”

Release, signing party

  • The public is invited to a book release and signing party from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday to celebrate the recent release of “Real,” written by Shelley Malcolm and photographed by Terilee Dawn Ouimette.
  • The free event will take place at La Perla del Mar Chapel, 205 Windward Ave., Shell Beach. Appetizers will be served at 6 p.m.
  • Several of the photographs in the book also will be on display during the event, where many of the subjects featured in the individual essays will be in attendance.
  • For more information about “Real” or to purchase a copy, visit
    A portion of the book’s proceeds benefit the Alzheimer’s Foundation.