Evolution of an author, part 5

The summer our son arrived from Spain–July 2016–was a whirlwind of day trips and excursions. I did not write a single word all summer–save for my newspaper columns–and the experience served to reignite my wanderlust. Traveling, seeing the world, and experiencing different cultures is extremely important to me, but it was something that had been tucked into a drawer and put aside once my daughters were born.

IMG_0509  20160713_205950 website NYC girls    website NYC memorial website DC Monument

Before my daughters were born, my husband and I traveled to Japan, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Dominican Republic, among other places. After our daughters were born, we quickly fell into a predictable routine of going to the beach every summer. Sure, my husband and I got away once in a while, and we did the requisite trip to Disney when the girls were at the right age to enjoy it, but we were no longer seeing the world.

Tokyo & Kyoto, Japan:

website Tokyo    website Kyoto

Sydney & Bondi Beach, Australia:

website Sydney Opera House    website Bondi Beach

The Great Ocean Road; Melbourne, Australia & Mount Cook, New Zealand:

website GOR    website Mt. Cook

But the reality is that traveling and seeing the world requires cash. And in three short years we would also have three daughters heading to college in quick succession. If I wanted to travel more, I knew I needed to do more to boost the family’s bottom line. So I accepted a part-time job as a Market Research & Development Associate for a virtual marketing and consulting company. I also hired a Spanish tutor and, eventually, enrolled in a community college course to pursue my Spanish education.

Image result for picture of carroll community college westminster

Carroll Community College

In the 18 months after I took the marketing job, my husband and I traveled to Costa Rica, Iceland, and Amsterdam, and with the girls we went to Spain and Dominican Republic. Next month I will spend two weeks in Peru and, in February, we will take the girls to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

Costa Rica:

website CR waterfall Matt website waterfall tour

website CR waterfall kiss   website CR toucan website CR cheers


website Spain website Spain Madrid


website Ice lagoon website ice church 2 website ice crevice website ice blue website ice lake website ice windwebsite ice bakery


website AMS canal website AMS boat website AMS night website AMS lights

Dominican Republic:

website DR website DR girls website DR jump

Traveling made me happy and nourished my spirit, and going back to school to learn Spanish fed my mind. But something was missing: writing. Would I ever get back to it?

From July 2016 – July 2018, I didn’t create any new content, but I continued to submit my manuscript–WHAT’S LEFT UNTOLD– to various agents and publishers, though I’d started to doubt it would ever go anywhere. In fact, I wondered if becoming a published author simply wasn’t in the cards for me. I felt very unmotivated and had become so far removed from the writing world.

In a Hail Mary attempt to salvage my sinking writing ship, I took to Facebook and sent up a virtual plea to my fellow WFWA writers to talk me off the ledge, to convince me not to give up and to keep trying. And one person threw me a huge lifeline. A published author–who had just landed a new agent and was about to release a new book and embark on a book tour–took time out of her busy life to meet me for lunch. We discovered we lived only an hour apart and chose to meet at a restaurant mid-way between us.  

Image result for Johansson's westminster pictures

 Johansson’s Dining House; Westminster, MD

This person shared her journey with me and, most importantly, encouraged me to keep going, to not give up. Sometimes all it takes is that one person to make a huge impact, to keep you moving forward. So I want to take a minute to give a big shout out to the person who did just that: my friend and fellow author, Cara Sue Achterberg, a woman with a heart of gold and an awesome new book, Another Good Dog.

Find Cara and her books here:


and here:


Image result for another Good Dog book pictures

After my lunch with Cara, I had a heart-to-heart with my husband who encouraged me to pursue my passions and my dream of becoming a published author. While I like a lot of things about my marketing job–the extra cash, the people I work with, the virtual environment and flexible hours–I am not particularly passionate about the work, and it takes up valuable hours in which I could (and should) be writing.

As we headed to OBX for our annual family vacation, I was giving serious thought to moving on from my marketing job. But then a few things happened: three people resigned and the company secured two new contracts. In short, we now had twice the work and half the people to do it. And, in a show of good faith, I was given a raise. How could I possibly leave now? Maybe, with a little more discipline, I could do both? I wondered. Plenty of people have full time jobs and still manage to write novels, right? I decided to stay.

But, as the saying goes, when it rains it pours. After making this decision, two major things happened within the space of a week. One is that we adopted a dog. We’d had several months of ups and downs as fosters with a rescue organization and decided we were ready to adopt. He is a great dog–a big, oafy, 90-pound Labrador–but even good change is stressful and we were all adjusting.

website Bodhi

The second thing that happened is that I received an email from the owner of a publishing company that went something like this: I tried to call and never heard back so I thought I would reach out again via email. Are you still looking for a publisher for your book?

I tried to call. I tried to call. I tried to call. These four little words kept resonating in my brain because agents and publishers almost never call. Unless they are interested. As it turns out, while we were away on vacation, a series of powerful storms had swept through our area and several lightening strikes were reported. When we returned home, we found our landline had been fried and we’d lost all of our phone messages from that week. In a cruel twist of fate, after two years of submitting my book, the one week in which a publisher had called is the week our phone line was zapped. Thankfully, rather than concluding that I was no longer interested and moving on to the next person, the publisher took the time to reach out again.

Image result for gratitude pictures

After a brief period of freaking out and with little time to prepare, I had a phone conversation with the publisher. I was so nervous I can honestly say I did not represent myself very well on the phone, and part of me wondered if, after hanging up, the publisher would change her mind! Thankfully, she didn’t. A few days later I received–and signed–a contract to publish my first novel (!!!!) with Red Adept Publishing: https://redadeptpublishing.com and https://www.facebook.com/RedAdeptPublishing

Currently, I am in a queue for copy edits and cover design. (A cover design!) And I am simply over the moon to have finally found a partner for my book. I considered self-publishing but really wanted to have the validation and the expertise of an agent or publisher behind me. Now I have it. 

While I wait, I am once again trying to learn more about social media. I recently set up a twitter account (@SherriLeimkuhl1) and sent my first-ever tweet! You can also find me on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/sherrileimkuhlerauthor  and Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/sherri.leimkuhler.

And, I have also tried to breathe life back into this website by taking readers on this journey with me. It has been cathartic to write it and, hopefully, in some way, it will inspire others to never to give up and to keep chasing their dreams. To follow the road–no matter how long and winding–wherever it may lead.

And, most of all, to simply keep evolving.

Image result for evolving pics

Evolution of an author, part 4

The last full-time job I had before having three kids in the four years was with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). I was hired to work in the alumni office, which was not so much an office as an actual house located adjacent to campus. My role involved reaching out to alumni to keep them connected with and–more importantly–vested in their alma mater; a position that was a combination of public relations, sales, event planning . . . and writing. I created press releases and media kits, and drafted letters and text for brochures, newsletters and annual reports.

website UMBC

When my first daughter was born, I took all of this experience with me and began accepting job offers to freelance from home as a grant writer and a columnist for Ohio University’s online newsletter. This type of work continued to snowball until I found myself writing for multiple publications at a time, including a golf club newsletter and several online sports and health publications. I also wrote for Livestrong, and I wrote a blog. I was writing all the time. Seven years post-graduation and I was finally working as a writer. From home. On my own terms. While my babies slept. It was perfect.

website baby isa

I wrote by day and taught yoga and fitness classes at night. When my youngest daughter turned two, I wanted to push myself physically. I wanted to do a triathlon. And I wanted to blog about it. I actually had more success as a triathlete than as a blogger. Each year I pushed myself to be stronger and faster, to go longer and harder. Each year I raised the bar higher until I found myself looking down the barrel of the ultimate triathlon challenge: Ironman.

website Ironman

website IM Coz finish website IM Coz bike website IMAZ finish

I set my sights on Cozumel 2011 and–in an effort to keep family and friends updated on this quest–I created my first Facebook Page: Triathlon Mom. Two years later, I completed Ironman Arizona.

After eight years of training and racing, I was starting to feel burned out. I was mentally and physically exhausted. My body was telling me that maybe it was time to take a break. And I might have done just that . . . if I hadn’t qualified for age group Nationals and been offered corporate sponsorships with Xterra and SLS3.

website SLS3 gearwebsite Xterra

website SLS3 mirror   website Sls3 website bike website SLS3 run  website Nationals

So I pressed on for two more years. Creating Triathlon Mom turned out to be serendipitous as my corporate sponsors required all their partner athletes to maintain a social media presence. Thankfully, the page–along with my bi-weekly newspaper column, “For the Fun of Fit,”–helped to keep me writing during this busy time.

My ultimate professional goal was to write a book and become a published author. After decades as an avid reader, I’d started creating my own stories–mostly in my head; especially during the hundreds of miles I spent on my bike training for Ironman. But I could rarely envision a single story to it’s completion. Many writers have heard the advice to “write what you know,” but I didn’t feel like I had many interesting stories to tell. By most counts, I’d had a “white picket fence” life that followed a predictable trajectory: happy childhood, college, marriage, kids. But as my 20-year high school reunion approached, inspiration hit out of the blue. I had unearthed my high school year book to reminisce and dust off the names and faces from my past, and a pink envelope slipped out from between the pages. It was your average high school note, punctuated with bits of gossip and a splash of drama. But the post-script is what caught my attention. It went something like this: “We need to talk. I have something important to tell you.”

website pink envelope

Curious, I reached out to the author of the letter to see if she happened to remember what it was that she’d wanted to tell me all those years ago. We had a little chuckle over it but, of course, she didn’t remember. But it did make me wonder: what secret could you uncover 20 years after the fact that would have a major impact on your life? And in that moment, my first book was born.

I dabbled with a few chapters here and there, but my girls were only four, six and eight and I found it extremely difficult to carve out quality writing time, if any at all. I kept promising myself: when my youngest goes to Kindergarten, I’ll write it.

But by the time my youngest went to Kindergarten, I was knee-deep in triathlons and two years shy of my first Ironman. I soon learned that training for an Ironman was essentially a part-time job and my new refrain became: after I’m finished with Ironman, I’ll write it. As I ended up doing two Ironman triathlons and then continuing on to Nationals, it was 2014 before I made a serious effort to write the book–a five full years after I first started it.

In 2014 we moved to a new house and I decided that, finally, writing my book would become my top priority. I joined the Maryland Writers Association (MWA) and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA), and I dedicated a full year to writing–and finishing–the book, getting feedback from three beta readers, and then revising some more.  In July 2015, I submitted my manuscript to WFWA’s Rising Star contest for unpublished authors and my book–WHAT’S LEFT UNTOLD–was one of five finalists selected from 75 submissions. I was thrilled!

WFWA Rising star finalist

As a finalist, my book was reviewed by several agents, who then provided feedback and–if they wished–offers of representation. This process was as frustrating as it was insightful. What one agent liked most about my book, another disliked. It was a quick education in the subjective nature of the business. After polling several avid readers and a few published authors, I chose to write my book in a first-person chronological format–with the story beginning with the protagonist in her teen years–rather than with flashbacks. One agent, however, told me that I could not claim my book to be of the “Women’s Fiction” genre if my main character was a child/teenager for the first chunk of the book.

I’m not sure if I wholeheartedly agreed with all the agent feedback I received, but what did I know? I spent the next several months editing, revising and reformatting the story until it morphed into a barely recognizable–but hopefully improved–version of its original self.

Satisfied with my newly revised draft, I began doing the submission rounds and received one rejection after the next. My query letter and book premise almost always got my foot in the door. Many agents requested additional chapters and some even requested fulls. But the response was invariably the same: “I read the book with great interest but just couldn’t connect with the characters.” Or, “The writing is exceptional but it’s not the right story for me at this time.” Or, “I thoroughly enjoyed your book but I don’t think I can be the champion this manuscript needs.” Or, “This book has an interesting premise but some of the twists may not sit well with a Women’s Fiction audience.” And on and on. Agents seemed, generally, to like my book, but none wanted to commit to it. I kept hoping for the specific constructive criticism that might help me over the hump, but it never came. All the feedback seemed elusive, intangible and contradictory. I was at a loss.

While enduring the submissions and rejections, I also made an attempt to build and grow a social media platform. I found a web host and created a website. This took hours of headbanging and mental energy as I don’t think I have a single IT bone in my body. I also created an author page on Facebook and started linking my newspaper columns to the page. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

website FB author pagehttps://www.facebook.com/sherrileimkuhlerauthor/

Frustrated with the endless stream of rejections, I began to work on a second book and has some initial agent interest based on the premise. I’d only gotten a few hundred words in when I saw some signs posted around the community: 15 students from Spain arriving in six days. Host families still needed!

website spain flag

I’d seen these signs in years past and, while intrigued, always felt that our family was too busy to take on another responsibility. But in 2016 there was this light bulb moment: We are never going to be less busy than we are now until the kids are all in college. And then what’s the point?

If we were going to host an exchange student, I wanted to do it while my kids were still home so they could be part of the experience. I called the number on the sign. There were three students left–one girl and two boys–and they were arriving in four days. Having teenage daughters at home, I told the program coordinator that we were interested in hosting the girl and I schedule an appointment to meet with her. She then came to my home and showed me profiles of the two boys; the girl had already been placed. There were a few hoops to jump through–background checks, paperwork, and making sure my family was on board with hosting a boy–but we were approved and, three days later, welcomed a 16-year old Spanish boy  into our home and family for the month of July. Long story short: the boy entered our house a mere stranger and left four weeks later as our son and brother. His family became our family and we spent two weeks with them in Spain later that year. And our Spanish son has returned every summer since to spend several weeks with us.

website Garridos    website Garri beach

What, you might be wondering, does any of this have to do with writing? The answer is this: Nothing!