Finding fitness, fun in Central Florida


A few weeks ago, my daughter and I flew to Florida to visit my parents who moved to The Villages in October to test their snowbird wings. We arrived to find them both happy, healthy and probably more fit than they’ve been in decades, both of them benefiting from a double-digit weight loss as a result of their more active lifestyle.

Their modest, single-story three-bedroom, two-bath home seemed both compact and spacious at the same time. With a sunny front porch and a shady backyard lanai, it is perfect for them; enough to comfortably host visitors, but not too much to take care of.

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Their neighbors are friendly and welcoming, and even their short walk to the dog park can easily become an hour-long event as there are so many people to stop and chat with along the way. The women of The Villages even joke that they can never leave the house without wearing a bra because just walking out the front door to get the mail means they are likely to bump into someone they know—or even someone they don’t know—who will be eager to stop and talk.

In fact, whether we were walking, bike riding, or zipping around in the golf cart, every person we passed smiled and said hello, lending the distinct feeling that The Villages may very well be one of the happiest places on earth. And, why not? For the most part, the people who live there have put their working days—and the frigid northern climes—behind them and now have the freedom to experience new things, meet new people and spend all of their sunny days doing exactly whatever they want to do.

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As a rule, in the three months since my parents fled to Florida, the temperature in The Villages has typically been about 30 degrees warmer than whatever the mercury is reading in Maryland. The day my daughter and I flew to Florida was the day Carroll County was experiencing an extreme but brief cold snap and the arrival of our first snowfall of the year. As such, the weather in The Villages on the day we arrived was predictably spring-like; perfect for riding bikes and playing paddleball in shorts and a t-shirt, and zipping up a hoodie if you weren’t.

On our first full day in The Villages we shared with my parents what is likely a typical day for them: coffee on the front porch, a morning walk to the dog park, and a bike ride to the pickleball courts where my daughter and I learned the game and engaged in two hours of vigorous play. Afterward, we went on a long bike ride/golf cart tour of the nearby villages and clubhouses, ending up at Edna’s on the Green just in time for happy hour.

As the name would suggest, Edna’s is a cozy little place nestled alongside a golf course and shaded by massive oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. Two food trucks—Edna’s southern-inspired Provisions & Vittles and Rita’s Cocina Mexicana—were stationed in front of the beer and wine bar. With a plate of chips and guac to share, we sipped our beverages while enjoying live acoustic guitar.

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Live music is another thing The Villages has going for it. Any night of the week, at any of The Villages’ three vibrant town squares, free live music and dancing is available from 5-9. Drink specials are offered during the first hour, the zig-zagging queues to procure beverages reminiscent of those at nearby Disney World’s main attractions.

The Villages, however, is not a destination for night owls, as the entire place—including movies, restaurants, shops and entertainment—literally shuts down at 9 pm, even on New Year’s Eve!

Unbearably humid, subtropical temperatures in the summer and plenty of insects—thus necessitating the screened lanai’s and “birdcage” pool enclosures—are additional cons that may be a deterrent to some who are contemplating year-round living in Florida. Though the full-time transplants will argue that retreating into the air conditioning during summer’s peak heat is no different than—and actually preferable to—hibernating inside the heated indoors during the north’s freezing winters.


For my daughter and me, our last two days in The Villages brought perfect summer-like temperatures sans humidity; ideal for lounging by the pool with a good book while palm trees swayed overhead.

Not a bad way to spend a few days in January. I think I could get used to life in the Sunshine State.


Editor’s Note: This column is the second in a two-part series on The Villages, Florida



Flee frigid north and head to Florida

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For six years my parents debated fleeing the frigid Mid-Atlantic winters to become southern snowbirds.

One year, they rented a pet-friendly beachfront condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Their month-long stay in Gulf Shores was a learning experience that helped them define what kind of snowbird nest they were—and were not—looking for.

They quickly discovered that pet-friendly rental options were few and far between, and that, like the temperatures, the further south they searched, the higher the rental rates climbed. Which is how they found themselves on a beautiful beach in ‘Bama in the quiet town of Gulf Shores. But, when I visited that February, the area was experiencing one of the coldest winters it had ever had, and they only way to sit comfortably on the beach was to bundle up in layers and huddle beneath a blanket.

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Also, in Gulf Shores, my parents were not staying in a community designated for seniors and, as renters, they found their transient status made it difficult to connect with other people and form meaningful relationships with their neighbors, many of whom were also short-term renters.

Enter The Villages: a booming retirement development in north-central Florida that is widely acknowledged as the fastest-growing small city in the U.S. According to, in the decade between the 2000 and 2010 United States Census, The Villages experienced a population increase of 43,109, reflecting a whopping 517.33% growth. By 2017, The Villages had grown to just over 60,000 households and 115,000 residents; the place even has its own zip code!


To entice potential new residents to The Villages, a “lifestyle preview” is available. For $99-$199 per night based on season and availability, the curious are invited for a 4-7 night stay to “experience what life could be like living in The Villages.” During this stay, visitors have full access to all village amenities and activities including swimming, golf and pickleball while staying in a “private, fully furnished cabana complete with golf cart and bikes.”


Considering it a mini-vacation as well as research, my parents took advantage of this preview on several occasions. Twice they put a contract on a house, and twice they backed out; mainly due to the deeply ingrained feeling that “Maryland is home” and not wanting to leave their kids and grandkids.

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But as the grandkids became teenagers and started to head off to college, the allure of sunny skies, warm temperatures, a social senior community and a more active lifestyle continued to grow. This year, the timing finally seemed right.


In October, my parents officially headed to The Villages as “trial” snowbirds. Though the cost of living in The Villages is above average for the USA—mainly due to the cost of housing, with $268,600 being the median home price in The Villages—careful financial planning and the benefit of a lifetime of disciplined saving and sacrificing enabled my parents to make this leap while still keeping their Maryland home. For now. This key safety net—the fact that they can still return to their home if they decide Florida is not for them—helped to give my parents the courage and peace of mind they needed to go for it.

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Earlier this month, my oldest daughter and I traveled to The Villages to spend three days with these newly minted snowbirds. Located in Sumter County, The Villages—which covers 32 square miles and includes approximately 90 miles of golf cart paths—is located approximately 20 miles south of Ocala and 45 miles northwest of Orlando. Though still growing, there are currently about 78 different villages within The Villages that range in size from about 100 to 1550 homes.

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As an age-restricted community, the general rule is that there must be at least one person aged 55 or older living in a household. But, overall, The Villages simply requires that 80% of their residents be over 55. People under the age of 19 are not permitted to live in The Villages unless a special exemption has been granted, however there are a few subdivisions that have been designated as “family units” in which the age minimum does not apply.

From what I saw and experienced in The Villages, the residents definitely seemed to skew toward the younger side of the senior spectrum. Or perhaps it’s simply indicative of what healthy living and abundant sunshine can do for a person.


Editor’s Note: This column is the first in a two-part series on The Villages, Florida


There’s no such thing as bad weather


Several years ago, when I was training for a late November triathlon, I was out for a long run on a cold fall day. Temperatures had dipped into the thirties and the smell of wood smoke filled the air as nearly every chimney had belched to life beneath the damp, gray sky.

As I ran, sweating, down a residential road, a man dressed for a blizzard—in a thick down coat and a wool hat, gloves and a scarf—wheeled his trash and recycling bins to the curb and asked, “A little cold for that today, isn’t it?”

I remember smiling and offering some sort of neutral reply along the lines of “it’s not so bad,” or, “it actually feels good,” while recalling a key phrase from one of my running or triathlon training guides: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.” Truer words may never have been spoken.

Recently, I stumbled upon a book of a similar title: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge). Upon moving to America, Swedish author Linda Åkeson McGurk was shocked to learn that the nature-centric parenting philosophies she’d been raised on were not the norm in the U.S.

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According to an article in, the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes,” hails from Scandinavia where it’s a common mantra repeated by parents who insist that their children spend time outdoors every day. Even Swedish schools consider time spent in nature and ‘free-range’-type independence to be top priorities.

“Sadly, it’s the opposite in the United States, where the slightest sign of inclement weather is an excuse to stay inside and even good weather fails to lure children out to play,” the site notes. adds that McGurk’s book includes the latest research on the importance of outdoor play and the ability of nature to foster overall child development academically, emotionally and physically.

In fact, McGurk writes about “the value of dirt in boosting children’s health and combating the high rates of asthma and allergies that now affect 40 percent of U.S. kids.” She also asserts that letting kids move freely outdoors makes them better at assessing risk, allowing them to learn that “the world isn’t eternally cushioned for every fall, which in turn builds the grit and resilience known to be key to professional success.”


So, as winter descends on the Mid-Atlantic, remember that frigid temperatures does not necessitate a retreat to a sedentary lifestyle in the climate-controlled indoors. For me, the only thing that changes when the mercury dips is that I no longer ride my bike outside; I draw the line on outdoor road cycling when temperatures drop below forty or when there is ice and snow on the ground. To get my cycling fix during the winter, I hop on my trainer, take a spin class, or hit the trails on my mountain bike. Otherwise, I am outside running, walking or hiking as usual.

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The key to winter workouts is to dress for the weather. Invest in a warm pair of fleece-lined running pants or tights to keep your legs warm. For the upper half of your body, think layers: a wicking base layer under a long-sleeve shirt or fleece, topped with a water and wind-resistant jacket. Add a hat, sunglasses, lightweight gloves and slightly thicker socks and you’re good to go. In extremely cold conditions a neck gaiter that can be pulled up over your cheeks and nose is helpful, and don’t forget to wear lip balm and sunscreen: getting a sunburn is something else you can do year round, too!

If there’s snow on the ground, scrap your usual workout routine and pull on a pair of snow shoes or go sledding with your kids; after the thrill of the ride the climb back up the hill, sled in tow, is sure to get your heart pumping. Hiking or walking in the snow is also a great workout, as is shoveling the white stuff from your driveway and walkways.


And if you’re looking for a fun, fresh way to spend time outdoors and stay fit in the winter, head for the mountains and swap your running shoes for a snowboard or a pair of skis. In Carroll County we are fortunate to be less than an hour away from Liberty Mountain Resort, less than two hours from Whitetail Ski Resort and Roundtop Mountain Resort, and within three hours of Wisp Ski Resort, Massanutten Ski Resort and Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

Tradition is what you make of it

Writing day

Throughout the month of December, I have been participating in an online event called Meet the 2020s. The 2020s is a group of authors who will release debut novels during the upcoming year. The purpose of the Meet the 2020s event is for debut authors to introduce themselves and their novels to readers by posting and answering a specific daily question or prompt. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the hashtag #MeetThe2020s to get a sneak peek at the amazing line up of new books that will be released in the New Year!

I mention this now because, on December 11th, the question posed to the 2020 authors was “What are your favorite holiday traditions.”

I’d recently read a newspaper article that encouraged readers to follow their hearts when it comes to tradition. For some people, tradition is the backbone of any holiday celebration and so, without a doubt, if there are childhood traditions that you loved and want to carry with you into adulthood and share with your own children, by all means, do it!

But as you find yourself in the thick of adulting and parenting your own kids, it’s also okay to ditch traditions that no longer fit or feel right to you. For example, as a pescatarian, I don’t envision ever serving turkey at my house on Thanksgiving or Christmas. On the years that we have hosted Christmas dinner, salmon has been the main dish on the table and, from what I hear, it’s actually not all that uncommon for families to serve seafood for the holiday feast. Bottom line: tradition is what you make it and it’s okay if what constitutes tradition is redefined over the years.

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When my daughters were young we enjoyed sprinkling “reindeer food” on the lawn and leaving milk and cookies by the fireplace for Santa. But as a teenager, one of my favorite holiday traditions was the open door policy my parents had on Christmas Eve. From the time I was in high school until a few years after college, my childhood home was open to any friends or family members who wanted to stop in to celebrate the season and share in the holiday cheer.

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Now that my own children are teenagers, we have tried to reintroduce this tradition but we find that kids today are much more obligated and committed than kids seemed to be in the eighties. By December of my sophomore year of high school, most of my friends could drive, and most of my friends stayed in town for the holidays. And so barring a requisite trek to church for Christmas Eve services, my friends were free to come and go and celebrate on the eve of the holiday. So far that freedom does not seem to be the norm for this generation, but we will keep trying!

There was also a time during childhood that my family switched from having a live tree to purchasing an artificial tree. This was not a change I liked. I missed the fresh pine scent and disliked the fact that the artificial tree lacked any personality, looking exactly the same from year to year. I vowed that I would never have a fake tree and so far have made good on that promise. As such, one of my favorite holiday traditions is gathering my daughters and my dogs and heading to a local tree farm to select and cut down our own tree. While my husband secures the freshly cut and bound tree to the roof of the car, our daughters venture to the barn on the property that doubles as a snack shack to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. At home, we put on Christmas music and laugh and reminisce as the ornaments are hung on the tree.

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On Christmas morning, we light the tree, cue some classical Christmas tunes, and take turns giving and receiving gifts while coffee brews and cinnamon rolls bake in the oven.

Another relatively new and favorite tradition is the Holiday Lights Run. For the past several years a member of our local running club—The Eldersburg Rogue Runners—has hosted this festive event. More than fifty runners alight with headlamps and colorful blinkers, and adorned with Santa hats and jingling bells descend on this house bearing food and drinks. After taking a group photo, runners set off on either a 5K or 4.5-mile loop around the neighborhood—which includes a mid-run beverage stop—to enjoy the festively lit and decorated homes, as well as our camaraderie, holiday cheer, and shared passion for fitness.

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After the run, everyone returns to the house to eat, drink and be merry. On our way home, my family stops by another house where we park the car, tune our radio to a designated station, and enjoy an intricate light show set to holiday music. By mid-December, if the wrapping and shopping and baking hasn’t already gotten us into a jolly holiday mood, this evening of running, food and festivities with friends is sure to do the trick.

Here’s wishing you all a happy holiday season and a peaceful New Year filled with good health and great adventures!


Difference between holistic, homeopathic

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In my last column, I wrote about the effects of turning back the clocks and how, in some people, fewer hours of daylight can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to the changes in the season.

To combat SAD, practices that develop a strong mind-body connection, such as yoga, tai chi, meditation, guided imagery and music or art therapy, were suggested and referred to as natural, homeopathic methods.


Following the publication of that column, a reader wrote to clarify that such practices would be considered holistic, not homeopathic. It occurred to me, then, that many people may not realize there is a difference between homeopathy and holistic healing, and that the topic warranted further consideration and clarification.

Holism encompasses the idea that various systems should be viewed as wholes and not merely as a collection of parts. According to, a holistic approach means thinking about the big picture and, in a medical setting, “holistic refers to addressing the whole person, including their physical, mental, and emotional health, while taking social factors into consideration.” In short, holistic healthcare focuses on the health of the entire body and mind, not just parts of the body.

The Integrative Cardiology Center of Long Island explains that holistic medical treatments, through the use of antioxidant rich foods and vitamins to enhance healing and prevent future illnesses, are designed to improve the body overall.

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“Holistic medicine is beneficial for long-term health because it will not only help an existing problem but will help prevent other problems down the line,” notes.

Yoga—given its physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions—along with other natural practices that develop a strong mind-body connection is, therefore, according to, considered to be a holistic approach to well-being.


Homeopathy, on the other hand, is a system of alternative medicine based on the belief that the body can cure itself. The overlap, or confusion between the two, is often derived from the fact that homeopathy itself is considered to be holistic because, according to, “it treats the person as a whole, rather than focusing on a diseased part or a labeled sickness.” defines homeopathy as “an alternative medical practice in which extremely dilute amounts of certain natural substances are used to treat various ailments.”

Red onion, for example, makes your eyes water which, according to, is why it’s used in homeopathic remedies for allergies. “Treatments for other ailments are made from poison ivy, white arsenic, crushed whole bees, and an herb called arnica,” the site adds.

The active ingredients used in homeopathy are traditionally plant, animal or mineral-based. lists fresh or dried herbs, activated charcoal, vinegar, garlic, caffeine and stinging nettle plants as commonly used homeopathic ingredients, the active ingredients of which are extracted and processed into tablets, ointments, gels and drops.

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So whether you are exploring homeopathic medicines to treat a variety of ailments including allergies, migraines, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and premenstrual syndrome, or you are considering adopting a healthier, more holistic lifestyle that promotes healing through natural remedies—including homeopathic medicine—note that you are embarking on a unique way of living that encourages you to view your body as a whole.


To get started, has outlined eleven ways to live a holistic lifestyle without sacrificing your daily routine: practice mindfulness, recognize and respect the powers of your body, eat clean foods, focus on positive relationships, recycle energy, let yourself grow, enjoy life and be respectful, connect with others, be aware, meditate, and be active.


SAD can be a rough part of season


In addition to disrupted sleep cycles that may have occurred earlier this month as a result of Daylight Savings Time coming to an end, the decreased amount of daylight may also be wreaking havoc and having a negative impact on some people.

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Turning the clocks back an hour and losing that extra bit of late afternoon/early evening daylight—which is during waking hours for most people—at a time of year when the northern hemisphere naturally experiences fewer hours of daylight, can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

According to, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons, beginning and ending at about the same time each year.

“If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody,” the site notes.

So if you find yourself feeling down, it may not only be disrupted sleep cycles or wayward hormones causing your blue mood, but lack of sunlight.

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Signs and symptoms of SAD may include depression, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, low energy, changes in appetite or weight, feeling sluggish or agitated, difficulty with sleeping or concentrating, and feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty.

To help ease the symptoms of SAD, recommends light therapy, psychotherapy, medications, and establishing a mind-body connection.

Light therapy, or phototherapy—in which you sit near a special light box, exposing yourself to bright light within the first hour of waking each day—mimics natural outdoor light, causing a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. Light therapy generally has a positive effect within a few days to a few weeks, and appears to be effective for most people in relieving symptoms of SAD.


Psychotherapy, or talk therapy—also known as cognitive behavioral therapy—is another option to treat SAD. This type of therapy helps to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse, and helps you to learn healthy ways to cope with SAD and manage stress.

For some people—especially those with severe symptoms—antidepressants may be needed to combat SAD, though it may take several weeks to realize the full benefit of this treatment, and experimenting with different types of medication may be necessary to find the specific antidepressant that works the best for you and has the fewest side effects.

Developing a strong mind-body connection is a natural, homeopathic method to help cope with SAD. This may include implementing relaxation techniques, practicing yoga or tai chi, meditation, guided imagery, and music or art therapy.

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Be sure to consult with your doctor to determine which treatment is right for you to help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. And take heart: the shortest day of the year is just around the corner, after which begins the slow but steady climb toward the warmer days of spring and more hours of sunlight.

Time changes affect us in different ways


Last Sunday ushered in the end of Daylight Savings Time. For most people, this practice of “falling back” means that we gain an extra hour of sleep and enjoy fewer hours of daylight, though neither sentiment is 100 percent accurate.

The idea of daylight saving—primarily practiced in North America and Europe—was originally proposed in 1895 by British-born New Zealand entomologist and astronomer George Hudson. However, the German Empire and Austria-Hungary did not organize the first implementation of daylight saving until April 1916—two years into World War I—to minimize the use of artificial lighting and save fuel for the war effort.

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In the United States, the practice did not begin until President Lyndon Johnson signed The Uniform Time Act of 1966, which specified that Daylight Saving Time begin on the last Sunday of April and end the last Sunday of October. Long after the World Wars have ended, the practice of saving daylight has endured to make better use of daylight or, rather, according to, “to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening,” so people can enjoy an extra hour or sunlight after working hours.

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However, any change to the body’s sleep-wake cycle can disrupt sleep for several days, dispelling the notion that we actually benefit from an extra hour of sleep in the fall. In reality, according to, many people don’t, or can’t, take advantage of the extra hour of sleep, dispelling the popular notion that “fall back” results in a sleep gain.

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Circadian rhythms, the predictable physical, mental and behavioral changes during the course of a day, and the daily cycle of light and dark that keeps people on a 24-hour cycle, is affected by outside influences, such as light or Daylight Savings Time, explains, and sleep is a component of circadian rhythms.

As a result, few people actually get an extra hour sleep during “fall back.” Rather, during the week that follows, “many people wake up earlier, have more trouble falling asleep, and are more likely to wake up during the night,” notes, adding that, “People who tend to be so-called short sleepers, logging under 7.5 hours a night, and early risers—also known as larks—have the most trouble adjusting to the new schedule.”

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According to Dr. Yvonne Harrison, a senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University in England, a seemingly small one-hour shift in the sleep cycle can affect sleep for up to a week.

So, if you’ve had trouble sleeping this past week, know that it can take your circadian and sleep rhythms up to a week to get adjusted to the new clock setting. recommends regular exercise—preferably at the same time each day—going to bed and getting up on a schedule, and submitting to a brief afternoon nap or two as effective ways to restore lost sleep and get back on track.

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It’s never too late to pursue your true passion

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Editor’s note: This column is the second in a two-part series on my path to becoming a published author. 

In my last column, I wrote about how my path to becoming a published author began. Inspiration for my book, What’s Left Untold, struck in 2009, but life kept getting in the way and, ultimately, it took six years for me to write the book.

In 2015 I became a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) and entered my manuscript in a contest for aspiring authors. Of the 75 entries accepted, What’s Left Untold was chosen as one of five finalists. What followed was a year of consults with industry professionals—which were as informative as they were subjective and contradictory—a major revision of my work, and numerous submissions to agents and publishers that ultimately resulted in very kind, constructive rejections.

After a year of thanks but no thanks, of reading email replies to my submissions that I was an excellent writer with an intriguing story but it was not a fit for that particular publisher at that particular time, I became frustrated and needed a diversion.


In the summer of 2016 we decided to host a Spanish exchange student, which was an amazing experience but also one that rekindled my wanderlust. Before kids, my husband and I traveled extensively, to far-flung places such as Japan, New Zealand, Thailand and Australia. I decided that my world had become too narrow and domestic, and I wanted to begin traveling more again. To fund this aspiration, I accepted a job as a market consultant and any time I had for writing evaporated.

The marketing job served its purpose of getting me out and about in the world again: my husband and I traveled to Costa Rica, Amsterdam and Iceland and, with our daughters, we ventured to Spain, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. I also had the opportunity to travel with a friend to Peru. And though the travel was satisfying and nourished my spirit, my writing languished.

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I decided to start writing a second book and made it my goal to continue sending What’s Left Untold out on submission once a month.

In April of 2018, I was about to give up and walk away from writing altogether. I posted as much on the WFWA community page and a fellow Pennsylvania-based writer threw me a lifeline; she delivered words of encouragement, offered to meet for lunch, and essentially talked me off the quitting ledge.

That summer, I returned home from our annual family vacation to the Outer Banks to find that a lightning strike had fried our phones and all voice messages had been zapped. Two weeks later I received an email from the owner of a small press asking if I was still seeking representation. In her message she explained that she’d called two weeks prior but never heard back, so she was making one more attempt to contact me via email.

She had me at “called.”

Because publishers and agents never call unless they’re interested. And since I never responded, this publisher could have easily crossed me off her list and moved on, the supply of would-be, hopeful authors far exceeding the demand.

I returned the publisher’s call—stat!—and, after a lengthy conversation—which occurred five whole months after initially submitting my book to this particular press—accepted her offer of representation.

In September 2018, I signed my contract with Red Adept Publishing—a small press with multiple USA Today Bestselling authors—and I’ve spent the past year working through the editing process.

Though I do not yet have a confirmed release date, What’s Left Untold is expected to be published in early 2020. Meanwhile, I am putting the finishing touches on my second book with plans in the works for a third. I am hopeful that readers of this column, as well as members of my community, will enjoy my book and continue to support me on this journey.

Those who are interested can follow me on my Facebook Author Page, on Instagram at, Twitter at,  and on my website

My path to publication has been a long one, but I did not give up. Life may divert you and take you down different paths but, no matter what, it is never too late to pursue your passion, follow your dreams and achieve your goals.

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My path to publication

Sherri Leimkuhler: A path to publication

As some of you may know, I graduated from Ohio University with a degree in journalism and public relations from the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism, as well as a degree in aviation. Since graduation, I have worn many professional hats: flight instructor, sales rep, corporate pilot, editor, fitness and yoga instructor, annual giving coordinator, grant writer, columnist, marketing consultant, and freelance writer.

What you may not know is that I’m also soon to be a published author.

Many authors will say that they’d wanted to be an author for as long as they could remember. I was in fifth grade when my English teacher complimented a story I wrote and suggested that I could become a writer someday. And while I always loved to write — in a journal, notes to my friends, letters to a pen pal — it never really crossed my mind that being an author could be considered a career path. It didn’t seem practical. While my parents always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, their encouragement was always delivered with a healthy dose of reality: earn a degree in a field that is hiring, in a profession where you can earn a living.

And I did. But I also never stopped writing.

My path to becoming a published author has been a long and winding road. Inspiration for my first book struck in 2009 when I was on the verge of attending my 20-year high school reunion. I stumbled across a letter from a former classmate — you know, back when kids actually wrote notes to each other, folded into intricate shapes and clandestinely passed to one another during class or in the hallways. In the letter, the classmate indicated that she had “something important” to tell me.

I laughed and tossed the letter back into the box. Clearly, whatever the classmate had been referring to — whatever teenage drama had been unfolding at the time — was no longer relevant. Or was it?

I began to ponder what type of secret one could uncover, two decades after the fact, that could still have a major impact on one’s current life and, thus, my book was born.

What’s Left Untold tells the story of a woman who reunites with her estranged best friend and uncovers a devastating secret that threatens to unravel the life she has created with her husband and daughters.

While the story began to take shape in my mind ten years ago, it took six years for me to actually put “pen to paper.” In 2009, I had three children under the age of eight. Life was busy. I kept promising myself that when my youngest started kindergarten, I would write the book.

However, the year my youngest started school was the same year I began training for my first Ironman triathlon which, in itself, became a part-time job. In 2011, I completed Ironman Cozumel. Ironman Arizona followed in 2013.

There was no time for writing when I was spending nearly twenty hours each week swimming, cycling and running.

In 2014 there was a major shakeup in our lives when we decided to move. Though we weren’t moving far, packing up a household is a major undertaking. By that time, I’d also qualified for triathlon Nationals and had landed three corporate sponsors, which obligated me to continue racing, though my body was falling apart and, mentally, I was burnt out.

In exchange for corporate sponsorship, I was required to compete in a minimum of 12 triathlons over the next two seasons. But the race distances were shorter and I’d put most of my other projects on hold.

So when the dust literally settled on our move and its requisite renovation, I decided to finally focus my efforts on finishing the book. And I did.

Editor’s Note: This is the first column in a two-part series on my path to becoming a published author.