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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.

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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.

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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.

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