IN HER OWN WORDS…


A short story I wrote about my kite for an English class at Calallen High School in Corpus Christi set me on the path to becoming a writer and photographer. My teacher, Diana Gonzalez, liked the story so much that she suggested I join the school's newspaper staff my sophomore year. I did. I enjoyed the work so much that I remained on staff for the next two years and became editor my senior year.

While at Trinity University in San Antonio, I worked a year as news editor on the campus paper, The Trinitonian. During the summer of 1978, I worked as editor of The Western Star, a weekly newspaper in Corpus Christi. In ’81, I graduated with a degree in print journalism and political science. After getting married, I returned to the Star. A year later, we moved to Austin, where I worked a short time as editor of the Onion Creek Free Press in Buda before becoming a reporter/photographer for the San Marcos Daily Record. After two years there, I joined the Marketing Department at the Austin American-Statesman, where I worked as special sections editor. In ’87, my son Patrick Noble was born, and I resigned from the Statesman. In 1989, we moved to Blanco; in 1991, Lindsey Marie joined the family.

It wasn't long after our arrival in town that I got my first assignment with the
Blanco County News (about a murder!). I worked as a freelance newspaper reporter/photographer until January ’02. I also began writing for other publications in addition to freelancing occasionally for the Statesman’s Marketing Department. When Lindsey started school, I devoted more time to writing.

FREELANCE WRITER
Since ’90 or so, my articles, essays and photographs have been published in many newspapers and magazines, including
Guideposts, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, Grit, WildBird, Pages, BookStreet, Splash, Wild Outdoor World, Angus Journal, The Cattleman, American Profile, Texas Highways, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Texas Co-op Power, Texas Gardener, Austin Home & Living, Country Lifestyle, Miami Herald, Hill Country Sun, Austin American-Statesman, Houston Chronicle, and San Antonio Express-News.

In ’02, I started a new life, moved into a home of my own and was hired as editor for the
Blanco County News. In ’03, the newspaper won three awards from the Texas Press Association. Since July ’04, I have been a full-time freelance writer and photographer. In May ’06, I married James Hearn, a Calallen High classmate (but we didn't recognize one another when we re-met....it’d been 30 years!).


HONORS
Along the way, I’ve won some awards myself, including a first place in the “Personality Profile” division and a first place in the “Human Interest” division in the ’01 writing contests sponsored by the American Agricultural Editors’ Association. I also received “2001 Best of News Features” (“Nowhere to Run,” January 2001,
Texas Co-op Power) and “2000 Best of Personality Features” (“Touched by Grace,” January 2000, Texas Co-op Power), both sponsored by the Statewide Editors Association. In April 2012, I received the Barbara Jordan Award  (print feature) for my article, “The Wonder of It All,” published in Texas Co-op Power.

In 1999, I received third place in the “Personality Profile” division in the American Agricultural Editors’ Association contest. The award was for an article I wrote for the
Angus Journal on artist Frank Murphy, who has painted and drawn for the American Angus Association for more than half a century. In 1985, I won a first place for feature writing in the UPI Southwest Regional Editor's Association competition. The winning article, which placed first in the 1985 Texas UPI Editors Association contest, narrated the Friday morning ritual of animals being euthanized at the San Marcos Animal Shelter. In 1983, I won third place in Investigative Reporting and third place in Feature Writing in the Texas UPI Editors Association contest. I’ve also won some awards in annual contests sponsored by the Texas Press Association: 1995, third place, features; 1994, first place, features; and 1993, third place, news writing.


BOOKS AND ORGANIZATIONS
In ’93, my first book was published: Weekends Away: Camping and Cooking in Texas State Parks (Eakin Press). A second edition followed in ’96. My second book, Texas Old-Time Restaurants and Cafes (Republic of Texas Press), was published in August 2000.
I am a former member of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association, the Texas Outdoor Writers Association and the Society of American Travel Writers. In 2012, I trained as a Texas Master Naturalist and am a member with the Highland Lakes Chapter. I have also volunteered at the Blanco Good Samaritan Center (a non-profit which operates a thrift store and food pantry) since 2004 and served as president for six years (2012-17). In 2017, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

NEW DIRECTION
In 2017, I wrote a children’s chapter book entitled
Irma Lena. I thought the plot was too simple so I shelved it and later started another book. That year, I also joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. After a lot of work, I signed with Steven Chudney with The Chudney Agency in June 2019. He loves my Juniper Jo, Nature Nerd chapter books. What’s more, Irma Lena came off the shelf. Turns out that she’s a bit younger Irma Lena. I’m so thrilled that I’ve finally found my true passion–sharing my love for and awe of nature with kids!

Reach for stars. Don’t ever give up!

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers