Erma Kummerer of Fostoria calls herself "the accidental author," and her publishing experience a "life-changer." Her first published book, an illustrated poem titled "Someday I'll Ride a Train," was released Feb. 25 by Tate Publishing.
"This whole thing is just all new and fun," Kummerer said. "The whole focus for me has just changed. I wouldn't even have known I could do this. or that I would like it."
Having worked as the "credit person" at Seneca Wire "since time began," Kummerer said writing has become her new adventure. In the past, she had written a number of personal poems for her five grandchildren, but she had not considered publishing her work until recently. A railroad-related event at the T&OC depot in Bucyrus got her started.
"At the Hobo Day Festival, my cousin holds a reading circle for children. About three years ago, she asked my sister and I if we knew of anything new, any poems. I thought, 'I wonder if I can write a poem about a train?' So, I wrote two poems about trains, and she's been reading them each year since at her reading circle," Kummerer said.
When long-time friend Elaine Myers published a book, Kummerer wondered how to go about such a project. Kummerer also spoke to a retired teacher friend about becoming an author. Over breakfast at Bob Evans, they decided Kummerer should look into the idea. The former teacher came to the house to help look for publishers online. Myers had mentioned Tate specializes in unknown authors.
"She has two books published by Tate already, and her third book is in production right now. She was pleased with her experience with Tate Publishing. So, I sent a request to them for more information and the whole process flowed very nicely," Kummerer said.
Erma Kummerer is to be at Paper and Ink, 98 S. Washington St., 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday to sell copies of her first published book, an illustrated poem called "Someday I'll Ride a Train."
Also, Kummerer will be at the historic T&OC Railroad Station in Bucyrus during spring Hobo Day Festival May 24. Another book signing event is scheduled Sept. 27 during the Fostoria Rail Preservation Festival at the middle school.
A few days after the initial contact, Kummerer had a phone call from Tate inviting her to make a submission. She sent two poems online that day. The company liked the train poem and offered Kummerer a publishing contract about a week later.
She was surprised and thrilled, once she "picked my teeth up off the floor."
The company had one of its artists do the illustrations. The first batch of sketches Kummerer received did not seem to fit with the text, and she told them so. After some changes, Kummerer was satisfied.
In early April, she was invited to read the book at the WSOS preschool.
"The two little boys pictured in my book are caricatures of my two youngest grandsons, Owen and Jake. They are 5 years old and just grin when they look at their picture and they think it's pretty cool," Kummerer said. "Girls also like the book because my granddaughter, Tori, who is 7, said, 'I love it, Grandma.'"
In her author page for Amazon, Kummerer writes about growing up in Fostoria on a dead-end street near the railroad. She describes a spot where hobos from the trains stopped to cook their meals.
"They would also sometimes walk down our street and stop at certain houses where they knew the people would give them food. So, trains and hobos and the train noise were just a normal part of my days. It was a great time. A time that my sister and I call our 'Mayberry Days,'" Kummerer said.
She also hopes to publish a longer poem about a passenger train, a sailboat book and a story about a little girl going to kindergarten, inspired by memories of her daughter (now in her 30s).
Kummerer said she made a large financial outlay to publish her book, but some of that will be recovered. She has hired an accountant to help her keep track of sales and sales tax.
More importantly, writing has become a way for her to stir the imagination of children and find satisfaction for herself in the process.
"I wanted to feel like I have a legacy to leave for my kids and grandkids, and now with my book, and the others to come, it makes my heart ever so happy knowing that, now, I do have a legacy for them," Kummerer said.
"Someday, I'll Ride a Train" can be purchased as an e-book and in paperback. It is available online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and also directly from Tate Publishing's website.
Ellen Gatrell of the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society has taken Kummerer's book to a few train shows, and the gift shop at Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation in Findlay has some copies for sale. The author also has sold some to friends, family and co-workers and "any unsuspecting person that comes across my path."
"I take my little bookbag everywhere I go," she said.
What did she learn in the process of writing the book?
"I've learned that life is just amazing. You never can tell what blessing is going to come across your path. I've learned that God is with me at every turn, and that writing my little poems for kids is such great fun and gives me a good bit of personal joy," Kummerer said.