Germantown resident Sherrie Elle, an author and founder of a book publishing company, is a woman who comes with an unusual story of her own.
Her early years were more than difficult. An only child at the time, both her parents were addicted to drugs and unable to care for her properly, leaving her vulnerable to sexual abuse perpetrated by “someone close to my family.” She became profoundly depressed, and attempted suicide more than once. “My parents assumed that my bad attitude was common for a girl my age,” she said.
Fortunately, Elle had great friends, whose parents took her in when she had nowhere else to turn. They took her to church regularly and introduced her to Christianity. She also needed – and got – other, more secular support.
Writing has helped Elle express her pain through words. She has published three books of her own poetry, and is now helping others to find their literary voice. Elle will host a book expo and open house for new writers 3 to 7 p.m., Saturday, May 20, at Why Not Prosper, a social service agency in Germantown.
“Psychiatric hospitalization just in the nick of time saved me,” Elle said. “I had church family and friends who stepped in and prayed me through, and literally talked me from going off the deep end.”
She was also lucky, she said, to have strong female role models.
“My aunt, Brenda J. Lawyer, who raised me to be a hard-working person through her selflessness and work ethic; may she rest in peace,” Elle said. “My aunt, Michelle Simmons, who had taken me in after high school when I had no direction. She is dynamic and such an influential soul. She’s active in the City of Philadelphia and has helped thousands of women who come out of prison and need help transitioning back into society.”
With the help of these and other people, Elle graduated in 2005 from Imhotep High School, and Temple University in 2018 with a degree in Adult Organizational Development.
Several years later, at age 32, she did some soul-searching and decided to move to a foreign country to teach English. She’d already been teaching English to immigrant “second language learners” here in Philadelphia, so she knew she could do it.
“Thailand kept calling out to my soul, and I had this burning desire to go,” she said. “I'd never been to Thailand, let alone Asia, but I felt drawn to go.”
So she scrimped and saved, and eight months later was on a one-way flight to Thailand.
“I completed a Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate program, and what was supposed to be a six-month to one-year stay became a four-year experience,” she said.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the culture, the pleasantness of the people, the cuisine and the overall lifestyle. I visited other countries in Southeast Asia – Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore and Vietnam – but for some reason, Thailand kept tugging on my heartstrings,” Elle continued.
She learned a good bit of the language while living in a small province in Northern Thailand called Chiang Mai, “which has a certain spiritual magic to it,” she said. “I also learned so much about myself.”
But eventually, she became homesick.
“A warm, long hug was needed for my mental wellness,” she said. “So much had changed in four years. I lost my maternal aunt, Brenda, and that affected me deeply. I distracted myself with travel and the friendships I developed in order to cope with the loss, but I realized that I missed family, so I returned home.”
Now, after returning to Philadelphia six months ago, Elle has published her poetry, volumes one, two and three of “Uncover'd.” Her mission to help other writers includes first client, Domonique Harvey, a New Jersey resident who experienced grief from the death of her fiancé, who successfully published her first book, “Love, Peace and Gravity: A Journey of a Lifetime.”
“Sherrie held my hand and walked me through, step-by-step, until my name was printed on the cover of my own book and published,” Harvey said. “I could not be happier with the finished product!”
“After that, a number of people reached out to me for assistance because of the success of Domonique's book,” Elle said. “These people all had something in common. They had powerful stories and endured a great deal of trauma … That’s what became the driving force and motivation of Cover’d Publishing, to take the harsh, painful realities of this human experience and create books/stories that will inspire and heal others with similar experiences. Cover’d Publishing strives to turn pain into art.”
Cover'd Publishing’s book expo and open house, including work by children with special needs, will be held at Why Not Prosper, 717 E. Chelten Ave. in Germantown. For more information, visit sherriepoetry.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com.