- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Kim Sheard writes stories about intergalactic travel and alien civilizations based on the adventures of the Starship Enterprise, its crew and the ever-expanding "Star Trek" universe. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Mrs. Sheard, 30, a technical writer for HunterLabs in Reston, Va., recently won second prize in the annual "Strange New Worlds" fiction-writing competition.

Her short story "93 Hours" will be included in an anthology called "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds III," published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc. in New York. The book will be in stores next month, Mrs. Sheard says.

"This is the second time that Kim's excellent writing has qualified her for a spot in the 'Strange New Worlds' anthology," says John Ordover, executive editor at Pocket Books for the "Star Trek" novels.

"Her first story ['Touched'] appeared in 'Strange New Worlds II,' and she is obviously a writer to watch in the future," Mr. Ordover says.

The contest, sponsored by Pocket Books, is designed to encourage aspiring science-fiction writers. Themes for the stories revolve around "Star Trek" characters and such typical topics as space exploration, alien cultures and the unknown reaches of the galaxies.

In "93 Hours," a young woman decides to become a host to a symbiont, with which she will unite permanently in 93 hours. After that grace period, "there's no turning back," Mrs. Sheard says.

"I had a hard time completing '93 Hours.' So, when I learned that I'd won, I was surprised because last year's story had been so easy to write. I thought maybe that was the way it was supposed to be that the story writes itself," Mrs. Sheard says.

"I guess hard work can do it, and then just having an idea pop out can do it, too," she says.

A "Trekkie" from her college days at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she majored in chemistry, Mrs. Sheard developed a keen interest in the "Star Trek" shows during her junior year.

"Some of my friends watched 'Star Trek: The Next Generation,' and they kind of got me into it," she says. "Everyone was very patient in explaining to me everything I needed to know."

She got hooked on the shows, and she surpassed her classmates in her interest, she says, laughing.

"What's fascinating is that it showed what humans can do if we don't blow up the world," she says.

Mrs. Sheard first learned about the writing contest on the Internet while chatting with fellow "Star Trek" fans.

She gave it a shot.

"Touched" is about an alien girl, about 16 years old, who befriends "Star Trek" characters when their shuttle crashes on Pathon.

"The story talks about how [the "Star Trek" characters] influence her life. She is at an age where she needs to decide what she is going to do with the rest of her life. And, just by meeting them and talking with them, she is able to determine the path that her life will take," Mrs. Sheard says.

The author injects a lot of her personality into her prose. As an aside, Mrs. Sheard says the alien girl decides to become a writer after her friendly encounter with the shuttle crew.

Mrs. Sheard's love of writing played a major role in the outcome of the story.

• • •

Mrs. Sheard, who lives in Fairfax City, Va., with her husband, Henry, always has enjoyed writing; in fact, that's how she makes her living.

"I've always had an aptitude for writing. When I was a child, I'd write newsletters and stories for my family… . When I went to college, I majored in chemistry but there's writing in pretty much every job," Mrs. Sheard says.

She spends her days at HunterLabs writing user manuals, and she also contributes to the company's Web site. HunterLabs, known as the "color-measurement company," makes instruments for testing colors in products ranging from clothing to paints, Mrs. Sheard says.

"I essentially tell people who buy the instruments how to use them. It's pretty challenging because I'm the only writer in the company, so I write about every product that we have, along with the software packages that go with them," she says.

Writing fiction is an avocation for Mrs. Sheard. After she has been writing all day at work, her energy level is low. She writes fiction when the mood strikes her. She says her goal for this year is to write one story a month and to try to sell them.

Mrs. Sheard also performs with a local singing group, Celebr8, which entertains audiences around town at venues ranging from churches to retirement homes.

As always, writing is involved.

"I handle the publicity, too," she says with a smile.

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