I have the pleasure of a guest post by author Sheri S. Levy, who answers my question...
ELF: What is one of your hobbies and how has it enriched your writing?
SSL: The definition of young adult novels usually delves into risk-taking, significant difficulties, crises, and growing up. Since I taught children with development issues, I had to learn ways to encourage their interest in learning and their desire to set goals.
Teaching wasn’t a hobby, but I found enjoyment in discovering techniques to reach each student’s needs. Using positive reinforcement made changing behavior easier. If one of my hyperactive students needed to work standing up, he was allowed to stand at his desk. When I noticed, a child doing what I expected of them, I immediately patted his shoulder, or made a positive comment.
I must admit, it is harder to ignore, or not react to those who are not following directions. I worked hard on saying only positive words.
When my husband, Murphy, and I became dog owners, I signed up for puppy classes. With my first puppies, I learned to train the basic commands. I saw how positive reactions created a stronger bond with my dogs. Then when we had our third Aussie pup, we decided he needed a brother. Once the news floated through our community that we wanted to rescue an Aussie, his picture showed up on my computer. He was beautiful with one blue-eye and one brown-eye and was seven and a-half-months old.
We met the owners and were shocked at the dog’s environment. It took the owners many exasperating minutes to catch their dog. Finally, a teenage girl hauled him to the fenced, front yard. This poor dog paced and stayed far away from any contact. Eventually, Murphy caught him and held him in his arms. The dog shuddered, but never growled or tried to bite. Murphy looked at me, smiling. “I think he’s going to be your Special Ed dog.”
We adopted this very difficult Aussie and named him Mulligan. He was going to have a second chance at a good life. But, it didn’t take long to realize I needed help and more training skills. When my trainer mentioned using positive reinforcement, I understood what she meant.
Her teaching skills helped me retrain our frightened dog. When I decided to write, I wanted to use our first Aussie, Sydney, in the story to keep his memory alive. Having taught children with autism, I was aware of the use of service dogs. I began doing research, and found a service dog organization, PAALS, (Palmetto Animal Assisted Living Services) a non-profit organization, close to home, and who used only positive reinforcement.
As I started writing, I had guidance from the trainers at PAALS. Proceeds from my books help PAALS train more dogs. They have a waiting list for clients needing a service dog. They train for Autism, Mobility and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Once a year, they have an emotional graduation service for the dogs and their forever companion. I well-up each time I hear the clients share their stories of change. And how they can live a normal life once again.
As I wrote Seven Days to Goodbye, I used my background on teaching special needs children, and the use of positive reinforcement. I could write about training dogs because I had accomplished these skills with the help of my rescue’s training, and PAALS,
The second story in the Trina Ryan’s Dogs in Training series, Starting Over, delves more into teen issues, and relates to the training of dogs and horses. Again, I dug into my memories to bring out teen complications with growing up, learning to trust relationships, and taking risks to meet your goals.
It is due July 18th, 2017, and pre-orders will be taken.
Seven Days to Goodbye
by Sheri S Levy
GENRE: Young Adult- coming of age
Thirteen year old, Trina has chosen to raise service dogs and have puppy after puppy. But during her seven day beach vacation, Trina struggles with having to return Sydney at the end of the week and worrying about her best friend changing into a stranger. To complicate the week, Sydney, meets a young boy with autism and the girls meet his two older brothers. Tension is raised over the guys, and Trina fears she’ll lose more than her service dog. Will Trina's lose her best friend, also?
Sydney climbed on my lap and licked the corners of my eyes. I buried my face in his soft fur and scratched under his chin. He leaned into my hand as I whispered, “We’ll have fun with or without Sarah. We just have to.”
Staring through the side window, a deep-blue summer sky flickered between pine trees covered in kudzu. Sarah’s car passed on the right. I turned the other way.
Off the freeway, we headed east and then south down a two lane road through sleepy little towns one after the other. Twenty minutes later, I leaned forward between the front seats, “Wow. Look.”
Branches from gigantic live oak trees slanted towards the middle of the street. The trees looked as though they were trying to touch each other and some did. They reminded me of my cozy canopy bed where Sarah and I had spent many nights, giggling and whispering. But this canopy was made of tree limbs in different shades of green, dripping with grayish, Spanish moss. The moss hung like ghostly long arms swinging in the wind.
“This is kind of spooky beautiful. It’s like being in a green tunnel.” I cracked my window.
A whiff of salty ocean filled the car. Sydney lifted his head as the trees whizzed by. His nose twitched. “We’re getting close, Syd.” He squeezed into the same space with me and gazed out the front window.
Suddenly, the trees disappeared. The cloudless sky stretched with no end in sight. Pelicans flew in an upside down, V formation. On both sides of the road, squiggly tidal creeks flowed through green marshlands. White birds with skinny legs stood statue-still in the shimmering water. This was a place I’d only seen in postcards.
Pelicans flew in an upside down, V formation. On both sides of the road, squiggly tidal creeks flowed through green marshlands. White birds with skinny legs stood statue-still in the shimmering water. This was a place I’d only seen in postcards.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Sheri, originally from California, moved to South Carolina with her husband, two children and a Siamese cat. Soon they adopted their first rescue dog who influenced their need to continue living with dogs. Sheri taught a multi-handicapped Special Ed class, and then a GED-parenting class, which included home visits. Because of her love of reading, Sheri found unusual ways to encourage children to read. After her rescue of a difficult dog, Sheri enrolled in dog classes to change his behavior. Her dream of writing, Seven Days to Goodbye, came from the culmination of her beach experiences, her understanding of behaviors, and from research with PAALS, a service dog organization.
ISBN: 978-1-935460-74-9 EBook- 978-1-935460-75-6
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Sheri-S.-Levy/e/B00NSGMS0S
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