Whenever I work on a new project, I try to find a richness of content that goes beyond the information I'm conveying and the stories I tell. I want my readers to be able to relate the content of my books to their own lives and perhaps become more engaged in the world around them than they otherwise might have been. This can be a tricky situation because preachiness on the part of an author is a total turnoff.
I recently spent five days in the San Francisco Bay Area doing research for a project that excites me even more now, after this research trip, than it did before I went, because this book can easily have important personal impact on my readers.
The book will be about Audie, a courageous young dog rescued from the Michael Vick dog-fighting operation in 2007 who has found his forever family with a volunteer for Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls,or BAD RAP.
While learning about Audie's adjustment to a normal, loving canine existence, I realized that my book can do much more than just recount his personal saga. For example, it can help children learn that not only does training your dog in good behavior make your pet a better canine citizen, it also reinforces the bond of love and trust between you and your dog. As part of my research, I observed classes Bad Rap provides for pit bull owners and saw the joy of both humans and their dogs when they worked together towards common goals in the classes. The treats the dogs got didn't hurt, either!
I also saw how important it is for dogs in shelters to have volunteers visit to interact with them. One of the most difficult aspects of life for the rescued Vick dogs was the months they spent in shelters, with little or no human or canine interaction, before they were turned over to Bad Rap and other organizations that could put in the time needed to give them loving attention and teach them about normal life. Children want to do good as part of their communities, and helping a local animal shelter is a perfect opportunity. Children feel a natural bond with animals, and creating a project to raise money or volunteering at a shelter along with a parent or guardian can empower them to know that individuals can make a difference in the world. I'm hoping that when the book is published in Spring, 2011, my readers will not only fall in love with Audie, as I did, but will also focus some of that love into personal action.