Sammy Pickell, 14, combined her love of animals and creative writing to pen her recently published children's book about a young dog's attempt to make friends.
Sammy, an eighth-grader at Harbor Day School, sits at the table in her home in Corona del Mar flipping through the glossy pages of her book, "Doxie," pausing to look at one of the colorful illustrations of her main character.
"I like that I could decide what I wanted to do with my story. Writing has less rules compared to other things," she said.
"Doxie" is about a young dachshund who moves to a new neighborhood and must make friends. He comes across a group of other dogs, led by Bob the Bulldog, who force Doxie to perform tricks to impress them.
The theme of the book is one of acceptance, which is something that young readers can relate to, Sammy said.
"It touches everyone because everyone has been treated poorly at some point in their lives," she said. "In the book, all the dogs become friends at the end. People normally don't see what happens when there is no bullying. They should see that side of it too."
Sammy was deliberate in her selection of the breeds for her dog characters.
"Dachshunds are cute. I know a few and they're quirky and kind of show-offs," she said. "People think bulldogs are mean and tough, but they're actually nice once you get to know them."
The young writer said her two black Labs, Ned and Cooper, provided her with some inspiration for the story.
"Sometimes they fight with each other like humans do," she said.
The story took Sammy just two weeks to write, but the journey to publication took years.
She entered her story in a contest sponsored by The Candy Palace, a nonprofit based in Newport Beach, when she was in fifth grade. She found out she won about a year later, when she was in the sixth grade.
"We were so excited and proud when we got the phone call that Sammy had won," said Sarah Pickell, Sammy's mom.
But she didn't simply win a contest. The Candy Palace would also arrange to get the book published.
The organization, Sammy and illustrator J.H. Everett spent the past few years putting the finishing touches on the book, which will officially launch in the spring.
All proceeds from book sales will go toward providing meals for children in partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. Each book sold for $20 will provide 27 meals for children in Orange County.
Sammy plans to become a veterinarian, but said she'll continue to write and maybe publish a novel one day.
"I'll always love to write," she said. "I've been writing for as long as I can remember."