Local Author Taps Into Children's Market With Book About Rescued Mastiff

click to enlarge Local author and speaker Leslie Yerkes. - Kathleen Colan
Kathleen Colan
Local author and speaker Leslie Yerkes.
Locally based writer and speaker Leslie Yerkes earned her Masters of Science in Organizational Development at Case Western Reserve University after graduating from Wittenberg University with a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in Education. In 1987, she founded Catalyst Consulting Group, inc. as a way of providing corporations with organizational development.

Yerkes, who writes frequently and contributes to newspapers and trade publications, travels internationally as a lecturer and keynote speaker and has taught at John Carroll University, Baldwin Wallace University, and Kent State University. She serves on the faculty of the Weatherhead School of Executive Education and is a two-time recipient of the Weatherhead 100 Award.

She’s recently delved into the world of writing children’s books. Her latest book, Lost, Found and Forever: When You Make a Promise, Keep It, chronicles the two months it took for her to rescue a junk yard dog near the railroad tracks on East 140th St. in Collinwood. She eventually brought the 150-pound mastiff that she named Big Boy to live with her and her other pets and aging mother at her Bratenahl cottage. The 51-page soft cover book tells the story from the voice of 9-year-old Beej; it's available now on Amazon and at LostFoundAndForever.com.

“I’ve always kept a journal,” says Yerkes one afternoon from her Bratenhal cottage where she lives with two dogs and a cat. “As I made my notes on my files, they weren’t just minutes to a board meeting or lists of ideas. They were stories. I would interview everyone on the senior leadership team and do a SWOT analysis, but I would tell it as a story and frequently use metaphor. Then, I would develop these little riffs, and my writing started my speaking career. When I stated to get these small epiphanies of lessons that everyone could benefit from, I’d try it out in a speech. If it really hooked, and it was unique, then it started a book.”

Between 1997 and 2008, Yerkes wrote six books, and on leslieyerkes.com, she keeps dog blogs. The idea for Lost, Found and Forever: When You Make a Promise, Keep It came to her after she befriended the then-unnamed Big Boy while helping a neighbor look for her lost dog.

“The rescuing happened when I was burned out,” says Yerkes. “I’m a hard driving, highly focused, do everything-on-my-list-and-more person. I teach emotional intelligence and appreciative inquiry. I just wanted to meet Big Boy where he was at. He pulled me back.”

Yerkes didn’t intend to keep Big Boy, but he got along so well with her other dog, that she changed her mind.

After writing about Big Boy on her Facebook page, Yerkes decided the story would work best a children’s book.

“I wrote an adult version first, and then I read a bunch of good children’s books,” she says when asked about preparing to write Lost, Found and Forever: When You Make a Promise, Keep It. “Randy Martin, my editor, helped me refine the story. He also does the production on my books. Even if you’re not a dog person, if you have any ounce of empathy in you, you can relate, so it’s a real bridge. It’s a passion project. Fame and fortune doesn’t come from writing, so you do it because you love it. I will be tithing royalties to rescue and foster groups. I’m not going to become Cesar Millan, but if along the way, I can encourage people to be kinder to animals and donate and foster and rescue, then the books have done their work.”

Later this year, a new version of the book featuring watercolor illustrations will come out.

Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.
Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
Scroll to read more Cleveland News articles

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.