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Local teacher publishes story of teen and her service dog
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At her book launch Sept. 5, author McCall Hoyle, right, stands with fellow English teacher Adrienne West. - photo by For The Times

High school English teacher by day and young adult author by night, McCall Hoyle has released a new book about a young girl’s struggle with epilepsy as she learns to navigate public school and build relationships.

“The Thing with Feathers,” published Sept. 5 by Blink/HarperCollins, is Hoyle’s first published book.

“It is really exciting,” said Hoyle, a Gainesville High School alum who now teaches at Chestatee High School. “For an English teacher who loves reading and writing, it’s a really big deal.”

The book follows Emilie Day, a home-schooled teenager whose best friend is her seizure dog, through her journey enrolling into public school, having epilepsy, crushing on Chatham York and making friends.

The character lives in fear her newly adjusted medications will fail and she’ll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or stick it out.

“The main character has epilepsy, and her seizure alert dog is a very important character in the book. I owned a golden retriever who was bred to be a service dog. ... I did a lot of dog training and researching on the relationship between service dogs and their handlers. I was fascinated by seizure alert dogs especially, because that can’t be trained,” Hoyle said. “I was interested in the unconditional love between a girl and her dog, and that led to a story idea.”

Thus, the charcter Emilie Day was created.

“As an English teacher I work with girls every day who look so perfect, happy and healthy on the outside, but then you get to know them and realize that all of them — just like us as adults — are struggling with something on the inside,” Hoyle said. 

“The Thing with Feather’s” touches on several topics, three of which have current awareness months. The month of September is National Service Dog Month, October is National Bullying Prevention Month and November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month.

“I am a mom, teacher and I was a teenage girl. I personally think being a teenage girl is really difficult even in the best of circumstances. And in the worst of circumstances, if you have experienced being bullied, treated unfairly or singled out by your peers it can make life a living hell,” Hoyle said. “This is a very hopeful book that is supposed to be uplifting to girls struggling with anything, whether it is bullying, epilepsy or grief.”

Hoyle said she wants everyone to know that “no matter how broken we feel on the inside or how scary the world is outside, there is always something to be hopeful about in the future.”

Though Hoyle does not have firsthand experience with epilepsy, she hopes to bring the neurological disorder to light.

“One of the many things that makes epilepsy so difficult is that it is considered a covert disability in that people see you and they don’t always know what you are struggling with on the inside,” Hoyle said. “It really ties in with the anti-bullying prevention. ... We need to be sensitive to others’ needs, be patient and slow to judge. There are so many people affected by epilepsy that many of us are unaware of until you start talking about it. This neurological disorder is not very talked about.”

Hoyle will be doing a blog tour Oct. 30 to Nov. 4, which will be geared to epilepsy awareness.

“I am doing tons of school and public library visits all through September, October and November,” Hoyle said. “I am scheduling for December and January.”

Hoyle has several upcoming events including the Georgia Romance Writers Book Fair from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Sept. 30 in Peachtree Corners and the Hall County Public Library Local Author Fair from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Spout Springs branch. In October, she will visit several schools including Little Mill Middle, Chestatee Academy, North Gwinnett High School and North Forsyth Middle.

“The support from the community, school systems and libraries, I feel like I have this huge cheerleading team behind me,” Hoyle said. “It has been amazing. I feel they are as excited as I am.”

Hoyle now teaches RACE, honors and general American literature as well as world literature at Chestatee. She has 12 years teaching experience in Hall, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties. Hoyle graduated from Georgia State University with a master’s degree in secondary education in English. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia College.

Her novels have won several awards including the 2014 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award.

For more information on “The Thing with Feathers” or Hoyle visit her webpage, mccallhoyle.com, or her Instagram, McCallHoyleBooks.

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