The hard part was finding someone willing to publish the book and to clear it with legal counsel. The book's main character is a bulldog, and being from Georgia, one can only imagine what Michael was thinking when he first brainstormed the idea for the book.
“I'm a big Georgia football fan,” Michael said.
His sister also went to UGA, so writing about a bulldog just made sense.
Though “Suga” makes no reference to UGA, Michael says the book insinuates a connection. For example, Suga, the bulldog star of the book encounters other animals along his journeys, including a gamecock and an alligator, which happen to be mascots of rival schools.
The book was born out of a 2009 class assignment at ASU, where Michael was asked to write a children's book. His grade on the project was an 87, but Michael was encouraged by Dr. Judi Wilson to polish up the project, as she believed it could be published with a little more work.
Michael didn't give up on it, and after fighting against a lot of naysayers in the publishing and legal realms, “Suga” was finally published and in his hand in December 2011.
Thanks to the help of Sonny Seiler, the owner of the dynasty of bulldogs serving as UGA's mascots since 1956, Michael's book began moving forward, as Seiler helped clear the red tape associated with any legal concerns over the use of a bulldog in “Suga”.
“What took me months and months, Sonny Seiler handled for me in basically a day,” Michael said.
He also is very proud of the artwork in the book. His uncle, Michael Gleason—a medical illustrator—did the artwork.
“They're not like cartoon images—they're like pieces of art,” Michael said, referring to the illustrations in “Suga”.
Michael has been nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, and he'll find out if he will win that award on June 16. He's also working on another book targeted to elementary age kids about positive character traits, part of the Georgia Performance Standards for kindergarten.
During his time at Augusta State, Michael says two of his favorite professors were Kelly Farmer and Rebecca Harper, who was also his advisor. He adds that “all of the teachers were awesome.”
Michael works at Ruby Tuesday while applying for teaching jobs around the area. He's hoping to land an elementary teaching job for the upcoming school year. His favorite grades to teach are second and third grades. His first teaching job out of college was at Warren Road Elementary as a long-term substitute for a kindergarten class the first part of this year.
Since Michael is a new honorary member of the Alumni Association (as all new graduates are), he hasn't had an opportunity to participate in many events yet, but he did go to a Monday Mixer event recently and looks forward to other upcoming Association events.
When Michael's not working, spending time with his family, or applying for teaching positions, he enjoys playing golf—but says he's not very good at it. He also likes basketball.
His favorite TV programs are “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Dan Patrick Show,” which he says is a must-watch every day.
Some of his favorite destinations include Daytona Beach, Fla., and Charleston, S.C. He went to Jamaica for his honeymoon, and said that was the first time he'd been outside of the U.S.
Michael's favorite restaurants include Carrabba's and Bonefish Grill.
His wife Katie is also a 2011 graduate of ASU with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She graduated a few months before Michael.
“Don't ever give up—don't take 'no' for an answer. It's hard work, but I'm very proud of the book,” Michael said.
“Suga” can be purchased at Ace Hardware stores in Thomson and Evans and also online at www.sugathebulldog.com.