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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Water-Loving Wordsmiths Take a Trek




We’re always excited to see Sea TREK participants post photos of their experiences on Instagram and Facebook. Frequently, we share these pictures on our own social media accounts. But, once in awhile, we find a true standout. Whether it’s someone with physical challenges checking off a bucket list item, or a Trekker proposing underwater, there are some participants that are truly inspiring!

Last week, two standout Trekkers crossed the Sea TREK Instagram account. Sheri Fink and her partner, Derek Taylor Kent, shared their Sea TREK photos and tagged us in the images. We contacted Sheri to see if she would agree to let us share the pics, and in her response she mentioned that she and Derek authored a children’s book titled…ready for it? ... “Counting Sea Life with the Little Seahorse”! We had just stumbled upon two people who certainly fit our criteria for standout personalities! Digging a little deeper, we discovered that the duo possess many talents: from award-winning authors, to recording artists, to motivational speakers. We enjoyed their story so much that we asked for an interview!


What first got you interested in the ocean environment?

Sheri: When I was a little girl, I became enamored with mermaids and the underwater world. I’ve always been fascinated by sea life, especially seahorses, dolphins and narwhals. Growing up in rural Virginia, the ocean was three and a half hours away and it felt like a magical world that was just beyond my reach. Living in Southern California today, I’m only ten minutes from the ocean, and I’ve spent many evenings watching the sun melt into the horizon and imagining the mysterious world beneath the waves.

Derek: I grew up in Los Angeles, so beach trips were a part of our daily lives. Our school would take trips to the Cabrillo Marine Museum, Catalina, and local aquariums where we learned about the amazing variety of sea life, the delicate underwater ecosystem and the importance of conservation. My grandparents also had a beach house in Marina Del Rey, so I grew up swimming in the ocean and appreciating the importance of keeping it clean and safe.


Are you involved with any ocean conservation programs?

Sheri and Derek: Before writing The Little Seahorse, Sheri commenced her research by traveling to Hawaii, where she met with the owners of the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. They are dedicated to the conservation of both seahorses and leafy sea dragons, which are both highly endangered and have required extraordinary efforts to prevent from going extinct. It has been a great honor to support them and help spread awareness about the plight of these fragile creatures. The Little Seahorse and Counting Sea Life with the Little Seahorse are carried in aquarium gift shops throughout North America, and proceeds from those sales benefit ocean conservation programs in local regions. Derek loves to cook, and takes any opportunity to educate kids and friends about the importance of sustainability both with seafood and land food.


What inspired you to write “The Little Seahorse”


Sheri: I’ve always found seahorses to be whimsical and thought their unique appearance and attributes were perfect for a children’s book. I wanted to write a story that inspired bashful kids to be brave, and found the shy personality of seahorses an ideal fit to illustrate a common dilemma that kids face. In the story, a seahorse stumbles upon a beautiful pearl that he wants to give as a gift to his mother, but doesn’t have any means to bring it to her. When he sees other fish circling the pearl, at first he is scared and mistrustful, but then learns to speak up and ask for help.



As authors, recording artists and motivational speakers, what is the secret to your success?

Sheri: My mission is to inspire and delight kids of all ages while planting seeds of self-esteem that can have lifelong benefits. I’m very passionate about empowering people to live their best lives and align my actions with my values. That helps me minimize distractions, energy drains, and things that just don’t matter so that I can focus on fully living my life and inspiring others along the way.

Derek: I love what I do, whether it’s writing or being creative in any other field, so when you put in the hard work, heart, and soul into a project, people notice and will want to connect with you and support you.


What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Sheri: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

Derek: Don’t ever judge a fish by its color!


What made you decide to try Sea TREK?

Sheri and Derek: Sheri first saw Sea TREK when she visited Catalina several years ago, but it wasn’t yet operational, so it’s been on her adventure list ever since. We were visiting Miami last month for the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards. Our co-authored book, Counting Sea Life with the Little Seahorse, received special recognition. When we visit a new city, we like to check out the local aquariums or sea adventures. When we found out that the Miami Seaquarium had a Sea TREK, we made reservations right away! We love new adventures and to have an activity that involved our love of sea life was a no-brainer. 


Tell us about your TREK!

Sheri and Derek: After suiting up in our wetsuits and viewing the safety video, we were ready for our trek. Underwater, it was a small group of four people plus the guide and the helper. We descended eighteen feet down into the aquarium, which held a remarkable variety of sea life that were all native to Biscayne Bay. There were countless stingrays, tropical fish, sharks, groupers, lobsters, and moray eels. It was amazing getting to reach out and touch the fish. They treated us like part of the environment and were surprisingly social and friendly. I’m sure the guides bringing in sardines and krill for them helped with our popularity, but just being able to see the fish eat, swim, and move as one school just inches away was an experience we will never forget. The guides took fantastic photos of all the action and we made sure to get a romantic picture of us “kissing” helmet-to-helmet. The technology was amazing how it allowed for clear vision even with the constant breathing. It was comfortable and easy to use. As we exited the tank, the twenty minutes felt so brief, we wished we could stay in another hour, but we look forward to our next Sea TREK in the near future.


What was your favorite part of TREKking?

Sheri and Derek: It was an incredible experience to feel like just another fish in the aquarium. The stingrays were remarkably curious and docile. It was a thrill to interact with them. As we made our way around the aquarium, it ended on a high note as we each got to hold a giant grouper as if it were a baby and feed it krill directly from a baby bottle. Sheri could not stop laughing at this surreal scene and has since sworn that she will never eat grouper again!


Do you have any fears about the ocean or its in habitants? If so, have you overcome these fears?

Sheri: I’m very cautious about swimming in the ocean, as I’ve been stung multiple times by jellyfish on my adventures over the years. I’ve been snorkeling and scuba diving in Hawaii, and I love the freedom that the Sea TREK technology provides to be safely under the water, fully immersed in the environment with the sea life, in an aquarium environment as well as in the ocean without having to worry about my equipment or getting water in my eyes, ears, or mouth. It’s so much more enjoyable!

Derek: I’ve never been afraid to venture into the ocean, but I think it’s important to know the dangers and always be cautious and aware. There’s a much greater chance of having an accident due to waves and tides than any sea creature, so riptides and pollution are what’s much more scary to me.



What projects do you have on the horizon?

Sheri: Our newest book, Counting Sea Life with the Little Seahorse, just debuted in September 2017 and we’re continuing to travel to promote it over the coming months. In fact, Derek and I will soon be snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef this January for our honeymoon! My next children’s book, The Little Unicorn, will be released in 2018. It's about a unicorn who loses her sparkle and goes on a daring adventure to find it, only to discover that it was within her all along.

Derek: I just released an educational picture book called Simon and the Solar System. Think Dr. Seuss in outer space. I also have a new middle-grade novel coming out in early 2018 called Principal Mikey, about a 10-year-old kid who becomes principal of his school.


Sheri Fink Little Seahorse Books

Where can readers buy your books?

Sheri: You can find my books on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores, aquariums, and select toy stores and children’s boutiques throughout North America. Personalized, autographed copies can be ordered directly on my website at www.SheriFink.com. Fans can find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’d love to hear from you!

Derek: All the same places as Sheri, (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). You can also check them all out in one place at www.DerekTaylorKent.com and follow me on social media @DerekTaylorKent.



If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you do?

Sheri: I love what I’m doing personally and professionally … I’d do exactly what I’m doing now, but on a much larger scale.

Derek: All the Sea TREKs in the world.


Thank you, Sheri and Derek for sharing your story and perspective. We are so glad you enjoyed your Sea TREK experience, and we wish you all the best with your amazing books and future endeavors (including your pending nuptials)!