Archive for Robert Young

Make YOUR Case

In my book Friends of the Wolf I make a case for preserving and protecting wolves. I use reasoning and evidence to help make my case. I include an opposing viewpoint, and address it. My goal in writing this was to get readers to accept my viewpoint, not necessarily to agree or to do anything about it (although I did include practical suggestions for what they can do if they do agree).

Writing that uses reasoning and evidence for the purpose of having readers accept a viewpoint is known as Argument writing. I call it Make A Case writing. Persuasive writing is a close cousin, but it uses more opinion and emotion and its goal is to have readers actively agree with the viewpoint or to do something.

What is a view that you have for which you could make a case? Here are some examples:

We should not have to wear masks in school.

Everyone should be vaccinated. 

Football is dangerous and should not be played in high school.

I should be able to stay up later at night. 

We should be able to chew gum in class.

Math is the best subject.

Dogs (or cats or rabbits or ???) make the best pets.

I invite you to click on the Comments tab above and write a statement for which you could make a case. Extra points *** for those who actually make their cases here. It’s a great way to get your writing out for others to see. Remember, reasoning and evidence.

I will be reading a responding to all. Have fun!

 

 

 

 

Graphic Novel Journey (continued)

Once Daniel was comfortable with his sketches of the two main characters, he worked a lot on getting the setting right. The setting is a very important part of this story. Being from New Mexico, where the story takes place, allowed Daniel to draw on his memories and first-hand knowledge.

While my manuscript had the story broken down into pages and individual panels, with descriptions, captions, and dialog, Daniel made useful suggestions as he worked through the story. Based on his suggestions, I made revisions to make the story clearer and flow better. It’s very helpful for writers to get help from others. You don’t have to take all the suggestions, or even any, but it’s a good practice to get feedback. I welcome it.

Once the manuscript was revised, Daniel began working on six finished pages for publishers and agents to review. Those completed pages went through many versions. Here’s a sampling:

Pretty cool, huh? I love to see how my words become visual, complete with color. Here’s a few more of his finished pages:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sent the manuscript as well as the completed art to several publishers of graphic novels. We’ve heard back from one, with a contract offer. We also have an interested agent taking a look, with the possibility of representing us as we move forward.

This may seem like it takes such a long time for things to happen (I’ve been on this four years!) because it does. Patience is a friend.

Will post updates.

 

The Graphic Novel Journey

Once I decided on the story I wanted to tell, I had to decide the medium for telling it. The story was too limited for a regular novel and too violent for a picture book. Graphic novel, a combo of the two, seemed like the best option. I settled on that.

Trouble was, I had never written a graphic novel before and I had no idea how to do it. So, I went to the library and started reading all that I could find, especially true stories (which are not that common). Doing this was very helpful from a story standpoint, but I still needed help in how to actually format the writing, since it involves illustration descriptions, captions, and dialog.

Searching online for formatting guidance helped somewhat, but the suggestions were often at odds. I needed some real-world help. Fortunately, a writer friend (Kurt Cyrus – check out his books, they’re great!) introduced me to one of his friends, Mark Fearing, another awesome writer. Mark has had great success creating graphic novels as well as picture books, and he was very generous in sharing his experience and insights with me. Many writers are like that, and I am so grateful.

Then came the researching, the writing, and the rewriting. Weeks, months, a year shaping the story, pacing, attending to details, checking them out with knowledgeable sources. David Witt, curator of the Seton Legacy Project, was a shining light. So was Julie Seton, the granddaughter of Ernest Thompson Seton.

Once the manuscript was ready, I started sending queries to publishers. And waited. And waited some more. Most of them I never heard from. No response – that’s how they reject these days. The few I heard from said I needed to send artwork with the manuscript. Ugh!

Now, the journey changed from finding an interested publisher to finding a talented (and willing) artist. Easier said than done. Every artist I spoke with wanted upfront payment. That’s understandable, but it wasn’t something I was willing to do, especially given that I didn’t have a deal with a publisher. I wanted to find an artist who believed in the project enough to do some work (not the whole book!) to show prospective publishers.

After a year of searching, I found my artist: Daniel Becker. I found him through Kickstarter, in which Daniel successfully raised money for a graphic novel project. It clearly demonstrated his entrepreneurial spirit and motivation. And, it showcased his artwork, which is excellent.

Although Daniel lives in Australia, he’s from New Mexico, where the Seton story takes place. He connected with the story right away and began drawing in earnest. Here’s some of his early sketches:

Next post I’ll show you the finished work that we sent out, and share updates on the project.

 

 

Do You Know This Man?

 

His name is Ernest Thompson Seton, and he was one of the most influential people in America during the 20th century. He was a naturalist, prolific artist, and best-selling author. He was also an expert wolf-hunter. That’s how I came to know about him.

In researching my last book, Friends of the Wolf, I came across many interesting stories. The most interesting was about this guy and his dramatic encounter with a legendary wolf that became known as Lobo. This encounter, during which Seton prevailed, led to a transformation in the man. He saw Lobo as a symbol of the vanishing wilderness and, after that, Seton spent the rest of his life working to preserve and protect animals and the land.

Ernest Thompson Seton was one of our nation’s first conservationists, and he is credited as one of the founders of the Boy Scouts.

So, why haven’t we heard about this man who contributed so much to our nation? Good question. I don’t have an answer. All I can say is that the story of Seton and Lobo compelled me help make the story known. And that’s what I’m in the process of doing, writing this story for all to read.

Well, not really “all.” Because of the violent nature of wolf-hunting, this book is not for the youngest readers. I’m thinking middle grade and up. And it will be in a format I’ve never tried before: a graphic novel. The book is entitled: Lobo: The Wolf That Changed the Man Who Changed America.

In the next posting, I’ll tell you about the four year journey to getting a publishing offer for the book, which came earlier this week. I’ll also share sketches and artwork that will be a part of the finished book.

Until then…

Take a Sample

Dear Teachers,

It’s the start to another school year and there’s lots to do, but I hope you won’t forget to get a writing sample from your students. It’s an excellent way to discover their level of writing skill as well as to use as a benchmark.

It doesn’t have to be a big deal with a lot of set-up. Keep it simple.

Offer a prompt. One of my favorites is: “Tell me something you did this summer, or something you would have liked to have done.” Or: “What are you looking forward to this school year?”

Take your samples early, the sooner, the better. Look them over to see general and specific strengths and weaknesses. File the papers and use them throughout the year to view students’ progress.

Would you like to know more about the kids you’ll be working with for the next nine months? Ask them! Offer this writing prompt: “We will be working together this year. What would you like me to know about you?” Model a response, writing a draft telling about you (how you like to teach, personal quirks, preferences, etc.). Share your writing, then let them loose.

Have a great writing year!

Farewell COVID Excuses

With the decline in COVID cases continuing and the rise of vaccinations, it appears that our lives are on the way back to normalcy. Do you even remember what that is? I’m not sure I do, but we’ll be finding out soon enough.

Gone will be the isolation we have experienced, the fear of sickness, the uncertainty of everyday life. No more keeping our distance, muffled voices, and paltry grocery store shelves. Yes, those will be gone, but we’ll also have to say goodbye to all those COVID excuses too.

COVID excuses? That’s right, during the past year we’ve developed a whole new set of excuses for why we can’t/won’t do something. I noticed this first when calling businesses to get information or help. The answering message was that, due to COVID, the wait to talk with a person would be much longer. Hmmm…let’s see, the people answering the phones were still working, but they were now working from home. Same number of people, so why should it take longer?

I noticed this in other areas as well: meetings cancelled (despite Zoom options), appointment postponement, and social engagements (despite safety protocols).  Anything you didn’t want to do, you had an excuse. Another boring meeting to attend? Sorry, can’t be there. COVID. Dreaded dental appointment? No can do. COVID.

The creative use of COVID excuses has been the source of entertainment (see photo above- sign reads “No plates or tags COVID ) over the past year, but it’s time to put them away. Save them for the next pandemic.

What’s Your Song?

Writing song lyrics is a great way to express yourself. What are you thinking about? How are you feeling? What makes you mad, sad, happy, or afraid? What do you wish for? Write about it in a song.

Don’t know where to start? Listen to your favorite songs. Write out the lyrics. If you can’t make out all the words, search for them online. When you have the words in front of you, study them. What do you notice? Is there rhyming? What’s the pattern? Notice what is the same and what is different in the songs you like.

Song lyrics are made up of verses and a chorus, the part that gets repeated during the song. Many songs have a bridge, a part that is different than the verses and chorus. It provides more variety to your song. But let’s not concern ourselves with bridges at this point. Let’s keep it simple.

Do you play music? If so, you can start by developing a melody you like and then adding the words to it. Or, you can begin with the lyrics. Select your topic and stick to it as you write. One way to write lyrics is to start with a title. Ask yourself what you want to say about the title. Then, say it in your verses and chorus. Try to create a rhythm in your lines that sounds good when you say them aloud. If you’re using rhymes, make them consistent. Use an online rhyming site to help you.

When you’ve finished, you can add music if you haven’t already done it. If you don’t play an instrument, you can create the melody with you voice. Or, you can find someone who can add the music. That’s what I’ve done. I showed some of my lyrics to a guy who has been in the music business for 40 years, who’s been in bands, made records, and written his own music. He really like the lyrics I showed him and has been creating the music to go with them. The songs will be made into a CD when we have enough.

I’ll share an example of lyrics I wrote. These words were written with Liam, my first grandson, in mind. But, it’s also a message I have for everyone, wishing them well (“…and a million stars up above.”).

           Liam Scott Young

 

I Wish You

 

This place ain’t easy

It won’t take long to see

You’ll learn the ropes along the way

And the cost to be free.

 

I wish you

A world of wonder

Lightning with no thunder

Miles and miles of love

And a million stars up above.

I wish you.

 

The rain will shout

The wind will scream

But you’ll stand tall against the storm

Just like it was a bad dream.

 

I wish you

A world of wonder

Lightning with no thunder

Miles and miles of love

And a million stars up above.

I wish you.

 

And when your time is over

And all that’s left is night

You’ll load up all your memories

And step into the light.

 

I wish you

A world of wonder

Lightning with no thunder

Miles and miles of love

And a million stars up above.

I wish you.

Robert Young, Real Writing Unlimited, 2020

 

So now, it’s your turn. Explore your thoughts and dreams. What is it that you’d like to say? I invite you to click on Comments tab and share it.

Six Word Memoirs

Legend has it that the famous writer Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words. He wrote: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The power of this story lies in the questions and possible meanings that the words could have. Why are the shoes being sold? What happened to the baby? Why haven’t the shoes been worn?

Years later, in 2006, a magazine publisher revised the challenge for his readers. He asked them to write about their lives in six words. The readers responded, and since then he has published more than a million of their stories.

What about you? What’s your story? I invite you to create your own six-word memoir. Write about your life, what you are doing, thinking, or dreaming. You can use sentences. Or not. Use punctuation to help guide readers to your message.

But remember, only six words. Feel free to share them using the Comments tab.

I’ll start with a couple:

Eat, write, exercise, sleep, dream. Repeat.

I am not what I do.

I’m Cheerios, cheese, and chewing gum.

Your turn…

Witnesses to History

We are all witnesses to history. Few of us have ever experienced the things we are going through now, and hopefully we’ll never have to again. Masks, social distancing, sheltering-in-place, closed stores, restaurants, parks, playgrounds, and schools. Lots of people getting sick. Many dying. Quarantine. Every person is affected in some way.

I’ve met with many students around the country and spoken about the power of writing, how it can help you in school, get jobs, and right wrongs. I shared how writing can help you figure things out (“How do I know what I think until I see what I say.”). But there’s even more. Writing can help us stay connected with other people, and it also can help us heal.

I’m offering this forum for you to share your thoughts, your hopes, fears, and dreams. What is your life like during this time? What’s the hardest part? What’s going well? What do you hate? What do you wish?

No requirements here. I invite you to share a word, a sentence, paragraph or more. Just press the Comment button and add your words. As always, I encourage you to read over your words before pressing Post Comment. Make sure they are what you want to say and how you want to communicate. You can add your age and/or your location if you’d like. You can also make comments about what others have written. Just press the Reply button.

**Note to adults: While this post is primarily targeted to kids, I invite you to add your words as well. What a great opportunity to model writing to the kids in your life!

Return to Ridgeview

My, how time flies! It seems like yesterday that I was making my first author visit ever to Ridgeview Elementary School in Springfield, Oregon. My first title, The Chewing Gum Book, had recently been published and the school librarian asked me to come and talk with students about getting ideas and developing them. That was 30 years ago!

This week, 27 books and hundreds of author visits later, I had a chance to return to Ridgeview to speak with students about writing. While the students’ faces were unfamiliar, the building had an old-home feel to it, and I paused to take in the library, where I had done my presentations so long ago. Technology used: slide projector and overhead projector.

The kids I spoke with this week could easily be the children of the kids I presented to back in 1990. Imagine that.

A lot has changed over 30 years, but a few things have not: the enthusiasm and engagement of the kids I get to work with, and the satisfaction I get in sharing my curiosity and passion for writing.

Ridgeview 5th graders