Archive for Robert Young

32 And Counting!

 

32 years. That’s how long I’ve been visiting schools and doing author visits. I’ve done them as near as my local school and as far as Buenos Aires, Argentina. What began as a presentation about chewing gum and my first book evolved over the years as my bibliography grew to 28 books. Having so many books has provided me the opportunity to feature many different topics, from Teddy bears to atomic bombs, from sneakers to wolves. Despite the varied topics, three common threads have always been an integral part of my presentations:

  • the importance of writing
  • curiosity
  • revision

Over the past several years I have been exploring different forms of writing, including graphic novels, screenwriting, and song lyrics. Recently, I’ve been able to incorporate the latter into my presentations to offer kids another writing outlet.

G.T. Albright, a longtime music pro, has been taking the lyrics I create, adding music, and making them into songs. We have copyrighted 20 so far and are poised to add 10 more before we start recording the best ones in the spring.

During the presentations, I still focus on the writing threads as well as some of my books, but then I segue into lyrics and then bring on G.T. to demonstrate how he does his magic. More magic follows as he takes lyrics the kids have written and creates music to go with them. We are all amazed and enthralled!

Last week we had the honor of working with Todd Grassman’s fifth grade class at Pleasant Hill (OR) Elementary. We had such a great time, it was hard leaving. Hopefully, Todd’s students will be inspired to share their thoughts and feelings through lyrics. They (and others) can even post them in the Comments section here to share and get feedback from others.

G.T. and lyric writer

 

Three Questions for Sheri Mabry

 

I’m on a Three Questions roll right now, as I’ve reconnected with another talented and interesting person I’ve come across on my writing journeys. So, here goes:

Sheri Mabry is an author with a writing services business. She also teaches yoga and meditation.

I had the pleasure of working with Sheri over several years. She was my literary agent, but she did a lot more than just market my manuscripts to publishers. She was a trusted partner in developing each of my writing projects. Her story-sense as well as her attention to detail were of great help in improving my work. I am grateful for her assistance and pleased to see she is working with other writers as well as successfully sharing her own work with young readers.

1.  What qualifies you to work as a writing consultant/teacher?

I have a masters in curriculum and instruction and have taught writing to children when I worked in the public school district.  So I understand the elements of writing. I founded a non-profit in the arts where we offered opportunities in the visual, performing and literary arts, so I understand the benefit of such expression.   I have experience as a literary agent, so I am connected to the industry.  I am a published (award winning) author with twelve books published, one to be released within a year, and a few more in the process, which gives me the experiences needed to give honest and true feedback to writers.  But I think what qualifies me the most is that I love working with writers and words. I love the process of writing as well as revising. It is like treasure hunting, uncovering something beautiful and brilliant. Working with new as well as seasoned writers is inspiring, and being able to support their path to publishing is an honor.

2. How do your personal pursuits (yoga, hiking, meditation) inform your writing?

That’s a great question! Yoga is “uniting” and so to me, writing is a form of yoga, bringing elements together to access that creative space and then expressing what you discover. Meditation allows you to find that peaceful space within where you have that access to truth and where story ideas can be discovered. Hiking in nature allows me to unite with my inner nature, and so it all works together to help cultivate the most beautiful conditions to create.

3. What advice do you have for someone who wants to get published?

I have lists of tips and bits of advice for those seeking to be published, but to keep it simple here:  take it seriously, and treat it like a profession. Read, learn, take classes, connect with others.  Ask questions.

Honor your time to write and commit to it.

Find ways to cultivate your creativity every day. Even if it isn’t writing—keep creating.

Have patience.

Mostly, never stop finding inspiration. Stay passionate. Nurture gratitude in this most exquisite way to express. And while you need to take writing seriously, also, be playful; find joy in the process. Finally, know that writing is a powerful way to express, and you have a great responsibility to share your talents and messages with the world. So…never give up.

Anything else you’d like to say?

My contact info is: www.sherimabryinc.com. You can find information on my website about the books I’ve written as well as the complete menu of writing services that I offer. If I can be of support, please schedule time with me. Wishing all of you the best in your writing endeavors. Write your Light!

Three Questions For Author/Illustrator Mark Fearing

Three Questions is an occasional feature on my blog when I want to spotlight interesting people I come across on my writing journeys.

In addition to having worked as an animator and creative director for Sony, Pearson, and Disney, Mark Fearing is a multi-talented author and illustrator of books for kids. He’s got more than twenty books to his credit, including Castle Gesundheit and the Middle School Bites series. His latest project, Welcome to Feral, will be released this fall. It’s a two-book graphic novel about the strange occurrences in the small town of Feral. Freya, a curious middle grader, keeps track of all the strange goings-on in town. And there are many, including deep secrets that attract strange beasties and ghouls to the town!

 

When I first attempted to write a graphic novel, a writer-friend put me in contact with Mark, who has extensive experience with that genre. Mark has been absolutely reMarkable in the help he has provided me, from basic formatting suggestions and marketing ideas to reading my manuscript and providing detailed notes that were useful in making revisions. I am so grateful for his assistance. 

Here are Three Questions for Mark:

1. You live in Portland. What impact does your location have on your work?

Compared to Southern California, it’s much easier to stay in to work because it rains nine months of the year! It’s a beautiful area. We are close to the city, not out on a sprawling country estate so it’s busy but not busy like Los Angeles. There’s plenty of walking paths so I get out several times a day with my dogs and that is important. Sitting at one’s desk, trying to ‘be creative’ will burn you out. I stay in contact with many of my friends in Los Angeles and I still Zoom into a critique group in LA when I can. Having moved here as an older adult and having a child the issues of good schools and an easy city to navigate and live in became more important so I have not totally integrated into any Portland scene. But I’ve met a lot of great people and I can’t imagine leaving the West Coast.

 

2. What writers and illustrators have had the most influence on your work?

Oh man…do you want me to write a book? I am enamored by countless authors and illustrators. IT starts with my dad who was an editorial cartoonist for 40 years or so. I can’t easily point to one person or style or genre of work even. I love expressionism, artists like Otto Dix, I love the line-driven illustrators like Ronald Searle, Quentin Blake, cartoonists like Walt Kelly, Sergio Aragones, Wally Woods, Jack Davis. Not to mention dozens of other animators, illustrators and comic artists. I love to see the personality of the artist in their work. As for authors, the list is as long and as varied. From Stephen King to Christopher Buehlman, Ursula K. LeGuin, Philip K. Dick and John Horner Jacobs. Favorite books include Frankenstein, Lord of the Rings, The Stand, Valis. Then you get author/illustrators in the children’s lit market and that list is long too. John Agee, William Steig, Valerie Gorbachev, John Burningham. And that’s just a start. I am interested in work that I could never imagine doing and work that is like what I do – but brings something different to it. I will stop here! 

Quentin Blake illustration

 

3. At the risk of being inundated with requests, why are you willing to help fellow authors and illustrators?

Many authors and illustrators have been generous with me in my life. I owe so many of my opportunities to people taking the time to help me, introduce me to someone and offer advice that I can’t imagine not doing that. And sharing what we know, what we have experienced, is a natural desire. I also try to understand exactly what the person talking to me is asking. What stage of a career they are in. I have known illustrators (especially) who seem to take delight in being cruel and judgmental with young people who come to them for advice. I think it’s important to understand exactly what they are asking and what they want to do. I mentor high school students and understanding what they want to do with their art is key. Some want to be illustrators/cartoonists. To do original work and fine tune their ‘voice’. That is different than a young person who wants to be a storyboard artist at Walt Disney. If they want to work in a studio, you can discuss exactly what they will need in a portfolio, what skills they will have to demonstrate. That is a different discussion. Start with understanding where the person wants to go and then direct their attention to the issues they may face moving in that direction. Ultimately there aren’t that many of us that are deeply interested in the issues around drawing,

Author Visit +

Yesterday I had a rare opportunity to share the stage with my music collaborator, G.T. Albright. G.T. has been in the music biz for 40+ years. He’s played in bands, recorded, produced, and written songs. We have been working together for about a year-and-a-half, with me writing lyrics and him adding the music. To date, we have collaborated on 24 songs, with many more to come.

Yesterday, we met with two 5th grade classes at Oakridge Elementary School in Oakridge, Oregon. The kids prepared by studying the lyrics to two of our songs. I spoke about the lyrics and then G.T. played the songs. He spoke about his process for developing the music, and he shared two different versions to one of the songs. It was a thrill to witness the responses of the students: they grooved to the rhythms, gushed with praise, and had lots of questions. Some had even developed their own music to the lyrics are were not shy to share them. Amazing!

Great job teachers, Emily Howard and David Gordon, and kids too. You made our day. We hope we made yours!

What’s In A Title?

You might notice that the title for our Lobo book as been revised. Originally, it was “Lobo: The Wolf That Changed the Man Who Changed America.” Quite a mouthful, huh? Quite lengthy, but them it really summed up what the story was about.

The trouble was, we got feedback from some folks who are planning a major motion picture on the project. They reminded us that a while back, there was a BBC broadcast on the topic with a similar name. That means that people who search our project will be linked to that broadcast rather than the movie they will be making.

Good point. So, we brainstormed several possibilities and came up with “Lobo: The Hunted and the Hunter.” Much more succinct and it still provides a taste of the story, and even adds a little mystery.

We even like it better than the original. Collaboration is good. So is mutual support. The movie makers are on board with us and will help spread the word about our project. As we will do for them.

Coming Soon…

Here’s a blog post from my collaborator on the Lobo project. He continues to amaze with his artwork:

https://invisibleinkstudio.com/news-updates/2021/10/24/coming-soon-lobo-the-wolf-that-changed-the-man-who-changed-america

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…