Archive for Robert Young

Willie and Me

Willie Mays has died. The great Willie Mays.

Willie was my favorite player when I was a kid. He was everything I wanted to be as a ballplayer: fast, strong, a great hitter, an outstanding center-fielder with a rifle arm. That I never came close to any of his abilities was of no consequence. I just loved watching him play, loose and smooth. He always seemed to be smiling and enjoying himself. He was truly playing a game. 

Besides the countless games I watched him play, some in person, there are two personal Willie Mays memories lodged in my mind. One took place in 1963, when the Giants were in Philadelphia playing a series with the Phillies. I was twelve years old. 

I got to go to one of the games at Connie Mack Stadium. My mom was a very reluctant driver, but she braved the city and took me and a friend. (My dad had left the family, so she was doing double duty). I don’t recall anything about the game itself, but after the game is clear in my memory. 

An ocean of kids stood outside the ballpark, next to the Giants’ team bus waiting for the players to come out, hoping to get autographs. I was in the middle of the jostling crowd. The players came out of the clubhouse one-by-one. In their street clothes, some were hard to recognize, but I did see Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal, and I was able to have Orlando Cepeda sign my glove. 

But who I really was waiting for, who we were all waiting for, was Willie. And finally he emerged, and although he was dressed in a suit and tie, everybody recognized him and pushed forward, many of us calling his name.

Willie, however, seemed not to even notice the excited crowd. As he waded into us, he searched the horizon. And then, momentarily, a sleek little T-bird convertible with its top down rolled up to the curb. A model-looking blonde was behind the wheel. When Willie saw her, he pushed his way through the crowd and got in the car, which then sped off.

Suddenly, we were all a little older.

Fast-forward twelve years, I was standing in a New York City parking garage, waiting for my car to be delivered. A bunch of other people were milling around, talking, and awaiting their cars as well.

When a man walked up and stood next to me, all talking ceased and all eyes were directed at him. I looked over and saw that the man was Willie Mays. I was so close I could have touched him. I could have said something, even whispered it, and he could have heard me.

Instead, I just stood there in the company of my favorite baseball player, arguably one of the best who ever played the game. That was enough.

Listening to all the accolades and remembrances upon Willie’s death, one of the themes that emerged was the difference between his on-the-field and off-the-field personas. On-the-field he was bubbling with playful enthusiasm and warmth; off-the-field he was reticent and aloof. 

While that differentiation was confusing as a kid, as an adult I understood and honored it. I don’t have occasion to come in contact with “famous” people, but when I do, it’s with the lowest of expectations. They deserve that much.   



What’s Your Song? Part II

Do you ever feel like you’re in the grip, with people telling you what to do and how you should be? I felt that way a lot growing up. Still do sometimes.

What I love about writing is that you can communicate your feelings and thoughts. 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 been doing for the past few years. I am very fortunate to have found several different musicians who like my lyrics and have added music to them.

I’ll share an example of lyrics I wrote. What do you think they mean? What feelings do you think they demonstrate?


From the day I was born

They all told me how to be

What to do, where to go

Never disagree


Yeah, I want to want to


I want to want to

Stand up tall

Sit up straight

Don’t talk back

Definitely don’t be late


I want to want to

I want to want to

Yeah, I want to want to


I want to want to

Shine my shoes

Wear a tie

Cut my hair

Don’t ask why


‘Cause I want to want to

I want to want to

Yeah, I want to want to




I want to want to

Get up early

Work for the Man

Hold my tongue

Make a plan


In the end I’ll do my best

And try to make them see

That I could do just what they said

But I wouldn’t be me

No, I wouldn’t be me

Yeah, it wouldn’t be me


‘Cause I want to want to

Yeah, I want to want to

Yeah, I want to want to

Shocked, Not Surprised

I was shocked to hear of the passing of Gregg Sutton today. It was sudden, like a punch in the gut. I am reeling, and struggling for breath.

Gregg was an acclaimed musician. He was an accomplished songwriter, having written for the likes of Joe Cocker, Joe Bonomasso, Percy Sledge, Dolly Parton, Al Green, Tom Jones, Billy Ray Cyrus, and many more. He was an expert guitar and bass player, and spent decades in a variety of bands, including Lone Justice, KGB, and the Pets. He toured as the bassist with Bob Dylan in 1984 and served as musical director for comedian Andy Kaufman, a childhood friend.

Dylan touring band – Gregg top right


Our lives intersected in a round-about way. Having been a writer for thirty-plus years, mostly books for kids, I found myself with lines of words in my head. Lines I couldn’t forget. As I worked with these lines, I realized they were lyrics for a song. The song – The Edge of Goodbye – was about endings: a job, a relationship, a life. I had no idea what music would go with these words, but I had a definite thought about who the song was to be for: Eric Burdon.

I had been a longtime Eric-fan, since my high school days when he was frontman for The Animals. I followed his career over the decades as he worked in different bands and evolved as a singer. On two occasions I had the pleasure of interviewing him for local newspapers when he came to town. He was thoughtful, articulate, and kind. As he neared the end of his 50-plus year career, I thought my lyrics would be a perfect fit for him.

Eric B. – center


But, they obviously weren’t. I sent Eric the lyrics, then waited. And waited. And waited. No response. Having written for so many years, with rejection the norm, I was not deterred. I looked at the liner notes on some of his later CDs and noted the names of people who had written songs with him. Gregg Sutton was one of them.

So, I sent the lyrics to Gregg. His response was quick, and positive. I was thrilled, and couldn’t wait until he created the music to go with the lyrics. Over time, we worked together revising the lyrics, and I waited for him to finish the music. I waited and waited. Six months. A year. 

When the music never appeared, I was disappointed but not discouraged. I just connected with another talented musician who loved the lyrics and created an awesome tune to go with them. Gregg and I stayed in touch. 

I was a loyal follower of his weekly Salvation Sunday shows, during which he performed his iconic songs with the help of his talented musician friends. I learned more about him by listening to his CDs, reading his memoir, and communicating regularly through e-mail. I kept sending him lyrics, too.

Several sets of lyrics later, he connected with some. We revised it back and forth, and he added music, simple chords and a catchy beat. While the finished song was a departure from my original, I was grateful and pleased with the finished product. He made a scratch demo and I had it copyrighted in our names. The title is Happiness, and it accurately reflects my feeling about the opportunity to work with Gregg. He talked about recording the song but, well, that’s out of the question now.

Last spring I set out on a road trip from my home in Oregon to visit the site in New Mexico where my latest book took place. I arranged to stop by L.A. to meet up with Gregg, a first-time meeting. He welcomed me into his home, introduced me to his dog Harry, and then we started down the street to a nearby restaurant for dinner. He walked slowly and appeared fragile. I wondered if maybe I should get my car to drive us, but he waved me off.

Gregg and Harry


We ordered dinner but he barely touched his meal. I asked him questions I had stored up, questions about his songwriting process and about his life. The questions seemed to spark him, and he answered with enthusiasm. He told me music was the only work he ever did, except when he was 17 and worked in a car wash, but only for a day. He shared about his personal challenges, and his declining health. He spoke about his most treasured experience in the music business – touring with Bob Dylan, his hero, and playing alongside Mick Taylor, his favorite guitarist. I asked him why he wasn’t a part of future tours. “I asked Bob for a raise,” he told me. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

After we slowly made our way back to the house, I asked Gregg if we could play the song we had done together. I wanted to make a video. He assented. I set up my phone and we did the song, him singing and playing, me following along on guitar. Not being a musician, it was quite a thrill for me.

That thrill dissolved when I got back to my hotel and realized that I had my video on while setting up, then turned it off when we began the song. Dammit! I slept fitfully that night.

In the morning I checked in with him before continuing my journey. He asked me for a favor: to take him to the bank. Of course. And then I wondered if we could possibly redo the song that I screwed up filming the night before. 

And so our song got videoed, with Gregg gently correcting me when I played a wrong chord along the way. We said our goodbyes and I was soon engulfed in the L.A. traffic, with little time to recount my wondrous experience. That would come later, and continues to this day.

Given the condition of Gregg’s health, I was not surprised when he passed. But, the suddenness and the reality of it was a shock.  

Gregg Sutton was multitudes: magnanimous and profane, sarcastic and gentle, critical and caring, dark and light. He was extremely talented, and very supportive of me in my songwriting journey. I will be forever grateful that our lives intersected, if for only a brief moment.


Six Word Memoirs II

Want a fun way to start off the school year? Something short and sweet, easy enough for reluctant writers and challenging for engaged writers. Try 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…

Use the Comments tab to post them.

Road Trip Update

My 3,000 mile road trip turned into 3,800 miles and took me through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho before returning to my beloved Oregon. The trip was everything I hoped for. Plus more!

In addition to connecting with family and friends, I was able to take some time to focus on the Lobo story. In Santa Fe, NM I got to meet up with David Witt, Director of the Seton Legacy Project, and a great resource for me when writing the graphic novel. He has studied Seton for several decades and wrote a biography: Ernest Thompson Seton – The Life and Legacy of an Artist and Conservationist. I had peppered David with questions over several years, clarifying and verifying information I came across. David answered them all, with patience and grace. When we met in Santa Fe, David shared many of Seton’s original artistic creations, and he walked me around the house that Seton built.

David Witt, with one of Seton’s most famous paintings: Sleeping Wolf.


From there, I drove to the northeast corner of the state, where I visited the National Scouting Museum, which interprets Seton’s contributions to the founding of the Boy Scouts as well as houses artifacts from his life (including Lobo’s pelt).

Outside the National Scouting Museum


Seton’s ledger


Traps used by Seton










To top off the experience (literally), I walked the trail atop nearby Capulin volcano. From up there I got a wonderful view of the surrounding area. This was Lobo’s territory, where the story took place. It was amazing to be there, and I couldn’t help but feel the wolf’s presence.

Lobo’s territory


Since returning home, Daniel has sent me his finished artwork and layout for notes. As you’ve seen in his samples along the way, he’s doing a great job! I’m going over the entire thing, wearing my “picky” hat, trying to find anything that needs revision for the final. We’ve had several communications around this, and things are moving along nicely.

The end is nearing…for real!

LOBO Update

Daniel Becker, illustrator of my graphic novel, recently posted this for our Kickstarter backers. He’s doing a fabulous job, and is closing in on the completion. If you missed the Kickstarter and would still like to get a copy for a friend, family member, or yourself, you can order here:

Daniel and I really appreciate your support and interest.


The progress is progressing

user avatar
Daniel A. BeckerCreator

April 26, 2023

Hello everyone,

A quick update on the artistic front.  The book is slowly but surely being coloured now.  Being the end of April, this is the point at which I was hoping (and working very hard) to have the WHOLE book completed and in print.  It truly does disappoint me that my own speed and work regiment wasn’t what I thought it was, and couldn’t keep to this already over extended deadline.  Alas…. it is what it is.  I won’t go into any excuses, only that quality takes hard work and time, and somethings you just can’t short cut.

But rest assured that the work that is being produced is coming out great.  I have been working straight through weekends the last 3-4 weeks, trying to get the whole book at least FLAT coloured.  What are ‘flats‘ you ask?  Well, its the part of the colouring process where I tediously select all the significant shapes and objects with the lasso tool in Photoshop, then give it a ‘flat’ solid colour.  This allows me to select shapes, objects, characters based on their unique colour and render them later when I put in the final colouring.  It’s not a glamourous job, nor a quick one to be done as it needs to be done correctly or you end up having to do a lot of cleaning up later.

Nonetheless, its also 60%-70% of the whole colouring process.  By getting a lot of the lighting and mood right for the scene, little more needs to be done to the overall image later.  I like to get a whole process (like the line art and lettering) done at a time, so that I stay consistent with that ethereal and flighty artistic ‘groove‘ that underlies the very fabric of the universe.  The result is what you see above and below:

There’s still a lot that will be done to these colours, but in many cases, less is more.  But when the lighting and tone is set up well from the beginning, it makes the final image really SNAP.

Even this is probably a little overcooked, but nonetheless, very pretty.  I’m also trying to emulate Ernest Thompson Seton’s own style of painting, or at least some of the colour tones, mixes, and moods he made with this artwork.  He was indeed a fantastic painter, and had a knack for capturing wintery and autumnal tones and mood very well (he also had a real penchant for painting wolves).

‘Sleeping Wolf’ by Ernest Thompson Seton

My plan for the colouring process is to have the colour pallet slowly change, both with the seasons (Seton arrived in New Mexico in October, and left in February 1894), and with the mood and theme for some of the scenes.  I wont spoil too much more of it for you, dear reader, but if all shapes up the way I’m planning, it should come out really nicely!

‘Fox and Mitten’ by Ernest Thompson Seton

Here’s a few more coloured images to tide you over for a while more.  I hope you’re all staying healthy and happy out there in the wider world.  Thank you ALL again for your incredible patience with this project, I truly believe that you will be rewarded for it (SOOON!!).


Daniel A. Becker~

Let The Journey Begin

I love road trips! Some of my best memories are from traveling by car: my mom and I driving from Florida to New Jersey, high school buddy Tom Powers and I setting out from NJ for the west coast to go to school, Tyler and I on an epic father-son coast to coast trip, Ava and I hitting the road for the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

I’m long overdue for another journey, on which I’ll be soon leaving. First stop will be LA, where I’ll meet up with iconic singer/songwriter Gregg Sutton. Gregg has been in the music biz for more than 50 years. He’s played in a number of bands, toured with Bob Dylan, and was the music director for Andy Kaufman. He’s written songs for everyone from Dolly Parton and Percy Sledge to Eric Burdon, Joe Cocker, and Joe Bonamassa, and he’s collaborated with scores of people, including me. Our song, Happiness, is a clever and upbeat adaptation of lyrics I sent Gregg a while back. He often plays it on the Sunday Salvation show he does every Sunday at noon on his Facebook page. Check it out sometime.

Greg Sutton

From LA, I’ll head south to Murrieta, where Tyler and fam reside. We’ve got two grandsons there I look forward to catching up with. We’ll caravan over to Arizona, pick up Ava from the airport, then drive north to Sedona to spend a few days among the red rocks. Hiking will be a top priority.

At the end of our stay there, Ava and the rest of the clan will head home and I will continue on to New Mexico. In Santa Fe, I’ll meet with David Witt, Ernest Thompson Seton biographer and curator of the Seton Legacy Project. David was very helpful to me when I was researching and writing the Lobo  graphic novel. He endured many questions with patience and aplomb. I am very grateful for his assistance. I’ll try to hit the Georgia O’Keefe museum before leaving town. I have always enjoyed her work, and I’d enjoy seeing it up close and personal.

From Santa Fe, I will aim my trusty Prius northeast to the Currumpaw Valley, where the Lobo story actually took place back in the fall and winter of 1893-94. I’ll visit the Scouting Museum outside Cimarron, which contains Seton artifacts as well as a memorial library. Why would they have stuff of Seton’s? Good question! The answer is simple: Seton was one of the founders of the Boy Scouts.

From the northeast corner of NM, I’ll enter Colorado, then head due west toward Utah. I hope to visit Mesa Verde along the way. It was the topic of one of my books back in the 90s (A Personal Tour of Mesa Verde), and it’ll always have a special place in my heart. There are several cliff dwellings in the national park, but I like Balcony House the best, because you have to access it either by climbing a ladder or crawling through a tunnel.

File:Approaching the Top of the Ladder to Balcony House, Mesa Verde  National Park (4851976994).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Then it’s on to Utah, and another of my favorite places: Moab. More red rocks and more hiking opportunities among the amazing arches, beautiful gifts from nature. Top arch to hike to is Delicate Arch, which stands nearly 50 feet all and is the arch that is featured on the Utah license plate.

6,700+ Delicate Arch Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free ...

When I’m all hiked out, I’ll hightail it north to Idaho to visit with good friends from high school. Actually, I’ve known these guys from elementary school days, as early as second grade. I feel so fortunate to have such longstanding friends. When we get together, the years just peel away.

And then it will be time to return to Oregon, the place I call home. 3,000 miles weary, and hopefully 3,000 miles wiser…


Retirement Rocks!

What’s to love about retirement? Where do I start? Get up when you want. Go where you want. Do what you want, whenever you feel like it.

I get up early, because I want to. I meditate, and I work on my music lyrics ’cause I love doing both. I also volunteer at a local school. Roosevelt Elementary, named after the earlier Roosevelt president: Theodore.

I work in a fourth grade classroom, home to Ed Steiger and his stalwart students. They are a friendly bunch, and I always feel welcomed there. I’ve been helping Ed support his students with their writing. He doesn’t need much help, as he’s really good at engaging the kids as well as modeling good writing habits.

One of my favorite activities is teaching young writers the “language” of writing. This involves six traits that characterize effective writing: Ideas/Content, Organization, Voice, Sentence Fluency, Word Choice, and Conventions. We introduce the traits, discuss the elements of each of them, show examples, do activities, and the students then use the knowledge gained to enhance both their own writing and their abilities to edit others’.

I am really impressed at how the class is taking to the editing process, something they have not previously experienced. It is really enjoyable to watch the kids grow as writers.

Zoey and Abby created a poster to highlight the trait of Conventions. (periods are like stop signs.)

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: 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!