Category Archives: Magazines

The Making of This Summer’s Rock & Roll Novel

Many have asked how my new novel, Voices came to be, and why it flashes back to the #SummerOfLove (which is celebrating 50 years with events nationwide this summer and fall). I’d love to tell you I wrote it quickly, fueled by my lifelong love of rock, folk and blues music, particularly classic rock. Truth is, because of that lifelong love, and the ever-changing face of the music world, Voices went through several phases, a dozen rewrites, and painstaking edits in the 15 years it took off-and-on to bring the idea into finished book form.

The 2001 Haight Street Fair poster — they’ve been colorful for all 40 years of this fair. Created by KA Hempel.

The book’s genesis is a walk that Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Marty Balin and I took down Haight Street in June, 2001. As we walked toward the converted flatbed truck stage where Marty and his Jefferson Starship bandmates were about to headline the Haight Street Fair, Marty alternately greeted fans and talked with me about his memoir, Full Flight, on which we were working.

As we continued walking, I decided to spring an idea on him: “What do you think about a novel involving a rock legend, his daughters and a reunion tour?”

“Sounds good… what’s the deal with the musician and his daughters?” Marty asked.

“Well, he’s tight with one and not so much with the other… creates the emotional tension,” I said.

“You know, some musicians lost contact with their children when they were young, you know, touring, breakups, that sort of thing.”

Marty Balin performs the Jefferson Airplane classic “She Has Funny Cars” at the 2001 Haight Street Fair. (Photo: Robert Yehling)

Interesting. Talk about emotional tension. How about gut-wrenching? “How did that impact their music?” I asked.

“The ones who cared about their kids and were able to carry on? A lot. It made their music sadder, deeper, bluesy. More touching. More real. Great lyrics, too.”

I’d never thought of it that way.

We walked by several Haight Street novelty and head shops, three of which had something familiar in the window — my fairly recent cover story on Marty for a prominent magazine. As one who missed the age curve on the Summer of Love, the epochal period from 1965 through 1967 in which psychedelic rock, free love, expanded consciousness, yoga, political activism and creative expression resonated from San Francisco like a shock wave, I was blown away. I was walking down Haight Street with the man who coined “psychedelic rock” in a 1965 interview with a Dallas newspaper; whose nightclub, The Matrix, was the first in San Francisco to openly welcome electric instruments; whose band, Jefferson Airplane, launched both the San Francisco scene and psychedelic rock nationally; and whose vocal prowess as a high tenor and lyrical powers as a balladeer knew few peers. It felt surreal. Don’t wake me up when this dream is over.

Some of the 50,000 people that packed Haight Street in 2001 — and will once again pack it on June 11, for the 40th annual fair. (Photo: Robert Yehling)

I thought more about Marty’s comments. “Well, I’ve been wanting to write a rock-and-roll novel,” I said. “I’ve seen so many things in music, been part of so many things. What do you think?”

“I think if you do something with the ‘lost daughter’ thing, and put your musicians on a major tour, you’ve got a book.”

With that, I went to work, but not before promising Marty one thing: Our walk would be memorialized in the novel (a fictional version is the lead chapter of Part 2). So is something he did in concert that afternoon, the nicest thing I’ve seen a rock musician do live: Grab a roadie’s cell phone, and personally serenade the roadie’s wife with Marty’s mega-hit “Miracles” while also singing to 50,000 screaming fans on the street.

Our walk became the launching pad for Voices. While the story has taken several twists and turns since, the essential storyline is much as we left it that day: A father-daughter-lost daughter relationship story set against a summer reunion tour by a legendary band, recalling 50 years of American pop, blues, folk and rock music along the way. It’s out for the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love —where the protagonist, Tom Timoreaux, and his bandmates first gathered.

The way it was during The Summer of Love … the origin point for “Voices”

Voices is seeded with more than 70 accounts of actual musical events and moments — though I’ve taken care to fictionalize and wrap them around the characters. Marty’s cell phone serenade is one, the walk down Haight Street another. The reason? Rock and roll is full of countless moments that you just can’t make up… and we all love a good rock and roll story.

Hope you enjoy Voices, and post a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads if you have the chance. It’s available at all online booksellers in print and e-book form, and through bookstores nationwide. An audiobook is in the works, to be released later in 2017 or early 2018.

Marty Balin, firing away on his masterful ballad “Comin’ Back To Me,” 2001 (Photo: Robert Yehling

 

 

 

NEXT IN THE WORD JOURNEYS BLOG: The Word Journeys Beach Read Showcase, a three-blog review of books well worth taking to the beach, including a word from their authors.

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THE WRITE STUFF: Official Newsletter of Word Journeys Inc. and Robert Yehling

V 20, N 1 • January, 2016

Celebrating 20 Years of Serving Authors, Publishers & The Written Word 

WELCOME!

Welcome to the 20th anniversary of Word Journeys, Inc. In 1996, I started the company to provide editorial services to magazines and corporate publications. Soon, my goals and the company shifted into the book world, where we have camped since 1999, providing writing, ghostwriting, editing, marketing, promotion, and publicity consulting services to authors, editors, agents, and publishers. We will provide this newsletter of stories, links, and specials to our Google + readers, and mailing list. We cover everything concerning the works of Robert Yehling, Word Journeys clients, and related publishing activities and events. Beginning in February, past issues will be archived on our website, www.wordjourneys.com.

HOT OFF THE PRESSES…

2016: The Year of the Writer

We’re declaring 2016 the year of the writer, and are re-releasing a pair of books to commemorate: The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life; and Writes of Life: Using Personal Experiences in Everything You Write. Both books are being published in second edition by Open Books Press of Bloomington, IN. The Write Time is now available, while Writes of Life will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon.com, and will be published in mid-April.

The Write Time features a different exercise for every day of the year — and a story to enhance it. All genres and styles are covered. This is perfect jump-start material if you’re stuck or just need some fresh creative juice. Used in writing conferences, colleges, high schools, and by many published authors. Links to more than 125 top writing and reading websites. http://amzn.to/1O2skaG

Robert Yehling, Martha Brookhart Halda to appear on Write NOW! TV show

Robert Yehling and Martha Brookhart Halda will talk about the writing life, and how they’ve collaborated, on Write NOW!, a TV program in Orange County, CA. The show will air Friday, January 22. Yehling will discuss his various works, while Halda will talk about the German launch of A Taste of Eternity, her remarkable story, and the book’s forthcoming release in the United States. The show hosts are author/publisher Charles Redner, and Judy Saxon.

Just Add Water a Finalist for Dolly Gray Literature Award

Just Add Water is a finalist for the Dolly Gray Literature Award, given to the top family-oriented book with autism themes. It joins ten other finalists for the prestigious award, which is followed by all of the autism organizations and schools. The ceremony is January 25 in Tampa, FL. For more information: http://daddcec.org/Awards/DollyGrayAwards.aspx

The Hummingbird Review: Michael Blake, E.E. King, memoirists featured

The writing of personal story serves as a theme of the winter-spring edition of The Hummingbird Review, now available through bookstores and online. Featured contributors include the late Academy Award-winning Dances With Wolves author/screenwriter Michael Blake, fictionist-poet and Ray Bradbury protégé E.E. King, novelist W. Thompson Ong, Beat-era poet Michael C. Ford, an interview with guided autobiography facilitator Sheri Kohlmann, and the first excerpt of Martha Halda’s memoir A Taste of Eternity to be published in English. Plus more than 60 poems and essays from a dozen nations. Just $10. Order yours! http://amzn.to/1VohQIp

Appearance at Just Add Water at L.A. Times Festival of Books

Robert Yehling will be discussing the development and writing of Just Add Water at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, the nation’s second largest book festival, which takes place April 9-10 on the USC campus in Los Angeles. He will be signing both after the presentation and in a booth on-site. In 2015, more than 150,000 attended the event. Stay tuned for more details. http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/

FROM OUR CLIENTS

  • Brandon Cruz, star of the smash late 1960s/early 1970s sitcom The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and I are shopping a pair of titles we’ve been developing for a year, one The Courtship of Eddie, his memoir; and the other a deep look at his work as one of the nation’s foremost alcohol-addiction recovery specialists. Both books are packed with powerful, emotional stories, messages of great hope, and Brandon’s entertaining storytelling style, laced with his sharp wit and insights. Stay tuned…
  • Cracked, Not Broken author Kevin Hines had quite a thrill on January 9, when he spoke at a White House conference on men’s health. Kevin is busily preparing a documentary about his story and speaking engagements worldwide; look for a second book by 2017. http://amzn.to/1Gle6Sf
  • Jeff Emmerson’s long-awaited book, Beyond ADHD, is making the publishing rounds through agent Dana Newman. Emmerson looks beyond the conventional ADHD protocols in this riveting work that combines personal story and the insights of more than 20 medical, neurological, and therapeutic experts. Its findings are not only revolutionary — but potentially transformative. View his Beyond ADHD blog at http://bit.ly/1Rk2lCt
  • Motocross racing fans of a certain age… Remember Gary Wells, the racing and jumping phenom of the 1970s and 1980s? The man who routinely outjumped Evel Knievel for years? As Gary celebrates his 60th birthday this year, his story, Closure, is on its way to publication, thanks to author Tyler Anderson, himself a champion racer. This is a no-holds-barred biography at the up and down sides of America’s love affair with one prodigy and his prowess on a bike, during the biggest 15-year period in U.S. motorcycle racing history. https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=gary%20wells%20closure

FEATURED TITLES

ON THE WORD JOURNEYS BLOG

How Just Add Water Was Written: Behind the Scenes Story: http://wp.me/p8UUi-hB

BLOG OF THE MONTH

Kristen Lamb’s Blog is annually selected one of the Top 100 writers blogs by Writer’s Digest. Not only is it packed with resourceful materials for writers, but readers will delight in all of its behind-the-scenes features. This is a MUST blog to add to your blogroll. https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com

WORD JOURNEYS SPECIALS

Service: 20% off editing of your next book! We’ll bring your manuscript to a publish-ready polish, as we have done with more than 150 others. All genres. Email ryehling@wordjourneys.com. Through Feb. 29.

Product: $5 off hard-cover, signed copies of Just Add Water: A Surfing Savant’s Journey with Asperger’s, the biography of autistic surfing great Clay Marzo. Shipped direct from author. Email: ryehling@wordjourneys.com. Through Jan. 31.

WRITING/READING TIP OF THE MONTH

“Reach into your bookshelf and grab twenty titles of any kind. Read the first paragraphs of each, quickly and in succession. What pops out? What really grabs your eye? How did the writer grab you? Now return to your work, and in the spirit of what you have just read and compared, make your sentences pop and snap.” — From The Write Time, by Robert Yehling

JOIN THE WORD JOURNEYS FIESTA!

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On Clay Marzo, Stevie Salas & Our Coming New Look

JUST ADD WATER by Clay Marzo and Robert Yehling copyIt’s been a busy and frenetic last two months in my personal writing world. This includes promoting When We Were The Boys, the memoir on which I collaborated with musician Stevie Salas; doing final caption touch-ups and proofs for Just Add Water, my biography of autistic international surfing star Clay Marzo available for pre-order on Amazon.com now and coming in Summer from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; pumping out proposals for books on which I am collaborating and/or writing (details forthcoming); and editing Innovation & Tech Todayone of the hippest and most diverse new magazines on newsstands and most digital magazine services.

Music. Surfing. Innovation. Three of my favorite things. Now for those books on running and fitness, a memoir, and the book for business, book, journalistic and personal writers that’s made it through some brainstorm sessions…salas cover low res

My webmaster and former Ananda College student, Chitra Sudhakaran, and I have also been overhauling the WordJourneys.com website — and our mission. Part of that will be our new-look WordJourneys.com blog, which will be unveiled Monday (3-2) featuring a fantastic conversation with author and international speaker Kevin Hines. His book, Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving A Suicide Attempt, offers one of the most painful, difficult, and ultimately inspiring and redemptive memoirs I have ever had the pleasure to edit. When a man jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge and is served up his greater life and soul purpose during the four-second plunge into frigid San Francisco Bay… well, you do the math. It’s an incredible book,  in its 20th printing just two years after its release. You are not going to want to miss this interview.

You’ll also see excerpts from Just Add Water and my long-awaited novel, Voices, which will release later in 2015.ITTodayWinter2014 cover

On our new-look blog, we will be incorporating a few new things, a stylistic reflection of my 2009 book, The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Expand and Fulfill Your Writing Life:

1) Inspiring quotes from writers, entertainers, artists, musicians, and other creatives

2) Resources for further exploration

3) Spot interviews with authors, thinkers, educators, and leaders

4) Book reviews

5) Perspectives on technology, fitness, health, the arts, education, STEM, and other subjects of interest to writers and creative artists

6) Excerpts from my books, as well as clients

7) Links to pieces and special service offers on WordJourneys.com, and client websites

8) Social Media services of the month (not only the Big Five — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube —  but many other sites)

9) An expanded blogroll

10) More opportunities for you to comment and/or guest post

11) Prompts, exercises, and tips from well-published authors, and creative and leadership

achievers

We’ve always had an eye out for our clients and other writers and creatives on this blog. Now, we will expand that, as part of our mission to showcase the lifestyle of writing and insight of the authors, as well as the final product.

Back to you on New-Look Monday!

MGH_4477

 

 

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A Champion’s Journey: Payne Stewart Reflects on His 1999 U.S. Open Title  

(NOTE: This is part 2 of a 3-part tribute to 1999 U.S. Open golf champion Payne Stewart, my friend and the man for whom I edited and ghostwrote Payne Stewart’s Guide to Golf. Below is the story I wrote on his epic triumph at Pinehurst No. 2 – which Sports Illustrated has called the greatest U.S. Open in history. This story ran in August 1999 – two months after winning the Open, and two months before his tragic death in a plane crash. It was also referenced at his funeral. With the golf world honoring Payne at Pinehurst this week, it felt like a great time to hear about his great victory once again – from him.)

See part one

 A CHAMPION’S JOURNEY

By Robert Yehling

Originally Published in 1999 by Faircount International, LLC

In Payne Stewart’s Guide to Golf

HOW DO PEOPLE LIKE PAYNE STEWART GROW INTO GENUINE CHAMPIONS and heroes to our youth? First of all, by not buying into the myth of today’s sports “hero,” all too often a person who basks in the spotlight, drips with money, gets chauffeured in stretch limos, charges for autographs, blows off his fans and yet finds red carpets wherever he goes. Our sports-addicted society has made it easy for talented but emotionally green young men to vault directly from adolescence to Mt. Olympus. Need a reference point? Try the NBA.2014-06-08 09.03.24

Then we turn to the classic hero’s journey, which is entirely different. It is a long, challenging walk, during which one releases old tendencies and endures plenty of doubt before emerging with a new perspective, strengthened character and rearranged priorities. Any trauma in life can launch this quest, but the person doesn’t know it ever started until the midway point. If regular daily life is a walk through hills and valleys, then the hero’s journey is a trek in the Himalayas. It’s rough. Joseph Campbell, the 20th century’s foremost author and lecturer on world mythology, wrote in his classic The Hero with a Thousand Faces, “The perilous journey was a labor not of attainment but of reattainment, not discovery but rediscovery.”

Once finished, the individual savors life. Friends, family and the public notice the composure, class, inner peace and magnetism. The lessons learned are never forgotten. They’re too painful and clarifying to forget.

In 1999, sports fans have been blessed with the happy outcome of one such journey. That belongs to newly crowned U.S. Open Champion Payne Stewart, who for eight years faced an inner battle of confidence, priorities, desire and attitude that complicated his outer struggle with his skills and lower back. Then he summited this past Father’s Day as a refined, mature, spiritual and peaceful man with a mean knockout punch for a putter. That he did so at age 42, when many PGA Tour veterans are beginning to locate broadcasting deals, schools of fish and the Senior Tour on their range-finders, makes his accomplishment more remarkable.

“Yeah, I had a pretty good weekend at Pinehurst – it was worth going out of town for a couple of days,” Stewart deadpanned a few days after sinking the 18-foot putt that launched him into a memorable celebration and cemented his name among the 30 or so greatest players in history. He chuckled and added, “Was that entertaining enough? Did you enjoy that?”

When told that his celebration made for thrilling Sunday evening TV, he noted, “You know what my son said to me when I got home? Not ‘way to go, Dad’ or ‘nice putt’ or anything like that. He said, ‘The celebration was cool, but you and Mike (Hicks, his caddie) missed the high-five.’”

2014-06-13 07.22.59That’s about all Stewart missed on Father’s Day. That and his kids, who didn’t make the trip to Pinehurst (daughter Chelsea, 12, was at a girls basketball camp; sports runs in the family blood). He sure didn’t miss many putts on one of the U.S. Open’s greatest final-day greens operations ever – 18 holes, 24 putts, and three total putts on the final three holes with the pressure of, oh, a career legacy riding on his shoulders. “Seldom does an athlete’s entire career come down to one crisis he knows in his heart will define the way he is remembered in sport forever,” famed Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote. “It’s even rarer for that athlete to rise to the occasion spectacularly, doing things the sport has never seen, and especially erase all the doubts and digs that have dogged him.”

A couple of weeks later, after he and his wife, Tracey, basked in the Bahamas and the pure, sweet feeling of his achievement, Stewart was more reflective. “I’ve looked back on it and realized that what I did was pretty special,” he said. “People are telling me it was the best Open finish of the century, one of the greatest Opens, those kinds of things, but I never thought about how this would go down – especially during the Open itself.”

Just five years before, in 1994, Stewart was ready to quit the game. Now, he’s having a career year and riding high. His view is one a lot of his contemporaries would like: wins in three majors (only Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and Nick Price can match that among active players), 11 PGA Tour victories, two U.S. Open titles in the ‘90s, five berths on Ryder Cup teams, and Top-3 positions on both the season and all-time money lists. He’s led more rounds of the U.S. Open than anyone in history, threatens to double his previous high-water mark for season earnings, and has turned his putter into a laser beam that rarely misfires; he ranks second on the PGA Tour in 199 with 1.7 putts per hole.

Most of all, the proud family man from Orlando with the sweet swing, firecracker sense of humor (right down to the fake teeth he breaks out at choice moments), ready opinions and plus-fours has silenced the legion of fans and media who said he couldn’t finish golf tournaments. He shut up those voices, along with Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, with an epic closing effort at Pinehurst No. 2’s 16th, 17th and 18th. Course designer Donald Ross could only join Payne’s late father, Bill, in the heavens and nod his head.

Here is how Stewart transcended the baggage of near misses: First, he sank a 25-foot par-saving putt on 16 to tie Mickelson. Stewart later admitted, “I really couldn’t figure out how that putt worked when I was watching it on video afterward. It was like driving up a hill, back down the hill, then leveling out.” He waved to the crowd as casually as if he’d canned a 4-footer in a pro-am. He strode up to 17, with a few thousand butterflies and pieces of iron clanking in his stomach, and nearly aced the hole – whereby Mickelson realized he was no longer in control of the tournament. Stewart sank his short birdie putt for the lead, went to 18… and drove it into the deep rough. Mickelson split the fairway. What was next? Go for the glory, like Jean Van de Velde did, only to lose the British Open a month later? Nope. Stewart laid up, hit a wedge to the center of the green, calmly lined up his 18-foot putt, and stroked it into the ages. Van de Velde should’ve watched. His British Open result might have been different.

“The U.S. Open champion Sunday was Stewart. Then it was Mickelson. Then Stewart. Then Mickelson,” wrote Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. “Then, finally, on a glorious putt that weaved through the raindrops and over the demons and into the 18th hole with a roar as big as all of North Carolina, the winner was Stewart. And it was golf.”

This is where Stewart’s performance becomes heroic, and lays the spotlight on a transformed man and his transformed life. Just one year ago, on a Father’s Day that should have provided a storybook ending (winning on the same course on which his Dad qualified for the 1955 U.S. Open), he coughed up a four-stroke lead on Olympic Golf Club’s sidewinding hills and fell to Lee Janzen by missing a 25-foot putt on 18. Though crushed, Stewart gave one of the more gracious press conferences any journalist could remember from a runner-up at a major. He was deeply hurt. Yet determined. He wanted another Open trophy this decade. “For Payne to battle back from the adversity last year, that proves his character. His willingness to fight through all that is a tribute,” Tiger Woods said.

“I understand how mental golf is,” Stewart says. “If I allowed last year’s U.S. Open to affect me, then it could’ve been career-ending, my ‘we’ll never hear from him again’ tournament. But, I’ve never felt I was like that. I tried to take the positives from the (1998) Open, and there were positives – I nearly won. So this year, when I headed out to the West Coast (for the PGA Tour’s season-opening leg), I had all the equipment in my bag. I had my golf ball, it was a new year, it was bright and exciting, and I was hitting good golf shots, so I started focusing on winning a golf tournament, because I knew I was hitting good enough shots to win again.”

(The second half of this article will appear on The Word Journeys Blog Sunday, Father’s Day – 15 years to the day after Payne Stewart won the classic 1999 U.S. Open).

2014-06-13 07.23.20

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Remembering Payne Stewart, our friendship, and our magazine

(Part One of a special three-part series)

2014-06-08 09.04.43

It takes quite a story to bring me to tears – especially a sports story. Yet, I sat on my couch the other day, eyes wet as I read the anchor piece in Sports Illustrated: a reminiscence of the 1999 U.S. Open, one of the greatest golf competitions ever. It also recalled one of the greatest writing experiences of my career, as the editor-ghostwriter of Payne Stewart’s Guide to Golf.

The Open had every twist and turn of high drama on center stage: old vs. young. Comeback after comeback. Riveting clutch shots. Agonizing misses. A man honoring his father on Father’s Day. Another about to become one — and prepared to fly cross-country when his wife went into labor, even if he was winning.2014-06-08 09.03.24

Most of all, it had my friend and client, Payne Stewart. With a tough par putt on 16, a birdie on 17, and an 18-foot putt on the final hole on the notorious Pinehurst No. 2 course, Payne exorcised naysayers who said he would never win another major, lifted his eyes to the heavens, and gave his late father, Bill, quite the Father’s Day present. “People are telling me it was the best Open finish of the century, one of the greatest Opens, those kinds of things, but I never thought about how this would go down,” he told me later. “I thought about getting the job done. Once the job’s done, then you reflect on it and think, ‘Wow, those last three holes were pretty special.’”

It became even moreso. In an act of greatest sportsmanship, Payne interrupted his celebration on the 18th green to cup the face of runner-up Phil Mickelson, and say, “There’s nothing like being a father.”

The next night, Mickelson and his wife, Amy, gave birth to their daughter, Amanda.

Those who follow sports (and many who don’t) know what happened next. At the height of his life – with family, friends, golf, priorities, and happiness perfectly aligned, a great place to be at age 42 – Payne was killed in an October 1999 plane crash when the cabin depressurized.

The next day, I was a call-in guest on The Jim Rome Show. Other media called for comments. It was hard to fathom. Watching your friend lose his life in slo-mo on CNN live, with F-16 fighter jets flanking the doomed plane on its ghost flight into a South Dakota field, was surreal enough.

A few days later, 4,000 people turned out for his funeral. More than 125 members of the PGA Tour flew from the TOUR Championship to Orlando and entered the church in single file, led by Tiger Woods. That reminded me of something Payne told me after the U.S. Open, which was reprised in the Sports Illustrated article:

“I’m on the putting green with Tiger, and he says, ‘You know, when I start designing courses, I’m going to make them 9,000 yards so you old guys can’t reach the greens.’”

Payne drew out a long pause, the Southern storyteller lining up his salvo. “I said, ‘Yeah, Tiger, but if it’s the U.S. Open, you still have to hit it in the fairway.”

At the funeral, Payne’s best friend, Paul Azinger, turned tears to cheers when he donned a derby cap, rolled up his slacks, and delivered the eulogy just as Payne would have played it – in plus-fours.

To say Payne died atop the world is not a cheap sentiment, nor a churlish reference to mid-air depressurization. He was riding high, with more to come; a week later, he would have been named U.S. Ryder Cup captain, the ultimate peer-to-peer honor.

 

I spent the last four years of Payne’s life working with him, playing golf with him, falling prey to his wicked southern-fried pranks, and watching him rise from the ash heap of “what might have beens” to again become a champion.

We became good friends through Payne Stewart’s Guide to Golf. He took me to Florida’s finest golf courses, where I hacked along while he, Ernie Els, Justin Rose, Azinger and others fired irons and woods like snipers. He hosted me in his palatial Villa Serena home, gave me great putting and chipping tips, and talked story. Most of all, he shared a personality bubbling with a champion’s intensity, quick wit, occasional fiery temper, and penchant for finding fun. His devotion to his wife, Tracey, and children, Aaron and Chelsea, was absolute: Payne almost missed the tragic flight because he made Chelsea her coveted pancakes before leaving for The TOUR Championship.

Some moments that will remain with me forever:

• One day in 1997,  8-year-old Aaron came into the house with a busted lip from skateboarding. “Why can’t you like something normal, like soccer or baseball?” Payne asked him.

“Because skateboarding and surfing are fun. Plus, the top surfer, (world champion) Kelly Slater, makes more than you.”

Payne turned to me, laughing. “The things kids say. No way a surfer makes more than me.”

“Hate to tell you this, Payne, but based on 1996 winnings, Aaron’s right,” I said.

The beauty of this story: After Payne died, my friend Mitch Varnes and I sprung a surprise for Aaron – a fishing and surfing trip with his idol, Kelly Slater.

• Payne took more friendly fire when the family sat to discuss his 1997 playing schedule. They compared vacation plans, school sports schedules and the events Payne wanted, or needed, to play. “I think I’m going to bump it up this year,” he told the family, “maybe play 26 or 27 events.”

“Well, Dad, if you’d win, you wouldn’t have to play so much,” his son chimed in.

Interestingly, Payne began winning again in 1997 – a trajectory that only a plane crash could halt.

• We were playing Bay Hill, Arnold Palmer’s course, during a break in Payne’s 1999 schedule. I was in a group with Payne, teenaged 1998 British Open runner-up Justin Rose, head pro Dave Rose, and John Lodge, bass player for the Moody Blues. I split the fairway off the first tee, and opened birdie-par to lead after two holes.

Payne turned to the others. “I’ll be damned, boys,” he drawled, his voice dripping with his native Ozark accent. “I brought along a ringer. My apologies.”

Thanks, Payne. Needless to say, the wheels fell off and it became a long, painful visit to alligator swamps and cypress woods for me.

•  About two months before Payne died, I found him in a quiet, reflective mood as I walked into his house. “What’s going on?”

“I’m blown away right now.”

He and Tracey were selling Villa Serena to move to nearby Isleworth, a golf-oriented community. They’d received a call to view the house; the party was eminently qualified to handle its steep price tag. “I kept asking them to tell me who the person was, but they wouldn’t.” Payne’s wry smile was gone. “I wasn’t about to let anyone in my house unless I knew who they were, but they told me, ‘Don’t worry; he’s qualified.’”

The next day, the prospective buyer arrived. It was Michael Jackson. Oh boy … the Poster Child of Bizarre meets the Red, White & Blue Father of the Year. “Now that would be the last person I’d let into my house,” Payne said, “but after he walked around for a minute, he asked me to sit down with him.”

Cue up the magic: for the next hour, Jackson asked Payne about parenting. He’d heard that Payne was a wonderful father, and wanted his advice on raising kids. “That’s the only reason why he came to view the house,” Payne said. “Just to sit and talk. It sure changed my tune about him.”

 

I could go on and on. The wonderful Sports Illustrated article triggered so many memories, but more importantly, recalled one of sports’ greatest personalities and events. The PGA Tour will gather this week at Pinehurst No. 2 for the first U.S. Open held there since Payne’s victory, and NBC will certainly trot out a tribute piece.

I’m going to remember my friend as well. The next two Word Journeys blogs will re-run “A Champion’s Journey,” the last piece I wrote on Payne. It was my best. It first published in Payne Stewart’s Guide to Golf in September 1999, a month before I lost a friend and the sports world lost one of its finest people.

(Part One of “A Champion’s Journey” will run on Wednesday. June 11. Part two will run on Friday, June 13.)

 

 

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An SI Article Trip Down Memory Lane

Since it’s football season, wanted to tread back into memory lane as a writer — with a big assist from Sports Illustrated.

While flying from LA to Kahului, Maui, where I’m working with surf star Clay Marzo on his biography, “Just Add Water,” I read an article in Sports Illustrated that stopped me in my tracks. Well, two of them. The first was  “Exit Sandman,” an incredible story of the greatness of Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera — with an ending that will take your breath away.

The second concerned an old friend and a very special time in my life, when footballs flew all over San Diego and many great careers germinated in the same tiny place. It happened within Tim Layden’s article, “You Spin Me Right Around, Baby”, concerning the back-shoulder pass that drives NFL defensive backs crazy — because they can’t defend it. This pass has become a part of several quarterbacks’ repertoires, most prominently Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. It’s been around in various forms, this Kryptonite play to all defenders, but who used it consistently first?

That’s where the article stopped me. Turns out it was Bob Gagliano, a journeyman USFL and NFL quarterback for 10 years in the 1980s and 1990s. Bob was the quarterback at U.S. International University in San Diego in 1979, when I was a student and assistant sports information director there. Bob and I formed a good friendship, and I always took him with me to community outreach events, such as meet-and-greets with junior high and high school students. He took what Division I  schools considered average ability, used his incisive brain, and after leaving USIU, became a strong D1 quarterback and a spot starter for Kansas City, Detroit and San Diego.

I remember sitting with Bob in the Chiefs locker room in 1982, after he’d made the team as a rookie. He told me about this new pass he was trying out, which turned out to be the same pass I’d seen him throw a few times in USIU games: you hit the receiver on the trailing shoulder, he reaches back to get it, and the defender can do nothing about it.

A few years later, Bob did it on a regular basis for the USFL’s Denver Gold. That got him a second chance in the NFL.

Every so often, I think back to the USIU team that Bob quarterbacked. It was one of those freaks of fate, a ragtag group cobbled together when USIU made its short-lived jump into Division II football. I was publicizing the team, part of my trade-out for a free ride so I could get through school. THe group looked shaky at first, but finished the year 9-3 and beat a pair of Top 20 Division II schools along the way. No one wanted to get into a shootout with USIU, just like their neighbors eight miles down I-15, the San Diego Chargers.

Bob wasn’t the only one from this collection of young guns and Division I rejects to make a splash in the NFL. Not even close. The head coach, Tom Walsh, went on to become offensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders. His offensive assistant, Mike Sheppard, did the same with the Cleveland Browns during their glory years in the late 1980s. As did Mike Solari with the Kansas City Chiefs. Defensive back Vernon Dean won two Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins. Three other players made NFL rosters, at least temporarily.

Then there was the young defensive backs coach, just out of San Diego State, a former safety who wasn’t fast enough for the NFL: John Fox. Then in his early 20s, Fox whipped his defensive backs into one of the top units in Division II. He was tough, he connected with his players, and he instilled in them his passion for the game, his passion for excellence.

Fast forward to 2013: Fox is commanding the greatest offensive ship in the NFL, the Denver Broncos. He’s been an NFL head coach for 11 seasons after a brilliant run as a defensive coordinator, during which he won a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants. Now, he goes to work every day and sees Peyton Manning. How great is that?

I can only imagine what Fox was thinking when he opened his Sports Illustrated and saw the article on the back-shoulder pass — which he loathed while coaching the Giants and Carolina Panthers — and then seeing who first put it to use regularly in games. Fox always praised Gagliano in USIU practices, because of the way Gagliano’s accuracy made Fox’s defensive backs better.

Those were fun times — and a joy to relive 34 years later.

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Nostalgia: Best of Word Journeys Blogs, Memories of Breakout Magazine, the Legacy of ‘Ball Four’

Catching up after a fun midsummer weekend that featured two interesting correlations between the writing world and memory lane …

Just wrapped up Creating Adventures, Sharing Stories: The Best of Word Journeys Blogs, Vol. 1. I took 50 representative blogs (plus one) from the seven-year history of this blog, touched them up, threw in a little backstory behind its creation, and compiled them into book form. What a joy to relive many of these moments, and also to be reminded of the rich variety of life, people and experience offered by an excursion into the writing life – whether for a day or a lifetime.

The Best of Word Journeys Blogs has a section dedicated to the writing craft, but it’s much more than that. The pieces and stories span across the cultural spectrum, with plenty of words about a few of my favorite things: Gold Rush country, education, the beach, libraries, music, poetry readings, Southern-fried storytelling, social media, surfing and ocean sports, and underpinning it all, the vital importance of having full experiences and reading often. I’ll give a few previews in the next 2 weeks.

The Best of Word Journeys Blogs will be available August 29 through Amazon.com, Kindle, and all e-readers. It is published by Tuscany Global, which also published Backroad Melodies. Hope you pick one up for yourself, and an early holiday gift for a friend – it is full of stories.

Catching up in Oceanside with fellow Breakout editor Kevin Kinnear

Catching up in Oceanside with fellow Breakout editor Kevin Kinnear

 

WHILE CHECKING OUT THE OCEANSIDE LONGBOARD CHAMPIONSHIPS on Saturday, ran into my old friend and fellow board sports journalist Kevin Kinnear. Kevin and I started our magazine careers at Breakout Magazine, California’s regional surf magazine in the 1980s and one of the better ocean sports regionals in the world. The magazine was co-founded in 1979 by George Salvador, who had given me my first newspaper job in 1976 at The Breeze.

The times we had: routinely pulling all-nighters to get issues to the printer, taking surf trips for waves and shots, and becoming the best magazine of all at covering the rising tide of pro surfing in the U.S. We covered these events like Sports Illustrated covers major sports, tying together lifestyle, culture, significance, competitors, and competition.

I remember vividly, and warmly, the creative tussles we had before and during every issue. We had a shop full of creatives: George, Kevin, photo and art director Guy Motil, and myself. Every one of us was strong-willed, loaded with ideas, unfraid to push for our vision of the outcome, and equally bold at taking chances artistically and with our writing. What a crew! The arguments were often fierce tug-of-wars, but when the dust settled, we advanced the magazine that much further. Alongside were our versatile, risk-taking writers, David Rowe and Dave Shaughnessy (Shag’s personality was just as contagious and enthusiastic in print as it was in person, and did he love writing with a Thesaurus!), and our tireless boy wonder photographers, Allen Carrasco and Sonny Miller. Sonny is now one of the top surf cinematographers in the world.

Kevin and I had a great rapport. Both of us were the wildly, fiercely independent sons of military fathers, so we were big on carving our own niches and not so tolerant of authority. He was a few years older, much more experienced as a surfer, and more knowledgeable in its culture and history, but just breaking into editing and magazine writing. Even though I was only 21, I had experience in both. We learned greatly from each other and made an excellent team. We also both loved to put literary spins on our articles, styles we later took to other destinations. I’ll never forget the writing class we took together with renowned author Hillel Schwartz in Del Mar. Six weeks, astute constructive feedback, an emphasis on fine writing, and one reading accompaniment: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard, one of the greatest nature memoirs ever written. That’s when my penchant for writing about nature and environment launched, a passion that has seen its way into five poetry and essay collections. And Kevin also is an excellent guitarist.

Kevin went on to become the founding editor of Transworld Snowboarding, as well as the editor of Transworld Skateboarding and Transworld Surfing (which, sadly, just folded). For many years, those magazines were published by Tim Wrisley, who grew up a few blocks away from me on Basswood Ave. in Carlsbad and is now the publisher of Carlsbad Magazine. Kevin and I bumped into each other all over the world for years, whether at a surfing contest or snowboarding event. Just like we did Saturday, when we shared stories for a couple of hours.2013-08-12 07.00.33 copy

In poring over the back issues from 1980 through 1983, you can see a dream turn into a presentation that was fabulous during a time when you waxed copy, pasted it onto grids, sat in darkrooms processing film and photos, chose from hundreds of slides sprawled across lightboards, and hustled the finished product off to the printer. I can still smell the chemicals and feel my burning eyes. Our little office on State Street was also Party Central, but that’s another story.

Breakout certainly was a launching pad: Out of our tight, dedicated little team that routinely pulled all-nighters on deadline, we went on to edit more than 40 titles collectively. In addition, Guy Motil and I became authors, and we saw a few very familiar names in surf writing gain valuable experience with Breakout assignments. Among them were renowned surf genre author Matt Warshaw, multiple book author Chris Ahrens, former Surfing magazine editor Bill Sharp, former Surfer editors Sam George and Steve Hawk, and photojournalist Kirk Aeder.

 

I JUST LOVE IT when a single book can open the floodgates to a truly glorious stroll through the memories of childhood…41iAGjqR0tL._SY346_

Been having a blast re-reading Ball Four, the book that turned the sanctity of “The Church of Baseball,” as Annie Savoy says in Bull Durham, onto its ear and outraged Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn (among others) when former Yankee star Jim Bouton wrote it in 1970. I first read this book when I was 11. It holds a place in my heart not only because it is one of the best baseball books ever written, but also because it was the first adult-content book (as in, not written for kids) my parents let me read.

When he wrote the book, Bouton was a knuckleball pitcher trying to hang on with the expansion Seattle Pilots, a team that lasted one season before moving east to become the Milwaukee Brewers. A sharply intelligent rabble-rouser who once possessed a demon of a fastball, Bouton had a penchant for stirring up the dust with players and management, and finding humor in everything. Did he ever: Ball Four peels the cover off life in the locker room, bullpen, between the lines, and everywhere else. Example: Bouton tells how Baltimore pitcher Moe Drabowsky, a comedic hit in anyone’s book, was bored one day in the bullpen. So he picked up a direct-line phone, somehow connected with a restaurant in Hong Kong, and ordered dinner. To go.

On the more serious side, Bouton’s exposure of the draconian way owners negotiated player contracts fueld the inception of free agency, which happened a few years later.

Imagine 300 pages of these stories. Apparently, a few did. Ball Four remains the top-selling sports book of all time, with more than 6 million copies sold to date.

When Ball Four came out, I was an 11-year-old baseball fanatic. I followed the box scores, memorized stats … obsessed. So for me, it has been a great ride to bring back into my life names I haven’t heard in 40 years – Jack Aker, Marty Pattin, Gene Brabender, Brant Alyea, Mike Epstein, Vic Davalillo, Roger Repoz, John Kennedy, Frank Howard, Don Mincher.

If you’re a baseball fan of a certain age, close out your summer with a re-read of this diamond classic.

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