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Harlem's Jack G. Young writes to "fulfill a dream"


July 25, 2018

Jack G. Young, a Harlem High social studies teacher, is shown revising notes for a third novel he is now beginning to write. Young's first novel, "Down Range," came out the end of June and a second novel should be available soon. Young has always enjoyed reading and began writing short stories, as a child, based on characters from his father's comic book collection.

Harlem High social studies teacher Jack G. Young, now a recently published novelist, said he's always loved to write, even as a kid when he would write "little stories with the characters from my dad's comic book collection: Spider-man, Daredevil, The Hulk, Wolverine, etc." A major motivation to do a novel was so he could honor the memory of his former students who died young. He explained, "This venture into writing is as much honoring them as well as fulfilling a dream of mine."

Young grew up in Colstrip, graduating high school in 1995. He went into the Army from high school training and serving as a crewmember on an M1A1 Abrams tank stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Noting he did about everything on the tank, he spent the last two years as a gunner. Back in Colstrip after leaving the Army and planned to start college. Instead he spent a couple of years working in the coal lab at the Colstrip facility, a job he didn't intend to do forever.

He met his wife, Angie, who had just completed college and accepted a teaching job in Dodson. After moving to Harlem, Angie's hometown, Jack enrolled at MSU-Northern and began work on a degree in elementary education. He soon changed to secondary ed and in the middle of the 2005-2006 school year began working in the Harlem schools as a paraprofessional and junior high social studies teacher. He's taught high school social studies since 2008. Angie now teaches at Harlem Elementary. The Young's have two children still in school.

Four years ago Jack G. Young decided to write a novel

Four years ago, after wondering for a long time if he really could write a novel, Young said, "I decided to do it." The novel, titled "Down Range," has two main characters who were in the military together 20 years prior to the setting of the book. Asked if the book is autobiographical, Young explained, "Many veterans will tell you there is a bond or brotherhood among them." He used that bond that he experienced with his tank crew to explain why his two characters are still close after 20 years. As to the personal aspects of the novel, the author wrote, "Mike (a main character in the novel who is also a school teacher) and some aspects on life as a tanker are pretty much the only autobiographical things in "Down Range.""

Young wrote the first draft of "Down Range" in long hand, filling up about two and a half "of those black composition notebooks we had in school." He started writing June 1, 2016 and had the first draft completed by July 23. He acquired a laptop computer and had another draft completed, with several rewrites, by September 8. He's a disciplined writer waking up early, during workdays or off days, and each session is "no less than 1,200 words."

He said that as a teacher he writes objectives he intends to meet on a topic, then outlines the details for each unit and individual lesson. He reached out to several well known authors and asked them about outlining and planning their work. From their comments he put together his own approach, and noted, "I outline my writing." A theme he mentioned several times was, "Good writing means lots of rewriting." "I do an outline," he added, "then write a draft, do a rewrite to that draft and set the work aside for a time."

And what does he do when he sets a draft aside? He wrote, "I set it (the first novel) aside for a couple of months and wrote another book." The second novel is in the process of being published and, you guessed it, he's already working on an outline for a third novel. Young made an understatement when he noted, "The creative juices seem to be flowing just now."

Publishing and sales were the next steps after the writing was done

Jack Young wrote, "I've sent dozens of letter/emails to agencies and publishers to no avail." Some self-publishing companies contacted him but they wanted a lot of money that Young said he didn't really have. Reading a downloaded book on a Kindle he saw several pop up ads for ebooks. He learned that many of those ebooks were self-published through Amazon and the CreateSpace website.

An old neighbor and classmate from Colstrip had recently self-published a book using CreateSpace. She encouraged Young to try the program. He said it took him a while to figure out the formatting and how to put the various parts of a book together, but by late June he had "Down Range" ready to sell. Asked how the book is being received, he said, "Family and friends are excited for me and the book. Several have read it and enjoyed it." His wife read an earlier draft in "a few short hours."

Young, a movie fan, uses lots of quotes and descriptions of scenes from movies when explaining about his writing. Referring to the scene in the movie "Funny Farm" where Chevy Chase's wife reads the draft of his novel and hates it, Young said, "My wife Angie enjoyed it she said. That was the best validation so far." The book is so recently available that he really hasn't had much opportunity to promote it. Young said, "I think 40 books have been sold so far between online sales and the seven last week (at the Harlem Library event). That might not seem like a lot, but really it's 39 more than I hoped would sell."

Challenges and rewards of writing

The biggest challenge, this new author shared, is to write every day. Despite the obligations of a young family, teaching and other community activities, Young said he gets up early everyday and to acheive the goal of a word count each day. He added, "When I'm not writing, I'm usually thinking about it, so if you ever catch me spacing out that's what I'm doing."

Describing what he finds rewarding about writing, he noted, "Telling a great story. I hope I did that because I love a good story." And about writing, he said, "I'm going to steal a line from Harlan Coben (a thriller/mystery writer with 70 million books in print) who stole it from someone else: "I love having written." Young added, "When I've put together a draft I feel accomplished."

You can order a copy of "Down Range" in paperback and/or ebook from Amazon and paperback from Barnes and Noble. In addition to the book signing during Harlem Library's Community Appreciation event a couple of weeks ago, Young will be personally appearing at other community events including an upcoming one at Aaniiih Nakoda College at Fort Belknap. The "Journal" congratulates Jack G. Young on the publishing of "Down Range" and wishes him well on future novels he has already completed, begun writing or is contemplating.


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