Monday, May 21, 2012

Gaithersburg Book Festival

It was a wonderful Saturday in May. The sun was shining and I was surrounded by readers, writers, and their books My mother, two friends and I went to the Gaithersburg Book Festival, where we met with writers and small publishers, purchased books, ate and listened to writers speak.

The festival had tents for various genres, named after famous authors. Speakers and panel presentations were scheduled throughout the day in the pavilions. Among them was Jim Lehrer in the H. L. Mencken pavilion, Mary Downing Hahn in the Willa Cather Children’s/Young Adult pavilion, Larry Doyle (novelist and former writer for The Simpsons) in the Gertrude Stein Mixed Genre pavilion, Brad Parks in the Dashiell Hammett Mystery pavilion, and Dolly Yates in Rachel Carson Special Interest pavilion. So many other writers in these and other pavilions such as Edgar Allan Poe Fiction, F. Scott Fitzgerald Fiction, and James Michener Non-Fiction.
Betsy Riley and me at the Gaithersburg
Book Festival

What an opportunity to hear from some of your favorite writers and hear from others that peak your interest. Besides books I bought there, I now am going to look for books by writers I didn’t know about before this festival.

The Children’s Village included books, workshops and games for kids, an Imagination Station, a Jim Henson tent and even a pony. Edibles included crab cakes, hot dogs, pizza and wraps, as well as fruit, pastries and, my favorite, ice cream.

There was music and poetry readings at the Ogden Nash Coffee House. So much was going on, I didn’t realize until the next day, that there were areas I missed. I should have studied my program and map in more detail. I didn’t have time to attend any of the workshops and didn’t even get near the celebrity stage.

I noticed that at least six of the author pavilion names had some connection with Maryland, H. L. Mencken, Jim Henson, James Michener, Edgar Allan Poe, Dashiell Hammett, F. Scott Fitzgerald.  My curiosity was aroused, and I did some quick online research. I learned that Gertrude Stein and Rachel Carson also lived in Maryland for a period of time. I don’t know about Willa Cather, but did discover that she taught in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Since I am a member of the Maryland Writer’s Association, I helped Betsy Riley and Tia Silverthorne Bach at the Writer’s Association booth that included information about the organization and a number of books by member authors.  It was fun to talk to fellow writers and readers.

Betsy Riley chats about books at the CCMWA booth
This was only the third festival in Gaithersburg, Maryland, yet overall it seemed well-organized and offered a wide variety of activities for children and adults, locals and visitors. This was my first visit to Gaithersburg and I was impressed.

The volunteers at the festival were a friendly and helpful group, including those on the street giving directions, a gentleman at the handicapped parking lot, who showed us a shortcut into the festival, those at the information booth who answer our questions and one who moved chairs so I could push my mother’s wheelchair past a crowded area. Even near the end of a warm day, volunteers and sponsors were pleasant. We appreciate what you do.

Also the sponsors deserve recognition for supporting this type of event. Check them out on the festival website,  and think about going next year.I had studied the website briefly, but obviously not in enough detail and once at the festival I was too busy talking and looking around to spend time reading the program. I plan to go and spend much more time there next year and I will be better prepared.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mountain Musings

Well, it is out. I just had a chapbook published. Mountain Musings is just a short collection of poetry and prose inspired while I lived on Backbone Mountain, near Oakland, Maryland.

As a journalist, I traveled throughout the area, constantly amazed by its beauty. Seeing the water of Deep Creek Lake made going to work each day enjoyable, especially with a stop for chai tea at Trader’s Coffee Shop.

Driving around those winding roads seemed to offer adventure and amazement, down to the whitewater of Friendsville or the river and arboretum of Kitzmiller or over to Grantsville for history: downtown, at Penn Alps or Spruce Forest. The Oakland, Deer Park, Mountain Lake Park area was my home base and I found plenty to see and do. One day I might write a book about the area as seen through the eyes of a reporter.

Even now, I breathe a little easier as I cross Sideling Hill and my pulse quickens as I turn on to Route 219 in Garrett County. Right now, I again am a tourist, striving to share the beauty of the mountains.

I want to thank Betsy Riley, who helped edit, design and publish this book through Blue Dragon Press. She has so much knowledge, talent and creativity, plus the energy to use it. She also is a writer and artist.

I dedicated the book to Elizabeth Robertson Houck. Betty and I met in 7th grade and remained friends throughout high school, both writing for the school newspaper The Owl. We attended different colleges, but stayed in touch. Later we were in each other’s weddings, spoiled each other’s children and were there during  the rough times. We still enjoy doing things together.

She visited me often in the mountains and enjoyed the parks, lakes, festivals and people. Betty always encouraged my writing, even when I doubted my abilities. In recent years she has been my main reader/proofer/critiquer. I appreciate all she has done for me and realize that my writing is better because of her input.

I included my mother in the dedication since she likes to do so many things with me. She turns 89 next month. She loves life and people. A picture I have of her at 86 years old, laughing, with the wind in her hair, as she enjoys a boat ride around Deep Creek Lake, captures her adventurous spirit. She’s a little slower now, but still ready to go anywhere.

 I was lucky to have such wonderful parents, (Joe and Agnes Farinholt) who taught me responsibility and the need to work hard, but also the necessity of having fun. I hope this light spirit, plus the appreciation for beauty and life, come through in this book. It is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ideas for stories

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question often asked of writers. It may not be as easy as some say, but ideas are all around us.

As a reporter, I had my beat, the Board of Education and the County Commissioners. Besides other important news from local towns and large events, etc., I had to generate my own ideas for articles. Sometimes my editor would call and tell me about a press release she received about a small fundraiser and ask me to look into it, see if it was interesting enough for a larger article.

I learned to look for these types of events myself. Of course, I covered fires, large court cases and accidents, but saw that people’s lives revolved around so much more. There were charity events, special church services, art displays, historical programs and new or expanding businesses in the area. Opportunities to learn and then to share those experiences with others was exhilarating.

The same principle applies to fiction. Events you experience, what you read or watch may be developed into stories. Some ideas may be limited and not be large enough for a book, but could become part of one.
Example: A young girl licking her lollypop becomes angry with her little brother and plunks the sticky lollypop in his hair. Perhaps when you see this you think that is something one of your characters would do.

The idea for a short story titled Together, came from a newspaper article I read years ago about a couple killed together after a truck hit them. The accident happened in Garrett County, I think along a mountain near Friendsville. The article mentioned how they often they did things together. The sad event also struck me as being a little romantic and stayed in my memory, although I forgot the names and ages of the couple and other details. Years later, I based my short story, published in Garrett County’s literary magazine Ginseng, on that memory.

I recently watched a few episodes of a television program called “Murder By The Book.” Famous mystery writers speak briefly about murders that captured their attention. During the show the mentioned murder and investigation that followed are reenacted. I don’t doubt that major events followed on the news or even discussed among friends can lead to an idea for a best-selling book.

The ideas are there. You just have to look for them and develop them your way.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stories Recently Published

Stories Recently Published

Most writers love to see their name in print and I am no exception.  I may have spent a good portion of my life writing for newspapers, magazines, etc. and had my name in print numerous times, but that thrill doesn’t get old.

My first newspaper article, the first feature, the first page one article were all highlights in my career, along with some award along the way. The first published poem and magazine articles  also caused my heart to beat faster.  I would rather see my name as the writer than be mentioned in a story.

Last month, I had the opportunity to enjoy this feeling again, twice. My short story, “Together,” was accepted for publication in Ginseng, the literary publication of the Garrett County Arts Council. That same month I had three items published in That One Left Shoe anthology, which has been selling well on I share space in both publications with members of my writing groups. In Garrett County, the piece was critiqued by members of the Wednesday Writer’s Guild and in Carroll County, by members of the Eldersburg Critique Group.

Profits from the anthology, which was published by Blue Dragon Press, will benefit the Carroll County chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association. Betsy Riley donated her time and expertise to edit and prepare That One Left Shoe for publication. Check it out online. The red shoe on the cover really catches the eyes. Also, I now have an author page there. Just click on my picture.

Publications such as these give writers an opportunity to showcase their work and to experiment in different genres. I am proud to have been included in each of these. Congratulations to my fellow writers whose works are included in these collections.                                                 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Renaissance Man, John Grant

I lost a friend recently. John Grant of Oakland, Maryland. I wanted to write about him then, but we had illness and injury affecting this household for more than a month. Many things suffered, including this blog.

I thought of John Grant  as a modern day Renaissance man. He was a writer, historian, musician, Episcopalian pastor, volunteer fireman, civil engineer with the B&O railroad, World War II veteran, and so much more.
John Grant in front of his home

I met him when my son took bagpipe lessons with the local pipe band . He was Pipe sergeant with the Garrett College Pipes and Drums (now Garrett Highlands Pipes and Drums). His friend Fred Thayer, Pipe Major, started the band with Chip Evans. John was a member of their first class and stayed with the band. I had a dream (shades of Star Wars) that John, Fred and Chip were standing on a mountaintop, watching today’s pipes and drums marching by.

John was named Clan Chieftain of the McHenry Highland Festival in 2005. Besides playing with the host band, he was a member of the McHenry Highland Festival Board of Directors for a period of time, gave workshops about bagpipes at the festival and also appeared on a segment of MPT to discuss the festival and bagpipe music in Garrett County. After leading the Autumn Glory parade, John and his wife welcomed band members to their home to watch the rest of the parade in comfort. Many others would stop by that day, including politicians, to have a word with the Grants.
Bagpipe band leaders Fred Thayer, John Grant, Jerry McGee

As a reporter, I learned to appreciate John’s talents and knowledge. I consulted him about historical information and quoted him often. He was a man of many interests:  teaching and writing about local history, leading walks to Maryland’s highest point (which is located in Garrett County), helping with charitable efforts and was active in many community organizations.

He published a book and wrote numerous articles for the historical society’s publication, The Glades Star. He taught classes at Garrett College and never tired of sharing his knowledge and interests with others.

He was a kind man, a man who made the world and people’s lives better. He and Jean always made me feel welcome.  I am sure there are many who can say the same thing.

While writing this I came across a quote by Alex Haley that sums up some of how I feel about the loss of John Grant. “Every death is like the burning of a library.” He made the world a better place. We lost a lot when we lost him. He will not be forgotten.