Monday, November 11, 2013

Listening to Authors

Several Maryland writers have been speaking recently at area libraries and colleges about writing and publication.  It is interesting to hear authors talk about their inspirations and writing process.

Doug Norton, author of Code Word: Paternity, A Presidential Thriller, discussed his journey in self-publishing.  As a naval officer throughout most of the cold war, he had personal experience with nuclear weapons, both as objects of diplomacy and politics and as objects under his command responsibility--antisubmarine missiles that he might have to launch under cataclysmic circumstances. After his retirement, Norton began to record scenery, how people spoke and reacted, and began to think about actions and gray-area decisions made during his career.

He felt the book Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable did not receive enough attention. That 2004 book by Harvard scholar Graham Allison explained that terrorists had been trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Because of his own experience, he felt this idea was important. After taking a writing course, he made the decision to write about a fictional President and what it would cost him to do his duty if terrorists gained control of a nuclear submarine.

Although originally he sought traditional publication, he realized it would be several years before his book would appear on shelves. Since some of the information was time-sensitive, he decided to self-publish. This requires a lot of research for editing, book design, etc., followed by marketing. Self-promotion is not easy and takes time away from writing his second book, which tentatively will be published traditionally.

Another speaker, Jack Downs, president of the Carroll County branch of Maryland Writers’ Association, spoke about creating the short story and how this tight, focused style helped him write his novels.
Downs is author of Buried Treasure,  about how the disappearance of a baby in a quiet neighborhood affects the lives of his two older brothers and other family members.  CATTAILS, the Edenmist Affair, will be released soon. Part of a romantic, suspense series, it will be followed by Hermes Project.

Downs discussed where ideas come from, breathing life into characters, creating conflict and providing the appropriate setting for your story. Many of the same procedures used in writing short stories also apply when writing a novel. Downs recommended reading your story aloud when it was finished to feel for flow and discover problem areas. He also suggested running the spelling and grammar review on your computer program and joining a critique group to get feedback from other writers.

B. Morrison, author of Innocent, Confessions of a Welfare Mother, talked about creative nonfiction, described by Lee Gutkind as “true stories well told.” The key factor is that the story is true. Romance writer Pamela Morsi spoke last month at the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library. Her main character in the recently published Love Overdue is a librarian. Morsi’s characters are well developed. It is easy to picture the scenery and be drawn into the life of this small Kansas town and its inhabitants. 

Besides local authors, also featured recently in the Carroll County area have been Wally Lamb, Taylor Branch and John Searles. It is wonderful to be able to hear from so many writers thanks to the Carroll County Public Library, McDaniel College and the Carroll County Arts Center.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Soaring in body and spirit

The sky’s so perfectly clear
As over the world we fly.
We can see both far and near
While creatures of the sky.

We can look down on rivers and streams
Carving through the land;
Watching the water flow along
Until stopped by a man-made dam.

We can see the roads and the houses,
The farmlands and the towns,
The lights of the city, sparkling like jewels
Along the contours of the ground.

Then approaching the runway,
stepping foot again on the land,
We leave the world of the gods
And return to the world of man.

I wrote this poem years ago, combining my love of flying and poetry.

The above poem was dedicated to my father, Joseph Farinholt, who flew small airplanes (I even remember a cloth-covered one) from Westminster airport and took me up. Years later he and my Uncle Oliver Farinholt cleared property for a runway and started Clearview Airport.

When my uncle died, my aunt Martha wanted to keep the airport running and even had a small restaurant in the terminal Building. I went over some weekends to help flip burgers. If some of these men can learn to fly an airplane, so can I.

You might ask, except for the inspiration for a poem, what does this have to do with writing. Just be patient, there is more and I will keep it brief.

My lessons began in a Cessna 150 with instructor Billy Joe Mathis. After receiving my license, I also flew a Cessna 172 and a Cherokee 140, taking several of my friends for their first airplane ride. Exciting and frightening, this was just a challenge to me. I hadn’t thought of aviation as a career, but to prove to myself that I could do it. My aunt also took lessons and received her license. Maryland Cup Corporation, where we worked, ran my picture and a short article in the company newsletter about the flying Farinholts.

Because of my experience flying and hanging around airports, I was able to land a freelance job writing for an aviation magazine, Pilot’s Preflight, unfortunately now out of print. (I still have my old copies). I wrote some features (such as Bill Kennedy and Fly-in Ski resorts), plus a monthly regional column, Baltimore North, writing what I knew and learning more.

It was a wonderful time, flying to different airports, meeting all types of pilots and getting free rides in a wide variety of aircraft. Plus I was getting paid for it and now I have plenty of material for my memoirs. Although I don’t fly by myself anymore, whenever I hear an airplane my eyes go heavenward. I still have my log book and other mementoes of that exciting time.

I found the following quote and poem on, that express some of how I felt as I traveled through the heavens.

Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away. — Carl Sandburg, 'Poetry Considered.'

Impressions of a Pilot

Flight is freedom in its purest form,
To dance with the clouds which follow a storm;
To roll and glide, to wheel and spin,
To feel the joy that swells within;
To leave the earth with its troubles and fly,
And know the warmth of a clear spring sky;
Then back to earth at the end of a day,
Released from the tensions which melted away.
Should my end come while I am in flight,
Whether brightest day or darkest night;
Spare me your pity and shrug off the pain,
Secure in the knowledge that I'd do it again;
For each of us is created to die,
And within me I know,
I was born to fly.
— Gary Claud Stokor