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

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Writing Structure

Telling a great story was the topic of a workshop given recently by writer/instructor Julie  Castillo. For new writers the workshop covered some of the basics of structure. For writers already familiar with these concepts, it was a good refresher. I actually made notes to check different portions in some of my current works to see if they were meeting some of the criteria discussed.

When asking new writers if they have a clear idea of their main character, most raise their hands, she said. The same with their setting and dialogue, but when asked about structure, few hands go up. Having been a fourteen-year veteran of the publishing and film industries, Castillo loves to talk about structure and she made the presentation fun.

She began with the three-act structure is the most basic. Act I is life as normal with the set up to a problem that leads to a crisis and a call to action. Act II is transitional. It focuses on attempt to solve the problem with complications and conflict. This is a learning curve leading up to the main character finally realizing what is necessary to solve the problem. In Act III (the resolution) the main character takes action, solves the problem and usually is changed. Life returns to normal, or at least a new normal.

“All good stories have conflict,” she said. Two important questions: What does your main character want? What is in the way? The answers to these create tension and suspense. 

Discussing the 12 steps of Joseph Campbell’s the Heroes Journey, she added that “All great stories have a mythical feel to them.” She gave examples of these various structures in books and movies such as Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

Castillo is a co-writer of two novels and thirteen nonfiction books—including two New York Times bestsellers, biographer for Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura and chronicler of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!  She has taught creative writing and publishing  classes at local community colleges since 2007. Currently Carroll Community, Hagerstown Community and Montgomery colleges have classes scheduled.

She can be reached at and is on Facebook and Twitter as "Julie Castillo."
The Carroll County Chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association sponsored this workshop. For more information about the state organization check out or for the Carroll County branch, you can contact Jack Downs, (443) 413-3688, email or check out