Wayne Page is a Cincinnati screenplay writer and writing instructor. He grew up in Clinton County and is looking forward to being a featured author at the Fayette County Toast to Summer event June 25.
Page teaches a creative writing course at the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute, an educational program in partnership with the University of Cincinnati that offers continuing education for adults.
“It keeps the old people off the street,” said the 67-year-old Lees Creek native.
“I have taken a number of creative writing classes and now I am teaching one,” said Page.
He said the writing class is basically “a support group” of writers who get together to offer each other their unique perspectives on writing.
“I love it. You get these creative juices flowing from 12 people. The assignment is that every week you bring a story. We limit it to 300 words. Everybody writes their story, and we usually give a prompt,” said Page.
For one prompt, the assignment was to look at a Norman Rockwell painting and write a short story about what was happening in the painting. For another prompt the inspiration was to pick a Beatles song and write a story that related to the song in some way, said Page. He said the song he chose was “Back in the U.S.S.R.”
Page likes stories. The first one he wrote began on a 3×5 index card 25 years ago.
“I was remembering one of my mom’s home movies of a crop dusting airplane crop dusting our farm in Clinton County, around Lees Creek. We have home movies of a crop duster swooping down on the farm. That airplane on our farm buzzing our crops when you’re 5-years-old, there is this attraction,” said Page.
Page continued to develop the story over the years, writing ideas and small scenes on the index cards he kept in a box in the closet.
Eventually he took that box out of the closet and started drafting a screenplay. It took him two years to write the screenplay. He says the screenplay isn’t going to be up on the big screen anytime soon.
“My agent said, the odds of me seeing anything I’ve written on the big screen are between nil and none. And she’s being optimistic,” said Page.
Page said writing screenplays constricts the stories.
“In a screenplay if you describe things too much, now you’re doing the cinematographer or director’s job, and they don’t like that. They like to imagine what the shots are going to look like,” said Page.
Undeterred, Page took his screenplay and began writing it into a novel-length book. That’s about the same time he began studying writing and screenplay, going to continuing education classes, learning about dialogue, and finding professionals to help edit the drafts.
“It’s a self-published book. I had 20 librarians and school teachers and all kinds of people edit it,” said Page.
The book’s title is Barnstorm. The story is set at the municipal airport in Clinton County.
“The basic story is that there’s a handyman at a small airstrip. He’s a handyman, he’s awkward, and he’s clumsy, and he wants to be a pilot. And he lives in a hangar in the bunk room at this small little airstrip and he wants to be a pilot. The biggest thing getting in his way is that he is afraid of heights,” said Page.
Page said the book is a belated “coming-of-age” story about a 28-year-old trying to find his way in life.
“Trip is the main character’s name,” said Page. “He works on stearman bi-planes.”
Page said these airplanes were the “trainer airplanes” that were used to train the U.S. Army Air Corp in the 1940s. Those trainer airplanes would have had the trainee in the front and the instructor pilot in the back, said Page.
“It was like flying a refrigerator with its door open,” said Page.
Trip works in the hangar where there are three of these “old dilapidated planes,” said Page. Buzz is the name of the man who owns these planes and the hangar that they are stored in.
“He hasn’t found the time to rehab the planes and there’s a cafe in the hangar where liar-flyers, who flew in WWII, hang out and recreate the past,” said Page.
Liar-flyers liked to tell tall-tales of themselves during the war, and, according to Page, he got the idea for the cafe in the story from the experiences he had as a child going into the Leslie Brothers general store in Lees Creek.
“There were two brothers that have this general store and in the back there was this potbelly stove, and around the stove are benches. That’s where old retired farmers and others went to go to shoot the breeze and you would lie,” said Page.
“Today people have Snapchat, Facebook, twitter, and you lie, but in my day, you had Leslie Brothers. You settle up when you leave the store. At this cafe these liar-flyers hanging around causing turmoil and mayhem are ex-pilots, has-beens, but they really have-been because they really did fight and fly in WWII. It’s hard to relate how many of them are actually true,” said Page.
Page grew up in Clinton County and graduated in 1966 from East Clinton.
“I was in the first graduating class from East Clinton. It was a consolidation of bunches of schools,” said Page.
He then went to college at Ohio State.
“I graduated in 1970 as a business major in economics. I was draft number 13 for Vietnam. They had a lottery, and it’s the only lottery I have ever won. I enlisted in the Air Force,” said Page.
Page graduated with distinction from the Air Force Officer Candidate School, but was the only one who wasn’t going to be a pilot.
“Even though I have glasses and I would not qualify to be a pilot or navigator, I still took the test. I flew the entire test upside down,” said Page.
He said he made one mistake at the start and never realized he was flying the exam upside down.
“I was in the reserves in Clinton County Air Force Base and in Columbus in Rickenbacker,” said Page.
He said he remembers flying in an early C-119 “flying boxcar” cargo airplane in 1971 and 1972.
“I had to put on the parachute to fly from Wilmington to Columbus,” said Page. “It was the only airplane in the Air Force inventory that required passengers to wear a parachute. Not carry one—wear it. The joke was the flying boxcar was held together by baling wire. This is a real confidence-builder, if you can imagine.”
Page spent five years in the Air Force and then transitioned into a different career.
“I have a business career, most of it was in human resources, companies like Trans-America. As the chief human resource officer I was in charge of hiring, firing, compensation, benefits, education, training,” said Page.
Page said his book, Barnstorm, is about more than just flying airplanes. He said it’s also a story about finding oneself.
Trip eventually parachute drops onto Gerty Murphy’s Ohio farm and he gets stranded there. When he begins to think maybe he should really give up, the story becomes fun and uplifting.
“She [Gerty Murphy] is trying to save her farm from a greedy banker,” said Page. “A good part of the story is him working on the farm and trying to save the farm. This is where under her leadership and mentorship he becomes less awkward and kind of finds himself.”
And this is where Trip learns one life’s lessons.
“You shouldn’t give up. There comes a point, where if you bang your head against the wall so many times, maybe you oughta do something that you have a higher probability of success doing so there’s a balance between a dream being a dream and it being unrealistic,” said Page.
Page will have copies of Barnstorm at the author’s tent at the Toast to Summer event June 25. Page’s website has more information on the book and Page himself: http://www.barnstormbook.com/
Books can be purchased online from Page’s website, Amazon, or from barnesandnoble.com.
Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0356 or on Twitter @ashbunton.