Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ex-Amish: Why?

"Out here in the world, you leave the Amish, you are on your own," says Mose Gingerich, an ex-Amish man who left his home in Wisconsin for Columbia, Missouri. Now he helps youth leave their sheltered communities, calling himself an Ex-Amish Underground Railroad. He says the young men and women leave their Amish communities for a variety of reasons, some due to wanting more religious freedom, others wanting to further their education beyond the standard Amish eighth grade level.

Mose takes care of the young adults who leave, letting them stay with him and work for his construction business. He knows it isn't easy starting a life outside of the confines of the tight-knit Amish Old Order life. In the modern world, drivers' licenses are needed and since the majority of the Amish have no birth certificates or social security numbers, obtaining the necessary papers take time.

Mose supports the youth and cares for them, giving them advice about staying off of drugs and alcohol. Although far from his birth place, he has not left what he's learned from his Amish roots about helping those in need.

Much to his sorrow, Mose is not recognized by his parents in Wisconsin as their son. When he does go home to visit, he's told that he will only be accepted again if he plans to stay. He asks, "How can you turn the love switch on and off just like that?" His family thinks he's doomed for hell due to the decision he made seven years ago to leave his Amish lifestyle.

Mose's story fascinates me. I've seen his National Geographic documentaries on TV and plan to watch the upcoming ones. He is the inspiration for my new novel, Still Life in Shadows, due out August 1 from River North. In my story, Gideon Miller is known as the Getaway Savior, helping escapees leave the Amish lifestyle. Gideon's reason for leaving his own Amish home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania was due to his abusive father. He held questions then and continues to wonder about his faith and yes, feels he's headed to hell. Yet he misses parts of being Amish and is nostalgic, especially during the harvest season.

My hope is that readers will see the struggle Amish face instead of the unrealistic view many choose to hold of the plain people. The Amish are human and deal with suicide, alcohol, abuse, and bigotry, just as the outside world does. And their need for redemption and forgiveness is just as strong as it is for the most evil of men.

As my character Gideon asks, "Did you know that the Amish look down on those who do not dress or live as they do?" Later he claims they are close-minded.

Gideon shares what he believes to be true. "Jesus say to love everyone. He even said to think of others more highly than we think of ourselves. I don't see that in the Old Order communities at all."

Of course, Mari, the waitress he is talking to, can't believe this. She believes the Amish are the epitome of perfection and wholesomeness. Much like the rest of America does.

Still Life in Shadows is a novel about the ex-Amish, but it is mostly about yearning to belong, something each of us desires in our own way.

For further understanding of those who leave the Amish life, view the National Geographic videos about the Ex-Amish lifestyles.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

John 3:16 Blog Hop Event

Fifty of us from the John 3:16 online network will be having a blog hop. This blog hop will be from May 7th to May 14th. What will you do? Go to the various author blogs, leave comments, and enter to win lots of giveaways. The grand prizes include two Kindles. I'll be giving away some of my novels and cards, so stay tuned! Sign up for the blog hop here.

Another opportunity--All-day Writing Workshop!

So excited to announce another all-day writing workshop in Raleigh, NC. Journey through Life's Losses will be a workshop for those wanting to discover the value of writing through life's sorrows. Along with writing from photos, writing letters and poems, this workshop will have an emphasis on memoir-writing. We'll meet at the Hampton Inn in Raleigh, NC from 8:30 AM till 4 PM on June 16th. Secure your spot now. After April 20th, the price increases. Head over to my website for all the details.

I have some good news! There is a scholarship available. The Katelyn Fund will provide a scholarship to one participant. Email Alice to see how to apply for this scholarship:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Still Life in Shadows---a novel without a bonnet

I heard about your new novel. And judging by the cover that has a buggy on it, I bet I know where it takes place. Lancaster, Pennsylvania? Holmes County, Ohio? Yes, I'm concluding that your next novel must be an Amish tale. The plain life?

Actually, Still Life in Shadows is not an Amish story. Gideon Miller has left the Old Order lifestyle. Although it's been fifteen years since he ran away from home the night of his cousin's wedding in East Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he still eats apple butter. He isn't sure about his faith. Or his father. He helps dissatisfied Amish youth relocate to the "English" life.

Perhaps, Still Life in Shadows is more Amish than I thought.

I started out with an agenda. I was a bit put off by the love for Amish lore. Come on, why all this simple farm life idealism? You do know that not all Amish are happy. They have issues and troubles and face family turmoil.

But then Gideon Miller took over. After all, this is his story, not mine. Gideon is a thirty-year-old trying to make life in Twin Branches, North Carolina, work for him.

All is going well with his job as a mechanic at the auto shop, until his younger brother Moriah comes to town. Moriah is good-looking and has a way with the ladies . . .

Told from Gideon's point of view, and thirteen-year-old Kiki's (an autistic girl who lives with her older sister), Still Life in Shadows is a story of belonging. It's also a story about forgiving---especially yourself.

Here's an excerpt from the novel:

Kiki was not only good at holding her breath, but she could also read upside down pretty well. The name on the file was hers. She bet that if she looked inside, it would have in large, mean letters: Retard.

But she was not a retard, she was autistic. That’s what Dr. Conner said. And it wasn’t bad to be autistic. That’s what he told her whenever she shouted how she hated being this way. Being autistic just meant she was unique. The key was learning how to adapt to her uniqueness and make it work in a complex world. Complex.

Suddenly Kiki wanted to ask the principal if he knew what that word meant. She looked across the desk at him as he continued burrowing through her file.

But before she had a chance to speak, he asked, “Did you get into trouble at your school in Asheville?”

She wanted to say, “No way!” but she knew that was a lie. In fact, in all her thirteen years, she couldn’t recall ever not being in trouble. But she wouldn’t tell him that. She opened her mouth to say something—she wasn’t sure what would come out. But just then the door scraped open and in walked the man from the auto shop, wearing his work clothes and smelling of the identical aftershave her social studies teacher wore.

“This is Mr. Miller.” The VP motioned the newcomer toward the chair by Kiki and then closed the door.

Look forward to Still Life in Shadows, coming in August from River North.