I’m not Amish.
Or a wanna-be Amish.
I’m not even an ex-Amish.
I attended a Mennonite college
for four years, but I’m not Mennonite. I grew up in Japan, but I’m not
Japanese. I’ve lived twenty-four years in Durham, North Carolina, I eat
grits and make my own sweet tea, but I’m not a real Southerner.
I’m an outsider. I know what
it’s like to look into cultures and subcultures from the outside.
When I thought of the Amish I
was reminded of delicacies like shoofly pie and apple butter. Lovely
handmade quilts displayed in souvenir shops mesmerized me. Horse-drawn
buggies drew me into a land that time seemed to have forgotten. Even
so, the culture held an eerie feel to me each time I visited Lancaster
County with my college friends.
What were these people hiding?
I gave the Amish a rest for some
time until one night, my husband turned on the TV. The documentary he
flipped to brought me face-to-face with Mose Gingerich, an ex-Amish
man. Mose isn’t just any ex-Amish; he assists other Amish who had left
their farmland communities. I grabbed my pen and paper off my bedside
table (every author keeps at least a few pads and pens by her bed for
when she’s woken with those awesome plots, right?). I took notes. By
the time the program ended, I had a story idea. This would not be a
bonnet tale sprinkled with German dialect; this would be a story of
leaving the Amish. My character, Gideon Miller, would help dissatisfied
Amish youth relocate to the mountains of North Carolina (my previous
novels take place in North Carolina; I can’t help it, I’m endeared to
I wrote of abuse and struggles
my Gideon dealt with growing up in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I knew I was
going against the trend. Certainly, others—even authors in my own
writing groups—would scold me for not depicting this peace-loving
religion as gentle as the rolling hills of Lancaster County. I might be
shunned from publication ever again.
was willing to take the risk. Another side—a realistic side—needed to
be told. I wanted to present a new angle to those hundreds of popular
tales of bonnets and black hats. And
part of me was angry that while
claiming to believe the Bible, Amish told their children that leaving
their hats and suspenders meant riding the buggy into the depths of
hell. (I get angry when the gospel is falsely represented.)
My agent embraced my story. As
he sent it to various publishers, he conveyed that a few felt it was a
bit risky, since it was not the norm for an Amish tale. But all I
needed was one publisher to want it. And one day last fall, Moody
Publishers/River North wanted it.
Perhaps you’re like me, wanting
to write something different from the norm. Maybe God has placed a
story on your heart that you are compelled to create. You try to steer
from it, yet it keeps tugging at your pen. Your story will not let you
Go for it! If we can’t write
what we are passionate about, why write at all? Tell a good story,
polish it to the best of your ability, and see where it lands. God is
in the different, just as He is in the ordinary. As you seek Him and
ask Him to guide you, He just might lead you to go against the trend.