Cynthia Ruchti

Cynthia Ruchti is the current president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Her debut novel, They Almost Always Come Home releases from Abingdon Press in May 2010. Her novella, The Heart’s Harbor, is part of the Christmas collection, A Door County Christmas, releasing in the fall of 2010 from Barbour Publishing. Cynthia writes and produces “The Heartbeat of the Home,” a scripted radio drama/devotional broadcast that airs on 16 radio stations and two cable/digital television stations. Cynthia is the editor of the ministry’s Backyard Friends magazine and writes a monthly column for Wisconsin Christian News and ACFW’s Afictionado ezine. She is the assistant director and a faculty member of the Quad Cities Christian Writers Conference. She writes stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark. Visit Cynthia at or

The Art Of Snobservation

I’m a writer. That explains everything: Why I wear a bib to catch the drool whether I’m shopping in a stationery store or a fudge shop. Why I spend more money on books than on cleaning supplies. Or linens. Or non-research-related vacations.

It explains why I itch to edit the closed captioning at the bottom of the screen during the news. And why I take notes during movies, sermons, and funerals. (I’m not invited to a lot of funerals anymore.)

A long time ago, my passion for writing eclipsed my passion for, say, exercising. I tried the Snowflake method on my parenting. I resolve family debates by charting our goal-motivation-conflict patterns and our MRUs. My husband wonders if writing is my calling or a condition.

But it explains my behavior.

Writing dictates that I hone my powers of observation. I’m conscious of the slight change in the refrigerator’s hum when the weather heats up. I note how the dew on a hosta leaf reflects the camera directed on it. And how the slight slump of my hairdresser’s shoulders tells me how her date went, before she opens her mouth.

The fact that I’m a writer also explains why I’m perfecting the art of snobservation. Observers sometimes rush to help in time of need. Snobservers let the scene play out. Raft over a waterfall? I wonder what that sounds like. Priceless Ming vase about to topple off the mantel in the museum? How far will the shards scatter? Runaway vehicle headed for the cliff? I’d step in to help, but my WIP has a runaway vehicle and I don’t know how else to find out if the engine will kill in the air or on impact. It’s all research.

I stood behind a beautiful young woman in line at Wendy’s fast food restaurant the other day. She sported the perfect, I mean perfect, hairdo. Soft, face-framing waves of exotic mahogany.

The woman was disgustingly thin. That’s my assessment. Others would say she was physically fit, which I find disgusting, hence...

She wore a crisp white T-shirt, which told me she isn’t old enough to have children. Moms don’t do “crisp.” And, this was the startling part, her skirt matched her hair. No kidding. Talk about a picture of together.

As she stepped toward the counter to place her order, I snobserved it. Just south of her hinterparts. A rip in the back seam of her oh-so-narrow silk skirt. Not gaping or anything. People that thin just do not gape.

Now, the kind thing to do would have been to sidle up to her and whisper, “Sweetie, your skirt is ripped in the back. Thought you’d want to know.” Then smile apologetically and say with my eyes, “No big deal, miss. You’ll never see me again.”

But I’m a writer. That explains everything.

I didn’t tell her. Why? Because I wanted to observe the scene in case I needed something similar for a novel plot point. Perfectly understandable.

She took her order to a table along the window wall and sat down across from a most untogether, mismatched older woman leaning on a walker. Seated, but leaning on the walker anyway. She’d missed the memo that avocado polyester pants do not go with anything, much less a grass green blouse. The older woman’s hair lacked any discernable shape at all. And color? What’s the word for the color of a paper towel soaked in chicken broth?

Mahogany’s grandmother? No family resemblance. This required more observation.

Amiable conversation, from the look of it. I chose a table just out of earshot. What was I thinking? Out of earshot?

Would Grandma say something about her granddaughter’s split skirt? Ah, the girl rose from the table and headed toward the restroom. Grandma was sure to notice the problem. But no.

Maybe she wasn’t a granddaughter at all. Maybe the young woman was a representative from the Department of Aging, and she took the poor elderly woman to lunch to tell her she’s being kicked out of her subsidized housing. The ratfink!

Or maybe the young woman was a former student of the former teacher and she just heard that the older woman uses marijuana for cancer nausea relief and thought she could lift a few joints from the faded needlepoint tote bag while the lady eats her Frosty.

Or maybe she was a money-hungry relative trying to talk Grams into changing her will . . . and didn’t I just see her slip something powdery into Grams’ coffee? Sure, it looked like artificial creamer, but one never knows.

If I were Grams, I wouldn’t tell her about the split skirt, either. Let the cops do that when they haul her sorry hinterparts off to jail.

Judgmental? Not me. I’m a writer. That explains everything.

They Almost Always Come Home