Cindy Woodsmall

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author who has garnered strong praise for the three novels in the Sisters of the Quilt Series, which explore the Amish way of life. Her ability to authentically capture the heart of her characters comes from her real-life connections with Amish-Mennonite and Old Order Amish families. When the Heart Cries was a finalist for the 2007 ECPA Novel of the Year. When the Morning Comes was named among the Best Books of 2007 for Crossings Book Club and nominated for a 2008 Rita Award for Best Inspirational Romance. When the Soul Mends debuted at number 13 on the October 2008 New York Times trade fiction list, and remained on the list for four weeks. Cindy lives in Georgia with her husband and the youngest of their three sons. To learn more about Cindy, please visit

When Acquisitions Editors Don’t Want What You Write

Belief. Positive or negative, we all have it.

In spite of stories constantly spinning in my mind, I didn’t believe becoming published was feasible, and I didn’t want to take time away from my family and friends to pursue something that wasn’t feasible.

But time has unexpected ways of demanding we follow our hearts. Like a bucket under a drippy outdoor faucet, I slowly and steadily became filled with a desire to write, and that aspiration spilled over into every area of my life.

So I dug an old computer out of the basement, set it up, and began to write. Stories I’d said no to for decades flowed. The faster I wrote, the harder the stories pushed. At the end of three exhausting months, I had written eight of the worst novels ever.

Then peace came, and the push to write stopped.

But one story kept nudging me, begging me to return and give it some real effort. It was laced with emotions and truths from my experiences with my Amish-Mennonite best friend.

The story revealed human nature—the good, the bad, and the confusing. Although contemporary in setting, it had the power and simplicity of late eighteenth-century rules of conduct that threatened to overpower the freedom of a young woman’s heart. The characters were as beautiful and flawed as my childhood memories of them.

To hone this story, I’d have to connect with someone who lived in that culture. I’d have to learn how to craft a novel.

But I’d lost contact with my Amish-Mennonite friend. I asked God to open a door to the Plain community. Through a non-Amish midwife to the Amish community, I found an Old Order Amish woman who was willing to answer my questions.

I sent questions along with chapters of my writing to her through a third party. A year later she invited me to her home. That began my regular trips of staying inside an Old Order Amish home.

So now I had the story idea and I had done the research. Next was learning the writing craft. I attended my first writers’ conference, where I met and hired a freelance editor to mentor me.

I’d write and e-mail it to her. She’d send it back marked up, explaining what wasn’t working and why. I’d rewrite it and resend it. She’d return it marked up more. After a year, I’d completed . . . one chapter. But our goal was one well-written chapter, because if I could correctly do one chapter, I could write a novel.

I attended another writing conference and talked to several editors to discover if there was any interest in Amish stories. None were a bit interested. They were nice and encouraging about my writing but not about Amish stories.

I left the how-to-write classes with a new first-chapter idea, a three-book series pounding in my heart, and a fresh determination to become published—writing Amish. When the conference rolled around the next year, I’d almost completed my first work: When the Heart Cries.

Almost five years had passed since I’d set up my computer. I was ready to pitch my book and my three-book proposal! I made appointments to meet with five acquisition editors—some requested the meeting because they’d read something of my work.

I’ll never forget meeting one-on-one with them. My heart pounded with hope and excitement. I’d done all the things these editors suggested at every conference: diligent research, relentless study of the craft, have my work critiqued, and be ready with a finished or almost finished work. But I still felt nervous; what they were going to say?

I heard wonderful, uplifting, and exciting things: “I love your voice.” “I’ve been looking for years for this type of story structure.” “You have quite a way of reaching out and bringing the reader into your world.”

Yes. Yes. Yes!

Then I heard the unthinkable: “We aren’t interested in Amish stories. Have you ever written anything else?”

I remembered the seven awful novels I’d written, still stored on the computer I no longer used. Surely those didn’t count. But I mentioned them. And the editors were interested.

This can’t be happening.

Editor after editor said, “Beverly Lewis is writing Amish. That’s all the market can bear. Can you write something else? Anything?” “We don’t want to do a ‘me too’ by publishing an Amish story.”

Me too? Is there just one romantic suspense writer? One historical writer?

I had to decide whether to set my Amish story aside and become published, or stick to what I knew I was to write.

If you’ve been told the publishing houses aren’t accepting new writers, or the market isn’t selling what you’re writing, be patient. No one has all the answers. The editors are doing their best to determine what will sell two years from now. When you’re told no, pray about it and keep honing your skills. Stay true to yourself and to your God-given passion. Don’t sell out. Don’t give up. Follow your heart, and be ready when the market is ready for your story.

In case you’re wondering, the first chapter I worked on for a year was never used in any novel. But what I learned while working on it is used on every page of every book I write.

When The Soul Mends