Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why Amish Is "Hot" ... An Inside Look by Cindy Woodsmall (and giveaways!!)

Julie here, and given that I am an "edgy" romance writer in the CBA, I bet I'm the very last person you expected to introduce an Amish superstar author like Cindy Woodsmall. Talk about the “Odd Couple”!

Well, the truth is Amish fiction fascinates me ... and, apparently, tons of other people as well given the fact that usually about eighteen of the top twenty books on the CBA Bestseller List are generally Amish. Let’s face it, it doesn’t take a mental giant to figure out that Amish is “hot.” So when my editor discreetly leaned across the table at ICRS to politely ask if I thought I could write Amish, I knew something was up. My response? “Uh, I don’t know—is there such a thing as “Edgy Amish”??

Well, the answer is no, and my new good friend, Cindy Woodsmall (one of the frequent names on that elusive CBA Bestseller List, I might add), is here today to tell you and me just why Amish fiction is setting the CBA Bestseller List aflame. Please welcome New York Times best-selling author and a real sweetheart—Cindy Woodsmall:

Hello to all authors and readers of Seekerville! I’m Cindy Woodsmall, and I’ve written a series of novels set in Amish country. They’ve been selling extremely well, and I’m now working on book three in my second Amish series. I’ve also published a novella and am working on my first Amish nonfiction.

Julie Lessman thought it might be interesting if I shared some of my Amish writing experiences with you, and I’m honored to do that.

Books with Amish settings and characters are currently very popular, and as one of the first inspirational authors in that subgenre, I have a few pieces to the puzzle of why they’re so popular. I think the answers to that question can help us understand part of what makes a novel in any genre draw in readers.

Why Amish Is “Hot”
The Amish lifestyle seems simple, serene, and plain, and many people want to know the real story behind the idealistic image. Amish men are raised to view having a wife and family as the highest honor accomplished on this earth…yet many have the same desires as the barhopping womanizer. The women aren’t expected to juggle careers along with parenting and homemaking. Yet Amish women today are gently challenging the traditional roles. These are common struggles we can all identify with.

A good Amish novel has characters with the pent-up passions of the Victorian age who are facing the issues of our contemporary society, while constantly fighting not to enter the modern age. That’s a new twist to romance, which many readers find fascinating.

The Amish subgenre has some similarities to science fiction’s time-travel stories. People from another century find themselves plunked in the middle of a computerized age. Now what do they do and how do they interact with those around them?

But this isn’t fantasy. People of faith are playing out these issues in our own country, and the results are both freeing and heartbreaking. The written and unwritten rules of the Amish are difficult to keep, yet breaking any of them breaks the hearts of the family. That angst has the power to make a fascinating story.

Why I Write Amish
While growing up in Maryland, I had a best friend who was an Amish-Mennonite. The moment I stepped inside her house, I could sense that there were a lot of differences between her home and mine. Neither of our parents liked the relationship, and we spent years navigating around their disapproval. As an adult, I connected with an Old Order Amish woman through a mutual acquaintance. We became friends, and I stayed in her home for a few days. Our relationship provided the research I needed to make my stories accurate. It also sparked lots of ideas for plots and characters.

But writing Amish stories presented unique challenges. When the men and women all dress the same, wear their hair the same, and have the same background, the author has to find unique ways to express the hero’s and heroine’s distinct personalities. In an average non-Amish romance, the heroine has the freedom to pursue her dreams and career goals. Since individuality is not the norm in an Amish book, I had to dig deeper to find attractions and conflicts that would be satisfying to readers.

Writing the stories wasn’t my only challenge. Getting to a place where an editor wanted to publish my novel wasn’t easy either.

My Publishing Journey
I began writing the Amish story of my heart in 1999. I went to my first writers’ conference in 2002. I had a lot to learn, so I began reading books on writing, attending conferences, and working with a writing mentor, Kathy Ide. Two years later I felt as if I was ready to turn in the first chapter to a few editors.

I received wonderful feedback on my writing, even a potential offer to put me under contract if I’d write anything except Amish fiction. At the time only Beverly Lewis was writing Amish stories in trade fiction, and editors weren’t sure the market would hold strong for a second Amish author. Besides, they didn’t like the idea of a new writer following in the footsteps of such an established author.

My books were quite different from anything on the market, including Beverly Lewis’s books, but that didn’t make enough difference to the editor who wanted to put me under contract.

I spent a few restless weeks deciding whether to follow the editor’s advice or stick to my Amish stories. It was a rough choice. It didn’t make sense for an unpublished writer to turn down the opportunity for a contract with a big publishing house. But after weeks of sleeplessness, I knew I had to continue with the story I’d written.

With that decision made, I made another—to pitch my story to every editor at every conference possible. Unfortunately, with one exception, the editors I spoke with were not interested in testing the market to see if it could support a second author writing Amish fiction.

In the spring of 2005, I showed my first chapter to yet another acquisitions editor at a writers’ conference. He skimmed the first page, passed it back to me, and said, “I’ve seen this same character thousands of times. We’re not interested.” 

At that conference, another editor read the same page and felt my writing and story were strong enough to sell regardless of its setting. She agreed to take it to committee, hoping her publishing house would feel as strongly about the story as she did. To my amazed delight, they offered me a contract for a three-book series.

Just a few months after I landed that publisher (WaterBrook Multnomah—a division of Random House), Wanda Brunstetter’s first Amish book hit the trade fiction market. It made the best-sellers list. If the market was full with just one Amish writer, surely it was doubly full with two. But my books were already under contract, so we kept moving toward my release date of September 2006.

The page that one acquisitions editor disdained so much became, almost verbatim, part of a book that sold out within two weeks of hitting the market. That novel became an ECPA finalist along with stories by Angela Hunt, Charles Martin, and Karen Kingsbury. It was a Books-A-Million FaithPoint book club choice and won a Reviewer’s Choice Award. Four years later it’s still selling well. And that character the editor didn’t like was the heroine in all three books of my debut series, Sisters of the Quilt. She made it to the number thirteen spot on the New York Times best-sellers list.

By the time the 2007 writers’ conferences rolled around, editors and agents were asking aspiring and established authors to write books about the Amish.

More to Follow
On the heels of the success of my Sisters of the Quilt series, I wrote an Amish novella called The Sound of Sleigh Bells. I am currently working on the last book of my second set of Amish novels, the Ada’s House series.

In addition, my special Amish friend and I are writing a heartwarming nonfiction book together. It’s filled with short essays of true events from our lives. That book, Plain Wisdom, is under contract with WaterBrook, along with several more novels.

My Advice
If you want to succeed in this crazy world of book publishing, learn the craft of writing well. Work with people who can help you improve your skills. Network with folks in the publishing industry. Keep pursuing the passion God has placed in you, even in the face of rejection and discouragement.

And listen carefully to acquisitions editors. They truly do know a lot. But always trust that whisper inside your heart even more.

If you’d like a chance to win an autographed copy of my debut three-book series or any three of my books of your choice (even ones that aren’t in print yet), just leave a comment below. There will be FIVE BOOK GIVEAWAYS and an AMISH keepsake giveaway. If you choose a book that isn’t in print yet, I’ll send it to you as soon as its available.

Also there is a special contest taking place on my blog which includes a chance to win an Amish-made wall hanging. Cindy Woodsmall's website

Thank you Julie for inviting me to Seekerville!

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal at the following links:

ABC Nightline

Wall Street Journal


Eva Maria Hamilton said...

What an incredible journey you went through, it really shows your determination! I'm sure it wasn't easy. Good for you!

Please enter me in the contest.
EvaMariaHamilton at gmail dot com

Vince said...

Hi Cindy:

Here are my burning questions as someone who has never read an Amish book.

Do the Amish read Amish books? What do the Amish think about Amish books? Has any Amish author written an Amish book?

Is there a single ‘first’ book a person should read who wants to sample the Amish subgenre? I’ll read any book you suggest. You can name your own of course.: )

Thanks for your post.


vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

KC Frantzen said...

What a delight to know more about you and the twists and turns of your journey! You're a trend-setter!

Thank you for sharing with us. It's encouraging when you KNOW that you have a good story, and you're working to tell it beautifully (adverb alert - sorry Mary). You've given us hope.

I've never read an "Amish" book so any of yours would be a great way to start. We appreciate your time. may at maythek9spy dot com

Until someone else is ready with the food, I have some homemade oatmeal cookies with lots of cinnamon and dark chocolate chips in them. And cold, cold whole milk.

Holly Rutchik said...

wow! This is such a great journey to share. I have just started my first Amish book and I love it. You hit it right on the head about the challenges faced by people of faith.
hollyrutchik AT yahoo DOT COM

Renee said...

Cindy, what an inspiring story. I've just been introduced to Amish books a few months ago, and I'm addicted.

I need to print this article out and frame it so I can remember to stay true to your heart. I've been doing just that because I believe it is God's direction for me. You've just reaffirmed it.

Blessings to you.

Renee said...

oops forgot reneelynnscott at gmail dot com

Am I the only one who forgets to put my addy? I do it everytime.

Nancye said...

I enjoy reading Amish booksw and will read anything I can get my hands on. I would be thrilled to win one! Thanks for the chance!

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Julie Lessman said...

Mornin' All ... notice I left the "good" off because it is 3:30 AM and I can't sleep, so this is much better than tossing and turning!

I am delighted to have Cindy here to give an insider's look into a fascinating genre that up until recently, I knew almost nothing about.

Cindy will be popping in here and there throughout the day, so settle in, pour yourself a cup of cinnamon hazelnut coffee or apple cinnamon tea. There's Amish miniature cheese and fruit butter danish on the sideboard along with warm banana chocolate chip muffins and maple pecan cinnamon kuchen. Dig in!


Elizabeth said...

Cindy! I LOVED your first series! I was riveted! You quickly became one of my favourite authors! :o) It was great to hear your story and encouraging too! I love your advice to listen first to our hearts!
God Bless! Elizabeth
e dot johnsen at clear dot net dot nz

Ruth and Lacey said...

Julie brought food.

I'm psyched.

I'm psyched even more to have Cindy with us! 'Mornin', Cindy, welcome to Seekerville!

Big thanks for the valid insider info on writing Amish. (my children call me an Amish stalker. If we pass an Amish farm, and there are many small Amish settlements in upstate NY, they scold me about being overly curious, but who wouldn't be???? I loved the time-travel analogy.)

So nice to have you here and I don't even have to cook, but I'm grabbing that cinnamon hazelnut coffee (Julie Lessman how have you NEVER brought that before???? Oh mylanta, this is soooooo good!) and the maple pecan kuchen.

I make kuchens. And did you KNOW that Webster's Collegiate dictionary doesn't even list the word 'kuchen' in their book.

Silly people. If you grew up anywhere near German settlements or "Dutchtowns", you knew good kuchen. Love it, Jules!

Hugs to both of you.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ooops, sorry, that's the kennel account. I was updating our dog website with puppy news...

My bad!

This is really me, the writer me, as opposed to the dog-breeder me.

I am my own friend on facebook. Multiple times. I frighten myself.

Edwina said...


Thanks for following God's voice in staying with Amish Fiction!Before I joined ACFW just over a year ago, I thought I would not enjoy Amish fiction. I have read several since and fell in love with Amish Fiction.

Please enter my name in the drawing.

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Cindy, welcome to Seekerville. What a fascinating story. Thank you for sharing.

When I go home to Western NY, we often travel to the small Amish community near us to sample their wares. My favorite memories is quilts. And to see the quilts you are taken to one room in the house that has stacks on an iron framed bed. Two women (one at each side of the bed) pull back one quilt at a time for you to examine.

Beautiful craftsmanship.

I wish you continued success on your journey. Obviously a calling.

Project Journal said...


First of all, WELCOME to Seekerville!!!

Wow! What a fantastic post! I have never actually read any of the multitudes of Amish fiction out there, yet, but it definitely intrigues me too. At least I know I'm not abnormal! *wink*

To hear about your journey, I think, would make any have faith that writing is a difficult process, but with drive, determination, and that little bit of passion intertwined you can go places. You are very inspirational!

When I was MUCH younger, my family went to an Amish community. It was through the American Jersery Cattle Association's annual convention. It was so interesting - even at my age (I'm thinking maybe I was around 8? I'm not positive though). The kids got to play with their kids (surprisingly) for a bit. The women "socialized" with the women. Same with men. Then, one family made ALL of us dinner. Homemade dinner, it was crazy! We're talking there were a few hundred of us. This family had many children, so I'm sure that helped *wink* I just remember the whole idea to be fascinating. That was when I started to become interested in the Amish. My mom managed to find me many kids books about it, but I still haven't managed to read any of the fiction books available to me now. Thanks for the opportunity, you books sound great!!

Over on Amber S's blog, we're going to be doing book discussions starting soon. Right now she's holding a poll to find out what we want to read. You should *clears throat* go check out the entries. Then *ahem, ahem* check out the results *grin* Just trust me!!

Thank you for inviting Cindy. She was a wonderful guest!!

Talk to you later, I'm getting ready to head to school!

Karnold said...

Hi Cindy,

What a great post! Not only about writing in the Amish subgenre but about staying true to your voice despite opposition.

Your books look great. Please enter me in the contest.

Cara Lynn James said...

I really love Amish books, but I can understand why they must be really hard to write. I'd difficult enough to distinguish one character from another when they wear different clothing styles, have different occupations etc. What a challenge!

Rose said...


So glad you stuck by the book of your heart and it really paid off for you! Your story also shows the "subjectiveness" of editor's views of our work. Thank you for sharing that with us.

RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

Bookie said...

This was so interesting and informative! I live in Missouri and a few months ago learned a group of 30 Amish families have settled about a half hour from me. They have a breakfast every six months or so to raise money for their school. Hubby and I went one muddy spring morning, driving back into some beautiful farmland. There were numerous horse and buggies lined up outside the huge barn with a cememt floor. Breakfast was served buffet style and included yummy homemade, still warm, doughuts!

I would love to read Cindy's books so but my name in please.

bookwoman1015 at

Kav said...

Cindy, I'm so close to finishing 'The Hope of Refuge' that I'm having a hard time putting it aside to get on with work!!! It's an amazing read on so many levels. My heart is so invested in the characters. I'm especially in tune with Cara as I struggled in poverty as a single mom. You have her emotions, motivations -- that mama bear instinct -- to total perfection!

And there's so much intrigue. I can't decide if I'd call it a mystery or suspense novel since it doesn't really fit that genre but there are so many mysteries that need to be unraveled...and the suspense is killing me. LOL.

I'm not someone who reads the last page first but I have been soooooooo tempted with this book. So far I've persevered and I only have 51 pages left to go, so surely I'll manage to resist the temptation...though I did just turn to that fateful last page to see the number, but, phew, I stopped my eyes from drifting down the to the print. And on one of my sojourns flipping to the end of the book while trying very hard not to read it, I noticed you included a glossary. Uber cool!!!!!

Thanks for sharing your publishing journey with us. I am so grateful that you followed your heart.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Cindy! Loved reading your journey to publication and your determination to write what you felt called to write. Congratulations on your success! You're blessed to have an insider's look at the Amish lifestyle.

I live near an Amish community and have thought of writing Amish fiction, but since I write historicals the impact wouldn't be nearly as great as with a contemporary.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Cindy, welcome to Seekerville and thank you so much for joining us. I see your name everywhere in the stores so know you're big time. smile And thanks for all the giveaways you're offering to our readers. What a treasure.

I was so encouraged by the part where you considered changing as per an editors advice, yet stuck to what was in your heart. Haven't we all faced that dilemma? And you were so blessed by staying true. A lesson for all of us.

Thanks Jules for inviting Cindy and for the Amish yummies. KC the cookies were yummy though I passed on the milk.

Dianna Shuford said...

Thank you for sharing your story, Cindy. Your words were very encouraging! I'm so happy for you that God opened those publishing doors through your faithfulness with the story that He gave you. I'll keep your advice tucked away as I'm trying to attend my first national conference this fall.

I've heard about your Amish series but have not had the opportunity to read any of them. I look forward to reading them in the future.


Melanie Dickerson said...

That's really cool, Cindy! I love the part where you say "And that character the editor didn’t like was the heroine in all three books of my debut series, Sisters of the Quilt. She made it to the number thirteen spot on the New York Times best-sellers list."

That's what me and my Beth-Moore-studies friends call a "Reversal of Destiny." I love it!

I can relate to a lot of what you said, because for three years nobody wanted my medieval romance, but now it's getting published by Zondervan! YAY! And it won the ACFW Book Club poll and will be featured in October! (Thanks, Seekers and friends, who voted for me! I love you!)

I didn't realized, either, that you were basically only the third writer to get an Amish book published! I was trying to get my published and wondering if it was ever going to happen and thinking that it must be EASY to get an Amish book published! Ha! As if! Thanks so much for sharing your story and for SETTING ME STRAIGHT!!!

And congratulations on hitting #13 on the NYT Bestseller List! That is incredibly awesome!

Holly said...

Wow, what a journey to get your books published! I'm amazed the editors weren't interested because I like your books as much or better than Beverly Lewis'!


Susan Anne Mason said...


Your book covers are beautiful. I've never read an Amish romance either but I'd love to try one.

I think the simplistic life style is something that intrigues and attracts a lot of us, especially when this face-paced life gets too much sometimes.

Thanks for sharing your story. It helps to see a fellow writer face such harsh rejection and still stay confident and determined. It's so easy to get crushed under the weight of rejection and say, "They're right. This will never sell." But your story proves that all it takes is one person to get what you're trying to do and believe in your story.

Congratulations on your success! I'm sure your next series will do even better!

sbmason (at) sympatico (dot) ca

christicorbett said...

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story of perserverence.


Christi Corbett

Lorna said...

Cindy, I bet those two weeks where you were deciding if you were going to follow your heart and instincts were agonizing and prayer-filled. Thank you for sharing your story.

I hadn't thought specifically about the challenges in writing Amish fiction. That was incredibly insightful. I'm so glad you followed your heart!

Mary Connealy said...

Thanks for being on, Cindy.

I love getting to know you better. A great story of your journey, too.

Mary Connealy said...

Julie, I think you'd do terrific edgy Amish.

Go for it. We'd be in for a nice ride there. :)

I just spent a week in the heart of Amish Country in Ohio. Fascinating. Seriously. It totally get Ruthy's curiosity.

Cindy Woodsmall said...

Good morning, Seekerville!

Gross dank [many thanks] for all your encouraging comments!

I think Pillsbury is on vacation! I can't find a cinnamon bun or tasty pastry anywhere in my home!

It's so good to see old friends here! Well, not old, old, just ones who've been around throughout this writing journey.

Vince, I can answer a few of your questions, but I don't read Amish books.
I know we're told to read in the genre we intend to write, but I don't.
There was only one author when I began, and I never wanted to glean research, story ideas, or soak in her voice or writing cadence.
So, knowing I can't suggest another author, I'd suggest The Hope of Refuge. It's nominated for a Christy and is less controversial than my debut series.
In answer to your question about whether Amish read Amish books, many do. Without electronics to interrupt the evenings, the Amish read a lot of books in a lot of genres. Most stick to the Inspirational category.
The Amish often laugh at and get frustrated with “what's out there." They feel that most of the Amish authors aren't doing their homework. Still, they read them :-) I don't know if the Amish who feel that way are being fair because I haven't read “what's out there.” And of course the ones I’m speaking with are making sure mine are accurate, so they have a little favoritism heading my way :-)
You asked if any "Amish" have written books on Amish. That's a really tough question that would take many paragraphs to respond, in part because there are so many sects of Amish. I only know of one Old Order Amish person who has remained in the faith and is writing children's books; she may give writing novels a try, but so far it hasn't panned out. She writes long hand and the publisher types it up for her.
I have an Old Order Amish friend who is writing a nonficiton with me. She has great ideas for a novel, but I don’t know if she'll ever write a novel.
If I missed any questions, I'll catch them in just a little bit. This is definitely fun!

Cindy Woodsmall said...

Lorna, you are soooo right. I just kept thinking I could blow my whole career before I ever had a chance to have a career.

Myra Johnson said...

Cindy, it's so nice to have you in Seekerville, and I really enjoyed reading about your writing journey.

One thing really stood out, though--your personal experiences with Amish families. I don't know how many times in the past year or two I've heard writers say, "Well, if you want to be published, just write an Amish story!"

Like it's that easy! Who would dare write about a lifestyle and culture they aren't personally acquainted with or haven't researched in depth? The Amish friendships you mentioned add a huge dose of credibility and extra incentive for me to pick up one of your books--which I hope to do soon!

Charity said...

What a journey:) I am glad you kept on though. I have only read one of your books that I found at a yard sale but I really enjoyed it. Thanks for telling us your story:)
Would love the chance at winning one of your other books. Please enter me.
Thank you!!


Jo said...

I just loved reading Cindy's interview. Thanks for sharing your journey with us and your friendship with the Amish/Memmomite girl in your youth even though both sets of parents didn't like it. What determination you had when opposed. I have always been very fascinated with the Amish and their way of living.

Please enter me in the giveaway


karenk said...

i loved this posting...i, too, am facinated by the amish and their simple lifestyle.

thanks for the chance to read (more of) cindy's novels :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Casey said...

This post was great fun to read. I have been a fan of Cindy since my aunt bought me her very first book and my only complaint is that she doesn't write fast enough! Though now it's not so bad, because I her latest two I still need to read. :)

My grandfather's mother was Penn. Dutch and I think that is one reason I am so fascinated by that culture. And I love the way Cindy portrays it. With such open honesty and a great story. You deserve to be on the NYT bestseller list!!

I would love to win, but anyone who does will have a wonderful selection to choose from. Hannah is still one of my number one favorite books and I still think of her years down the road from reading them.

Thanks for posting, it was great!!


Julie Lessman said...

Okay, I finally hauled my sorry butt out of bed, and I do mean SORRY!! Didn't get to sleep till almost five for some crazy reason, so I may not be coherent with my comments.

NO wisecracks here, Ruthy ... :)

EVA ... thanks for dropping by and good luck in the contest, girl! Gosh, you should get extra points just for being the very first one! :)

VINCE ... you're starting to scare me because I was wondering the very same thing ... do Amish read Amish???? We'll have to wait and get Cindy's take on that, I'm afraid.

KC darlin', thank you SO much for covering my behind and bringing food this morning. You are SO darn reliable, girl!!

HOLLY ... your first Amish book? Well, I guarantee if you win one of Cindy's fabulous books, it won't be your last!

RENEE ... "addicted to Amish"??? Well, honey, you're not alone because that's one HUGE AA group (Amish Anonymous!) and getting bigger every day. :)

NANCYE ... You have five chances to win one of Cindy's books, girl, so here's to a win!

ELIZABETH ... a Cindy Woodsmall fan? Well, there's another HUGE group there, for sure, judging from how often Ms. Woodsmall pops up on the CBA Bestseller List! Good luck in the contest.


Regina Merrick said...

Our area of Kentucky is the home of a fairly large community of Amish. As the public librarian, I can attest that, indeed, Amish do read Amish books - and just about everything else (including some that are quite surprising...)

Cindy, thank you so much for sharing your journey. It's always so inspiring to read of an author who listened to that still, small voice instead of the lure of the world's voice.

I'd love to read your books (and yes, AS a librarian, you're now on my to-be-read list!!), and would love to enter the drawing!


Cecelia Dowdy said...

Cindy, I enjoyed reading about your journey to publication. Julie, I think you should try and write an edgy Amish novel! Give it a try and see what happens! :-)

Just wanted to mention that I did a blog series about a year ago referencing the appeal of Amish fiction. Here's the link if you want to see my results. I mention some of the same points that Cindy mentions in her blog post:

Kav said...

Cindy, I don't know why I am surprised that the Amish read books, but I am. I was under the impression that reading books other than the bible would be considered 'worldly'. I guess that's just one of the misconceptions out there.

Julie Lessman said...

Okay, I see that Cindy is here, so I am turning comments over to her since she's the PROFESSIONAL on Amish!!

But MARY and CECILIA ... don't think I haven't given some thought to writing an Edgy Amish book. Mmm ... maybe Cindy would consider partnering with me on that ... :)

HANNAH ... are you referring to Amber Stoke's blog? If so, I went there, but didn't see it. Can you e-mail me directly at gsus(at)charter(dot)net and let me know? Thanks, sweetie!


Angela Bell said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing your inspirational journey to publication. It's awesome how you pushed forward and never gave up.

I'd love to read your books. Please enter me in the drawing.


PatriciaW said...

Fascinating and inspirational. I love when authors follow their heart whispers. Sometimes that's so hard to do. It truly takes courage and faith.

I recently read Gail Sattler's Mennonite story, The Narrow Path and loved it. I can see the many points of conflict that you described.

Please enter me in the contest: pwriter1 at yahoo dot com

Vince said...

Hi Julie:

I followed Tony Hillerman for his whole career as each book came out. I think he did for the Navajo what is happening to the Amish. Hillerman was not a Navajo but he made heroes out of the Navajo police force and the Navajo way of life. Tony created a police force which didn’t even exist at the time and he was worried the tribe wouldn’t like his books. Happily the Navajos read his books and loved them.

I wonder if the Amish like all the attention?


Vince said...

Hi Cindy:

I just downloaded ‘The Hope of Refuge’ for my Kindle. No waiting for me. : )

But…you just dropped a bombshell!

What was controversial about your first novels? I’m sure they are nice, clean, Christian books. I can’t imagine what would be controversial.


Martha A. said...

Hi Cindy,
It is always interesting to me to see why people think Amish fiction is popular...I think it goes along with why Jane Austen is popular, although we are a free people, we do crave order and rules, yet would never want to be a part of them and laugh at them, calling it archaic.
As far as Vince's question....the Amish read Amish fiction. i read Amish fiction, usually when i am bored or want to get mad. = )
Although, there is very few I actually enjoyed reading, I did one of your series, Cindy. I grew up among the Amish, I attended Amish school, worked in the Amish store, had Amish friends, lived above where all the unmarried men lived...and have this past couple months actually helped another author research for her Amish fiction book set where I lived. Talking to some of my friends, one of them mentioned one of your books...and several of them read them. They do not enjoy them as well as other Christian fiction, but one thing to remember is that it is good to always have a gospel message in there. Many of them do not read the bible, especially Old order and this can be a way of making them think.
Amish do write Amish fiction. Pathway is a major Amish publishing company that publishes fiction and non-fiction. The Nancy Martin series is a favorite by Mrs. Cleon Martin. They also have their own magazines, The Young companion, Family Life, and a school one.
This bookstore sells most of them.
My favorite one though about the Amish to read...that really hits them is Katie by Clara Miller.
So, before this turns into a book of my own...Amish is simply still a form of religion. I do dress different, even not being Amish than the regular culture and I do not long for jeans, styled hair, or makeup all the time, I could do those things at any time and most Amish girls are happy dressing the way they do too, it is not really a topic that always comes up and when people leave the matter what, you can always tell they were Amish once...pretty much! martha(at)lclink(dot)com

Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

Wow! I get here mid-morning in the mountains and find 46 comments already. And Julie shared this on the ACFW Book Club loop, so even more word is spreading about Cindy's appearance here at Seekerville.

I really should be writing and working on my finances, but I couldn't resist coming to share that "I knew Cindy when...." back in 2003 and she left an rather important article of clothing out of her suitcase brought to the ACFW conference in Houston. *winks* She "adopted" me when we were chatting about families and she discovered I only had 3 brothers, but no sisters. I even designed an early version of her web site a few years back.

My "big sis" has really come a long way, and it brings tears to my eyes to see her on the NYT bestseller list, CBA bestseller, Nightline and WSJ. I can say I knew her when, but now I say, perhaps one day I'll be able to outstep her shadow. LOL!

Congrats, Cindy. Way to stick to your guns and publish the stories of your heart. You're a true inspiration and testament that it CAN be done!

No questions, but drop my name in the hat for free stuff. :)

Golden Keyes Parsons said...

Having lived in a town with an Old Order community close by when I was a small child, I have always been interested in the Amish. I do think it is the simplicity and their commitment to a life set apart that is so fascinating to us.

May the redemptive message of Jesus be spread through all our different genres. Congratulations on your success!

I've not read any of your books, but would love to. So here's my info - GPar0719(at)aol(dot)com.


Amber S. said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! Now that Amish fiction is so popular, it's so intriguing to hear about a time when publishers didn't think more than one best-selling author could write on the topic! Imagine that! ;)

I love that you believed in the story you were trying to convey so much that you wouldn't be deterred from publishing it--even if you had to turn down some great offers. Thank you for your inspiring example!

Please enter me for a chance at this great giveaway! :)

God bless!



Amber S. said...

Oh, Julie! Hannah is indeed talking about my blog. :) There's a poll in the sidebar asking my readers which book they would like to discuss...and you should check it out! ;)


KC Frantzen said...

Since we not only have Amish but NYT, this is on the news today:

Wonderful discussion!

Heather said...

What an amazing and inspiring story! I love seeing what following your heart and intuition accomplished. Especially against so much criticism and disapointment. I dont know what I'd do if someone told me a creation of my heart was like thousands of others...I'm so glad you kept at it! I am eager to explore these books!

Julie Lessman said...

VINCE, that's interesting about the Navajos, and I cannot imagine that the Amish like the attention!

RUTHY ... where have you been, girl?? I bring cinnamon hazelnut every blog I do because that is ALL I drink at home, hour after hour, day after day. I heard cinnamon is good for you, so I should be REALLLY healthy soon ...

AMBER!!! I am thrilled about your poll and if I win, I would love to interact with you all when you do your book discussion on your blog. So if I win, PLEASE let me know the date, okay?

Gotta go ... I have MASSIVE revisions due on a ms. due July 1st that I was never expecting, so unfortunately I have to crank hard on that rather than doing what I love best ... talking with you guys!


Linda Plett said...

I've always enjoyed reading about the Amish and hope to be able to visit on our LONG road trip this summer. Please enter me in the give away.

runner10 said...

I have not read Cindy's books, but they sound great.

Sandee61 said...

I've lived near the Amish, and have friends who are Amish. I've always been fascinated by them and found that they are very humble people. Their faith is strong, and many will tell you they have the same problems and struggles as we all do...but their faith gives them strength to endure all.
I've had the opportunity to go to Amish dinners (great food), weddings and one of the nicest (if not saddest) funerals for an Amish man. Sad because he was gone, but as they grieved, they also laughed about their fond memories of him.
I'd never been to a funeral quite like that, and it was wonderful how they remembered simple things he'd done and some even wrote on index cards what they remembered most about him, and the bishop read them out loud. It was an interesting experience. I really enjoy Amish fiction and read all I can get my hands on. I have all of Cindy's books, and would love to read her latest one, so please enter me in your giveaway for that one. Thank you!



Cindy Woodsmall said...

I've never been a part of such a friendly blog. Seekerville really interacts. I think I'm experiencing culture shock.

Kav, I'm so excited to know you're enjoying The Hope of Refuge. Thanks for sharing . . . and for reading! ;-)

Melanie, CONGRATS!! Your journey is inspirational!

Vince, I think the Amish are concerned about being put on a pedestal. They want respect for their beliefs, but not for their "outward look or behavior." They know the weaknesses the world doesn't see. Showing all of their virtues without balancing it out with the reality of faults inside the ways of the Amish concerns them.

Well, the controversial part is the on-scene trauma the girl goes through and the reaction of her parents and community. The trauma and the community's mishandling of those events is a good-size part of the trilogy. As Martha mentioned, some Amish are uncomfortable with my story and enjoy more of a gentle read.

One of the most valuable things to remember as an author or aspiring author is we’re preparing a meal for thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people, we cannot prepare a meal to suit everyone’s tastes. It’s not possible.

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Cindy!! So glad to see you here. (And miss you at our chapter meetings lately--hint hint!) ;)

What a great interview! There were several parts of your story I hadn't heard yet. So cool!

Thanks for being on our blog today! You're always such an encouragement.

Julie Lessman said...

One of the most valuable things to remember as an author or aspiring author is we’re preparing a meal for thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people, we cannot prepare a meal to suit everyone’s tastes. It’s not possible.

Oh, AMEN TO THAT, girl!! I LOVE the analogy of a meal, Cindy, I guess because I like to eat, but that is so dead on!

And, yes, Seekerville is a VERY friendly and interactive blog, so just take a deep breath to ease "the culture shock" and just pop in when you can, my friend. NO PRESSURE!! This is a place to have fun and relieve pressure, not create it, and everybody understands that.

Back to the revisions ...


Missy Tippens said...

Melanie, I'm there with you on the Beth Moore Esther study!! Loved it, and those reversals of destiny! :)

Cindy Woodsmall said...

Wow, thanks Sandee61!

Martha, you are so right about being able to tell that someone had been raised Amish even decades after they've left the church or Old Ways. And the ones I've seen, you can also tell by the way the children dress that their parents came from an Amish background. I think that gives merit to the lasting mark of the formative years.

Wendy said...

I am really enjoying the Amish fiction books. Thanks for this amazing contest.

Julia M. Reffner said...

I've never read Cindy's books, but really enjoyed this interview. As for Amish books, I've enjoyed some and been bored with others. I've heard Cindy's are very unique to the genre and so I would love to read hers.


Julia M. Reffner said...

I've never read Cindy's books, but really enjoyed this interview. As for Amish books, I've enjoyed some and been bored with others. I've heard Cindy's are very unique to the genre and so I would love to read hers.


Sherry Gore said...

Terrific interview!

Project Journal said...

Oops!! Julie, I didn't see that you and Amber had figured it all out, so I already emailed you....*bad Hannah* Should've continued to read the other comments first. Sorry....

That would SO cool, though if you participated *wink* You're such a nice person, lol!

Now, if you're reading this, I'm guessing that you should be off working on your ms, so get back to work!! We want more "Julie Lessman" books ASAP!

Off to piano lessons,


Ashley Kingery said...

How awesome it must be to have a childhood friend like that. Love the story of your journey to publish your book. Glad you stayed true to yourself when others where discouraging you.

Karla said...

You are truly an amazing author, Cindy!! I love your books and would love to enter the contest.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Cindy,

I've got the Wall Street Journal, WED, Sept 9, 2009, issue on my desk with the lovely article they featured you in. Keep hoping I'll see you some place in GA and give you the copy.

Congrats on all your success!!! Fantastic.

Your non-fiction collection of writings sounds wonderful, and I'm sure it will be a best-seller as well.

Keep writing! We'll keep buying your books!

Thanks for being with us in Seekerville today. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Cindy,
I've got the Wall Street Journal, WED, Sept 9, 2009, issue on my desk with the lovely article they featured you in. Keep hoping I'll see you some place in GA and give you the copy. Of course, I really enjoy keeping the paper close so I can say, "Hey, I know that famous person!" :)

Congrats on all your success!!! Fantastic.

Your non-fiction collection of writings sounds wonderful, and I'm sure it will be a best-seller as well.

Keep writing! We'll keep buying your books!

Thanks for being with us in Seekerville today. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Well...blogger told me they couldn't post my comment the first time. I closed the window and reopened. AND reposted. Of course, now you've got two copies of the same message.


My name is Hilde. said...

I love Cindy's books and have read them all now. I'll be looking for any new ones that come out. Hope I win the contest. Hilde

My name is Hilde. said...

I love Cindy's books and have read them all now. I'll be looking for any new ones that come out. Hope I win the contest. Hilde

Colleen said...

Loved reading about the journey Cindy went on to get her books published. I have read some of the them and really love her work. Would love to read some more of her work.

Sarah McKay said...

Please enter me in this would be great to win. I love Cindy Woodsmall's books


Anonymous said...

I am glad that you persued writing Amish book, I really enjoy reading your stories. I love reading about the Amish people, they are truely unique.
looking foreword to your new books...
Carol Rohrbeck

Walt M said...

I'm late today (and I haven't even been to Einstein's, though I did pick up a copy of Gingham Mountain on my lunch hour for beach reading next week).

The one thing that struck me as I read this is the challenge of dealing with characters who all appear the same. It reminded me of my manuscripts about medieval Japan and the challenges I have with describing characters (though they definitely wear different clothes).

I have never read any Amish fiction, but may have to do so after reading this column.


Lana said...

Love your books! Keep up the great work!
lroghair (at) aol (dot) com

lace said...

I can't wait to read your new series, Ada's House

Melissa said...

Please enter me! Thanks! If I win, you can leave a message on my blog (I don't feel comfortable posting my E-mail here). Thanks! Love your books, Cindy!

Amber S. said...


Looking at the poll, I think there is no question which book we will be discussing. ;) We'd have to have a ton more votes for another book to change the outcome--and I don't think that is too likely!

If you have time to stop by, we'd love to have you join us! We should be discussing the book this Friday!


Carrie Turansky said...

I've enjoyed all of Cindy's books. She is a gifted storyteller! It was fun to hear more of her story. I had no idea she was turned down so many times before she finally connected with the right publisher.

Carrie (at) turansky (dot) com.

Brenda said...

Thanks for letting me get to know more about you and what has inspired your writings. I love stories about the Amish.

Cindy said...

Cindy, your journey is really inspiring. A testimony that persevering and following your heart is the best way to go :)

I've never read an Amish book before but hearing the reasons why they're so popular now makes me interested. Thanks for the post!

Julie Lessman said...

AMBER, thank you -- that is SO cool!! And, YES, I will definitely drop by this Friday, although I won't get to stay long due to this very tight deadline I have.

See you then!


Anonymous said...

Wow, that is a great story on how you became a Amish Author! I dearly love your books! Please keep them coming! God Bless You!

Dawn (Searcy 4 U at aol dot com)

Cathy Shouse said...


What a fascinating post about the Amish and your experiences in getting published.

What great timing! Some Amish families from another part of the state are coming to our little town to cook an authentic meal and conduct an auction to raise funds to beautify our town. They're coming this weekend and we're very excited!

I'd love to win your most controversial book :)

cathy underline shouse at yahoo dot com

Kathy said...


Your story is inspiring and motivating to read about. I have always had the same questions that Vince had - so glad you asked, Vince! And I appreciate the honest answers. I don't think I would have read the only other Amish series either if I were you just for the reasons that you explained to us.

Please include me in the contest for the first three books!


diana said...

I think you are one of the best Amish authors yet. Right up there with Beverly Lewis and that's a compliment! Not to mention a very sweet and Godly person as well.

Cindy W. said...

Hi Cindy!

I love reading stories about the Amish. The cover art on your books are always so beautiful. I would love to be entered into your giveaway.

Blessings to you and all the fine people in Seekerville.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Anonymous said...

I am impressed with your perseverance and very happy that you succeeded.
Kaye Whitney

Anonymous said...

I am impressed with your perseverance and very happy that you succeeded.
Kaye Whitney

Anonymous said...

What a blessing! Thank you for giving the opportunity to read your inspiring rare interview. When I met you in Nashville, you were the most "down to earth" person anyone could ever meet. May God continue to bless you as you bless others. Your interview is full of encouragement and inspiration!

NancyMehl said...

Great interview, Cindy. Thanks for sharing your story. You inspire me and so many others. God bless you!

Cindy Woodsmall said...

Well, our day is winding down, and I've had a wonderful day at Seekerville. It's a unique place. I'll check back tomorrow to see if anyone else dropped by, but I wanted you all to know this has been so much fun and I appreciate everyone who's left a comment. Thanks for inviting me, Julie!

Sandy Stover said...

Hello Cindy, Great interview. Love reading your books. Always waiting for the next one! God Bless you.

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed reading some of your books. Please enter me into the contest for a book. Thanks!

jcsmlee (at) hotmail (dot) com

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Cindy, I too grew up in Maryland and spent a lot of time going up to Amish Markets and just touring the countryside. The first book I read about the Amish that I picked up at Mennonite bookstore was "Roseanna of the Amish". Still have it though it is yellowed and about to fall apart.

Continued writing blessings your way,


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your journey here Cindy. Amazing!

What makes Cindy Woodsmalls books so appealing to me is the fact that she makes them so universal. Her dilemas are something you can relate to and her characters are so deep. She has the ability to draw you in quickly and care about her characters and their situation. I could relate to characters as a woman and wonder what I would do. My personal book club read When the Heart Cries and her newest one The Hope of Refuge. Her series are captivating! Everyone in my group thought so too. None of us are big Amish readers!

Thanks for what you write Cindy and how you respect them as a people.


Nora :D
The Book Club Network

Sarah Forgrave said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Cindy! It's interesting to see how fast the Amish craze has grown.

My current wip is a crossover between romantic comedy and Amish fiction (non-Amish main characters in an Amish-centric town). I grew up in a highly populated Amish area, so it's been fun to draw from my experiences.

It'll be interesting to see if publishers like my new twist. So far I've only seen one other author taking the same approach, so I may end up in your shoes with the not-sure-there's-room-for-two concerns. We'll see! :-)

Pam Hillman said...

I'm a day late, but really enjoyed your post, Cindy. Thanks for sharing!

Julie, got any of that coffee left? If not, I'll pop in on Thursday's blog and see what's for breakfast TODAY! lol

Edwina said...

I would love to read any of Cindy's books!


Christy--Southern Sassy Girl said...


I have loved every single one of your books, and FINALLY, the wait is almost over for your new one!! It was great reading about your journey as an author, and I bet that editor is just hiding his face in shame that he turned you down!

I really applaud you, too, for not reading any of the other Amish novels on the market, even though there are some great ones out there. The biggest thing I love about your books is that they're different from all the rest. :o)

I'd love to be signed up for the contest!

orca0024 at yahoo dot com

Janalyn Voigt said...

Cindy, I'm glad you listened to the Lord's direction. I admire you for turning down what would have been your first contract. It takes guts (and faith) to do that. You're an inspiration.

Please enter me in the contest. janalynvoigt at gmail dot com

Linnette R Mullin said...

Thanks for the encouragement to "follow the whisper of your heart" when writing and pursing publication!


lotus82 said...

Oh I just love Amish books!! They are my absolute favorite. Yours and alos Wanda Brunstetter's books. I can't wait for new ones to come out. I'd love to be entered for either a book or a keepsake.

Thank you.

Jen @ GBG said...

I have been a huge fan of yours since the very first book. I really enjoyed reading about how things worked out for you. I am so glad you didn't decide to take the first contract and stop writing about the Amish.

Please enter me in the contest.
ssovrnej (at)

rbooth43 said...

Cindy, Your books about the Amish are great and right-on. This post really helped me to get to know you personally, of course by writing. The advice was very timely for me.
Reading this book would be fantastic.

heidi330 said...

Great interview!!! I love your books on the Amish. I live insummerdale,PA which is about 45 mins from Lancaster,PA where we have a very large group of Amish. We spend a lot of time down there in the spring and fall going to sales and lots of Amish markets. Plus I have family that is Amish. My Great grandfather's parents were Amish and they decided when they moved to PA, that they were moving on their own. yes they lost contact with their families but its what they wanted to do.
Please enter me in your contests.


generic viagra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
misskallie2000 said...

Hi Cindy, I really enjoyed your interview and all the interesting facts that took place before you were published. I am so glad you hung in there and followed your dream. I have always been fasinated by the Amish. I love to watch movies on TV that have Amish families and find them so much like normal families but they just seem to be more at peace and don't rush, rush, rush as we do. They believe in families and being with their family. Maybe if we took on some of their great life styles our young people, teens and children would not be in trouble now. I have not read any of your books but I have added you to my new author list and your books to my wish list.
Thanks for stopping by to chat.

Please enter me in the giveaway.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Ann Lee Miller said...

I'd be happy to win any of Cindy's books!

Ann Lee Miller]

scrapbookangel said...

I would love to be entered as well. I have read one book set in PA Amish community and would love to read more books about the culture.

avidreader at middleswarth dot net

Susan Hollaway said...

I really enjoyed this post. Very interesting!

Please enter me in the contest.
shollaway2008 at gmail dot com

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Hi Cindy! Sorry I'm late to the party. Glad you guestblogged for us. I love hearing about your journey and am so excited and delighted for your (well-deserved) success!



Anonymous said...

Cindy, you keep us interested in your books and your comments, too! Your books are some of the best in the Amish literature.

Please enter me in the contest.

Shari said...

Thanks, Cindy, for a wonderful post. It's so inspiring to hear success stories. Please enter me in the contest.