Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"The Amish" on PBS

Just a reminder, in case you haven't already seen it elsewhere, that the two-hour long documentary, "The Amish," will debut on American Experience on PBS stations tonight at eight. I've been reading and hearing a lot about this film, and I'm looking forward to seeing it.

The producers were apparently given unprecedented access to Amish communities across the country, and the project took over a year to produce. I've been impressed by the American Experience shows in the past, and I'm sure this one will be done with the same attention to detail and authenticity.

I hope you'll tune in!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nancy Drew Fans Unite!

I've been thinking lately about the books I read as growing up. Many of them, I realize now, were actually popular a generation before I came across them. Anyone else remember Maida's Little Shop? Or the Outdoor Girls? Or even the Uncle Wiggly stories?

But many hours of my childhood were spent with my best friend, Nancy Drew. Was she your best friend, as well? I have a vivid memory of my first encounter with Nancy. My family had moved to a new town over the summer, and I was finding it difficult to make friends without the common bond of school. In desperation, my mother took me to the library, thinking that might give me something to occupy me until school began. Little did she know what she was starting! For the rest of my childhood, she was constantly telling me, "Put down that book and go out and play!"

That library had a lovely, sunny room for younger children, but it also had some strict rules. Kids were not allowed into the section for the longer chapter books until they had started fourth grade. That sounds so odd to me now, but then I simply accepted it as one of those inexplicable adult regulations that governed our lives. I read my way through most of the picture books that summer, but my attention constantly strayed to those rows of forbidden chapter books.

Finally the day came when I was officially a fourth grader. I roamed through the stacks, gloating over the treasures I found, but the first book I took home was The Secret of the Old Clock. The story mesmerized me. Most little girls, upon reading their first Nancy Drew, wanted to become Nancy. Not me. I wanted to be the one who created those wonderful adventures for her. So, at age eight, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, thanks to Nancy.

Or, more accurately, thanks to Edward Stratemeyer, whose Stratemeyer Syndicate created the series in 1930. Stratemeyer had already launched the Hardy Boys series, and knowing that many girls were reading the books, had the idea of creating a similar mystery series with a girl detective. Stratemeyer initially conceived the plot lines and hired a series of ghost writers to author the books, all under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene. Those early ghost writers, most notably Mildred Wirt Benson, were paid the magnificent sum of $125 per book, flat fee. During the Depression, that dropped to $100!

Stratemeyer's two daughters eventually took over the line, with Harriet Stratemeyer Adams adopting Nancy. She created the plot lines and wrote many of the books. I was fortunate enough to meet Mrs. Adams at a time when my career was just beginning. She spoke at a small writers' event in New Jersey, and I talked a couple of friends into joining me for the trip from Pennsylvania. That was my first writers' workshop, and I was entranced by every bit of it, but the highlight, of course, was listening to Harriet Adams. She was a lovely, gracious lady, and I treasure the signed copy she gave me of one of the books.

What is it about Nancy Drew that has intrigued and delighted girls for over eighty years? Today there are still new volumes coming out, Nancy Drew games, websites devoted to Nancy, and a vibrant market in Nancy collectibles. Maybe the fascination is that Nancy exemplifies the sort of female all of us yearn to be...capable, intrepid, curious, lively, kind, and ready for any adventure life brings.

Cheers for Nancy--long may she reign!

Do you have a favorite childhood book? Why not find a copy and reread it sometime soon?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Old Order Amish and Mennonites

While I was writing HANNAH'S JOY, the next book in the Pleasant Valley series, coming in May, I had to refresh my memory as to the differences among Old Order Amish and the various groups of Mennonites. I grew up with several Old Order Mennonite friends, which was actually what led me to introduce an Old Order Mennonite heroine in Hannah Conroy. However, I had a feeling my knowledge might be a little out-of-date.

But I found that not all that much had changed since my childhood. My friends wore dresses which had small print designs which were cut very much like Amish dresses, but Old Order Amish dresses are always made of solid colors. Their kapps were very similar, and they were worn, as my friends explained, because the Bible tells us that women should have their head covered when they pray, and since they might want to pray at any time, they always wore prayer coverings. I realize now that there are other theological reasons, as well, but that was a pretty good explanation, given the ages we were then!

Mennonites generally worship in churchhouses, rather than in homes as the Amish do, and I was able to get some excellent descriptions of the typical churchhouse, including some intriguing details about how horse-and-buggy Mennonites and the so-called black bumper Mennonites, who drive cars, actually share a churchhouse, meeting on alternate Sundays.

If you’re intersted in the subject, Kutztown University in Berks Co, PA is sponsoring a talk next Wednesday:

Comparing the Old Orders
Featuring James Weaver & Benuel Riehl
Wednesday, February 22 · 5 p.m.· Academic Forum – Room 200 (signage will be posted)

James Weaver, a member of the Old Order Mennonite community and Benuel Riehl, a member of the Old Order Amish community discuss the similarities and differences between their religious groups. This moderated question and answer session is meant to clarify the common misconceptions that outsiders may have about the Old Order cultures.

Snow date is February 29.

Sponsored by The Pennsylvania German Cultural Club, Rohrbach Library and the late Dr.Arnold Newman, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University. (You can read more about the event here: http://amishamerica.com/comparing-old-order-amish-mennonites/)

Kutztown is a member university of the State System of Higher Education in Pennsylvania, and the university is doing a wonderful job of trying to preserve the Pennsylvania German heritage of our state, including the Pennsylvania Dutch language. Kutztown is also famous for their great folk festival held in July every year!

In any event, after all my work, the dress on the cover of HANNAH'S WAY didn't turn out quite as intended! Can you tell what's wrong with it? However, it's still a lovely image, and I hope it conveys something of the love story of Hannah and William Brand.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Love Inspired
I recently realized that the Love Inspired imprint is celebrating its fifteenth birthday this year. It's hard to believe that the time has gone by so quickly. I still vividly remember meeting with the editors to hear about the proposed new line at a Romance Writers of America conference. That's where I met my dear friend, Carol Steward, one of the first writers for the line.

I had been led to try writing an inspirational novel some time earlier, and when I heard what was planned for Love Inspired, I felt that not only had God opened a door for me, God was pushing me through! I submitted my manuscript, and it sold that first year and came out in 1998. A FATHER'S PROMISE wasn't my first published book, but it was one I especially loved, and it opened a new writing career for me. Now, many, many books later, I'm happy still to be writing for Love Inspired, with my new book, HER SURPRISE SISTER, coming out in July.

As part of the celebration, there's a lovely short film available that you can view here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=CA&v=CYrCM-uKVxc

It will also lead you to a link where you can download a free Love Inspired book. I hope you'll check it out and take advantage of the offer!

So Happy Birthday, Love Inspired. May you continue to bring stories of family, faith, and love to readers for a long time to come!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Paper or E-reader?

Paper or E-reader--what's your pleasure when it comes to reading these days?

I have to say that I was one of those people who insisted I would never move to an e-reader. I love the feel of a book in my hands. I like the whole experience of holding it, smelling it, feeling the pages turn. And I still do.

However...my husband received a surprise gift for his birthday a year ago from our children--an e-reader. Their thinking was that he'd enjoy it, since he loves historical fiction and always has a stack of paperbacks he's working his way through. But my husband is also not really into technology, and he loves browsing through used bookstores to find the authors and series he likes, many of which aren't yet available as e-books. So, out of curiosity, I took it over. And I made a discovery: I loved it!

I especially liked the ease with which I could enlarge the type. After a day spent working at the computer, my eyes are tired in the evenings. What a boon to be able to make the print any size I wanted! I also enjoyed the fact that I wasn't adding yet another physical book to my already-crowded shelves each time I got a new book. And it was lovely to finish a book at ten in the evening, order the next in the series, and have it there to start reading in less than a minute. So I was a happy camper.

But the problem with technology is that there's alway something newer and better and faster coming along. For Christmas, one of my granddaughters received a Kindle Fire. On the few occasions when I was able to wrench it out of her fingers, I experimented, and I fell in love. The color, the beautiful covers all arranged on a shelf when I turned it on, and especially the back-lighting which made it even easier for my tired old eyes to read in the evenings.

At one point during the Christmas vacation, I looked around the room and discovered that everyone was reading--some with books, some with e-readers, one or two on computers. According to the grandkids, reading a book on an e-reader is the cool things to do!

My husband, noticing my preoccupation with Greta's new Fire, started to smile. "I suppose you'd like one of those for your birthday," he said, always at a loss to know what to get for someone with a January birthday. I agreed eagerly, and I'm enjoying my new Fire more than I'd have imagined.

Not that I'm giving up print books--far from it! I still want a print book if it's something I want to share, passing it on to my reading friends so that we can discuss it. I want a print book if it's a how-to, because I find it easier to spread the pages of a book out to study the illustrations. And I still have those old favorites that I want to pull from the shelves and enjoy again just as I did the first time around, yellowed pages and all.

So what's your pleasure? Have you succumbed to an e-reader, or does your reading pleasure depend upon the feel of a book in your hand? Does it matter, as long as you're reading?