Is Amish fiction about fleeing from reality? What should we expect if we meet an Amish person? What do the Amish think about us? Discover answers to these questions and more in this roundtable interview with three preeminent authors of Amish fiction: Amy Clipston (Naomi's Gift), Shelley Shepard Gray (Christmas in Sugarcreek), and Vannetta Chapman (Falling to Pieces). Pull up a chair — wooden or otherwise — and read on.
ZBLOG: Has your research on the Amish way of life changed how you view our broader American lifestyle?
VANNETTA: Yes, very much so. It's re-affirmed a lot of things that my husband and I practice (trading in a suburban lifestyle for a rural one), etc. It's also confirmed for me that Americans in general are looking for elements found in the Amish community, elements that existed in our grandparents' community — more intimate friendships, closer knit neighborhoods, slower pace lifestyles, etc. Those things are still available to everyone to some extent.
AMY: I'm more aware of how caught up in the day to day some Americans are, and I try to take a step back and appreciate the small moments with my family. Instead of just focusing on the daily grind of commuting to work, paying bills, and rushing off here and there, I do my best to spend quiet time talking to my children and listening to them every day, even if I can only squeeze a few minutes before they go to bed at night.
SHELLEY: I've definitely learned to appreciate each moment and day more fully. There's a time for everything, and from my research and friendships with the Amish, I've tried to stop being in such a rush and fretting about the future.
ZBLOG: What’s one thing about the Amish that would surprise most people?
VANNETTA: How friendly and outgoing they are. It seems to me that most of my readers expect the Amish to be very somber folk. The Amish I met are quiet, but they warm up to a person quickly and they have a fabulous sense of humor.
AMY: The Amish may not go to school beyond 8th grade, but they are savvier than most folks would expect. One of my close Amish friends loves to read and especially enjoys biographies. She's also very informed about world events.
SHELLEY: I think it might be that the Amish are very accepting of other people who are not Amish. They don't look down on others who drive cars, carry around their cell phones or wear makeup or jewelry. They really look at everyone as children of God.
ZBLOG: Do you think Amish fiction is escapism?
VANNETTA: It can be, but it can also be practical. There are components in Amish stories that any person can implement in their life, such as starting a patio garden. Personally I believe this is what makes Amish fiction so popular, not only that it helps us to escape to a fictional realm.
AMY: I believe Amish fiction is an escape from the stressful world we live in every day. Their lifestyle is much slower and more focused on family and faith. When we read about the Amish way of life, we travel to a simpler time.
SHELLEY: I think all fiction is escapism. I read books to get lost in stories and enjoy some quiet time. I think the genre offers a lot of outstanding opportunities to escape reality for a few moments!
ZBLOG: With the holidays nearing, I was wondering — what's one Amish holiday tradition that you like? Do you celebrate any Amish traditions with your family?
AMY: I like that the Amish focus on the celebration of Christ's birth instead of the commercialism that surrounds the "English" traditions. The Amish buy some gifts for their children, such as trinkets and candies. I can't say that we celebrate any Amish traditions in our house, since we put up a tree and decorate with lights, but I do respect how the Amish celebrate the holidays.
VANNETTA: I like the tradition of purchasing Christmas gifts for one other family member (drawing names), rather than trying to buy for everyone. We haven't implemented this in our family yet, but I'd like to. I think it takes the focus off of BUYING and back on family, relationships, and Christ.
SHELLEY: Because I enjoy baking so much, the Amish tradition of baking Christmas cookies is one I especially like. My Amish friend gets together with her sisters and spends the whole day making all sorts of cookies. I would enjoy that so much! I, too, bake a lot of cookies for family and friends. Even when my kids were little, they would help me. I guess that tradition stuck! Just this week, my daughter called from college and asked that I not start those cookies until she gets home on break!
ZBLOG: What are you looking forward to the most about your upcoming Amish Country Holiday Book Tour?
VANNETTA: I've never been to Holmes County or Lancaster, so I'm looking forward to that, and I can't wait to return to Shipshewana which is a lovely place with super people. I'm also looking forward to travelling with Shelley, Amy and the Zondervan people and meeting readers.
AMY: I've only had the opportunity to visit the Amish community in Lancaster, PA. I can't wait to experience Indiana and Ohio. I'm also very excited to meet more readers of Amish fiction.
SHELLEY: I'm looking forward to everything about the tour! I can't wait to get to know Vannetta and Amy better. I can't wait to eat Amish food! I'm excited to see Shipshewana -- I've never been there. Most of all, I'm looking forward to meet lots of readers.
RSVP to the Amish Country Holiday Book Tour 2011
November 11-19. Join Vannetta, Amy and Shelley on their trek into Amish Country. Learn more about the tour and let us know if you plan to attend one of the tour stops!
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The latest books from Vannetta, Amy and Shelley
|Falling to Pieces
|Christmas in Sugarcreek
Shelley Shepard Gray