Reading, Writing…and Reading Some More

Author Barbara Cameron  has sold
more than three dozen books (fiction and non-fiction) as well as three movies
to HBO/Cinemax. Awards  include being a
finalist for two Carol Awards (American Christian Fiction Writers Association),
second and third place winner in the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope,
and Love chapter’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for two novellas (One
Child in bestselling An Amish Christmas and When Winter Comes in An Amish
Gathering), and first time winner of the Romance Writers of America Golden
Heart Award. She has been on the CBA, CBD, and ECPA bestseller lists and is a
former newspaper reporter and part-time college instructor.

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Sometimes the best
advice for writers is the simplest:  READ.
Yes, read! And I’m
not talking about reading craft books. They are wonderful, but I’m talking about
very basic, everyday reading.
Readers often
comment on how real my books seem. They ask if my writing is born from real life
or  imagination?
You see, I like to
do a mixture. And what I’ve discovered is writing has helped me improve my work
and has also inspired some of my best work.
Not long ago, I
wanted to write an Amish novel and make it different, unique, not the same old
same old. That’s what editors want—fresh and different.
Nothing came at
Then one Sunday
afternoon I was reading the local newspaper and noticed an article about a
woman who volunteers to drive returning military to their stateside homes.
Quite a number of times, she said she’d braked at a stop sign or traffic light
and the soldier would yell at her or even grab at her arm. You see, too often
that stop in Afghanistan or Iraq resulted in a bombing…
I immediately had a
vision of a female television reporter who is dozing in a car as her friend
drives her home from overseas duty and wakes screaming at him when he brakes at
a stop sign.
I did further
research on this problem and found it’s a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD). We don’t always think of that as being something from which a reporter
could suffer, but anyone who suffers a traumatic event may develop the syndrome.
This reporter had been injured while doing her job overseas and wakes in a
stateside hospital with a quilt covering her. The note attached to the quilt is
from her grandmother. It says simply: Come home.
So Englisch (that’s
what the Amish call us) Jenny goes to recuperate at her Amish grandmother’s
home and is reunited with the boy next door. Instant conflict ensues: they went
in different directions years ago but now find themselves aware that the
attraction has not died. But Jenny is not only Englisch—she’s too aware of her
limp and scars and PTSD flares. And Matthew is Amish.
Their story would be
the first in a series I wanted to write. More reading and
research ensued. I find that the more I know, the more I want to know, and so I
read every Amish book—non-fiction and fiction—that I could find. I had visited
Paradise, Pennsylvania, years ago, but more visits to that Amish community and
others ensued. I read up on quilting and barn raisings and—well, that old
voracious love of reading was in full force.
Reading a quilting
magazine gave me ideas for scenes and cookbooks ideas for food and settings and
the recipes readers like at the rear of my books. Reading articles and books by
Amish authors helped me make my stories more authentic.
I finished that
series called Quilts of Lancaster County and wanted to do more; thank
goodness, the editor wanted to buy more. Along came more reading and ideas and
the Stitches in Time series was born. Heart in Hand is the third and latest in
the series set in a special store in Amish country.
I just signed a
contract for my fourth Amish series for Abingdon Press and am loving every
minute of reading for ideas and research and so much more. I can’t help
thinking how reading that Sunday paper started it all years ago.
My advice for writers?
Read, read, read, and then read some more. Don’t copy someone else’s story or
style but generate ideas, do research, figure out what works and what
doesn’t. And sometimes, just read for the pleasure of reading because if you
love reading you’ll be learning the craft of writing at the same time.