Then Came a Buggy

by Barbara Cameron

Students entering senior year in high school usually have a lot on their minds. Which college will they choose? How are they going to finance it? And what will be their major?

I wasn’t one of those students worrying about college. My dad was pushing me to go to the local community college and become a nurse.

That was the last thing I wanted. I was the oldest child and was tired of taking care of my younger siblings. When I saw a notice on the school announcement board about a cooperative education class at the local newspaper I decided to apply. After all, I was a voracious reader and I’d enjoyed the extra credit assignments in creative writing my English teacher gave me.
That decision led me to being chosen to attend a weekly class at the newspaper. I loved it there. Sometimes I thought I was in DisneyWorld. The newspaper was such an incredible place filled with people who loved to write, who loved to inform and educate their readers. Each week we high school students learned about writing and interviewing and turning our work in on a deadline.

After I graduated I got a job as a copy kid – a “gofer” – there while I took classes at the community college. Gradually I worked my way up to reporter and television magazine writer.

And that experience led me to an important discovery: writing for the newspaper taught me to look for what readers want to read and how to enjoy writing for them.

Too often new writers sit down and write what they want to and I’m not saying they shouldn’t. But if you want to break into publishing you should look at what people are reading and think about what you have to offer in that area.

Writers should study the offerings at bookstores – both brick and mortar stores and online stores. Let’s face it – this is not a hardship for us readers. Then I recommend studying bestseller lists. I’m not suggesting that you copy any writers in content or style but simply see what readers are interested in and buying and see if you have something to offer in that area.

I discovered that Amish fiction had become a popular genre in Christian fiction. I saw this trend when I browsed bookstores and bestseller lists. Around that time I attended a writer’s conference near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I’d seen Amish families traveling in buggies past my uncle’s Indiana farm as a child and been fascinated by them. So I explored Paradise, Pennsylvania, and the more that I met members of the Amish, the more I grew to admire them for their simple way of life and their daily walk with their faith. When I got home I began to think about writing a story set there.

I love stories where someone ventures into unfamiliar territory and thought, what would someone do if they went to live in an Amish community? I was glancing through the newspaper later that week and saw a story about a woman who had to calm soldiers returning to civilian life. My Englisch heroine was born: a news reporter (write what you know) who is injured and goes to heal at her Amish grandmother’s house. There she is reunited with the Amish boy next door and falls in love. But their worlds are so different it poses a real challenge to their renewed relationship . . . That story was A Time to Love, the first book in the Quilts of Lancaster County series (Abingdon Press). I sent it to my agent who submitted it to publishers and it didn’t sell to the first place it was submitted. But the editor there bought two Amish novellas from me that were included in collections called An Amish Christmas and An Amish Gathering with Beth Wiseman and Kathleen Fuller.

Since then I’ve sold five Amish series as well as a number of single Amish titles.

Home to Paradise is the latest, the third book of the Coming Home series (Abingdon Press).

Barbara is offering a chance to win a copy of her latest book, Home to Paradise. Follow the link.


Look at what people are reading…what do you have to offer in that area?~ Barbara Cameron (Click to Tweet)

Barbara Cameron
 has a heart for writing about the spiritual values and simple joys of the Amish. She is the best-selling author of more than 40 fiction and nonfiction books, three nationally televised movies, and the winner of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Her books have been nominated for Carol Awards and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award from RWA’s Faith, Hope, and Love chapter. Barbara resides in Jacksonville, Florida.
Find out more about Barbara at

Book blurb:

Rose Anna Zook has watched her two older sisters marry two Stoltzfus men and has always thought she and John, the third Stoltzfus brother, would marry, make a home together, and have children. But John has other ideas. He’s enjoying his Rumschpringe in the Englisch world a little too much and isn’t interested in returning to the Amish community – especially to marry. Rose Anna is determined to bring her man back into the Amish fold. John is equally determined to live his life free and unencumbered. Who will win this battle of wills? Will love prevail?

5 Ways to Spark Connections with Your Story

by Michèle Phoenix

1. Find a significant point of connection
As an English teacher, I was constantly telling my students to “write what you know.” By that, I didn’t mean that each one of their short stories, poems and screenplays needed to be autobiographical. What I was suggesting is something I’ve found to be true: if there’s a place, a character or an element of the plot line that links me to the story—so much so that I can write it out of intimate knowledge and personal identification—it will infuse the rest of the book with a sense of authority.
That’s exactly what I did in Of Stillness and Storm. My parents were missionaries to France for forty years, and I lived surrounded by devoted Christians whose hearts were in the right place, but whose priorities were sometimes obscured by their zeal to reach the unbelieving. Lauren and Sam—with their laudable strengths and deplorable flaws—are composites of the family friends who populated my childhood.
Did I have to do research into locations, lifestyles and medical details? Of course, I did. But ministry flows through my veins, and anchoring the book to that real-life knowledge helped me to write confidently and ultimately galvanized the creative process.
2. Look for “the spark” in unexpected places
To be honest, I’d wanted to write a story set on the mission field for some time, but lacked that illusive but crucial spark that becomes the impetus to sit down and start typing. I had bits and pieces floating around my mind—hints of personalities and shades of conflict—but it wasn’t until 2012, when I traveled to Kathmandu for the first time, the novel began to crystallize. I was struck by the beauty and brokenness of Nepal, and I saw in its desolate landscape and difficult living conditions a metaphor for the toll an honorable but reckless ministry can take on good people.
A story centered on a missionary couple’s personal journey from their first encounter to their moment of reckoning emerged from the geographical symbol I’d found while traveling for other reasons.
3. Let your characters teach you who they are
I’ve never been someone who carefully crafts characters before the writing begins, so for me much of the initial process is just waiting for them to reveal themselves. When Lauren first spirited her way into my mind, she carried with her the weight of a past I couldn’t wait to explore. Learning who she was and why she was became a powerful incentive to keep digging deeper.
Loving one’s characters, flawed and fallible as they may be, is also imperative. It empowers the writer to be courageous in exposing their struggles. Because I felt so devoted to Lauren, the evolution of her marriage to Sam was a story I strove to treat with unflinching honesty. The degradation of her bonds with a son she loved so fiercely was an aching exercise in resisting the urge to settle for happy endings. Aidan’s reappearance in her life was a complete surprise, even to me. But once he emerged with those four simple words—is it really you—he became someone I wanted to write boldly, a galvanizing presence in Lauren’s grappling with purpose and identity.
4. Step away, but don’t give up
Of the books I’ve had published so far (there’s one more coming in September 2017!), this is the one that was the hardest to write. Though the first drafts of other novels took me just three or four weeks to pour out, this one took me months. And here I’d thought familiarity with the context would simplify the process! There were times when I wanted to scratch it all and find another story to tell, but there was an intensity to Lauren’s “occupation” of my creative spaces that I couldn’t quell. So I powered through.
Once I found the courage to share what I’d written with select friends and critics, early feedback wasn’t all encouraging—though it was exactly right. When my college writing professor, who had volunteered to read an early draft, sent a rather bluntly-worded email to me, I realized my best intentions and efforts were not paying off. “I’m past chapter eight,” she wrote. “What will keep me reading? Is it coming soon?”
Oh, the temptation to throw in the towel—or throw out the Macbook! I set the manuscript aside for several weeks, perhaps hoping that leaving it unattended would cause a sort of literary fermentation to happen that would miraculously elevate the novel from boring to readable. Still, it tugged at my consciousness, the unfinished story crescendoing from a dull hum to an attention-grabbing screech. So when my period of pouting was over, I set to work deconstructing and reconstructing what I already had, shifting some scenes and deleting others, and generally distilling the book to its most basic, focused form.
Of Stillness and Storm was born.
5. Live around your writing
Writing is something I do. It is not the measure of my worth. Over the years, I’ve taught a handful of students who boldly declared, as Aidan does in the novel, that they—are—their—art. They were willing to rest their self-assessment and sense of value on an occupation that offers absolutely no guaranteed outcomes. How dangerous to base one’s identity on something as subjective and unpredictable as writing.
Though I’ve always loved the written word and fancied myself an author, I was fortunate enough to discover in my early adulthood that I have other strengths too—skills that have brought me a sense of purpose and productivity beyond the Russian Roulette of traditional publishing. Would my life still have meaning if Tyndale and Thomas Nelson had passed on my books? Absolutely—because there are other areas in it that motivate and fulfill me too.
Writing is important. It can be life-shaping and world-altering. So can kindness, investment in others and finding novel ways of using all one’s strengths for the betterment of self and others.

5 Ways to Spark Connections with Your Story by Michèle Phoenix (Click to Tweet)

Step away, but don’t give up~ Michèle Phoenix (Click to Tweet)

Born in France to a Canadian father and an American mother, Michèle Phoenix is a consultant, writer and speaker with a heart for Third Culture Kids. She taught for 20 years at Black Forest Academy (Germany) before launching her own advocacy venture under Global Outreach Mission. Michèle travels globally to consult and teach on topics related to this unique people group. She loves good conversations, mischievous students, Marvel movies and paths to healing. Learn more at Twitter: @frenchphoenix
Book Blurb:
“I felt torn between two worlds. Each with its own mystery. One more captivating than the other, but the other more real and breathing.”
It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream—reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. But while Sam treks into the Himalayas for weeks at a time, finding passion and purpose in his work among the needy, Lauren and Ryan stay behind, their daily reality more taxing than inspiring. For them, what started as a calling begins to feel like the family’s undoing. 
At the peak of her isolation and disillusion, a friend from Lauren’s past enters her life again. But as her communication with Aidan intensifies, so does the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past. It’s thirteen-year-old Ryan who most keenly bears the brunt of her distraction.
Intimate and bold, Of Stillness and Storm weaves profound dilemmas into a tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry.