Monday, August 5, 2013

Meet Author Cindy Woodsmall

 Today we will meet Cindy Woodsmall, author of best-selling and award-winning Amish fiction. She's won Fiction Book of the Year, Reviewer's Choice Awards, Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, as well as one of Crossings' Best Books of the Year. She's been a finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards, Christian Book of the Year, and Christian Retailers Choice Awards.
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
I struggled with the idea of writing professionally, even after I attended my first writers’ conference. Still, the hunger to understand story development and create stories was strong in my heart. Actually, that desire began for me at a very young age.
One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother reading to me before bedtime. After she left the room, I reworked every story she’d read to me. If Cinderella had been the ugly one, how would that change the outcome? If the stepsisters had been the nice ones, how would that have affected the story? I hated when I became too sleepy to continue working on those ideas and imagining the new story lines. That was the beginning of my love of thinking about plotlines and characterization.
But in high school, I had an experience that turned me off to writing. My English teacher gave the class a creative writing assignment, and my mother helped me brainstorm it. Working on it with her was a lot of fun. I wanted a good grade on the assignment, and I received it. But the teacher never returned my story. Months later all the students were called to the gymnasium for assembly, and awards were given out for various things. When my name was called, my heart about stopped. Up on stage, I was given a three-foot-tall trophy. I then learned that my English teacher had sent the writing assignments in to a countywide writing contest, without my knowledge, and I’d won. I was mortified! I hated the spotlight and didn’t feel I’d done anything that special. After the assembly, I stuffed the trophy into my locker, turned to a friend, and said, “I’ll never write again!” And I meant it. When it was time to go home that day, I hid the trophy under a sweater and put writing behind me.
After many years of refusing to write, I slowly worked through most of my reservations. Once that was accomplished, I attended a writing conference and went through the process of finding a publisher. It wasn’t easy, but I had peace the whole way, possibly because I would’ve been fine if I never became published. When I received my first contract, I prayed that enough books would sell that my publisher wouldn’t be disappointed. That was my only goal.
There are a lot of roads in life, and we often take the wrong one, thinking it’s the right one. I’m grateful that God kept directing me toward the “write” road.

Q: Every author seems to have taken a slightly different path to becoming published. What is your story?
I began writing the Amish story of my heart in 1999. I went to my first writers’ conference in 2002 (American Christian Fiction Writers conference). I came away so excited at the idea of getting the story inside my heart onto the written page in a way that captured readers’ minds and hearts. My world became immersed in everything to do with writing. Whenever I wondered how best to convey on paper what was happening in a scene, I’d study book after book, talk to a writing mentor, and even dream about writing methods and solutions. Two years later I felt I was ready to turn in the first chapter to a few editors.
I received wonderful feedback on my writing. I even had an offer for a book 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.
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 submitted the first chapter of When the Heart Cries to an editor with WaterBrook Press (a division of Random House). The editor for WaterBrook believed my story was strong enough to draw in readers regardless of whether or not my setting and characters were based in Amish, so she asked me to turn in a full manuscript. I did, it passed the committee, and I had my first contract! That book was released in the fall of 2006.

Q: Tell me a little about your books.
I’ve written twelve works of fiction and one nonfiction, and I’m currently working on book three in my Amish Vines and Orchards series.
My real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families make devising the stories a lot of fun. I cherish the weeks I’ve spent staying with Amish families. The culture is so different from ours. The mind-set is fully on keeping the Old Ways, and it’s such a blessing for my writing to be able to draw from my time among the Plain people. 
My coauthor for my nonfiction book is an Old Order Amish woman named Miriam Flaud. Sometimes she and other Amish friends help me brainstorm my stories before I begin writing them. When I’m visiting an Old Order Amish home, there are times when an Amish woman will bring a baked good and we’ll have a slice of it along with a cup of coffee while she tells me about an event from her life that she thinks would make a good novel.

Q: How did you feel when you opened your box of the first published copies of your very first book?
I would love to be able to tell you that I soared with elation. Many of my author friends danced around their homes and embraced the moment fully. But I didn’t even open the box. Hours later, when my husband came home, he opened it. He was excited and coaxed me into leaving my office to take a look at the book. I ran my hands over the cool, smooth cover, and then returned to my office to work on book two. The deadline for the sequel was pressing in, and my energy and attention were funneled into that project. Looking back, I think I was scared that When the Heart Cries wouldn’t be enough of a success for the publisher to be pleased they’d put me under contract, so I brushed my feelings about it under the rug—as if the only thing that really mattered was the next project. (see my note about this book at the end of this interview.--JN--It was fabulous!)

Q: What do you want readers to take away from your books?
I want my readers to feel three main things as they read my books: Beautiful. Treasured by God. And energized strength. The kind of energized strength that comes through stirring faith, hope, and love in themselves and others. Those three things can reach beyond all reasonable boundaries and roadblocks, bringing into existence all we need. But each of us must be renewed regularly or we will grow weary, get out of sorts with God, and lose sight of the finish line.

Q: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Subtly and realistically, I hope. I aim to have a character-driven story, not an author or an agenda-driven one. From birth, people are on a journey, and by the time my story picks up, my characters are young people, often in their late teens to twenties. I want to get into their hearts and minds. What have they learned about life? What do they want from life? What mistakes have they made?
I feel that many people love God and may be fully dedicated to Him, but most don’t live their lives thinking, What is my Christian message to the world? Christ in us is a beautiful, ageless message, as unique as each person. So the question each character in my novels will inevitably answer is “How does God’s love and His will, mixed with the strengths and weaknesses of who I am, come across in my life?” Then, if a Bible verse or scriptural message comes to the character’s mind, it will be organic, in the same way as when God speaks to us. So faith becomes a part of the story.

Q: What can you tell us about any future releases you have planned?
The Winnowing Season releases April 2. It’s the second book in the Amish Vines and Orchards series. Book three, For Every Season will release in the fall.
A sneak peek into The Winnowing Season ~
The tornado that devastated Kings’ Orchard pushed Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob to make a new start in Maine. Are they strong enough to withstand the challenges of establishing an Amish community—and brave enough to face the secrets that move with them? 
On the eve of their departure to begin a new Old Order Amish community just outside of Unity, Maine, Rhoda Byler is shocked to discover that choices made by her business partner and friend, Samuel King, have placed her and her unusual gifts directly into the path of her district’s bishop and preachers. She is furious with Samuel and fearful that the Kings will be influenced by the way her leaders see her, and not what they know to be true—that Rhoda’s intuition is a gift from God.
Jacob King won’t be swayed by community speculation. He loves Rhoda, believes in her, and wants to build a future with her in Maine. But when the ghosts of his past come calling and require him to fulfill a great debt, can he shake their hold before it destroys what he has with Rhoda? Samuel has a secret of his own—one he’ll go to great lengths to keep hidden, even if it means alienating those closest to him. Throwing himself into rehabilitating the once-abandoned orchard, Samuel turns to a surprising new ally.
Can these three faithfully follow God’s leading and build a new home and orchard in Maine? Or will this new beginning lead to more ruin and heartbreak?
To read an excerpt or to preorder The Winnowing Season, go to: http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/books/amish-vines-and-orchards-series/the-winnowing-season/
 I can’t say for certain what the future holds, but in a couple of years, I’m hoping to begin a new series that will take me and my readers into something very special. 

 Thank you, Cindy, for sharing with our readers today. Here are pictures of the covers of some of Cindy's newest books. I hope you have read some and will read some more.



Cindy's Sisters of the Quilt series was the one that drew me into her writing. These were three books I literally could not put down.
When the Heart Cries, published 2006
When the Morning Comes, published 2007
When the Soul Mends, published 2008
 
If you'd like to win Cindy's newest book, The Winnowing Season, comment here. I'll be mailing the book to the winner, who will be chosen August 10. I'll contact the winner by email, same as always. Be sure to leave your email address.

58 comments:

  1. I love what you said about a character-driven story. I think that's lacking in a lot of books. The fact that they haves lives from birth on. I think that's missed in so many characters.

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    1. Hi, Linda! Thanks for posting a comment. I find the characterization part of planning a novel to be both fun and sad, depending on the backstory and how the character was welcomed (or not welcomed) into the world and the environment he or she grew up in.

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  2. Thanks, Linda, yes, what do we have in books if we don't connect with the characters? That's what keeps me turning the pages.

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  3. Enjoyed the interview & glad that you reconsidered becoming a writer - our decisions should be based on where God leads us, rather than what other people think about our path.

    I love so many things about the Amish - their simplicity, commitment to their faith, cooking, crafts, etc., etc., - I tour Amish communities every chance I get, & once enjoyed eating in an Amish home.

    Would love to read/win your book - thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

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    1. Hi, Bonnie,

      Thank you! It seems as if my family is glad I began writing too. It's been a wonderful experience for us.

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  4. Hello again, Bonnie, If you have not read any of Cindy's books, I know you would love them. Thanks for commenting and entering the give-away.

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  5. I have read many of Cindy"s books and love them.
    I'd like very much to win her newest release. The Winnowing Series.
    Thanks for a chance to win.
    Carolyn Jefferson
    carolynj63@att.net

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  6. Hi, Carolyn, and thanks for your comment! Sounds like you love Cindy's books as much as I do. Good luck in the contest! I'll be notifying the winner to get her mailing address next Sunday afternoon.

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  7. I have read all of Cindy's books, and I will continue to read her newest books.

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    1. Your post certainly made me smile, Jean! Thank you.

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    2. Hello, Jean, and thanks for your comment. Yes, I too will continue to read Cindy's books. Let's keep her in business, OK?

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    3. Hello, Jean, thanks for your comment. I sure hope you will send me your email address so I can enter you in the contest. Please come back and leave it for me,OK?

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  8. Hi Juanita,
    I really enjoyed the interview. I've seen those books and enjoyed getting to know a little more about the author. I also enjoyed my visit to Amish country last year!

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    1. Hi, Margaret, yes I know you enjoyed your trip because you told me about it. So glad you could read the interview today and get to know a little about Cindy Woodsmall, such a wonderful author. I'm honored to have her on my blog this week.

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  9. I'm with you, Margaret. I enjoy every trip to Amish country!

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    1. My friend and I had a jam packed week. We visited many Amish stores but our favorite one was in a farmhouse. A young lady and her baby sold my friend a quilt. We loved seeing the children, families and horses. We looked at so many beautiful quilts, rode scooters thru the country and ate some incredible food! I gained 10 pounds that week.

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  10. What a lovely interview. Cindy-I love that you want your readers to take away "energized strength" from your stories - I certainly see that in your characters as they develop over the story line and I always have a renewed "energy" in my faith after reading them.

    babykf629 at gmail dot com

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    1. It's sort of the opposite of overwhelmed weakness, that tries to beseech us. I'm very grateful the stories renew your faith energy,Kim. What a lovely way to think of it!

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    2. Kim, thank you for your comment. And thanks for stopping by to read today's interview with Cindy.

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    3. Thanks, Kim, for your visit and your comment. Characterization is so important, and Cindy is a master at writing it. That's why we love her books!

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  11. I have read several of Cindy's books and Winnowing Season was the last one that I read. I would love to read the next book of this series. It was fun reading the questions and answers and would love to have her knowledge of the Amish. What a fascinating people they are, and with such great values. We can certainly learn lots to improve our own lives.
    Sonja
    Sonja.nishimoto@gmail.com

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    1. Hi, Sonja! It never ceases to amaze me how much I still have to learn about the Amish. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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    2. Hello, Sonja, and thanks for visiting my blog. Earlier this year I did an interview with a man who writes Amish fiction--Dale Cramer. I know you would love his books as well. Good luck in the interview and thanks again!

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  12. id like to win!
    defdot at gmail dot com

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    1. Hey, Zee, thanks for sending your email address-- you are entered in the winner next Sunday, August 10.

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  13. Great interview.The Winnowing Season sounds wonderful. Please enter me in contest. Thank you for the opportunity to win.I enjoy reading all of your books.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.

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    1. Thanks so much, Emma. So glad you stopped by my blog and hope you will come again. You are entered in the contest-- and good luck!

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    1. Thanks so much, Bonnie-- Please visit my blog again and leave your email so I can notify you if you win.

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  15. I love that one of her goals as a writer is to leave the reader with renewed strength. That is one of the biggest reasons I love reading Christian fiction- because I'm usually not left with depressing feelings when finished, like many secular books :)

    colorvibrant[at]gmail[dot]com

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    1. When I was fighting with myself about writing (I didn't want to and I yet I did), one of the things I realized about myself was that if I could, I'd like to put my arm around every woman struggling with any aspect of life and encourage her. Simple hope shared, regardless of what faced them. But that would always be impossible, and it seems the battle to against writing was lost in that one final argument ;-)

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  16. I just love Amish Fiction. I have always been drawn to the characters and their stories. I think it's the depth of their relationship with God. It's like a magnet to me. Thank you Miss Juanita and Miss Cindy for the interview and giveaway.

    Wanda Barefoot
    flghtlss1(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  17. Thanks, Wanda, and thanks for your return visit. Good luck in the contest! If you win the book I know you will love it.

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  18. Juanita,
    The Sisters of the Quilt Series were also the books that brought Cindy Woodsmall to my attention. Currently reading her new series. Thanks again for your giveaways.
    Martha
    josieringer(at)gmail(dot)com

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  19. Hi, Martha, so good to see your name again. Thanks for stopping by. Don't you just love Christian fiction? Don't you love Cindy's books?

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  20. My friend Sherry Gore taold me about Cindy in 2007. I have read the first 5 books that Cindy has wrote. I love how her books come to live. It's like you are right there with them and going through it with them. Cindy Woodsmall is an awesome writer. LeAnn Mooneyham angel4god(at)charter(dot)net

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    1. Hey, LeAnn,I agree with you. Good luck in the drawing. I have you on the list.

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  21. I love her writing K Gion

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    1. Thanks, Karen. I appreciate you checking in.

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  22. Juanita...thanks for the chance to read one of cindy's novels...love her stories :)

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

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    1. Hello, KarenK, nice to welcome you back to my blog. I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview.

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  23. Looking forward to the new book in the fall. Can't wait to see which brother Rhoda chooses.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm glad you, too, enjoy Cindy's stories.

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  24. Cindy- I hope that someday I am as sucessful author as you are. It has been my dream for a couple years now to be an author and the story of your journey has encouraged me so much. Thank You! keep writing more great stories!

    God Bless!
    Grace Pierpont

    P.S. I would love to win one of your books! my email address is: gracelz1@hotmail.com

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    1. Hello, Grace, thanks for visiting my blog and reading about Cindy's journey to be an author. Yes, it's very inspiring. And thanks for entering the drawing for one of her books. I'll notify the winner on Sunday, the 11th.

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  25. What an awful experience you had in high school with the writing assignment! I'm so glad that God brought you back to writing. Your journey to publishing was evidence of His hand and guidance in your life. I really enjoyed the interview. It is very inspiring.
    may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com

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    1. Hi, Kay, Thanks for coming back to visit my blog. Old friends, new friends, it's nice to see names that I remember from past interviews. Glad you enjoyed the interview with Cindy.

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  26. I would love to win a copy of this book. I'm stopping by because Cindy posted about your contest on her facebook page. What a nice blog you have! Looking forward to stopping by again! snowflakes2hotcakes {at} gmail {dot} com

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    1. It's so nice to meet a new friend. I'll look forward to seeing you again, too. Thanks for stopping by. I'll notify you if you are the winner.

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  27. Thanks for not giving up on your amish books Cindy! missing out on the sisters of the quilt and your other stories would have been tragic!

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    1. Yes, TaMara, I agree with you. The Sisters of the Quilt is one series I will always remember. Thanks for visiting my blog again.

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  28. Hi Juanita. Thanks for the interview with Cindy, one of my favorite Amish authors. I have enjoyed her Sisters of The Quilt and others. Cindy, I can't imagine you being embarressed for wining such a big trophy. You should have ben proud. And, not looking at your box of first books when they arrived.. I'm glad you stuck with the Amish books. I love your books. My first two Amish authors were Beverly Lewis with The Shunning, and Wanda Brunstetter.. I sure hope I can win this book. Been wanting it. Thanks to both you girls for the give-away. MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

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    1. Hey, Maxie, nice to see you back on my blog. I love Cindy's books, too. You're in the drawing. Good luck!!

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  29. Thanks Juanita. Would love to win.

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    1. Hello, Hope, I'd like to enter your name, but need your email address. I send an email to the winner. Please come back and leave your contact information.

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  30. WOW! This is a popular post and author and series! :) I would love to win a copy to check it out. Thanks for the opportunity. Margo (at) margodill.com

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    1. Hi, Margo, yes, this is the second most popular post on my blog! I'm so glad that Cindy gave me the opportunity to interview her. Thanks for stopping by.

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