Monday, October 3, 2011
Southern-Style Meet & Greet with Cindy Woodsmall Plus Giveaway
Thank you so much for joining me this week! There's lots of great fun ahead on this week's Meet & Greet. :o)
But first, time to announce the winner of last week's giveaway for Lisa Bergren's entire River of Time Series. The lucky winner is...
Margaret M. (margaretmetz_writer@...)
Congratulations, Margaret! I know you will LOVE this series!
And now, time for this week's author--Cindy Woodsmall. I had the *enormous* pleasure of meeting Cindy in person at a local book signing over the summer, and let me tell ya, what a dream come true! Cindy is one of the most likeable, down-to-earth people there is...maybe because she's a Southerner now (read on to get the gist of how she became one). I sincerely hope y'all enjoy our chat this week...I've had such a wonderful time getting to know her better. :o)
I fell in love with stories at a really young age, but the idea of being a writer didn’t dawn on me until I was a mom of three.
One of my earliest memories is of my mother reading to me before bedtime. After she left the room, I reworked every story she read. What would have happened if Cinderella was mean and her stepsisters were kind? I stayed awake as long as I could, imagining different plotlines for the classic stories. When the characters wouldn’t do as I said, I knew sleep was taking over. Even my vivid imagination couldn’t stop the sandman.
Despite my childhood love of reworking plotlines and characters, I never considered becoming a writer. But as the years went by, the stories in my head got louder. As an adult I felt the stories were pulling me away from my family and into a dream world. When people tried to talk to me, I could barely hear them. I did everything I could think of to get free of the stories pounding away inside me—even whining to God to make them go away! But they wouldn’t leave. Instead, they grew so loud that I could no longer ignore them.
I finally began to realize that maybe I wasn’t meant to simply read fiction. Maybe instead of keeping a lid on the stories, I needed to remove the lid and stir the pot, so to speak.
In the summer of 2000 I finally asked my then-teenaged sons to set up a computer in the dining room, and I started writing.
I spent months writing and writing and writing, just letting the stories pour forth. In 2002 I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference (www.acfw.com) and began the journey of learning how to get the story of my heart onto the written page in a way that would connect with readers.
What drew you to begin writing Amish fiction?
While growing up in Maryland, I had a best friend who was Amish-Mennonite. The moment I stepped inside her house when I was nine years old, I sensed there were a lot of differences between her home and mine. My friend, like all the females in her family, wore a prayer Kapp and cape dresses. Her parents didn’t allow television or radios, and many other modern conveniences were frowned upon. She knew her family tree; I knew how to climb a tree. Her family believed in keeping peace with others; my family believed that standing up for yourself was more important than getting along with others. My friend and I only attended school together for a year before her parents withdrew her from public school and began a school of their own for all the Amish-Mennonites in the area. When we didn’t see each other at school anymore, we continued our friendship by spending the night in each other’s home. But neither of our parents liked the relationship, and we spent years navigating around their disapproval. We’d sneak off to meet halfway between our two places, or meet at her aunt’s home, which was my closest neighbor inside that dairy-farming community. Since her lifestyle was so different from mine, my imagination constantly filtered the differences and devised stories around them. When I started writing, the story that stood out among all the others was based on the journey between my childhood Amish friend and me. That story eventually led to my first novel series, Sisters of the Quilt.
As an adult, I connected with an Old Order Amish woman through a mutual acquaintance. We became friends, and for years I’ve stayed in her home as often as time allows us that gift. Our relationship has been a precious one; after years of discussing my fiction works while we sat outside sipping coffee near her lilac bushes, we embarked on becoming coauthors of a nonfiction book—Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into An Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women. Her family and friends are unbelievably welcoming and helpful in every way.
Do your own personal experiences, or those of family and friends, ever find their way into one your stories?
Whenever an editor says, “You need to add something funny and warm here,” I draw from real-life experiences. You’ll see one of those incidents in The Christmas Singing. Just like the main character, Mattie, I have times of being quite absentminded.
For example, one year I planned a birthday party at a bowling alley for my youngest son, Tyler. The day of the party was one of those super-busy days, and I was relieved when I finally pulled into the bowling alley parking lot—on time and with my son, his bowling ball, and the birthday cake.
My husband worked nearby, so he planned to meet us there. Our oldest son, Justin, was in college, and our second son, Adam, was in high school—they planned to meet us there as well.
Once inside, I realized I’d forgotten the paper plates, napkins, and cups. The bowling alley had made their position clear: they’d provide pizza and drinks for the party, but everything else was my responsibility.
As Tyler’s friends and their parents trickled in and started bowling, I called Justin with my request for paper plates and napkins. He told me he would pick them up on his way.
When I realized I’d forgotten candles for the cake, I called Adam. He agreed to pick them up.
Then I realized I’d forgotten the knife for cutting the cake. I called my husband. He was just about to leave work, and there was a knife in the office kitchen that he could bring.
Next I realized I’d forgotten the plastic eating utensils. And the ice cream. And a scoop. And matches for the candles. And...
I called Tommy and my older boys repeatedly, asking them to run to the store or our house for needed items.
Just as the pizza was brought to the tables, my husband and two older sons walked in with big grins, obviously having met in the parking lot. They plunked their goods onto the table.
Tommy smiled. “I couldn’t wait to get here and make sure you hadn’t forgotten Tyler.”
Now, that's funny! LOL!
What do you hope readers “take away” with them after they read one of your books?
Hope to face the storms. Laughter to lighten the day. Sobriety to keep clear vision of what’s truly important. Love to enjoy life and all its messy beauty. These are the insights I’d like my readers to get from my books. Without insights, we are left with either legalism or fleeting emotionalism. Under the law, I fail. Under emotionalism, I fizzle. But insight has the power to mold, strengthen, and change us.
When we open our spiritual eyes to life’s principles, those principles become a part of who we are. Then not only do we understand why we should take a stand, we’re more willing to take that stand regardless of what’s going on around us. So my goal is to write in a way that helps people see life from a perspective that renews their strength to keep pressing on and gives them refreshment in the true value of living.
What is your latest book release?
Mattie Eash’s life was everything she could hope for. Until three years ago at Christmastime, when her childhood sweetheart, Gideon, betrayed her.
Heartbroken, Mattie retreated to her brother’s home in Ohio and poured her life into the dream of running her own cake shop. There she found someone safe to give her heart to—unlike Gideon.
A devastating fire forces her back home…and right into the path of Gideon Beiler.
Will learning the truth behind his rejection restore her Christmas joy—or open the door to even deeper heartbreak?
This holiday season, Mattie’s best gift might just be the harmony of unexpected truth and reconciliation.
Spend Christmas with the Amish in this story of love, romance, heartache, and restoration in The Christmas Singing.
To read chapter one, go here: http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/books/novellas/the-christmas-singing/excerpt/
I've loved these novellas of yours, Cindy. I'm wondering if they'll become a holiday tradition. (hint-hint)
Are you currently working on another novel, and if so, can you give us a snippet about it?
The boundary line between a horse-and-buggy Mennonite and someone from the Old Order Amish community cannot be crossed for love. It’s forbidden. Unacceptable. Inappropriate. Because of that, longtime friends Annie and Aden have avoided each other, in spite of their mutual romantic attraction. Both have joined their respective faiths.
After years of living elsewhere, Annie returns to visit her grandfather and ends up working in Aden’s diner. His mother understands what Aden sees in her, but she’s desperate for him to do the right thing. He’s taken a vow to stay faithful to his church and so has Annie. Her grandfather has the power to shut the family restaurant down with one phone call, and he intends to do just that if Aden doesn’t stay away from his granddaughter. Is heartache all that's ahead for Annie and Aden?
Where can readers find you on the web?
What is your most favorite thing about the South?
When my family lived in Maryland, we traveled to Alabama at least once each year to visit my grandparents. It was an eight-hundred-mile trip and we had to go through a lot of little towns. I spent those long hours reading and taking naps, but whenever we came close to the Georgia state line, I always begged to stop, even at a rest area, just so I could put my feet on Georgia soil. Finally, during one trip, my patient mom said, “Cindy, not everything good in life takes place in Georgia.”
I turned to her and said, “It will for me, Mom, just wait and see.”
For reasons we can’t always figure out, our children tend to gravitate toward certain things. They often seem to love something that makes little sense to us.
When I was a young woman, a job opportunity opened in Georgia. I didn’t need to be asked twice if I was willing to move there.
My husband and I have raised our three sons here. We now have two daughters-in-law and a grandchild on her way. I’m not sure I can define all the things I love about living in the Deep South, but I enjoy the seasons, the North Georgia Mountains, and the acceptance by all visitors that a porch is for sitting on nine months out of the year ;-)
Iced Tea—sweet or un-sweet?
I love sweet tea, no lemon.
Cindy, you're a woman after my own heart. There is no better way to drink tea than this one. :o)
BBQ Pork or BBQ Beef?
Dolly Parton or Elvis Presley?
LOL! When I’m in the thick of writing a novel, I love a good movie to relax with, and Dolly has been in a few fun movies—Steel Magnolias and Nine to Five come to mind. So for that reason, I think she wins. And although I enjoy Elvis Presley songs a lot, Dolly’s songs get my blood and imagination pumping! Can you hear the tune to Nine to Five at just the mention of it? I can!
Yep, I sure can! Know the song, but haven't seen the movie. Looks like I'll have to remedy that.
Country gal or city gal?
I’m not a city girl, but I do like to stay close to convenience. When my family lived in Maryland, we had homes in numerous places—from a suburb of DC to dairy farming country. Bethesda had everything at our fingertips, and I enjoyed that. The country had many wonderful learning aspects to it, but it took forty minutes each way to get to a store to pick up a gallon of milk. After experiencing each of those places, I knew I wanted “convenient country” living. We live about forty minutes outside of Atlanta. No matter what direction we go when leaving our home, we are within two miles of a pharmacy and grocery store.
You, you all, or y’all?
Maybe it’s the two cultures I’ve grown up with, but I use “you guys” and “y’all” pretty equally…and liberally.
One last word from Cindy--
I have two contests currently taking place. Each one involves a chance to win one of two Amish-made wall hangings. One contest is on my Plain Talk Blog on the home page of my website: http://www.cindywoodsmall.com. Once you’re on the site, scroll down until you see the words Plain Talk Blog, then click on either of the links provided: “read more” or “Win a copy of The Christmas Singing and an Amish-made wall hanging!” Scroll to “Leave a Reply,” then post a comment.
The other contest is taking place on Facebook—
The Facebook contest begins Tuesday, October 4, and ends October 5, at midnight. The detail of the Amish-made wall hangings is so exquisite it’s hard to give it away, but I’m excited for someone to win each one!
Up for grabs this week is not one, but TWO copies of Cindy's newest book, The Christmas Singing. And to help some folks out who have been having trouble leaving comments in the past few weeks, I'm going to start including this form on all future posts. Hopefully, everyone that is interested will have no trouble with entering going forward.
**Please use the form to complete your entry into the contest, and the comments section on the actual blog post for any additional remarks on the interview itself. All contest entries must be received by Sunday, October 9th. Giveaway open to US residents only.