Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest books. FUN.
The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Cheryl Ricker is WENDY! My assistant Amy will be in touch for your mailing address.
Share a little bit about yourself. Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
My three children and I, along with our wiener dog, Winston, and pet orphaned raccoon, Daniel Boone, live in Sarasota, Florida. I’m Beachy Amish Mennonite and our tiny village, Pinecraft, is the most unique plain community in the world.
I love being a full-time write-at-home mom. It not only provides a means to support my family, but also allows me to fulfill my most important calling; raising my children and being at home to care for my older daughter who’s chronically-ill. Lately our home has been a beehive of activity as we prepare for my younger daughter’s (Shannon) upcoming wedding in October.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest?
In the two newspapers I write for, The Budget and Florida’s first Amish newspaper, the Pinecraft Pauper, I find myself relaying true-life stories about kids, dogs, and old people. Some writers travel to far away places and write about extraordinary things. I write about the folks in my own backyard, so to speak. Living in such a unique place gives me much to write about. I look for extraordinary qualities in everyday folks and circumstances; births, deaths, celebrations, accidents, ordinations, and weddings. I don’t write fiction as of yet, just the story of the day, as I see it.
Oh, and then there’s cooking and food; my second passion. I think the world has enough complainers, so rather than a “food critic” I prefer to be called a “food reviewer.” I’m surrounded by some of the world’s greatest cooks, so tasting and telling comes easy for me. My first book was intended to be a cookbook but evolved into something much more. The nearly seven-hundred recipes are what interests folks to buy it, but it’s the stories inside, readers say, that makes it hard to put it down.
How did you get started writing?
Years ago, while living in Burkesville, Kentucky, I wrote and copied a monthly letter to friends back home, here in Sarasota. My bishop once wrote back asking “So, is life in Kentucky really as wild as you portray, or is this something we can attribute to your writing skills? I love your stories!” I actually felt a bit offended at the time. I didn’t view my writing as “stories”. I was just relaying how life was on the farm. I took it he was thinking my letters were embellished. One trip to Burkesville put that idea to rest. Later, my bishop’s words, “writing skills” resounded in my head and I began to take my letter writing more seriously. Thus began my writing journey with contributing to “Letters from home” in the National Edition of The Budget newspaper.
Did you have a dream of being a published author?
Probably not in the way most writers “dream” of being published. I once wrote in my journal “I was seen walking in Greece wearing a size 2, on my way to a book signing”. And then I woke up. I do wear a size 2. Just not the 2 I’d choose. And of all places in the world, Santorini Island, Greece is my dream vacation spot.
Two years after having dreamed that, I’ve had four book signings and am booked for oodles more this spring and summer. Other than that, it never occurred to me I would be introduced as an author, anytime in my life. I was cleaning other people’s houses for years before my book released. Each time I hear the word “author” it becomes more real. I have yet to introduce myself as such, but attending an eight-hour book signing in Holmes County, Ohio on my 45th birthday was the turning point in my life as a writer.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
I started writing for The Budget newspaper in 2006 and for the Pinecraft Pauper just before my book was released earlier this year.
Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write?
Most of my first book was written from a hospital room or while waiting with my daughter during a doctor’s office visit. Now that I’m at home more, and after writing on a fold-out table for three years, I purchased a desk. I actually felt my IQ rise as it came in the door. I keep a little alligator head here on my desk. It reminds me where I am, when writing as a Florida scribe for The Budget newspaper.
How many hours a day do you spend writing?
I’ve noticed many writers work late into the night. I’ve always told my children, No brain questions after six. I do all my writing early in the day. Anything on paper after 6:00PM comes across as sounding slap-happy.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups?
Subscribing to Novel Journey has taught me to expect the unexpected. And as much as I love it, finding time to read while working on a writing project has been an enormous challenge. I’ve never attended a writer’s conference or group, though I co-hosted The Pinecraft Writer’s Presentation last February with Professor Richard Stevick, author of Growing up Amish; the Teenage Years. Our goal was to motivate folks in our community to not only put their thoughts on paper, but to move ahead with the next step – getting published.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
I had no idea what to expect before my book was released. The only previous contacts I had with authors were one who interviewed me for a character in one of her books, and another who responded to a “thank you” note I sent her. Clean books are hard to come by. I wanted to acknowledge how much I respected this author’s godly writing. What has surprised me most, are the opportunities some seasoned authors give to new authors to help them find their way. That’s priceless generosity in my eyes.
What are your biggest distractions?
There would be two. My daughter’s many doctor’s appointments use to cause me to put my writing away till life calmed down. It never did. Now, I’ve learned to write regardless of my circumstances. It has become, for me, as necessary as breathing. Also, I love visiting friends, both online and in person. It’s hard not to jump at an invitation to join friends on an outing, or converse online, mostly with Facebook.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
The most exciting? The best moment as a writer, was opening an envelope from Pathway Publishers, the oldest and largest Old Order Amish publishers in the world. It was a letter telling me my book, Taste of Pinecraft: Glimpses of Sarasota, Florida’s Amish Culture and Kitchens was selected to be placed in the Amish Historical Library in Alymer, Ontario, Canada. I wept happy tears for three days. I received another such letter this month from Eastern Mennonite University. They placed my book in the Menno Simons Historical Library in Harrison, Virginia.
The worst thing to happen was something I wrote in The Budget. With mostly Old Order Amish readers and writers, I don’t know where my head was when I starting writing a recent account with “How many people can say they slapped a police officer and got away with it?” I hadn’t realized what I wrote till I read the printed copy a week later. I was so horrified at myself, I had nightmares. My daughter, Shannon, sixteen at the time and a hostess at Yoder’s Restaurant, was approached by a towering, burly Sheriff’s Deputy at work. Holding up an open palm toward her he said “Five.” Not being one to normally do this, she took him to mean high five. She slapped his open palm. The wide-eyed look of shock on his face told her something was amiss. Really what he was trying to tell her was “Five. A party of five, please.” We both hid our red faces. A couple weeks later I had mostly forgotten that episode when Shannon took a call from a friend in Pennsylvania. She wanted us to know the owner of the Amish restaurant she worked in tacked that column up on the wall so the customers could have a good laugh before being seated.
What do you least like about being a writer? If there’s a downside, I haven’t found it.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
I have five upcoming books in the works – all scheduled to be released by Christmas, 2012.
Taste of Pinecraft: Glimpses of Sarasota, Florida’s Amish Culture and Kitchens came out on April 23, 2010. An Amish Bride’s Kitchen, a cookbook of stories, must-have recipes, and how-to’s for brides and beginners, will be released spring 2011. A souvenir-size counter-top cookbook with reader-favorites from Taste of Pinecraft: Glimpses of Sarasota, Florida’s Amish Culture and Kitchens is in the works, too. I have an illustrated children’s book based on the mishaps and adventures of my ever-getting-into-trouble pet orphaned raccoon, Daniel Boon; a book un-named as of yet. Me, Myself & Pie is an Amish cookbook devoted entirely to that ever-popular affinity. You can find this on the shelves in time for Christmas 2011.
Last on the agenda (till another light bulb goes on in my head) is Taste of Pinecraft: Glimpses of Sarasota, Florida’s Amish Culture and Kitchens II. These are a collection of more traditional and new recipes collected by Amish women in our village, and stories focused on the folks at Pinecraft Park along with adventures & interviews chronicled in the Pinecraft Pauper.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
www.sherrygorebooks.com and stores in both small and large Amish communities across the country.
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)