Congratulations to the winner of last week’s Author Spotlight giveaway of A Chistmas Joy Ride, KAY GARRETT. Please email info {at} suzannewoodsfisher {dot} com to claim your prize.

Welcome Cindy Woodsmall, one of the authors of Amish Christmas at North Star, to Author Spotlight! Keep reading to find out how you can enter to win a copy.

woodsmallIntroduce us to you as an author: When did you get bit with the writing bug?

My earliest memories are of my mother reading to me at bedtime, and after she closed the book and left the room, I had one goal—to stay awake as long as possible and revise those classics. If Cinderella had been ugly instead of beautiful, how would that have changed the story? If she had been respected and powerful like the prince, how would that have changed the story? If Cinderella had been the mean one and her stepsisters had been beautiful and kind, how would that change the story?

So in that sense—analyzing stories or reconfiguring them in my mind—I’ve had the writing bug most of my life. But I never wanted to write. When I won a trophy in high school for a story I’d written for a class assignment, I was mortified to stand out from my peers in such a bold way. I shoved the trophy in my locker and vowed that I would never write again.

And I stuck to that promise. After graduation, I went into the field of bookkeeping and banking, and later I took on the role of being a full-time mom. When story ideas hounded me, and they continually did, I was adamant—NO! Go away! I stood my ground, feeling that I would have to give up too much family time to write, believing that there were plenty of other authors out there and the world of writing did not need me.

My mother was my staunchest supporter throughout my life. She taught me to love books of all kinds and to love reading, which was no easy feat. My teachers in kindergarten through third grade labeled me as “rambunctious.” I have no doubt that by today’s standards, I would’ve been classified as having serious attention-deficit issues. The teachers were frustrated, but my mom was patient and encouraging in every possible way.

She died unexpectedly in the spring of 1998. At the time of her death, she was my closest friend, and losing her was really hard. I was nearing forty years old, so maybe her death shouldn’t have been that painful, but it was.

In 1999, I realized that I was right about the world of writing not needing me. But I needed it. I needed to write the stories that had been circling in my heart for decades. I had no aspirations of becoming published. I was just desperate for some answers to come from within. But to get them, I needed to sort through the thoughts and emotions I had kept pent up by refusing to write. I’d hoped writing would provide me with some measure of peace.

I pursued learning the fine art of storytelling. And on that journey, I did find peace with writing. By late 2004, I had finished my first novel. And that book was under contract before the end of 2005.

Tell us about your new release:

Amish Christmas at North Star is my first fiction compilation. It was a huge honor to write with Mindy Starns Clark, her daughter Emily Clark, Amanda Flower, and Katie Ganshert. There are four stories in the collection. Each one is new and has not been in print before. We are very grateful to readers, and I’d like to take a moment to thank them for spreading the word about Amish Christmas at North Star and causing it to make the best-sellers list.

Here’s a brief description of the book and the stories in it.

One night four lives entered the world by the hands of an Amish midwife on the edge of North Star, Pennsylvania.

On a cold, snowy night almost twenty-five years ago, Rebekah, an Amish midwife, delivered four babies. Rebekah’s babies, as they’re called, are now young adults. In four heartwarming novellas, each young person experiences a journey of discovery, love, and the wonder of Christmas.

Guiding Star by Katie Ganshert

Curiosity gets the best of Englischer Chase Wellington when he investigates the twenty-five-year-old disappearance of an Amish baby. When he finds adventurous Elle McAllister in Iowa, will his discoveries upend her world?

Mourning Star by Amanda Flower

Eden Hochstetler slips from her parents’ shop to investigate the death of her friend Isaac.  Who is guilty? Isaac’s handsome great-nephew Jesse, an angry Englischer, or someone else?

In the Stars by Cindy Woodsmall

Heartbroken Kore Detweiler avoids North Star after Savilla Beiler rejects his love. But when he is unexpectedly called home, he and Savilla must join forces to keep a family together.

Star of Grace by Mindy Starns Clark and Emily Clark

Andy Danner left North Star to join a new Amish settlement in Mississippi. When his little brother devises a scheme to bring Andy home for Christmas, he unwittingly unleashes the power of forgiveness in an old widower’s life.

Click here to read a passage! 

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well?

For the past eighteen months, I’ve been getting together with a friend of sixteen years. Because our mornings are now free due to having empty nests, we meet at seven thirty. It’s painful … but also cathartic. We either take a brisk walk or hit the old exercise equipment in the basement, depending on the weather. We talk about all the things people are told not to talk about: religion, politics, what we ate yesterday when no one was looking! Our opinions are very different, so we challenge each other. I only wish we’d begun this routine years ago.

Do you prefer reading physical books or e-readers?

I prefer physical books, but there are times when my eyes demand a larger font size. So in that way, I enjoy my e-reader.

Why do you write?

I have two reasons. 1. For my own peace of mind, I need to put the overwhelming storm of stories that are in my head onto paper. 2. I want to reach out and connect with women I’ll never have the privilege of meeting in person and share stories that may make a difference in how they feel about faith, family, and hope.

Best author moment?

Before my first book hit the market, my publisher had a small gathering, and I was invited. When I arrived, there was a table set up with my upcoming book and a picture of me. It was so unexpected! Suddenly the world seemed to move in slow motion. I remember my editor looking at me, and she seemed to realize it was a special moment I would never forget.

Worst author moment?

I can’t tell that one. But I will tell what I learned from it—don’t listen to anyone’s advice if it goes against your gut.

Right this moment, what does your office look like?

It’s pretty neat and tidy. At this point in my career, I don’t do anything in my office except write. But the bonus room and my kitchen table are quite a sight as I’m getting giveaway items ready to send out to readers.

What book is on the top of your TBR pile?

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It was a gift, and I’m longing to read it.

Ever had a bad review? How did you handle it?

Most reviews are very encouraging, and I’m floored by how gracious readers are. But after nine years of being published, I also have plenty of “bad” reviews. When I read my first one-star review, I was taken aback by how much I appreciated the reviewer’s honesty. I remember mumbling, “I understand.”

That particular book was hard to write, and I cried a lot as I worked on it. I knew some readers would feel it was too emotional, and I respect every reader’s right to feel what they feel and write about it in reviews. It’s not personal for a reader to dislike a book I’ve written. But I sure am grateful that most reviews, including for that book, are encouraging!51g1jdYeBML

A much tougher thing to get perspective on is when a reviewer attacks my character, which, thankfully, almost never happens. But when it has, it’s been from people I have never met, e-mail, texted, or shared a phone call with. Nor has the reviewer done any of those things with people who know me. So the attack wasn’t really about me or what’s in my heart, but what’s in hers.

Still, name-calling and mudslinging affects the decisions of potential readers. Some will realize that the attack on my character is merely an unfair rant. But others will decide not to purchase a book that may have been exactly what they needed to read.

Most reviewers do a great job, whether they loved or hated the book. That I respect.

If I could make one change, I would take all the well-intentioned reviewers out to lunch and we would chat about things to avoid when reviewing a book. A review is not a book report; the reviewer doesn’t need to prove to anyone that she or he read the book. It’s so important that reviewers not ruin the book for others while sharing their honest thoughts and opinions about the book.

What are your biggest distractions?

Right now my biggest distraction is the adorable but needy Labrador-mix pup who joined the family the first of September. My empty nest got too quiet during my writing hours, and I needed to hear another creature breathing and moving about. I hear her all right! How about a little quiet for Mommy, huh?

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?

I don’t like the need to get mega numbers of words on paper to meet a deadline, especially when I don’t know what to write. Even with an outline, I sometimes can’t get the setting, banter, plot, or transitions to move forward. I just sit there thinking, WRITE, already!

My favorite thing is passing through the portal where I’m no longer in the room writing, but I’m in that place I’m writing about. When I finally begin to transition out of there, I look at the clock and realize how much time passed without me realizing I had arms and legs that have to stretch, and hunger, and a need to sleep.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Be patient with yourself and with the market. Both are constantly changing.

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you sow.(Robert Louis Stevenson said that.)

The most important thing we can do is remain faithful. That alone will reap quite a harvest because someone is always watching us, and faithfulness to ourselves and our dreams is impacting our friends and family. When others hit a rough patch in their lives and are tempted to give up, they may recall our faithfulness and find the needed strength for themselves. And we should stay faithful to writing because when we seek, we find … eventually.

What is the smartest writing advice you ever got?

It was from Tracey Bateman, and I doubt she remembers it because I was an aspiring writer at an ACFW conference at the time. She said, “Don’t sell your story before it’s ready. If you know you can work on that story for another year or two and get a shot at a bigger publisher, do it.”

So I did.

What was your biggest break?

Attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

My writing mentor and friend Kathy Ide encouraged me to attend it in 2003. At the conference, I gained missing pieces to the puzzle of the writing craft, and I had an incredibly insightful meeting with an editor. Between those two things, I received awareness of what I needed to do concerning the story I’d been working on, and that caused When the Heart Cries to become a novel. Up to that point it was all back-story in the manuscript that is now book two in the Sisters of the Quilt series.

During my second year at Mount Hermon, I met Shannon Marchese from WaterBrook Press and had a powerful meeting with her. Within six months I had my first contract, and she is still my editor today.

How can readers connect with you online?

Website, Facebook, and Email

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