Suzanne Woods Fisher is an author whose books I have enjoyed but who has also become a sweet friend. We initially connected through her blog a few years back through her periodic sharing of the journey of dealing with her dad's Alzheimer's disease, which resonated with me as we were walking the same road with my FIL. Blog comments turned into emails, but we never expected that the author in California and the blogger in Texas would finally meet face to face in Atlanta, Georgia! We had a delightful breakfast together and I was able to talk to her about a variety of things, including her book that has released since that time, Amish Values for Your Family, for which I am thrilled to be one of the first stops on the blog tour!
You are churning out the books, Suzanne! Your first book was published just 4 years ago, and here you are with six fiction books, 2 non-fiction books, a Christy Award nomination for The Waiting, a new release (non-fiction) releasing August 1 (Amish Values for Your Family), and a fiction Christmas ! Congratulations on the success, especially the Christy Award nomination!
Another “iron in your fire” is your weekly radio show. Explain about that and how folks can tune in.
“Amish Wisdom” is a weekly radio program on toginet.com that can be heard live on Thursdays at 5pm EST or downloaded as podcasts on iTunes. The point of the show reflects how I feel about the Amish: you don’t have to ‘go Amish’ to incorporate some of their wonderful, life-simplifying principles into your life. All kinds of interesting guests are on the show—authors, scholars, entrepreneurs, cooks, birdwatchers…on and on! The common denominator is that they are connected to the Plain People. There is always “takeaway value” from my fascinating guests on the show. I hope your readers will check it out sometime! www.toginet.com/shows/amishwisdom
The Amish community is a subject that is close to your heart because your grandfather was raised Plain. Can you elaborate on that? Which grandfather was that? Did he continue that as an adult?
My mother’s father, W.D. Benedict, was born into an Old Order German Baptist family of eleven children, near Gettysburg, PA. The Benedicts are “Dunkards,” a branch of the Anabaptists, or Plain People. They do use electricity and drive in cars, but they dress Plain and live a life focused on what they believe is pleasing to God. My grandfather left the farm, amicably, but remained close to his siblings. We grew up with strong connections to the Benedicts. I think my grandfather had an intellectual bent—he went on to college, and started his career at KDKA radio in Pittsburgh (the first radio station in the U.S.). He gave farm reports in the late 1920s. He had a long and successful career in publishing with Curtis Publishing (Saturday Evening Post, Holiday). After he retired, he was talked into becoming the publisher of a fledgling magazine called Christianity Today, started by Billy Graham and his father-in-law, L. Nelson Bell. I have all of their correspondences in my hall closet! I think my grandfather would be so pleased to know that I was writing about the Plain People. He was a very humble man, but I can see that pleased look on his face.
On your blog you periodically post Conversations with Dad, reflections on your family’s journey with your dad’s Alzheimer’s, something that has been a common bond and connection between us. What is this journey teaching you?
My dad’s experience with AD is over ten years old now, and even though he is in late stages, he probably has years to go. He is in very good health, other than declining mental capacity. I have to admit that I pray, every day, that the Lord would take my dad home to Glory. To full restoration. I really struggle with the knowledge that my dad would have hated this end to his life. He was a very active, busy, on-the-go guy. His wish would have been to “drop in the harness.” AD is a long, hard, expensive, bone-weary, heartbreaking journey.
So…what is this journey teaching me? Emmanuel. God is with us. God has been alongside us at every turn. I wish my dad had a different end to his life, but I don’t doubt that God has a plan.
Is Alzheimer’s as prevalent in the Alzheimer’s community as it is among us Englischers? With their multi-generational families, do they care for those affected at home? While their lifestyle is a slower pace, it also involves a lot of physical work due to their lack of conveniences. How do they manage a family member with a disease requiring full-time care?
I think AD happens pretty much everywhere, and the Amish are impacted by it also. They care for their families members with Alzheimer’s at home. I’ve asked a couple of families who’ve experienced it and it’s an “all hands on deck” kind of thing. One family had two great-granddaughters helping during the day and then the son would stay with the dad at night. Or there would be multiple families helping. One of the saddest things I heard was a woman who lived with her mother for and cared for her for seven years and she was up in the night with her every 45 minutes, at least during that last year, just caring for her.
But they have a different frame of mind which has been really inspiring to me. For one, they are so focused on the sovereignty of God, and that this is within God’s scope and part of God’s plan, whereas I think we see it as a tough end to a life well-lived. I don’t think that’s how they see it. They sort of kneel to it and accept it in an easier way. I remember one point, and I wrote this in Amish Peace, where it changed my thinking, that this was a time to give back to my dad, instead of feeling frustrated with the demands of it – because it is a demanding disease, and it has taken a huge toll on my extended family. It’s not without its blessings, because there has been some closeness that’s been remarkable, but financially, it is a frightening future that just goes on and on and on. And there are so many stages of Alzheimer’s that you’re trying to chase down and cope with and figure out what stage the person is now and what care they need now. The Amish have a sense of not trying to rush through this and simply say, “This is where they are right now” and take it as God’s gift to care. They see the privilege to care for someone instead of the inconvenience or hardness. And that’s been meaningful to me to remember that, and to quit fighting and asking “Lord, why?” and just to shift that thinking to “God’s got a plan.”
Have you thought about writing about Alzheimer’s, either as a non-fiction book or including it as a factor in one of your fiction books? Is it something you might consider in the future?
That’s an interesting thought! That might be something to think about. I have a series after that is about a family that has a Bed & Breakfast, so there are a lot of characters that come in and out, so I could definitely see bringing that in, how the Amish do it differently. That’s a good idea! Thank you!
Another passion of yours is training guide dogs for the blind. How did you get started with that? How many have you trained? Do you currently have one?
What a joy! I have raised eight puppies for GDB. I don’t have a puppy at this moment, but I do have a breeder for GDB. A beautiful golden retriever named Tess. But we didn’t start out with that plan—we decided to try raising one dog after my third grader and I went on a field trip to GDB. But that dog, Arbor, became a guide, and we were hooked! The kind people, the support and training, the joy (mostly!) of living with a puppy. It has been a wonderful experience. Like eating a potato chip…you can’t stop at one!
Of course, I can’t mention passions without asking you about your grandson, Blake!
(Suzanne’s face lights up) He’s 11 months now. And being a grandparent is so much fun! It just reminds you of being a mom; it brings back all those memories that are sort of tucked away, but without the sore bottom and sleepless nights!
Back to your writing, what do you know now that you wish you had known back when you were first starting out?
To look to God for my confidence as a writer. You are so exposed as a writer—it is vital to get clear in your head that you are writing your very best for the Lord, for your editor, for yourself. It’s so important not to be impacted by reviews—glowing ones or scathing ones. Sounds kind of simplistic, but the adage: “Do your best and let God do the rest” is just the right frame for this writing life.
Tell us about Amish Values for Your Family, which releases in just a couple of weeks on August 11.
There’s a part of each story called “Road Maps” that I think you’ll like. Road Maps are a practical way to take some principles of the Amish life and weave them into your family’s life. After a story about an Amish family that loves to go bird watching together, there are suggestions to encourage your children to be knowledgeable about nature. Another story describes a father and son who build a rabbit hutch rather than buy it. The Road Map gives some of the benefits of what happens when a parent slows down and takes the time to teach a skill. Wonderful things happen!
And since it’s 100-plus degrees and we’re in the middle of a drought in Texas, it’s hard to believe that Christmas novels will soon hit the shelves. Can you share a bit about A Lancaster County Christmas?
Oh…you’re so right! It’s so hot in California, too. But Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye. Lancaster County Christmas is a story about two couples—-one Amish, one English-—whose lives intersect for a very brief time—-only 48 hours. Both couples are facing difficulties, for different reasons. And yet they both learn important lessons from each other.
Just in case that sounds too serious for a Christmas novella, I want you to know that a very cool Search and Rescue dog plays a role in this story when a little boy wanders off in a snowstorm. There’s action, humor, healing, and a true Christmas! All wrapped up in a tidy package.
Your first books, Copper Star, Copper Fire, and For the Love of Dogs, were not Amish in nature. Do you feel that you have found your niche or do you foresee writing more non-Amish books?
I love to write good stories. . .Amish or otherwise. I have loved studying the Amish life in depth—-I think their culture is a vehicle for portraying wonderful examples to us to build family, faith, and community. And I think we can’t have enough good examples in this world (there are so many bad ones!). Yet I’ve enjoyed writing about other periods in history and other kinds of people, too. Stay tuned!
It seems like you's be ready for a breather or but you have some other projects coming down the pipe! There are a lot of exciting Coming Soon projects for 2012 and 2013 listed on your website!
The children’s books are going to be AWESOME. Blogger Mary Ann Kinsinger (A Joyful Chaos) and I are just wrapping up Book #1, the first in a series of four books that are loosely based on Mary Ann’s Old Order Amish childhood.
And…drumroll please…I have a wonderful surprise in the works that I’ll be able to announce in a few weeks! I promise you’ll be the first to know, Linda! Thanks so much for your kind support.
Thanks so much, Suzanne!
This is an absolutely charming book. I'm not one who grabs every Amish book I see nor do I agree with all of their theology as I understand it, but families could benefit from reading this book and practicing many of its principles. I particularly liked the Amish concept that "Children are loved but not adored" and the way children are not protected from what many "Englischers" consider to be the harsh realities of life, such as death. Another wonderful concept was the story of the dad who taught his son to build a hutch for his rabbit instead of taking the "easy" route of buying it. Opening and closing each chapter are Amish proverbs and excerpts from the Amish newspaper The Budget - a delightful mix of humor, wisdom, and observations from the Amish. I highly recommend this book!
Amish Values for Your Family is available at your favorite store or on Amazon.
Suzanne Woods Fisher is thrilled to announce the release of Amish Values for Your Family, her latest non-fiction release. "It offers loving ways to bring your fractured home back to life-Amish style. Read it and apply generously! It’s a beautiful book-funny, charming, soulful, and beautiful." -Mary Ann Kirkby
Read the reviews here.
To celebrate the release of Amish Values for Your Family, Suzanne has teamed up her publisher Revell Books to giveaway a Kindle, and with Bill Coleman (the amazing photographer used on Suzanne’s book covers) to give away a signed Bill Coleman original.
One Grand Prize winner will receive an Amish Values Prize Package (valued at over $200) and includes:
* A brand new KINDLE
* A Signed Bill Coleman original
* Amish Values for Your Family (for KINDLE)
But, wait there's more! Suzanne is running a Bill Coleman caption contest during the month of August on her blog. Title one of Bill’s gorgeous photos for a chance to win a print from Bill’s Amish Photo site and/or a copy of Amish Values for Your Family.
To visit other blogs on this blog tour, click here.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell & LitFuse Publicity as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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