Sneak Peek: Part 2

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 20
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I’d like to give a big shout-out to everyone who checked out my last blog post–thanks guys! And if you liked what you read, here is the next installment of Rum-spring-a Break. Don’t we all need a little YA fiction to get us through a hard week?

“Oh come on, Rebekah,” Mercy says, sticking the flat iron and nail polish in the deep pockets of her starched, white apron. “We turn sixteen tomorrow! And besides, we’re not really starting rumspringa. We’re just seeing what’s out there before we experience the world for ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with that. Let’s go inside now. Mama wants us to help with supper. You’re done with your chores, right?”

I nod yes. I actually love my chores. My father owns four horses and a small herd of dairy cows, and I’m largely responsible for their grooming and feeding, as well as their health. I’ve milked cows, birthed foals, and even concocted my own healing poultices for the sick and wounded. Jakob, the boy next door, says I have “a way with animals.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Mercy says, sighing. “Sometimes it’s just exhausting being your sister.”

I smile. I often feel the same way.

***

That night, I wait until everyone is asleep, even Mercy. I creep over to the tall window that overlooks the pasture. Gingerly, I lift it open, first a crack, then up and up until nothing separates me from the sweet-breathed air of the springtime night. Clutching my long, homespun skirt, I shimmy down the tree and drop down into the dewy grass. Then, I stroll along my family’s property, gazing at the stars as I continue the daydream that Mercy interrupted earlier.

I dream of leaving the farm in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, and exploring the city. I dream of studying veterinary medicine…and of, one day, becoming a veterinarian. Naturally, this isn’t allowed; the Amish believe that too much worldly wisdom makes one proud, but I dream of it anyway. I dream of meeting boys outside my family’s circle, English boys who are rugged and handsome and mysterious.

“Rebekah!” a voice calls softly across the field. I whip around, and spot a dark form approaching. As my eyes focus, I discern a lanky body, a familiar straw hat, and a light blond beard just starting to sprout.

“Ugh,” I groan under my breath. Then, to the dark figure, I add, “Hello, Jakob!”

Jakob sidles up next to me, not touching me, but so close I realize he probably wants to. “I was hoping you would be out for a midnight walk.”

“I like to walk at night.” Alone, I mentally add, sidestepping Jakob and ambling toward the brook. I skip a pebble over its surface, delighting in the moonbeams that glint off the stone and dance on the babbling waters.

“Dreaming, aren’t you?” Jakob asks. “About rumspringa?”

I forget that I’m annoyed about being disturbed as I’m enveloped by sheer excitement once again. My breath hitches as I say, “I can’t help but dream about it.”

“It’s after midnight,” Jakob says, looking at the moon. He can estimate the time just by gazing at the sky. “You’re sixteen. Happy birthday, your rumspringa starts now.”

Curious for more? Check out Rebekah’s rumspringa debauchery in the next installment, coming up on my blog next week!

A Sneak Peek at My Short Story Contest Entry

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 13
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm

My looooong hiatus from the blogosphere is over!

I promise I had my reasons, though…namely manic YA fiction writing. My latest project was a 4,000 word YA short story for the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction contest. My entry, Rum-spring-a Break, is about a sixteen-year-old Amish girl who dreams of being a veterinarian. During her rumspringa, the rite of passage for Amish youth, she takes steps to actualize her dreams after attending her first non-Amish party, where she finds inspiration in unexpected places.

Writing Rum-spring-a Break was exciting for me because it is about a topic that not many people know about. Although I grew up in western Pennsylvania and am well acquainted with the Amish, I had no idea about rumspringa customs, and found my research fascinating. I was especially intrigued by the Amish viewpoint on education; the Amish finish theirs after the eighth grade level, and they do not embrace college education because too much “worldly wisdom” makes one proud.

However, since many Amish run businesses, some theorize that they will be more open to additional formal education in the future. This formed the basis of Rum-spring-a Break, in which the main character’s primary struggle is her desire to eventually be baptized Amish, yet to also receive a college education.

Following is an excerpt from Rum-spring-a Break. Look for installments of the whole story on my blog coming soon!

“Rebekah!” A familiar voice rings out over the verdant hillside, shattering my daydream. I love afternoons in the fields, after I finish my chores. I always kick off my clunky shoes and frolic in the babbling brook, then collapse in the crisp, cool grass at the water’s edge. My mother would scold me for wasting time if she knew, so the indulgence feels like an act of rebellion. We Amish teens don’t get enough of those, especially before rumspringa rolls around.

I open my eyes and push myself up on one elbow as my twin sister, Mercy, scurries toward me. Mercy never walks when she can run. “Only one day until rumspringa!” she calls, grabbing my hands and pulling me to my feet. “Look what worldly goods I have!”

Mercy holds out a bottle of shocking pink nail polish, and a strange, flat contraption with a long cord.

“What’s that?” I ask, wrinkling my nose.

“A flat iron,” Mercy says. Then, in response to my vacant expression, she adds, “To straighten your hair. Elizabeth Beiler used it during her rumspringa. She doesn’t need it anymore, so she gave it to us.”

Elizabeth, our neighbor, is nineteen years old. Like most Amish, she started rumspringa at age sixteen. Rumspringa literally means “to jump around,” but in our community, it’s the time when teens discover the world of the non-Amish, whom we call “English.” Just last week, Elizabeth was baptized, which means she has chosen to remain in the Amish community, and her parents are pleased.

Mercy and I have amassed a small collection of bootleg rumspringa artifacts from our friends and neighbors. We have colorful eye shadows and lip-glosses, even a decadent bottle of perfume called Dead Sexy. We have adult books that we’re not supposed to read. And Mercy has a neon green push-up bra, which she sometimes sneaks under her long, modest dress. I tried it one morning, but I couldn’t even wear it to the breakfast table; I felt like I was lying to the world.

“We should really stop accumulating these worldly goods,” I tell Mercy as I reluctantly pull on my heavy stockings and sturdy brown clogs. “You know we could be punished or even shunned for starting rumspringa early.”