A Magical Return to Middle Grade Fiction

by Kristina Ludwig
May 2
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 2, 2016 at 9:00 am

My latest writing project has been a super fun one, as well as one that is dear to my heart. I’m revisiting a manuscript that has been twenty-some years in the making.

I’m pretty sure all you writers out there have a similar manuscript–one that you started writing as a child, and have been working on for years, a story that just won’t let you go and seems to evolve with your writing experience. I call these “lifetime stories” for obvious reasons. :)

My lifetime story just happens to be a middle grade fantasy about eleven year-old twins who can travel to a magical and timeless kingdom called the Aquamarine Isle. There they help the queen to catch a gang of gemstone robbers–and discover some important things about themselves as well.

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I first wrote the story when I was six. I entered an updated version in a writing contest when I was fourteen, and did massive edits at age twenty. Now, in my early 30s, I’m returning to it–and planning to publish it on Kindle.

Returning to middle grade fiction is so much fun, but it’s also quite a challenge. MG fiction must be sassy and smart like today’s kids, grabbing their attention and stimulating their brains. Yet it can’t be so sophisticated that readers become frustrated with the wording and the storyline. No doubt about it, writing MG fiction is an exercise in balance and really stretches us as authors.

With that in mind, here’s an excerpt from the book, tentatively titled “Dazzle.” Do you like reading or writing MG fiction? I’d love to hear about your feedback and experiences, and I hope you enjoy the chapter!

Chapter One: Discovery in the Attic

Wes and Raffie Bonifaze were having an extraordinarily ordinary day—not just dull, but epically boring. And the Bonifaze twins did not do well with boring.

They lounged by their backyard pool, eating red, white, and blue popsicles left over from the fourth of July. They had grown tired of swimming games after a whole morning of them, and were drying off in the sunshine. Even at rest, the twins fidgeted, their bodies as tightly coiled as the copper-colored curls on their heads.

“Wessie, I’m bored,” Raffie said, tilting her face to the sun. Although she and her brother were redheads with nearly translucent green eyes—usually a recipe for disaster in the sun—their skin didn’t burn, and instead glowed a tawny golden-brown.

Wes frowned at his sister, wondering whether he should wear a “Hello, My Name Is” nametag that said, “Wes, the boy formerly known as Wessie.” Even though he was a mature eleven, his whole family still clung on to his annoying babyhood nickname.

“It’s Wes now,” he said. “Get it right. How would you feel if I went around calling you Raphaela-You-Smella?”

Raffie giggled. “Hmmm. Guess you have a point.”

The twins finished their snacks in silence until Raffie said, “Why don’t we go exploring in the woods?”

The backyard forest was one of the best things about living at Bonifaze Acres, although there were so many great things. The twins’ house was an honest-to-goodness mansion. The only catch was that their parents were hardly ever around to enjoy it.

“Exploring,” Wes scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, right. That’s kid stuff.”

“Bet you can’t think of anything better.”

“Sure I can.”

Silence ruled until Raffie said with a twinkle in her eye, “I know! You can laugh at me if you want, but I’m still feeling adventurous. Let’s go upstairs—”

“—into the attic,” Wes interrupted, practically reading her mind. This was one of the good things about being a twin, although Wes frequently wondered whether it was a good thing to be on the same wavelength as his sister. “Great idea, Raffie.”

Raffie sprang up from her lounge chair, sweeping into a dramatic bow. “It’s about time you noticed my greatness,” she said with a dimpled smile. “Now let’s get Aura and go.”

“Do we have to?” Wes rolled his eyes as he hurried after Raffie, who was already bounding toward the house. “She won’t want to go anyway.”

“How do you know?” Raffie called over her shoulder, disappearing through the back door.

Wes shrugged, jamming his hands into the pockets of his still-damp swim trunks. “Just a hunch,” he mumbled. And to be honest, he hoped Aura wouldn’t want to go.

Birthday Custom: Reflections on Another Year

by Kristina Ludwig
Mar 30
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: March 30, 2016 at 3:09 pm

This past weekend was my birthday–time to party, goof around, be surprised, and eat lots of chocolate. And, on a more serious note, it was time for my year-end review.

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A special message from my hubby and daughter on my birthday.

 

Every b-day, I divide my life into categories and evaluate each one honestly. This short reflective exercise not only lets me celebrate all the small victories of the previous year, it helps me to pinpoint goals for the upcoming one.

My year-end review is similar to making New Year’s Resolutions, but I find that my “resolutions” are easier to achieve because: a.) I feel more energetic and dedicated in the spring than I do at the tail end of the holiday season, and b.) The rest of the world is not making resolutions with me, so I can focus on my own goals more.

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Because reflections go so much better with chocolate-on-chocolate cake…

Interested in trying your own year-end review? Here are the categories I use, as well as some questions to ask yourself.

  • Relationships: Friends and family bring us so much color and happiness, like flowers in a garden. And, much like flowers, important relationships need constant attention and love in order to bloom. Ask yourself: Have I maintained close relationships with my family and friends? Am I in contact with my long-distance friends and family? Have I made new friends? Do I spend quality time with my kids and/or significant other, and do I tell them I love them every day?
  • Fitness: Because our bodies only work as well as we take care of them! Ask yourself: How often do I work out? What is my favorite form of exercise? If I belong to a gym, am I making the most of my membership with regular visits? Am I exploring new fitness classes? Do I eat healthy foods the majority of the time? Have I tried any new exercise regimes this year, and would I like to try something new next year?
  • Hobbies: Our “extracurricular activities” are so enriching, giving us an outlet for our creativity and passion. Ask yourself: What are my favorite hobbies, and have I practiced them this year? Have I neglected any hobbies that I used to enjoy, and if so, how can I rekindle them? Are there any new skills I would like to learn? Are there any organizations I can join to meet others who share my hobbies?
  • Spirituality: Regardless of our religious affiliations, being in touch with our spiritual side can help us to feel more tranquil and centered, enriching overall feelings of well-being. Ask yourself: If I’m religious, do I pray regularly and attend worship services? Do I practice yoga and/or meditation? When and where do I feel most at peace?
  • Career: Ask yourself: What were my proudest moments in my career this past year? What were my greatest achievements? Do I feel as though my career is bringing value to this world? What would I like to change at work, and how can I do my job better? Am I happy in my current position, or would I like to change positions and/or fields? If I’m on leave/sabbatical, when do I plan to return?

There you have it: my year-end review! The most fascinating thing about this exercise is the way the categories overlap and influence each other, leading to “Aha moments” as we reflect about them. For example, relationships with our family can influence our performance at work, and expressing ourselves through creative hobbies can lead us to feel more spiritually balanced. Sometimes, we may discover a deficiency in one of the categories that influences the others, or we might realize that great performance in a category significantly enhances the others.

Do you conduct a similar exercise around your birthday, or maybe at the start of a new year? Do you have anything to add to my review? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Throwback Thursday Poems

by Kristina Ludwig
Dec 3
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: December 3, 2015 at 9:20 am

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here, mostly because I’ve been focusing on motherhood posts for my Prego in San Diego blog–and all my other mom duties!

In fact, the idea for this blog came to me while I was writing this post about the Baby Rhyme Time sessions at our local library. I remembered how much I used to love writing poetry, and was suddenly flooded by memories of poems I’d written in the past. Here are 3 of my favorite throwbacks!

#tbt poems!

Four Seasons (age 8… and there’s also a song to go along with it LOL. You have to love the last “rhyme” too.)

Oh spring, oh summer, oh winter and fall,

Which is the best season of all?

I do not know because spring rains a lot,

And summer is wonderful, humid and hot.

In winter, it’s snowy. The snow falls all day.

In fall, leaves are falling, oh falling away.

These are the four seasons, all going around.

In the four seasons, you can’t wear a frown.

 

Roses (age 11…Deep stuff. ;)

Roses are beautiful

And symbolize love.

Their fragrant, colored petals

Bring happiness.

But yet, they have thorns

That can prick you when you touch them.

Somehow, roses remind me

A little of life.

You can be hurt by the thorns in life,

Yet, life is sweet when you prevail.

Your happiness is bright

As a pink rose petal.

 

Love-Matics (age 25…for the love of my life–number-based because he adores math. We’re still quoting the last four lines!)

When you are young you’re all alone

But having so much fun,

That it almost takes you by surprise

When you find the one.

Pretty soon, you’re one plus one

And over time you find

That this very special person

Has touched your heart and mind.

Day by day you fall in love

As on dates you go,

Learning more about each other

As your love begins to grow.

But one plus one will not last long

Your lives merge as they do,

And, before you know it,

You have become two.

Two people joined together

Are much stronger than 1 + 1,

For they have formed a union

That becomes second to none.

The lovers’ lives will intertwine

And join for eternity,

And soon, before you know it

They will form a family.

The lovers live in harmony

Each other they adore

And naturally, soon enough,

They add up to three or four.

At this time, the love will build

And you may wonder why.

It’s because as kids are born,

The love will multiply.

I’m so glad I am not one,

That we in love make two

Because I’ve never felt more delight

Than the day I fell for you.

There you have it… 3 fun throwback poems. Writers out there, do you write poetry? Have you ever revisited some of your previous work for laughs and nostalgia? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

It’s Here… Amish Redemption Has Launched!

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 12
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 12, 2015 at 9:20 am

As promised, Amish Redemptionthe epic finale of the Amish Friendships series, launched on October 10th! Check it out here. And if you’re new to the blog, you can find free excerpts of the first three chapters in my earlier posts.

Interested in reviewing the book? The first five fans who comment below with their Amazon IDs will receive the Kindle version!

The cover of Amish Redemption... What do you think?

The cover of Amish Redemption… What do you think?

Thanks to everyone who helped me to choose the cover by commenting on my Facebook page. I’m so blessed to have interactive fans like you. :) Have a great week, everyone!

 

 

 

 

Book Release Date Announcement and Excerpt!

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 5
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 5, 2015 at 12:13 pm

I’m excited to announce that Amish Friendships Book 4, Amish Redemption, will be launching on October 10th! It’s only fitting, since I released Rumspringa Break, the Amish novella that started it all, on 10/10/13. :)

Here’s the very last excerpt I will be sharing from Amish Redemption…until the book comes out. I hope you enjoy it!

Photo courtesy of lancasterpa.com

Photo courtesy of lancasterpa.com

Chapter Three: Miriam

I sink into Abram’s strong arms, suddenly disappointed in myself for this outburst—but not enough to stop crying. I’d been doing such a gut job of holding our family together, as a fraa should do. I know I can’t fall apart now; yet, it’s happening whether I like it or not.

Naturally, Henry starts crying, too, and I take him into my arms, cuddling and soothing him. For a long minute, our family huddles there in a triangle of grief: Abram comforting me as I comfort Henry.

Finally, Abram pulls away and gazes deeply into my eyes. “Look, liebchen, I’m glad that you told me your feelings. It would’ve been much worse if you’d held them in. And you’re right, by the way. We shouldn’t lie to each other. Lying, for whatever reason, is what got us into trouble in the first place.”

I let out a laugh, and hollow as it is, it somehow makes me feel just a little bit better.

“Let’s talk to Bishop Herschberger again,” he says. “He told us that our repentance will be long and hard, but I feel as though we’ve prayed a great deal. Why don’t we ask him if we can make our formal confession? The worst thing he can say is no—that we need to do something else before we can return to the fold. But at least knowing one way or the other will be better than this.”

I nod. Abram’s idea makes so much sense that I wonder why I didn’t think of it myself. I suppose I was feeling too sorry for myself to think clearly. “When should we go? Can we head over right now?” I ask, my voice picking up speed.

“Not right now, liebchen,” he says. When I groan, he says, “We should go tomorrow. It’s too late now; tonight is no gut. And we should talk to all the elders after church this week, too—not just the bishop.”

I flinch at that, even though I know he’s right. Somehow the thought of talking with Minister Eichler gives me a sour taste in my mouth. If it weren’t for his overreaction, we wouldn’t be in the Bann in the first place.

I ignore Abram’s comment about Sunday, and say, “All right. Tomorrow it is,” and we finally go back to eating dinner.

The next morning, Abram has a clear tour schedule until half past ten. This means we’re free to pay a visit to Bishop Herschberger. I know from his usual rousing church sermons that he’s energetic bright and early in the morning, so I hope we catch him in a gut mood today.

His fraa answers the door, leading us down the hall to his small office. We pause in the doorway, not wanting to disturb him. He’s sitting straight and tall at his desk, reading his dog-eared old copy of the Bible and making notes in a small book, which he snaps shut the moment he realizes he has visitors.

“The Millers,” he says with a half-smile, toying with his wiry brown and gray beard. “What brings you here?”

“We’ve been working on our repentance, just like you said,” Abram says. “We have been praying a lot, and we’re ready to make our confessions so that we may return to the fold.” He pats my stomach and adds, “The bobbel is coming soon, and being born into the Bann is no way to enter this world.”

I feel my cheeks heat up in mortification. Even though my pregnancy is obvious, it’s embarrassing to have it announced in front of an elder this way.

The bishop, however, doesn’t seem to care at all. He takes a deep breath, glancing at Abram, then at me, and finally back at Abram again. “I realize that you want your bobbel to be born in gut standing among our community, but I’m concerned that this is the only reason that you’re so concerned with your repentance. You certainly weren’t repentant before, when you talked back and argued with us.”

I stare at Bishop Herschberger, speechless, as a strangled sound escapes Abram’s throat. The bishop peers at us over his wire-rimmed glasses, his eyes round and large, like an owl’s. “I can’t accept your confession and let you rejoin the fold until I’m convinced that you’re truly contrite and sincere in your motives,” he continues. “You know that.”

 

Book Excerpt from Amish Redemption

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 28
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 28, 2015 at 10:56 am

This week, I’m excited to bring you another excerpt from my upcoming eBook, Amish Redemption. It’s the final book of the Amish Friendships series, and full of challenges for our young friends Miriam and Abram.

Missed the first excerpt? Check it out here on the blog. And, as always, I’d love to hear what you think of the book so far. :)

Beautiful autumn in Amish country. Photo courtesy of branhamphoto.com

Beautiful autumn in Amish country. Photo courtesy of branhamphoto.com

Chapter Two: Abram

 After I settle the horses in the barn for the night, I brace myself to head back outside into the cold. Even on drafty evenings like these, the barn always seems to carry a warmth of its own, from the animals and the soft hay lining the floors and walls.

I cringe when I step back outside and a blast of frigid air hits me. I usually love that chill that tells me winter is on the way, but I suppose that lately I’ve felt so frozen out by the people in our community that I just want to feel warm all the time.

I frown as I unload the groceries from the English market and carry them toward the haus. Everything cost nearly twice as much as it does at Samuel’s General Store. But I’ve had to stop shopping at the Amish stores ever since my fraa and I were placed in the Bann.

I still think that our punishment was unfair. When the scraggly runaway teen showed up at our haus one day, we took him in and let him earn his keep by working for us. He hid who he really was, telling us that his name was Lee, but it wasn’t long until I figured out that he was actually Levi, Minister Eichler’s long-lost son.

Levi asked Miriam and me to keep his secret until he was ready to talk to his parents, and we did. The only problem was that the Eichlers found out that he was here before he’d had a chance to talk to them. Instead of being angry with their son, they blamed everything on us for lying and keeping his secret, and we ended up Meidung.

Now it’s up to us to pick up the pieces. We talked to the bishop, and he told us there’s much to do before we can come back to the fold.

It’s just not right that Miriam and I were shunned, while Levi was allowed back into his parents’ haus and barely punished. As an unbaptized youth, he was given a bit more leeway. I hope that he returns to Ohio soon to see Sadie, the girl he was courting before he ran away. He compromised Sadie, and now she’s expecting a bobbel.

I think of my own bobblin, one born and one on the way, and shake my head. I try to tell myself that I should forgive Levi entirely, but I just can’t. I don’t think he’s a man of character. If I were in his place, I would be back in Ohio faster than a shot, waiting for the miracle of my bobbel’s birth.

But who am I to judge other people? Only Herr Gott can do that. Sighing, I heave the grocery bags upwards and drag myself inside to see my fraa.

I’m greeted by the smell of roast beef and buttery mashed potatoes, two of my favorite things. As Miriam rushes downstairs to help me unload the groceries, and then prepares plates for me, Henry, and herself—last as usual—I look at the rounded swell of her belly, and realize that the bobbel is not far away.

“How was your day, liebchen?” I ask, kissing her.

Gut,” she says in a falsely-bright voice. She plops down in her seat and begins feeding Henry mashed potatoes. “I redd up the haus, and played with Henry. We made cookies and pies, and went for a short walk outside.”

I can hear the strain in her voice; I know that she’s missing the time spent with friends, family, and neighbors, just as I am. Although Miriam doesn’t have many close friends, she’s always been actively involved in the community, taking Henry to play with other children and attending quilting circles. Now she can’t do any of that.

“That sounds nice,” I say without any enthusiasm, taking a mouthful of roast beef. “My day was gut, too. I gave one tour, and then shopped with the Englischers.”

A strangled sob escapes from Miriam’s throat, and Henry and I both stare at her. I’m horrified to see that her eyes are bright with tears.

“Let’s not lie to ourselves anymore,” she says. “My day was baremlich, and yours was, too. All the days will be like that until we’re back in the fold.”

I hop out of my seat and throw my arms around my fraa. “Everything will be all right,” I whisper into her hair, and I feel her relax into my arms.

I can only hope that I’m right, and not lying, both to Miriam and to myself.

New Book Excerpt From Amish Redemption

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 23
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 23, 2015 at 12:24 pm

I’m excited to announce that Book 4 of the Amish Friendships seriesAmish Redemption, will be coming out in early October! Young couple Abram and Miriam have been shunned after their idea to help out a runaway teen backfires. The road to redemption is a long one; they must prove to the elders that they’re truly repentant for lying about the youth’s identity. Can they find their way back into the fold before the birth of their new baby?

Until the release date, I’ll be posting free excerpts every week. So here’s the first one… Hope you enjoy!

Amish country is so beautiful in the fall! Photo courtesy of akronlife.com

Amish country is so beautiful in the fall! Photo courtesy of akronlife.com

Chapter One: Miriam

Hurrying upstairs with a basket of freshly-washed diapers in one hand and my one year-old son Henry in the other, I hear Abram’s buggy pulling into the driveway before I can see it. The horses whinny and the rubber wheels crackle over the gravel as I hear him shouting, “Yah.”

Setting down the basket, I yank aside the curtains and peer out the window, my breath puffing out and making little clouds on the glass. I rub them away with my free hand, flinching at the chill on my fingertips as I gaze at my mann. He tugs his coat tightly around his sturdy, stocky chest, and then unhitches the horses, leading them around back to the barn. As he trundles past, I notice that his teeth are chattering.

There’s no doubt about it: winter is coming, and so is the new bobbel.

Henry had become calmer as he’d grown inside me, but this little one kicks and twirls more energetically than ever, as though it can’t wait to get out and see the world.

I reckon the bobbel will arrive in about three weeks. This was what the midwife had told me—before we were shunned, that is. Now she can’t tell me anything. She’s Amish, which means that she can’t examine people in the Bann—or deliver their bobblin—unless she’s willing to risk Meidung herself. My maemm and schweschders are forbidden from helping out with the birthing, too. How baremlich that our innocent, unborn bobbel is being punished.

I drop my head into my hand, suddenly exhausted as I think of my family’s problems. Ever since we’ve been Meidung, we’ve had so many.

We can’t do business with anyone Amish, which is harder than it sounds in our small community. Samuel’s General Store is off-limits, and so is Stoltzfus Bakery. Today, Abram had to drive all the way to the English store in Volant to pick up food and necessities. English stores are much more expensive than Amish ones, and we certainly don’t have the money to spare.

Abram’s buggy tour business had been booming before the Meidung, but he had to let his employees go, since they’re Amish and can’t work for a shunned man. Now he’s short-staffed, and had to cut down the number of tours he runs. We also shut down my bed and breakfast, but that hadn’t been doing very well, anyway. Still, the amount of money coming in every week has slowed from a steady flow to a pathetic trickle.

Now I turn around and slog away from the cold window, squeezing Henry tight and inhaling the warm, sweet scent of his scalp. At moments like these, it comes in handy to count my blessings. I may be shunned, but I still have a beautiful bobbel and another on the way. I have a mann who loves me, and since he’s Meidung too, we can still talk to each other and even sleep together. And we already talked to the elders about the steps we will have to take toward repentance. Bishop Herschberger said that there will be a long road of reflection and prayer ahead, after which we must make a formal confession.

I just hope the road to redemption doesn’t take more than three weeks to travel. I remember how I’d struggled to give birth to Henry. My heart sinks as the harsh truth hits me: I don’t have the money to have this bobbel in a fancy English hospital, nor do I have the strength or knowledge to bring him or her into the world alone.

Back-to-School Reflections

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 16
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 16, 2015 at 12:54 pm

The back-to-school season always brings a big smile to my face–and not only because our neighborhood pool is blissfully empty for quiet daytime swims with my baby girl. ;)

I adore seeing cute little kids with freshly-pressed clothes and large, earnest eyes, clutching brand-new backpacks and notebooks as they head off for a day full of learning. I also get a kick out of the middle- and high-schoolers, many of whom are trying out new looks and identities. To many of them, the beginning of the school year is a blank slate, one in which they can be anything they want to be–and to me, that’s both endearing and inspiring.

This post might seem a bit late, considering that the kids have been back for a few weeks now, but the school year is still fresh and new. Throughout September, I often find myself reminiscing about first days of school past, and I also feel more inclined to learn new things and teach others as well. And just today, I had a weird craving for an apple, just like one you’d find on the stereotypical teacher’s desk! I guess there are worse foods to crave. ;)

I guess these are enough books to last me through my September learning renaissance. ;)

I guess these are enough books to last me through my September learning renaissance. ;)

This September, I’ve been visiting the library frequently, not only to expose Xaviana to new books and fun activities like Baby Rhyme Time, but also to quest for new reading material of my own. In the process, I discovered two authors that I loooove. Suzanne Woods Fisher writes Amish fiction that combines everything I look for in a good book: excitement, adventure, romance, and faith. I also fell in love with The Lost Girls of Rome by Italian author Donato Carrisi, because I’m a huge fan of suspenseful crime dramas.

I’ve also been playing teacher for Xaviana, who is almost 11 months old and has entered this amazing phase in which she seems to learn something new every day. When we’re not playing, exercising, and climbing on everything, we do a lot of reading. I read all her books in our at home “library” every day–about 15 board books throughout the day and 3 bedtime stories at night. We also have the Bright Baby board book with colors, numbers, ABC’s, shapes, and opposites, and we go through it daily. She’s an eager little pupil, and can now tell me what cows, cats, and sheep say, show me “up” and “down” with her arms, differentiate between her “small” and “big” toy balls, and fit the elusive shapes in the correct holes of her puzzle. She loves reading time, and smiles at her favorite books, especially I Love You Through and Through, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and If Animals Kissed Good Night. Playing school has never been so much fun!

Readers out there, do you find yourself going through your own personal renaissance during the back-to-school season, even if you’re not heading back to the classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections!

Reflections on a Month of Love

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 8
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 8, 2015 at 9:20 am

This summer was truly the “summer of love” among my friends and family; Antonio and I found ourselves invited to 5 weddings, and were able to make 3 of them. Incredibly, all of the weddings took place in August, so three out of four weekends this past month included wedding festivities!

To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than a couple in love, especially a couple just starting their lives together, full of hope and expectations for the future. It’s why all the books I write feature young people in love–and it’s also why I adore weddings.

I can’t help it: I’m a hopeless romantic, and now that I’m married, I often find myself reliving my own special day at other people’s weddings. My eyes always prickle with tears of joy as I watch the bride walk down the aisle and see her face full of happiness and anticipation. Then I shift my gaze to the groom, and marvel at the way his face lights up when the music swells and he admires his wife-to-be. I remember the way I felt as I took that joyous walk, which just intensifies the experience.

My favorite part of weddings–besides being part of the love, of course–is the way that each celebration reflects the couple’s personalities and the things they hold most dear. With that in mind, here are my reflections on the three weddings I attended this past month.

  1. Wedding #1: Small and Intimate - We kicked off the month with the destination wedding of our friends Carlo and Samar, traveling to the stunning red mesas of New Mexico. The bride and groom had planned a “white wedding” at a resort in Santa Fe, and Antonio and I were entranced not only by the beauty of the landscape and venue, but by the charming outdoor ceremony, delicious sit-down dinner, and incredibly fun group of about 30 guests. After dinner, we all went nuts dancing, and closed out the night with karaoke. We had ample time to chat with the bride, groom, and other attendees, and by the conclusion of the weekend, I’d made many new friends. Small weddings are amazing in this way; I really felt like everyone celebrated together instead of just sticking in their own little groups. IMG_0650
  2. Wedding #2: All-out Festival – Nabil and Salam’s wedding took place in Lebanon, and was a huge, traditional wedding that reminded me of a Lebanese festival. The day began with a gorgeous outdoor lunch of about 350 people, and then the guests all followed Nabil to Salam’s mountain village, where the ceremony took place. The reception was held in a castle with breathtaking views of the city of Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea. A sumptuous buffet was set up, and guests danced into the wee hours of the morning to a variety of music, but mostly Lebanese songs. As the bride and groom danced and cut the cake, huge sparklers erupted. The lights were brilliant and dazzling, but they were nothing compared to the spark in the couple’s eyes when they looked at each other. IMG_0877
  3. Wedding #3: Getting the Party Started - Eddy and Maya’s wedding also took place in Lebanon, and began with a touching ceremony in a beautiful old church, full of speeches by family and friends, as well as a sermon in Arabic. The reception was held at an amazing outdoor venue called Swan Lake. Sure enough, there was a shimmering lake with real swans, and down below, tables and a dance floor were set up. The venue sat atop a mountain, and the views of the city and sea were a sight to behold. The buffet was delicious, but the best part was the dancing. The bride and groom are a high-energy couple who love to party, and their arrival was punctuated with dance music, after which many of the guests stormed the dance floor. Antonio and I danced all night, reveling in the fun, club-like atmosphere and enjoying every moment with the bride and groom. IMG_1017

Writing about these weddings and reliving the happy memories has been such a treat for me. Readers out there, was this summer full of weddings for you, too? Do you love weddings as much as I do? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

5 Things that Motherhood Has Changed in My Writing

by Kristina Ludwig
Aug 4
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: August 4, 2015 at 9:00 am

Difficult as it may be to believe, my little Xaviana is 9 months old, and we’ve gotten into a (slightly variable) daily routine of naptimes, playdates, outings, education, exercise, cleaning up, and–yes–writing. Currently, I’m working on book 4 of the Amish Friendships series, and I realized how much my writing has evolved since I became a mom. Here are the top 5 changes that I’ve noticed.

A day in the life of the multitasking writer-mom... Image courtesy of ocregister.com

A day in the life of the multitasking writer-mom… Image courtesy of ocregister.com

  1. The characters - Before and even during my pregnancy, I wrote YA novellas about Amish kids growing up and falling in love, with a brief foray into mermaid fantasy fiction. Now that I’ve become a mom, however, the heroes and heroines have become more mature, and most of them have children present or on the way. After all, we write what we know; despite my best efforts to separate my personal and professional lives, the changes in my own character often seep into my imaginary characters!
  2. The storylines - While family has always been a primary theme in my writing as well as life, it has become even more important since my baby girl made her appearance. Many of my Amish novellas feature young parents chasing their bobblin around, feeding them, or just describing their escapades. I’ve found that babies are an awesome literary device to add comic relief, increase tension, or bring about conflict between couples, friends, and family.
  3. The frequency of book releases - Despite my best efforts, releasing a new book every month just isn’t in the stars. Sometimes every other month doesn’t even work out, but I aim for that. It’s just the nature of the beast!
  4. The blog posts - They’re less frequent too, but the most notable change is in their content. On this blog and Prego in San Diego, my posts now center upon mom activities and balancing motherhood and writing, since these are the topics I currently find most inspiring. I also feel like my experiences will be most helpful to readers, since I’m living them now!
  5. My efficiency - This is perhaps the most positive change; I have become much more efficient at churning out content. Before Xaviana, my workdays consisted entirely of writing, but now I only have about two hours per day to write. This means that I must be laser-focused, getting “in the zone” right away so that I can optimize my limited writing time. However, like zillions of other moms before me, I’ve risen to the challenge. Woohoo!

Writer-moms out there, what changes has motherhood brought about in your writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts!