Mindset Matters: How to Change Mindset When You Switch Writing Genres

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 26
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 26, 2015 at 10:38 am

I’ve just begun my newest writing project: a return to the YA Amish genre. After my foray into mermaid fantasy fiction, I missed writing inspirational and entertaining stories about the plain people. The only problem: after my four-month hiatus from Amish fiction, I wasn’t sure what to write about, what characters to include, or how to inject something fresh and new into my latest Amish creation. I knew that I wanted to write another spinoff series of my popular Amish Hearts books, but when I brainstormed story concepts, I couldn’t come up with anything!

Genre switches are difficult; when I’d begun writing the California Mermaids series, I’d published a post about it. At that time, however, I’d been delving into a brand-new genre with all the energy and inspiration that goes along with such a switch. In some ways, returning to a genre in which I’d previously written has been much harder. I’d been publishing one Amish book per month, and had really been in a groove. By switching to mermaid books, I’d interrupted my momentum.

However, I’ve found that it is possible–but not easy–to regain that momentum. My first step was to visit the library and pick up some Amish books. I’m a firm believer in reading to write better, and I often enjoy reading books that mirror what I’m doing at the moment, whether it’s going on vacation, going through a certain stage in life, or writing a book. The Amish books did the trick; my favorite was Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler. In his memoir, Wagler made his childhood and Rumspringa years come to life–and inspired parts of the plot line of my new book. 

This book helped me to reset my mind in preparation for writing my newest Amish book.

This book helped me to reset my mind in preparation for writing my newest Amish book.

The second thing I did was begin to reread my own Amish books, starting with Book 1 of the Amish Hearts series, Rumspringa Break. This put me back in touch with my characters, as well as with the events that had happened in each story. It’s strange, but when you write one book per month, you actually forget what you’d written six months or a year ago. That’s why it’s so important to periodically reread your own books when you’re writing a series or spinoff.

I’m still in the process of rereading my Amish books (There are ten of them.), but the third thing that really helped me to change my mindset was plain old meditation. After all my reading, I suddenly had tons of inspirational thoughts swirling around in my head, and I needed to focus them. Ten minutes in the hot tub were all I needed to plant the seeds of the story line, and to sketch out the first few chapters of my new book in my mind.

My Amish book will be about some young upstarts who decide to start a new community after an unnecessarily strict bishop takes over in their own community. I’ll be posting excerpts and reflections as I write, and the book itself is due out in late February.

Writers, have you ever returned to a genre after leaving it? If so, did you find it as difficult as I did, and what did you do to facilitate the process? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Reflections on a Writing Field Trip Part 2: College Trip Down Memory Lane

by Kristina Ludwig
Mar 17
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: March 17, 2014 at 11:09 am

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, all! To celebrate the luck of the Irish (and to be a little ironic), I’m giving my humorous contemporary YA romance, Unlucky 13, away for free today. We may be having a lucky day, but thirteen year-old Jordyn’s year is anything but… She endures a string of crazy bad luck as she tries to score a date with her dream guy. Can Jordyn turn her luck around and win Andrew’s heart? Find out today…for free!

Unlucky13

And in other news: Long-term followers of my Random Inspirations blog may recall my Writing Field Trip post from December, in which I reflected on a trip to Lawrence County, home of my Amish Hearts characters. Today, it’s time for part 2 of that post. Last weekend, I visited my family in Pittsburgh, and took a trip down memory lane to my old college campus, the University of Pittsburgh. This trip came at the best possible time, because I have been working hard on “Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book,” Book 1 of my new Amish in College series, and Pitt is where Rebekah and Braeden go to college.

Writing “Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book” has been an incredible experience, because I have fond memories of life at Pitt–especially my last two years of pharmacy school, when I met and fell in love with Antonio! I spent six years on that campus, and I know it inside out. The beautiful architecture that blends old and new styles, the brilliant collection of students from all over the world, and the way the entire campus seems to blossom and bloom in the spring just before finals… All of these are aspects of Pitt that I love, so of course I incorporate them into “Amish Faith.” 

“Amish Faith” will be released later this week (date coming soon). So, to get you psyched about some of the people and places in Rebekah’s book, here are a few pictures we took at Pitt. We owe these great shots to my dad. :)

A cheery sign by the famous campus landmark, the Cathedral of Learning, proclaims, “Welcome to Pitt.”

Welcome to Pitt

The Cathedral of Learning houses the nationality rooms, several classrooms, a computer lab, Starbuck’s, and food court downstairs, and a huge, open study area on the main floor. This is where Braeden and Rebekah like to study in “Amish Faith.”

Cathedral 1

During well-deserved study breaks, Braeden and Rebekah lay in the grass and gaze upward at the Cathedral of Learning. When the clouds move just right, the building almost looks like it’s falling on them.

Cathedral falling on you

Inside the Cathedral of Learning is a wrought-iron gate with the famous quote that inspired Rebekah to attend college in Rumspringa Break: “Here is eternal spring. For you the very stars of heaven are new.”

Cathedral quote with me

Rebekah lives with her funny roommate Allie in Litchfield Towers, the freshman dorm buildings. In Mercy’s Fall, Rebekah’s sister Mercy describes the towers as looking like silos.

Litchfield Towers

Braeden walks Rebekah to her least favorite class, Bio 1, at Clapp Hall. Her class consists of more than 300 students, which is very overwhelming to an Amish girl who grew up attending classes in a one-room schoolhouse.

Clapp Hall

When she and Braeden have a disagreement, Rebekah finds solace at the Log Cabin near the Cathedral of Learning. It’s a reminder of her simple roots amidst the bustling, competitive city environment.

Log Cabin

Braeden convinces Rebekah that God is everywhere when he takes her to a church service at St. Paul Cathedral. Although mass is much different than Rebekah’s Amish services, she feels as touched by Herr Gott as she does at home with her family.

St. Paul Cathedral Doors

St. Paul's cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral Angle

I hope these pictures and descriptions will help “Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book” to come to life for you! Stay tuned on the blog and Facebook for release dates!

Gearing Up for a Book Launch: 5 Things to Do

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 3
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I’m excited to announce that I will be launching the Kindle version of my new Amish YA fiction novella, Rumspringa Break, on October 10th. Long-time followers of my blog may recall this title in short story form. Since then, I’ve tweaked the storyline, added more drama, conflict, and intrigue, and changed the ending. (And the middle, for that matter — the beginning is the only part that’s somewhat similar to the original version.) The short story ran about 11 pages, and the novella is a whopping 54 — hopefully the ideal length for YA readers and adults looking for a relatively quick but satisfying read with crossover appeal.

Gearing up to launch an indie eBook is both energizing and exhausting. There’s so much that goes into it: promotion and marketing on the endless stream of social media, attending networking events to spread the word in person, putting together the book description, and editing and formatting the book. I recommend checking out this article by Nick Thacker about launching a book in three easy steps.

The cover of Rumspringa Break

The cover of Rumspringa Break, coming to you on 10/10/13!

Here are 5 things I’ve done to prepare for the book launch on 10/10, in no particular order. I hope it helps any writers out there who may be gearing up for their own book launches.

  1. Attended a Network After Work event, where I distributed flyers for the new book and met professionals in various areas of employment. I even connected with another author, who’d just published a book on Amazon.
  2. Signed up for a writing conference in LA. It’s called the Digital Author and Self-Publishing conference, and it will be the perfect place to connect with other authors and promote the new book, especially because it’s happening 2 days after my launch. There’s still time to sign up by the way, so any writers looking to hobnob with other indies should check it out!
  3. Prepared to launch my author website. The developers are still working a few kinks out of it, but my author website is officially up and running. As soon as it passes my test, I will post all the information on this blog, as well as my other social media accounts. Soon, this blog will be running from my author website! The website will have fun features like Free Book Fridays, where I will host giveaways for all my eBooks, especially Rumspringa Break. 
  4. Maintained social media presence. Authors’ platforms are important all the time, but especially before launching a book. I have been focusing on increasing my Twitter followers, posting regularly to Facebook and Google+, and blogging twice a week. I love these activities anyway, so it’s as much fun as it is work.
  5. Put together the most professional product possible. I enlisted the services of Katrina Joyner at Premade Covers 4U, and purchased the perfect book cover. And, of course, there’s editing, formatting, etc. It may seem tedious, but it’s so important for self-published authors to put their best work out there!

 

 

Amish Fiction: Why It’s Hot

by Kristina Ludwig
Aug 8
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: August 8, 2013 at 10:00 am

I’ve always been partial to contemporary YA fiction. I’ve been reading the genre since long before I fell into the YA age group–and have continued long after I fell out of it. I love the depth of the characters and the drama of their emotions.  There’s something timely and relevant about stories featuring flawed, vulnerable, dynamic characters living in the here and now. To me, contemporary YA is as good as it gets, which is why I adore reading it, writing it, and generally immersing myself in it.

But lately, I’ve been working on a writing project that’s totally different, yet equally intriguing…Amish YA fiction. The idea of writing an Amish fiction story came to me totally randomly. Almost two years ago, I was reading Allure magazine, and there was an article with fun facts about coming of age. One of the blurbs mentioned Rumspringa, the Amish rite of passage. And **bam!** I decided it would be awesome to write a story about that, and the rest is history.

I grew up in Pennsylvania, and had plenty of experience with the Amish. I saw some at a grocery store in Edinboro, and others driving buggies when my family and I cruised the country roads. When we drove through Lancaster, I admired an Amish schoolhouse, with its matching boys’ and girls’ outhouses. To me, the Amish culture seemed like a slice of history. Seeing the Amish in action was like a time machine; I felt like I was watching pioneers from the 1800s. Even though I definitely consider myself a modern girl, I’ve always been more than a little nostalgic for bygone times. Maybe a lot of us are, and that’s why all things Amish, from books to TV shows, have been so hot lately.

Amish-people-007

I started thinking about other reasons why Amish fiction is hot, and here’s what I came up with.

  1. It’s Fresh: Amish fiction is still a relatively new genre, and, naturally, whenever a new genre emerges it becomes a literary hot spot.
  2. It’s Interesting: Amish society is fascinating since it’s so foreign to many of us. While the rest of the world seems to keep striving toward a materialistic rut, the Amish emphasize that it’s a gift to be simple. The tenets of the Amish are refreshing, especially in these days of avarice.
  3. It’s a New World: To most of us, the world of the Amish is all new. One of the best things about reading fiction is the ability to escape our everyday lives and enter into a totally new environment. Just look at the recent trends of futuristic, dystopian, and / or paranormal fiction–very different from our world, and massively popular with readers.
  4. It’s Educational: Amish fiction paints a picture of a society of which we know very little. One of the best things about fiction is that it allows authors to bring foreign and / or historic settings to life. Just look at one of my favorite books, Gone With the Wind. Margaret Mitchell educates us about Civil War-era Southern gentry so well that we feel as though we lived through that time ourselves. Somehow, learning about history or other cultures becomes easier when it’s accompanied by characters to bring everything to life.
  5. It Has the Potential for Great Drama: The Amish are very conformist, but Amish youth have a chance to break the mold and experience the outside world during Rumspringa. However, if Amish teens choose ultimately to accept the outside world, they will be shunned by their families. The teen years are a dramatic, turbulent time for anyone, but for Amish teens, they have the potential to be even more so. Amish teens face the drama of learning about the “English” people, and they have to reconcile their new experiences with their upbringing. They also face the terrifying possibility of being ostracized by the very society and family that brought them up. The stakes are high for these kids, which makes Amish fiction a great place for the drama that drives storylines. 

Rum-spring-a Break Finale

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 25
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am

My apologies for leaving you suspended in time at Jakob’s awkward entrance for two whole weeks! But finally, here it is: the conclusion of Rum-spring-a Break. I hope Ethan’s advice to Rebekah will inspire you. Enjoy!

“Th-there you are,” Jakob stutters, flushing with embarrassment. His clear blue eyes cloud over to rainy-day gray as he studies Ethan and me. “Mercy’s not feeling well, so we should leave soon. But since you’re busy I’ll just…wait outside.”

Jakob nearly tramples Furball as he hurries from the room, and I laugh as Ethan’s eager lips take mine again.

“Are you on Facebook?” Ethan asks as our lips part. I shake my head no. “Do you have email?” I shake no again. “What about a phone? You must have a phone.”

“No, Ethan,” I say. “I’m Old Order Amish. We’re very traditional.”

“Will I see you again?” Ethan asks.

“I hope so.”

Ethan grabs a pen and scribbles his phone number on the back of the pre-vet curriculum in bold, strong strokes. He hands it to me, and his kiss is full of passion and promise. “So do I,” he says, his lips still on mine.

“Keep this, Rebekah,” Ethan says, reluctantly dragging himself, and me, off the bed. “And promise me you’ll remember something.”

“Anything,” I say.

“Don’t just hold on tight to your dreams,” Ethan says. “Actualize them.”

***

Ten Months Later:

I’m on the edge of my uncomfortable plastic seat as I wait for the SAT tests to be passed out. I’m glad I took Ethan’s advice. I still haven’t been baptized Amish, since I plan to earn my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree first. My hope is that, because my career will be useful to our community, the elders will overlook my worldly pursuit of education. In the meantime, though, I’ll just focus on enjoying rumspringa and the many benefits of the outside world.

I survey the other students in the room, a diverse group that, judging from the fidgeting, brow furrowing, and chair squeaking, is as nervous as I. A handsome young man in Amish suspenders and a straw hat sits across the room. I catch his eye and we exchange shy smiles as the tests are distributed. I’m dressed English today, but perhaps he recognizes a kindred spirit.

I close my eyes and visualize myself acing this test. I don’t know whether I’ll call Ethan and we will reunite, or whether the Amish boy will talk to me during break, or whether I will succeed as a veterinarian, or whether my family and community will accept me if I do. But I do know one thing: right here, and right now, I feel as though I’m exactly where I belong. Clutching my Number 2 pencil, I take a deep breath, open my eyes, and flip open my SAT booklet, ready for whatever comes next.

Rum-spring-a Break Part 4

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 11
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm

In the next section of my short story, Rebekah and friends have their first interactions with “English” college students, and she finds inspiration in unexpected places.

The college party is in full swing. An entire apartment has been usurped by screaming people, and the stench of cigarettes and alcohol hangs in the air. Flashing strobes cast their dancing lights around the kitchen and living room. Tall, beefy boys fill their red cups with beer from a massive keg. Scantily clad girls sway on a makeshift dance floor or gossip in little groups, gesturing with their wine coolers. Amorous couples make out in dark corners or grind on the dance floor.

“This. Is. Sooooo. Amazing!” Mercy exclaims. Abram pops the top off a beer and hands it to her. She takes a hearty swig and frowns. “Eeew. That tastes disgusting.”

A brawny English guy appears with a pair of Mike’s Hard Lemonades. “Here, try these,” he says, handing one to Mercy and one to me. He leers at us, and I smell the pungent odor of beer…too much beer…on his breath. “Are you twins?”

“Yeah,” I say, moving away. Mercy flutters her plumped-up eyelashes at him. She seems to like all English guys, no matter how repulsive. I sip my hard lemonade, almost choking as the bubbles tickle my tongue and the back of my throat. It’s the first carbonated beverage I’ve ever tasted, and I realize I like it. I take a long gulp and close my eyes. Heaven.

“Slow down, Rebekah,” Jakob says, draping a big-brotherly arm around my shoulder. “That stuff is stronger than you think.”

“It doesn’t taste strong,” I say, pulling away from him, downing the lemonade like water.

Jakob grabs the bottle as I finish it, and studies the label. “5.2% alcohol,” he reads, grinning. “You’ll be feeling it soon, but it’s all in the name of rumspringa.”

He’s right. I grab another hard lemonade from a cooler nearby, and as I’m drinking it, I start feeling goofy. I suddenly want to giggle. I lose track of time, and I have no idea where Mercy and Abram are; Jakob never strays far from my side. My body heats up from the inside out, and I have this uncontrollable desire to dance.
The problem is, I have no idea how to dance English. I glance around the room and realize these girls have no idea either. There is no uniform dance, just hip wiggling and sinuous movements of the torso. I join in, and, soon enough, an English college boy is dancing right behind me.

“Hey,” he says, spinning me around. He runs his hands down my body. “I’m Connor. I live here.” I introduce myself and he says, “I’ve never seen you around, Rebekah. What’s your major?”

I pause. Should I tell him the truth, or create an alternate persona? My sober self would opt for the former, but naturally, my tipsy self doesn’t agree. “Pre-veterinary medicine,” I say.

“Fancy,” Connor says, wiggling his eyebrows. “My roomie Ethan is pre-vet.” He gestures broadly with his red cup toward an incredibly handsome guy with longish, straight black hair and brilliant blue eyes. “Hey, Ethan! This chick is pre-vet too!”

Uh-oh. I can’t meet a real pre-vet student, no matter how gorgeous he is. I don’t want to admit I’ve been lying to Connor. I smile at Connor and Ethan, wave my empty hard lemonade bottle, and duck out of the room, pretending I’m searching for a new drink. I head outside onto a roomy wooden deck; it’s filled with people, but I desperately need some air.

“Rebekah! We have tequila shots!” Mercy calls. She’s sprawled across an English guy’s lap, holding a bottle marked Jose Cuervo. She grabs a miniature plastic cup from the outdoor table, sloshes some tequila into it, and stumbles toward me.

I take a whiff of the poisonous liquid; it smells like pure sin. “No thanks,” I say, handing it back.

“Leaves more for us!” Mercy’s English boyfriend says.

“Good choice, Rebekah,” says a voice behind me.

“Jakob!” I exclaim, whirling around. “How long have you been standing here?”

“Long enough to remember why I’ve always thought you were the girl for me,” Jakob replies. He draws his face toward mine, so close that I can feel the tickle of his downy blonde beard, and smell the beer on his breath.

“Always?”

“Yes, always.” Jakob draws me in for a kiss…my first ever.

I close my eyes and try to lose myself in the moment, savoring the mild haze of alcohol that heightens my impulses and the cool spring breeze that invigorates my senses. This kind of moment is every Amish girl’s dream; after all, rumspringa exists to help us find ideal mates, and being kissed on the first night of rumspringa is an incredible stroke of luck.

Despite my efforts, however, I can’t lose myself in Jakob’s kiss as his inexperienced lips fumble across mine. I just don’t feel passionate about him. His kiss is like his personality: calm, settled, and ordinary. I want something breathless and out of control. Jakob seems ready to settle down, but I’m not. I don’t know where I belong or who I belong with, but I know it’s not Jakob.

“Wooooowooooo!” Mercy exclaims, flopping toward us. I am eternally grateful to her for breaking the moment. “Someone’s having a good rumspringa make-out!”

“It’s probably nothing compared to what you’ve had!” Jakob says jovially, draping an arm around Mercy’s shoulder. “Come inside for awhile. We need to get you away from that Cuervo.” Mercy follows Jakob, surprisingly docile. I stay outside to clear my head. I close my eyes and lean on the railing of the deck, ignoring the group of English college students playing a game with red cups, beer, and little white balls.

My reverie is interrupted when I feel a light tap on my shoulder. I spin around and find myself gazing into eyes as blue as a September sky. My breath hitches, and I feel my pulse galloping like a runaway horse.

“Are you avoiding me?” Ethan asks, laughing. “You ran away before we could be formally introduced. I was so excited to meet another pre-vet student. We’re hard to find, you know, since we live in the library.”

“I’m Rebekah,” I say. I reach out to shake his hand, but realize he’s holding a red cup. Our reaction times are impaired from the alcohol; we’re both too clumsy and intoxicated to avoid the ensuing collision. I bump his cup, and we laugh and shriek as beer spills all over the front of his pants.

“I’m sooooo sorry!” I exclaim. I snatch a roll of paper towels, tear some off, and jump right in there to help him, before I realize what part of his anatomy I’m nearly touching. My face heats up as I say, “Sorry again…”

“No worries,” Ethan says, mopping off his pants. He rakes his fingers through his raven-black hair, and it immediately flops back into his eyes. “I can always change my pants. Besides, you’re cute. You’re allowed a party foul or two.”

I smile and reply, “Thanks, so are you.” So this is flirting. I’m actually not bad at it.

“I can’t believe I’ve never noticed you around campus before,” Ethan says. “But to be honest, I don’t party much. The main reason I’m here is because Connor talked me into it, and besides, I live here.”

“No escape,” I say, laughing. “But about the pre-vet thing…Ethan, there’s something I need to tell you.” Ethan just stands there, waiting. I clear my throat. “I’m not really pre-vet. I’m Amish. I was just…trying out another identity. I want to be pre-vet,” I continue as Ethan’s eyebrows shoot up, “but I’m not right now.”

Ethan bursts into laughter. “You know, Rebekah, I’ve done the same thing. My alternate identity was a little more interesting, though. Last time I went on vacation, I told everyone my name was Jet, and I was a racecar driver.”

I crack up. “You’d make a great Jet.”

Ethan smiles, but then his brilliant eyes search my face intensely. “Rebekah, if you seriously want to be pre-vet, I can show you some of the stuff I’m doing in school. I know it’s kind of nerdy to do right now, but…”

“I’d love that,” I say, as Ethan takes my hand and leads me past the chaos of the drunken party and into his bedroom.

I’m in a boy’s bedroom! With the exception of my brothers’ rooms, I’ve never seen a boy’s bedroom before. Ethan’s is crammed with books and sports equipment, but his desk is neat and organized, and his bed is made. He grabs a sheet of paper, plops down on his bed, and motions for me to do the same.
“This is Pitt’s pre-vet curriculum,” Ethan says, gesturing to the paper. “It’s really heavy on the science, obviously. There’s chem and bio freshman year…moving into organic chemistry…” I try to focus on what Ethan is saying, but all I can do is stare at his lips, entranced. They’re full and luscious, and they probably taste delicious.

I mentally scold myself. I shouldn’t be dreaming about kissing English boys. I don’t belong here. It’s fun and Ethan is sweet, but there’s no future in it, right?

“…but maybe you’ve already taken some of these courses, and you could catch up on the rest. Are you in college now?” Ethan asks, jolting me from my inner moral dilemma.

“No,” I say. “I’m only sixteen. But even if I were college-age, it would be hard for me to go. Few Amish attend college.”

Saying the words aloud reminds me of the hopelessness of my situation. I realize that my white lie about being pre-vet is probably the closest I’ll ever come to actualizing my dream.

“I’m sorry for wasting your time,” I tell Ethan. I push myself up from the bed. The giddy intoxication is wearing off, and now I only feel tired, depressed, and confused.

“Rebekah, I like spending time with you!” Ethan protests. “And never give up on your dreams. There must be a way for you to be educated, but still be Amish. You should take your SATs this year. That’s your first step. It’s possible, too.” His eyes light up as he adds, “An Amish girl in traditional clothes took the SAT at the same time I did.”

Looking into Ethan’s eyes and feeling his enthusiastic energy makes me believe everything will work out for me. I smile at him, just as a fluffy white cat streaks out from his entertainment center.

“Whoa!” I exclaim. “I didn’t know you had a cat!”

“That’s Furball. Her favorite hiding place is behind the TV,” Ethan says, bending down and rubbing Furball absentmindedly as she slinks past.

Furball approaches me, rubbing her lithe, silky body on my leg. I crash back down on Ethan’s bed, scoop her up onto my lap, and stroke her thick, soft fur. She gazes up at me with fluorescent green eyes, and it’s love at first sight.

I realize that another pair of nearly fluorescent eyes is focused on me as well. “You owe it to yourself to study pre-vet,” Ethan says softly, sitting next to me, draping his strong arm around me. “Furball’s usually shy with everyone. You really have a way with animals.”

Jakob’s words seem so much more poetic coming from Ethan’s mouth. Ethan gently pushes back my hair and leans in, his warm lips overtaking mine. Ethan’s kiss is electrically charged, passionate, and fairly sinful. I feel my body melting like a puddle of butter on the stove as I revel in his unique flavor: part mint gum, part residual beer, all Ethan.

I’m so enveloped in sensual pleasure that I barely hear Ethan’s door swinging open. But as a throat clears hesitantly, Ethan and I snap apart to see Jakob towering awkwardly over the bed.

Rum-spring-a Break Part 3

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 4
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Happy Thursday, all! And just in time for the (almost) weekend, here is the next segment of Rum-spring-a Break. You’ve had two sneak peeks to set the stage–in Part 3, a little wildness just might be in store!

I grin broadly. “Should we do something crazy?”

“It’s Thursday,” Jakob reminds me. “I have to work early tomorrow, and so do you.” Like the rest of our community, Jakob and I finished school when we were fourteen, and now we have jobs. He works in a garage, repairing cars, which he adores. I work with Mercy in a bakery, which I don’t adore.

“Let’s plan something for tomorrow, though,” Jakob says, draping his arm around my shoulder. “We’ll go cruising. I’ll swing by and pick you and Mercy up.” Jakob and his friends go cruising every weekend in his old Ford pickup. He saved up for years to buy it, but his parents won’t let him park it at home; he has to leave it at work when he’s not driving it.

“I can’t wait,” I say, smiling as I extricate myself from his arm. I’ve known Jakob since birth, and he’s like a brother to me. It feels weird to have him in my personal space. “Well, good night.”

“Good night, simmie,” Jakob says, referring to the Amish nickname for newcomers to rumspringa. His teasing tone belies the flash of hurt in his crystalline blue eyes. I ignore it and dash toward home. I really need to sleep a bit; something tells me tomorrow will be an exciting day.

***

“Woooohoo!” Mercy screams, sticking her head out Jakob’s truck window like a dog. Jakob’s friend Abram gives Mercy a playful slap on the back and cranks up some hip-hop music on Jakob’s souped-up radio.

I sit back in my seat, the bass from the speakers shaking my insides. I am in a state of sensory overload. My birthday celebration has been a marathon, starting with my father painting our picket fence blue, essentially proclaiming to the Amish boys, “Come and get ‘em! Girls of marriageable age live here!” At our birthday party, Mercy and I acquired English clothes from our good friend Hannah, and now we’re wearing them. I’m a little self-conscious about the way my new skimpy, brightly colored sundress clings to my body and shows my arms and legs. On the upside, the night breeze feels deliciously decadent as it caresses my skin.

I close my eyes and let my loose hair blow free in the wind. My wavy, chestnut-brown hair is as straight and shiny as an English model’s, thanks to the borrowed flat iron. My eyelashes look about twice their usual length and thickness, and my glossy lips shimmer, thanks to the borrowed make-up. I feel like everything in my life is borrowed right now, even my time; I’m not used to having free time at night. Normally, I’d be asleep, since, even on Saturdays, my chores start early. During rumspringa, however, my parents are a little more lax with their demands. Thank goodness my younger siblings will pick up the slack.

Jakob, Abram, Mercy, and I arrive in Pittsburgh after an hour drive. I’ve never seen the city before, and the twinkling lights dazzle me as they glint off the three rivers. We pass over a bridge, and enter a more crowded section of town. English kids seem to frolic in the streets, calling loudly back and forth to each other. Jakob somehow maneuvers his big, clumsy truck into a tiny spot near a ramshackle-looking apartment building. The people inside are blasting music so loudly that Jakob’s stereo sounds like a whispering wind in comparison.

“Where are we going?” I ask the boys. Mercy hops out of the truck, smoothing her short skirt and eyeing some particularly cute English guys heading into the apartment.

“To a college party,” Jakob replies. He actually looks somewhat English in his tee shirt and jeans, although his Amish-style bowl cut and light beard give him away. Even without his hat, his hair is totally flattened, in contrast to the spiky, slick, or just plain voluminous locks of the English boys.

“The Pitt students have great parties,” Abram says, ogling three girls sporting tiny shorts and pink and purple streaks in their glowingly unnatural blonde hair. “They don’t mind if we crash their parties, as long as we bring something.” Abram grabs two six-packs of beer from the back of the truck–he’s the only one of us over twenty-one–and we head in the direction of the noise.

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.”