Just write

In 2007, the Write Place published its very first book: The Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler by Jeff Rowland. Over 10 years later, this funny and light-hearted memoir remains a favorite with readers and Write Place team members.

It may come as a surprise, then, that Reel Adventures almost ended up in a landfill instead of on a bookshelf.

Like many (okay, most) authors, Jeff doubted anyone would be interested in reading his book. It got to the point where he seriously considered abandoning the project altogether.

So what stopped him? What encouraged him to keep going?

In this guest blog post, Jeff tells the story of how he overcame his doubts . . . and the incredible impact The Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler has had on his life and the life of a close friend.

 


 

I still recall that moment of doubt.

What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Who really cares? Those were the thoughts going through my mind as my rough draft went into the trash.

I feel safe in saying that every writer hits moments of doubt. But something inside me made me retrieve that draft and continue piecing together all I had written. I can’t explain the feeling, but I can testify it was one of purpose. I knew there was a reason for what I was doing, but I didn’t know what it was.

Writing a book was a big decision. I had been writing outdoor articles for about three years when the thought of actually publishing a book began to creep into my mind.

I had spent over 30 years angling in Marion County, Iowa, and knew I had much to share. Documenting my stories in memoir form was the path I chose to follow. Once I created an outline, it took me about three months to compile over 20 stories.

That is when I hit the What, Why, Who Syndrome.

That feeling of purpose described above is what compelled me to continue. I didn’t understand the feeling, but I knew something higher than me was driving me to complete the book. Secretly, I had visions of monetary gain. This book was to be about fishing, and I remember thinking, There are 35 million licensed anglers in the U.S. If one percent would purchase my book, I could be doing a lot more fishing.

I knew I had not completed a literary masterpiece, and I did not hit that one-percent mark. But I can now share that the book, The Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler, was well received in central Iowa and kept me busy for over a year after the publication date.

For instance, about three months after completing my book I received a letter from a reader. Before I opened it, I remember holding in it my hand and thinking, A letter? Who still sends letters? The contents of that letter gave me full understanding of the true purpose of my writing.

The author of the letter, Private Chris Bates from Knoxville, Iowa, had received my book in a care package from home. He was writing from the front lines of a foreign country; he had six weeks to go on his tour and had been struggling until he received my book.

What had lifted him? A story from my memoir. In the first chapter, I shared how my 12-year-old self had snuck into the VA pond in Knoxville to catch some trout that had been stocked for the veterans who used the campus. I was caught by the VA security guard, but I took off running to elude prosecution for trespassing.

Chris and I were separated in age by over 20 years, and the two of us had never met. But in his letter, he confessed he had also snuck into that same pond in his youth and executed a similar evasive move to avoid capture.

Reading this story made Chris laugh out loud and brought back fond memories from his youth. He was writing to me to share his gratitude. The Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler lifted his spirits and helped him feel that making it to the end of his tour was obtainable—a feeling he had been struggling with before the book arrived.

About a week after Chris returned home—and with permission from his wife—I pulled up to his place with my boat. The two of us shared a day out on the lake, catching a suitable number of crappies.

We didn’t discuss what he shared in his letter much, nor did we have long, drawn-out conversations about the events that put the two of us in the same boat. That’s just the way us guys are. What was present (besides the crappies), was an unspoken comradery and understanding, along with the knowledge that we had established a friendship that could only be described as fate.

While writing The Reel Adventures of a Marion County Angler, I felt I had some entertaining and humorous stories to tell. Not once did I think sharing my stories would generate memories strong enough to make a difference in someone’s life like it did for Chris. Not only did this experience create a friend for life, it helped me fully understand that the gift of writing is an extremely powerful tool.

I am sharing this story for any writer who is hitting a moment of doubt, whether they are just thinking of writing a book or are in the process of doing so.

I have two words of advice for you: Just write!

You never know where it may lead.

jeff-rowland

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7 publishing trends to watch for in 2018

Whether you’re already a self-published author or you’re just starting to consider self-publishing, it’s always a good idea to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. To help you stay in the know, we’ve pulled together some notes on what you can expect to see in the world of book publishing in 2018.

Self-publishing will continue to gain ground on traditional publishing.

Self-publishing thrived in 2017. According to Nielsen Book Senior Director of Research and Analytics Kempton Mooney, for the first time ever, the market share of self-published and indie-published books surpassed the market share of big publishers (42% v. 34%).

According to industry experts, this trend is not going away anytime soon. The number of self-published books is predicted to increase even more in 2018.

Non-fiction books will dominate the market.

In 2017, the dramatic increase of political and social discourse impacted many industries, including publishing. The bestselling books of the year were written by public figures and celebrities like Ta-Nehisi Coates.

For authors, the key takeaway is that people want to read real-life stories. Writers of non-fiction books, biographies, and memoirs should take note and consider moving forward with any project they have on hold.

Video book marketing will make a major impact.

According to Digital Information World, 55% of people watch online videos every day. Because this platform reaches a wide audience, it’s wise for self-published authors to post online videos that promote their books. Popular book videos include trailers, interviews, and sneak-peak reads.

If you would like to create a video but have no idea where to start, the Write Place is happy to help. We can assist you with scripting, recording, editing, and online posting. For an example of our video work, watch the author interview we produced for our 2016 Book Contest winner, Bestow On Us Your Grace.

The demand for kid-friendly nonfiction will also increase.

Like adult nonfiction, the demand for kid-friendly nonfiction is on the rise. Books that educate children about important topics and help them understand the world are being published in greater numbers. Popular topics include science, politics, and historical events.

E-books will continue to be a good investment.

Since 2012, online book sales have exceeded brick-and-mortar sales. This includes purchases of both print and e-books; however, while print books certainly aren’t going away, there are several advantages to publishing an e-book that will continue to be relevant in 2018.

There’s more space on the digital bookshelf than on brick-and-mortar bookshelves. Stores will remove books that aren’t selling from their sales racks. However, e-books are unlikely to be taken down by online retailers, so they have a longer shelf life.

If you have published your book as an e-book and have seen a dip in sales, you should consider investing in a new cover, book description, and marketing campaign. These efforts may give sales a shot in the arm.

Book covers still matter.

Despite the old saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, people definitely judge books by their covers.

Think of it this way: having a well-designed cover is like picking out the perfect outfit for a first date or a job interview. It needs to be interesting and make a good impression since it’s the first thing that will be noticed. If a book cover is boring or poorly designed, readers are less likely to pick it up to see what it’s about, let alone purchase it.

For example, self-published writer R.L. Mathewson went from selling a handful of copies of her romance novel Playing for Keeps to over a thousand after updating the book’s cover.

The Write Place’s team of professional graphic designers has over a decade of combined experience in creating book covers of all genres. If you’re interested in refreshing your book’s cover design or getting a design for a new project, get in touch!

Editing is still key.

Just as a cover design is crucial to making a good first impression, a well-developed plot, strong mechanics, and interesting dialogue are key to holding readers’ attention and giving them a positive view of your book. Typos, grammatical mistakes, and gaping plot holes can leave a bad taste in a reader’s mouth and make them less likely to recommend your book to others. In fact, they may end up posting a negative review on sites like Amazon and Goodreads.

To ensure your manuscript is as polished as possible, it is always a best practice to work with a professional editor. At the Write Place, we offer three levels of editing services to authors.

Have questions about these trends or our cover design, editing, and book publishing services? Reach out to the Write Place team today!

Thanks to Blurb Blog, Marketing Christian Books, Scholastic Book Club, Flavorwire, HuffPost, and Izzard Ink for the tips, info, and statistics curated for this article.

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Announcing No-Fee November Book Contest special

 

2018-BookContest-graphic-NoFeeNov-web.pngIf you haven’t entered the 2018 Write Place Book Contest yet, ramp up your writing and get the job done this month! For the entire month of November, we are waiving the contest entry fee.

When submitting your manuscript, follow the instructions on how to enter—but skip the entry fee step! Remember, we are accepting entries through December 15, 2017. The Book Contest winner will receive free publication of their manuscript as both a print book and an e-book. Up to nine finalists will be offered a choice of a $200 discount on the quoted publication cost of their manuscript or a $200 discount on the creation of an author website.

You can find the 2018 Book Contest entry form, submission guidelines, and rules here. If you have any other questions, please email bookcontest@thewriteplace.biz.

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10 tips for writing a star manuscript

book-contest-2018

As you may have heard, the Write Place Book Contest will return in 2018!

Every two years, we invite authors across the country to submit their manuscripts to us. Our team of judges reads them and awards one deserving author with free publication of his or her manuscript as a print and e-book.

This time around, we’ll be accepting manuscripts from August 1, 2017-December 15, 2017. Even though that winter deadline may seem far away, it’s always a good idea to get a head start on a writing project. So, to help all you authors out there get started on a new book project or polish an existing one, I’ve put together this list of 10 tips for writing a star manuscript.

Tip #1: Write a book you want to read

As you write, make sure to put yourself in your readers’ shoes. When you read a book, what hooks your attention and entices you to keep reading?

Also, be sure to pick a topic you feel passionately about. As Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” If you love your story, it will shine through and make your writing stronger.

Tip #2: Make a game plan

Before you get started, jot down a brief summary of your book. Keep it short, but be sure you cover the central conflict and its resolution. From there, draft a rough outline of events. Along the way, make note of any particular scenes you want to include. When you’re finished, you’ll have a timeline of events to use as a roadmap for your manuscript.

Tip #3: Lock down your character list

Whether you’re reviewing a complete manuscript or drafting a new one, creating a detailed character list or family tree will help you keep track of who’s who in your story. Be sure to include details like character ages, physical descriptions, relationships, and name spellings. These details are easy to forget or accidentally change. Having a character guide handy will help you guard against those mistakes.

Tip #4: Flex your cartography skills

To keep track of the places your characters visit, sketch out a map of your setting. You’ll get a clearer picture of the world you’ve created, plus you may end up catching errors or inconsistencies.

Tip #5: Establish a writing routine

One of the best ways to stay on track while writing a book is to set a regular writing routine. What time of day do you feel most inspired? Are you a pen-and-paper author, or do you prefer your laptop? What about location? Do you like writing at home, at coffee shops, at the library?

Once you’ve nailed down those details, commit to blocking out a certain amount of time each day or week to devote to your project and stick to it!

Tip #6: Join a writing group

Feedback is a crucial part of the writing process, and local writing groups are a great way to test your book and get live reader feedback. They’re also a great source of inspiration, motivation, and accountability. There are writing groups all across the country. Do a little Google research today to find the one nearest you!

Tip #7: Don’t fear writers’ block

Every author experiences writers’ block, so don’t get discouraged if you find yourself in a slump! Try stepping away from your book for a day or two. Sometimes the best ideas come when you’re doing something other than writing. If that doesn’t work, try talking out the problem with friends, family members, or fellow writers who are familiar with your book. They might just have the key to unlocking the next chapter.

And the absolute best thing about writers’ block? It always passes!

Tip #8: Silence your inner editor

When working on a new manuscript, it can be very tempting to go back and “fix” what you’ve already written. Resist! This will stall your progress and keep you from meeting your deadline. If your inner editor had its way, you would spend hours and hours rewriting what you’ve already done rather than advancing your story.

Remember: your job is to write a finished manuscript. So don’t worry about tweaking your prose or perfecting your dialogue just yet! (That’s what second drafts are for.) Instead, focus on telling the story from beginning to end. Once you’ve done that, feel free to set that inner editor loose!

Tip #9: Read, read, read

William Faulkner once said, “Read, read, read . . . Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.” Sometimes, other authors are the best source of inspiration. Get your hands on as many books as you can. Immerse yourself in the genre you’ve chosen to write. Study the conventions of the genre and think about them critically. Discover what you like and dislike. You’ll be a stronger writer for it.

Tip #10: Have fun!

Writing a book is a journey—one that is, admittedly, full of ups and downs. But in the end, there’s no feeling in the world like the sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with putting down your pen or hitting “Save” for the final time. So as you write, make sure you take some time to step back and enjoy the ride!

 

Feeling inspired? I hope so! Remember, the Write Place will begin accepting entries for the 2018 Book Contest on August 1. If you have any questions about the contest, please visit our website or email bookcontest@thewriteplace.biz.

 

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Megalobibliophobia, Part II (Writers’ Edition)

writing-table

In January, we tackled the topic of “megalobibliophobia” (the fear of large books). Specifically, we covered some helpful tips and strategies for reading a long, intimidating book. But as I wrote, I had an epiphany: many of the same fears that come with reading a long book also apply to writing a long book. So, as promised, here it is: “Megalobibliophobia, Part II (Writers’ Edition).”

Most authors ask two questions at the start of every new project: How do I go about writing this book? and Will anyone read it?

These questions become even more daunting when you have a gut feeling your book is going to be . . . long. Suddenly, you have to worry about organizing tens if not hundreds of thousands of words into a coherent whole without getting overwhelmed. You need to keep your characters, settings, and timeline of events straight. And, somehow, you need to stay steady and motivated through it all.

It’s not easy, but it can be done! If you’ve got an idea for a long book, I’ve put together a few tips on getting started, staying motivated, and seeing your project through from page one to the end.

Make a game plan

One of the trickiest things about writing a long book is making a clear game plan. Before diving in to Chapter One, you need to prepare by making sure you have a thorough understanding of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the story you’re telling.

Start by writing a brief summary of your book’s premise. Keep it short, maybe four or five sentences, but be sure you cover the inciting incident of the story, its central conflict, and its resolution. From there, draft a rough outline of events that will carry you from that inciting incident (Point A) all the way to the conclusion (Point B). Along the way, make note of any particular scenes you want to include. When you’re finished, you’ll have a timeline of events to use as a roadmap for your manuscript.

If your story includes a large cast of characters, you may also want to create a detailed character list or family tree to help keep track of them. Sketching out a map of your setting can also be helpful, especially if your story is geographically complex.

Once these tools are in place, you’re ready to start drafting!

Establish a writing routine

One of the best ways to stay on track during any writing project is to set a regular writing routine that complements you and works with your schedule. Are your creative vibes strongest in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening? Do you like writing at home, or are you more of a wanderer? Do you prefer a laptop or pen and paper? How much time can you commit to writing each day?

Once you find the writing niche that enlivens your creative spirit, commit to blocking out a certain amount of time each day or week to your project. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you make, no matter the length of the book.

Set manageable goals

At the start of a writing project, it can be very tempting to think, Oh sure, I bet I can write three, four, maybe even five chapters a day! When you’re excited, your project is new, and your motivation is at its peak, it’s easy to imagine sitting down and whipping out your manuscript in record time.

Yet, the painful reality is that at some point, especially if you’re tackling a long and complicated subject, you will experience writer’s block. There will be days when you sit down at your desk and stare at a blank screen or page without a clue of where to go next. The important thing to remember is that all writers experience slumps like this, and they do pass eventually.

There will also be days when, no matter how hard you try to sit down and follow your writing schedule, life gets in the way. Don’t let frustration set in—life happens! If you aren’t able to return to your regular schedule after things settle down, work to find a new writing schedule that fits..

The moral of the story is that while goals are great for keeping you motivated and productive, they must be realistic and achievable. There’s nothing more discouraging than consistently missing your goal.

So don’t beat yourself up if you do happen to fall short; instead, concentrate on the progress that you did make. And, pat yourself on the back and celebrate the days when you exceed your goal!

Join a writing group

When it comes to writing, two, three, four, or five heads are almost always better than one. One thoughtful comment can break through writer’s block or spark the key idea you’ve been searching for to complete your book.

Sometimes, we can get this feedback from close friends or family members, but local writing groups are another great resource for testing your book and getting authentic feedback. Writing groups are also a great source of inspiration and motivation. Your fellow members will help keep you accountable to your writing goals and provide moral support when you find yourself in a writing rut. There are writing groups all across the country; do a little research today to find the one nearest you!

Partner with a professional editor

When your manuscript has made it through this gauntlet, partnering with an editor is often the next step toward publication. A good editor will offer a fresh perspective and can catch the little details that you, as the creative engine behind the project, may not have been in the right frame of mind to catch. At the Write Place, we offer several levels of editing to fit each author’s budget and preferences.

Writing a book is hard; at times it can seem almost impossible task, especially when you find yourself writing a particularly long book. However, in spite of the challenges, it can also be a rich and rewarding experience. So don’t be afraid to become the author of a 500+- page book! With planning, determination, and support from friends, family, and fellow writers, you can make it happen.

 


“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” – Ray Bradbury


 

Photo credit:

“The Chipped Table of Dakar,” – noodlepie, http://www.flickr.com/photos/87585644@N00/9817006646, via http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

 

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Megalobibliophobia (the fear of large books)

War_and_Peace

Tolstoy’s War & Peace is 1,296 pages long, weighs over 3 pounds, and contains 587,287 words.

Okay, maybe I made up the term “megalobibliophobia.” But the fear of reading large books is very real!

Take for example those “big books” sitting on your shelves at home. You know the ones I’m talking about: 500-plus pages, impressive-looking covers, never-been-cracked spines. In my library, that book is War & Peace. I have every intention of reading it . . . someday. This will be the year, I always promise. And yet there it sits—all 1,296 pages of it—unread.

There’s just something very intimidating about a hefty book. You worry that it’ll take you weeks, months, maybe even a full year to get through it. What if you get bored? What if you don’t understand what’s going on? What if you reach page 700 and forget what happened 300 pages ago? What if your eye begins to wander to the other, shorter books on your shelves? Is all this work even worth your time?

Well, despite my reluctance to take on Tolstoy’s masterpiece, there’s a reason that David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (768 pages) and The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (respectively weighing in at 736 and 1,321 pages) hold places of honor on my bookshelf. Daunting as they looked at first glance, these books drew me into their worlds as I read page after page after page. I spent so much time with them that they feel more like dear friends than massive piles of paper, ink, and glue.

So, if there’s a big book in your life you feel intimidated by but you have a sneaking suspicion might be worth the effort, here are a few tips for getting started and staying motivated to read!

Copperfield

My favorite scene from David Copperfield: David “makes himself known” to his Aunt, Betsey Trotwood

Make a schedule

Blocking out 20-30 minutes of reading time a day or setting manageable goals like reading a certain number of pages a week is a great way to tackle a hefty book. I first tried this technique with David Copperfield by setting a goal of reading 100 pages per week. By following that schedule, I knew I could make it to the finish line in less than two months, which was a great motivator. Sticking to it felt a little bit like a chore at first, but by the second or third week I was so engrossed in the story that I exceeded my weekly goal on a few occasions.

Hide the page numbers

If the visual part of reading a long book is putting you off, try using an e-reader. It’s portable, and it takes away the temptation to count exactly how many pages you have to go. Some e-readers even give you the option of turning off the page counter.

Take notes

If the plot of your book is complex and you worry about losing track of characters or important plot points, try making a character list, family tree, or timeline as you read. These tools can help you keep the who, what, when, where, and why of your book straight.

If that sounds too much like homework, try searching online. Sites like SparkNotes can be a great resource for character lists and chapter summaries. If it’s a long book, I guarantee that somebody, somewhere has published a reader’s guide online.

Find a book buddy

Is there someone you know who’s interested in reading the same book? Or perhaps several someones? Creating your own book club is a great way to stay motivated and engaged in reading a long book. You can set goals together and discuss the plot, characters, and what you think is going to happen next. Plus, book club meetings are a great excuse to grab a coffee with your friends!

Take a break

This tip can be dangerous, but if you’re really struggling with a book, try taking a break to read something else. A short break can refresh your brain and renew your motivation. Just be sure to make a commitment to come back to your big book by a certain date if you are truly committed to finishing it.

 

Reading a long book can certainly be an adventure. There may be times when you can’t put it down, and there may be times when you feel tempted to give it up altogether. But no matter what happens on the journey, there is no denying the sense of accomplishment that you’ll feel when you finally reach THE END.

Do you have a big book we should make sure we add to our reading lists? Want to know our team’s favorite big books? Head to our Facebook page!

 


“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis


 

P.S. As I was writing this blog post, I realized that a lot of the fears that go along with reading a big book also apply to writing a big book. So, stay tuned for “Megalobibliophobia, Part II (the fear of writing big books)”!

Photo credits:

“War and Peace” – Sarah Elizabeth Altendorf, July 7, 2011, http://www.flickr.com/photos/46732441@N06/5917704508, via http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/, accessed January 9, 2017.

“I make myself known to my Aunt” – Hablot Knight Browne, 1849, http://charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-david_copperfield.html, accessed January 9, 2017.

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Bestow On Us Your Grace – Chapter One

Tomorrow is the day! Join us at Thistles in Pella from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. to celebrate the release of Bestow On Us Your Grace with Jean De Vries and the Write Place team. You’ll also be able to grab other Write Place titles—our entire inventory is on sale just in time for the holidays!

To get you excited to pick up your signed copy of Bestow On Us Your Grace, here’s a sneak peek of the first chapter of the book!

 

Mary leaned far over the table, stretching to place the bowl of steaming mashed potatoes in the center. Footsteps sounded on the wraparound porch just moments before the screen door screeched its own announcement, then slammed shut. Following closely behind, louder thudding footsteps sounded against the floor boards and the door screeched open again. Her young daughters quickly finished setting the silverware on the dining room table and sat down, looking so small in the high-backed chairs. The sound of boots being peeled off and thumping to the floor was soon followed by water splashing down over what she knew would be dirty hands and forearms.

She stood upright when Daniel came in the room, his face already smiling above his beard, his eyes glancing from the table to her and meeting her gaze. Even after all these years, she found it impossible not to smile back into his dancing eyes, crinkled at the corners. Caleb slipped quietly behind his father and sat eagerly in his place between the wide window and the table that stretched along it. Mary was giving Caleb a disapproving look as he pulled the platter of fried chicken close to him when she saw a shadow fall across the table. Silas walked around behind her, his silhouette stretching far across the kitchen and into the living room.

She watched him lower into the ladder-back chair across from Caleb and shook her head in wonder. It never ceased to amaze her how one day they went from looking so small, as four-year-old Anna Mae did now, to growing up so quickly that they towered over their parents. All of her sons had passed her up. Three of them now stood every bit as tall as or taller than their father’s six feet. Only Caleb still looked up to speak to Daniel, though it wouldn’t be long before even that would change. At the age of fourteen, he was following in his brothers’ large footsteps.

Mary turned to Amy, her eldest daughter, as she set the plate of freshly sliced bread on the table and took her place next to Caleb. Mary quickly sat and looked across the table to where Daniel was waiting. With a nod, they dropped their heads simultaneously in silent prayer. At her husband’s intake of breath, their heads raised and Caleb began eagerly filling his plate.

She’d heard of some Amish families who ate in silence, spending their mealtime eating instead of talking. But she’d always been thankful for Daniel’s love of storytelling and conversation. The chatter around their table whenever they were gathered was boisterous and lively. Though there were many times she had to remind the little ones to keep eating, she’d never minded much. The reward was hearing about their day and getting a window into their minds and hearts. Tonight, the discussion was about the frogs Caleb had discovered down at the creek that afternoon. It wasn’t long before he had his three sisters excited about a trip to the creek after supper. Silas, ever the quiet one, listened and smiled at their excitement but said little. Nothing unusual there. His older brothers, David and Michael, had been and were still so unlike him. Silas was an ocean of perfectly still water while they were bubbling brooks.

Anna Mae and Shelby Jo were bouncing in their chairs while Caleb quickly shoveled mouthfuls of sour cream chocolate cake into his mouth. With a smile and a nod from Daniel, their chairs scraped back across the floor and four of her children went racing outside. Even seventeen-year-old Amy followed, the bottoms of her bare feet flashing white beneath her dark blue skirt as she ran. Silas calmly sat and slowly ate his dessert. “Joseph King was asking me why you haven’t been at the Singings lately,” Daniel said to Silas, who was seated close to him.

Mary stood and quietly worked at clearing off the table and doing the dishes. Her ears were carefully tuned to listen for Silas’s response. They needn’t have been. He gave none.

“Yer brothers were building houses and planning weddings by your age,” Daniel said with a smile. It could have been taken as a cruel statement, but Daniel’s easy way and gentle smile showed his lighthearted intention.

Silas simply stared at the patterns in the wood grain of the handmade table in front of him and shrugged.

David and Michael had both taken wives at the age of twenty. Silas would be twenty-one within the week. Certainly not a cause for concern but for the fact that he did not seem at all interested in such an endeavor. For the past several months he hadn’t even been going to Singings on Sunday nights, as was typical for single boys his age. It was how the Amish young people socialized and found marriage partners. That Silas wouldn’t go was…a puzzle to her.

Daniel was undeterred by Silas’s lack of conversation. “Joseph’s daughter, Emily, seems a nice young woman. She’s about your age, isn’t she?”

Silas only nodded. Though now, Mary observed, he looked visibly uncomfortable. Mary knew Emily King. And though she was nearly twenty years old, she was still unattached and a sweet girl. Emily was a fine baker, famous for her coffee cakes, and Mary had noticed at several quilting frolics how fine her stitching was. She had a quiet, gentle, and shy way about her, much like Silas. She’d make a gut Amish wife.

“Oh well, perhaps she’ll wait for our Caleb,” Daniel teased and smiled at Mary. She watched as Silas’s mouth tried to grin, but he gave up. Silas caught her watching him and quickly averted his gaze out the window.

“Perhaps Silas has his sights set on someone else,” Mary lightly reminded Daniel.

Daniel turned his gaze back to Silas, his brow raised in a question.

“No,” Silas answered.

“Amy would appreciate yer going to Singings again. She doesn’t like to drive herself, especially when it’s a long ways,” Mary encouraged.

Silas was again silent, staring out the window with a determined
set to his face.

“Speaking of Amy, I should go down to the creek and fetch her and the children back. They and their muddy, frog-filled pockets.” Daniel winked at Mary. His boots made loud, slow stomping sounds down the front porch steps. Silas stood to follow him.

“You’d like being married, Silas,” Mary called to him, stopping him at the door. “Someone to help ya with yer work. Someone to talk to, raise a family with.”

She watched his shoulders rise and fall in a silent sigh. “Yes, Mama,” he said without turning to face her. Mary watched Silas walk slowly away to the refuge of his workshop.

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