lack and white Ohio Amish Buggy

To Write It, You Must Know It by Laura Bradford

With Sarah Price, Jennifer Beckstrand, J.E.B. Spredemann, Patricia Davids, and Tracy Fredrychowski.

In order to breathe life into the books you’ve come to love from us here at Amish Fiction Authors, we need to be familiar with the backdrops we use. Whether it’s a one-room schoolhouse, a small country store, a multi-generation farmhouse, a German-style bank barn, or the front seat of a buggy, the trick in making our chosen setting one in which a reader can lose themselves in is to get the details right. To make it so the person turning the pages feels as if they are in that buggy, or shopping in that store, or shucking corn in the handcrafted table in the middle of a large, sunny kitchen.

That’s why it should come as no surprise that we spend a fair amount of time in Amish country—whether that’s in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, or one of the other states these plain people have chosen to settle. And just as most of you probably have your favorite spots to explore and visit, we do, too!

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite spots, shall we?

Sarah Price:

“My original go-to place was Leola, PA. I have a lot of Amish friends there and stayed on a farm for a while. My favorite place is the “Amish Walmart” which is down Musser School Road. It’s a fun Knick knack store. The Amish call it their Walmart.

Today, however, I feel most comfortable in the Shipshewana area do a lot of my books are focused around there or made-up communities.  My friend Marlette invited me there and I fell in love with her family and their Amish friends. Just driving along the backroads is enough for me, although there are some great Knick knack stores that have everything from books to fabrics to clothing and candles! I love those stores.”

Indiana Amish

Jennifer Beckstrand:

“Most of my books are set in Bonduel, Wisconsin, a small Amish settlement an hour west of Green Bay. It’s such a fun, tiny Amish community with several little shops and businesses if you’re willing to explore. There is an auction every year on Memorial Day, and that is so much fun to see. There are dozens and dozens of quilts and enough homemade goodies to keep a small town well fed.”

One of Jennifer’s favorite places to visit in this quaint Amish community is Lark Country Store. She says it is an authentic Amish store with food, candy, clothing, clocks, and quilts.

Planning a visit to Bonduel? One of Jennifer’s favorite tour stops is the Amish schoolhouse!

Amish schoolhouse by Jennifer Beckstrand

J.E.B. Spredemann:

“As far as communities go, my books are set all over the place. My Amish Girls Series and a few others were set in Pennsylvania. Lately, though, I’ve been writing about Indiana/Kentucky. My communities are always fictional and may or may not resemble the actual community in that area. For example, since there are many Amish in my area, I drive by their houses anytime I go out.

The clip-clop of horse hooves and rumbling of buggy wheels is a daily occurrence. In a recent (yet to be released!) book, I’ve written a story that centers around an abandoned Amish house. The setting is authentic to the area, the buggies driven are authentic, but my characters’ beliefs might not be exactly in line with the local Ordnung.”

As for places to visit in your Amish country travels, J.E.B. has some ideas. “Since I was just in Pennsylvania for a book signing (with Laura!), I’d say you HAVE TO visit the little Busy Bee’s roadside stand in Ronks and indulge in a soft pretzel. Oh, my! They are so so good. Best pretzel I’ve ever had. For SE Indiana, if you’re ever in the area on a Friday night, ask someone local if there are any Amish dinners at one of the schoolhouses. (FYI, they are by donation only and benefit the local Amish community.) Be sure to have cash on hand any time you visit an Amish event or business, as they often don’t take credit cards – at least, in my area! (see flyer).”

Amish Chicken Dinner flyer

Patricia Davids:

“I have based most of my books in Ohio. The Brides of Amish Country and The Amish Bachelors were both set near Sugarcreek, Ohio. I haven’t personally visited the area but there is a lot of information on-line about the Amish settlements there. I chose the area because it has the largest Amish population of any state.

Amish Buggies

For my current books I have chosen more out of the way settlements. One near Garnett, KS and the other is a new settlement being started in northern Maine. Both areas are small and don’t cater to tourists. The Amish moving to Maine are doing so to get away from what they see as a detriment to their way of life. They want to focus on faith, family and farming. Not on tourist friendly crafts. The Amish in Garnett, Kansas are also farmers. You will find very few Amish run businesses there. I decided to write about these two places for that reason. The small, close-knit community feeling is important to me and something I know well living in rural Kansas myself.”

Tracy Fredrychowski:

“I grew up near the Old Order Amish Community located in New Wilmington, PA, and often write about this area that I hold so dear to my heart. I am fortunate to have a few Amish friends in that area that help me write as accurately as possible.  The community is made up of 19 church districts and has a population of around 2600 members. Their distinctive brown-topped (or some say yellow-topped) buggies can be seen traveling the back roads of Lawrence County from miles away.”

Amish buggy by Tracy Fredrychowski

A must-see for Tracy when she visits Northwestern Pennsylvania? Byler’s Grocery.  “We stock up on Pennsylvania Maple Syrup and pure vanilla on every visit. The owner, Susan Byler, has five boys that love to come in and talk to her visitors.  They have a big map on the wall and make sure they ask all their English visitors to add a pin to the map marking their hometown.  If you are ever in the area, call my friend Susan, who runs Simple Life Tours, and she will lead you through the backroads of Amish country for a first-hand look at this Old Order Community.”

Me: Laura Bradford:

I set my Amish-based women’s fiction novels and my An Amish Mystery series in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Before I sit down to write each new book, I spend several days losing myself in this picturesque setting, reacquainting myself with the pace, the people, and the overall feel. For me, the details I crave are not in the tourist-y areas but, rather, off the less traveled (by English, anyway) roads. It is while roaming those areas that I’ve stumbled across a bench wagon being unloaded…teens playing volleyball at a hymn sing…men plowing the fields with their sons…women tending their gardens…young girls hanging clothes on the line…a soon-to-be driver practicing in a field with her siblings in a horse-drawn cart…a mother pulling her little ones in a homemade wagon.

Lancaster County Amish

It is while exploring in this way that I’ve stumbled across some of my favorite moments—an Amish shopkeeper who asked me to help him fold a quilt an earlier customer hadn’t put back properly, a young Amish girl selling homemade candles out of her dat’s barn, a young man giving buggy tours who left before baptism, and on and on it goes.

My tip for visiting Lancaster? Put the tourist-y stuff in your rearview mirror and just drive! But remember, keep the speed down.

Now tell us what Amish communities you’ve visited, and what you think is a must-see!

~Laura


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8 thoughts on “To Write It, You Must Know It by Laura Bradford

  1. Hi ladies,
    I love reading your answers about
    your book writing. So interesting to me!!! I have been to Shipshewana and loved it!

    1. Thank you, Sherry!

      I was also recently in the Shipshewana/Middlebury area at an author event. It always amazes me how different each community is. Shipshewana is quite different than the Amish near me. (As the Amish would say, they’re quite a bit faster.) The Plain way of life is beautiful in so many aspects. They inspire me to build stronger ties with those around me.

      Blessings!

  2. I love to go to Middlefield and Burton Ohio. Especially in the Falls for the Apple Butter Festival. Their quilts are quite something else!!!

  3. I’ve been to Shipshewana a couple times. We have an author friend that lives near there. We loved it! We (my daughter and I) would love to go to Holmes County. She only live a few hours away. Just haven’t made there yet.

  4. I lived in Elkhart, IN until I was fourteen, then we moved twenty miles west. I grew up complaining to my mother that I shouldn’t have to wear shoes to the stores if the Amish kids didn’t have to wear them. lol
    I am not sure when stores began to enforce the health code laws requiring everyone to wear shoes. I love Shipshewana. I miss the old flea market from the 1970s and 1980s, when we were able to buy wonderful stuff for great prices. Alas, it was to good to last. I still love to go visit Shipshewana and the surrounding area. Was thinking of making a trip soon.

  5. I live close to the community of New Wilmington. We visit often because we have Amish friends (family) that we have known for almost 30 years!! Our children grew up together, our grandchildren are growing up together and we are growing old together….it is the best part of my days!! We have a “Family” Reunion every Labor Day and all the kids/grandkids come from all areas to be there….we have all kinds of food and the men/boys shoot trap, targets and go fishing and we women complain about the men….LOL!!! I am blessed to call them my friends….

  6. I live near one of Illinois Amish community. There are tourists but not as busy as Shipshewana or Sugarcreek that I’ve visited. From talking to Amish & Mennonite friends there some of the districts are stricter than others. They are developing an Amish Heritage center where they moved a couple old Amish homes onto the property. Various events are held there throughout the year. Thank you all for sharing.

  7. You can really tell in all your books that you do know, it makes your readers truly believe that yes they are sitting at that beautiful oak crafted table sipping tea in the afternoon listening to the story unfold, or in the barn holding a kitten as they look out over the field. It’s a wonderful gut thing when we as a reader we can connect with the characters on a personal level as if they really are our friends or family, it’s a credit to all your research and work put into God given talent.

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