Monday, December 19, 2011


Vanetta Chapman
Caroline asked me to blog about something I learned while researching my Amish cozy mystery, FALLING TO PIECES, set in Shipshewana, Indiana. Easy to do, since I learned a lot! I'll give you my top 5 things, but trust me . . . there are many more.

An Amish family garden
5. Amish women are hard workers. I kind of knew this since they don't have electricity, many live on a farm, and most have a lot of children. But when I visited one farmhouse and saw the beautiful vegetable garden, and this sweet mother running around working at the end of the day--I wanted to drop on to the porch swing and rest just from watching her. These folks work hard, and I was a bit ashamed of myself for whining when I have to fill up the dishwasher.

Amish boys with
mom at the market
4. Amish boys in Shipshewana wear wool caps instead of the traditional Amish hat. This was a surprise! I had the image of the little boy in the movie, "Witness," but when we arrived in Shipshe, we saw all of these boys (from toddlers to teens) wearing wool caps--and the first time we were there was in June! When I asked why, the woman I was with shrugged and said, "Because that's what their dat wore." They do wear the traditional hat to church and formal gatherings.

3. Amish teens often have cell phones that they charge when they're in town. Whoa! Stop the manuscript. Seriously? Oh yeah. You might be familiar with the word rumspringa, when an Amish teenager tries things from the Englisch world. Turns out many now have cell phones, which they charge when they're in town at their jobs or meeting friends. One pastor told me he knows his older son has a phone, but he will not allow him to have the internet on it.

2. The Amish live in fairly normal looking houses. In my mind, I was expecting something like what Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up in, but in fact Amish homes and farms look very similar to everyone else's. We learned to tell the difference fairly quickly--buggies in the barn and no electrical lines to the property!

1. The Amish are more than willing to talk to "Englischers." Probably the biggest surprise waiting for me in Shipshewana was the people. For some reason I expected them to be reclusive, reticent, unwilling to talk to outsiders in general and authors in particular. My experience was completely the opposite. Some of the Amish I met were regular chatter-boxes. Others were more quiet. All were friendly and invited me into their homes.

As you can tell, I learned a lot during my first visit to Shipshewana, the setting of FALLING TO PIECES. My second trip there, after the advanced reader copies had come out, I was a little worried how folks would react to me. I was killing off people in their town! They were so gracious and kind. And when we went back the third time? It was because they'd asked myself, Shelley Shephard Gray and Amy Clipston to be grand marshals in their Christmas parade. What an awesome experience, and what a lovely community. I can't wait to visit them again!

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Vannetta, thank you so much for sharing with us today. The divider of mittens is in homage to your earlier series, the Amish Knitting Circle books. Wishing you continued success with your wonderful books!

Readers, thanks for stopping by!


Caroline Clemmons said...

Vannetta, thank you very much for sharing with us today. I'm currently reading FALLING TO PIECES. You're making me wish I had the patience to quilt. No, maybe just the cash to buy an Amish quilt. ;-)

Vannetta Chapman said...

Ha ha ha. After writing 3 of these books (all 3 are now in with my editor), I have started quilting. I'm not very good, but I'm learning! Thanks for having me on your blog, Caroline

katsrus said...

Your book cover is so pretty. They sounds like lovely people. I really enjoy reading Amish books.
Sue B

Anonymous said...

Great blog. Here in Michigan we have a great Amish community close to Mio. I learned that a wire crate full of rabbits on the front lawn with a for sale sign weren't meant for pets, when I was asked how would I like it dressed. I opted for three loaves of bread instead. Fortunately were still welcomed in their store.

Sweet cover also.
Mary w/a Cora Blu