by Mary Ellis
When most people think getaway weekends, or week-long vacations somewhere warm and sunny or even day-trips into the countryside, they want to disconnect from work. But after writing a dozen books, I’ve discovered out-of-office experiences can greatly enrich my stories. As writers, we spend too much time staring at computer monitors, the wall in front of our desks, or out the window. When you feel the muse has abandoned you, pack up your laptop or tablet and go someplace different. Even the local coffee shop can spark fresh ideas besides recharging our batteries with caffeine. I’ve been known to write full scenes at the mall food court while frenetic shoppers bustle by. When the weather is nice (which is rare in Ohio five months out of the year) I camp out for the day at the local park. I take my lunch and sit by the lake or in the woods to write without interruptions, except for an occasional curious insect. Our books are meant to transport readers into the worlds we create, whether another galaxy, a downtown high-rise loft or in my case, the pastoral world of the Amish. How can we accomplish this unless we first “transport” ourselves?
When I began writing my current release, An Amish Family Reunion, I was dealing with four different locales. My heroine travels to (and is greatly inspired by) Niagara Falls. Although I had toured this area many times, I needed to see everything anew from my character’s eyes. I sketched out the scenes that would take place there while sitting at a picnic table in Niagara Fall State Park, New York, with full view of the turbulent rapids. I wrote the pivotal romantic scene from my hotel window overlooking the magnificent falls. Inspirational doesn’t get any better than that. For some of the scenes that take place in rural settings, I spent time on my friend’s farm, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Not always, of course, is this possible. Time constraints and real life often gets in the way. But it’s almost always possible to take our laptops onto the patio, or down the road to the library, or across town to somewhere with an awe-inspiring view. We write books that honor God and His magnificent creation. The more we view His handiwork, the richer our stories will be. And the happier we are as storytellers.
Mary Ellis grew up near the Amish and fell in love with them. She has now written nine novels set in their communities. When not writing, she enjoys gardening, bicycling, and swimming. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. Her debut Christian book, A Widow’s Hope, was a finalist for the 2010 ACFW Carol Awards.