Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Give Me the Simple Life. . .Now!


Publisher's Weekly just released an article covering the fast growing trend in fiction for Amish settings. You should be able to read it here.

When I was interviewed for this article and asked why the reader interest in Amish people, the thing I kept coming back to was the base desire we all seem to have to simplify our lives. Too many of us feel trapped on a spinning wheel of full schedules, money spent before we get our pay checks, clutter of stuff all around us without knowledge of how to organize and reduce it, and loss of a sense of peace. We see a group of people like the Amish, who seem to live close to nature and God, and are curious how they do it. We hope by reading a story about them we can learn some of their secrets to a slower paced lifestyle.

I also think the search for simplicity keeps the prairie romance setting eternally popular. For the length of a book, the reader can shut out the hectic modern world and live through the characters a life where the work was hard but the satisfaction at the end of the day was high, where women didn't worry about bikinis and makeup, where men stuck to their commitments, where God was given higher priority, and so forth.

I love a good prairie romance and the escape into a simpler time that it affords me. It could also explain why I have never gotten into the chick or hen lit style of fiction. I've read Bridget Jones's Diary and a few CBA fiction offerings in the genre, but the fast pace, the character motivations, the materialism, etc. does not provide me a relaxing read. (I don't intend to overlook that many find the lit books fun and entertaining, which is relaxing for them.) Maybe I'm just old fashioned.

I've been reading a non-fiction CBA book about simplifying and going back to living closer to nature, respecting God's creation and our responsibility as caretakers. (I'll have to read it all before I know if I can recommend it to you here.) But I think there is something to be learned from much of the "go green" campaigns out there right now as Americans wake up to realize that having more and bigger stuff is not always better for us spiritually and for our environment. And I for one will not miss the big Hummers on the road.

So how do you find simplicity in your life? Does a certain story setting give you a retreat to simple relaxation? Have you found a key to simplifying your real world lifestyle for a healthier and happier you? Suggestions for finding simplicity are certainly welcomed here.

15 comments:

Vickie said...

I love reading and writing historical fiction. I think you've hit the nail on the head--it takes us back to days that were simpler and less hectic. To when family and community were more important than they are to many folks today. Plus, who doesn't love a hunky cowboy hero. Aw shucks, ma'am.

Carrie Turansky said...

Hi Becky,
Thanks for these thought provoking comments. I have wondered why people seem so drawn to Amish settings. I think you're right, people are looking for relaxing reading and stories that touch the heart. I find I have switched back to reading more historical fiction, and I am enjoying that.

As far as simplifying...I want to recommend a great book on organization: The House That Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark. Mindy writes mysteries for Harvest, and this is her first non-fiction book. It has some great ideas that have really helped me simplify and organize.

We invited Mindy to come and speak at our church recently. She did a great job and was very motivating!

Blessings,
Carrie T.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Becky, I think you said it all. We want simplicity and we don't know how to get there. I have no advice because I'm still struggling to make this happen in my own life.

I've thought about all the Amish books that are out, and I've considered writing about my mother's family. They were Quakers here in the Carolinas. They too lead a more simple life.

Anonymous said...

I think you're right about people longing for a simpler way of life. My husband and I long for a life less complicated and have been working on a plan of action for the last few months.

One thing we decided was to pay everything off--cars, college, everything. Bills have a way of controling the decisions a person makes in his life to the point that work is not longer just a job but a drugery. And what can be more simple than paying only for that which you can afford.

I never got into Chick Lits either--would just wind me up rather than relax me. I love historicals--always have, always will. And I've found in the last few months that I love to write them. Tidbits of history has always fascinated me and I love the uncompliated lifestyle.

Patty Smith Hall

Janet Spaeth said...

I agree, Becky, with what you said. There's also something satisfying about doing things yourself. A tomato I grew myself tastes much better than one from the store; I can actually taste the sun in the one I grew. I'm not a champion knitter but I love the scarves I made myself, more than the ones I could buy at the store. Bread made at home tastes and smells so much yummier than store-bought bread.

Historicals take me back to a time when that was built into the workday. Right now homemade bread is a luxury because I have to be home the X numbers of hours it takes (ha! you can tell how long it's been, huh?). I've got about an inch done on the scarf I started weeks ago.

You get the idea.

Of course, my counterpart in the Dakota Territory would take issue with me, thankyouverymuch, and remind me that what I view as pleasure activities were house responsiblities then. And she'd look longingly at my dishwasher, be in awe of my car, and faint at Macy's! LOL!

Mary Connealy said...

Two of my most voracious reading friends just refuse to read anything contemporary.
Both of them (they don't know each other) say they read to escape and to them, that means not only another place, but another time.

They're both in fairly high stress jobs.

One of them will hardly even read 1880s era historical westerns and pioneer/prairie style novels. She wants regency and even medieval.

Nothing newer than 100 years for either of them.

I suppose Amish catches some of that love for historicals, and yet can deal with up to date issues too if necessary. It gives an author a lot more room to play.

Mary Connealy said...

I've never tried Amish. It's one of the few genres I haven't tried in fact. Amish and Vampires.

Hmmmmmmm....maybe combine them.

No forget it. Amish vampires is never gonna sell.

Mary Connealy said...

But what if the Amish really actually ARE vampires. Has anyone ever looked into that?

they walk among us.

working, developing, brainstorming. I mean has anyone ever seen an Amish person in a mirror???? Sure they're out in daylight but maybe it's not daylight that bothers them. Maybe it's....it's....rayon.

Or gasoline.
Maybe they melt if exposed to ... video flickering.

And all this time they've passed them off as 'plain folks'. Maybe the truth is mascara or red dye number seven has a garlic like reaction on their skin.

Have you ever noticed that you can say ANYTHING about the Amish. They never know, never care, never sue.

Kim Sawyer said...

Good article--kind of sums up my own thoughts on the Amish furor. The only thing the article lacked was mention of Mennonite fiction, which is close to Amish but is salvation focused rather than works-based.

Jessica said...

What do I do? Get rid of as much clutter as possible. I think clutter, useless things surrounding us, make people feel crazy. There's a great essay on the Pix'n Pens blog about simpler times when people sat on their porches and talked.
I think you've got it right about the historical fiction thing.

Becky said...

Mary, Mary, Mary, what are we going to do with you?

I thought the PaperbackSwap.com would help me with my book clutter, but I found new books on there I have to try. :)

Yes, Kim, I'm surprised the article didn't mention Mennonite stories. I know I the writer knew about your books in print.

Pam Hillman said...

Ah...a slower, simpler time. Just reading the words helps me slow down and relax.

Great blog post and wonderful comments all. (Well, except for Mary's vampires. Where DO you come up with this stuff, Mary? lol)

The grass is always greener on the other side. Thinking about my women ancestors:

My great-great-grandmother probably got up at 4 AM, started a fire in a wood stove, cooked breakfast, chopped cotton before it got TOO hot, then washed clothes in a tub with a scrub board under a shade tree for two or three hours (at least), while making sure supper didn't burn, and keeping the younger children out of mischief, then slopping the hogs, milking the cow(s), no AC, etc. etc.

She'd probably ...no, I KNOW she'd think I was the laziest person on earth if she could see the kind of life I live!

The above makes me sound like I think we're not overloaded and stressed in this day and age. Ugh. Not so. Some of my closest friends (the Seekers) get to hear me complain all the time about how stressed I am.

Just don't tell my great-great-grandmother. She'd probably tan my hide for laziness and send me to the cotton field!

Mary Connealy said...

I was brainstorming, Pam.

Simplify my life.

Two thoughts.
One, my life is already pretty simple. I get up, go have coffee with my mother in law (every morning...I just love her)
go to work.
Go home.
Somedays I stop at the grocery store for milk and/or bread.
read/write/watch tv until bed time.

That's honestly about it.
It's my internal life that's chaos. My mind needs to become Amish for sure.

Two, for all the romantic notions about cowboys and pioneers and a simple life...I don't think I'd do well being Amish.
Or a pioneer.
I get so CRANKY when the air conditioning is on the fritz.

I suppose I come from pioneer stock. But the stock has been weakened over the years.
I'm pretty sure, if I set out with a wagon train, the first time we forded a creek, I'd have fallen off the wagon and drowned.

They'd have been sad, but it would have amounted to a 'weak link' or 'thinning the herd' or maybe 'natural selection' and everyone would have been stronger for it.

My mother in law would have made it though. You should SEE that woman clean a chicken. You could set it to music.

Sanuye_Zonta said...

I CAME TO READ THIS BLOG DUE TO THE MENTION OF IT IN THE ONE AND ONLY ONLINE [CHRISTIAN]WOMEN'S BOOK CLUB I BELONG TO.

I HAD TO LAUGH WHEN I READ THE "Pam Hillman said..." POST! LOL

I TOO LEAD A LIFE THAT IS FAR FROM WHAT MY ANCESTORS - AND THE AMISH AND MENNONITE PEOPLE - LIVED/LIVE!

I HAVE HELD A FACINATION WITH THE AMISH / MENNONITE LIFE SINCE I WAS 12 YEARS OLD AND THAT CONTINUES TO THIS DAY.

I OFTEN WISH LIFE COULD BECOME SIMPLER [PARENT OF THREE: TWO OF OUR ADULT CHILDREN ARE ON THEIR OWN AND ONE HAS THREE CHILDREN BUT OUR OLDEST ADULT CHILD IS SPECIAL NEEDS AND LIVES AT HOME WITH US], BUT DARN IT!

ON A DAY LIKE TODAY WITH THE HEAT IN THE 90'S, I COULD NOT LIVE WITHOUT MY AIR-CONDITIONING NOR COULD I WEAR ALL THE CLOTHING THOSE POOR WOMEN HAVE TO IN THIS HEAT! I WOULD BE SOOOOOO CRANKY!

AND GOODNESS ME! YOU WOULD HEAR ME BE EVEN MORESO IF I HAD TO MOW OUR 1.75 ACRES ALL BY HAND ... BAD ENOUGH SOME OF IT HAS TO BE DONE LIKE THAT AS IT IS NOW!

AND COOK ... OOOOOOH BOY ... ON DAYS I JUST DON'T FEEL LIKE COOKING, OUT COMES THE BREAD AND THE PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY WITH CANNED SOUP!

I WOULD BE SOOOO SHUNNED RIGHT NOW IF I WAS AMISH! :-)

BUT SERIOUSLY NOW ...

I NOT ONLY LOVE TO READ ABOUT STORIES / READ FICTIONAL STORIES REGARDING FRONTIER LIFE / PIONEER LIFE / EARLY LIFE IN ALASKA [AND ABOUT MINING FAMILIES, ETC.] I LOVE TO ALSO READ AMISH-THEMED STORIES.

BEVERLY LEWIS AND WANDA B. [CAN NEVER SPELL HER NAME RIGHT!] ARE AT THE TOP OF MY FAV AUTHORS. AND B. LEWIS HAS BEEN FOR QUITE SOME TIME!!! KIM SAWYER IS ANOTHER AUTHOR THAT I HAVE BEGUN TO BUY BOOKS BY.

JUST SO YOU KNOW I AM NOT ;YELLING' USING THE CAPS ...

I HAVE AN EYE PROBLEM WHICH MAKES READING REGULAR PRINT 'A PAIN' MANY TIMES. SO I APPOLOGIZE FOR USING CAPS, BUT I DO NEED TO DO SO.

SANUYE

Pam Hillman said...

Aha! I made somebody laugh. Take that Mary C! lol

Sanuye, one thing about the grass. You wouldn't have to mow it. They used to keep it hoed out of the yard... or at least they did around here according to my hubby's 89 yo grandmother. Does anybody remember hearing of this where you live?

Mamaw REALLY needs to get on the ball writing her stories down. Gotta remind her.

BTW, she just bought a new computer, so she's itching to get her stories typed in. She's not going to get internet access. She'll have plenty to do just typing.