What is your connection to the Amish?
I live ½ hour away from Smicksburg, PA, a large Old Order Amish settlement. I shop at their stores and we hired Amish men to help remodel our century old farmhouse. It’s been fifteen years of remodeling, (still not done…) so we got to know many men and their families. On their breaks, they love to talk and swap stories, and I always have 1001 questions, ranging from “Do you grow celery for weddings?”(They had no idea what I was talking about) to “Do you read the Bible?” (Yes, they do, KJV)
I became good friends with Lydia, (Katie Byler in Knit Together) after buying so many plants from her greenhouses, and “Granny” while taking lots of people to her quilt shop. (Granny wishes to be completely anonymous) She is Granny Weaver in Amish Knitting Circle, Amish Friends Knitting Circle, Amish Doll and Knit Together.
When did your fascination with Amish culture start?
In my mid-20’s my husband and I moved to Upstate New York. There are many Amish in rural New York, and we became friends with a handicapped man, Harry Hershberger, and his wife, Katie. (Eli and Lottie Hershberger in Knit Together) His buggy was hit as a young man, after the birth of their daughter and the Amish build a variety store on the side of his house. My four kids loved to go in and get coloring books, and we all got to know Harry from our regular visits. He had some use of his hands and made quilts, and I took them to festivals.
One day he told me I was a trusted English friend, and invited me into their food co-op. When I moved back home to Pennsylvania fourteen years later, the Amish in Smicksburg knew Harry & Katie. Since I was a trusted friend to them, they trusted me. Once you’re a trusted friend, it’s like having an all access pass into their lives it seems. They readily open up, and if you’re one of them. Once I was chatting with a woman and her husband came home from work, and he never met me before. He looked at her sternly, and she said, “Friends with Harry Hershberger in NY” and he smiled at me and nodded in approval.
Tell us about your novels and continuing short stories.
My novels out now are stand-alone stories, but are all called Amish Knitting Novels. Knit Together and The Amish Doll are set in different locations, but they both focus on healing through knitting and faith in Christ.
Continuing shorts have made quite a comeback. Anne of Green Gables, Pickwick Papers, and Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford series were all weekly serials in newspapers. My shorts come out every 3 weeks. Amish Knitting Circle started with Granny inviting five women from her church district to a knitting circle to knit shawls for tornado victims in Joplin, MO. She invites women she has inkling are hiding problems. Granny spins yarn and feels women are stronger spun together, and by the end of 10 episodes, you see how much they needed each other.
Amish Friends Knitting Circle is about Granny and her girls having a knitting circle with friends from the Smicksburg Baptist Church. It’s been lots of fun to write, since I take lines right out of my own conversations with the Amish.
What are your readers saying about your books?
Since I deal with cancer, infertility, spousal abuse and other women’s issues, women tell me they are finding help and comfort, especially through Amish Knitting Circle and Amish Friends Knitting Circle. Some women are starting knitting or craft circles, spreading the message that we’re stronger as women, spun together. Also, Knit Together is semi-autobiographical. I wrote if after losing my mom and two cousins in 13 months. So it deals with grief and it seems to be ministering to people. The complete Serenity Prayer is in the book, and different parts of the prayer are prayed by different characters. It helped bring healing to me, and I hope it does the same for my readers.
Where can readers find your books and connect with you?
You can contact me at www.karenannavogel.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/karen.a.vogel.9 My blog, Amish Crossings, is meant to be a place to cross paths with others interested in the Amish or simple living. Please join me there at www.karenannavogel.blogspot.com I also share my Amish photography on Pinterest, and you can follow me on Twitter @karenannavogel.
My eBooks can be found on Amazon, B&N, Sony, and anywhere eBooks are sold. My paperback, Knit Together and The Amish Doll, are on Amazon for now, but soon to be distributed to brick and mortar stores and other websites. Our family store, Thrifty Christian Shopper, www.thriftychristian.com (Also on EBay and Amazon) will carry the paperbacks as well. You also might find them in your local library. Ask the librarian to get a copy if they don’t have one.