Goshen News, Goshen, IN

August 16, 2012

Amish inspiration

Author Wanda Brunstetter to visit Shipshewana, Nappanee.

By SHEILA SELMAN
THE GOSHEN NEWS

— Blue Gate Theater owner Mel Riegsecker was on vacation in Florida when he bumped into Wanda Brunstetter.

“He didn’t know who she was,” said Andrew Rohrer, spokesman for Riegsecker Marketplace, Shipshewana.

But once the businessman realized he had just befriended a New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 books about the Amish, a kernel of an idea began to sprout.

Actually, it was more like making the first stitch in a quilt.

“The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club” was Riegsecker’s idea. He wanted Brunstetter to write a book that would be turned into a play to be performed at the Blue Gate Theater.

Together, they made music.

“The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club,” the story of an Amish woman running a quilting class whose students are from all walks of life and bring all sorts of problems, earned Brunstetter another spot on the New York Times bestseller list. It also gave Brunstetter a chance to interject comedy into her usual writing style.

“This was a totally different book for me,” Brunstetter said in a recent interview with The Goshen News. Usually Brunstetter writes about romance, where she tears the characters apart and then gets them back together again.

“Half-Stitched” is not one of those books.

The book revolves around Emma Yoder and her six quilting students. According to information from Brunstetter’s website: “(As) these beginning quilters learn to transform scraps of material into beauty, their fragmented lives begin to take new shape with the helping hands of each other and the healing hand of God.”

Brunstetter is looking forward to seeing those lives created in print come to life on stage.

“It’s very exciting,” she said.

Brunstetter will be at the play’s premiere Aug. 24 and 25. She will be signing books at the Blue Gate Aug. 24 from 4 to 6 p.m. and Aug. 25 from 10 a.m. to noon. And then at 1 p.m. each of those days, she will be at the live performances of “Half-Stitched” at the Blue Gate.

Those performances are sold out. However, tickets are available for performances through Dec. 8.

Visit the website www.riegsecker.com for ticket information and performance dates.

‘The Struggle’

Along with promoting “Half-Stitched” the book and musical, Brunstetter is on tour signing copies of her recent release, “The Struggle.”

“The Struggle” is the story of an Amish couple who are uprooted and have to move to Kentucky. Tragedy befalls the couple and the wife blames her husband for what has happened.

“This has been a book that’s been on my heart for a number of years,” Brunstetter said.

While in Tacoma, Wash., Brunstetter learned about a family where the child died and the mother blamed the father for the death.

“They ended up getting a divorce,” Brunstetter said. “I’ve thought about that ever since, and thought that would make a good storyline and the guilt the father felt and her blaming him for it. Except in mine the couple doesn’t get divorced.”

Brunstetter added the conflict of the couple being uprooted from their home in Pennsylvania. “In (wife) Hannah’s case,” she said, “it was harder because she was tied to her mother’s apron strings.”

Because it is such a real, personal story, Brunstetter said people can relate to it.

“I’ve had emails from people who can relate to that story and thank me,” she said.

To be able to help people and know that her story has made a difference, Brunstetter said, “makes me feel good to hear that.”

And Brunstetter said she tries to give back to her fans by touring, meeting them, signing books and listening to their stories. She will be in Nappanee at Light of Grace, 401 E. Market St., doing just that Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, and then again Aug. 24 and 25 at the Blue Gate in Shipshewana.

Of touring, she said, “It can be very tiring and draining emotionally, but for me I come away with it with a feeling of joy because I got to meet readers.”