Episode #4 – Laurie Stroup Smith

00:00 / 00:24:53

Meet new Amish Fiction Author, Laurie Stroup Smith as she introduces us to her Pocket Quilt Series, Pocket of Promise. Laurie takes us behind the scenes of getting her very first book published and lets us in on some new projects she has in the works.

The following transcript is a shortened version of the original recording.

Your listing to Buggy Talk, where some of your favorite authors, friends, and guests explore the simpler side of life. Here’s your host Amish fiction on Tracy Fredrychowski. 

Tracy: Hey there. Welcome to another episode of Buggy Talk. I’m your host, Tracy Fredrychowski. Each week. I’ll bring you the story behind the stories, along with the storytellers. For this week’s episode, we have a new author to the Amish genre, and that is Laurie Stroub Smith

Hello, Laurie.

Laurie: Hi, Tracy. How are you today? I’m doing great. Thank you for this invitation. I’m excited to be here and have this opportunity to talk with you. 

Tracy: Well, thank you for joining us. We have so many things to chat about, one being your new book, Pockets of Promise. And this is a new book for you, and a whole new venture in your world as an author. So I’m very excited to have you onboard today.

I have to ask you what inspired you to start writing? 

Laurie: Well, writing has always been fun for me, and when we have two daughters, and when they were in grade school, I served as a girl scout troop leader for about six years. And I started a blog, Capers Cookies, and Campfires with the intention that it would serve as an additional resource for other leaders. And a couple of years later, I wrote a story for our girls who were grieving the loss of two grandparents, and nothing was working to help them through that time. And I thought maybe if I write a story, maybe that will work. And an author friend of mine knew I was writing it and asked to take a peak. And so I was brave, and I shared it with her, and she admitted it was rough, but she saw potential and encouraged me to pursue writing. And soon after that, I just felt God was calling me to make writing a priority in my life. And so I did. And here we are. 

Tracy: Oh my goodness. That is wonderful. I know that you, you, um, work pretty closely with that author friend. Do you, do you want to mention her name or not? 

Laurie: It’s Shelley Shepard Gray. I’ve been working with her since the fall of 2013, and she has a great friend and, um, just a genuine person. And um, yeah, 

Tracy: I have not had the pleasure of meeting Shelly yet, but hopefully somebody in our rounds, I will meet up with her, but yeah, I have read a lot of Shelley’s books, and she is a fantastic writer. So what a great person to have, um, as your little cheerleader. So that is awesome. 

Laurie: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. She’s an excellent mentor. 

Tracy: I bet she is. You know, as an author, I know the challenges that we all go through for one, to find the time, to write, two, to make sure our stories are interesting and three having faith in ourselves that people want to write what we read or read what we write.

So tell me as an author. What is the most challenging part of writing for you? 

Laurie: Oh my goodness. I have found that I’m most productive when I have a significant block of time to write, and I work best when it’s silent. So finding chunks of time and quiet space has been a huge obstacle for me during this pandemic. As I said, we have two teenagers, and they’ve been home since mid-March doing remote learning and are now on summer break. And my husband was on furlough for two months, and that has been extended through July. So we have a busy house. Um, but that being said this past week, my husband and our daughters went over to my parents’ house and finished a whole bunch of outdoor projects. And I’m so grateful to them for serving my parents in that way, um, and being a blessing to them. But it also blessed me because I was, I was able to make significant strides with the story last week. So that’s great. 

Tracy: Oh, I completely understand. I need quiet too. And you know, my husband and I work from home, so trying to find, um, a quiet time, he loves music. I can’t listen to music while I’m working. So, you know, we battle, we battle, those two issues. I am just like you; I need complete quiet. If not, my mind wanders, and my storylines everywhere. So I completely understand the whole quiet thing.

So knowing what the challenges are, what’s your favorite part of the whole publishing journey? 

Laurie: Well, I think up to this point, my favorite part, the favorite part has been getting the call from my agent. When I got the call from my agent saying that a publisher was interested in, uh, an honest book, I wrote entitled Beside Still Waters, but the publisher wasn’t thrilled with a subplot that I had. And my agent wondered how I felt about either fleshing it out a little more or cutting it completely. And so I was open to those options. And as I spent a few days kind of tweaking the manuscript and seeing what I could make work and what I was comfortable with. She had sent what we now know as Pockets of Promise to the editor, and the editor offered a three-book contract that did not include Beside Still Waters. 

And so I think that was my favorite part because I had worked so hard. Um, it had been three years since I had sent Pockets of Promise to my agent that I then got the call. Oh, my goodness. So just that, just that waiting. I think it just was, um, affirmation to me that my work had paid off and that someone believed in my writing. And so far, that’s been my favorite part.

Tracy: We are talking about Pockets of Promise this morning. So, um, tell me a little bit about the inspiration for that story. 

I was on Facebook scrolling through my feed, and I happened to come across an image of, I believe, they called it a love letter, quilt pattern. It was a lady who had made a quilt. When I looked it up since I’ve seen that more called love notes, and I immediately had the story idea. And so, as I, as I had mentioned previously, I had started writing to help our girls through a tough time. And this story started, I was writing it about a seventh-grade girl who needed to rely on her faith to get through a tough time. And when I pitched the idea to my agent, she instead strongly suggested that I consider telling the story from the point of view of a young Amish woman during her Rumspringa. And I’m so glad I followed her advice. Oh, that is wonderful. 

Tracy: So does the main character hold a special place in your heart?

Laurie: I will say there is a character in the book who does hold a special place in my heart, and that’s Mariah’s, Aunt Bertie. She grew up Amish and is now Mennonite, and she’s the one Mariah goes and stays with at a bed and breakfast in Pinecraft. Aunt Bertie’s backstory is painful. And that was a bit of a surprise to me as I was writing. I mean, I know sometimes our characters take us in different directions and reveal things to

We didn’t know about them. Um, and that was a surprise to me, but yeah, she leans into her experiences and offers Mariah, uh, some much-needed advice. The notes that Mariah finds from her grandmother in the pocket quilt.

Tracy: Oh, that sounds intriguing. So tell us just a little bit about the message in the book has to do with the messages she finds in this pocket quilt, correct?

Laurie: Yes. Basically, the grandmother has written notes, and she quotes Bible scripture in those notes. So I think I’m hopeful that readers will be inspired by Mariah’s story to trust in God’s promises. I feel trusting in God’s promises as an important message, especially in our world today. 

And so I just hope readers are able to hear God and what God might have for them.

Tracy: It sounds like a very inspirational book. Maybe it’s exactly what we’ll need to rely on God through all of this. And he’s the only one that’s in control, and he’s the only one that’s going to help any of us through it. So I think I think your book sounds perfect and it, and it’s come out in the perfect season in all of our lives.

I have to tell you that I fell in love with your cover. Tell us the process of coming up with that. Did you have any say in that or did it, or did your publisher hit it on the, you know, hit it out of the ballpark the very first time? 

Laurie: Right. So, um, this handing over control of what I imagined as a book cover, I was the most nerve-wracking experience of this publication process thus far. Um, but once I’d signed the contract, my publisher sent me a cover art form, and they asked for descriptions of the characters and the setting and any important object in the book, like the pocket quilt. Um, they also asked for snippets of scenes that would give the cover designer a better sense of the story. And they actually asked what I would be excited to see on the cover. And I was really bold and took a risk and said, I mean, I, this is my first book. So when that file came into my inbox, I was alone.  I held my breath, and I prayed, and when I opened it and I cried, and I cried because it was better than I had ever hoped for.

Tracy:  I am so happy that your first experience was a positive one. And it sounds like your publisher has a great art department that really listens to their authors and that sometimes that’s hard to come by.

 So you’ve intrigued us with this story. Would you mind reading us your first page? 

Laurie: Sure.

Mariah couldn’t get past the smell. And yet, she lifted the red plastic cup to her lips and pretended to drink the foamy liquid. The bass drum bumped in her chest as smoke from the bonfire swirled to the heavens and tickled her nose. Sniffling, she shifted her hips against the truck’s rear bumper. The new acquaintance sitting beside her removed his leather jacket, pushed up his sleeves, and put a strong arm around her.

“Happy Birthday.” He leaned close and kissed her cheek. “Eighteen, right?” The beer on his breath collided with his strong cologne.

She nodded as her stomach churned. With an audible sigh, she ran her hand over the soft denim covering her thighs. Lydia had been right—the stiff pair of jeans did loosen. An hour earlier, her best friend had danced into the crowd and disappeared.Ready to go home, Mariah squinted to focus on the field’s dark corners, which hid in the shadows, untouched by the moon and stars.

            “Look at you, neighbor.” Lydia twirled toward the parked pickup. Her faded jeans accented her curves, and makeup disguised her natural beauty.

Tracy: That’s wonderful. I love it. I love it. You know, those first pages are so important, and they pull you in, and yours did exactly that it pull, it pulled me in so well done. 

Laurie: When I wrote it, I was a bit nervous about having an underage teen drinking beer. But she does face the consequences for that, and I have not yet had any pushback from that, but I was nervous about having that.

Tracy: Laurie, we have to do that. You know, there there’s a lot of, um, readers that may just want that white picket fence scenario, but that’s life. People want to read the real challenges, what really happens. And the challenges that Amish young teenagers have are the same challenges English, teenagers have.

Laurie: So the book is available in both paperback and ebook, and you can buy those on Amazon Barnes and Noble and Walmart. The ebook can also be purchased on Kobo, Smashwords, Apple, and Google. There are links on my website, LaurieStroupSmith.com, and there is a books tab. And like I said, the links are available there. 

Tracy:  So tell us what’s next.

Laurie: Yes. So I am currently working on Pockets of Purpose. That is book number two in the pocket quilt series and will travel from Pinecraft to Holmes County, where surgical complications leave an Amish auctioneer searching for his passions and purpose. I’m really hoping for an April 2021 release date. I also have a wounded warriors, contemporary romance out on proposal as the main character participates in an equine therapy program. So working with horses helps her find freedom from her past, and the story has some powerful endorsements from veterans.

Tracy: Oh, that sounds like a wonderful book as well. So you’re writing a couple of different genres, so that is, um, yeah, that’s sometimes that’s hard to switch gears from one to the other. So it sounds like you’ve got that under control.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Laurie: Well, I am a Christ-follower. I am creative /crafty. And I’d say cheerful. I really enjoy laughing with people. I like things that make me laugh. 

Tracy: Well, Laurie, I want to thank you so much for spending time with us this week. And I look forward to reading Pockets of Promise along with your other new projects.

That wraps up this week’s episode next week. We’ll have award-winning Amish author, Molly Jebber on board. So see you next week on the Buggy Talk Podcast.