Asked by Eileen from OH

Q: Why do the women use straight pins to keep their dresses on instead of buttons or snaps?

A: Hi Eileen–Why do some sects use straight pins and not snaps or buttons? I have no idea. I’ve tried to find out. I’ve asked some Amish women, but the answer so far has been “that’s just the way it’s always been.” I suppose extra fancy buttons could conceivably be considered decorative, but I’ve never figured out why they have to use straight pins instead of safety pins! I did get one answer from an Amish friend that I’ve chuckled over. She likes to tease me about the Englisch habit of hugging–how we sometimes hug people we don’t even know all that well. Hugging is uncommon to the Amish culture. When I asked her why they used straight pins, she grinned and said the pins were to keep their Englisch friends from hugging them! 

Thanks for the question Eileen!


Picture a hungry writer sitting in an unheated attic, wearing a ragged head scarf and moth-eaten sweater over shabby clothes. She’s blowing on her fingers, warming them just enough to dip the pen into the ink well again. Then she scribbles a final sentence “the end” on a page of cheap paper, lays it reverently atop a pile of similar paper, and sighs, knowing she has written a book of aching genius that will make her fortune.  

At least that’s the romantic image I grew up with.  Most of my young life I envisioned myself being like Louisa Mae Alcott’s heroine, “Jo.” A writer suffering for her art.

Being a writer in America in the 21st Century is nothing like that.



The glut of manuscripts, thanks to the ease with which one can churn out thousands of words a day on a computer—readable or not–has made publishers very suspicious of unsolicited manuscripts. Slush piles grow to towering stacks. Endless on-line submissions queue up in an editor’s in-box. Few editors have the time or manpower to skim through all of them.

For those of us who first published during the days of hoping to be picked up by a traditional, royalty-paying publishing house (before the Kindle was invented and getting published through Amazon made self-publishing a viable venue) the struggle to get noticed was real.

I completed manuscripts and sent them to publishers. After a while felt like I was tossing them into a black hole. Then I joined Romance Writers of America and was told about the Catch 22 of publishing. The more experienced writers said that publishers didn’t want to look at a manuscript unless it was first vetted by a literary agent. Literary agents preferred not to look at a manuscript until an author was already published.

It was like being told as a child that I could not go near the water until I could swim. 

Eventually I learned about and joined Romance Writers of America, where I learned that the only way to break through this invisible fence was to 1) write a good book 2) go to writer’s conferences where the admission price bought us wannabes a whole fifteen minutes to make a pitch to a literary agent or editor.

Problem was—writing conferences cost hundreds of dollars and my husband and I did not have deep pockets. We were trying to raise three sons on a country preacher’s pay.    

Things changed when a friend called and offered to give me a part-time job of stocking Hallmark cards in area grocery stores. I jumped at it. The hours were flexible, the money was decent, and the work was pleasant. Best of all, I made enough to pay for several conferences and workshops, where I sweated my way through interview after interview until a literary agent finally decided to take a gamble on me.

That gamble paid off for both of us.

A lot of wonderful things have happened since then career-wise. I’m a full-time writer these days. I gave the Hallmark job to a friend who needed it.



Even though I no longer work for Hallmark, I have a big soft spot in my heart for that company. They unknowingly helped me sell my first book.    

I doubt the company is aware that the author of one of their latest movies once worked for them. I was a teeny-tiny cog in a huge company.

But here’s the big news. One of my Amish books, An Uncommon Grace, has been turned into a movie and will air February 12, 2017 at 9:00 pm EST on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel.

I think this is called coming full circle…and I am so very grateful.