Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Guest Post with Paul Stutzman… Butterflies and Amish


Paul Stutzman was born in Holmes County, Ohio in an Amish family. His family left the Amish lifestyle soon after Paul was born. They joined a strict Conservative Mennonite Church where Paul was raised to fear God and obey all the rules the church demanded. Paul continued to live among and mingle with his Amish friends and relatives his entire life. Paul married a Mennonite girl and remained in the Amish community working and raising a family. After Paul lost his wife to cancer, he sensed a tug on his heart- the call to a challenge, the call to pursue a dream. With a mixture of dread and determination, Paul left his job, traveled to Georgia, and took his first steps on the 2,176 mile Appalachian Trail. What he learned during the next four and a half months changed his life-and can change yours too.

After completing his trek Stutzman wrote Hiking Through—a book about this life changing journey. In another adventure where he pedaled 5000 miles across America he wrote Biking Across America.  Now Paul Stutzman has written his first novel entitled The Wanderers, a story about Johnny, a young Amish boy growing up in a culture he is not sure he wants to embrace. A young Amish girl named Annie wins his heart and life is great for a time. Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies.

Chick with Books is thrilled to have Paul Stutzman stop by today to share a bit of himself and insight into his writing. Join me in a warm welcome to Paul!

Butterflies and Amish

Writing my first novel, The Wanderers, I devoted my pen (well, keyboard, in my case) to truths and the truth—truths about our journey through life and the truth about a people very much in the spotlight today, the Amish.

The seeds for the book were planted years ago by my wife’s love of Monarchs. Every fall she would hunt out milkweed plants and find a tiny Monarch worm munching away on its leaves. She’d bring that worm home, keep it in a mason jar covered with a screen, and watch the process of an unseemly worm being transformed into a beautiful butterfly. She celebrated the emergence of the butterfly as a new birth, and released it to spread its wings and fly away. The Monarch butterfly migrates in the fall, and its story is amazing; it takes four generations to complete one cycle of migration.

My wife passed away from breast cancer on September 7, 2006. On the evening of her funeral, I fell into an exhausted sleep on my recliner. Around 2:00 AM, a fluttering sound awakened me. Flying in circles above me was a Monarch butterfly. One of Mary’s friends, knowing how much my wife loved Monarchs, had created a flower arrangement that included a branch with a chrysalis attached. The butterfly had emerged while I slept—on the very night of my wife’s funeral. I was amazed. As a spiritual person, I took that as a sign that God was showing me He had transformed my wife from an earthly creature into a heavenly one.

I released the butterfly into the cold September night. Over the next several years, as I recovered from the loss of my wife, I was often reminded of that butterfly. It was fourth generation, the generation that was genetically equipped to make the long pilgrimage of migration. What happened to that butterfly? Did it survive its long journey?

I wrote the account of that night in an early chapter of my first book, Hiking Through, the story of my journey through grief. But the questions and the fascination with the Monarch’s story never left me.

So when I began to write about the Monarch, I found that the butterfly’s story is an allegory that parallels many experiences in our own journeys. This opened another opportunity for me. I have long been disgusted with the portrayal of the Amish in many of today’s movies, books, and television shows. I was born into an Amish home and have lived all of my life in the middle of a large Amish community. I wanted folks to know that most of what they see in today’s media is sensationalized and exaggerated. I wanted to write about the Amish as accurately as I know them.

And so I paired the allegory of the Monarch’s story with the love story of two young Amish people, and the result is The Wanderers, a story of transformation, love, wandering, and looking for a place we call home.  
                                      *****************************************

Thank you Paul for sharing a bit of yourself in such a heartfelt post and sharing your writing process on Chick with Books today!

Want to learn more about Paul? Here's a link to the author's website. Want to read the first chapter of The Wanderers?! You can find the first chapter at Pump Up Your Book Virtual Tours! The premise of The Wanderers sounds wonderful and I can't wait to open the pages of the book myself! I'll be sharing my review of The Wanderers  on Dec. 26th!

3 comments:

Dorothy Thompson said...

Thanks for hosting Paul today! Do you live in the mountains? Love your background!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Dorothy! Thanks so much for inviting me to participate in Paul's tour! Wish I lived in the mountains, but no, this photo is just where I live vicariously! ;-)

Vasilly said...

Paul's life is so interesting! Thanks for spotlighting him.

my read shelf:
Suzanne's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

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