Life Outside the Pages

Newspaper Editor Moonlights as Amish Romance Author

By Lisa McDonald Loos

(Note: This article recently appeared in the newspaper I work for in SE Ohio. It was fun seeing a story about my book in my town’s weekly paper!)

I knew I was going to love “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” based solely on the action in the first sentence of the book – an Amish woman is hanging laundry on a clothesline!

Amish clotheslines are a little obsession I have. I’ve taken a couple dozen photographs of them over the past decade on trips to Amish communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania. I would rather take clothesline pictures than shop! I enjoy seeing the colored dresses in contrast to the black pants waving on long lines that stretch from large farmhouses to larger barns.

One of my Amish clothesline photographs appears on the Anne Blackburne website, and also her Facebook page.

Laundry on a clothesline sets the scene for this Amish romance by your newspaper editor who has chosen to professionally write under the pseudonym Anne Blackburne. Blackburne is Anne’s middle name and her maternal grandmother’s maiden name.

The protagonist in the novel is Ruth, a childless widow with an entrepreneurial spirit. She meets a middle-aged basket maker Jonas, who is a single father.

An unexpected marriage proposal, lots of prayer, an adversary, and a blizzard provide some twists and turns through the book along with lots of fellowship, saving a family farm and naming felines.

A surprise for this reader is realization that a couple of the characters in the book are real-life friends of the author.

There’s another surprise at the end – an assortment of yummy recipes!

“Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” is Anne’s debut novel. It is Book Two in Barbour Publishing’s new series, Heart of the Amish.

Barbour contracted with three authors for two books each.

The other two authors are Mindy Steele and Lisa Jones Baker, who have had several previous books published.

“I think it has helped me to be associated with other, already popular authors,” Anne said.

Anne’s second book in the series, “Mary’s Calico Hope,” will be published on June 1, 2024.

“I’ve always been a writer, going back to my elementary school days,” said Anne. “It was in my mid-20s that it occurred to me that I might be able to become a published author.”

Anne started writing a children’s book series about three 12-year-old girls who formed a pet-sitting business. She queried literary agents and found one in New York who was encouraging about the series. “But it wasn’t long before she got back to me with the unfortunate news that someone else had the same idea, and beat me to the publishers.”

Over the years, Anne said she came up with other ideas and wrote other manuscripts ranging from middle readers to mysteries to romances. She penned a satirical book called “Lying Letters to Aunt Louise” based on Christmas letters people send bragging about the accomplishments of their relatives. Anne said she had a blast writing it but it did not sell.

“I read that the average first-time, traditionally-published author spends 10,000 hours practicing their craft before getting that first sale. That would be about right for me,” she said.

So how did she finally get published?

A while ago, Anne entered a contest through the Romance Writers of America and won. The prize was the opportunity to work with a mentor – a professional, published author who helped her polish her manuscript over about a year’s time.

She also learned the ins and outs of querying and submitting to agents and publishers. It wasn’t long after Anne queried her manuscript that one of those agents signed her.

“This is really unusual. It can take months to hear back from an agent, just to get a rejection,” said Anne. “I was over the moon.”

Then, within a few months, Anne’s agent sold the book to Barbour Publishing.

All of those rejection letters finally added up to an acceptance. It took her about 35 years while raising five children to get that sale.

Anne said she may be more of a “pantser” than a “plotter” when writing. She’s a fast writer with a good idea of where a story is going when writing. She said it took her about three months to write “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise.”

“I enjoy discovering what happens to the characters along the way, rather than having every little point plotted out ahead of time,” she said.

Anne is currently working on a novella to be published in an anthology with three other authors this fall. The book is titled “A Lancaster Amish Christmas” and her story in the book is called “Lucy’s Christmas Sunbeam.”