Sarah Forgrave, a 2010 ACFW Genesis runner-up, writes lighthearted romance with Amish flavor. Her stories focus on modern people living in Amish-centric settings.
Sarah lives in the Midwest with her energetic and entrepreneurial husband, spunky three-year-old son, and a sweet, smiley baby daughter. They have a pet fish named Finny who likes to play dead and give menacing stares to anyone who comes too close. Sarah received her bachelor’s in accounting and business management and worked as a CPA for eight years until leaving her job to become a stay-at-home mom. She never thought doing taxes for global companies would be easier than changing diapers, but some days she wonders.
When she’s not spending time with her children or her fictional characters, Sarah loves to cook and bake, getting excited when she makes a recipe healthier and it still tastes good. She enjoys watching reality TV, especially The Amazing Race, playing racket sports, and is “kind of addicted to keeping things orderly.” She and her husband are avid supporters of international missions. She would love to adopt a child from Latin America someday.
Sarah has a fondness for her mom’s Dutch apple pie, especially when it’s still warm from the oven and served with vanilla ice cream. I’m providing the best virtual version of the pie I could find, along with a big tub of Dreyer’s Double Vanilla ice cream, so help yourself to a slice and a scoop, sit back, and enjoy this opportunity to learn more about Sarah and her writing journey..
Sarah’s Journey Begins
•Many writers have been creating stories since they were kids. Have you?
I wouldn’t say I created stories at an early age, but my creativity was always ticking. My early writing experiments were more along the lines of poetry and music in high school. When I showed up for freshman orientation at college, I didn’t know what to declare as my major. I did well in English, so I confidently stated, “I’m majoring in English.” One semester later, my practical side struggled with what to do with the degree, so I followed in my siblings’ footsteps and switched to accounting.
•Your early interest in writing grew into something more. When did you decide to write with a goal of publication, and what led to that decision?
I took a 180-degree turn in my life two years ago. Even though I enjoyed reading novels since I was a teenager, I never really thought of writing one myself. All that changed with the birth of my son. I experienced painful medical complications and went through 18 months of tough times, involving multiple surgeries, depression, suicidal thoughts, the whole gamut.
When I came through that, God planted a seed in my mind about writing. Within a month’s time, the seed grew until I had one novel started and ten other ideas stored away in a file for later exploration.
•You joined American Christian Fiction Writers and made some great connections. How did this come about? In what ways has your involvement in ACFW helped you grow as a writer?
After my “a-ha” moment, I immediately started researching and learning about how to write a novel. Being the perfectionist that I am (I’m convinced CPA stands for Certified Perfectionist Asylum), I was hungry to develop my writing skills. After I saw several authors mention ACFW on their websites, I knew I had to check it out.
It’s impossible to measure how ACFW has helped me grow as a writer. Beyond the learning opportunities, I think the biggest benefit has been meeting other writers and understanding that I’m not alone in this journey. The friendships I’ve made and solidified at the national ACFW Conference are ones that remind me I’m not the only one who has conversations with make-believe characters.
Sarah’s Squee-worthy Successes
•You’re a regular contributor to the webzine Ungrind and get to see your byline on a regular basis, which is way cool. How did you link up with this publication, and what has writing articles for them taught you?
Early on in my serious writing days, I didn’t have any writing friends other than my laptop and a dear friend from college who lived on the other side of the country, Christin Taylor. Christin had written articles and was a writing professor, so I figured she could tell me whether I was insane to try this new venture or not. She gave me great feedback on an essay I wrote and encouraged me to think about writing articles for Ungrind (she’s also a regular contributor). I checked out the site and loved its honest and encouraging content.
When I scrolled through the list of Ungrind’s contributors, I was shocked to not only see Christin’s picture there but the picture of an acquaintance from my own church! So in addition to honing my skills of writing for publication, I made a new writing friend who I now meet for writing dates at Starbucks.
•You recently joined an awesome group of women as one of the “shopkeepers” at The Writers Alley. Congrats! The blog is such a fun place to spend time and is one of my regular stops when I’m cruising cyberspace. What can visitors expect when it’s your turn to post?
I try to write posts that are short in length but have one good takeaway for writers (or maybe a few if I’m feeling extra brilliant). I’ve got a new series coming up that will take a good part of the year called “Self-Editing Checklist.” I’m treating it almost as an online class with a short point or two in each post for readers to add to their own self-editing checklist. And for the extra motivated, I’m also adding homework assignments. 🙂
•You experienced your first contest win last year—in your first contest, no less. What did your first place in the Phoenix Rattler mean to you?
It meant that the voracious learning and reading I’d done in a year actually did seep into my brain and out my fingertips. It was great validation to know that I was on the right track. But it also showed me I had a lot more work in front of me to be publishable.
I went away from that contest and spent the next year paying for two professional critiques, attending two intense online courses, and writing, writing, writing. So it served as a great catalyst for me to push myself to be better.
•Your contest success continued. You finaled in the 2010 ACFW Genesis. How did you react when you received the exciting news?
I’m pretty sure I was shaking when the coordinator called me, and I probably said “Wow” a bazillion times. It was thrilling, for sure.
•You went on to become the runner-up in your category, Contemporary Romance. What thoughts went through your head when you saw your picture on the screen and heard your name announced?
To be honest, I wasn’t thinking. I darted out of my seat because the finalists were originally told that the runner-up should go across the stage. But ten steps into my journey (I was all the way in the back), someone stopped me and said, “Only the winner goes up. Remember, they changed it?” So then I hurried back to my seat with a scorching face.
After I had time to process the news, I was mostly excited because my sister was able to attend the banquet with me. She happened to be visiting the conference city for doctor appointments, and a lady I met at the conference gave me an extra ticket. So it all came together last-minute and was a very cool moment to share with her.
Sarah, the Overcomer
•Sometimes in life, we encounter obstacles in our paths. That’s certainly been the case for you. But you faced them head on and moved on. Please tell us about what got you through that tough time, what you learned along the way, and how those experiences have shaped you into the writer you are today.
Wow, this is a heavy-loaded question. That period before I turned a new direction was the most difficult I’ve faced to this day, and the one thing that pulled me through was my faith. I’ll be honest, that faith was held together by a frayed string at times, but deep down inside, I knew God was with me through everything, and I also knew I couldn’t let my family down. That experience made me realize I can’t deny who God made me to be. I want to be an original masterpiece that He’s created, not a cheap knockoff. That’s something I want my children to grow up believing because they’ve seen their mommy live it out.
Sarah’s Sources of Inspiration
•I had such fun getting to know you at the ACFW conference, Sarah, and have wonderful memories of our time at dinner. I learned about a new sub-genre that night: lighthearted romance with Amish flavor. Your unique twist on Bonnet Fiction caused some publishing pros’ eyes to light up. What exactly is lighthearted Amish romance, and why did you choose to embrace this little-explored niche?
(For the record, I might be a wee bit older than you with a mature memory that ain’t what it used to be, but I really was listening to you that night, my friend. For the benefit of your visitors, though, please enlighten us. :-))
Lighthearted romance with Amish flavor is about modern people living in Amish-centric settings. I grew up in one of those settings, right in the heart of Amish country. It never seemed weird that whenever we left my grandma’s house, her farewell warning was, “Watch out for the buggies!” That was just normal life.
But after I moved to the city, I realized what a unique upbringing I had, living and interacting with the Amish on a regular basis. With the popularity of Amish fiction, I thought it’d be fun to create a fictional town like the one where I grew up and show life from the perspective of people like me who experienced the humor and the unique lessons from living around the Amish. And who doesn’t want some good romance thrown in for good measure? :-).
Sarah’s Journey Continues
•What captivating new ideas are swirling in your creative mind? Have new characters begun chattering away?
I’m starting to plot a new book that features two characters from my previous one. They’re already like old friends to me, so I can’t wait to see them figure out that they’re supposed to fall in love. Besides that, I have several other basic plot ideas jotted down for future visits, but I like to focus on one thing at a time.
Let’s Learn a Little More About Sarah . . .
•You’re a mom with young children, so I’m sure you spend a fair amount of time reading stories to your kiddos. Which are your favorites? Do any classics from your childhood make the list?
Oh boy, this is a toughie! My mother-in-law used to be a school librarian, so she keeps our bookshelves overflowing. I always loved Richard Scarry books growing up, and I got one of the big word books for my son. I found one with both Spanish and English, so sometimes I start rattling off the Spanish words and my son looks at me like I lost my mind. 🙂
•When you head to the mall, what stores will you be sure to pop into?
I have a magnet that pulls me to Ann Taylor Loft whenever I’m close to one. I really have no control over it. I also love DSW. (What girl doesn’t, right?) The heroine in my latest book was addicted to shopping, particularly Nordstrom, so I naturally have to do some “research” there, but I’ll admit…that research is a bit too expensive for me sometimes.
•What TV commercial is guaranteed to get a reaction out of you?
Would you believe I don’t watch commercials…ever? I’m in love with my DVR and the mute button, both of which allow me to save my eardrums from the noise. Once in a while, I see those E-trade commercials with the talking baby, and I have to turn on the volume just to hear what they say. Babies get me every time.
Sarah’s Question for You
Since I made a career change lately, I’m curious to know… What was your original dream job and are you doing it today?.
Learn More About Sarah
Visit her website ~ http://www.sarahforgrave.com
Visit her personal blog ~ http://www.sarahforgrave.com/blog
Visit her group blog ~ The Writers Alley
Friend Her on Facebook ~ Sarah Forgrave
Follow her on Twitter ~ SarahForgrave