Amish Author Loren Beachy Answers Your Questions

Loren Beachy Answers Your Questions (Part 1)

We [Amish America] got your questions over to Loren last week, and on Friday I got a fax back from him.

“This is what I’ve got so far,” Loren writes. “I plan to give the other questions some attention, too.” You’ll find about a dozen-and-a-half responses below. I’ll get the rest up [at AmishAmerica.com when I get them in from Loren. Until then, I hope you enjoy. — Erik Wesner

[Editor’s note: Mistakes in spelling/usage etc. from readers are left in.]

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Loren Answers Your Questions

Trish in Indiana: Sometimes, I wonder what it must be like to be so “visible” to the community around you, and to know that there are tourists who actually travel from miles around to see Amish people.

Can you tell me if you believe many Amish feel a “burden” of responsibility at being so identifiable to the public?

Thanks, Trish. Jesus calls us to be a “city on a hill”. Yes, that’s a burden, but an opportunity, as well. We are conscious of the scrutiny you mentioned (we even hear it in sermons occasionally), and it is probably good for us.

Bill Rushby: What don’t you like about being Old Order Amish? (Please forgive the impertinent question!) 

Nothing major comes to mind. You’re forgiven, go and sin no more.

Slightly-Handled-Order-Man: We’ve read through different Amish America posts that the farm life is not as lucrative as it once was for many Amish (and non-Amish alike) and that many Amish people seek out careers outside of the home / farm, for instance the biographical information provided for your book states that you are both a school teacher and an auctioneer in addition to author and columnist. Acknowledging that, have you ever found resistance among your community toward your career paths as perceived to be immodest, very much unconventional or against community rules, or perhaps just against the personal opinions of other people?

Amish communities across America vary widely in how conservative we choose to be. In more conservative communities my auctioneer career would not work. In our community, as in most large communities, it is accepted. I have encountered very little resistance and much encouragement from my community members in my careers.

Al in KY: Two questions:

How many Amish auctioneers are there in the U.S.?

Are there other training schools (like Reppert Auction school) for
other occupations that are OK with Amish districts for Amish men and women to attend?

Lots. Probably hundreds.

My dad attended a farrier school when he was young. There are probably others, like tax clinics for bookkeepers and so forth, though it’s not exceedingly common for Amish to go.

Kim Shinn: This sounds like a very unique book to be written by an Old Order Amish gentleman…can’t wait to partake in the humor! I am interested in knowing what percentage of the teachers are male, as Loren is, compared to the customary young females that are teachers. 

Thank you, Kim. In the past decade or so, the percentage of male teachers in our community has risen to perhaps 20 percent (my guess). In Pennsylvania, there are almost no male teachers.

HDL: As a school teacher, are you concerned with the federal government interfering with what and how you teach?

Not yet.

Theresa H: We have Amish friends in New York and one of their boys wants to be an Auctioneer when he grows up. Is their any books that we could get for him to read about Auctioneering?

Sorry, I don’t know of any.

lincolnlady1121: I would love to read your book. Seeing you are a bachelor I was wondering if there was a certain age that Amish men and women are expected to be married by? Are there many Amish who remain single all their life? If you were too marry, could you retain your job as a teacher or would you have to get another occupation? 

Thanks.

Not really, though I think the average is something like 22 years old for men and 20 for the ladies. There are some who remain single–I’m going to guess between 5 and 10 percent.

I could keep my job as a teacher, though some men quit upon marrying because of financial considerations.

tjk: I was wondering how far you travel for auctions, and is this your first book?

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The rest of AmishAmerica’s blog post of Loren Beachy’s great and fun answers to questions that inquiring minds want to know can be found here.

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[Editor’s note: Feel free to ask your local bookstore to order or carry Chasing the Amish Dream, or you can buy it at our store, here, for just $12.99.]

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If you’d like to know how our designer came up with cover design, check this blog post from Merrill Miller. And no, the man running behind the buggy is not actually Loren!

How to Design a Book Cover in 3 Easy Steps – Part 2 by Merrill Miller

Last time I discussed the first two of three steps for designing a book cover, “Problem” and “Process.” Now we’ll get the final stage.

PRESENT: In which the designer presents cover mock-ups to the committee and prays the best direction will result

The best way to kill a brilliantly creative idea is to show it to a committee.”—said every designer ever.

Although some ideas are not killed quite as dead as others, some truly creative solutions have been strangled by committees, focus groups, authors, brothers-in-law, and other experts. But, lest I sound too harsh or whiney, most of the time this critique process serves to strengthen and refine in positive ways.

I decided to present four ideas: an Amish man riding bike (because that’s how the author got around), an Amish man standing at the Grand Canyon, a softball game, and an Amish man chasing his buggy. I sketched out these ideas, one of which I fleshed out in color to present a style of illustration as a possibility. For the softball cover I found a photo which I thought fit the character of Wisecrack Wanda from the book.

AmishForLife_4optionsI really felt that the image of the man chasing his buggy fit the humorous nature of the author’s writing best and was the most likely to grab people’s attention. I stated this in our meeting and after short deliberation it was agreed that this image was the most promising. The decision was also made that the cover image should be photographic, not illustrated. This meant finding photos that could be composited or take a photo on location with a model and a buggy. It was also voiced that the typography I had chosen might not appeal to a popular market. This imagery also spurred the change of title from Amish for Life to Chasing the Amish Dream—much more interesting and fitting.

I returned with this information to the Creative Action Center (see the diagram here, the same I shared last time).3EasySteps72dpi I searched for photos that could work together. At this point I was still making mock-ups and didn’t need a final image yet. I presented two cover ideas based on the Chasing theme.

Additional work was still needed on typography. My fellow designer, Reuben Graham, developed an outstanding logo for the Plainspoken series and it made most the sense to use the same font for the cover type as well.

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The author sent us some of his own clothes and a straw hat to use for the photo shoot. I then began carefully looking for the perfect model. Mostly, they had to fit in the clothes and be willing to act like they were running as fast as they could. Also, we needed to compose the model in such a way to obscure his face, since most Amish groups do not appreciate having their photo taken. No, we didn’t hire a highly paid model. I leaned on a willing fellow staffer here at MennoMedia. Now you know.

We got some great options from the shoot and I combined them with a background scene and a buggy. I presented the third round of mock-ups to the committee. The overall imagery was well received but when shared with the author, we discovered that the buggy was an Ohio buggy, not an Indiana buggy.

So we contacted a photographer in Elkhart County and asked her to take a few photos of Indiana buggies from a certain vantage point that would fit into our composition. She pitched a strike and the fourth round cover presentation was a homerun.

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There you have it—cover design in three easy steps.

It should also be emphasized that not all cover designs follow the same path. In fact, I would venture to say that no two cover processes are exactly the same. For example, I like to compare the paths of The Naked Anabaptist and Under Construction.

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Under Construction took very little time to determine a direction/image. The actual photo search and assembling those photos in PhotoShop took days. While it is a complex image, it was fun to build.

The Naked Anabaptist didn’t take long once we found the right image. The process of finding the one right image took days of searching and multiple rounds of rejections. While this is a simple image it was sometimes an arduous process—but the end result is just as rewarding.

Yes, just like breaking rocks or teaching kids, the end result is almost always rewarding.

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You can purchase Chasing the Amish Dream on pre-publication discount for just $9.75 (25% off) until October 21, 2014.

—Merrill Miller, senior graphic designer

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How to Design a Book Cover in 3 (Or More) Easy Steps – by Merrill Miller

Merrill Miller is senior graphic designer at MennoMedia/Herald Press

Actually, any kind of design solution is rarely reached in three steps—the ease of which depends on your point of view. If your normal workday consists of breaking rocks with a pick-axe—or trying to teach apathetic, defiant, hyper, high, and hungry kids the Pythagorean Theorem—then, yes, these steps might be viewed as easy. And, like students who fail geometry and have to repeat the class, sometimes (read “usually”) one or more of the steps below will need to be repeated.

But for the sake of this article I will reduce the procedure to three steps: Problem, Process, and Present.

PROBLEM: In which the book is presented to the designers and brainstorming ensues

The initial cover stages begin early in the life of a book so that the marketers can begin promoting it. Once the author contract is signed, even before the manuscript may be in its final form, sometimes even before a title or subtitle is finalized, we meet to brainstorm ideas. This group includes editorial, design, and marketing.

The editorial staff presents the PI sheet (which doesn’t stand for Private Investigator. It stands for Product Information. Kind of a let-down, eh?). This document lists pertinent information about the book, an author bio, a brief description, and marketing information.

It also includes book covers of competitive and comparative works that have been already published.This is somewhat of a conundrum to peruse: do we try to fit into this sample of published work or do we try to stand out from it? I suppose the short answer is that we want fit in while standing out. Easy.

For this blog post (2 parts) we will follow the process of one of our new books, Chasing the Amish Dream. This book is the first in our Plainspoken series written by Amish or Old Order Mennonite authors. The author of Chasing, Loren Beachy, is a school teacher and an auctioneer. His book is a collection of humorous columns he writes for the Goshen (Ind.) News called “The Plain Side.”

As the “problem” is presented we begin brainstorming ideas. At this point, the name of the book was Amish for Life, not Chasing the Amish Dream. We come up with words, ideas, associations, and images that represent the book and the author. Words such as: Amish, teacher, auctioneer, humor, and images of buggies and horses, etc. are thrown into the hopper. Sometimes the ideas get narrowed down and sometimes the designer is left with a mish-mash with no real direction.

PROCESS: In which the designer endeavors to narrow the focus to one idea

During this step the process may be repeated multiple times and may, or may not, go something like the diagram here:3EasySteps72dpi

The designer will take the words, ideas, and images offered during the initial meeting and work (read “play”) with them: joining opposites, looking for synonyms, doodling, writing more words, sketching, taking long walks or naps (while mulling, of course). As a last resort the designer may read some of the manuscript to glean inspiration.

No, actually, reading parts, if not all, of the manuscript is one of the first things the designer will do. Fortunately, we had several of the columns that were published in the Goshen News which I was able to read. In the case of the book formerly known as Amish for Life, these offered a wealth of imagery. There were stories about church, stories from the classroom, stories of softball games, biking, auctions and traveling to auctions. There were stories of train trips across country, stories of pranks, stories of people doing unwise things—like run beside their buggy in order to wake up.

Oh, how to narrow it down?

To be continued next time, on September 10, 2014.

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What are some standout covers (general) that you have seen you really like? What do you like about them? 

(And no fair peeking in our store to see how the final book cover came out for Chasing the Amish Dream. Of course if you want to spoil the drama … peek away.)

—Merrill Miller, senior graphic designer

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