February 26, 2010

Running Down a Dream…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:01 pm


Yeah, running down a dream
That never would come to me.
Working on a mystery,
Going wherever it leads.
Running down a dream.

—Tom Petty, lyrics: Running Down a Dream

I’ve had the dream for a long, long time. Far longer than I’ve been blogging. I’ve always known, deep down, that one day I would pursue it. Reach for it and grasp it, one way or another. And either make it, or stumble and fail trying. Probably in a spectacular fiery crash, as most of my failures tend to unfold.

But somehow, after graduating from college and then law school, life took over. And the day to day grind of living it. The dream lay dormant for almost two decades, as other pressing things intervened. Always, I knew that I should revive it. Do what it takes to get there.

But I don’t usually walk through life-altering doorways, not willingly. Not unless pushed by some powerful outside force. Don’t know why. My cautious nature, I guess. Or maybe I’m just burned out from all those experiences of running around and leaving home so many years ago.

And then, almost three years ago, the dream rekindled itself. Came smashing back on its own accord. Triggered by a series of traumatic events.

And when you get slammed by that level of trauma in a deep gut blow, it stirs the true essence of who you really are, deep down. At least it did for me.

My instinctive reaction? I began to write. On this blog.

A litany of pain and fear and rage and sorrow, at first. For some time. Then slowly, tentatively, the stories of my past emerged. My background, my childhood. And over time, my writing voice developed. And more importantly, the discipline of producing something, even when the muse seemed distant. Week after week, for a year. Then two.

And somewhere in that time, the dream, which had flickered so low for so long, was reborn.

My long term strategy was hopelessly naïve. Keep producing good stuff, post it out there for the world to see, and one day someone with connections will notice. I have never advertised this blog. Or promoted myself. Word of mouth, I figured, was the best publicity. I kept plugging on. And my readership increased, through word of mouth and occasional links from other sites, to some pretty impressive numbers.

The dream intensified. And now it has taken one more giant step toward reality. A hugely critical step.

A few weeks ago, I accepted an offer through my agent from Tyndale House. To write a book. Tyndale. Out of Chicago. Big stuff.

I’m very excited. And scared. And pretty much freaked. Glad I don’t have a weak heart.

It was a long process. Frustrating at times. Hopeless at others. And I’ll tell you how it all came down.

First, I tried my hand at self-publishing. With disastrous results. We all, I think, remember how that went.

As a direct result of my reactionary tirade, an email appeared from an old friend, Jerry Eicher. Jerry and I were friends and classmates for probably the first seven years of our lives. I had not seen him in close to 20 years.

Jerry is a very successful author of Amish fiction. His books are everywhere, in book- stores. At Wal Mart. I’ve seen them on Choice Books racks at rest stops along the PA Turnpike.

He had been checking out my writings. And read of my futile effort to publish. Guess he felt sorry for me. He had a suggestion. Why don’t I contact his source at Harvest House, his publisher? Of course, I was all ears. Or all eyes, since we were communicating via email. Jerry sent me the link to his source. And I sent the guy a short message, along with a few of my stories.

Amazingly, the guy emailed back. He was impressed. Would I consider writing a book for Harvest House? Would I? You bet.

I sent him half a dozen of my sketches, and in June, he presented my writings to the Board at Harvest House. He was extremely optimistic. Convinced the Board would accept my stuff. The day came. The Board met. That night, a sad email.

He was very sorry. Some on the Board loved my stuff. But a few obtuse (my word, not his) members thought my Amish stories weren’t sweet enough. Not sweet enough. Think about that for a moment.

Anyway, the vote had to be unanimous. And it wasn’t. So no deal. Just like that.

And there it was. Rejection. Again. I had purposed to keep my expectations to a minimum. And I tried. But it was a blow. To absorb and accept.

My Harvest House champion was devastated as well. We spoke that evening. He was quite sorry and extended his genuine condolences.

But then: “Wait,” he said. “I know an agent. A friend of mine. I’ll contact him. This guy knows everyone in the business. Maybe something good can come from all this yet.”

I thanked him and hung up. A few weeks later, the agent emailed me. Could we talk? We could and did. Shortly thereafter, in late July, I signed a contract with him. Sent him about ten of my sketches and some personal info.

And that was it. No news all summer. After Labor Day, a short email, listing all the publishers he had approached. Big names. And then, silence. Nothing. For months.

In the meantime, I kept on doing what I did after the first two rejections. Writing. When things don’t work out, keep walking. Keep doing what you do best with the abilities you have. Sounds a bit cliched and trite, but it works for me. Whatever happens, I’ll always fall back on that.

And then, in January, a terse email. All the publishers had passed. No takers. Except one. A lone editor at Tyndale had expressed some interest in a biographical work. Would I consider that?

Of course. And so, a week or two later, I spoke on the phone with the interested editor. For an hour. About my ideas for writing. And hers. It went well and I was relaxed, amazingly enough. I agreed to send her an overview of what I had in mind. After we hung up, I sent her some links to specific posts on my site.

About a week later, I sent the overview. A few days after that, my agent emailed me that the editor was impressed. And that she would present her idea for my book to her Board at Tyndale.

Oh, boy. Here we go again. Another Board. Looming like the Great Wall of China. You can’t get around and you can’t get through. Now what? It hadn’t worked out with the Harvest House Board. I tried again to keep any expectations quashed. Fought back the nervous tension. And kept writing for my blog.

And about a week after that, a late evening email from the agent. Great news.

Tyndale had made an offer for a book. I couldn’t believe it. After all this time. It seemed like the Lord was honoring my commitment, my dream. I sat there and stared at my agent’s message. Read it over and over again. Absorbed it, soaked it in. Then I made some phone calls. To my siblings and a few friends.

Since then, the editor and I have spoken and communicated via email. As to what she wants. And when. She will fly in sometime in March to meet with me and plot out the story line.

She wants a book based on my life. From birth. A continuous work. Not short sketches. I’ve not written like that before. But I will now.

Tyndale wants the manuscript finished by fall. The book is currently scheduled for release in the fall of 2011.

And that’s how it all came down. I’ve got some work to do. A lot of intense work.

And here, I publicly thank my friend Jerry Eicher. He freely and unselfishly offered to me his connections to the publishing world. Without which I would not be where I am today. I will never forget his kindness.

This summer will be like none I have ever known before. It’s going to take a lot of intense concentration to get the book done on time. I plan to use a lot of the stuff already posted, the stories and the scenes, woven in. But it’s going to take of lot of writing from scratch, too.

I know I can do it. I know I can. But still, deep down, way back, there’s always that gnawing fear, that specter of failure. Just enough, I hope, to hone my creative senses to a finer edge.

I don’t embrace the fear, but I walk toward it. Face it. The dragon will not flee. It must be confronted and slain.

Until November, the blog will have to take a back seat. I’ll check in sporadically, probably once a month or so, to let you know how it’s going and that I’m still kicking. Maybe, with Tyndale’s permission, I might post an excerpt or two from the book, here and there.

And so I leave you for awhile. At least as you’ve known me on this blog. Wish me well.

When the manuscript is finished and submitted, I’ll be back. To tell you of how it was.

And so, once again I stand at one more threshold. Ready to step into a strange new world. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve wanted something as intensely as I’ve wanted this. It’s what I’ve yearned for, dreamed of, for so long. Like the great shining city, always over the next hill, that called to me in the days of my youth so long ago. The city that somehow always faded into the mists, when approached, as the mirage it was.

Now, for the first time, I approach the gates of that shining city. The gatekeeper awaits a battered traveler, ragged and weary from the tough slog of so many long and lonely miles through so many years. A traveler with some tales to tell.

And this time, the great city is not fading away as I approach. It looms ever closer. It’s real.

And that’s a little scary. Intimidating. I’m a simple man, from hard plain roots. I have to fight it sometimes, the urge to turn and flee back to the comfort zone of the land from whence I’ve come. To where I know and am known. But I can’t. The price of getting here was too high to turn back now.

I don’t quite know what’s on the other side of those gates, or exactly how it will go. I think my editor does. And I expect some of it won’t be pretty.

There’s only one way to find out.


Housekeeping Note: This week, my webmaster cleaned my spam infested site and installed the latest version of Word Press. He got rid of 22,000 plus spam messages. To protect from future spammers, he installed the CAPTCHA Code system for those who want to leave a comment. Just below the box where you write the comment, type in the letters and/or numbers exactly as they’re shown, and your comment will be posted.



  1. Congratulations an a very well deserved deal. I will be eagerly waiting to buy one of the very first copies I can get my hands on!

    Comment by Ed Yoder — February 26, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

  2. I suppose I have my answer to a question posed many many times … “Are you writing?”

    Comment by glo — February 26, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

  3. Way to go Ira! I wish you all the best on your writing project and can’t wait to read a copy. Meanwhile I believe this calls for a free bag of coffee. I’ll find a way to get it to you.



    Comment by Leon — February 26, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

  4. WOW!!!!!! It is really great to see you have an opportunity to reach your lifelong dream. I am certain the finished product will intrigue the reader to the very end.

    Have fun pursuing this dream and good luck!

    Comment by Smucker — February 26, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

  5. Congratulations, this is very exciting. With Tyndale’s establishment and your fan base, the book will assuredly sell. We will miss your weekly or biweekly blogs, but the book will be well worth it. Now to come up with a title…

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — February 26, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  6. Congratulations! Exciting news indeed. I eagerly anticipate the book — just let us know when we can pre-order it as the time gets closer.

    Comment by Mark Graham — February 26, 2010 @ 6:53 pm

  7. Ira, This is the best, happiest, coolest, most exciting thing I have heard in a VERY long time. I remember you telling me a long time ago that you wanted to write a book. I really want to do a happy dance around my house for you right now, but my family may think I am strange. Oh heck. I am going to do it anyway! WOOOO HOOOOOO Okay. That is all.

    So proud and happy for you!!!


    Comment by Lori — February 26, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  8. What an awesome dream, Ira. I hope to goodness it will soon come to fruition. May you and your muse be able to collaborate successfully.

    In case I’ve just neglected to tell you, I admire your writing a great deal. I’m happy to be your nephew and for the opportunity to observe your writing style.

    The muse part was a reference to The Writing Life by Annie Dillard (she’s won a Pulitzer for another work). This book, while pleasantly slender, is written with unprecedented bravura. If you haven’t read it recently, I recommend it highly as something to read if you ever need to get your writing juices going.

    Good luck!

    Comment by Gideon — February 26, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

  9. Surely the book will contain the Pony story.

    Comment by John Wagler — February 26, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

  10. I started reading your blog a few years ago while living in georgia. Recently living in NJ and on bed rest with my last baby I went way back and read so much of your blog. My husband would come home from work many days I would have to read him one of the posts I read that day. I have even shared some of the stories and pics with my children(also braves fans). This is wonderful news! Our family will look forward to your books release. We now live in Lancaster county and will be sure to give a wave if we see you and big blue. Enjoy the process, our prayers are with you.

    Comment by Cindy — February 26, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

  11. Congratulations! I’ve been a fan for almost two years – first discovered your work after reading your nephew’s book, seeing his website and reading his promotion of your work. I’m a reader and a writer, and I know what good writing is – and your writing is good. I see myself in much of what you write, although, I must confess, my politics are a little more to the left than yours.

    Will always remember the story about the over-priced salad because I know exactly what market you were writing about, and I’ve always wanted to write an Op-Ed piece on that market (and others like it), but just never had the nerve…….

    Be proud that your “Amish stuff” wasn’t deemed “sweet enough” for publication…. I’d so much rather read YOUR writings than Beverly Lewis or some wanna-be. You will be missed.

    Again, congrats, and best wishes. I will buy your book.

    Comment by Linda — February 26, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

  12. No surprise. We knew you could do it. A hearty congratulations.

    Comment by Monica — February 26, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  13. Congratulations Ira, I’m thrilled for you!

    Comment by Rosita Martin — February 26, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

  14. Congratulations!! Many of us knew this exciting day was inevitable.. Hoping for your usual truthful exciting writing… Woe unto those who shudder at this joyous news…

    Comment by Nate — February 26, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

  15. Rooting for you, Ira. I really want to see this work because most Amish related literature is too sweet. Most TV presentations also are way on the “sweet” side. But as for you, I am confident you will show all sides of Amish life. Strangely, our media has an overly romantic view that glorifies all things Amish. We who know will find a balanced view refreshing. God bless.

    Comment by Eli Stutzman — February 26, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

  16. Congrats, Ira…Here’s predicting your book makes the NY Times Bestsellers list…If you need any proofreaders, we are close by..

    Comment by Bro Steve — February 26, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

  17. We all get first dibs at the autographed copies. Congrats to you ~ I’m sure it’ll be well worth the wait!!

    Comment by Beth — February 26, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

  18. Congrats!! I knew this day would come. God Bless and looking forward to it.

    Comment by Bear — February 26, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

  19. Go for it!

    Comment by Katie Troyer — February 26, 2010 @ 10:00 pm

  20. Very Cool, truly a dream come true and well deserving. Congrats, I’m sure the book will do great. Let us know where the book-signings will be!!

    Comment by P Graber — February 26, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

  21. Congrats, Ira, we wish you well in your writing.

    And now, what on earth are you going to write about ?? The grubby little secret of Amish life, seems to me is that it’s a very boring, hard existence in its entirety. Perhaps it can be described as months of boredom interspaced by seconds of sheer terror . (As when the Bishop suddenly catches up with you ).

    Embellishment seems to be the norm when reading anything Amish. It has to be so, or it will put one to sleep quickly.

    Comment by Grandpa Jess — February 26, 2010 @ 11:13 pm

  22. Cngratulations! I am so excited. I will be reading Jerry’s books, checking if I can identify with them.

    Comment by rachel hochstetler — February 26, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

  23. Congrats! I stumbled across your blog via Google probably about a year and a half ago. I’ve been a fan ever since.

    Comment by loon1900 — February 26, 2010 @ 11:54 pm

  24. congrats uncle dear! I am so incredibly proud of you and know how hard you have worked to come to this moment! When you get a writing block remember the large cheering section you have and how much we love you!!!! Have fun! Dorothy

    Comment by dorothy — February 27, 2010 @ 1:01 am

  25. Congratulations Ira!
    I want ten copies (autographed) for 2011 Christmas presents. I hope it sells so well that you won’t have time for your day job (sorry Pat).

    Comment by John Schmid — February 27, 2010 @ 9:17 am

  26. Yipppeee!! I will surely buy the first copy I can get my hands on!! I detest Beverly Lewis’ Amish writings and yours will surely be a version worth waiting for! But to have the manuscript finished by fall!!!?!! I shudder…

    I have read your blog from its inception; enjoying it, and your writing style, tremendously. However, I am going to remind you of one thing; since you mentioned it on October 19, 2007 I have waited patiently through the sun, wind, and rain of daily life for an article about “the regressively conservative Mt. Olive Mennonite Church” in Daviess county. SURELY this will be in the book!

    You don’t paint false pictures! I’m excited!!

    Comment by HENRY — February 27, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  27. KUDOS!

    Dreams do come true!
    I wish you all the best as you follow your dream and look forward to its completion!

    Comment by Doris Vetter — February 27, 2010 @ 11:49 am

  28. Good Luck. We’ll be waiting to read the book! (and I hope captcha works this time… hmmm)

    Comment by ann — February 27, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  29. Keep plugging away. And don’t let the kittens get you down.

    Comment by Robin — February 27, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

  30. Ira, congrats to you! All the best as you go back in time and relive the journey. Here’s to keeping it real and sharing from the heart. I have no doubt the venture will be a smashing success!

    Comment by Rhoda Snader — February 27, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  31. I knew it! I’m so excited.
    Today I was in the bookstore with a friend, they had a LARGE display of every book Beverly Lewis has ever written and my friend suggested I purchase one….Now I know they are very popular books, but really. (no offense to those who love the books, just not my style)
    So here’s to you and your success, one which you have earned by never giving up. I raise my glass to you:)
    I’m proud of you.

    Comment by janice — February 27, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

  32. First of all, CONGRATS!! Secondly, I don’t know if I should cry with my tears or laugh for joy. I suppose it’s all the same. I’m beaming with pride on your behalf! I’ll keep you in my prayers for clarity of mind and good health. I too can’t wait for my autographed copy. Excitement is in the air. Blessings, many blessings, to you!

    Comment by J. Stoltzfus — February 27, 2010 @ 11:19 pm

  33. Congratulations! I wish you an enjoyable time of “work”!
    The only “Amish novel” I’ve read that’s not “sweet” and unreal, is “Levi’s Will” by W.Dale Cramer. Very realistic!

    Comment by Mary — February 28, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  34. Congratulations, I always knew it would happen, I just didn’t know when. I am so sick and tired of Beverly Lewis (and the likes), I doubt if she even knows an Amish person. I am looking so forward to it, and know you will do your very best.

    Comment by Rachel — February 28, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

  35. Ira,
    Excellent news! I didn’t know writing a book was one of your dreams. I look forward to buying a copy and enjoying your complete story. I’ll try to stop in and see you soon. Congrats!!!!

    Comment by Joe Wey — February 28, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

  36. Congratulations! Found you when you wrote about Elmo Stoll. I’ll be in line for a copy. Too much “Amish Fiction” from people who probably never met an Amish person. Like the story with the Amish character named “Brown”. (With no mention of them coming from the outside to explain it.) Looking forward to reading your complete story.

    Comment by Missy — March 1, 2010 @ 6:55 am

  37. Congratulations! I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and eagerly await your book to become available.

    Comment by David — March 1, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

  38. Congrats!
    You’re living every Wagler’s dream!
    I too despise Beverly Lewis, and I’ve also read Levi’s Will; very good, real characters who just happen to have been Amish.

    Comment by jason yutzy — March 1, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

  39. So happy for you, Ira! I am confident you will write an excellent book and am anxious to read it. Don’t forget us little people when you are famous someday.

    Comment by Amy Brown — March 2, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

  40. This is such very good news. You have wanted to be a published author for so many years and have spent much blood, sweat and tears towards that end. Now is the time for reward, an “overnight success” that is 20 years in the making. We the blogophiles now need to wait patiently until a summer of hard work results in one very good book.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — March 2, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  41. Happy for you, Ira. Your post is a reminder that few things in life come easy. Only those who persevere will make it to the top. Proud of you and praying the Lord will give you clarity of mind and great stories.

    Comment by Joe Keim — March 2, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

  42. Congratulations Ira! I look forward to reading your book.

    Comment by Mike Fisher — March 3, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

  43. Ira, How sweet is that! From the day I met you, I knew that you were a man of deep thoughts, but many unspoken words. “But, everyone needs to express their thoughts, somehow, somewhere”. Now, I will have the pleasure of reading about you from birth to present as you have signed the contract! I know for me, it was not an accident that we met, and I also believe that this opportunity for you is not happenstance. May God lead you in this endeavor, as I know He will! Your blogs have helped me review my day to day and life since reading, as I am sure it has for so many readers. Now, just one request…a book signing near me….Thank you Ira and Congrats…

    Comment by Luann — March 5, 2010 @ 10:26 am

  44. My dear friend, congrats. Please let us all know when the release date is; I will wait in line to buy a copy and of course the author must sign it…..Take care dear friend and you deserve this, it is your time….

    Comment by Chuckie Leonard — March 6, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

  45. Congratulations. I know I shouldn’t ask this, but will you sign a copy of your book for me when you come to Minnesota?

    Comment by Paul Ellefson — March 8, 2010 @ 11:17 am

  46. I am SO happy for you. I will miss you while you’re gone, but am so glad this opportunity finally came to you. I have a similar dream and am so happy that you’ve told how yours came about: it gives hope that perhaps my dream will come true, too someday! So I will keep writing and learning! You are a gifted writer so I’m glad someone is willing to help you tell your story, it’s so important to hear.
    Write on!

    Comment by Joni — March 13, 2010 @ 12:17 am

  47. Congrats Ira! I have been enjoying your blog for the last few months, I’m very excited to read your book when it is released. I too just got a book deal. While not as exciting of a topic as yours I’m still quite excited about being an author! Our time tables for writing and release seem to be about the same too. I’m excited to hear about your adventure in book writing. Congrats again!!! Best, Erin

    Comment by Erin — March 24, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

  48. This is great stuff. Aren’t you glad you kept on walking forward? I’ve met that dragon you mentioned. He separates the men from the boys.

    Comment by Francine — January 17, 2013 @ 12:02 am

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