November 16, 2012

The “Writer”

Category: News — Ira @ 6:48 pm


Before we knew that we must die, before we had seen
our father’s face, before we had sought the print of
his foot….Who are we, that must follow in the footsteps
of the king? Who are we, that had no kings to follow?

—Thomas Wolfe

It’s probably that deep-seated Amish reticence inside me. I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it much before, because it hasn’t seemed that important. Except I’ve thought about it a good bit lately. In all the years of posting this blog, writing a book, and just generally throwing out whatever came to mind at the moment, I have never been particularly concerned about proclaiming myself a “writer” out there in public.

I’ve written a good deal about how the process works for me, sure. And why I write. I’ve called myself a redneck who can write. But that focuses on the redneck part and warns the reader of what my perspectives might be, not so much the writing. Don’t get me wrong, here. I absolutely do not judge those who do identify themselves as writers in public. As in, Ira Wagler, writer. Or Author Ira Wagler. I don’t fault that in any way. Especially for those who depend on their craft for some or all of their income. You’d about have to, then, especially in this wired age of Twitter, Facebook, and who knows what all else I’ve never heard of. You have to build your platform, get your name and your stuff out there in an extremely competitive market.

But I don’t have to write, to make my living. I don’t. Like my father didn’t before me. He was always out there, knocking around, plunging this way and that, launching business after business. A great many of them fizzled or just flat out failed. Which didn’t faze him one bit. He just plowed right on to the next one. Some few of them succeeded. And one or two of those are all you need. So he didn’t have to write, not for the money. He never had that pressure.

Of course, he had to write because he had to write, which I understand completely. But I can’t remember that he ever called himself a writer, either. He’d stand there with folded arms and smile when some stranger from some other Amish community asked if he was David Wagler, the famous author. Famous founder of Family Life. Famous Budget scribe. One or any combination of all of those, the stranger would ask. “Oh, I write a bit, here and there,” Dad would say deprecatingly, as the stranger gaped in rapturous awe, overjoyed at the privilege of merely standing in the presence of such a famous man. (I am not making this stuff up. It really happened. I saw it with my own eyes many times.)

So I probably get a bit of my reticence from him. I don’t know. I’ve never processed it this far before. But still, I’ve always thought to myself. Don’t label yourself a writer. Just write. Your readers will decide if you are one or not. Not necessarily by calling you that, but by reading your stuff. It’s not something to concern yourself about, the label.

And from that foundation, I suppose, was born my deep natural suspicion of anything “writerly.” And the very term, “conference,” always brings to my mind a great dull blob of just numbing boredom. Which is what conferences mostly are, from my limited experiences, from what I’ve seen. And a writer’s conference, well, combine what I’ve seen with what I’ve always hesitated to speak, and you have a perfect formula for something to be avoided at all costs. Writer’s conferences. Blech.

But now I have experienced something along that line. Not a conference. But its baby brother, maybe. And that was the writer’s breakfast arranged by my friend Shawn Smucker.

I had never hung out with a group of writers before, so I had no idea what to expect, and didn’t think about it, much, until the day approached. I nudged Shawn with an email. You’re “interviewing” me, right? I don’t do well, standing up there and talking on my own. “It’ll be informal,” Shawn assured me. “It’s just a loose bunch of local writers, hanging out. I’ll guide you through with questions, and you can branch out any way you like.” Still, I was a little intimidated. I mean, why would people want to hear what I have to say about much of anything? When it comes to pole buildings, I might consider myself an expert, maybe. Fat chance, though, that anyone would ever want to hear that. But on writing? I’ve never studied that subject at all, the hows and whys of it. Never heard any lectures on it either, not since college.

But still, it would be fun, I figured, to go talk about what happened to me. I arrived at Angela’s Café just before 9:30. A very cool little place, perfect setting for writers to gather. Kind of artsy, with plenty of room off to the one side where the group was assembling. Shawn greeted me and made a few introductions. Some people were already there, more were coming. We’d hang and socialize for half an hour, then get started. I wandered about, greeting people and signing copies of my book some had brought with them.

It was a pretty diverse crowd of probably fifteen to twenty people. Shawn and I moved a tall round table to one side and set chairs behind it. And right at ten, Shawn called the group to attention. “Today we have Ira Wagler with us. I have some questions for him, then he will take your questions, too.” And off we went.

In that kind of setting, where we’re sitting with questions prompting me, I’m OK. It’s just talking. But when I have to stand behind a podium with a “presentation,” that’s when I stutter and stammer. Shawn introduced me and got started, talking about my blog. “Ira broke every rule of blogging. He posted once a week, and then on Friday nights, yet. The lowest traffic of any week night.” People laughed. And I laughed, too.

And I just kind of launched in, telling him and all of them the story of how it all came down. How the blog got started, and when. What triggered it. How I found my voice for the first time ever. I’ve written it all before, so I won’t bore you with those details here. And we just chatted right along, from one subject to the next. I strolled freely down little bunny trails, getting bogged down in the brambles sometimes. But I made one thing clear. It was a perfect storm, the way Growing Up Amish came about. The perfect combination of all the necessary forces. A rare, rare thing indeed. A big part of that perfect storm happened because I had a “hot” marketable story, I said. The Amish. I’d come from them. And I could write it, tell of it.

I told them of how it came about, the writing of the book itself. In monthly submissions. How I’d worked hard to keep my blog voice. How I try to write like I’m just talking. With a lot of fragments. How I detest exclamation points. How I weeded them out by the dozen, seemed like, from the edited version of the manuscript. Someone had stuck them in there. The writing should be the exclamation point. No need to tell the reader you’re using it. Kind of like you don’t need to tell people you’re a writer, I guess. Same concept.

And I told of how it was, to work with real, truly professional people. The best in the business, in my opinion. How my Tyndale “team” took my raw stuff and sifted and refined and fused it into the book you see today.

But it was when Shawn asked about the next book, the sequel, that I stopped and thought a bit. How could it be explained, where I am?

I don’t know, I said. I’ve never been here before. Right now, I know what needs to be written. I know the story. But I just can’t speak it. Not now. It’s not stuff you can just crank out, that kind of writing. It has to be there, inside, you have to “feel” it out. I think it’s coming. No, I know it’s coming. I just don’t know when. I catch glimpses of slivers of it now and then, out of the corner of my eye. When it shows up, I’ll write it. I don’t think of it as being “stuck.” It’s just not ready, yet, to be told. And yeah, I think sometimes too that maybe I’m just intimidated, trying to match the success of my first effort. It’s all mixed together in one big jumble in my head.

I’m writing my blog right now, because it’s a safe place, I told them. It’s always been a safe place, the place I can go back home to and be myself. It’s where I’d write if I had a hundred readers. Or ten. Right now, I’m just living. And speaking on my blog. Live. Write. And while you’re living, don’t always be thinking about what you can write when it’s happening to you. Because that will detract from living. Live. The writing of it will come on its own. (Like this blog right here. It’s not what I started out with, but it’s what came. So I wrote it.) I think every writer needs a place like that, a blog to be who you are. It’s the test, I think, of any writer. Would you write anyway, or are you out there so focused on promoting yourself that you forget what it is to write what you live?

And strangely, my audience didn’t look at me as if I were insane. Not at anything I said. Actually, they looked and listened intently.

And after Shawn was done, he opened up for questions. They came. Good, thoughtful incisive questions. These people knew my world, when it came to the mysteries of writing. The most startling question, something I had never considered before: “Did working with the Tyndale editors affect the way you write right now?” I had never thought of that. No, I don’t think so, was my first response. But then I thought a bit. Yes. Yes it does affect my writing now. I’m more conscious about using fragments. They edited out a bunch of those from my original manuscript, to make the remaining ones stronger. That’s what they told me. So yes. Except maybe when I’m getting really intense about something, then I revert to my instinctive style. I’d say that’s how it is. Great, great question.

Soon after eleven, we wrapped it up, and I hung out for another half an hour, chatting. A few people requested my book, so I went out to my truck and fetched a dozen copies. Sold and signed most of them. And then it was over.

And you know what? It was a lot of fun, hanging out with other writers. It really was. These people are my peers, in various stages of their own journeys. They have struggled and triumphed too, in their own battles with the muse. They understood where I was coming from, what I was saying. I should do it more, I guess, hanging out, I mean. Maybe, I’m thinking, I might even be ready for my first writer’s conference. But then again, maybe not. At least not just yet.

A few words after the election in a bitterly divided nation. We will have to endure the smirking faces of the destructive Left for four more long weary years. Worse, we’ll all be directly affected by their destructive and abhorrent policies. They won the dogfight. I don’t think there ever was any chance they wouldn’t. (And I’m not defending Romney in any way, here. I spoke my piece against him in my last blog. He lost. He’s a non-factor, now.)

I’m not a prophet. But this once, I’m going to make like one. We are done. Period. We are finished. I’m not saying it’s imminent. But bad, bad things are coming. The plunderers in this country now outnumber the producers. When that tipping point is passed, you don’t have to be a prophet to see what the future holds.

There will be no peace. The land will not heal, not with this bunch in power. (As it wouldn’t have with the other bunch, either) And it’s already begun, the thrashing beast of the state in its death throes. It always devours its wealthiest citizens first, through class warfare. It’s happening, and the process will only accelerate. Until the wealthy are consumed, and then the beast will turn to devour the rest of us. This particular scenario has unfolded so many times in history that it’s not even debatable, what’s coming. Those who cannot or will not see this are simply blind.

It’s kind of humorous to hear the pious braying from the trenches on the Left. The election’s over, and we all need to work together to get something done. Yeah, sure. As if they would have stepped right into line, had Romney won. They would not have. They would have doubled down. So I’m thinking, nah, not so much. With my voice, at least, I will oppose Obama’s domestic policies at every turn. At every point. I know who he is. I know what the Left stands for, when it comes to my personal freedoms here at home. Leave me alone, to live my life. That’s all I want. Just leave me be.

They won’t, of course, the meddlers who know what’s best for me better than I do. But I’ll dissent until they shut me up. Which may well happen. It’s pretty scary out there, what’s coming. They may shut me up, but they will never enslave my mind. Because my mind is free. It will remain free. About the only bright spot I see ahead is that the great liberty warrior, Ron Paul, will be touring and speaking at college campuses. Brilliant strategy. Take back the youth the statists have ensnared and claimed for generations. Tell them what freedom is. Show them liberty can be theirs, if they refuse to accept the statist lies. It has to take root in the youth, freedom does, to flourish. And I believe it will.

And in my own small way with my own small voice, I want to do what Ron Paul has done all his adult life. Cry freedom. Cry liberty. Stand and proclaim it. It doesn’t matter, the darkness that surrounds us. Speak the truth, regardless of the times. But speak it with a heart that is free of hatred toward any person. It’s OK to hate the state, which is an entity of real, pure evil. But it’s not OK to hate the people who preach and plant its insidious and destructive seeds that will produce only the bitterest of harvests. Or the people enforcing its tyrannical dictates. Sure, you can stand up to them, call them what they are. In anger, certainly. With righteous rage, too, sometimes. But not with hate. Because it’s never OK to hate people. Ever, for any reason. Period.

Wherever you are, live free. Because you can, in your mind. And in your heart.

And so, with good cheer and confidence, we move on into future. Yep. I said good cheer. A funny thing happened at the writer’s breakfast. After my talk, I was chatting with a lovely lady who approached me. We discussed this and that. Suddenly she said, “You are so relaxed, so cheerful. I’m surprised. Your blog writings are so…” And she paused. But then she said it. “Your blog writings are often so morose.” I laughed. Yeah, I said. That’s just my voice, I guess. The melancholy in me coming out. I get all brooding with my writing. In person, I’m actually quite cheerful. She seemed astounded, but she agreed.

Through all the black noise and political tensions, it’s a little surreal to realize that Thanksgiving is coming right up. One more year. More turkey, more football. I’m looking forward to it. The Wagler clan will gather in Hutchinson, Kansas. Where Marvin and Rhoda and Lester and Rachel (my sisters and their husbands) and their families live. Last year we gathered in Bloomfield at my nephew John Wagler’s home, and I made it. This year, well, I’ve used up more than my allotted vacation days already, because of the book. Besides, it’s a two day drive out there to Kansas. Too far, for a two day stay. So I’m passing. I’ll hang out at my brother Steve’s house with him and his family. That’s always good times and great food.

In this time and at this place, I am deeply and humbly grateful to the Lord for all my blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers.



  1. Brilliant…(with no !!!!)

    Comment by pizzalady — November 16, 2012 @ 7:07 pm

  2. A resounding message, I love it.

    Comment by Ben Girod — November 16, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

  3. I can certainly identify with not calling yourself a writer. After all the years I’ve spent in the classroom, I have noticed I still tell people, “I teach at a church school.”

    Comment by jason yutzy — November 16, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

  4. I can’t help thinking that someday these blogs of yours will be famous for your patriotic pedestal postings. They are just too good to be swept under a rug. I think writing the book was a strange land for you and you feel most comfortable blogging, where you can be your self and not dwell on punctuation. But you just said all this, and I am just re-thinking it. I hope you and your family have a good Thanksgiving.

    Comment by Carol Ellmore — November 16, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

  5. Great Blog, Ira. thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    You are not a good writer, you are a “Great” writer.

    May you have a very Blessed Thanksgiving time and
    be filled with good food and family.

    In Christ,

    Comment by Linda Morris — November 16, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

  6. A pleasant read again, Ira. To me you’re ‘the famous Author, Ira Wagler’ whom I was fortunate enough to spend a bit of time with this summer. :) And I caught myself grinning at your dad’s response to being ‘famous’… I could totally see that!
    I have to disagree with you on the conferences thing. (I have to… I do them! lol!) I’d grant it that *some* writer’s conferences are boring. There’s usually one or two brilliant speakers with some good take home, though.

    It intrigued me that you use less fragments. I like them. Tend to use them, here and there, depending on the style or voice I want. Glad you’re still ‘you’ in your writing voice, even with that change. :)

    Comment by Trudy Metzger — November 16, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

  7. Did any of your Dad’s fans ever admire his office?

    Comment by Katie Troyer — November 16, 2012 @ 10:57 pm

  8. Thank you for your final comments on our country’s situation. I have about decided to pursue the mindset you’ve described; you have helped me in this. My liberal friends do not see anything coming their way at all; it’s scary in one way. But, I remember the Scripture that God is always with me and “what can man do to me”. I only hope I can live my motto of honor, courage, and integrity. There is so little of that any more. A “Jesus message”….

    Comment by Maggie Newman — November 17, 2012 @ 7:49 am

  9. In regard to your comments on the election and such, people need to contact their state legislators about the legal remedy of Nullification. We are not powerless. We do not need to resort to the idea of either shooting it out or suffering needlessly. We live in a country in which we have been given legal remedies – from people who did suffer in Europe and then had to war here to give these government-limiting structures to us. But they do not work “automatically.” They require men and women of courage to act. The choice is ours; this is why it is rightly said that we get the government we deserve. There are some great resources here:

    Comment by LeRoy — November 17, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  10. It must be a great feeling to just sit down at your keyboard and type your thoughts and feelings. You have a great Thanksgiving. And may we all remember the lest fortune in the world, especially the ones near us in, New York and New Jersey this day of Thankfulness. God Bless

    Comment by Warren — November 18, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

  11. Ira,
    I’m so glad you enjoyed the writer’s breakfast. You know, it’s right where you belong. With like minded people, connecting, talking, just being a part of. It’s a good thing.

    Back a couple of months ago, when I first started following your blog, I wondered if you ever considered writing without mentioning anything Amish. The Amish culture is very interesting to me, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed your book, but I thought you would do well without the said topic if you ever chose to. In one of your blogs you wrote about a neighbor who was quite the character. I thought it was excellent! I’m not an expert in the writing world, but do I have to be in order to say something was entertaining, sad, touching, dynamic or pleasant reading? Who gets to judge that? The $$ market? May it never be!

    Oh, Ira. I’m getting to know you. I knew you would go off regarding the election. Oh, the doom, the gloom. Why do you do it, Ira? Why do you get your underwear up in a bunch over it? Well, I know why. Because you can… and because you have the right to express yourself and because it’s your party, I mean blog, and you can cry if you want to. All right, I dig that. But…Ira… I told you, there is One who has all power. You know who that it. Yes, things are moving in the direction of yuck, but Revelation says, right up to the very brutal end, God gives people the chance to turn to Him. Man, God is crazy in love with us. What’s so gloomy about that? I’m not trying to shame or embarrass you, Love, just point you in the direction of yipee!

    Happy Thanksgiving, dear child of God. Hugs, hugs and more hugs.

    Comment by Francine — November 19, 2012 @ 12:12 am

  12. Thanks for hanging out with us, Ira. It was a great morning.

    Comment by Shawn Smucker — November 19, 2012 @ 9:45 am

  13. Thank you, Ira. You say what I think and bring meaning to the confusion that reigns. Your words are so honest, that it is almost brutal to read them. But the truth is brutally refreshing. I have never read more gut-wrenching honest words than the ones you write. I wish everyone could read your blog. Maybe you can take all your blogs and put them in a book. It’s like reading a diary…a diary of truth. I, for one, would buy it and then buy copies for my friends. Happy Thanksgiving! And May God always give you the power of the pen, as his mighty soldier.

    Comment by Pam — November 20, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

  14. I really wanted to be at that breakfast, but I had just finished up hosting a blogging conference. :)

    I hope you’ll come again, would love to meet you.

    Comment by Sarah Mae — November 26, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

  15. Freedom without truth is an empty shell–self deception.

    There are many that claim to be free or liberated, yet are slaves to drugs, sodomy, abortion, pornography, gluttony, power, debt, religion, etc. Sadly, this country is in a rapid decline and some of the fault must be on the wimpy preachers, who only proclaim a milk-toast–smile, Jesus loves you–social gospel. With nothing about the Sovereignty of God and His Word being absolute Truth.

    The LORD Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Not a truth, one of many, but THE Truth. Hence His Word is the final authority on all subjects. Were He not the eternal Son of God, that biblical quote would be a rather bigoted statement.

    Therefore, it behooves the true believer to continue in reading and studying His Holy Word. Christ also said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    Comment by e. s. gingerich — November 26, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  16. I am headed back over to Audible to buy your audiobook. Why didn’t you narrate it yourself? I always wish authors will whenever possible. Thanks for the generous preview here. I returned the last book. “A Stolen Life” which I bought last month so I have been feeling extra uncertain.

    Comment by LCasey — December 12, 2012 @ 3:11 am

  17. I actually ponder why you titled this particular blog, “Ira Wagler, The Writer?”.
    In either case I admired the blog!Thanks a lot-Reyes

    Comment by Reyes — February 6, 2013 @ 2:48 am

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