Suzanne Woods Fisher embraces simple living -- treasuring family and friends, communing with nature and loving animals, especially dogs.
For years she's not only lived simply, she writes about living simply. Her affinity for this lifestyle, coupled with her interest in the Amish, originated with her grandfather, who was raised "plain" in Pennsylvania.
After writing magazine articles, Fisher started creating nonfiction, and in seven years has written and published more than 20 fiction and no-fiction books about the Old Order Amish.
The Alamo resident will present some of her new book releases, and discuss the reasons why the Amish have been a subject of fascination in popular culture recently, at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Walnut Creek downtown library.
"The question is, why is mainstream culture so fascination by the Amish?" said Fisher, who often visits the Amish country in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County.
In the decade-plus since 9/11, our country has gone through a trying time, with wars, economic recession, violence and a rise in unemployment. As a result, she said, people tend to gravitate toward the simple things in life, including reading fiction and adopting facets of the Amish lifestyle which includes living and dressing simply and connecting with nature, she said.
You don't have to be Amish to enjoy a quieter, simpler life, said Fisher, adding that by reading Amish fiction we can learn a lot from the people and culture.
"Amish fiction is an antidote to the anxiety of our modern culture," she said.
The public's interest and curiosity about Amish culture is evident in a number of reality shows, books and movies that have recently become a pop culture trend.
At a book conference she attended recently, Fisher said she found out that a large percentage of public libraries carry Amish fiction. In 2003, only one Amish fiction book was published and by comparison, in 2013, 86 titles were released, she said.
"This harkens back to a pastoral life, a longing for a simpler time," said Fisher, who raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. "We long to be closer to our deep values. We get distracted by the bonnets and the beards, but if you look deeper, we can find principles to bring into our lives."
The concept of "less is more" and re-evaluating what's essential and nonessential has been a hallmark of simple living that anyone can embrace, she said.
Fisher said that while she started writing nonfiction books, it was a smooth transition to fiction because she'd already gained credibility as a writer of Amish culture through the publication of her nonfiction works.
In fiction, Fisher said she starts with a true story that's inspired her and builds the character and the storyline from there.
While most readers of fiction are generally women ages 35 to 70, Fisher said she's surprised to find that men have also shown interest in reading Amish fiction based on the comments she's received from her readers -- many of whom aren't Amish, but who are curious about that culture, she said.
Local author Sarah Sundin knows Fisher because they share a publisher.
"I adore Suzanne's novels -- and I rarely read Amish fiction," said Sundin, who lives in Antioch.
Three hallmarks of Fisher's writing draw Sundin to her books -- her multifaceted characters, her sense of humor and her willingness to tackle tough subjects.
"Suzanne has touched on issues from addiction to mental illness to disability," Sundin said. "The settings have the right amount of pastoral peace you'd expect in an Amish novel, but the real-life problems and sometimes difficult personalities keep the sweet from ever getting saccharine."
Additionally, Fisher manages content of a free app called "Amish Wisdom," available for iPhones, iPads and Androids, that delivers a daily proverb from the Penn Dutch tradition. Fisher also maintains a blog called Amish Wisdom that provides readers with the latest books and information about the Plain people.
"What I love about Suzanne's writing, both in fiction and in nonfiction, is how she looks at the things that really make the Amish a culture to learn from," said Andrea Doering, executive editor of Revell Books "The bonnets and buggies are charming, but Suzanne's narratives ask us to consider the essential ingredients of Amish life: simplicity, slowing down, trust in God, kindness, forgiveness. Suzanne's stories show us how the Amish make those things a daily reality."
'Writing the Amish - Fiction and Nonfiction in the Amish Traditions'
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 14
WHERE: Walnut Creek Library, Oak View Room (second floor), 1644 N. Broadway
INFORMATION: To register for this free program call 925-977-3340 or register online at:http://www.wclibrary.org/event/amish. Also visit www.suzannewoodsfisher.com