Writing memoir is like “dis-robing in public,” says one author, but only if you are brave enough to include the hard parts, I say.
After my memoir launch on September 14, many details of the first 24 years of my life became public. I voluntarily exposed my self and my family, warts and all. My readers, including author friends and relatives, were surprised at some of the secrets I revealed.
- Readers related to the plain part of my Mennonite life. This from a woman:
Dr. Laura Weaver, University of Evansville (IN) retired, offered this reflection as a teacher at Eastern Mennonite College, now University:
- President J. R. Mumaw called me into his office because I was seen going to a movie, Moby Dick! in Charlottesville.
- Ira Miller, EMC Dean, called me into his office to ask me to wear a cape sometimes so that the school could say I wear a cape.
- When I left EMC and taught at Bluffton College(U), I had a bit of hair cut in front (bangs). Then later I had the rest cut and got a permanent.
I recall a funny episode involving the small black bonnet worn for formal occasions, especially outside the Mennonite community. This occurred shortly after I taught at Belleville Mennonite School (PA). I was in Philadelphia with former students (female) to attend a concert. We were walking down a street on a windy day; the wind blew off my bonnet, and we ran down the street to capture it. I was successful and wore it for the rest of the trip. A few years ago one of those women reminded me of that incident; she (in her 70s) and I (in my 80s) laughed. I don’t remember whether we laughed when it happened.
- Male readers also reflected on their plain years:
This from reader Bob Keener
I finished your book and I so resonated with your growing up stories as I also grew up in a “plain” home and was the first in my family to reject wearing the plain straight-cut suite coat as a teenager while my older brother was already wearing it, along with my father. Ulrich Longenecker is also my ancestor. We’d have so much to compare.
Also, I have some similar dynamics of a father who resorted at times to severe corporal punishment, more on some of my siblings than on me. (Later, Bob added: So your book is serving as a catalyst to helping others toward self understanding and furthering the healing process of childhood memories.)
- Bookstores have showed my memoir varying degrees of receptivity:
The Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society hosted my book signing at Landis Homes. So far, their museum shop has purchased 13 copies of Mennonite Daughter for their shelves.
The Book Mark in Neptune Beach is selling my book on consignment.
Books-a-Million requested a copy of my book, pending corporate approval. The same goes for Barnes & Noble, whom I’ve not yet contacted.
Chamblin Books in Jacksonville is displaying several copies in their Ortega and Uptown stores. I will do a book signing at their uptown store in March 2020.
The Jacksonville Public Library has approved my book for its local authors’ collection.
- Sometimes my shiny red shoes get scuff-marks! Independent authors are not always welcome. While I was in Lancaster County, one store that caters to shoppers interested in the Amish and Mennonites replied to my inquiry with a terse, non-sequitur comment: “I am not interested in your book. I wish you success with it.”
My take: They order from publishers they’ve relied upon in the past, stocking authors like Wanda Brunstetter and Beverly Lewis.
- I try to remember to say Thank You to those who’ve written reviews of my book.
If you bought a book online, e-book or paperback, you are welcome to write a review. (Books purchased from me would require a preface like this: “I purchased a book from the author for this review”.)
It doesn’t have to be lengthy; 3-5 sentence would do. Here’s the short-link: (Scroll to the bar way down on the left: “Write a review.”)
- By far, the most exciting part of book pub, is meeting the readers.
Recently, a former Lancaster Mennonite School student, humorously addressing me as Sister Longenecker, began his letter to me with a quote he only partially remembered from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. He went on: “I recall noticing your shoes and hearing them meet the hardwood floors as you walked around. Don’t know what they were called, but they had a bit more heel than the older sisters on campus. I also recall your hairstyle and covering being a bit more modern than say Sister Moseman or Sister Hoover, for example. No strings and a bit of the bun visible at the base of the covering. I suppose it passed regulation, but it looked like it wouldn’t have minded a bit more freedom.
I appreciate the opportunity I had to attend LMHS ages ago, and am grateful for the staff that made learning in that environment possible. Thanks for your part.”
- “What are you going to write next?” I take that question as a compliment. For now, though, I need to focus on marketing this book.
While I’m thankful for my progress, including invitations to speak at writing groups and a podcast planned, I’m far, far from hitting anyone’s bestseller list or reaching my goal of 50 Amazon reviews. Still, my gratitude journal brims with thanksgiving this season.