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.
From now until December 12, I am running a Goodreads Giveaway of my memoir. Click HERE to enter for a chance to win a colorful Kindle version of my 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.
Good morning, Marian! I’m happy to hear that all seems to be going well, and people are connecting with your book–as I suspected they would!
Thanks for following me every step of the way on this journey, Merril!
Also, your first sentence made me laugh. 😉
I heard it somewhere, and it seemed to fit the exposure inherent in memoir – glad you found it funny!
I have your book on the ottoman in front of me, but I have yet to read it. It will likely be part of the luxury reading I allow myself over the Christmas holidays. I look forward to it.
So, I’m in the luxury reading section, Arlene. 🙂 I’m flattered that you want to savor my memoir. Do be aware that there are highs and lows. My story is not a walk through a Mennonite meadow. Yet, what’s a tale without conflict? Thanks for supporting me all along the journey!
You’ve answered questions I’ve wondered about a book launch. I adore your book as a consignment item and your smile about said. I think you’re wise to focus on this book now– and let the idea of future books percolate in the back of your brain. Enjoy your current success!
I regard your comment as wisdom, pure and simple. And, I’m glad you find my reflections helpful, Ally Bean. 😀
Like Merril, I love the opening quote and the photo to pair with it. You are now fully immersed in the fun part of the publication process. I hope you get many notes, quotes reflected back to you, and reviews online.
How blessed I am that many take the time to let me know what they’re thinking: emails and handwritten notes and reviews. I just discovered that a review I thought got “lost” in cyberspace is now appearing on Amazon.com.uk. Who knew?
Even after six years, you probably hear how BLUSH has affected other lives. By the way, I forgot to mention that at my book signing at Landis Homes, the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society displayed your book. 😀
Marian — As you know from the review I wrote, I thoroughly enjoyed your book. And now, I had the opportunity to read about your post-publication revelations. Like you, I found writing and publishing books to be an eye-opening experience—some aspects of it exceeding my expectations, while other elements fall well short. I’m glad that your gratitude journal brims with thanksgiving this season. And I’m grateful that mine does too.
You make it looks so simple, Laurie. But we both know that book pub and post-release is never easy. I’m so glad I can follow footprints like yours (and others) in this book writing game. I’m learning even more lessons now two months out.
Best wishes as you climb the hill (mountain?) of your next book. How I admire your ever-growing oeuvre – wow!
After reading your memoir, those who passed on it have no idea what they’re missing. Thanks for sharing your experience, Marian! My journal is brimming too, but it also brims with stress, too. 🙂
You have a demanding profession, take care of a loved one, and now promoting this and other books, Jill. I hope you have scheduled time for some R & R during the holidays. You certainly deserve it!
“‘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.” What a great analogy, Marian! 😀 And how lovely that your book is so well received. Your hard work is paying off. I’m glad you’re hearing from readers. Thanks for keeping us in the loop about what’s going on.
And thanks for tuning in each week here and helping to promote my book in your own blog. How sad I’d be if I missed out on the friendships and encouragement I receive here each week Writing is a solitary activity, but publishing requires a “village” of friends like you, L. Marie!
I am so pleased that you’e getting so much positive feedback and comments from people who can relate to your experiences, Marian. I’m sure that makes all your hard work worthwhile.
I left a review on Amazon after reading my e-copy (early October, I think), but I’m not sure if you’ve seen it.
Fatima, thanks for your kind efforts. I am having trouble with Amazon posting reviews from readers. Yours should have shown up a long time ago, but I just checked and I don’t see it – both troubling and puzzling. Amazon has a help page: email@example.com
Oh dear! What a shame! I’ll look again. I don’t quite understand it.
I’ve just checked. I think it might only appear on AmazonUK, but I’ve sent you link of my revìew through Messenger. Hope you can see it now. 😉
Oh, Fatima, I just saw it, printed it out, and wrote a reply to you. Thanks for the tip. I would never have thought to check on Amazon.com.uk
I’m glad you found it. Will check for your reply now. 👍
It sounds like things are going well. I´m so pleased for you. It is so good to hear from your readers. Your book is next on my Kindle to be read.
You’ve certainly been busy with Amanda, and rightly so. I’m glad I’m in your queue for reading. I’m sure you’ll let me know what you think! Thanks, Darlene!
‘Dis-robing’ – so evocative Marian! Your photos and post are lovely. All continued success on your journey.
I’m reading your fascinating memoir now, on my Kindle tablet. When I have finished, I give you my word that I will leave a review.
Linda, I have no doubt you will keep your word. In the meantime, do enjoy reading my story; I know you will understand the hard parts. Hugs!
Your gratitude books with the lilacs on it is the same notebook I found among my Mom’s after she passed away! She didn’t write much, but she wrote some things down after dad passed away.
Am just finishing up my friend Dora Dueck’s novel “All that Belongs” and then hope to get to yours next. Reading a book by someone you know personally is a different experience than reading an author you don’t know!
Elfrieda, your close-knit family knows the value fo cherishing artifacts and writings. I find that touching. What a legacy you are passing on!
I also understand the sensation of reading a book by an author one knows. I felt that way when I read Shirley Showalter’s BLUSH. Our experiences were certainly not carbon copies of one another, but we had the same hymnal and booklet of Lancaster Conference Rules and Regulations, brought up with a strong work ethic.
I too loved your opening. How true (if you’re from Puritan stock; Scandinavian memoirists May need a different metaphor). I’m so glad you s brought us all along on your publishing journey, the highs and the lows. Shirley calls this the fun part; for me the fun part is editing (I’m getting professional help) which can go on indefinitely. If you enjoy this marketing part, more power to you.
Thank you for your comment about my opening from a different slant . . . interesting how your mind works, Janet!
Marketing is challenging for me because it is new, but (extravert that I am), I do enjoy meeting readers. Editing – not so much. I’d do better with a manuscript from someone else. Again, I appreciate your pointing out redundancies even as you were writing a blurb for my book. 😉
Yes, you exposed a lot of family secrets: very brave. I love Laura Weaver’s list of things which got her into trouble at EMC! (I think there was a FB page of such at one point until someone decided to close it down.) Enjoy and savor the comments you receive, even the ones that make you ponder.
You say that I am brave, and perhaps I am. One thing that made telling my story a little easier: By the time my memoir was published, both of my parents were gone. Still, a few readers believe that I have gone too far and have told me so.
From the beginning, I wanted to leave a legacy for my children and grand-children. I also felt compelled to tell my story so that others could find a path toward healing as I have done.
About your other comment: I wonder if you knew of Laura Weaver. The comments/criticisms seem even more antiquated now than they did back in the day. Fussing over seeing a movie classic like Moby Dick. Oy vey!
Yes, I do ponder the comments, even the ones that make me wonder. Thanks for your observations, Melodie!
Thanks so much for sharing, Miriam. Congratulations and best wishes on your journey! 🙂
Thanks for stopping by here again, Bette.It means a lot that a seasoned writer like you takes the time to comment. I appreciate your good wishes! 🙂
I couldn’t wait to read this post when I saw the title. And finally, here I am. Fascinating comments about your amazing memoir. It’s such a compliment when readers of our books share a sentiment after reading them, isn’t it? As far as booksellers, I’ve had the same mixed reactions as yours when I’ve approached bookstores (independent) about shelving and selling my children’s books. (Big box bookstore managers won’t even return my phone call when they learn I’m independently published.) Some of the smaller bookstores are happy to do display my books on “consignment” (even though my publisher offers them 40% discount buying through her). But some turn me away at the door, literally saying “I don’t know the name of your publisher,” even after admitting the book is professional and beautifully rendered. It’s an uphill battle for independent authors and independent publishers ,for sure. Marian. Fortunately, we write for the pure pleasure and joy and belief in our work — not for any (financial) success. As far as I’m concerned, you are a hugely successful memoir author.
You know my heart – and my frustrations precisely. Your books (all of them!) are professional and beautifully rendered. Another problem, common to first time authors like me, is getting reviews. Several have indicated that a “review is on its way” but it doesn’t materialize even though I supply the link and indicate it needn’t be elaborate or lengthy. This happens with authors who received a complimentary ARC copy. Even so, I count my blessings for people like YOU, dependable and wise!
It sounds like you are having a wonderful time with your book and the marketing. And yes, I agree with the disrobing part. But when people tell you that your book has helped them or someone they know, it makes all of the work and standing out front without secrets, well worth it. We all must recognize and become friends with our humanity.
Your book set the standard for honesty when I was writing my own story, Joan. I do remember thinking I could omit the hard parts and still have a decent book, but my authentic self would not allow it. A sister and a few others have objected to my airing the family secrets, but I have had to accept that and go on.
Helping others move toward hope and healing has trumped a sanitized story. Thanks for the affirmation here once again, especially the line “We all must recognize and become friends with our humanity”! 🙂
How amazing the reviews you’re receiving for you book Marian. Well deserved. 🙂
Thanks for noticing and standing with me in this debut moment. I benefit from following tried and true authors, like you, Debby!
My pleasure, and thank you Marian 🙂
It’s a lot of hard work to promote a book – your resilience shows through. Congratulations!
Yes it is, Barbara. Thanks for you nod here, very much appreciated.
Right now it seems I have done all I can do, and I wonder if I need to hire a publicist. It’s very expensive on top of all my investment so far, and I’m weighing the cost against the value of moving in that direction. Hmmm
Glad to hear you are learning and growing.
As you know with your own enterprise in photo and text, constant attention wins the day. And, yes, I’m on another learning curve. Thanks, Fiona!
You are certainly still on the right track, Marian. It proves to me that good planning, dedication, not jumping the gun, having support around you, energy, and the necessary writing talent get you (us) where you (we) want. You are such an example of efficiency and inspiration – making things happen and succeeding in your goals and intentions. This is a great summary and you are well on your way of making those 50 reviews, I’m sure of it!
You are kind to send out positive vibes here and now. We all stand on the shoulders of other trailblazers, especially the authors I’ve learned to know (and pattern after) in this space. Thanks, Liesbet!
You will get there too one day. Of that I am sure. 🙂
I loved reading and reviewing your book. I even loved buying it, knowing the economic realities of a first-time writer first hand. I read slowly, taking in the stories, the cultural similarities and differences to my own girlhood, the family conflicts and strong feminine support.
Thank you for teaching me and thanks for your persistence in birthing and presenting your book. It takes so much focus to write a book, and then the fast change to a marketing expert. Step by step, it sounds like you’re getting there. I go back to the dedication to your grandchildren, the most important readers of all. What a gift you’ve given.
I am smiling at your statement about the economic realities of first-time authors. Yes, I’m still trying to re-coup my investment, now about 1/3 the way there. Even if I never recover the $$$, the legacy to my children is secure.
Often readers find it a chore reading and reviewing books. Apparently you didn’t. Maybe it helped that you knew our connections at the outset. I thought about the change from publishing to marketing, rather like taking a wee breath between two arduous tunnels: burrow-burrow-BREATHE-burrow-burrow again. In both instances, I’m discovering steep learning curves. Maybe the “stretch” will keep me sharp, in spite of the snafus.
I’ll say this. When I put my feet on the floor first thing in the morning, I definitely have purpose, much like you caring for monarchs this summer, doing workshops and now tussling with frisky Disco in this season.
Happy Thanksgiving, Elaine.