Last October, I told you, dear Reader, that I was working on another book. I announced that another book was coming down the pipeline with a quilt motif. You can read about my proposal again HERE. In fact, it was prophesied that Book #2 would be published soon. You may have thought the publication would be available within months. Initially, I imagined creating a compilation of readers’ favorite blog posts, organized by theme. I thought I’d be near the finish line by now.
Early this year, (January through March) I interrupted my work on the project because I got curious “translating” Aunt Ruthie’s diary, recording the years 1935-1939 when she was between ages 17 and 21. It was a tedious process, though a revelatory one, discovering my aunt acted like a teenager. Her entries documented her mood-swings and expressed “huge” disappointments.
When I gave the transcription to my friend Colleen to read, she let me know that there were big gaps in her understanding. The diary didn’t make sense to her. “I don’t know what you are saying,” she commented. What I learned: Though I as writer and close relative who understood the Mennonite culture, the era my aunt grew up in, and her personality, her diary entries could not stand alone on the page without more context and narrative development. To succeed, I’d have to write a series of stories, using her blog posts as anchor points.
That meant I had to write connective “tissue” – additional narration, so the story would make sense to a reader who didn’t grow up in the era, or within the Mennonite culture for that matter. The re-vamp would take a lot more time.
I felt overwhelmed because devoting my energy to this would divert me from my original intention. My conclusion: set aside the project for now and get back to publishing a collection of popular blog posts.
A New Direction
Thus, in May I returned to work on the project already in the pipeline, the one with the proposed title, My Checkered Life: Heritage, Hassles, and Hilarity. I had taken blog posts from 2013-2021 and organized them thematically. Two beta readers, Sally Constain and Anni Rawcliffe from the Riverwood Writers’ Club read my manuscript and offered helpful suggestions. In July I sent my slightly revised manuscript to my developmental editor, Susan Weidener, who suggested an altogether different route to publication:
Fashion the blog posts into a second memoir, pulling in blog posts chronologically to narrate my new life in Florida after I got married, had children, and developed a career.
WHY NOT? Her suggestion made sense to me. And so, I changed direction.
Now my Introduction reads . . .
My Checkered Life is a sequel to my memoir, Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl. The narrative continues in this volume, using modified stories from my blog, Plain and Fancy along with new writing. My Checkered Life: Heritage, Hassles, and Hilarity portrays the highs and lows of a woman, wife and mother who is curious about the world and the people in it. Though my first memoir recalls my early life, this book focuses more on what happened after I, at age twenty-six, married the man whose first portrait of me was a spoof: a goofy cartoon elephant with a blue bow around its neck.
What is Emerging
- The original quilt metaphor
- A narrative thread following chronological structure with three main themes
- A heritage section to include ancestry from my husband’s family
- A few lurid details
- More of artist Cliff’s paintings and drawings, like this
Photos from the Beaman side of the family, Cliff’s mother, Viola Beaman and her parents, Albert and Bertha Koethe on their wedding day
“A miraculous event unfolds when we throw the lead of our personal story into the transformative flames of creativity. Our hardship is transmuted into something golden.” ~ Richard Rohr, Fallow Time
Coming soon: My Cover Reveal!