David and I returned from a trip to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It is always fun to travel with David. We tend to get into deep conversations on road trips, which I enjoy very much. And David and I are now co-presenters at the talks, given he wrote part of the book.
Our first presentation on this trip was in Manalapan, New Jersey, which is where the Monmouth County Library Headquarters is. We had nearly 200 people attend, and it was a very interested crowd. Here are a few photos of that event.
Photos by Donna Mansfield
The second presentation was at the Springfield Free Public Library in Springfield, New Jersey. We forgot to have someone take photos there. The audience was made up of 40 people.
And then on Sunday, after that presentation, we drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where we spent two days visiting bookstores, attending others' presentations, and I delivered a joint presentation with Shirley Hershey Showalter.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. David and I attended an event sponsored by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. Dr. Diane Zimmerman Umble from Millersville University, gave a lecture about the subject of the book she co-authored with David Weaver-Zercher, The Amish and the Media. I was very impressed with her thoughtful presentation. She understands many of the issues surrounding the Amish culture, even though she herself did not grow up Amish. If ever you have a chance to hear her speak, I would advise you to take it. You won't be sorry.
That same evening, we attended a talk by Shirley Hershey Showalter and Valerie Weaver-Zercher at the Mellinger Mennonite Church. Both of them spoke very eloquantly about being Mennonite writers. Shirley is the author of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World and Valerie is the author of Thrill of the Chaste.
While it was really fun to attend talks by others, my turn to be in the hot seat came on Tuesday night, when Shirley Showalter and I co-presented a talk sponsored by the Milanof-Schock Library held at the Mt. Joy Mennonite Church. Our talk was called Coverings: Amish and Mennonite Stories.
Shirley is a very accomplished and polished speaker and I had to talk myself out of becoming intimidated by that. But my natural inclination soon kicked in. The way my sister Sarah put it once before my first book came out, "I can just imagine when you get in front of an audience, you will be in your element." She knows me all too well–I've always liked an audience. I love the energy I receive from audiences, and this one, made up of nearly 200 people, was especially responsive.
Photo by David Furlong
One of the things that David and I came away with after our experiences in Pennsylvania, is how much we enjoyed being in and among Mennonites. We wish we lived near enough to a liberal Mennonite community to be able to join their worship services and be part of a their community. Who knows whether someday we will be.
I also wanted to mention that I had a television interview with Trang Do, a reporter from Fox43 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. You can hear that report here.
American Experience has published my Sticky Bun Recipe for those of you interested in trying your hand at making them.
The talks help get out the word about my books, as do the reports. But there is another aspect of publishing my new book that I appreciate immensely. The responses I've been getting from people everywhere about Bonnet Strings has moved me. Perhaps the most moving of all is that my sister, Sarah, has told me how much she loves the book. She said she could not put the book down. We had an hours-long conversation last night that delved into philosophical discussions, family relations, and many other subjects. This is very significant, because Sarah was very hurt by many of the things I wrote in my first memoir and it took two years for her to feel like she wanted to be in touch. I am very grateful that we have been able to mend our fences and for the relationship we now share.
I want to thank all of you who have shared your feelings about Bonnet Strings and about my part in the film "The Amish: Shunned" (avialable online for free until March 4). I have found myself moved to tears at times as I read your responses on my Author Page on Facebook, my blog, by email, or heard them on the phone, and in person. When I hear the various ways in which you are relating to my story, it is a wonderful affirmation that what I am doing is my life work.
As always, my dear readers, please know how much I appreciate your loyal support. Without you, I would not be writing. Many heartfelt thanks.