Magical Memoir Moments

Three Amazing God Stories from My Self-Chosen Amtrak Writer’s Residency

When we travel, we multiply the chances that we encounter a “once in a lifetime” event that defies all odds, seemingly flying to us on wings from the universe. I like to think of these times as God moments. Or, as my sister Doris says, “God’s poetry.” On our BookTourAnniversaryPalooza, on Amtrak, July 1-28, 2014,…

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My Amtrak Writer's Residency: Five Tips for Authors After 4,000 Superliner Miles

A few months ago, the online world buzzed with the news that Amtrak had decided to offer “residencies” —¬† a writer’s competition that offered free travel worth up to $900. Thousands applied, including me. The odds were stacked against winning, but the marketing campaign succeeded in reigniting my old dream of seeing the USA via…

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The Tie that Binds: How Mennonite College Friendships Grew from Twig to Vine

I’ve just said good-bye to my three closest college friends: Mary, Tina, and Gloria. We gathered in Gloria’s home, State College, Pennsylvania, just to renew our friendship for three days. This photo was taken next to a pergola covered with trumpet vine. The story of how the vine grew over time, told by Gloria the…

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Mennonite Memoir, Lutheran Setting, Universal Spirit: Reconnecting After Twenty Years

My Mennonite memoir had a Lutheran birthplace: Valparaiso University. I was a Senior Fellow in the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts (LFP), headquartered at Valparaiso, in 1994-95. The name Valparaiso means Vale of Paradise. Mark Schwehn, who led both Christ College and the LFP when I was there, wrote the book that…

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Book Expo America: Three Tips to Keep You from Going Broke or Crazy

It’s all Dan Blank’s fault. Dan’s an entrepreneur and heads a company called We Grow Media. Last year he wrote about experiences on the floor of the enormous Book Expo America (BEA) in his newsletter. New York, of course, where BEA usually takes place, is also the hub of the publishing industry in America. Dan’s…

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Happy Birthday, Bill Moyers! Eighty Years Young

I first met Bill Moyers while working at The Fetzer Institute, which helped to sponsor Bill Moyers Journal. What a pleasure! We’ve stayed friends even after the Journal went off the air. I’ve been watching Moyers & Company online. But last week, Stuart and I stopped in to see Bill and Judith at their offices…

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Why I Love to Travel and Why the Big Apple is a City Like No Other

Do you like travel stories? Some people hate to see the pictures their friends take on vacation. I’m personally¬† the opposite . . . as long as I get to hear good stories. I especially love small world/chance encounter tales. Yesterday Serendipity bopped us on the head –over and over. Meet Jamie. He’s a doctor…

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Not Quite Amish: Photos of Simplicity Rooted in a Mennonite Childhood

I like the honesty of this website name: Not Quite Amish. Here’s the explanation of the name from the home page: Maybe you’d like to be Amish…but not quite. You want more peace in your life, in your home, in your family, and in your heart. You want to try a new recipe and pick…

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On the Road Again: Coming to a City Near You?

Forty-five years ago, these two merry wanderers decided to set off on the journey of life together: We used the image of the Conestoga Wagon to dream together, having been influenced by the story that a Mennonite invented the wagon, and having read lots of Little House on the Prairie books, we somehow associated freedom,…

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Are You a Pantser or a Plotter? Approaches to Memoir Writing and Life

Among writers, the question is this one: Are you a pantser or a plotter? When I first heard this question, I immediately linked it to my graduate adviser at the University of Texas at Austin. After I passed my Ph.D. exams, he said, Just think of finishing your dissertation this way: put your seat in…

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