Can books have birthdays?

Of course! In just a few days, Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World celebrates her first birthday.  I’d love to have your help to think about an appropriate way to thank readers, celebrate story, and find an excuse to indulge in cake and punch. Or more sugar cookies.

Today I have an appointment to plan an event to take place September 18 at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community at 3 p.m.

My family helped bake and package cookies to make the occasion festive.

My family helped bake and package cookies to make the occasion festive. September 19, 2013

Looking backward:

  • A year ago, several hundred people had entered the 100 Day Challenge on this website and were helping to prepare the launch.
  • The launch itself packed out Lititz Mennonite Church. We sang, reminisced celebrated and connected. Time and space melted away. More than 140 copies of BLUSH were sold.
  • Since then, I’ve traveled about 10,000 miles and given scores of book talks, sermons, retreats, and readings.
  • My publisher Herald Press lists BLUSH among its bestsellers, and, every once in a while, Amazon (Mennonite category) does also. It’s in its third printing.
  • I’ve talked to many readers kind enough to tell me how they connected to my childhood. I cherish reader letters and emails too. Sometimes readers tell me they are writing their own stories. I always encourage them.

So, as I plan with the wonderful VMRC staff people, I’d love to hear from you, too, about which of these topics you find most interesting. I’ll use the feedback in selecting the topic, and, if one of these seems of high interest, I’ll come back here to write about it. Sorry about the virtual nature of the punch and cookies, but at least they won’t cause you to gain weight!

But if you want to enjoy your own sugar cookies from a distance, here’s the old family recipe printed in BLUSH.

Possible topics:

  1. Are you glad you wrote your memoir? What have been the chief rewards/disappointments?
  2. What did you discover about yourself, or any other subject, that you didn’t know before?
  3. What have you learned about memory, truth, love, grace, anger, reconciliation — the big subjects — by writing your own story?
  4. What disciplines did you use to get the writing, editing, and marketing done?
  5. What have you learned about/from your readers?
  6. Other — please specify!

Multiple choice seems only appropriate for a September blog. Please pick one and comment below.

For you memoirists reading this, please feel free to select one of the topics above and write a few sentences about it below, thus introducing yourself and YOUR work to the readers here.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Elfrieda Schroeder on September 3, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    I recently asked a friend of mine (who is writing her second historical novel) about how to begin the writing process. She said, “”start in the middle and don’t edit your work.” As you can see from my comment, I’m interested in topic #4, “What disciplines did you use to get the writing, editing and marketing done.” I’m procrastinating. Every day I write in my head, but it stays there! I think I need to be accountable to someone, that is how I wrote my academic papers and thesis work.

  2. shirleyhs on September 3, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks, Elfrieda, for starting us off! I think your friend has stumbled onto a fairly good method, though you may need to discover your own. I’ll be interested to see if other people choose #4. In the meantime, I like your own idea of creating a deadline and someone to stand in the place of your thesis advisor. When I was writing my dissertation, I tacked a really formidable photo of Susan B. Anthony above my desk. She glared at me and asked, every day, “How many pages did you write today?”

  3. Elfrieda Schroeder on September 3, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Shirley, the first picture of Susan B. Anthony on Wikipedia is scary enough to get anyone going!

  4. shirleyhs on September 3, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Ha ha! She was all spit and vinegar, judging from her pictures. Try putting her above your desk. See if the magic works.

  5. Elaine Mansfield on September 3, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    I wish I could be there–and I wish you could be at my book launch, too. Congratulations, Shirley. I imagine you’ve worked hard and thrived.

  6. Elaine Mansfield on September 3, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Writing ‘Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief’ helped me remember that love, grace, and beauty are available in the darkest moments if I remember to look for them. I miss having time for two walks a day and finishing everything on my to-do list..

    Coincidentally, when my husband was in Strong Hospital in Rochester, NY, and he was there a lot for a few years, I walked for an hour in Mount Hope Cemetery across the road from the hospital where I visited Susan B. Anthony’s grave many times. Frederick Douglas is another favorite buried there.

    • shirleyhs on September 4, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      Thanks for sharing this experience, including the fact that you walked by Susan B. Anthony’s grave (and Frederick Douglass’s) on a regular basis. Everything is connected!

      May these last intense weeks before the launch bring you joy that conquers stress. You have a still point at the center.

    • Elaine Mansfield on September 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Thank you, Shirley. So generous of you. This area of central NY State is full of women’s rights and equal right’s history. Mount Hope Cemetery was an early public cemetery, so all religious faiths are found there. I love that, plus the beautiful old trees.

  7. Laurie Buchanan on September 3, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Shirley – Happy Birthday BLUSH!

    WOW! — Thank you for sharing your great grandma’s sugar cake recipe. They’ll make a lovely addition to our “old regulars” during the holiday season.

    How COOL that you’re offering your readers the opportunity to share in the celebratory process:

    From your “List of Possible Topics,” I’m most interested in #2 first, and #1 second.

  8. Carol Bodensteiner on September 4, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    I join Laurie in voting for #2. What I discovered after writing my memoir was as interesting what I discovered as I wrote it. I’d love to know if you made surprising discoveries, too, about yourself, about your story, about others.

    • shirleyhs on September 4, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks, Carol. I’d love to hear about your #1 discovery or any of your discoveries. Have you ever blogged on this topic? My discoveries so far may seem relatively minor to other people, but they have made a big difference in how I understand my self. Thanks for playing!

  9. shirleyhs on September 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for making your selection of topics, Laurie. Of course you are interested in learning. You’ve been doing it all your life. I hope your memoir will be published some day in some form so that the rest of us can learn even more from your life. It’s not Tuesday if I don’t find Laurie’s blog post in my mailbox.

    Sugar cookies make great Holiday Treats. Hope you enjoy.

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