Melodie Davis’ Memoir of an Unimagined Career

Unlike most of us, author Melodie M. Davis can locate the exact day and place when the shape of her vocation came to her. She was gathering eggs in the chicken house on the family farm when she wrote these words:

“On this day, November 18, 1967, Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m., I decided what I want to be: a Christian writer.”


Memoir of an Unimagined Career by Melodie M. Davis

Memoir of an Unimagined Career by Melodie M. Davis

Having announced her calling at the tender age of 16, Melodie Miller might have continued on a straight line to authorship.  Instead, she accepted one invitation after graduating from college that turned into a winding journey through an evolving institution now called MennoMedia. Her memoir, detailing all the paths along the way to her final destination, is called Memoir of an Unimagined Career.   Spoiler alert: she also achieved her goal.

This book will be of most interest to Mennonites because of its focus on what it was like to work within the changing environment for media in the church.  Mennonite Broadcasts, Mennonite Board of Missions Media Ministries, Mennonite Media, Third Way Media, MennoMedia have all been located in Harrisonburg, VA. Melodie Davis was able to remain in her Virginia home and to adjust to all the variations above as the church offered books, documentaries, television programs, websites and even ads for two audiences: church members and others interested in the values of the church, or just curious about a small and little-known denomination. Davis was above all a flexible employee who eagerly jumped in to new opportunities and ended up staying for 43 years –her whole career. She became a columnist and an author of several books, fulfilling her dream. The story she tells here will serve as a history of the organization until a more official one may be written some day.

But history of an organization is not what interests readers most in memoir. We like to meet a real person, and Melodie Miller Davis fits that bill. She is wide-eyed all the way through the book, from the farm to her various brushes with big-city media people. She never loses her enthusiasm and sense of awe that she got to travel, learn new skills, represent her faith group, and navigate bumps and bruises that are part of the learning process.

As a Mennonite, I traveled down memory lane with the author, remembering the various ways the church sought both nurture and outreach over the years. The story of the controversial ad below shows how the church struggled to find language for its identity as most Mennonites moved from the farm to professions and businesses and yet tried to be true to values like service, generosity, and peace. The ad drew criticism from within the church for its “beefcake” imagery and for its cost. Author Davis accepts the criticism and moves on, a pattern throughout the book.

1993 ad that ran in Newsweek in six states

1993 ad that ran in Newsweek in the six states with the most Mennonite churches: Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio.

Photos like the one above throughout the book add much depth and interest, especially as we witness the author in various roles, using the latest technology of the time. Readers will want the author to succeed in her effort to become a writer while also becoming an administrative assistant, speaker, editor, blogger, and Jill-of-all trades. Melodie has been a frequent commenter on this blog, and I highly recommend this book to those who have been reading my posts and to readers who enjoyed my memoir, Blush.

I am sure Melodie would be happy to answer any questions that you might have about her memoir here.

I’m intrigued by rediscovering the ad above. Would you want to visit a Mennonite Church if you saw this ad in 2022? What would attract you? Repel you? Make you shrug your shoulders?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Melodie on August 16, 2022 at 12:56 pm

    Is it ok to be the first to comment?? I do want to thank you for this very well done review, as usual! I loved the things you brought out and your probing question at the end. (And I’ll take this opportunity to let readers know the 800 number on the ad no longer works but there are people at Mennonite Church USA ( who would help you find a Mennonite church! (Oops, I’m slipping back into my old work mold here — now retired a couple years!) And I am not bonafide Mennonite anymore, been a member of a Presbyterian Church for 40 couple years.

    You point to several things well: yes, probably Mennonites will be the most interested. But I hope it also helps anyone searching for a job or career path to realize that most of us–when we put our minds and hearts to it–find something that connects and works! Thanks for spreading the word. I’m doing a launch on by blog/column [and giveaways] the next two weeks so thanks for the boost.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 16, 2022 at 4:54 pm

      Of course you may start things off, Melodie. And thanks for clarifying how people can reach the Mennonite Church-USA today. I consider you a hybrid Mennonite. Even though you are an active member of a local Presbyterian Church, you have been in constant contact with the Mennonite Church and with Mennonites all through those 43 years.

      Yes, I think stories of people’s careers are always fascinating, regardless of their religious affiliation. I know I would never have guessed, in 1969, where I would end up. Like you, I get a lot of joy looking back and seeing how one thing led to another even though I did not plan it or even see it at the time.

      Best wishes on your launch. I hope your book finds many readers.

  2. Marian Beaman on August 16, 2022 at 1:32 pm

    Like you and Melodie, I am a “cradle” Mennonite, born and bred in the Anabaptist culture. Many of the settings and personalities are recollections in my memory, having grown up in Pennsylvania and contributed Bible studies to Sunday School quarterlies when the publishing name was Herald Press.

    Melodie asked me to read her memoir in order to write a blurb. But as you remarked, organizational history is not what interests readers most in memoir. Melodie portrays herself as vulnerable and authentic, divulging facets of her personality in chapters with titles like “The Diaper that Missed the Trash Can at O’Hare” and “Sex, Violence, and Videotape,” and yes, “Muscular Mennos: Newsweek and Beyond.” About the Newsweek ad, I see the image more as a handsome hunk rather than a servant of the Lord. But it is eye-catching. I’ll have to return to catch comments from other readers.

    I gave Melodie’s memoir five-stars. She has earned it: a well-researched piece of Mennonite history, which portrays the brave, personal story of an admirable woman in a rewarding but competitive career.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 16, 2022 at 4:58 pm

      Marian, I am glad you added these great chapter titles. You remind me that there is a lot of droll humor in the book, something that readers always love.

      Isn’t it fascinating how all three of us started out by reading the novels of Christmas Carol Kauffman and ended up as bloggers. 🙂

      I have also left a review on Amazon and will add one on Goodreads. I agree she earned the five stars.

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