Forty-five years ago, these two merry wanderers decided to set off on the journey of life together:

Stuart and Shirley whirling

Stuart and Shirley whirling, 1969. Beside the barn on the Home Place.

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, love, and joy with travel and with the West.

Now that we have resettled in the East, and now that we have traveled together for 45 years, we decided to celebrate this anniversary by doing a huge summer tour, using Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World as an excuse to set up book talks along the way. Before our special date of August 2 arrives, we will have visited seven churches, a retirement community, three historical societies, several colleges and universities, and many bookstores.

We’ll also do a lot of sightseeing in the cities below, visit many friends, and spend two days in Glacier National Park.

You can find the full itinerary of speaking engagements on this page on my website. But here is a list of places we will be starting this weekend:

1. May 17, noon, Harleysville, Pennsylvania, The Mennonite Heritage Center

2. May 18, morning, Blooming Glen, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Church

3. May 27, 7 p.m., The Cell Theatre, 23rd St., New York, NY

4. June 1, 5-7 p.m., The Friends Meetinghouse (Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship), 15 Rutherford Place, New York, NY

5. June 4, noon, Samaritan Center fundraiser, Elkhart, IN

6. June 5, 10 a.m., Greencroft Retirement Community, Goshen, IN

7. June 5, 7 p.m., Kazoo Books, Kalamazoo, MI

8. June 30, 1 p.m. Harrisonburg, VA Public Library

9. July 6, morning, Portland Mennonite Church, Portland, OR

10. July 6, Pacific Northwest Mennonite Historical Society, near Zion Mennonite Church

11. July 9, 7 p.m., Third Place Books, Seattle.

12. July 11  7 p.m. House of James Book Store and Café, Abbottsford, BC, Canada.

13. July 13, morning, Vancouver, BC, Point Grey Inter-Mennonite Fellowship

14. July 20, morning, Faith Mennonite Church, Minneapolis

15. July 26 Workshop From Perplexed to Published, Squirrel Hill Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh

15. July 27 morning, Pittsburgh Mennonite Church Sunday School

Instead of a Conestoga Wagon, we’ll be traveling by Amtrak. We got a 30-day pass and will be on two scenic routes. The Coast Starlight along the Pacific Ocean. We won’t be waiting to be selected into the Amtrak Writers Residency program. We’ve made our own!

And the Empire Builder from west coast to east coast. We will be using Superliner Roomettes, like the one in this video:

Will we be coming to a city near you? I’d love to see you! Ask us, and Stuart and I might even try that whirling thing again.

Have you taken a long train ride? Have any advice for us? I will probably blog about the trip, so send me your questions, too!

Shirley Showalter


  1. Dorit Sasson on May 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Love this post! Sounds so exciting. Maybe I’ll see you at the Pittsburgh event? Do you have a link to the event for directions and what-not?
    Dorit Sasson
    Giving Voice to Your Story

  2. shirleyhs on May 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Oh, Dorit, thanks for reminding me. I need to add an event for July 26. Sharon Lippincott asked me to join her for a special workshop at the Squirrel Hill library 9-12. I need to get a better link, but here’s the description:

    From Perplexed to Published: How to

    Polish Your Writing to a Shine

    Have you found it difficult to move from rough draft to published work? Shirley Showalter, author of the award-winning memoir Blush, knows all about this from personal experience, and she found a solution that’s helped countless students in her memoir classes. In this session she’ll share key points to make the SCORE approach work for you:

    • “S_ _ _ _ _Rough Draft” Anne Lammott’s famous phrase from Bird by Bird.

    • Create some distance from the draft.

    • Other trusted writers can give you feedback. So can members of your potential

    • Re-write by eliminating unnecessary words, strengthening verbs, borrowing grace,

    • Edit. On your own, with writing groups, or hire an excellent editor.

    Before long, you will be collecting clips and using them to write a book proposal!

  3. Marian Beaman on May 14, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    On our first trip to Europe, Cliff and I traveled using Eurail Pass and loved it. If I were blogging back then, I’d tell of tricky track crossings and one big “miss” all in the name of adventure.

    Enjoy your travels with easy rider Stuart. Remember to sing: “Life is like a mountain railroad . . . .”

    • shirleyhs on May 14, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      You made me smile, as usual, Marian. I think I can keep going with that song: “with an engineer that’s brave.”

      And here’s Patsy Cline. Gotta love both the song and the singer. Willie Nelson too! Remixed after her death.

      “Keep YOUR hand upon the throttle and your eye upon the wheel.” I know you are.

  4. Saloma Furlong on May 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Just love that photo! You were both just kids. And what a waistline you had… Baby! I love the joy on your face. And I really want to see Stuart’s!

    Safe and happy travels to you both. David and I did a 17-hour trip (that was just one way) from Banff, Alberta to Vancouver and back for our honeymoon. It was fabulous! I have no doubt you two will have lots of fun! Can’t wait to hear about it.

    • shirleyhs on May 14, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Yep. Just Kids. With a little less notoriety than Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith but with some of the same longings for truth and beauty.

      It was fun to discover the photo in our collection of slides. Oh the waistlines of our youths! Back then, I was trying to match my mother’s wedding day weight of 117. I made it to 118 without too much work — pre-wedding planning and bliss made food seem inconsequential. Think that could happen again?

      Banff is on my bucket list. Sounds like a wonderful place. Blessings to you and David on your own trip.

  5. Laurie Buchanan on May 14, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Shirley – Wowee, Kazowee! From sea to shining sea — you’ve got a quiver full of wonderful book talks lined up! I am particularly eyeing July 6 in Portland, and July 9 in Seattle (not confirmed yet). By then, Len and I may be up for a little road trip! We have never been on an extended train ride like the one you and Stuart are going to enjoy. Advance congratulations on 45 years of marriage — my hat is off to you!

  6. shirleyhs on May 14, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Laurie, it would be wonderful to meet in person! That would be a true “Wowee Kazowee!”

    Thanks for even thinking about making a trip to either Portland (for the Sunday service) or Seattle. I’ll keep you in the loop as the plans solidify.

  7. Valerie Rind on May 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Oh Shirley, I wish you were stopping closer to Washington, DC – it would be great to meet! Have a wonderful trip. Safe travels.

    • shirleyhs on May 14, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      Valerie, I live so close to DC (two hours via I-66 and I-81), but, strangely, I haven’t yet had an event there. Another friends wants me to come to Hyattsville. Maybe it can happen this fall. Thanks so much for letting me know you’d like to meet. I’d love to.

  8. Sherrey Meyer on May 14, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Shirley, you already now I am excited about your stop in Portland on July 6, but you may not know that twice I have traveled the Empire Builder west to east and back again. It’s a lovely trip. I know you and Stuart will enjoy it so much. What a grand way to celebrate your 45th! Look forward to seeing you in Portland. Safe travels!

    • shirleyhs on May 14, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      Yippee! Sherrey. This is so wonderful. What a delight it will be to see you. And we will want to soak up all your tips for how to get the most out of the Empire Builder experience.

      Right after we bought our tickets, we got a message that said due to budget concerns, they were cutting back on the complimentary wine and cheese evenings. 🙁

  9. Patti Hall on May 14, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    What a fantastic tour! Congratulations on such a long and happy marriage. Happy travels,

    • shirleyhs on May 14, 2014 at 7:23 pm

      Thanks, Patti. So good to have your comments here. Hope you got an idea for your own writing. And thanks for your good wishes.

  10. Linda Gartz on May 14, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    What a fun trip–and promoting your book to boot! We’re near Chicago and its north shore suburbs. Comin’ my way?

    • shirleyhs on May 14, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      Actually, Linda. We will have a few days in Chicago. I don’t have any book events lined up, so I didn’t mention the stop. Lets connect on email. Maybe we can have lunch on the Magnificent Mile!

  11. Kathleen Pooler on May 14, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    What a wonderful story, Shirley. I’m sorry Upstate NY is not on your itinerary but you have a fantastic journey to look forward to with so many things to celebrate at once–anniversary, book tours and seeing our beautiful country. Perhaps there’ll be enough fodder for another memoir. 🙂 Happy travels!

    • shirleyhs on May 14, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      Thanks, Kathy. Don’t think your location fits this time, but never say never, right? I know you are busy, busy as you get closer and closer to publication. Hope you plan yourself a fun trip like this one, and if you include Virginia on it, just let me know.

      Yes, our beautiful country. I think trains are especially good for that purpose, don’t you?

  12. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on May 14, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I’m thrilled to have you two travelers in my city and home for 24 hours on a special day, celebrating our interdependence.

    • shirleyhs on May 15, 2014 at 8:12 am

      See you soon in Oakland, Dolores. What a fun time we will have. Interdependence Day! Love it.

  13. Barbara McDowell Whitt on May 14, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    Shirley, this is amazing. Just this morning my husband and I had a computer Facetime chat with our daughter and granddaughter. Our daughter confirmed that their daughter’s child caretaker’s last day taking care of Natalie will be June 30 before she leaves for July and August in her homeland, Ethiopia. That means that, if my husband’s sister’s health holds out, he and I should be able to time our return to Virginia so we can hear your talk at the Harrisonburg, VA, Public Library on June 30. It is so special that you and Stuart are going to the west coast on Amtrak to celebrate your 45th wedding anniversary. Bill and I will be celebrating our 42nd anniversary on June 17. We traveled west from Kansas City on our wedding trip. We hiked to the top of Pike’s Peak and to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. He hiked back down Pike’s Peak while I came down on the cog railway. We both climbed back to the rim of the Grand Canyon. I’m eager to hopefully get to meet you on June 30.

    • shirleyhs on May 15, 2014 at 8:19 am

      Barbara, you have the same adventuring spirit and started off your own marriage with incredible challenges. I guess you figured that if you could do Pike’s Peak and the Grand Canyon together, you could surmount all the other challenges life would throw at you. Apparently, it worked!

      The event here in Harrisonburg will be at 1 p.m. I will be speaking with a poet whose book will be brand new. We will be talking about the nature of childhood, how it forms us whether our experiences were positive or negative, and how we can make art out of either.

  14. Diana Zimmerman on May 14, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    Congratulations to you and Stuart! I hope you have wonderful adventures! The last time I took a significant train trip, I was a starving college student in Europe with a Eur-rail pass living on water and Toblerone 🙂 and I envy you. I hope I will be able to catch up with you in person when you are here on the west coast… Seattle is a fun city!

    • shirleyhs on May 15, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Thanks, Diana. Wow, what a diet. Hope it didn’t last too long. I admire your tremendous spunk, something your own childhood memoir documents beautifully. Readers of this blog are going to love your book, Diana; I hope you can keep coming back to keep us updated on your book launch.

  15. John Otto on May 15, 2014 at 12:45 am

    Rosalee and I rode the Empire Builder west last summer. It was great. One of the unexpected pleasures was the people we met during our meals. Since you will be in Chicago, you do need to ride the City of New Orleans down to Champaign-Urbana for a day or two. I’m sure we can work with your friend, Janet, to set up a reading here.

    • shirleyhs on May 15, 2014 at 8:36 am

      Thanks, John, I have heard others say the same about the dining car and observation car experiences. A good place to make new friends.

      Thanks so much for the invitation to take another train trip down state. That sounds like great fun. I do hope to get to Champaign/Urbana sometime in the next year and will hope to see you then! Thanks for the comment!

  16. Jane Pinel on May 15, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Best wishes Shirley and congratulations on your 45th wedding anniversary. What an adventure you will have together on this trip. Happy traveling.

    • shirleyhs on May 15, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Thanks for your good wishes, Jane. Your sweet spirit penetrates the miles.

  17. Shirley on May 15, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Advise for a long train ride? Wear something that does not bind, pinch, squeeze or poke you.

    • shirleyhs on May 15, 2014 at 9:00 am

      Thanks, Shirley. I am a lover of elastic bands around the waist and tank tops that double as bras. I’ll love them even more after this trip! Thanks for a good reminder and for stopping by. Always love your comments.

  18. Carol Bodensteiner on May 15, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    What a wonderful trip. I wish Des Moines (Osceola) was on your Amtrak itinerary. We’re going to Glacier in June, too. We’ll have to compare notes.

    • shirleyhs on May 15, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Carol, I’m hopeful that I will get to Des Moines on another trip. When you’ve been to Glacier, I hope you’ll write about it. Just in time for us! Thanks for stopping by and all the best with your travels.

  19. April Yamasaki on May 16, 2014 at 2:29 am

    Hi Shirley, I am SO looking forward to seeing you in Abbotsford, and hope to confirm something soon for a joint event. More on that later! In the meantime this sounds like such a special trip– congratulations, and enjoy!

    • shirleyhs on May 16, 2014 at 6:49 am

      April, thanks so much for looking for a venue and an audience in Abbottsford. I should say right now that a trip like this can’t happen without scores of people working in tandem — across two countries! You are so gracious to take on this task. And the best part? We get to hold conversations face to face instead of online. So excited that that can happen.

  20. Sharon Leaf on May 16, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Your trip sounds wonderful! My hubby has been wanting to do this with my book so I’ll be following you via Facebook. We got hooked on trains when we took the Trans-Siberian railway through Siberia in ’92. Wish you were coming down South Carolina way…maybe next time? I wish you smooth sailing and oceans of blessings on your journey.

  21. shirleyhs on May 16, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Hi, Sharon. Wow, Trans-Siberian. Now THAT was an adventure.

    As for South Carolina, one possibility is next January when we head to Sarasota (see the event page highlighted above). We haven’t decided about mode of transport yet.

    Hope to see you on FB as we make our way west, north, and then east again. Thanks so much for letting me know of your interest.

  22. Richard Gilbert on May 17, 2014 at 4:33 am

    You seem to be skipping Ohio, Shirley, but what an amazing itinerary you have got going. Looks like such fun. Relax—budget lots of time to gaze out the window of those trains, an open book on your lap.

    • shirleyhs on May 17, 2014 at 6:12 am

      Thanks, Richard, for the reminder to bask and not rush. One of the thing I love about train travel is that it encourages revery.

      As for Ohio, I hope to arrange a trip there in the fall. I’ll keep you posted.

  23. Elaine Mansfield on May 21, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Not close to me, unfortunately. I’m in the Finger Lakes of NY near Ithaca. Train doesn’t go through here. My husband and I read all the Little House books aloud to each other before bed when we first bought 70 acres and a falling down 200-year-old farm house in 1972. We loved the one about her husband’s childhood in northern NY. Sounds like you have a wonderful adventure planned with your favorite traveling companion. I bought your book with it’s beautiful cover. Buying is the first step to reading, although I read the first pages and already know it will be a treat. Thanks, Elaine

  24. shirleyhs on May 21, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Elaine, thank you so much for coming along on metaphorical journeys even though the literal one won’t likely happen for a while. I love the thought of husband and wife reading books, especially a “children’s book” as classic as this one is. And I want to stay in touch. Thanks so much for your visits today. I’m off to see what you’ve been up to lately.

    Thanks, too, for the lovely comment about Blush. May it bless your life.

  25. Melodie Davis on May 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    I was out of town (via train) and mostly offline when this came out but it sounds grand. I had some great conversations and know you will too. I said it is one of the few remaining places where strangers seem willing to converse with each other anymore. 1.5 hrs late going out but only 10 minutes late coming back from Elkhart to Martinsburg. I’m sure you will have a great time.

    • shirleyhs on May 21, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      When we strike up an especially rich conversation, I’ll think of you, Melodie. I imagine that you’ve taken advantage of the train many times. I hope your mother was well!

      The lateness factor could be a problem. Fortunately, we usually have flexible plans around arrival times. It will be interesting to see how much we sleep in the sleeper cars.

  26. […] her unique slant on the visual and inner worlds. She’s the kind of friend who reads about a book tour and drives all the way from Boise to attend a book talk in Seattle. I’ll never forget that […]

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