How to do a book launch and not blush.

Today is a big day for Herald Press/MennoMedia and we are excited to get the word out to everyone as much as possible!

It is the official publication date for Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World by Shirley Hershey Showalter. Finally.

IMG_8821Along the way there was a live-streamed online unveiling of the cover design (by Merrill Miller), discussing the long process of evaluating and redoing covers as author, publisher, and marketing come to agreement.

Backing up even further, Shirley went through a huge project of reading 100 memoirs and reviewing most of them at her blog, www.ShirleyShowalter.com. Yes, 100 memoirs. Some of them great, some of them not quite as great, I’m sure, but she did it to learn all she could about the memoir writing process and what was out there, even producing a small free booklet on “How to write a memoir.”

She then kind of went into hibernation, if you can do that in Brooklyn, N.Y., while taking a year to be Granny Nanny to her first grandchild, Owen. Many of us followed that blog too (now closed). She spent parts of her days taking care of the newborn and helping him discover first his fingers, then his family, then the big beautiful world out there.

Back in her newly adopted home of Harrisonburg, Va. (after a number of years in Goshen as president of Goshen College) and other places, she labored and stewed and produced draft after draft of Blush which had numerous names (like most books do) along the way.

She started exchanging ideas and plans almost weekly on Google Hangout with marketing director Ben Penner. She’s become a social media guru, tweeting through seminars, giving thoughtful and genuine comments on blogs everywhere, game for any promotion suggestion.
IMG_3117Ervin Stutzman and Shirley Showalter discuss their books in progress at the Mennonite Convention in Phoenix in July, picking up many pre-orders.

A small production crew of Wayne Gehman and Jerilyn Schrock put together a heartfelt and beautiful book trailer video.

An official launch party at—where else—her home church, Lititz Mennonite, Pennsylvania, in her childhood home community, is set for Thursday night September 19. Shirley and her husband Stuart, mother, friends, family and probably some people she’s never met are enroute as I write this. Shirley will also be making stops and appearances in Ohio and Indiana: see the current schedule here.

Staff had fun shipping out all those pre-orders this past Monday, (or at least posing for it)

IMG_8721and enjoying a coffee break with the busy author-marketer-speaker-book signer.

IMG_8765Endorsements from the likes of Bill Moyers and Parker Palmer are here. And lovely reviews have started coming in, too: from blogger Marion Roach Smith (with a chapter excerpt) and Melanie Springer Mock, and Jo-Ann Greene of the Lancaster, Pa. papers.

GoodReads is giving away 20 books and the entries are adding up. (You can enter too, here, closing Sept. 22.)

Books such as this that have potential to reach a market far beyond the Mennonite church receive a little more marketing attention from the publisher than some others, but truth be told, Shirley has done so much (with the help of her marketing–savvy daughter, Kate) to personally get the word out using almost every available form of media today (many of them free, beyond the price of your Internet connection). Shirley has personally given a 100+ effort.

Promoting one’s own book can be uncomfortable for many of us, especially Mennonites (see more on humility in an earlier Mennobytes blogpost by Blush editor Byron Rempel-Burkholder). We’re told not to brag or draw attention to ourselves. But selling a good book that draws attention to this faith group and ultimately God, Jesus, and a lot of good folks who try to follow the Christian path, is what this faith is all about–sharing it with others. No blushing. (You can order it here, through a local bookstore, or on Amazon.)

IMG_8700And P.S.: The real shipper of many of those pre-orders for Blush is here in the center, in a black top, between Shirley Showalter and publisher Russ Eanes: Beth Nealon. Others in back rows: Neal Weaver, IT, Melodie Davis, marketing/editorial, Jerilyn Schrock, marketing, and Merrill Miller, designer.

Melodie Davis, Mennobytes Blog coordinator

Visiting Amazing People in an Amazing Place – Saskatchewan by Steve Carpenter

Imagine discovering your seat mate on a long flight from Denver to Saskatchewan turns out to know one of the very persons you plan to visit on your trip.

As MennoMedia’s Director of Development, I have the privilege of visiting our donors and supporting churches throughout Canada and the United States. In late August I traveled, for the first time, to Saskatchewan from Virginia, a distance of more than 2,000 miles. For the geographically challenged, Saskatchewan is the Canadian province located above Montana and North Dakota in the U.S. It has a strong agricultural economic base harvesting grains from the rich prairie soil.

City of Saskatoon Ron Garnett

City of Saskatoon from the east by Ron Garnett

Sidestory: The trip almost did not happen. I rose early on Monday morning, and drove to an airport about 20 minutes away, arriving at 5:45 a.m. to catch a 6:30 flight. As soon as I arrived at the airport counter I realized I didn’t have my passport. I immediately called my wife, who was at home in bed, and without even saying “good morning” told her, “I forgot my passport. The only chance I have of catching this flight is if you deliver it to me!” She rushed to the airport and got me my passport at 6:12 am. The man at the counter graciously accepted my bag and I made the flight with 2 minutes to spare!

During the final leg of my flight, from Denver to Saskatoon (a city of about 250,000 located on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River), I sat beside an older gentleman who was returning home. We didn’t talk much until the last 10 minutes or so of the flight. When he learned I worked for an agency of the Mennonite Churches he enthusiastically told me about a Mennonite pastor with whom he had worked ministering in the Saskatoon prison. My traveling companion, a psychologist and Catholic, said the elderly Mennonite pastor had a long white beard. He described him as “very humble” but he couldn’t remember his name. He asked me “What are the most common Mennonite names beside John?” (How do you answer such a question? Menno?)

Eventually he recalled the pastor’s name – Vern Ratzlaff. I had not yet met Vern but we had a breakfast appointment two days hence. I only knew he was the pastor of the Aberdeen Mennonite Church, a small community about 30 minutes northeast of Saskatoon. On Wednesday morning, when I walked into the restaurant, I immediately recognized Vern. He looked and acted just like the Catholic traveler had described. I told Vern that his reputation had preceded him. That’s no small thing in such a large city.

Another fascinating couple was David and Sue Neufeld. They served for three years as Mennonite Central Committee volunteers in India and Vietnam. Now living in the remote Herschel village, which has fewer than 100 residents, they have been instrumental in helping to put it on the map in two very different ways.

Herschel Retreat HouseFirst, over a period of 5 years they built the Herschel Retreat House on four acres on the southern edge of the village with a vision to use it as a spiritual retreat center. Using largely recycled materials they fashioned a rustic yet comfortable place which is available for church retreats, corporate strategic planning getaways, and family reunions. They also rent it to hunters who fill the place for nearly two months every fall during hunting season. These paying customers provide the financial base to keep the house open and available throughout the year for other purposes.

AncientEchos

Ancient Echoes Interpretive Centre

The other dream into which David and Sue poured their lives, was the creation of the Ancient Echoes Interpretative Centre on the edge of Coal Mine Ravine. David now chairs the centre’s board. Housed in an abandoned elementary school, the centre’s displays highlight Aboriginal heritage, fossils and prairie life. A particularly striking exhibit was a series of paintings by Jo Cooper, a First Nations artist from the Metis clan, called “The Disappearance and Resurgence of the Buffalo.”

Petroglyph

Petroglyph

The center boasts several petroglyphs. According to their web site “The largest petroglyph (dolostone carving, dating back 1500 years) is a triangular-shaped rock that faces due east. Deep lines are carved on the face, along with what appear to be two split hooves. Dozens of circular cupules have also been carved. While the precise meaning is still a mystery, interpretations suggest this was a symbol for the bison, or a teaching stone that represents the life and culture of the people that were so dependent on the bison.”

Plesiosaur

Plesiosaur

But that’s not all. The Centre is operated primarily by volunteers and houses a popular Tea Room serving coffee, tea, and homemade Saskatoon berry pies. It has several never-before-seen fossils, discovered in the Coal Mine Ravine, immediately behind the Center. In the mid 1990s paleontologists uncovered three plesiosaurs. Dr. Sato researched the bones and named the new sub-species after Herschel where they were discovered. The dinosaurs measured from 2 to 9 meters (10-50 feet) and were estimated to have lived about 65 million years ago.

I was amazed at what this couple did with a vision and lots of energy, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I felt like I’d uncovered some rare species too: amazing donors in a distant (to me) land. They were all an inspiration to me, and I hope to you too.

Steve C 2012

Steve Carpenter, MennoMedia’s Director of Development

Who posts the quotes for the Third Way Cafe Facebook page?

ThirdWayCafeFBPage

The Third Way Café (TWC) Facebook page passed something of a milestone last weekend, 1,000 likes. No, this is not a Sally Fields moment nor does it even come close to our most popular MennoMedia-related Facebook page, Mennonite Girls Can Cook (at 15,690 likes and counting) but if you’ve ever wondered how the daily quotations at TWC Facebook are chosen and who posts them, here is where you find out.

The longtime, nerdy-cool webmaster for Third Way Café, Russ Neufeld, quietly launched a Facebook page for the website back in 2009 (the website itself was launched in 1998).

RussNeufeld

Almost without trying, the FB page quickly grew to 300 some likes (in the days when that WAS something). After the initial rush of many Third Way Café fans suddenly discovering Facebook and how it could connect people, the growth inched along. No one on staff quite knew what to do with a Facebook page beside like it. Promote new posts at the website, products? Mehhh. Not cool all the time.

In June of 2011, yours truly began posting a regular quote of the day, published sometime between 8-9 a.m. (ET) five days a week, with a respite on weekends. I think many of us like a social media Sabbath over the weekend anyway. I also try to post another midday link with an item of interest to Third Way Café followers sometime after lunch. Some days that doesn’t happen, depending on what’s on my schedule. (Just discovered something: I had no idea when the regular quotes actually began and didn’t really want to scroll or wade through years of posts on the TWC FB page but I just found a handy archival tool, broken down by “years” and “months” on the right side of the FB page. Great for finding your old posts!)

Hunting for a quote to use has become like a meditation time for me at the start of the day, using first of all my own personal library of Anabaptist/Mennonite writings from my college days at Eastern Mennonite University (and I thank myself frequently for being that much of a packrat—how many old college texts actually get used?).

My shelves.

My shelves.

And now I also have access to shelves holding all or most of the current Herald Press books that are in print.

Sept12_2013 101

Staff shelves.

Sept12_2013 100

Archival collection.

Then there is also a vast library of old and historic Mennonite and Anabaptist volumes (kept under lock and key, so I don’t use them, but I could) ever since the MennoMedia merger joining Third Way Media and Mennonite Publishing Network.

But I try to vary the sources, including current quotes from writers/columnists in Mennonite World Review, bloggers, and my old fallback, the 366 Ways to Peace perpetual calendar that I spent years collecting and a few more years finding a publisher. Eventually Herald Press published it (long before the merger) and since all of the quotes focus on peace, they frequently make suitable quotes for Third Way Café. The afternoon links which I post with more general news of Mennonites frequently come from a Google Alert I’ve set up that brings a weekly digest every time the term “Mennonites” is used anywhere on the web. If you want you want to keep your eyes out for any particular topic or name or whatever, they are easy to set up.

The nice thing about the friends of Third Way Café is that they’ve been added mostly one “like” at a time, through your shares and likes and commenting. Many have told us they share the quote of the day so that their friends (from all walks of life and persuasions) get a gentle exposure to Mennonite/Anabaptist theology and thinking. We ran a few Facebook ads at one point to attract more followers and participated in a few promotions, but I observed that such followers are not as organic or homegrown—and therefore not as interested in the content. Especially interesting are followers from all around the world.

So, now you know.

Who are the top three surefire “like” getters—i.e, when I quote these people, I can almost always count on 20 or more individuals giving the “amen”?

Some of them in the past month have been:
Stuart Murrary, author of The Naked Anabaptist
Menno Simons (you know him)
Mary Beth Lind (cookbook co-author of Simply in Season)
And Jeff Gundy’s quote from Where was God on September 11? scored highest this week.

If you have ideas for books or sources of great quotes that would fit the Third Way Café ambiance, let us know! You will help us out!

And since posting this kind of fun stuff doesn’t pay the bills, if you appreciate the voice of Third Way Cafe, MennoMedia always welcome donations over here. Gracias.

MelodieDavisBlogPhoto

Melodie Davis, one of several managing editors, in front of my un-managed but treasured shelves.