Behind the scenes with new Amish author Marianne Jantzi

Today is the official launch day for a new Herald Press book! I’m almost as excited as I would be if it were one of my own books launching. Simple Pleasures: Stories from My Life as an Amish Mother is now available for sale—and the pre-orders for early birds are on their way to customers!

Marianne Jantzi has four very young children—her youngest will be just a year old in April, the oldest is eight. And despite the differences which most mainstream Mennonites or Christians have in the way of dress or lifestyle, (the Amish still dress pretty much like they lived in the 1700s), you and I have much in common with Marianne Jantzi. These things likely apply no matter your color of skin, faith, or nationality.

  • We curl up for a nap or half a night’s sleep and a “little someone” is sure to have a burning question or need that simply must be responded to right now.
  • We’re not above a bribe if it keeps the children satisfied two more minutes while we finish a phone call or take care of urgent business.
  • We sigh with great contentment over a newly cleaned or organized playroom, knowing of course it won’t last long.

I enjoyed working with Marianne almost like she was a daughter, giving her tips for how to take her magazine columns (from The Connection) written about specific happenings over a five-year-period, and take away the specifics so they will be “evergreen.” We compared children (and my grandchildren) and agreed how precious morning writing times are—squeezing in one more sentence or paragraph even after you’ve started hearing morning-wake-up noises coming from one of the bedrooms.

In addition to gardening, cooking, canning, making most of their own clothing, using a gas powered washing machine and outdoor clothes line even in harsh Ontario winters—Marianne and her husband run a shoe store—the Jantzi Shoe Box—in their “spare” time. Her husband also works at a job away from their home, so they are busy indeed raising their family and providing for needs.


Jantzi Shoe Box – store

I admire Marianne for taking on this additional challenge of writing a book without a typewriter, computer or anything mechanical/technological.


This is the box in which part of her manuscript arrived.

P1090260 P1090258Here are some of Marianne’s original handwritten pages.

We communicated by letter, voice message, and telephone. As many people know and understand, among some Old Order and other plain groups, telephones are allowed for business purposes and when shared with others. The Jantzi phone is shared with three other families or businesses, which helps to preserve the idea of depending on one another and not going one’s own way or allowing technology to infringe on interdependence and community. That’s a short answer; whole books have been written on the topic, including one by my former colleague, Diane Zimmerman Umble, Holding the Line: The Telephone in Old Order Mennonite and Amish Life, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

If Marianne were not Old Order Amish, she could easily host a popular and well-visited “mommy blog.” As her editor for this book, I hope I have been a bit of a mentor and encouragement, just as I try to be that for other young women and my own daughters. As women we sometimes seem wired to want to learn from our moms and older sisters and friends (and maybe teach others)? I wrote recently about Marianne with two excerpts from her book in my Another Way newspaper column published on Third Way website and in seven or so papers across the U.S. and Canada.

But this book—as with anything our daughters or sons attempt—is Marianne’s own work, her own new baby—and I wouldn’t take that away. This moment for Marianne is her time to cherish a dream many never realize or complete: having a book printed, marketed and published by a traditional publisher—(not self-published). She told me that when her author box of books arrived recently (yes, authors get the first copies!), one of her sons opened the box before she could and promptly wrote HIS name in HIS copy in big bold letters. I loved that additional story!

If you are a mom—or know a mom—or have a mom—you or they will likely enjoy reading—and comparing the ups and downs of this young Amish mom in Simple Pleasures. You may have much more in common than you ever imagined possible.



Publisher’s Weekly, the key magazine for the entire secular/religious publishing industry included a review of Simple Pleasures. We’re very excited and love the part which says “Provides insightful reflections on mainstream culture and how Amish life is both an escape from those pressures and a challenge. . . . Readers looking for a glimpse into Amish life from a charming voice will be pleased.” See more here: Publisher’s Weekly.


You can also still enter a Good Reads giveaway which ends tonight (March 29, 2016) at midnight, if you enjoy Goodreads!

Jalynn Patterson reviewed Simple Pleasures on Goodreads: “We see the Amish and we are enamoured by them. They seem to exist happily serving their God and their community . . . I myself, have said numerous times that I wish I could live as simply as they do. When you are on the outside looking in, things with them seem virtually effortless, but this is far from the truth. Simple Pleasures is a book that shows the world that the Amish live a lot like we do. As I read Marianne’s words I realized that we are very much alike and I was grateful in a way to see that she as I am is just a mom trying to survive in this world and it was all good. She wants to be the best “me” she can be while serving her one true God as well as her family. Simple Pleasures is a breath of fresh air! Its simplicity is equally beautiful as it is normal. I enjoyed this read, tremendously!”


Melodie Davis
Managing Editor, Herald Press

The “simple” life in raising an Amish family: New book Simple Pleasures

SimplePleasuresMarch 23, 2016
News release

The “simple” life in raising an Amish family
Herald Press releases Simple Pleasures

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—Amish homemaker Marianne Jantzi never intended to write a book about her lifeand her adventures in raising children. But, encouraged by her mother, she contacted an Amish magazine called Connection (based in Topeka, Ind.), and so began her side work as a writer.

That work has flourished, and now Herald Press is releasing Jantzi’s first book, Simple Pleasures: Stories from My Life as an Amish Mother ($12.99 USD, $15.95 CAD, paper, March 29, 2016).

Jantzi shares from the heart as she welcomes readers into her family’s daily life and Amish community. Her writing is filled with equal measures of wit and warmth as she chronicles raising her four children while also tending to the family’s shoe store. Readers will lend a sympathetic ear to stories of wrangling the children through wintertime adventures, the story of learning to bake cinnamon buns, and what it means to share a house with your in-laws.

Drawing from her own deep faith, this young mother brings an encouraging word to parents of young children, along with insights into simple living for readers young and old.  By being actively present in the moment, Jantzi invites us into a much needed world of peace and reflection that draws from early morning quiet time with God and extends to late evening prayers after a full day of sometimes muddy and often hilarious surprises.

Jantzi taught in an Amish school for six years before her marriage, including a school term teaching special education students. She and her husband, Allan, own a small shoe store and have four children, ages not-quite-one to eight. Jantzi remains a teacher at heart: “I think I fill my teaching need with my children,” she said in an interview. “There are a lot of opportunities to teach with your own children.”

Jantzi credits a fifth-grade teacher for originally stirring her interest in writing. As a busy mother and businesswoman, she writes her column early in the morning. “I don’t have time to write,” she said. “I make time.” She sees that gift being passed on to her young daughter who likes to sit and pretend to write a column as well.

“My biggest wish is to leave people encouraged,” Jantzi said. “I don’t want people to feel as though, ‘I could never live a good life like that.’ I want them to be encouraged that we are in this together, and to reach for higher goals.”

Publisher’s Weekly, the trade magazine for the industry included this review March 22, 2016, “Provides insightful reflections on mainstream culture and how Amish life is both an escape from those pressures and a challenge. . . . Readers looking for a glimpse into Amish life from a charming voice will be pleased.”

Simple Pleasures is the fourth volume in Plainspoken, a series of books from Herald Press by Amish, Hutterite, and plain Mennonite writers who write about their daily life and faith. The books in the series include special features such as “A Day in the Life of the Author,” the author’s answers to frequently asked questions about the Amish or their particular beliefs and customs, and favorite recipes.

Simple Pleasures is available for $12.99 USD/$15.95 CAD from MennoMedia at 800-245-7894 or, as well as at bookstores.

–Ardell Stauffer

High resolution photo available.

Interview with the author: Marianne Jantzi

By Ardell Stauffer

Marianne Jantzi is the author of Simple Pleasures: Stories from My Life as an Amish Mother, which has just been released by Herald Press. She spoke with an interviewer by phone from her home in rural Milverton, Ontario, which is near Kitchener.

Stauffer: You started out teaching school before you were married? How long did you teach?

Jantzi: I taught for six years before I was married, and one term (year) of special education.

Are your Ontario Amish schools one-room schools?

Yes, one-room schoolhouses. We had a small classroom in the basement for special education. I taught several special education kids, one on one. We had children up to age 14. Most years I had a co-teacher or at least a helper.

Do you miss teaching?

No. I did for many years, but now that my daughter is in school and my son is starting kindergarten, I still feel like I’m part of the system. I don’t miss it. I did miss it till I entered the system again. I think I fill my teaching need with writing and with my children. There are lots of opportunities to teach with your own children.

Tell me about the Connection. Is it a publication for many Amish communities in different areas? Does it publish mostly personal news, or what types of writing?

Yes, they’re a monthly publication selling about twelve thousand copies. It is a family magazine that goes on a subscription basis to many different communities. They publish a variety of things: devotionals, a lot of columns similar to my own, children’s contests, recipes. They feature a different school each month. There is a horse-related page, and a page for women who run small businesses.

I understand you run a shoe business—is running a business common for Amish women?

It is not uncommon. The Connection always features a family business each month. It’s about a 56-page magazine. It has one non-Amish editor, who travels and takes photos of different features—horse-related for instance. It has lots of photos as well as writing.

The rest of the writers for the Connection are from the United States. I’m the only Canadian. Probably it has about 40 to 50 writers.

How did you start writing for the Connection?

My mother thought I should write for publication. After I got married, she thought I would enjoy it. She subscribed to the Connection; she subscribes to every newspaper and magazine there is, I think! I told her, “It’s just going to be another paper to pay for.” But it turned out differently.

I wasn’t really interested in writing, but she coaxed till I wrote to the editor. At first they didn’t have an opening but I’m very glad for that writing opportunity now. I started in 2010, which is six years now.

Have you always enjoyed writing? Did your teachers at school encourage you to write?

I had one teacher in fifth grade who really emphasized composition; she had us write a story three times a week. She only taught one term. She was my motivation. I met her last summer again and told her I’m going to be doing this book. I can only thank her for what she taught me in fifth-grade composition. I do enjoy writing very much.

What do you like about writing?

Expressing myself. I have a lot of opinions, of courseall writers do. I think it’s one way to sort through them.

How did you decide what to write about when you started writing the Northern Reflections column?

That’s a difficult question. I write about whatever is happening at the momentwhatever is bothering me, or bringing me joy, or whatever. Usually about the moment. Or something I read gives me an idea which I write about.

It seems part of what your column offers is a picture of Ontario life for others. Can you describe your Ontario Amish community—how many people you are, how long your history there is?

That’s actually in the book. It goes backwe are an original community. I mean we came from overseas, and started the community; we are the only original Amish community in Canada. Not what we call a daughter community. We are not very large, we have nine or ten districts. A district is 15 to 30 families who have church together.

Do Connection readers write to you?

They do. Usually through the editors. Readers contact them and the editors will let them know how to reach me. It is usually women who write, “I really enjoy your column; I’m just like you.” Of course if we would meet we’d probably be very different!

You’re a busy mother with four children. And you have a shoe business. When do you find time to write?

I would like if someone would answer that for me! We usually find time to do the things we like to do. I like to write. I like to read. So I make time to do both. Usually early in the morning is my writing time. I would prefer evenings, but by the time it comes, I’m falling asleep.

How do folks in your Amish community see your column? Is it accepted well?

There is a huge interest. In fact, I find it a little . . . I wish we wouldn’t have to talk about it quite as much. It’s fairly new for someone from our Ontario community to be writing like I am. I have to answer questions, and so on.

You write about attending writer’s meetings that encourage improved writing. Are there a number of Amish publications that people write for?

There are, yes. Especially in recent years there are a number of opportunities, all Anabaptist publishers. I could probably think of 20 or 30.

What does your family think about having a book come out?

They are excited. My mom told me that she thought my oldest brother would write a book—“And now it’s you who is writing a book.”

Your family doesn’t mind news about them showing up in print; they’re okay with that?

My family doesn’t seem to mind; I’m happy about that. Of course, my children are young yet.

If the Connection is a publication for the Amish community, do you think of the book as reaching out to non-Amish readers?

I guess my writing mind is geared toward Amish; they are usually who I think about. Most people know what I mean. But the book editor and proofreaders picked out things and noted, “People won’t know what you mean by this.” It taught me about writing for a larger [non-Amish] audience.

What do you wish for people reading this book?

My biggest wish is that it leaves people encouraged. I don’t want to people to feel as though, “I could never live a good life like that.” I want them to be encouraged that we are in this together, and to reach for higher goals.

Ardell Stauffer is a freelance writer who lives and works in Hesston, Kansas.

For more information on this press release:
Melodie Davis
News manager




Why History Matters by Steve Carpenter

I am a first generation Mennonite. I grew up Presbyterian, coming to faith at an early age. As a young man, I followed my father and brother and served in the U.S. military. My father enlisted in the Army and served in the Air Corp during WWII.

George E. Carpenter US Army Air Corp. circa 1943

George E. Carpenter
US Army Air Corp.
circa 1943

My brother was a Naval Reserve Officer Training student at the University of Virginia before being commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy. I too followed their path and became an officer in the US Coast Guard, retiring with 20 years of service including three tours at sea.

Steve Carpenter Executive Officer Barque EAGLE 1990

Steve Carpenter
Executive Officer
Barque EAGLE

I came to the Mennonite Church through the influence of Myron Augsburger and others at Washington Community Fellowship, an inner-city church on Capitol Hill, started in 1981.

Myron Augsburger

Myron Augsburger

Washington Community Fellowship

Washington Community Fellowship







During the past decade and a half, I have been gathering pieces of my parent’s history and putting them on paper. I also just finished reading Song of the Redwing Blackbird, the self-published memoirs of Fern Lapp Bowman, a local Mennonite woman who grew up Amish Mennonite. Our parent’s history shapes our lives. It informs who we are and what we will become. It matters. Because of this we want to entrust our history to our children and grandchildren.

As a persecuted and immigrant community, many Mennonites seem particularly interested in preserving their collective history. As MennoMedia’s Director of Development and Church Relations, I travel extensively in the US and Canada. Everywhere I go I visit archives and historical displays. Recently I explored the Illinois Mennonite Historical Society in Metamora, Illinois. I was given a tour of the expansive facility by Director Julie Hendrick. She too was raised Presbyterian and has now embraced the Mennonite faith. The center’s collection is housed in three buildings: a restored Sutter barn, site of the Amish Mennonite Conference of 1875; a fascinating Schertz Grossdawdy (grandfather) House, restored and furnished in the style of the early 20th century when Christian and Magdalena Schertz lived there; and the main building which houses an extensive library and genealogical records along with a display upstairs.

Schertz Grossdawdy cottage

Schertz Grossdawdy cottage

Visitors are oriented to the history of Illinois Mennonites with a brief introductory film. Like most of the North American Mennonite History centers I have seen, this one operates with lots of volunteer help and minimal staff.

MennoMedia and Herald Press play an important role in preserving the collective history of Mennonite. To that end, on May 24, 2016 we will release In Pursuit of Faithfulness: Conviction, Conflict, and Compromise in the Indian-Michigan Mennonite Conference, written by Rich Preheim.


This is the fiftieth volume in the Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History series which began in 1929 with Harold S. Bender’s Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature. The series is sponsored by the Mennonite Historical Society. Some other titles include: C. Arnold Snyder’s The Life and Thought of Michael Sattler, 1984; John Ruth’s The Earth is the Lord’s, a history of Lancaster Mennonite Conference published in 2001; and last year’s volume—Peace Progress and the Professor: the Mennonite History of C. Henry Smith by Perry Bush.


MennoMedia is largely known as the home of Herald Press books, Shine Sunday school curriculum and the Third Way dot com website. However, the Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History series is another important piece of our work.

Thank you for engaging with MennoMedia here a blog reader. I hope you will also engage with us as a book reader, in prayer, and as a financial supporter. To donate to MennoMedia click here.


Blessings in your work, worship and witness,
Steve Carpenter

Steve Carpenter Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development and Church Relations