Seek a simpler life through plain Mennonite writer Faith Sommers

January 18, 2017

Seek a simpler life through plain Mennonite writer Faith Sommers

90-day devotional connects quiet times with God to the rest of life

HARRISONBURG, Va.— Quiet times with God can feel disconnected from the rest of an overflowing day. Faith Sommers, a conservative Mennonite mother, wife, and columnist for Ladies Journal, a publication for Amish and Mennonite women has written a new book, Prayers for a Simpler Life: Meditations from the Heart of a Mennonite Mother due out from Herald Press, February 2017.

The book contains 90 devotionals for women to help them connect with a simpler life.

Sommers firmly believes devotions should affect how Christians live their lives. “When I realize that God knows all about everything, I learn to trust in his grace and seek to obtain his wisdom so that each choice I make will lead me closer to him,” she explains.

The devotional book also includes prayers, journal prompts, and ideas for how to simplify life and strengthen faith. Above all, the author hopes Prayers for a Simpler Life guides readers toward a deeper commitment to the way of Jesus.

“God’s goodness is not measured by the good things that come into my life,” Sommers says. “The good things do outnumber the bad, and I gratefully count my blessings. Yet, even in the setbacks, the disappointments, the sorrows, I know that God is good.”

Aimed at serious Christians who want to draw closer to God and actively serve Jesus, the book strives to put readers back in touch with many basics of Christian living. It is part of the Herald Press Plainspoken Series of books and devotionals.

Prayers for a Simpler Life includes a section “A Day in the Life of the Author,” as well as Q&A with the author answering common questions about plain Mennonites, including:

  • What is a Mennonite?
  • How do you differ from Amish?
  • Why do the women and girls wear those hats?
  • Don’t you get bored with your quiet lives?

Sommers and her husband, Paul, live in California and have six children between the ages of 6 and 21.

To schedule an interview with Faith Sommers, contact LeAnn Hamby at (540) 908-3941 or

Prayers for a Simpler Life │ 9781513801261 │ 2/21/2017 │ $12.99 USD │ Paperback │200 pages│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




Is Amish fiction here to stay? Projections for 2016

ValerieAndThrillofChasteBookWhen my book about Amish fiction, Thrill of the Chaste, came out in the beginning of 2013, lots of people asked me, “Is Amish fiction here to stay?” Those in-the-know added, “Or will it go the way of Christian chick lit?” That is: to the grave? (In 2005, an article in the New York Post suggested that Christian chick lit was “one of the biggest growth industries in American publishing.” Within a year the subgenre had “lost all momentum,” according to literary agent Steve Laube.)

Here at the tail end of 2015, few people are asking this question. We don’t have to. Like the Amish themselves, whose numbers are rising thanks to large families and retention of their youth, Amish fiction remains a growing industry. Amish-fiction authors can barely keep up with the voracious reading appetites of their fans. A few years ago, the Book Industry Study Group, which offers subject categories for publishers and booksellers, had no separate code for Amish novels. In a real rite of passage, Amish fiction now has keys to its own wheels: FICTION / Amish & Mennonite.

Readers are expecting more from Amish fiction than they used to, maybe even more than they did twelve months ago. Gone is any illusion that an Amish-fiction author can take a few trips to Lancaster County or Shipshewana and then write an Amish novel.

Readers want Amish novels that are accurate and that they can trust for authentic portrayals. A friend of mine slams down any Amish novel that contains even a smidgen of information she knows to be false.

But perhaps the biggest area of growth in Amish fiction is not even Amish fiction. It’s Amish non-fiction. Even as the research bar for novelists gets higher, many readers are turning to Amish books written by Amish authors to get a real insider’s perspective on the culture and faith. The Plainspoken series from Herald Press, the Mennonite publisher where I work, offers readers first-person books by Amish and other plain CalledToBeAmish_frontcoverAnabaptist writers about their daily lives. For example, Marlene Miller’s Called to Be Amish, which narrates the rare journey of one woman from English to Amish, “gives details about Amish life that you may not find in any other book on the market,” says Anne Beiler, of Auntie Anne’s Inc. The newest installment of the Plainspoken series by young Amish mother Marianne Jantzi, Simple Pleasures, releases in March. Jantzi writes about homemaking, gardening, working in their family shoe store, and living out her faith in her Amish community in Canada. SimplePleasures

Other publishers are bringing out Amish non-fiction as well. From Sherry Gore’s The Plain Choice to Lena Yoder’s My Life as An Amish Wife, the field has burgeoned during 2015. And in a related book, Terri Roberts, the mother of the Nickel Mines Amish schoolhouse shooter, tells her agonizing story in Forgiven.

So whether they picked up Amish fiction or Amish non-fiction, readers in 2015 kept coming back for more. Editors and researchers like me have our theories about why Amish literature is proving to be so enduring, and I outline several of those in Thrill of the Chaste. But readers like you are in the best position to say why you pick up one type of book and not another.


How do you think Amish fiction has changed in recent years, and why do you think it’s got such staying power?

Check out any of our Plainspoken series or books specifically about Amish, Mennonite, or Hutterite life, here.

Valerie Weaver-Zercher is managing editor of Herald Press trade books and author of Thrill of the Chaste. This post appeared originally in the Amish Wisdom newsletter which you can sign up for here.