Author Spotlight on the Story of a Plain Girl: Marian Longenecker Beaman
Katherine & Marian at Author Event at San Marco Bookstore
I met Marian at an author event at the San Marco Bookstore in Jacksonville, FL at the peak of COVID. We were masked and outdoors but I was immediately smitten by her infectious laughter and friendly nature behind the face covering. Before long, we were comparing notes on our upbringing and found we had a lot in common. I wasn’t raised as a Mennonite but it was fairly close. Marian’s debut book “Mennonite Daughter is a fun, quirky, soul-searching journey into her life. If you love memoir or learning about other cultures and making a new friend (because you’ll fall in love with this lady), then this book is for you. Grab a pumpkin pastry, a cup of tea or coffee, and sip along while you check out her delightful author interview:
When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
- My writing urge has a long arc! When we cleared out our mother’s attic, I found my autobiography, less than a page in longhand, written in eighth grade. After college, my first paid writing project involved creating a series of Bible studies from the book of Matthew for Herald Press in Pennsylvania. However, teaching was my first love, and during my career I wrote mostly articles for academic journals. When I retired, I searched for a way to connect with others, because I missed not being in the classroom or interacting with colleagues. Thus, I began blogging, which has led to writing my memoir and finding rich friendships along the way.
How long does it take you to write a book?
- I began blogging in 2013, writing vignettes about my childhood as a young Mennonite girl in Pennsylvania. These sketches resonated with readers who wanted to know more about my family. Thus, began my foray into serious memoir writing.
Describe your writing work schedule.
- A day doesn’t go by when I’m not warming the seat of my writing chair. I often respond to other blogs first and then move on to my own writing, usually in the morning. I definitely believe in reciprocity, replying to other bloggers and then writing new posts for my own website.
Share any writing quirks you have. Spill the beans!
- Writing quirk? If I feel stuck, I might light the lemony candle on my desk or turn on the string lights around my bookshelf. Sometimes I look to music for inspiration. To prevent writers’ cramp, I might take a walk around the lake where I often find the spark to spur me forward. My artist husband reads every blog post, not just to find errors, but also to show support. Yes, I count my blessings!
Where do you get the information and inspiration for your books?
- My first, and only book so far, is a memoir, a reflection on my life as a Mennonite girl living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. My initial purpose was to leave a legacy for my children, but I also wanted to make peace with memories of childhood abuse from my father. Writing my story offered me a path toward forgiveness. As I tell my close friends, the money I would have paid to a therapist I applied to publishing my book, or so I think!
When did you write your first book?
- Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl was published in September 2019, just a year ago.
When you’re not writing what can we find you doing?
- When I’m not writing, I feed steps into my Fitbit, do Pilates (now in a ZOOM group), visit with my family, and, of course, READ!
What does your family think about your writing?
- My immediate family is proud of my accomplishment, including one sister. The second sister believes I shouldn’t have divulged family secrets even though my motive was not revenge, but to show victory over an unforgiving heart. The main characters of my story are no longer living, but I know my Aunt Ruthie and Grandma Fannie would applaud my efforts to preserve family history. My book contains lots of photos and original artwork.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
- All my life I wondered about the source of my father’s anger, his anger directed mostly at me, the eldest daughter. After my mother died and we were cleaning out the attic before selling the family home, I found a clue to a possible answer in my sister’s college sociology notebook. This knowledge spurred me on to finish writing the memoir.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
- Mennonite Daughter is my only book so far. My husband and I have talked about creating a children’s book, possibly titled Kids and Oaks, based on a scene from the memoir.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become better writers? If so, what are they?
- Suggestions for other writers? First of all, learn your craft! Although I taught English Composition to college students, I was almost clueless about how to create a story that draws the reader in. I took two story-writing courses before I began writing my memoir in earnest and along the way paid for professional editing, so very important.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they have to say?
- Because I blog weekly, I hear from loyal readers often bright and early Wednesday mornings. Others have disclosed their feelings as they wrote Amazon reviews. I thank God for mostly five-star reviews. My goal is fifty reviews; I’m getting there slowly but surely. The most surprising thing was hearing from men, two of whom mentioned that my story has led them to be aware of bitterness they have held onto since childhood, even repent of it. Praise God, I say.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself?
- Beside my desk is a framed motto, which says “Soli Deo Gloria” – To God alone be the glory. Amen! I hope my writing never strays from that conviction.
Blurb for Mennonite Daughter
What if the Mennonite life young Marian Longenecker chafed against offered the chance for a new beginning? What if her two Lancaster County homes with three generations of family were the perfect launch pad for a brighter future? Readers who long for a simpler life can smell the aroma of saffron-infused potpie in Grandma’s kitchen, hear the strains of four-part a capella music at church, and see the miracle of a divine healing.
Follow the author in pigtails as a child and later with a prayer cap, bucking a heavy-handed father and challenging church rules. Feel the terror of being locked behind a dark cellar door. Observe the horror of feeling defenseless before a conclave of bishops, an event propelling her into a different world.
Fans of coming-of-age stories will delight in one woman’s surprising path toward self-discovery, a self that lets her revel in shiny red shoes.
Memoirist Marian Beaman, former professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville, is the author of Mennonite Daughter, which records the charms and challenges of growing up plain in 1950s Lancaster County. Her story has evolved from blog posts which she began publishing in 2013. She lives with her husband Cliff in Florida, where her grown children and grandchildren also reside.