I am pleased and privileged to introduce you to one of my new favorite authors, Shirley Hershey Showalter.
I encourage you to read her memoir Blush: a Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World, to gain insight into the Mennonite culture and the values it instills in its members–
- and a commitment to living well by living simply.
Shirley writes about her life as a farm girl among the “plain” people of Lancaster County and her yearning for the “fancy” world. She went on to become the president of Goshen College and a foundation executive at The Fetzer Institute. Now she lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she is a writer, speaker, blogger, consultant, and in my opinion, a truly remarkable “beacon of kindness.”
If you seek to emulate generosity and empathy in your life and through your writing, adopt Shirley Hershey Showalter as one of your author-mentors.
Here’s how to learn from an author-mentor (an author who writes in your chosen genre):
- Read her book, and then re-read it while you’re writing your own.
- Take notes: notice what you like and why; pay attention to structure; look at how she handles time and transitions; study her use of sensory details; consider how she uses language and imagery.
- Follow her on her social networks (Shirley is on Twitter (@shirleyhs); also on Facebook.
- Subscribe to her blog. (click here for Shirley’s blog). You’ll widen your community of writer-pals if you participate in the conversation going on via the comments. You’ll find me there because I enjoy, and benefit from, engaging with everyone there, especially Shirley.
- Whether you’re writing memoir or fiction, sign up for Shirley’s weekly Magical Memoir Moments right now by clicking here. You’ll get photos and writing prompts designed to bring out the storyteller in you.
- I’m working on a novel these days. I follow Shirley’s weekly prompts by making my characters write their memoirs–I get into their heads and write in my their voices. And I’m loving it.
And after you’ve learned from Shirley Hershey Showalter how to more effectively write your story, don’t neglect to thank her for so generously sharing her knowledge–write and tell her that you appreciate her, and tell others about her book, her blog, and her email prompts.
Thank you, Shirley Hershey Showalter, you shine!
Who has been beacon of light for you?
49 thoughts on “Meet Shirley Hershey Showalter, author of Blush: a Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World”
Thank you so much Tracy for introducing Shirley to us. Here memoir sounds absolutely fascinating, you know that I will be going over to her blog. I would say that I have a beacon of light group here on WordPress, all my writer friends whom I had no idea even existed before I started blogging 🙂
Oh, you’re very welcome, Sherri. I was sure that you’d like this, and you’ll find much on her blog to encourage you.
I’m with you — there is light spreading in our little group, isn’t there? Have a blessed week!
There really is Tracy, and it is just wonderful, our little group 🙂
Thank you, and you have a blessed week too 😀 😎
I am deeply indebted to you, Tracy, for introducing me to Sherri. I can tell that her stories and her places will call forth my own. So exciting to make new friends!
I agree, Tracy—Shirley and her book are both luminous.
Well, I owe you a thank you for introducing me to her!
So, Thank you1 🙂
I thank you both!
Thanks for introducing us to Shirley and her book, Tracy. It’s always nice to meet a fellow Virginian.
Her memoir sounds wonderful, I’ve always been intrigued by the Mennonite and the Amish culture. I’ve been to Lancaster County, it’s beautiful country.
Yes, I was thinking about you when I realized she is in Virginia. Are you in the same area of the state?
My husband used to have a farm smack dab in the middle of an Amish area in Wisconsin, and not long ago we lived two towns away from an area with large Amish and Mennonite populations. I would have to say that much of our life-philosophy has been heavily influenced by what we have learned from their culture. In fact, one of our children used to ask whether we were “Almost-Amish.”
And Lancaster County is on my list of stops. I hope to get there some day.
And to Virginia!
Actually I live in Charlotte, NC now, but I grew up in the Fairfax County area of Virginia. It’s around 150 NE of Harrisonburg.
“Almost-Amish”…I like that! 🙂
Virginia is a beautiful state. I especially love the Shenandoah Valley area.
Virginia is an incredibly beautiful state.
I just read an article about a journalist who went on a road trip, visiting his social networking cyber-space friends, to see whether he could discover a difference between them and “real” friends. He concluded there is no difference. Friends are friends.
I surely hope I can visit you in Virginia someday.
What a cool study, Tracy! I’d like to read that article…very interesting.
I’ll try to find it; it was published in the Providence Journal a few days ago.
Here it is, Jill.
Great article, thanks! 🙂
Jill, I left you a comment on your “about” page in hopes that we can stay connected. Glad to know you’re interested in Lancaster County. I’m writing these words near my childhood home here and will return to Virginia today.
Wonderful! Isn’t social media amazing?
Tracey, thank you for these tips on how to learn from an author-mentor, and for introducing me to Shirley Hershey Showalter (I’m checking out her blog). I especially like your idea of using memoir prompts to flesh out the characters in your novel. I’ve spent a fair amount of time on backstory for the novel I’m (mostly not) writing, and even though I haven’t worked on it in a long time I often think of my lead character and her life story. Writing it all down will provide me a great reference when I get back to the book.
I’m glad this was helpful for you, Marlene. I didn’t realize you were (mostly not) writing a novel.
I’ve been (mostly not) writing my novel for nearly 10 years. Now, for the past 3 months, I’m actually writing it. All that prep work of thinking and note-jotting have made the job of writing (almost) effortless. 🙂 Living with my characters for so long, made them come alive for me. Hopefully that means they’ll also seem like living-breathing people for my readers.
I started (mostly not) writing my book in 2009, so hearing that yours has been (mostly not) on the go for ten years but is now moving forward gives me hope!
Keep on encouraging each other, you two! And if my Magical Memoir Moments can help, I’ll be delighted!
Wow! What a blog of interest for writers Shirley has. Thanks so much for the introduction. I will certainly have a close look at it.
I agree — there is so much there. And I’m stunned that she is so gracious to offer it to us, instead of trying to “sell” it to us.
Restores my faith in people.
What a wonderful introduction Tracy, thank you! I’m heading over to check out Shirley’s blog now. I often find a beacon of light when I’m least expecting it. Such as this morning as I was reading blog posts!
My son would say in response to that, and I think it’s the right response…
YOU’RE a beacon of light!
Tracy, your generous words have touched me, and I’m so glad we have met. So many others here and elsewhere have been beacons of light for me. I’m visiting my college friends right now in Pennsylvania and giving thanks for a life like the trumpet vine that grows in my friend Gloria’s back yard. I’ll be back to comment and share more.
In the meantime, I hope people use the categories and search bar on the site to discover writing topics related to memoir and writing and marketing tips based on my self-education shared with others. I’m so delighted when people say that they learned something of value on the site. After five years of blogging, it’s good to know that.
Tracy, you are a beacon of light to me today. Thank you.
Eeek! I misspelled your name. How terrible. Please correct for me. 🙁
I’ll do it.
I hardly noticed. There are so many ways to spell Tracy, Tracee, Tracie, Tracey, Traci…
My own dad misspells my name. I’ve gotten used to it. 😉
You’re so very welcome. You’ve been such a blessing to me!
I like, a lot, that list of values. I will pop over and check out Shirley’s blog. 😉
Fabulous. I’m sure you’ll feel at home. It’s amazing, how we of similar values find, and gravitate toward one another, from all over the world…
And thank you for pointing out that it’s a list. I realize that those value deserve much emphasis, so I went back to format them as a “list.” You’re always full of good design ideas (even when you don’t realize that you exude design ideas). <3
Thanks for the visit, Dublin-born Attitude. Great title for a blog, btw. Hope we can stay in touch.
Tracy, this is excellent. My Brethren college was located very near to Tabor College, a Mennonite college, and there are many similarities between the two. Shirley, I’ve signed up for your blog and prompts and look forward to getting to know you.
I’m so pleased to make this introduction. I’m certain both of you will be blessed in getting to know each other.
Marylin, sorry it took me so long to respond, but now I am home long enough to check out your fascinating blog before penning a reply to you. Since you are a Kansas girl, I thought you might enjoy my account of our recent trip to Kansas. http://www.shirleyshowalter.com/2014/03/12/whats-the-best-way-to-do-a-book-tour-a-hybrid-approach-between-virtual-and-live/
I hope we can stay in touch!
Tracy, through Shirley, whose book I recently finished reading, I have found my way to your site via her Twitter account. On June 1 my husband and I will be privileged to hear one of her book talks in Harrisonburg, Va, where she now lives (when she is home). In addition to Shirley herself, a beacon of light for me is Jesus of Nazareth. Before the age of the Internet, I wore the covers off of The Holy Bible, RSV, a Christmas gift from my parents in 1952, and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, first edition (1969), that I gave a copy of to my parents for Christmas and also gave one to myself in 1968. I still use both as resources.
Thank you Barbara, for getting right to the heart of the matter. The Light Shirley shines is a reflection of the True Light. I’m so glad to meet you here. I’ve worn out a couple of Bible’s myself.
Now I have a dozen or so in the house, including 2 German translations. I find new treasures every time I open one of them (which I do daily!)
P.S. I subscribed to your blog — what a fun idea! I’m looking forward to getting to know the girl you used to be….
I love the idea of the author-mentor, Tracy. It seems it’s never been easier to develop that connection with authors you admire. I still find myself in awe of the fact that every week I’m in contact with so many wonderful writers at different stages of their journeys – some whose achievements I can be inspired by, some who say that I inspire them – and all from such diverse backgrounds.
I’m in awe of the same thing, Andrea. Social networking, and the need for authors to self-promote, has been wonderful for making that happen.
I agree with Tracy, Andrea, and I enjoyed checking out the many types of creative work you are involved in. Like you, I have visual art interests as well as writing interests. Not quite sure one life will be enough to explore the long list — but determined to enjoy every day I am given in pursuit of the good, true, and beautiful.
I love knowing that so many other people are engaged in similar pursuits, at different stages, places, and with more or less experience. Tracy has obviously gathered many, and I’m deeply grateful to her for introducing me to her many readers. Blessings as you continue to create, Andrea.
It has been my pleasure, Shirley, to introduce you here. And fun.
In my life before chronic pain, I used to host gatherings at my home in which all the fascinating, lovely people I knew and was getting to know would come together, and the synergy was simply marvelous. I no longer have the energy to do that, so that’s what I’m trying to do with my blog; create a gathering space for kind-hearted, kindred-spirited folk to come together for an uplifting visit.
Mission accomplished! Thanks again.
Thank you for your suggestion, I just subscribed to her weekly Magical Memoir Moments and her blog.
Glad to hear it. I hope it’s a good for you as it has been for me.