Check This Out: Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl

I’m very pleased to welcome to the blog the amazing Marian Beaman, who is here to discuss her memoir, Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl, which launched on September 14.


You probably know Marian from her blog, which you can find here. After I talk to Marian, I’ll tell you about a giveaway of Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl.

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Marian: 1. I met my first husband on a blind date. (He is my only husband!)

2. I flunked my driver’s test twice.
3. On Sunday mornings, I like to play with two-year-olds, making abstract art with tennis balls and paint on cardboard, blowing bubbles.
4. I watch my Fitbit like a hawk. Gotta get those step in!

El Space: What made you decide to write a memoir?
Marian: My blog readers helped make the decision for me. I wrote stories about my parents, grandparents, and other relatives on my blog. Readers wanted more, and suggested, “Write a book about it!” Though for many years I have wanted to leave a legacy of stories for my children and grandchildren, these readers pushed me toward actually doing it!

Granddaughter Jenna at guest book with hostesses Judy and Carolyn at Marian’s book signing at the Deerwood Country Club

El Space: How did you decide how much to include and what sections of your life to leave out? What was your process as you wrote? Did you write an outline of events? Talk with family members along the way?
Marian: My life as a Mennonite was dramatically different from my life now, so I decided to make the first 24-year slice of my life the focus of my memoir.

A memoir is not a biography. Memoirs need a focus. My focus was the imprint of two forces upon my life: the boundaries of my life as a Mennonite and the blessings of two homes (my parents’ and my grandmother’s house close by).

The collage on the easel is a composite of various snaps of Marian’s family with Bossler Mennonite Church in the background (done by artist Cliff Beaman).

I agree with May Sarton who said that she has “never written a book that wasn’t born out of question I needed to answer for myself.” For me, that question was this: “What was the source of my father’s anger?” My memoir explores possible answers.

To learn the craft of storytelling, I took a memoir-writing course from Linda Joy Myers and Brooke Warner: “Writing Your Story in Six Months.” And to get me started, I wrote topics I could remember on colored sticky notes I pasted to ply-board. Some of the topics became scenes that made it into the memoir; others did not.

El Space: How did growing up in a Mennonite background shape you into the writer you are today? What did you appreciate most about your upbringing?
Marian: I grew up loving my faith traditions and my family. Also the Swiss/German stock from which I am descended has imprinted on me a strong work ethic, which gave me the strength and discipline to persevere through the five years it took to write my story.

El Space: After you described your baptism [chapter 28], I was struck by this quote from page 157: “I had to find a way to reconcile pleasing God with expressing my love for beautiful things, hairdos and clothes included.” Such a turning point in your life. What was one step you took as you were “beginning to ‘kick against the pricks’”?
Marian: My mother, aunt, and grandmother expressed their love of beauty by planting flower gardens in a riot of colors. They, along with women in my church, also made exquisite quilt designs. I wanted to look pretty like a flower, wearing bright colors and shiny shoes. My desire to buck the strict dress code enforced by my church at that time caused friction with authorities at the Mennonite School, where I was employed in my early twenties. My reaction to these restrictions is told in two chapters which bookend my memoir.

These are the most cheerful looking flowers I have seen in years. They remind me of Marian. 😊

El Space: What books or authors inspired you as you worked on your memoir?
Marian: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life—Sassy, sometimes sarcastic, but always instructive.

Jordan Rosenfeld’s Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time—A good one to read early in the writing game.

Dani Shapiro: Still Writing—If you like Shapiro’s novels and memoirs, you’d like her take on the craft of writing.

Louise DeSalvo’s The Art of Slow Writing—A breath of fresh air, especially if you are tied up in a wad about your story and the writing process.

Dinty W. Moore’s The Story Cure: A Book Doctor’s Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir—Book Doctor Dinty provides cures and checkups in his manual embellished with case studies. Humorous and practical!

El Space: What advice do you have for memoir writers?
Marian: 1. Write every day, even if you don’t feel like it. Inspiration comes to those who sit in the writing chair. But don’t go nuts over it; take walks, go shopping, chat with friends. 2. Don’t impose a strict Get-Done-By deadline on yourself. I hoped to finish in three years, but it took me five years. 3. Life goes on! In those five years, my mother and my aunt died, and we had to clear out two houses with scads of stuff. Last year my brother died. Three years ago we also moved from a house we had lived in for 37 years to our current address; lots of sorting, recycling, and tossing out.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Marian: When people ask that question, I say, “Give me a break! I need a vacation or at least time to relax.” 😃 However, two ideas are playing tag in my brain right now: 1. A children’s book based on the oak tree my children and their cousins planted in the Grandma Longenecker’s back yard after she died. I have an in-house illustrator—ha! 2. My year and half in the 36-foot trailer with two babies while my artist/performer husband did art and music performances all over the Southeast. The object was to keep our family together; the reality of the itinerant life wreaked havoc on my sanity!

Thanks, Marian, for being my guest!
Looking for Marian? Click on the icons below:


Looking to buy Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl? Head to Amazon or to your mailbox, since
one of you will receive a copy of this memoir just for commenting! Winner to be announced sometime next week!

The book club, after reading and loving Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl, unanimously decided to shop for red shoes.

Author photo by Joel Beaman, courtesy of Marian Beaman. Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl cover designed by Cliff Beaman, courtesy of Marian Beaman. Other covers from Goodreads. Book signing photos courtesy of Marian Beaman. Book club and flowers photos by L. Marie. Neonlicious and Royal Bee OMG dolls are products of MGA Entertainment, Inc.

111 thoughts on “Check This Out: Mennonite Daughter—The Story of a Plain Girl

  1. Thank you, thank you for broadcasting my news here, L. Marie. What a generous soul you are! By the way, the cheery bloom is perfect! And I hope the Book Club finds shiny red shoes that fit for these tired tootsies. 🙂

  2. I like learning about how anyone does anything, so thanks for sharing how you [Marian] got going on your memoir and how you allowed yourself to finish it at your own pace. I look forward to reading your book. And thanks to L. Marie for asking the questions. This was fun for me to read.

  3. I feel like Marian is still Mennonite, even though she says she is not. She is living proof that Mennonites can change.

  4. Yet another great interview! You rock as an interviewer, Linda 😀 Marian, it’s nice to formally meet you. We have a lot of writing friends in common. Thank you for sharing so much of your process in writing your memoir. There’s so many books on writing that I truly appreciate when authors share their favorites. I wish you the very best with your book and hope you have a nice period of relaxation before your next project.

  5. Congratulations on your stick-to-it-ness in finishing the book despite all the changes and loss! Hope your kids and grandkids enjoy learning more about you, your parents, and you’re grandparents!

  6. I’ve always wanted a pair of red shoes, and to date, still have never had them. Marian’s book (which is delightful and riveting and also 5-starred by me in Goodreads and Amazon) is spurring me on to look, once again, for the perfect pair of red shoes. That have to be flat, and flattering, and not too tight, and…. Marian, perhaps you could start a side business as red-shoe buyer/purchaser for your book readers? ;-0 🙂 Great post, L. Marie.

  7. A great interview with my friend Marian! I also failed my driver’s test twice before I finally passed it at age 27. I knew we had a lot in common. Looks like you had a great book launch. I wish you all the best with your book! xo

  8. Oh Marian, this books sounds fascinating about how you grew up Mennonite. I’m sure there are things people could learn, not to mention to see how it shaped you as a person.

    I never heard of that quote by May Sarton. It made me stop and think about my books and if they were born out of a question I asked myself. Sure enough, they were! Thanks for teaching me something new.

    Good luck with your book.

  9. I’m a May Sarton fan, too! 🙂
    Thank you both Marian and L.Marie for giving me hope that my own project will someday be done! We hear so much about the fast turnarounds on output by others and so this life-story of process in making this book come to be is inspirational!!!
    Congrats to Marian and a bow to the best moderator on the internet, L. Marie.

    • Laura, I have always viewed with suspicion writing coaches who say that you can write a memoir in X-number of days, or produce a book a year. My view: However long it takes, you’ll get there if you don’t stop. My goal was to publish my memoir before I turned eighty. (I made it!) Best wishes in your process, Laura!

  10. L. Marie and Marian, this was a great interview. Like Jill Weatherholt, I’ll ask you not enter me in the giveaway as I too was blessed with an advance copy to review. I found Marian’s story of her first 24 years fascinating and filled with love and grace. She is a special friend even though we’ve never met other than online. Marian and her husband, Cliff, are indeed a talented pair, and Mennonite Daughter shows off their talents well.

    • Sherrey, thank you for coming by to celebrate Marian. So glad she means so much to you and to others. Marian is so gracious. I’m glad to see her book out in the world. 😀

    • Thanks for all this. If I knew I’d find such wonderful friends, kindred spirits actually, in the blog world, I would have started earlier. That’s the thing: Events in our lives unfold at just the right time: When we’re ready.

      Thanks for being such a source of inspiration, Sherrey. You are really rockin’ it these days. 🙂

  11. Ahhhhh a lovely interview and we have two things in common, Marian…I passed my driving test on the second attempt and so far have owned 2 pairs of red shoes one at the age of 5….I still vividly remember my first pair of red shoes ..I so wish a picture had been taken… A shame you can’t transfer your thoughts to prints…I so wish I could draw/paint 🙂 x

  12. Thanks L.Marie and Marian for this!I loved the statement by May Sarton about writing in order to answer (at least in part) the question to oneself in order to determine the source of whatever it is (rather inelegantly paraphrased). Very wise. This is what the reader wants to hear, authentic writing born from experience …

  13. Thanks L. Marie, for featuring Marian,s memoir on your very interesting blog. Marian is a long time friend of mine and woman of many talents. I read an early copy of her memoir and loved it. I can’t wait to read the finished book.

  14. Nice to get more details, Marian. I’m also intrigued by your father’s anger. I’ve been anticipating your book’s arrival. I ordered it but it hasn’t come. I searched for my order and found it hadn’t been placed but was in a “to buy” queue. No use worrying about if that’s my fault or Amazon’s, but I’m glad I tracked it down and sorted it out. I should get it on Monday and look forward to it. Have a wonderful time in Pennsylvania. Wave to a Monarch as you see them heading south. It may know me.

    • Elaine, lovely mandevilla flowers to nurture monarchs where are staying now.

      The May Sarton question has fueled the quest for discovering the source of my father’s anger. Of course, all of life’s experiences yield lessons for ourselves and others. Fingers crossed that your book arrives Monday.

      Thanks for the good wishes, Elaine! You know the journey well. 🙂

  15. Great interview, L. Marie and Marian and congratulations on your launch! Learning to drive is such a rite of passage. The first time I went to the DMV, I signed up for a motorcycle permit by mistake!

  16. Hello Marion, I met you through our mutual friend Joann on the day of the Metzler celebration. She caught my attention by her stories of your trip west, i follow your blog, many things in your life experiiencice are similar to mine and I anxiously await to read your book

    • Charles, that was several years ago, and I appreciate your following me on my journey and now reading a slice of the first 24 years of my life as a Mennonite, one that you can apparently relate to.

      I would delight in know what you think of my book. Thanks for stopping by with this comment, very much appreciated!

  17. Such a lovely interview . I am really looking forward to your book Marian . You have had an interesting life it needs to be told . Good luck with the launch .

  18. Wonderful interview with Marian and amazing photos of the book launch, L. Marie! I enjoyed every bit of this post, as I’ve been following Marian’s book writing process (and blog) for a while. So nice to read a bit more “behind the scenes” information. Congratulations with the promotion from “writer” to “author”, Marian! So proud and happy for you. And, please, take a nice long and enjoyable break after most of the promotion is done!

    PS: Don’t enter me in the competition as I’ve read Marian’s book already as well.

    • Oh, Liesbet, it’s been three days since you posted this, and I’m just now getting back to the comments. Of course, you know exactly how intense it is to live life “on the road.” Yes, I am taking a break after the launch, now in the Georgia/Tennessee mountains where temps are HOT, hot, hot!
      Thanks for stopping by with a comment, dear friend. 🙂

      • You’re welcome! No worries about replying quickly, anywhere, Marian. As you noted: I know how tough it is to be on the road. We’ve been traveling with my parents now for ten days (24/7!!) and I’m so behind with everything internet, work, and blog-related, on top of being exhausted. Enjoy your little break in the mountains!

  19. Marian’s writing has entertained and intrigued me ever since I found her blog through Lucinda’s blog. I would love to read her book.

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