Several years ago—late summer 2013, according to old emails I pulled up—I visited the Willamette Valley and was invited to an Anabaptist writers’ gathering. I was awed when I heard the event was to be hosted at the home of author Dorcas Smucker, whose books Mom sold in our bookstore. She was a professional author, with a newspaper column and everything. I felt I was moving up in the world.
Then I happened to run across her in a Mennonite-owned store in Harrisburg, pushing a cart and putting stuff into it, like any other Mennonite woman would. I peeked at her, awed, and did not introduce myself.
It’s not that I exactly thought she was famous—not Hollywood famous, anyway. Still, it was an odd sensation to see her there. One doesn’t expect to see an inhabitant of one’s mind and imagination—a glamorous being with a career and a family so much classier than mine (I could tell by their picture on the book jacket)—commit a mundane act like pushing a cart.
The writers’ event was lovely. I got to see the old farmhouse I had read about in Dorcas’ stories, and it was just as I would have imagined it. I got a glimpse of the winsome, red-haired Jenny. And she, the author herself, was like one of her own books come to life: genuine, scatterbrained, conversational, witty. A sort of low-ish voice you liked to listen to. Hospitable in a casual, we’re-all-friends-here sort of way.
The Anabaptist writers’ world is a small and welcoming place. I am indebted to a number of authors from this place who have helped me tremendously and continue to help me in my writing journey. Dorcas is one of them. Since that day in her farmhouse, we have been in touch more than once. She is always quick with encouraging words or helpful advice.
I always admire your writing, I emailed four years ago after our first and only meeting. Because you have a way of making people sound like real people–lively and interesting and un-uniform. The sort of writing I wanna do.
I still feel that way.
Of all her books, her recently published Fragrant Whiffs of Joy is, perhaps, my favorite so far. Here are a few things I related to and loved:
- The fact that this book is easy to pick up and easy to read, anytime, any place. It is a collection of essays originally written for the Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon, and, while the essays are roughly chronological, they can be read in any order. They are short, which makes for pressure-free reading and easy sharing.
- The stage of life she is in right now, with adult children in and out of the house, everyone with individual interests and personalities. It reminds me of my own family’s present season. I love hearing her kids’ opinions, their college choices, their interactions with each other, their plans for the future.
- Her unexpected phrases. “Mostly, I listen to birds.” What a great way to start a chapter!
- Her humor. She wrote this about her experience during a plane flight to Ohio: “Hoping to get some work done, I placed my notebook on the tray, dug for a pen and panicked again. My handful of carefully collected pens was still at home, lying on my desk. I had one pen. ONE! How would I make it? I have to have at least three pens or I feel shaky and scared. Would they have pens in Ohio?” This is so me, applicable to a lack of pens, paper, or books, and very possibly that is why I laughed so hard.
- Her insight. She said this about her mother, and it reminded me of my own: “In a strange paradox, Mom’s happiness with her narrow sphere made it possible for her to influence a much wider world.”
- And this, which spoke so directly to my heart and the place in life I find myself, the direction God is nudging me, I cried, reading it: “We are not all called to be mothers, but we can all choose that essential selflessness of motherhood: the giving, the self-forgetful investing of our lives in others. The maturity this choice requires reconciles us to the truth that much of our sacrifice won’t be appreciated until long after we’re gone. But after we’ve received that kind of loving involvement, we realize how immeasurably it mattered, and we are honored to pass it on.”
If you would like your name entered in a drawing to receive your own autographed copy of this book, leave a comment below. Be sure to put your name and email address in the correct blanks, so I can contact you if you win! (Your email address won’t show up publicly.) This giveaway ends at midnight on the last day of November. Check back on the first day of December to hear the winner.
You can order the book from Amazon or directly from Dorcas. Contact her at 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446 or at her email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Books are $12 each plus $2 postage. Checks or PayPal accepted.
To get to know Dorcas and her writing (if you don’t already), visit her blog, Life in the Shoe.