Monday, 22 May 2017

Heading to Watertown, SD to share Hutterite-Written Books with Colony Teachers

I'm always excited when an opportunity comes up for me to get my books into the hands of students, especially those in Hutterite schools, for I know we don't have many Hutterite-written books on our shelves. I've said it numerous times, and will repeat it again, it's important for our children to have books where they can identify with the culture, beliefs and values. One Hutterite teacher summed it up rather nicely, "I love the rich Hutterian culture just oozing out of every single sentence. I think my students immediately recognized and connected with the 'Hutterite-ism' as soon as I started reading it to them." 

On June the 1st and 2nd I'll be at the annual Colony Teachers Conference in Watertown, South Dakota, hosted by the South East Education Cooperative out of Fargo, North Dakota. This year's conference theme is writing and I've been invited to come share Hutterite Diaries with the attendees. I'm grateful for this opportunity and am really looking forward to not only share my book, but also take in some sessions, and meet colony teachers. 

My sincere thanks to the organizers, especially Gwyneth and Erika, for telling me about this conference, helping me get registered, and allowing me to set up an author table. Besides my own book, I'll also tell teachers about other beautiful Hutterite-written books. 

Here are some other books written and illustrated by Hutterites, available at HB Book Centre and/or Amazon:
  • Marty’s Adventure – Elma Maendel and Cynthia Stahl
  • Marty’s Colour Adventure – Elma Maendel and Cynthia Stahl
  • Playing Like Timothy – Johannes Waldner and Victor Kleinsasser
  • Jewell Adventure – Gilbert Hofer and Victor Kleinsasser
  • Es Lauft e Meisl – Karis Hofer
  • Flowing Through the Seasons – Herman and Cynthia Stahl
  • Hutterischa Bibl Tschichtlen – Linda Maendel
  • My Hutterite Life – Lisa Marie Stahl
  • Sarah’s Journey: the Story of a Hutterite Woman – Debbie P. Stahl 
  • Lindas Gluecklicher Tag - Linda Maendel                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
If you're a colony teacher, do your students a huge favour; introduce them to books written by Hutterites. You'll never regret it. These books also make meaningful gifts for Hutterites who've never heard about them. And yes, I'm sure there are many who haven't.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Ebb Tide - Beverly Lewis

About the Book

Oh, to see the ocean, Sallie thought. And to spend the summer as a nanny. She shook her head in amazement. This seemed too good to be true, but she really must talk it over with Dat and Mamm, especially since she'd be gone so long. And after I promised Mamm I'd take baptism classes this summer . . .
Sallie Riehl has dreamed of traveling at least once before settling down to join church, so she is thrilled at an unexpected summer opportunity to nanny in Cape May for a well-to-do family. However, saying even a temporary good-bye to Paradise Township means forgoing baptism another year, as well as leaving behind a would-be beau. Yet the weeks in Cape May soon prove unforgettable as Sallie meets a Mennonite young man whose friendship she quickly begins to cherish. Has she been too hasty with her promises, or will she only find what her heart is longing for back home?

My Thoughts:

Although this story holds some intrigue about what Sallie's summer away from home would be like, especially with her growing sense of unrest, it didn't really hold my interest well. Another disappointing aspect is that I felt I never got to know the family she stayed with very well, especially the father. The story is just too focussed on Sallie. This one wouldn't fall under 'page-turner' for sure. It sort of strays from this author's usual story lines where you see more of the Amish lifestyle. This one is more about one Amish girl tentatively stepping away from the world she knows well, into the less familiar. The end of the book was not really a surprise; I would have been surprised had it gone the other way.


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Spirit of Canada - Chicken Soup with a Pinch of Hutterite Flavour


About the Book:

Chicken Soup for the Soul The Spirit of Canada is finished and at the printer. The release date is June 6th, 2017 - just in time for Canada Day! This book has 101 wonderful, heartwarming, touching stories that celebrate who we are as Canadians, and how much we love this country. We read over 1000 stories to arrive at this final group, and believe me, those final decisions were not easy. Congratulations to all the authors whose stories were chosen to be included. 

I'm delighted to be one of those authors! After years of submitting numerous stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul, one of them has finally made it into a book  - and a very Canadian book, too! I can't wait to leaf through this book and look for my story. Yes, for sure I'll read all the other stories as well, but first, I'll just need to savour seeing my own.

So, if you're yearning for a helping of Chicken Soup with a pinch of Hutterite flavour, this is it. (No bowl or spoon necessary, just a copy of the book and your favourite reading spot.) Of course, Spirit of Canada would also make a great Canada Day gift, or for any other occasion. If you have a chance to read my story, I'd love to hear from you.

Have you or any one you know ever had a story published in a Chicken Soup book?

I'm wondering if any Hutterites have ever had their stories appear in these books. I've read many Chicken Soup books over the years, but have never seen a story by a Hutterite in any of them. But, of course I haven't read them all.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Hutterite Diaries Spinoff

It's true, one never knows what will happen once you get something published; the same is true when you answer the phone. Case in point, I got a rather unexpected call just before Christmas. I didn't know the person on the other end, and his name, Peter Slobodzian didn't ring a bell either. He told me that he and his family own and operate Q Lake Lodge here in Manitoba and that some of our guys, including my brother had fished there some time ago. As you can imagine, while he was telling me all this, I was wondering how I fit into any of it. Sure, I wouldn't mind spending time at a nice lake, but I don't care about fishing at all.

 "I'm also a substitute teacher and sometimes teach at Treherne School," he continued. "One day, while I was filling in for one of their teachers, I visited the library and found your book, Hutterite Diaries. Intrigued, I quickly read a few stories and liked what I read. Would you be interested in submitting articles for our Rural Outdoors magazine?"

A lovely surprise, for sure! In any case, I found my voice and asked him to tell me more about this magazine, since I'd never heard of it. Rural Outdoors is a publication he and his family publish a few times a year, as part of their Q Lake Lodge promotion. After chatting a few more minutes, we decided to meet for further discussions sometime after the holidays. After that meeting, I sent him a few of my stories for him to look at and decide if they'd be a good fit for his magazine. He was clearly excited about featuring a story written by a Hutterite, since he does business with some of the colonies.

Thus, the most recent edition on Rural Outdoors has one of my stories in it. It's one you've most likely read, if you've been following this blog for a while.  You can read an early version of it here. Or perhaps some of you, especially if you live in Manitoba, will get a chance to see it in Rural Outdoors. 

Feel free to share any of your own out-of-the-blue lovely surprises.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Maverick Hutterite – Verlyn Hofer

About the Book:

"Born in November of 1870, David was but three years old when his parents, along with other Hutterite brethren, began making final preparations for their journey to a new land. He was too young to be concerned about the religious and political implications of this great exodus, but most certainly his entire life would be greatly influenced by this momentous decision to immigrate to America." David Hofer was born into the Hutterite Church and communal way of life in Russian Ukraine at a very unique time in this little-understood Christian community's history. After nearly four hundred years of fleeing across Europe in search of a homeland in which to practice their faith free from persecution, the Hutterites made the momentous decision to flee Ukraine and set sail for the North American continent in 1874. The very first Hutterite Colony in North America was established near Yankton, South Dakota, on the banks of the Missouri River in 1874. This colony, called Bon Homme, is where young David Hofer would observe his fourth birthday soon after its founding. However, by seventeen years of age, David would make a decision that would change his life forever. Rather than join his family in their move from Bonne Homme colony to Milltown colony, he would strike out on his own and break away from the Hutterite way of life. This is his journey.

My Thoughts:

Enhanced by a collection of family photos, this book begins with a condensed, but helpful overview of the history of the Hutterites. After approximately hundred years in Russia, the Hutterites again looked for a new home, this time crossing the ocean. David Hofer’s journey started in the Ukrainian frontier. When he was a little boy he and his family got on a ship and headed for the United States. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this detailed and sprinkled with humour historical account, of one maverick Hutterite. It’s obvious that a lot of time and research went into chronicling this remarkable story. His venture of leaving family and home at the Bon Homme Hutterite colony in South Dakota wasn’t easy, but he persevered and over time was rewarded with a successful business. Even though David chose to leave his Hutterite colony, he, for the most part, stayed true to his Anabaptist beliefs. He maintained contact with his family and always respected the faith and communal way of life he grew up with. This is obvious, through visits to see his family, although rare and at times unsettling. When the Hutterites were being mistreated because of their pacifist practices, David was clearly hurting for his misunderstood people. 

While reading it struck me that with dialogue or more quotes this narrative would have been even more captivating, as this engages the reader, brings the characters to life and infuses drama into the story. I would have loved to hear the voices of David and Anna and others through conversation pieces that could have been woven into the story. I know this is not always easy with this type of book, but I saw a number of places where it would have worked beautifully. 

Nonetheless, I recommend this book to anyone interested in Hutterite history, or who wants to get a glimpse into the life of the Prairie People, families and individuals who chose to leave their communal way of life to live in mainstream society.

My sincere thanks to Verlyn Hofer for sending me a copy of The Maverick Hutterite, in exchange for an honest review. And to Jordan Hofer for putting me in touch with his grandfather, the author of this book. 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Treasures from Yesteryear - Hinterbind-Tiechl (woolen headcovering)

Years ago Hutterites' winter wear did not include coats with hoods. Perhaps they were seen as "too worldly", I'm not sure. Since Hutterites settled in areas of North America which are subject to severely cold winters, they naturally had to find ways to keep their heads warm. Men wore fur caps, in Hutterisch known as Kopm. I still remember my dad wearing one of those - there was no way any kind of cold could penetrate this type of head gear. When I see photos of a Kopm, I think of Russia and wonder if that's where the Hutterites started wearing them.

Women, especially the grandmas kept their heads warm with a Hinterbind-Tiechl. Not quite as warm as the men's fur cap, I assume, but it did the trick for many years. Most likely women would not have spent a whole lot of time outside anyway; at least not as much as the men, who always walked to the barns and shops, which were often a considerable distance from their houses. These Hinterbind-Tiechlen tended to be quite fancy, with colourful embroidered borders with flowers and the name of the person who it belonged to in big, bold letters. The Hinterbind-Tiechl shown above belonged to my grandmother, and as you can see is over 70 years old.

This was an era when both men's and women's clothes were quite dark. Which makes me wonder about those fancy bright-coloured borders on the Hinterbind-Tiechl. I believe the Hinterbind-Tiechl says something about the Hutterite women back then: they were practical, knew that it's important to keep their head warm, and in their own unique way added flare and beauty to their clothes, despite the fact that bright, bold colours were frowned upon.

Today, when I see head coverings with fancy little borders, I'm reminded of the woolen headcovering of yesteryear: Hmmm, I muse, not quite as big and bold as yesteryear's, but floral-bordered head coverings are definitely making a comeback. 

Recently, my sister-in-law wished for one of those woolen wonders to wear in winter. My mom found a plain black one and gave it to her. I'm not sure if she can embroider, but I can certainly see how she would find joy in adding a bright yellow border to her new-old Hinterbind-Tiechl. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Quilts: Warmth, Love, Smiles

Memories are like a patchwork quilt, each section is sewn together, to be wrapped around us for comfort and warmth in the years to come. Author Unknown

Yes, with temperatures dipping to -30 degrees, I'm thinking quilts. It's one way to take the shivers out of our extremely cold winter days. I love quilts anyway - curling up under one, reading books with a quilt woven into the story and seeing patchwork quilts on display. It's true, quilts signify comfort, warmth and love; three things we all enjoy and thrive from. Every human being has the right to feel safe and loved.

Which reminds me of the refugees moving to Canada and other countries to begin a new and better life. What a blessed opportunity for them and for the people who are supporting them. I've heard some heartwarming stories about how much these people appreciate and enjoy their new home, and the friendships that have blossomed between refugees and their sponsors. They're making memories that will bring smiles and feelings of well-being for many years to come. By offering people from war torn countries a safe place to live, we're sharing with them comfort, warmth and love. It saddens my heart when I hear of political leaders closing the door to people in need. They somehow fail to remember that there's most likely an immigration story in their own family's history. Someone opened a door for their ancestors, a door which they're now slamming shut.

From Swatches to Quilt
We are a nation of immigrants, a quilt of many colors, and we've managed over more than two centuries to create a way of life that allows for a reasonable degree of upward mobility, that prizes individual liberty, promotes freedom of religion and genuinely values equal rights for all citizens. Jay Parini
Read more at:
We are a nation of immigrants, a quilt of many colors, and we've managed over more than two centuries to create a way of life that allows for a reasonable degree of upward mobility, that prizes individual liberty, promotes freedom of religion and genuinely values equal rights for all citizens. Jay Parini
Read more at:
We are a nation of immigrants, a quilt of many colors, and we've managed over more than two centuries to create a way of life that allows for a reasonable degree of upward mobility, that prizes individual liberty, promotes freedom of religion and genuinely values equal rights for all citizens. Jay Parini
Read more at:

Another quilt story can be found in one of the chapters in my book, Hutterite Diaries. It's about lap quilts we make for Alzheimer patients each winter. Here's an excerpt:

Sewing lap quilts is an ideal project for Hutterites for a number of reasons. Hutterites are avid sewers; consequently, there are always lots of leftover pieces around that are “just too good to throw out.” What better way to use them than in quilts! Furthermore, we were in the middle of winter, where there’s more time for indoor activities like sewing. There’s just something warm and cozy about a few women getting together to create quilts with the wind howling a sub-zero song outside. Most importantly though, this is a very worthwhile project and benefits residents of senior homes for years to come.

When my book was published a few years ago, one endorsement was especially heartwarming and fits with this post:  
Linda Maendel’s  clear vision and her loving heart wrapped me in a fine quilt of story as I read. Of all of the books on Hutterites that I have seen, this is the one that I cherish.” —Joe McLellan, author, the Nanabosho series
I scrolled through previous posts and found quite a few about quilts. I've added them here, in case you'd like to read some of them again: 
Do you have a quilt or refugee story to share? I'd love to hear it!