Some years ago the Hutterian Brethren Book Centre in Manitoba ventured into publishing children's books written and illustrated by Hutterites. It was an exciting time for us, as it meant our children would finally have books where they can relate to the stories and characters. In some cases they even know the authors and illustrators personally. Most of the books were English, one was German and some Hutterisch.
My book Lindas glücklicher Tag (Linda's Happy Day) was one of these books. My sister Sonia Maendel illustrated it. I recently read it to our kindergarten to grade two students and was reminded again how valuable these books are for Hutterite children. In this book, I wrote all dialogue in Hutterisch. Each time I read it to students, the excitement of hearing Hutterisch, seeing Hutterite characters and being able to relate to the colony setting, a place near and dear to them, is obvious. Seeing this reaction, coupled with the fact that I love to write, left me dreaming about writing more books. Not only for Hutterite children, but for anyone else interested in our way of life.
About a year ago Herald Press gave me the opportunity to realize this dream. They were working on a Plain Spoken series where Amish, Mennonite and Hutterite writers can share their stories. When their query letter reached me, via a friend in Alberta, they were looking for a Hutterite interested in writing a book with them.
I was intrigued and responded to the letter, introduced myself and asked if a collection of stories would be an option for a potential book. A week later an excited editor emailed me and asked to see some pieces I'd written. I sent her some and also told her about my blog. After a few days she called and told me, "Linda, with what you have on your blog, you already have a good start for a book. You have some excellent pieces there that readers would enjoy and learn from."
This sent me on an enjoyable and enriching experience; from deciding which stories I'll use in the book, to planning in what order they'll go, to writing, rewriting and editing. We decided on twenty two chapters or stories on a wide variety of topics; work, celebrations, family, heritage, history... all woven together by faith and community, giving readers a glimpse into our communal life. I'm hoping this book will help dispel some myths and assumptions people still have about Hutterites, and that it will inspire other Hutterites to pen and publish their stories. It's high time!
I learned a lot about the publishing process as well. For my first book I wasn't involved so much in that aspect. Working with a professional editor gave me the opportunity to grow as a writer - Valerie Weaver-Zercher, Herald Press editor was a joy to work with and an excellent teacher.
Although I thought I'd be intimidated with working towards a deadline, I really wasn't bothered by it at all – didn’t even think about it much. Choosing a picture for the front cover including some for some of the chapters was fun as well. Even the lengthy discussions on coming up with a title we could all agree, would be a good fit for the book, was a learning experience. I had no idea so much time, thought and effort go into putting the front cover together. Working on this project has really changed how I look at books - I have a whole new appreciation for all the work that goes on before a book goes to print.
I'm delighted to say Hutterite Diaries: Wisdom from My Prairie Community will be released this coming May. It is now available on Amazon for a special pre-order price. It can also be purchased directly from Herald Press.
Here are some other books written and illustrated by Hutterites, available at HB Book Centre 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