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It All Started in the Chicken House

August 27, 2022

Another Way for week of August 19, 2022   

It All Started in the Chicken House

I’m excited to finally introduce readers of my column to a book I’ve worked on for the last year and a half, titled Memoir of an Unimagined Career: 43 Years Inside Mennonite Media. Masthof press is the publisher. In the book you will learn how this column, Another Way, came to be. Along with many many other things you likely never knew. If you read to the end of this column, you’ll find out how to enter a drawing for a giveaway!

This is my tenth book and this one took a good deal of research, checking facts, digging in my memory, and resurrecting stories from 43 years ago. It took writing, editing, rewriting, proofreading and also choosing photos which help illustrate the story—and I hope, bring this history to life.

Here’s one of the opening stories in this book:

My mother gathering eggs in our longgggg (at the time) chicken house.

“I spent most of my time while in the chicken house daydreaming about what I would grow up to be, reflecting on my Mennonite faith (which only permitted Sunday work like gathering eggs and feeding animals, no field work), and boys.

“I also sang to the chickens, and enjoyed watching them cock their heads sideways at me, likely in horror at my sometimes off-tune voice. If I went opera on them or gobbled like a turkey, which I loved doing, they responded with a swelling chorus, cackling back. 

“It was in this earthy, smelly place of great contemplation and musical excellence where I first penned out my ambition in life on a scrap of paper. I still have it to this day, hidden in a file.

This is the original copy. On file in a cabinet. When to toss it??

“On this day, November 18, 1967, Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m., I decided what I want to be: a Christian writer.”

“I was 16 years old and by then had my first poem published in WITH magazine, our church magazine for teens—my second snort of the addictive drug called “Byline”.

“In retrospect I felt just a bit of holy awe as I wrote those words down, with no idea—not a clue—of how to get there as a young farm girl. Everyone else and my two older sisters were aiming for more traditional careers for women of the day: nurse and teacher.

“What would people say if I said I wanted to be a writer? I had been a faithful reader of the Mennonite church Sunday school papers and publications over the years put out by the denomination’s publishing house in Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Words of Cheer, Youth’s Christian Companion, Gospel Herald, Christian Living.

“But a writer doesn’t just write for bylines in church publications and ten-dollar checks. Writers want to make sense of things and perhaps offer a hint or a help to others going through dilemmas. Some people need spread sheets, equations, formulas. Writers need sentences and paragraphs.” (Page 5 in the book.)

***

You may ask, a work memoir? That sounds tedious. Who wants to read the ups and downs of an ordinary woman working in media for the Mennonite church? Here are a few more stories I tell in the book:

Yours truly on far left in the ABC Television newsroom when it was based in Washington D.C. Center is Ron Byler, another staff person and producer at Mennonite Media, leading a tour of Eastern Mennonite University students to the newsroom. Circa 1980s.
  • Escorted out of a large city mall for testing magazine ads there—without getting permission.
  • A national civic club demanding that Mennonites cease and desist from unlawfully using their name in a TV spot.
  • A church editor surreptitiously finding a workaround when Mennonite Media’s print director refused to divulge how much a full-page ad in Newsweek was costing the Mennonite denomination.

Mining years of memories (and files), in the book I aimed to combine personal memoir with the colossally changing media landscape of a Mennonite mission-oriented communications agency from 1975 to almost 2020. Not your thing? That’s fine, but if you’d like to register for a chance at one of three free copies I’m giving away, see the information below!

Obviously, our cat is not quite into “work memoirs”.

***

Comments or questions? I’d love to hear from you.

***

To enter the giveaway for my new book, send your name and address to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. Deadline for this drawing is September 2, 2022. The book can also be purchased on Amazon or the publisher at Masthof.com

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

6 Comments
  1. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler permalink

    I love your memoir; thank you for completing it, Melodie.

    I also got a lot out of being with the chickens on the farm where I grew up, but, thankfully, our chicken house was not as big as yours.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Dolores, it means a lot to hear that people are enjoying it.
      So you “talked” to the chickens too? Or sang to them? Love it! Blessings.

  2. Never has a very young woman been so specific about her choice of career as you, Melodie, as far as I know. Congratulations on this herculean accomplishment.

    Readers, here is my review of Melodie’s fine book: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4870277314

  3. Yes, I talk to chickens and then post my goals! I truly don’t know why I did that on that day but it was almost a God thing for me. I am very grateful for your review, and I hope more get posted! But others may be like me and don’t take enough time writing reviews …. so, especially grateful. Thanks for sharing your link.

  4. I loved seeing this newspaper article about your mom in the chicken house! Wonderful post!

  5. I just couldn’t resist adding that one! I love her smile in the picture too. Thanks for agreeing! And for taking the time to comment!

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