Interview with an Ontario Amish writer
Marianne Jantzi is the author of Simple Pleasures: Stories from My Life as an Amish Mother, which has just been released by Herald Press as part of its Plainspoken series by Amish, Hutterite and plain Mennonite writers. In the book the author shares from the heart as she welcomes readers into her family’s daily life and Amish community. Drawing from her own deep faith, this young mother brings an encouraging word to parents of young children, along with insights into simple living for readers young and old. She spoke with interviewer Ardell Stauffer by phone from her home in Milverton, Ont.
AS: Tell me about Connection, where you got your start as a writer.
MJ: It is a family magazine that goes on a subscription basis to many different communities. They publish a variety of things: devotionals, a lot of columns similar to my own, children’s contests, recipes. They feature a different school each month. There is a horse-related page and a page for women who run small businesses.
I understand you run a shoe business. Is running a business common for Amish women?
It is not uncommon. Connection features a family business each month.
How did you start writing for Connection?
My mother thought I should write for publication. After I got married, she thought I would enjoy it. . . . I wasn’t really interested in writing, but she coaxed till I wrote to the editor. At first they didn’t have an opening, but I’m very glad for that writing opportunity now. I started in 2010.
How did you decide what to write about when you started writing the Northern Reflections column?
That’s a difficult question. I write about whatever is happening at the moment—whatever is bothering me or bringing me joy, or whatever. Usually about the moment. Or something I read gives me an idea which I write about.
It seems part of what your column offers is a picture of Ontario life for others. Can you describe your Ontario Amish community—how many people you are, how long your history there is?
That’s actually in the book. It goes back; we are an original community. I mean we came from overseas and started the community; we are the only original Amish community in Canada. Not what we call a “daughter community.” We are not very large; we have nine or ten districts. A district is 15 to 30 families who have church together.
Have you always enjoyed writing? Did your teachers at school encourage you to write?
I had one teacher in fifth grade who really emphasized composition; she had us write a story three times a week. She only taught one term. She was my motivation. I met her last summer again and told her I’m going to be doing this book. I can only thank her for what she taught me in fifth-grade composition. I do enjoy writing very much.
What do you like about writing?
Expressing myself. I have a lot of opinions, of course. All writers do. I think it’s one way to sort through them.
You’re a busy mother with four children. And you have a shoe business. When do you find time to write?
I would like if someone would answer that for me! We usually find time to do the things we like to do. I like to write. I like to read. So I make time to do both. Usually early in the morning is my writing time. I would prefer evenings, but by the time it comes, I’m falling asleep.
What do you wish for people reading this book?
My biggest wish is that it leaves people encouraged. I don’t want to people to feel as though, “I could never live a good life like that.” I want them to be encouraged that we are in this together, and to reach for higher goals.
More information about the book is at http://store.mennomedia.org/Simple-Pleasures-P4687.aspx.
See also: ‘Customs vary among Ontario Amish’