Friday, November 16, 2012

Smucker Satisfaction -- and a Giveaway!

I was never a normal child. To any of you who have known me for more than a few minutes, this fact will not come as a big shocker.

As in, my parents would take away my Reader's Digest as punishment instead of sending me to my the age of six. Yes, I was that nerdy.

But Reader's Digest wasn't the only written literature I loved. From first grade on, I fell in love with the Register-Guard, Eugene's daily newspaper. Except for the business section, I read it cover to cover every morning.

(And yes, I somehow managed to find an incredibly attractive husband. Real men dig smart girls!)

One of the treasures I soon discovered was a column called, "Letters from Harrisburg." Written by a Mennonite minister's wife, it told the adventures of raising six children in an old farmhouse in Harrisburg. Even in elementary school, I remember being shocked that the RG would publish someone who wasn't a hippie or a PETA member. It gave me hope.

So I started studying Dorcas Smucker's secrets of a good essay. And over the years, I've had plenty of chances, because she's flat-out brilliant.

That's why I was so excited to review her fourth book, Tea & Trouble Brewing. As in, she has now personally e-mailed me and sent me free books. I love my job. 

Presented as a collection of essays, TATB can be read in any random order. But random isn't a word I would use to describe Dorcas Smucker. More like deliberate, hysterical, surprising and relatable.Why do I love Dorcas' writing? Simple.

1) She reminds me of my mother. And that's the biggest compliment I could give anyone. They both have six children, three boys and three girls, some biological and some adopted. They both live in the country and love it. They both are laugh-out-loud funny, most of the time on accident and without realizing it. They both dig Leslie Sansone's walk workouts. They both run the show quietly, mostly while serving and in the background. And as my mother says, "I could never be Amish, but I think I could be Mennonite." Ding ding! Dorcas has been both!
  Future best friends? I think so!

2) Dorcas' life is nothing like mine...and exactly alike. So she is fluent in Pennsylvania Dutch and wears a head covering. Suffice it to say her childhood was slightly different than mine. But really, after reading all four of her books, I'm still shocked at how similar we are. Her world -- the Willamette Valley, the joy of raising a bummer lamb, rambunctious boys lighting things on fire, the passion to serve God, family and community -- is my world. And I think, even if those things I just mentioned aren't part of your everyday life, that you will reach a similar conclusion.

3) She's subtly hilarious. I love ridiculous humor (hence my love for both "Father of the Bride" films and "Nacho Libre"), but I also thoroughly enjoy the kind that makes you smirk, then giggle, then finally crack up. Dorcas is the latter kind of author. While watching her son Ben give a speech, for example, she was immensely proud. A normal feeling for a mother. But then: "But I still clutched Paul's [her husband] hands like I was giving birth, and when Ben got a standing ovation, I went wilder than a Mennonite mom ought to go" (from "On Truly Winning," page 31). I may or may not have spit out my cereal in appreciation upon reading that gem.

4) Her writing is impeccably genius. This isn't some random blog with a few funny stories thrown together. These pages are chock-full of carefully-crafted beginnings, middles and endings. One specific reason I love Dorcas' writing? She ALWAYS connects her final paragraph to her first in a way that perfectly ties up the package. That takes serious talent and years of work.

So what does this matter to you? Glad you asked. Just for reading this blog, YOU can win a brand-new, autographed copy of Tea & Trouble Brewing!

Simply leave a comment on this blog (NOT Facebook!) with your name saying:

1) Why you would like to win
2) Your favorite kind of tea...or trouble.

I will randomly choose a winner on Sunday morning, contact you and mail you your hot-off-the-press copy! (Winner must live in the U.S.).

If you're not the lucky winner, never fear. You  can still order a copy for yourself. Or send a $15 check to Dorcas at 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446.

Whether you're a winner or not, check out Dorcas' blog and her Facebook page. (Yes, Mennonites have Facebook pages). Happy tea-brewing!