Work in progress


Last year I rediscovered my old childhood obsession with the Little House books and Laura Ingalls Wilder. This year I’m writing a book about it all.  I’ve visited the sites of Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie and I’ve seen all manner of Laurarabilia at the Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri. I’m making plans for another big trip out west in July to see the rest of the homesites, and in the meantime, I’ve been trying my hand at various nineteenth-century frontier activities, such as churning butter, frying salt pork, and playing with corn-cob dolls. And then I’ve been writing.

I’ll be working on the book through the end of the year, and Riverhead Books will publish it sometime in 2010. The working title is The Wilder Life—don’t know yet if that will change, but we’ll keep you posted.

Some days the work is as fun as roasting a pig’s tail, and other days it sucks like Plum Creek leeches. Either way I love it.

Would you like to help? I’m always interested in hearing about other people’s Little House memories and experiences—anything involving the books, visiting the homesites, or even the TV show. If you’re interested in sharing, contact me and I’ll send you a very informal questionnaire. Then we can talk Laura until the cows come home, though we should really keep them from running over the sod roof of the dugout house.

I’ve also been taking photos and video of my research adventures and eventually I’ll be sharing all of those, too. You can search using The Wilder Life tag on my Flickr site to see what I’ve posted so far. (There are many more where those came from.)

And if you still need an internet Laura fix after all this, you can always follow HalfPintIngalls herself on Twitter.


Yes, I wrote a picture book. And as of this spring it’s out.


There’s been a growing need for books about peanut allergy, and the folks at Albert Whitman were looking for something new. We’d published The Peanut-Free Cafe in 2006 and we wanted to be able to offer something else. And one day, during an editorial meeting, we were talking about how we wished we had another peanut allergy book. We were also talking about how we could wished we had some kind of princess picture book. (Memo from children’s book land: princesses are HUGE.)

“We need a book called ‘The Princess and the Peanut,'” I said, not too seriously.

“You need to write a book called ‘The Princess and the Peanut,'” my boss said. “Seriously.”

Okay, then! I promised I would try.

I had another reason for writing a book like this. Chris has several food allergies, including one to tree nuts: almonds, pecans, cashews—pretty much any nut that isn’t a peanut. So I know about having to to be flexible, checking food labels and asking questions; about having to speak up in inconvenient situations. I started thinking about how all this might affect someone’s very princessy birthday party, and that’s when Paula and Regina started to come to life.

And then I had to rewrite it a ton of times, and then wait around anxiously while everyone else at Whitman was off in another room discussing whether or not the story was as good as something that would have come from a writer outside the company, and also, I’m sure, discussing how badly I dress and how I never dust those action figures that I have in my office. (That’s definitely the downside of getting your book published by the same company you work for.)

The upside, of course is that I got to see my book get made, and watch slowly as Paula and Regina really came to life, thanks to  Tammie Lyon and her completely perfect illustrations. I especially love Regina’s big round owl glasses. THERE ARE NEVER ENOUGH CUTE GLASSES GIRLS IN CHILDREN’S BOOK LAND.  Oh, and you can see another illustration from the book in Tammie’s online portfolio.

Anyway, now the book is done—along with the other Spring titles that we worked on last year. Of course, now we’re already well into working on production for the next spring’s book, and you barely notice when a current title hits the shelf.  Except when you’re the one who wrote it, that is.

(Buy it from Albert Whitman, or Amazon, or, or Powell’s, or IndieBound. )

Author talks, Bloggangangers and little houses

Old post office

Alert! I’m doing an author talk at StoryStudio Chicago on Saturday, May 30th, along with Stephanie Kuehnert and Simone Elkeles, and we’ll be talking about living the literary life, Chicago-style (because that’s what the program says), which lately for me involves whole days spent indoors eating nothing but pitas from the Al-Khayyam bakery on Kedzie and watching all kinds of unspeakable stuff that I’ve Tivoed from the Hallmark Channel. (For research!) Anyway, both Stephanie and Simone write young adult novels, and seeing as how I write for an adult market and edit for a children’s one, it sort of balances out to YA, right?  I think between the three of us we’ll be able to help you. And I promise that if you come to this it will way be better than if you’d just written me an email asking whatever it is you want to know about writing and publishing, because when you email me it puts off the completion and subsequent publication of my next book by at least forty-five minutes. I’m almost serious here. Really, just come to this thing on the 30th.

It’s great to be writing a book and working on it every day, and yet there are so many things I would rather be doing than writing a book. For instance I wish to high heaven that I could take part in this VC Andrews Reading Challenge (see also here!) because for the past two years or so Chris and I have been going through the books in the original Dollanganger series, wherein I read them aloud to Chris while we’re on long car trips (he drives, I read) and then we thoughtfully discuss the various motifs that appear throughout the series, such as The Lifestyles of the Rich and Dismal (Do the Foxworths always have to go with the heavy draperies and crystal goblets and extremely long dining tables? With all that money, couldn’t they could figure out how to be less creepy?) and Extreme Ballet (Cathy’s pirouette-and-slap fighting technique is unstoppable!).  We are on Garden of Shadows now, which is way much better than the horribly-paced soapy fizzle of Seeds of Yesterday; so much better, in fact, that I’m pretty sure the ghostwriter studied the proto-feminist themes of Daphne du Maurier in grad school, because it is kind of loaded!  I wish I had time to write a paper on it or something!  But read this excellent recap of Flowers in the Attic instead. You will not be sorry.

Oh, and GUESS WHERE I WAS LAST WEEK.  And I was here, too. That’s practically all I can tell you right now, but I will say that when I was in Missouri I met the awesome Catherine Pond, who saw some of the same stuff I did and became my friend. It made me very pleased to know that another writer could tell I was a writer, because, like I said, when you spend half the week at home eating pitas and rearranging sentences and being stuck for hours at a time in the chewy pita pocket of your own mind, you can kind of forget what you are, and sometimes you just need to get out and see little houses.

(Incidentally, I’m interested in hearing from people who have intriguing or hilarious anecdotes about visiting any of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites, so drop me a line if you have something to share.)

Chris and I are off to New York this weekend, but more when I get back. See you on the 3oth, too.