Two more events

Summer is just about here, and my paperback book tour is just about over, though I do have a little more fun happening in June—one event out of town and one here in Chicago. Next weekend is my talk for the Harford County Public Library in Maryland. It’s this Saturday at 6:30 pm at the branch in Bel Air. I’ll be talking about the book and my experiences for the Smithsonian Journey Stories. The event is free and open to the public. Then the following Friday, June 8th, I’ll be the author guest at the Much Ado About Tap Literacy Works fundraiser at the National Museum of Mexican Art here in Chicago. It starts at 6pm and there will be beer, dance, local food and more! You purchase tickets for this one, and it’s for a great cause.

 After these, I may be doing an event here and there (including the authors’ reception at LauraPalooza 2012), but for the most part I’m looking forward to spending, with Chris, the first relatively laid-back summer we’ve had in years. See you at the beach! Or the beer garden. Or the drive-in. For once I have a bucket list that doesn’t involve a replica log cabin and I swear I don’t know what to do with myself.

RED DAWN! Plus an especially special new release

I did not join the Russian mafia. I know, I know, I had this weird site hack last month, where the page would load and then redirect so that suddenly you’d be reading a page that would be all YOU WANT GET RICH?! YOU WORK FROM HOME!! IS GOOD SYSTEM!!! I contacted Jennette, who went into the site databases and found that they were all seething with malware, so she hosed everything down with cyberbleach and I think the hack is finally banished, thank goodness.

And while all kinds of Cyrillic scams were going on here this winter (excuse me, “winter,” since the proverbial Chinook started blowing when, like late February?) I was finishing up the special short ebook I wrote to coincide with tomorrow’s paperback release of The Wilder Life. Yes! Tomorrow! I’m telling you!  Except plugging my own stuff always feels a little awkward in a way that makes me almost (almost) wish that this site was still infested with pushy entrepreneurial Russians, because then I could leave the promotional stuff up to them. YOU WANT MORE BOOK?! YOU BUY RIVERHEAD E-SPECIAL!!! IS BARGAIN PRICE!!!

They could also handle the heart-breakingly hard-to-answer comments on the Facebook page that were coming from folks who really want the ebook special to not be an ebook (BUT THEN IS NOT SPECIAL) so they can keep it in their Little House collections (SO SORRY IS NOT FRANKLIN MINT).

But obviously I’m the only one here, so it’s up to me to explain. All I can say is that I had so much fun working on Don’t Trade the Baby for a Horse, and being able to publish it as an ebook was what made it possible in the first place. Nearly a year after The Wilder Life first came out, I got to revisit one of my favorite subjects in the whole universe, write about stuff that I didn’t have a chance to cover in TWL, write about things that happened after it came out, and resolve that nagging regret that out of all the Little House-related activities I did for my book, I’d never managed to discover what it was like blowing up a pig bladder balloon. Of course, now I seriously regret finding out. But it had to be done.

I’m grateful that when TWL came out last year, so many people chose it as a hardcover: it was one of those books that was meant to be three hundred pages long, to be published with a jacket and foil stamping on the spine; the kind of book that needs months and months of advance preparation before it even comes out. Don’t Trade the Baby is not one of those books—it’s a little book, though it is round and strong!—and I’m grateful that I can still publish it and not worry about things like sell-through and returns and earning out. (Though I won’t make a dime on the especial unless copies are sold, which is a trade-off I was willing to try.) Anyway, that’s the story.

I will admit that it’ll be a little weird not being able to autograph copies of DTTBFAH (I did scrawl on the back of a Kindle once, which was strange). I’m thinking about getting some letterpress bookmarks made for LauraPalooza to give to people who have bought the e-special. And if you come to one of the paperback tour events this month, I’ll be happy to sign by proxy any card you can bring, or else any sunbonnet, tin cup, log, china shepherdess, corn cob doll, copy of Millbank, wooden slate, hardtack slab, button-string, iron spider, butter paddle, haystick, or snow-white-gleaming jewel box with a wee gold-colored teapot and a gold-colored tiny cup in a gold-colored saucer on the lid. Because objects are still important.

I’ll tell you a little more on the paperback tour later this week, but for now, I leave you with these:




Two things I need for you to do:

1.) If you dug The Wilder Life and are on Goodreads (or would like to be on Goodreads), you have until Sunday the 20th to vote for it in the first rounds of the Goodreads Choice Awards, where it is a nominee in the Memoir/Autobiography category. I don’t think I actually win anything and I know having to choose between me and Nikki Sixx puts you in a tough spot, but I hope you’ll vote this week.

2.) My last book-related event of 2011 (out of nearly twenty!) will be a benefit for Literacy Works Chicago on Monday, December 5th, at the Hopleaf. We’re going for a Little House Christmas (for grown-ups) theme, and it’ll be much more festive than a book-signing. If you’re in Chicago, this is a great opportunity to hang out in that upstairs room at the Hopleaf for a good cause. So, come if you can! (Downloadable PDF with all the info here.)

Five things I’ve been doing since my last blog entry:

1.) Reading your young adult novel manuscript: Well, maybe not YOUR young adult novel manuscript, but there are a lot of people out there whose agents have sent me YA manuscripts, and I’m reading the hell out of them. (The rest of you ought to be working on YAnovel manuscripts this month, right?)

2.) Getting hitched. See below:

Yeah, that was fun. The September weather was perfect, and my brooch bouquet did not fall apart, though it weighed a ton (and no, I did not toss it). Every day, for nearly two months now, I consider two incontrovertible facts: First, that the wedding was wonderful and it went far beyond our expectations and second, we do not have to plan it anymore. Chris and I are SO FREAKING GLAD.

3.) Traveling for the next three weekends after the wedding and subsequently recovering from all the travel. What were we thinking? Although one of the weekends was a stay at a Lake Geneva resort, where about sixteen other weddings were taking place on the grounds around us and it happily reminded us that WE WERE DONE WITH OUR WEDDING and could sit around in comfy clothes reading novels (published ones, not manuscripts).

4.) Writing an adventure story for This American Life. Hot zig! I have always wanted to be a contributor and I got the chance to do it last month. The episode is here, and my piece is in Act Two. (My piece was inspired by children’s time-travel stories, like this insane serial in a 1960s Boys’ Life magazine.)

5.) Preparing for winter: I keep hearing that the coming season is going to be a massive snowmageddon winterpocalypse of coldastrophic proportions. There aren’t any muskrat houses in my neighborhood that I can check, but I suspect that the regular, non-musk rats around here are scurrying more and building bigger garbage nests in anticipation. At any rate, I’m getting kind of excited/paranoid and wanting to TAKE ACTION about this. I’ve replaced the tires and battery on the car (okay, which I needed to do anyway, but I feel better and even a little righteous about spending the money, knowing that the car will be in much better shape to face the coming of the SnowAntiChrist), bought a new parka, and am looking for new snow boots (recommendations, please!), and racking my brain for more things Chris and I can do or buy to give us the smug satisfaction of being ready when the time comes and the Evil Snow Empire descends. Shouldn’t we get batteries? Candles? DVDs of stylish 50s melodramas? Yes, yes, and yes.

Snapshots from a Little House life

1968: According to the caption in our family photo album, this is OUR HOMESTEAD. Not long after they got married (and before I was born), my parents bought a parcel of land near Belen, New Mexico (south of  Albuquerque, where they met). They bought it at as an investment, with maybe the vague idea that they’d build on it some day if it was worth something.

(Note that the mountain is not included.)




Of course, when I was a kid in Chicago I always imagined that we’d wind up here and build a shanty or something. My parents did end up moving back to New Mexico in 2006, but they bought a place with running water and electricity and a hot tub in the backyard, because they’re no fun at all.

Apparently my dad still owns the land, and it still looks exactly like this.



1979: Our very own Long Winter in Oak Park, Illinois. I’m pretty sure the Blizzard of ’79 coincided with my Little House reading years. The snow in Chicago was so heavy that garage roofs began to collapse around the city.  One night my dad had to go out on the roof of the front porch and shovel off those snowdrifts—a feat that seemed at least as thrillingly treacherous as Cap and Almanzo’s seed wheat rescue.

I remember being disappointed that I couldn’t look out my bedroom window and see the snow at eye level the way Laura could.


1980 (?): You may have already read about how I was in a community theater production of A Christmas Carol and got to wear a bonnet. And a long dress. And a crocheted shawl.

This was pretty much the high point of my life, I think.







1981 (?): Here I am at my own version of Plum Creek, at a campground west of Chicago that we’d visit two or three times a year, mostly on holiday weekends. I fished (badly), waded, caught crayfish (or at least watched people catch them), and tragically lost swim toys to the current. If I could have done all of it while wearing a calico dress, I would have.

I also tried my damnedest to grow my hair long enough to braid.  You might have been able to wrench a couple of pathetic pigtails out of that mess, but just barely. That’s the longest I’ve ever been able to grow it.


2009: But who needs good hair when you have a BONNET? I bought at this one the Little House on the Prairie Museum in Kansas and preened in the mirror of my motel room in Springfield, Missouri. The first of many bonnets I would buy, and many, many more dorky photos.


Speaking of pictures, I’m in the process of putting up more photos of my Little House trips and shenanigans on The Wilder Life’s Flickr page as well as the Facebook page, so stay tuned.

Also! Book review blogger extraordinaire The Girl from the Ghetto has posted a truly EPIC review and giveaway of The Wilder Life today, so if you want another chance to win a copy of the book before it officially launches a week from Thursday, GO ENTER.

Counting down

With the book release coming up, it seemed like a good time to have a site makeover, so welcome to, Pretty Prairie Edition! If you’re reading this through a feed reader you’ll have to click over to the site to see, and if you’re already here, made yourself at home.

The site’s new finery is the handiwork of Jennette, who has been promoting her own new book Chocolate & Vicodin this winter (PLEASE view the exceedingly-cute-despite-the-depressing-subject book trailer on that page, by the way), and who knows how jittery the book pre-launch experience can be. I’m not twitching that much right now, but of course there’s 18 more days left to freak out.

A few of you have asked if it makes a difference where or how you buy the book. I’ll just say that any new purchase or pre-order of the hardcover or ebook will directly support The Wilder Life, and whether you choose an indie bookseller, a chain store, or an online merchant is up to you. As long as you don’t buy an advanced reader copy on eBay (which is sort of illegal) or shoplift (definitely illegal), you will be doing fine by me (and avoiding jail & stuff).  That said, I have heard that early sales and pre-orders are important, so if you can buy early and buy often (Sorry, I know, I’m from Chicago), it will definitely help.

Other things you can do to support The Wilder Life right now[Read more…]

Announcing THE WILDER LIFE wagon trail

A much more detailed event page is forthcoming on this site, but for now, here’s a quick list of all the confirmed The Wilder Life events for this spring:

April 14: CHICAGO: Barnes & Noble (Webster Place), 7:00 PM

April 16: KANSAS CITY: Johnson County Central Resource Library in Overland Park (with Rainy Day Books), 2:00 PM

April 18: ST. LOUIS: City Library, Schlafly Branch (with Pudd’nhead Books), 7:00 PM

April 19: IOWA CITY: Prairie Lights, 7:00 PM

April 20: MINNEAPOLIS: Magers & Quinn, 7:30 PM

April 21: CHICAGO: Book Cellar, 7:00 PM

April 29: CHICAGO/WINNETKA: The Bookstall, 6:30 PM

May 3: CHICAGO/NAPERVILLE: Anderson’s Bookshop, 7:00 PM

May 10: MADISON: Barnes & Noble (West Towne), 7:00 PM

May 17: BROOKLYN: Word, 7:30 PM

May 18: DURHAM: The Regulator Bookshop, 7:00 PM

June 11: ALBUQUERQUE: Bookworks, 3:00 PM

In addition to the event page on this site I’ll also have all these events posted on The Wilder Life’s Facebook page, where you can spread the word or RSVP for reminders.

There’s one part that’s really hard about announcing book event stuff, which is that for every place I’m headed, there are dozens of others that I can’t visit. I’m lucky that Riverhead could give me a few days of semi-glamorous Midwestern jet-setting in addition to the couple of trips that I’m making on my own dime, but it’s still just eight cities I’m visiting, which makes it awfully statistically likely that I’ll miss yours.

So when you say, “Come to Otisburg!” or “Can you please stop in Chocolate City?” my heart wrenches like a twisted towel, because of all the above events have been in the works for months and it’s usually not possible to spontaneously add Otisburg or Chocolate City or Bedford Falls or even Port Charles to the list, though I will definitely keep them in mind for next year when the paperback comes out. It is a sad fact that I am not a one-woman jam band and cannot tour the country for months and months, improvising long, noodling solos every night on my butter churn guitar.  That said, I hope that those of you who are in these cities will come out for a lovely night (or afternoon) of reading, book discussion, trivia (maybe!) and other Little House shenanigans yet to be determined.

(Photo courtesy of