Sunday, February 27, 2011

To write something grand

A while ago, I read a book about Rose Wilder Lane and how much influence she had had on the writing done by her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder.* Rose was a writer herself, and according to this book, she had a heavy editorial hand in Laura's Little House books.

From what I remember, Rose viewed the Little House books with a rather practical eye. They were nice, of course, and would find a modest audience, but they weren't exactly serious literature. I recall that Rose had a cherished ambition to write a really grand epic novel, or series. It would have breadth and depth, would cover everything: the ups and downs, the bitter and sweet of life.

She never did write that epic. And the Little House books went on to become a phenomenon: still in print decades later, read by generations of children.

Sometimes we think our work has to be so grand and significant, so elegant and high-minded and complex, that we despair of ever writing anything worthy. And all along, something familiar and true may be the story that really resonates with others.

*I believe the book was The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane, by William V. Holtz, although I'm not 100% sure. I checked out the book in question from the Philadelphia library a few years ago, and I see that the Philadelphia library does have this book.

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