The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

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9781594487804: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie
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For anyone who has ever wanted to step into the world of a favorite book, here is a pioneer pilgrimage, a tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a hilarious account of butter-churning obsession.

Wendy McClure is on a quest to find the world of beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder-a fantastic realm of fiction, history, and places she's never been to, yet somehow knows by heart. She retraces the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family- looking for the Big Woods among the medium trees in Wisconsin, wading in Plum Creek, and enduring a prairie hailstorm in South Dakota. She immerses herself in all things Little House, and explores the story from fact to fiction, and from the TV shows to the annual summer pageants in Laura's hometowns. Whether she's churning butter in her apartment or sitting in a replica log cabin, McClure is always in pursuit of "the Laura experience." Along the way she comes to understand how Wilder's life and work have shaped our ideas about girlhood and the American West.

The Wilder Life is a loving, irreverent, spirited tribute to a series of books that have inspired generations of American women. It is also an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones-and find that our old love has only deepened.

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Amazon Exclusive: Gretchen Rubin Interviews Wendy McClure

Gretchen Rubin started her career as a lawyer, and she was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realised she really wanted to be a writer. She lives in New York City with her husband and two young daughters. Rubin is the author of several books, including The Happiness Project.

Gretchen: If you had to pick the one scene from all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books that makes you the happiest, what would it be? I'd pick the scene where Mr. Edwards brings back the Christmas gifts to Laura and Mary, after he meets Santa Claus in Independence. I cry every time! Or maybe when Laura tells Almanzo that she won't go buggy-riding with Nellie Oleson again.

Wendy: For me it’s when the Ingalls family moves into the “wonderful house” in On the Banks of Plum Creek. The rooms are clean and new, with store-boughten hinges and china knobs on the doors, and everything is in its place. Every time I read it, I swoon over the details, from the calico-edged curtains to the smell of the pine boards. A close second is the scene where Laura gets to see the surveyors’ house for the first time in By the Shores of Silver Lake.

Gretchen: Why do you think the Little House books have meant so much to you for so long?

Wendy: I think it’s because the point of view is at once so subtle and vivid that it feels like I’m in Laura Ingalls’s head, looking with her eyes. I learned so much about how to see from these books, which in turn helped me learn to observe and think like a writer.

Gretchen: Now that you've had all those adventures and written your own book about LIW, do you feel differently about Wilder and the books?

Wendy: In some ways, yes. I’m able to separate the real Laura Ingalls Wilder from her fictional counterpart and see her in ways that my childhood vision of her didn’t allow for. I also now see Laura’s daughter, Rose, as part of the books because she contributed so much to them. At the same time, the world of the books hasn’t changed much in my mind. Even when I’ve seen the actual sites where the books take place, my imagined version of those places is just as real to me as it’s always been.

Gretchen: Having written The Wilder Life, you must be approached constantly by people who are also ardent Laura Ingalls Wilder fans. Do you feel an instant connection to them, or is it a bit hard to relate to everyone's strong emotions about her work?

Wendy: I feel more connected to other fans much more than I ever did when I was younger. As a kid, my relationship to Laura and the books was so solitary—I didn’t really know anyone else who loved the books. So when I started to meet and talk to others about the book, it took a little getting used to at first, because everyone’s fandom is different (some people really love the TV show, others consider it sacrilege); but I’ve since found that one of the best things about writing this book is being able to take part in this shared passion.

Gretchen: How in the world do you come up with those hilarious Twitter comments as @HalfPintIngalls? Brilliant. My favorite so far: "Hey Almanzo, if you liked it then you should’ve built a shanty on it."

Wendy: It takes longer than you’d think! I try to take advantage of the seasons and think, what would Laura be tweeting about this time of year? (Thanks to The Long Winter, it’s never too early or late in the year to complain about twisting hay!) I also go through the Little House books in search of inspiration. It helps that HalfPintIngalls doesn’t tweet too much...after all, she has to walk two miles into town to send her posts from the Twittergraph office!

About the Author:

Wendy McClure holds an M.F.A. in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is the author of I’m Not the New Me and the creator of the online journal Pound, as well as the humor site Candyboots. She is a columnist for Bust, a regular contributor to the website Television Without Pity, and her writing has also appeared in Glamour, The Chicago Sun-Times, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications. She lives in Chicago.

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