Log in

Pioneer Girl: The Path into Fiction

Pioneer Girl: The Path into Fiction


$39.95, Hardback
ISBN: 978-1-941813-40-9

Preorder now! Ships May 30, 2023

When Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her autobiography, Pioneer Girl, she had no idea that children across the United States would be reading about and falling in love with Laura Ingalls and her family just two years later. Pioneer Girl: The Path into Fiction traces the evolution of Wilder’s matter-of-fact memoir of her girlhood in Wisconsin into a bestselling novel for children. Along the way, editor Nancy Tystad Koupal discloses previously unknown aspects of this story as she examines the various drafts of Little House in the Big Woods.

The third volume in the Pioneer Girl Project series, Pioneer Girl: The Path into Fiction follows Wilder as she steps away from autobiography and into the world of fiction. The story began in Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography (2014), edited by Pamela Smith Hill, which made the original text of Wilder’s 1930 autobiography available to readers for the first time. But that was only the start of Wilder’s journey as an American novelist. Wilder next handed her text over to her daughter, novelist and journalist Rose Wilder Lane, for editing. The second volume in the series, Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts (2021), edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal and other Pioneer Girl Project editors, presented Lane’s three revisions of the Pioneer Girl manuscript, allowing readers to explore the working relationship between Lane and Wilder.

When the revised versions of Pioneer Girl failed to attract a publisher, Lane reframed the Wisconsin portion of her mother’s memoir as juvenile fiction. The resulting twenty-one-page picture-book manuscript, “When Grandma Was a Little Girl,” featured Pa’s well-honed tales told within the cozy Ingalls home in 1870s Wisconsin. This manuscript captured the attention of a New York publisher, who wanted more words—15,000 more words—about pioneer life for readers aged eight to ten. Accepting the challenge, Wilder returned to Pioneer Girl for additional material. As she wrote, she created multiple drafts and a completed manuscript for Lane to edit and type. Collecting all the unpublished drafts in Pioneer Girl: The Path into Fiction, editor Koupal documents Wilder’s process and explores the roles of authors, editors, and agents in the crafting of children’s fiction.

Koupal reveals that as Wilder continued down the path, she came to understand that writing novels freed her to restructure events, create stronger, combined characters, and fit truth into the space between fact and fiction. The succession of manuscript drafts that paved the way from the original Pioneer Girl to the publication of Little House in the Big Woods reveals the strengths of Wilder as an author and Lane as an editor and agent. The relationship brought forth the best efforts of both women and created a childhood classic.

This publication is funded, in part, by the Mary Chilton Chapter National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, through the Mary Chilton DAR Foundation, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

About the Author


About the Editor


Similar Books