Maud Hart Lovelace was born in Mankato, Minnesota on April 25, 1892. Not only do we share the same birthday, but we also share the same love for our home state. Maud wrote the Betsy-Tacy series over the course of fifteen years. It's a fictional retelling of her childhood in Mankato around the turn of the twentieth century. We follow Betsy Ray (Maud Hart) from her fifth birthday until her marriage, throughout ten different books. Not only do you watch Betsy grow up, but you also watch her family, friends, and community grow and change with the times. You see the first automobile in Mankato (named Deep Valley in the books), you get to experience high school in the early part of the twentieth century, you fall in love with all the boys Betsy loved and you get your heart broken right alongside her. Then, you meet the man she'll eventually marry, and you fall in love all over again.
Her best friend, Tacy, for which the second half of the series is named, grew up across the road from Betsy and they were so inseparable people didn't call them Betsy and Tacy, their names were combined to become Betsy-Tacy. I read this series as a child/teen, and then I read them to my daughters a couple years ago. We went to Mankato on a sort of pilgrimage when we finished the series and made wonderful memories together.
Maud Hart Lovelace's writing is the most influential in my life. I can't even begin to describe how I bonded with this series growing up and how it shaped my life and how I feel about my hometown and the state I love. Even though she graduated high school in 1910, and I didn't graduate until 1999, I felt as if the things that truly mattered to Maud were still the same things that truly mattered to me almost ninety years later. She invites you in as a member of the Crowd, as she called her friends, and you get to know several people throughout the community. You see where she spent her summers on Mummering Lake and you learn all about the cultural fads of the day, including the Merry Widow hat, "puffs," Magic Wavers, popular songs sung around the family piano, dances, how they spent holidays, and so much more. It's a treasure trove of life in the Midwest during the early 1900s.
I write historical fiction set in my hometown, and inspired by real people and events, because of this series of books. I think there is something beautiful and profound about an author writing from his/her roots.
|My daughters at Tacy's house in Mankato|
|My younger daughter in Betsy's kitchen|
|Having lunch on the bench where Betsy & Tacy took their suppers.|
We brought boiled eggs, chocolate cake, lemonade and ham
sandwiches, just like Betsy & Tacy ate on their picnics.
Another Minnesota author who has inspired my writing in many ways is Laura Ingalls Wilder. Though she wasn't a Minnesota native, part of her Little House on the Prairie series was set in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where she lived with her family.
The year after I read the Betsy-Tacy series to my daughters, I read the Little House on the Prairie series and we made a pilgrimage to Walnut Grove to see the Little House on the Prairie Pageant and to sit on the banks of Plum Creek. It was truly a highlight of my life to share that experience with my girls. At the end of the year, when we were sitting around the table sharing the highs and low of 2014, I asked my girls what they thought was my highest high. They both said that getting my first two book contracts that year. I said no, going to Walnut Grove with them was my favorite memory in 2014.
Here, again, is an author who wrote books from her roots. She took what she knew and she painted such beautiful, vivid pictures, we couldn't help but fall in love with her and her family. In each stage of my life, every time I've read the books, I feel like I identify with a different character. Mary, because I'm the oldest of two sisters. Laura, because I love to tell stories and paint word pictures. And then Ma, when I became a mother and suddenly had a completely different appreciation for what that woman endured.
Little House on the Prairie is a timeless series of books that appeals to every generation.
|My oldest daughter in the Laura look alike contest|
|Close to the dugout where the Ingalls lived|
|On the banks of Plum Creek, close to the Ingalls property|
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