Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Influential Minnesota Authors

A friend recently commented that Minnesota has produced some amazing authors. Since I love all things Minnesota (and I couldn't help but agree with my friend), I thought I would share two of my favorite Minnesota authors and how they have impacted my writing and life.

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
I'd love to hear from you. What stories/authors impacted your life growing up? Have you visited the places where those stories were set?

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Upper Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people, places, and events. Gabrielle has a novella releasing in July in the Of Rags to Riches Romance Collection with Barbour, and two Love Inspired Historical novels releasing in August and December.

Find Gabrielle on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, Her Website and sign up for Her Newsletter to learn more about her writing.


  1. I loved Little House, and had never heard of the Betsy-Tacy books. Sounds like a good read! I'm sure it's always best to write based on what you know, giving your books a solid authenticity. Great post, thank you!

    1. I hope you take the time to read Betsy-Tacy. Even as an adult, they are such a fun read. I'll be reading them again one day! Thank you for stopping by, Connie.

  2. GABE, thank you for sharing this trip! Looks like you and your girls had so much fun making those precious memories!

    1. They were such fun trips! Just looking at the pictures again makes me smile. We're planning a trip to Ohio this year, and I'm hoping to take in more Little House stops.

  3. It looks like you had a great time with your daughters. I visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder homes in Kansas, where her family lived in the "little house on the prairie" back in 1870. I've never heard of the Besty-Tacy books either.

    1. I'm so happy to introduce you to another fun series, Vickie. The Betsy-Tacy books are a beautiful collection of stories that are worth a read, no matter your age. I'm always surprised that Little House is more popular, but I'm sure it's because of the TV series.

  4. I borrowed the Betsy-Tacy books from the library when I was growing up, and I love them too! I read them to my daughter when she was growing up, and now she's reading them to her daughters. It was such a great time in the early 1900s. So many things were changing and being invented.

    1. Oh, that makes my heart so happy, Donna! I wouldn't be surprised if my daughters read Betsy-Tacy to their girls one day. If they don't, I sure will!! :)

  5. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series. I haven't visited her historical landmark in Minnesota, but I have visited the her museum and landmarks in Missouri. Last summer, our Lincoln Log Cabin Historical Site had an impersonator of Laura Ingalls Wilder sharing her history and about her books. What a great event. Thank you for sharing, Gabrielle.

  6. Thank you for introducing me to a new author! I was unaware of Maud Hart Lovelace's stories. Looking forward to reading them. My favorite storyteller is Nebraska author Bess Streeter Aldrich, whose home in Elmwood, Nebraska, is not far from where I live. I have visited often and had the privilege of speaking there for a fundraiser a few years ago.