Many people think about writing their family history, but few actually do. After all, writing a book takes a lot of time and work, and who else but your family would care? Who would buy such a book? You probably wouldn’t make any money, that’s for sure. Right?
But … have you ever heard of Rose Wilder Lane? Rose is the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who you probably have heard of. Rose had a pioneer childhood, which means her family was dirt poor. As soon as she could, she moved away and worked as a journalist and ghostwriter, living variously in San Francisco, Paris, New York, and Berlin. She ghostwrote sensation-laden books for many celebrities, and for a time she was one of the highest-paid female writers in the country, although her money slipped through her fingers because she eschewed the self-sacrificing lifestyle of her pioneer parents in favor of travel and luxury.
In the meantime, Laura Ingalls Wilder also dabbled with writing, writing a biweekly newspaper column. In 1930 she decided to write an autobiography. She originally called it Pioneer Girl, and it was intended for adults. But it was rejected by several publishers. Then one of them suggested she rewrite it as a children’s book. Maybe because she was tired of the book by then, she got her daughter Rose to help her rewrite it. Laura and Rose were very different personalities, so it was a challenging collaboration, but with Rose’s help, possibly a great deal of help, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books are now beloved by many generations of children.
Perhaps I like this story so much because as a ghostwriter, I am always pleased to tout the contributions of other ghostwriters.