Day 8: 2012 Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway: Pamela Smith Hill

by @thewritermama on May 8, 2012 · 20 comments

I recently hosted Pamela Smith Hill at the Northwest Author Series and found her presentation on the topic of biographical research to be fascinating. She revealed that when she was looking for a focus for her Laura Ingalls Wilder biography, she discovered the literary tension between Laura and her daughter, who was also an author. I never knew that Laura’s daughter was an author. Rose Wilder Lane was her name, and the stories Pamela told us about the tensions between them were fascinating. You could pick up Pamela’s book because you like biographies, because you like Laura Ingall’s Wilder, or because you appreciate a real-life story of the relationship between two related authors. Or you could enjoy it for all three reasons!

Please help me welcome Pamela!

About Pamela Smith Hill

Pamela Smith Hill is the author of the award-winning biography Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life and three young adult novels:  The Last Grail Keeper, A Voice From The Border, and Ghost Horses.   She is currently working on a new Wilder project, which will be released next year.

At 18, she sold her first story to her hometown newspaper and has been writing professionally ever since.  She’s taught professional and creative writing classes at universities in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.  Her books have been recognized by the Junior Library Guild, the Oregon Book Awards, Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, the National Indie Excellence Committee, and the Mark Twain Award Committee.  She lives in Portland, OR, where she continues to teach and write.


In Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Pamela Smith Hill delves into the complex and often fascinating relationships Wilder formed throughout her life that led to the writing of her classic Little House series. Using Wilder’s stories, personal correspondence, an unpublished autobiography, and experiences in South Dakota, Hill has produced a historical-literary biography of the famous and much-loved author. Following the course of Wilder’s life, and her real family’s journey west, Hill provides a context, both familial and literary, for Wilder’s writing career.

Laura Ingalls Wilder examines Wilder’s inspirations as a writer, particularly her tumultuous, but ultimately successful, professional and personal relationship with her daughter—the hidden editor—Rose Wilder Lane. Wilder produced her timeless classics with the help of, but not reliance upon, her daughter’s editorial insights. Over the course of more than thirty years, Lane and Wilder engaged in a dynamic working relationship, shifting between trust, distrust, and respect. Hill argues that they differed in their visions of the path Wilder’s career should follow, but eventually Lane’s editing brought out the best of her mother’s writing, and allowed her creativity, expression, and experiences to shine through.

This book is the first in a new series of biographies highlighting South Dakota’s most famous residents. Future volumes in the South Dakota Biography Series will focus on the lives of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock.

The Very Short Interview

When did you know for sure that you were a writer and that writing would be a major energy focus in your life?

Stories and books have been my passion for almost as long as I can remember. I started writing and illustrating picture books in third-grade; alas, my illustrations were vastly superior to my writing back then, but I was addicted from that point on. And over time, my writing improved as my artistic talent did not. I went on to work on my junior high, high school, college, and hometown newspapers. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.

Who has always been behind your writing career and who helped pull you up the ladder of success?

The inspiring children’s book author Eloise Jarvis McGraw once told me that “Nobody but you really cares whether you write or not. Never mind that, keep at it.” And I have to agree with her. If you’re serious about a writing career, you have to be self-reliant, self-starting, self-disciplining. But over the past twenty years, my critique group has provided support, encouragement, and constructive criticism that kept me writing when my inner critic told me it was hopeless. The writers in my critique group have made writing seem less solitary and a little less daunting.

What is the most frequent comment you hear about your book (or books) from readers? Tell us a little story about the response to your work.

Readers of my Laura Ingalls Wilder biography register shock, surprise, and sometimes dismay when they learn that Wilder’s Little House books are fiction not autobiography, that Wilder transformed the facts of her life to make a better story. Several people have told me that after reading my biography, they’ve been inspired to reread the entire Little House series to better appreciate the dramatic differences between Wilder’s real life and the fictional version she created in her books. But most of all,  I’m grateful to those readers who’ve told me that my writing moved them to think in new ways about Laura Ingalls Wilder, the American Civil War, mother-daughter relationships, women in science, social expectations for young women– all the various subjects and themes I’ve chosen to write about over the years.  Good writing should make you think and feel and experience life in new ways. I’m delighted when readers tell me my books have helped them do just that.

And Now, Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. You remember how this works right?

I ask you a question. You answer in the comments for your chance to win a book each day.

Please just respond once, even if you make a typo. ;)

Answer in the comments in 50-200 words (no less and no more to qualify to win one of today’s books). Please read the complete rules at least once!

Thanks for participating in the Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway! I hope to see you here every day this month. Bring your friends!

You haven’t answered the three questions our author mamas are answering, so let’s tackle those.

What is the most frequent comment you hear about your writing from readers? Tell us a little story about the response to your work thus far.

Ready, set, comment!

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  • I don’t hear a lot of comments from readers, but I treasure the ones I get. If a reader takes time to contact me, it’s usually because something I wrote has given them some kind of relief from their own bad feelings about themselves. I gave them permission to forgive mistakes, make different choices or ask for help when they need it. We could all use that kind of encouragement, I think.


    I first started writing a column for our local paper, a woman stopped me in
    McDonald’s one day and asked if I was Carol Alexander. When I said yes, she wanted
    to tell me how much she enjoyed my column. I would have to say that has been
    the most frequent remark. However, more recently, I’ve had a few blog tours go
    for my ebooklets in the Lessons from the Homestead series. It thrills me to
    read those reviews and to think that I’m making a difference in the lives of
    homeschooling families. One day I found myself wanting to click on the link and
    purchase my OWN book. J

  • ML Gomes

    Until this spring I only shared my work with close family members. Most of them, including my sons, were surprised at how little they knew about me. My immediate family encouraged me, but my generation is intimidated by it, what people will think… 
    Needing outside opinions, if only for a sanity check, I began sharing several chapters with friends in our community. They had no fear of secrets being told. Their response was uplifting after writing in seclusion for so long. Most were along the lines of -Wow! I want to read more of this. When will it be finished? What happens next? I wish I had done this earlier.

  • Sara

    Most of my writing these days is on my blog and gets “been
    there” kind of comments. It’s a comment that I got several years ago in a
    writing class that stuck with me: This would be lovely to share with your
    family, but you aren’t reaching other readers. That message came back to me in
    the past year or so as I thought about what I’m writing now and how to bring it
    beyond a nod and “been there,” how to make it bigger than an anecdote, because
    that’s where I think I’m getting stuck. 

  • Amy Simon

    I haven’t heard much feedback because my published work is all magazine articles. I have a couple unpublished novels that some family and friends have read. They generally find them interesting stories and my critique groups have enjoyed the suspense and action in one of my novels. I used to write humor pieces just for fun at a job I used to work at. My coworkers enjoyed my funny take on the people and events. Does that count?

  • Leigh Ann

    Since most of my writing is technical in nature, most of the comments I receive regard a lack of clarity or detail.  My challenge is to forget what I know and read my own writing with a limited understanding of the subject matter.  Usually, the missing details become instantly clear.  

  • Carol Busch

    My readers are my friends, the ones I send emails, and they tell me I’m “a great writer.” So, I’m starting to write more. I just wrote a personal essay that made my boyfriend cry, but he had a close connection to the subject at hand: his son. Still, he says I should write. If tears don’t motivate, I don’t know what will!

  • I write a great deal about hearing loss and how it affects children and families and the biggest comment that I receive is how helpful my pieces are and how people wish there had been more information that they had access to when they were dealing with these issues. I actually had two comments last week from readers on an article I wrote about Auditory Processing Disorder – they applauded how accessible I made a pretty difficult topic.  I think that I have so much invested in the topic that I am able to take the research and talk about it in day-to-day terms.

  • Heather L. Lee

    Well, Sunday night my husband said, “Oh, you always do a good job.” This was when I asked him to proofread a slightly contentious letter before I sent it off.  I used to be a prolific writer of hand-written letters, and my great Uncle once responded with, “Heather, if I haven’t told you before, you write a damn good letter.”  Comments are few and far between as I am only now returning to writitng.

  • A major part of my writing was done on a nightly basis 50 years ago when I wrote one page entries in one year diaries. I am compiling these entries (again on a nightly basis) in a blog I have named WCHS, MPHS and Park College…Diary Writing 1960-1965. Commenters say they wish they had kept a diary or journal or that my blog is a time capsule from more simple times. When I was just starting my blog in 2010 I learned from one of marketing expert Susan Gunelius’ Blogging for Dummies books that mine is a niche blog. I commented about that on one of her blogging sites and was thrilled to receive a comment back from her about my beautiful niche blog.   

  • Amy Becker

    I hear a lot of positive comments from my critique groups on my fiction pieces. I even won a local writing contest, which was nice. I’ve also had a lot of good constructive criticism as well. I hear about plot holes, or different choices that might improve my writing. It’s great to hear other people’s perspectives on my writing, because I get so immersed in what  I’ve written that I don’t always see what others see.

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  • Some tidbits of praise that I have taken very much to heart: “it is lovely to encounter your words at this unexpected moment”, “well done, and way fun!”, “thanks for sharing such a personal story”, “your piece is beautifully written”, “very powerful!”, “fitting and beautiful”, “your simple story is elegant”, “ahhh yes, this resonates”, “this made me smile”, “when I read your essay, I cried”. My goal is to make my readers laugh, cry, identify with the story, or show them a different way of looking at things. When I succeed, I feel completely rewarded.

  • Jean Farmer

    People say that I make things understandable and that they like my conversational tone. In one case, my writing made some people cry. I wrote a book about my parents, their ancestors, where they came from, and how they came to be my parents. I have five siblings. The book was finished for my father’s 90th birthday. Some people read parts of the book at his party; several of them cried as they read. What a testament to the power of words!

  • Lorraine Wilde

    The most frequent comment I’ve received is that readers connect with my point of view and experience. I write from personal experience and I often choose to cover topics that I know my best girlfriends are thinking and talking about, dealing with, and/or avoiding. Writing about what I share with other people brings us together on common ground.

  • Mar Junge

    It’s primarily my editing that gets rave reviews. I have a knack for improving content. Three decades of wielding the red pen (or today, using track changes) has not dulled the thrill and the power of editing. My writers know I’m a stickler for short, precise content. I can trim down bloated copy with a few clicks. Sadly, marketing writing skills are definitely not appreciated by college professors. My kids have pretty much stopped asking me to edit their papers because when I do, they get a B-! How can that be? I’m a professional writer! Apparently, starting sentences with “But” and “And”and lots of other “writer’s privileges” do not fly in academia. So as to the quality of my writing, I guess it all depends on who you ask.

  • Deb

    Sometimes the response is “Huh? I don’t get it.” Occasionally (from editors) it is “Not bad writing, but not for us.” Usually, and luckily, the response is something like “Thanks for the laugh when I really needed it.” It’s that response that I strive for and the one that makes the others okay, too.

  • christinakatz

     Congrats, Carol. You have won today!

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  • Marla Martenson

    My readers comment that they appreciate how I share my own challenges and difficulties in my books. And they also say that I make them laugh. 

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