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The Story Behind The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion Part 2

In my last blog post, I shared how I'd been blogging for years and had even taken writing courses to improve my writing skills, but writing books was not on my radar.

But then in August 2014 I had a book idea. In that blog post, I share the beginning part of the story behind The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion which includes
• the inspiration for The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion
• why I wanted to write a guide to Little House for kids
• the first steps I took to understand the publishing world and hopefully get published
• attending my first writing conference
• waiting (and spoiler: a rejection)

Curious for details? 
And now let me tell you how this book almost didn't become a book--but not because of that first rejection or a hundred rejections.

Winter and Spring 2016

I couldn't give up because of one rejection. Since I'd been studying the publishing world, I knew what to do. I used a writers' market guide to study publishers. I needed to know who would be a good fit for my book. A book about a book, history, people, and with 75 activities. I found a handful of publishers I wanted to submit to. So I did. 

And then I waited.

I had a kind rejection from Chicago Review Press spring 2016. Remember how I said publishers sometimes have a different vision for a book than what is proposed? The rejection said, "It sounds like an interesting project but, as proposed, may not be a good fit for our press." Then it listed how their press couldn't do this or that--all things included in the proposal. 

So I responded to see if they would be interested if we didn't do this or that but worked around those items.

And then the editor asked if we could talk on the phone. (Also, I was at a writing workshop at the Highlights Foundation...where I didn't have cell phone reception. But the kitchen staff let me use their phone...and it all worked out.) 

When we talked, she made an offer. 

I cried. 

(Sorry if you weren't expecting me to get so personal. A book offer is highly personal though.)

April 2016

With the offer, soon a deal memo arrived in my inbox. There was a big concern that I talked to the editor about right away. No, not money, though that was not much. It was rights and permissions.

The world of Little House had already given me the impression that the Little House Powers That Be are very cautious with rights and permissions, and rightly so. With that in mind, the editor and I decided not to move forward with the contract until rights and permissions were secure.

Spring 2016 to Spring 2018: Waiting Part 2

Despite not including quotes in my book, we still needed to secure those rights and permissions. After talking to a few people, I knew it'd be tough. So tough that I honestly didn't think the book would ever be published. I couldn't just seek a different publisher or even self-publish. The same permissions were necessary. So I did my homework and made contact with the people I needed to contact.

Then I waited. Typically, authors begin writing books once they have an offer because the contract can take a long time to arrive. However, there was no need for me to write or research if there wasn't going to be a book contract. I had to wait. 

Instead, I worked on other writing projects. 

A year passed. I took more writing classes. Honestly, I became a much better writer. The wait was a good thing.

But I slowly gave up on my dream. They hadn't given permission despite my continued efforts. 

But, it'd been nearly two years. I gave up on writing a companion guide to the Little House books. 

I didn't want to write just a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. So I moved on to other writing projects and took more classes.

Spring 2018 

Two years. We waited for two years for those rights and permissions. 

Finally they came. I wondered if Chicago Review Press was even still interested. 

They were. Eventually I signed a contract.

Then I got busy. Reading. Researching. And more researching. 

Even a research trip.

I turned in my manuscript May 2019. It became a book August 2020, six years after I was first inspired to write it. 

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide was my seventh book. It was published by Chicago Review Press. 

Pandemic Publication

Like most other books published in the summer of 2020, this book didn't get much recognition or sales. Those who have learned about it are so enthusiastic. I'm so grateful for them! They're sharing on social media, reviewing online, and telling others about The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. 

All's well that ends well. 

Still Grateful

I wrote The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide to celebrate the rich history found in the Little House books. I included 75 Live Like Laura (and Almanzo) activities for every child who wants to be a pioneer kid. Wilder wrote based on her childhood, but she fictionalized the stories. Fact or Fiction sidebars help readers to know more about what she made up and what she kept true. 

The Little House stories are complicated. They deserve to be discussed. They need to be discussed. Every chapter in my book includes House Talk discussion questions to help readers think more deeply about the issues within the books and/or facilitate a group discussion. 

You're Part of the Story!

I'm grateful that so many people have reached out to me to tell me how much they (even as adults) appreciate this book. I've also ready many of your reviews. Thank you!

If you've read The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide, would you consider telling others about it? 

If you haven't read it yet but are interested, you can support your local bookstore, by asking them to get it. Your library can also get it if they haven't already. Most libraries have a form you can fill out in order to request materials (different than borrowing from another library). I appreciate ALL of your support!
Photo of me with my Advance Reader Copy in 2020.

Thank you so much for being part of the story. If you enjoy reading what happens behind the scenes, you might be interested in my monthly author newsletter. 

If these blog posts inspired you to keep after your writing dream, you might want to explore my author website more. I provide a lot of resources there for teachers and writers.

Please know I appreciate all of your support! Happy trails!

Annette Whipple writes nonfiction books for children, including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide which includes history, discussion, photographs, and 75 activities so readers can "live like Laura." Learn more about her books and presentations at

1 comment

  1. Annette, thank you for positing such helpful information. It is good to get a true picture of the writing/publishing process. You are a wonderful role model and I am learning a lot from you!