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A Laura Ingalls Wilder Letter Story and Interview

In July, I was teaching at a writing conference when one of my friends (who I only see at this conference) let me know she had something to show me. She handed me a book protecting an envelope. A treasure within a treasure.

Inside the envelope were letters and photographs I had seen before but never held in my hand. (I even paid for rights and permissions to use the 1894 photo when Laura was 27 in my book.)

I am so honored that Ginny Merritt trusted me with her treasured letter and photographs. She was happy to share a bit with Little House fans about her Laura Ingalls Wilder letter. Of course we talked at the conference. However, I had to follow up with an interview.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion/Annette Whipple: Thank you so much for sharing your treasured letter with us. Please tell us a little about yourself! 
Ginny Merritt: I come from a family of readers. My dad read aloud to us from The Giant Book of Fairy Tales as we sat on the sofa or armchair beside him. My parents enrolled me and my three siblings in the Weekly Reader’s Book Club when we were in elementary school and took us regularly to the
Gloversville (NY) Public Library.
Annette: How were you first introduced to the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder? 

Ginny: It was there in the children’s room on the bottom shelf where I first discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. I was entranced from the start. I stretched out on the carpet and
perused each one, then selected one in sequential order to check out.

Annette: You must have been quite the fan to write a letter to Laura Ingalls Wilder. What prompted you to do so?

Ginny: Probably before I had read the complete series, I told the children’s librarian how much I loved
the books and expressed my interest in writing to the author. Whether she knew that Laura
Ingalls Wilder had already passed on or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that she and my
father helped me to write the letter, and she provided an address for the publisher.
Annette: How did you feel when you received the letter and photographs?

Ginny: What an amazing event to receive a letter in return with black and white photographs of the
author. I have cherished those items all my life. Of course I could hardly wait to show them to
the librarian who was equally thrilled.
Annette: Tell us about how the Little House books influenced you.

Ginny: When my parents grasped how much the books meant to me, they began to order hardcover
copies for me at the little local bookstore on main street in Gloversville. Mom received a
notice when the book arrived, and she took me with her to pick it up. The old storekeeper
went to a back room and brought back a package wrapped in plain brown paper. Mom
paid for it and let me carry the package. What a treasure. I cradled it on my lap in the back seat
of the car, waiting to get home to the sofa to open it and begin to read it again.

That entire collection holds a special place on my bookshelf, along with a doll I made a few
years ago and named Charlotte, after Laura’s precious doll. I still read the books from time to
time, especially when I am ill and need a lift.
Annette: Oh, I love your sweet and simple Charlotte. You can take a peek at the Charlotte doll my aunt made for me here. What else do you want to tell us? 

Ginny: As my husband, Ray, and I formed our family life with our two children, Ann Elyse and Hans,
we established the habit of family reading times. The books we read aloud are so memorable:
Winnie-the-Pooh, Lorna Doone, the Narnia Chronicles, The Red Bicycle, and of course the Laura
Ingalls Wilder series. Both children became avid readers. Ann Elyse read the LIW series through
so many times that we thought she might turn into Laura herself!

I often thought about forming a Little House club for girls around ages 7 to 11. I wanted to read
the books with them and do all kinds of crafts related to Mary and Laura’s lives. That club never
happened, so I was delighted when discovered Annette Whipple’s Laura Ingalls Wilder
Companion book. Hoorah for you, Annette!

We have many favorite stories from the Little House books. Two of them are “Grandpa’s Sled and the Pig” (Little House in the Big Woods) where Laura and Mary are having so much trouble sitting quietly on Sunday, and “Sheep Shearing” (Farmer Boy) where Almanzo fools Father, Lazy John, and Royal by taking an unsheared sheep up into the loft of the barn.
Annette: Tell us about your own writing. 

Ginny: Books have been so formative in all our lives. As I developed my skills and interest in writing, I
began to create stories especially for children. I was encouraged to know that Laura didn’t start
publishing until she was 65. My first book came out when I was 62! I now have four children’s
books: A Ram for Isaac, The Window in the Wall, Ed’s Christmas Miracle, and Mending the

Annette: Ginny, thank you so much for sharing your story and allowing me to share it here. I am honored! I want to share links for your books for those who are interested in knowing more! These are affiliate links (with no additional cost to you); honestly, I'd love for  you to request books from your local bookstore. I just finished The Window in the Wall and appreciated the story. (Readers, be sure to check it out!)
Are you curious which book Ginny handed me? It was Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder and edited by Stephen W. Hines which has been revised and expanded in Laura Ingalls Wilder Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks, also edited by Stephen W. Hines. It's a book I HIGHLY recommend if you want to read more of Laura's writing.

In my next blog post, I will share photographs of the actual letters so you can have a personal look at these special letters. If you've never read a letter Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote to her fans, you won't want to miss it. I can't wait to share!

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. Great interview! I enjoyed reading it.

    1. A great interview, Annette and Ginny!

    2. Thank you, Susan - it was a pleasure to work on it with Annette.

  2. This was a charming interview, bringing memories nourishing to your heart and new light to your eyes, Ginny. Those books , letters and photos were more than the journeys they provided. They were (and even yet) the strong arm of your daddy’s love as you listened, curled beside him. They were your mama’s gift of loving imagination, inviting you to run free with it. And look at the giving towards other children our Lord embroidered upon your heart as you wrote for them! He smiles at you; He knew His plan, started when you were so young, was going to work out well.

    1. Anne, thank you for your special comments. I'm telling you, YOU are a writer!