A LETTER SHOWING HOW THE LITTLE HOUSE BOOKS WERE WRITTEN. Rebecca Onion’s article in the Salon Vault reproduces a typewritten letter from Rose, the daughter, to Laura about a manuscript of BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE. It’s exciting to see the yellowed letter with the old-fashioned typewriter font, dated January 21, 1938, from the Grosvenor Hotel at 35 “Fifth avenue”. More important is that the letter seems to me to be what I would consider the comments of a typical editor.
Rose returns the manuscript with a typed copy of the manuscript. She begins with a suggestion about how to handle the transition from the end of the previous book when Laura was 8 to the beginning of the new book when Laura is 12. She recommends leaving out cousins who don’t play a part in the story. She recommends omitting events that readers will have trouble believing. She recommends leaving out some material which she thinks is not appropriate for a children’s book.
The biggest change Rose suggests is about the order of events in the book. She says that the book is about railroading and town building and that material about farming should be put only at the beginning and the end of the book. Her explanation for making this change makes clear that this is only one option for Laura “Then….there’s a pattern. I don’t know whether it’s the pattern you intend, but anyway it’s a basic pattern, a foundation, and that’s what we must have, of one kind or another.”
Of course, there are many letters between mother and daughter and it is possible that Rose made many changes in the process of “typing” the manuscript, but the letter standing alone reads like a letter from an editor to an author.