chapter  5
Writing the West: 1911 to 1943
Pages 17

An undated letter fragment from Rose to her mother strongly suggests that Wilder was already working on a series of stories for children, or possibly a collection of children’s verse, around the time Rose left Rocky Ridge in 1910. 1 Two decades would pass before Wilder returned to children’s literature, but her instincts as an aspiring writer were accurate. She had an early, intuitive sense that writing for children might best fit her interests, style, and talent. In the interim, she served her long apprenticeship in an entirely different field. Following the old adage “write what you know,” Wilder first broke into print as a farm journalist. Dismissed by some later critics as an underwhelming achievement that could not possibly provide the training required for her astonishing future success, Wilder’s contribution to regional papers like the Kansas City Star was, in fact, a significant and unusual accomplishment for a woman of her day, so much so that some of her earliest writing appeared under the byline “A. J. Wilder.” Almanzo’s name, not her own, leant credibility to her writing and was more likely to win initial approval from a rural audience unfamiliar with her work. Still occasionally employed by writers and journalists, the gender-neutral byline also provided Wilder with a degree of cover as she slowly acquired regular readers, both male and female.