Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pilgrimage

by Kathleen Ernst

LIW signLast month I visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park & Museum in Burr Oak, Iowa. It is a tiny historic site in a tiny village. The Ingalls family only spent a year here, helping to run a small hotel while trying to recover from a grasshopper plague-induced financial crisis.

It’s not a place most readers are familiar with. I stopped because I loved the author’s “Little House” series as a child. I was in the area anyway. Also, I write and blog about historic sites, and so am always on the prowl.

LIW siteI took a tour with a French family of four, and a father-daughter team. The family had come to the US to do the grand circle of sites relevant to Laura’s life and work. The dad seemed particularly enthused. He carried a French-language edition of one of the books, and explained that the “Little House” television series had been extremely popular in France when he was growing up. He’d watched the entire series several times, and read all the books.

The dad-daughter duo was also making the grand circle tour of all LIW sites. The daughter had just graduated from high school, and it looked like the two were having a wonderful road trip adventure. “I just love all those books,” the daughter said happily. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”

It was joyful to see fans so excited about an author’s stories that they planned entire vacations around them.

My sisters and I have talked about doing the LIW “circle,” although the right time has not presented itself. (I’d love to visit the sites relevant to the “Anne of Green Gables” series, too.)

LIW books

But the settings for my travel-to wish list isn’t limited to books I read decades ago. I’ve enjoyed travel to certain places largely because an author had intrigued me with plot, character, and/or setting.

So…what about you? Has a book ever inspired a vacation? Is there a place you’d love to visit in real life, having “visited” within the pages of a beloved book? I can’t imagine a better compliment for any author!

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On a different note – I have been surprised and touched and delighted to hear of people pre-ordering a copy of Old World Murder. If you have, or do, drop me an email with “Old World Murder” in the subject line. k.ernst -at- kathleenernst.com (use normal email formatting). No receipt necessary—I trust readers! On October 1, I’ll draw two names; each will receive a bookstore gift certificate.

19 comments:

Lisa Bork said...

Can't think of any book/author inspired vacations but huge fan of LIW, both the books and the television show!

Jess Lourey said...

Kathleen, a couple years ago I took my kids on a Laura Ingalls Wilder tour in my area. Since we live in Minnesota, we had lots of options. We started out in Wisconsin, on Lake Pepin, went to Walnut Grove and the banks of Plum Creek in Minnesota, then headed to South Dakota--can't remember the name of that town.

I liked it more than my kids, I think, because I loved the books growing up. My daughter did enter a LIW look-alike contest. She didn't win but ended up with a bunch of friends with freckles and braids.

Thank you for making me think of that fun time.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I loved the LIW books and still have a few. I've never visited a site because of a book myself, but living in Los Angeles sometimes I'll come across a place I just read about and go: oh yeah, that was in John's book or Jan's book, etc.

This past weekend I visited Julian, CA which is the setting of my Ghost a la Mode novel. A lady came up to me at the library and told me she learned of my books from readers who'd visited the town and her tea shop. And I know of several readers who did visit Julian because of reading about it in my book. It made me feel really GREAT.

Kathleen, I'm sure folks will be visiting the sites of your books because they sound so interesting.

G.M. Malliet said...

I also loved the LIW books but haven't made this particular pilgrimage and want to.

I am drawn to anyplace associated with writers...Concord, MA and Greenway in Devon instantly come to mind. Stratford, of course. There have been so many others!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Lisa - yes, the TV show certainly helped introduce LIW to a whole lot of people! Recently Melissa Gilbert did a stage version - playing the role of Ma. I didn't get a chance to see it, but would have loved to.

Jess - the MN sites are on my list!

Sue Ann - thanks for the kind words. And how very cool about the Julian readers!

And Gin - oh my, yes. Concord is high on my list as well. And my mom took a tour of England that was entirely themed to writers. She loved it.

G.M. Malliet said...

Kathleen - you would love Concord.

Somewhat related topic: They used to do a tour that included the villages used as settings for filming Midsomer Murders. That tour is on my wish list if they're still doing it.

Darrell James said...

Thanks, Kathleen. It makes me want to visit some of the Little House settings. It also causes me to want to seek out more inspired settings for my own writing.

Mark said...

When my family went to Europe, we started with Corrie ten Boom's house from The Hiding Place and ending with a castle that played a part in a Mrs. Pollifax book. Both were my only requests. Yeah, the trip was my college graduation present. I don't feel at all guilty.

I'm a huge fan of the Trixie Belden series, and every year I get together with a bunch of friends I've made who also love the books. Every year's location is inspired by the books (some more loosely than others), but the first year we went to the locations that were used to create Trixie's home town. I loved that.

Never done a LIW tour. Haven't even read the books in ages. I should make the time to revisit them at some point.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Mark - what an awesome graduation trip! And I'd love a Trixie Belden tour. Because I've written mysteries for kids, people often say "You must have been a Nancy Drew fan." Actually, not so much, but I devoured the Trixie Belden books.

Shel said...

A few places immediately come to mind: Yes, of course the LIW circle tour, I have wanted to do that one for years, and the itch got worse this summer on a trip we took to Kansas. The other ones...I want to go to the area described in the Shirley Rousseau Murphy "Joe Grey" series. I'd also love to do a Nevada Barr National Parks tour. Visit each park she wrote about - in order! That'd be a retirement project.

Alice Loweecey said...

I toured the House of the Seven Gables on vacation in HS, and Emily Dickinson's house in college. Both were different than modern houses (low ceilings and doorframes, ouch, and extremely wide halls). Both fascinating. They also nagged at me to write a ghost story about them. That's still on the back burner. :)

Kathleen Ernst said...

Shel - I'm not familiar with the Joe Gray series - I'll have to check that out! But I'm with you on Nevada Barr. I love her premise, and her skill at getting Anna from park to park. (I'm hoping to borrow her general idea, and get my protagonist/historic site curator from place to place.)

Alice - sounds like a great project. I hope you go for it!

Beth Groundwater said...

I love Alexander McCall Smith's #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and I now have a fascination with Botswana and a desire to visit the country some day.

Shel said...

Kathleen, the Joe Grey books have an interesting premise: They (Joe Grey and Dulcie) are cats that can understand and speak English, and they use these skills to provide anonymous tips to the local police department. If you read SRM's earlier science fiction work, "The Catswold Portal" you can see where the idea came from. They are fascinating books.

Cricket McRae said...

The Little House series inspired my lifelong fascination with colonial home crafts, which are featured in my Home Crafting Mysteries. I still go back and read the set from my childhood. Love the pics of your books!

When Laura lived in Mansfield, MO she wrote a series of articles that have been collected into a book called Litte House in the Ozarks. She talks about women's roles, the environment, baking bread, politics, town socials and war among a plethora of other topics. A charming and interesting read.
Hearth Cricket

Cricket McRae said...

The Little House series inspired my lifelong fascination with colonial home crafts, which are featured in my Home Crafting Mysteries. I still go back and read the set from my childhood, but haven't toured any of the historical sites. Love the pics of your books!

When Laura lived in Mansfield, MO she wrote a series of articles that have been collected into a book called Litte House in the Ozarks. She talks about women's roles, the environment, baking bread, politics, town socials and war among a plethora of other topics. It's a charming and interesting read.
Hearth Cricket

Vicki Doudera said...

Kathleen, not sure if you'll see this as I'm leaving my comment several days after your post, but my daughter and I went to the Anne of Green Gables house on Prince Edward Island. My husband and two sons pulled up in front of the sweet farmhouse and said, "Okay, you've got 30 minutes." We raced through that place like there was no tomorrow!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Vicki - 30 minutes? Oh my! But yes, a quick visit would be better than none!

Keith Raffel said...

Well, Kathleen, you were a few days ahead of the NY Times. In today's book review section, Joe Queenan writes of literary pilgrimages.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/books/review/Queenan-t.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper