PIERRE, South Dakota — The same author who made "Little House on the Prairie" a must-read for generations of people around the world could help a little state-owned publishing house hit the big time.
The South Dakota State Historical Society Press in Pierre, which has produced award-winning books for years, plans to publish "Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography" by Laura Ingalls Wilder in November, more than 80 years after she penned the beloved "Little House" series. The books were also adapted into a long-running TV show.
Nancy Koupal, the director of the press, said others have tried to publish the rough draft of the memoir in the past, but the press was the first to get approval from the Little House Heritage Trust, which maintains Laura Ingalls Wilder's literary estate.
"What I'm told is that ... this was the right proposal at the right time," she said. "That a serious historical and scholarly treatment of it was better than simply a commercial publication."
The press typically publishes five to seven books annually, and Koupal said it has done fairly well since opening in 1997, winning 50 awards in 17 years. But Wilder's memoir, which the author wrote for adults but ultimately used as the foundation for her children's books, will draw in national and international fans of the famous series, she said.
Pamela Smith Hill, a young adult author and lead editor on the "Pioneer Girl" project, approached the press several years ago with the idea of trying to publish the memoir. Hill had previously written a Wilder biography for the historical society and drew heavily from the author's rough draft, which piqued the interest of Wilder fans.
"So, the idea of the annotated version of 'Pioneer Girl' came directly from people who were writing me, asking me for access to the original manuscript," she said.
Although it's a big project, a scholarly press like the historical society is the right one to handle the memoir's publication, Hill said.
"They also have solid credentials as being a publisher that knows how to produce and develop a book with serious historical merit," she said. "So, in that sense, I don't think it's unusual for the press. But the size and scope of the book and its almost universal appeal, at least within the Laura Ingalls Wilder universe, is unusual."
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