Sunday, July 31, 2016

A book about a book

Occasionally, I am asked where writers get their ideas. There are many answers and I will discuss some of these in future blogs.

However, I learned recently that a friend published a book. It is a non-fiction book about the author (Betty MacDonald) of books she read as a child. Betty, The Story of Betty MacDonald, Author of the Egg and I  is one specific example of where books come from.

Anne had enjoyed the books of Betty MacDonald, who wrote about life in the northwest, particularly in the Seattle/Puget Sound area. Years later, Anne would reread The Egg and I and an idea was born. She decided to look more closely at the writer’s life and a new book was born from that memory.

About Betty MacDonald

In 1932, MacDonald had a story published in the Seattle Town Crier magazine. It would be more than 10 years before her book The Egg and I was published (1945). That book was a lightly fictionalized account of life as the wife of a chicken farmer in the 1920s.

Surprisingly, the book became a success and the story was made into a movie starring Claudette Colbert & Fred Mc Murray. Her Ma and Pa Kettle characters also were used in other movies.

Suddenly the poor, former wife of a chicken farmer and divorced mother of two girls became famous and rich. Her writing continued to provide for a secure life for her and her family. She ran into one problem during this period, because apparently, her portrayal of one set of neighbors hadn't been sufficiently altered and she was sued. However she did win the cases.

With her self-mocking humor, MacDonald wrote about her battle with tuberculosis and life in a sanitarium in The Plague and I, published in 1948. She wrote about job hunting during the depression, (when in Washington state 1 in 4 Americans were out of work). In Anybody Can Do Anything. Her book, Onions In The Stew was about life on Vashon Island during the war years.

Her books give readers a peak into average life during the depression and World War II and vivid descriptions of the northwest.

MacDonald also wrote the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series of children’s books and Nancy and Plum. The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books were illustrated by Hilary Knight and Maurice Sendak.

About Anne Wellman:

Anne’s book seemed to start slowly with many details about MacDonald’s early life and that of her unusual family, which I had already read about in The Egg and I. However, the more I read, the more I began to care about these people and the more I became interested in life during those years.

Anne said it took her five years to write “Betty, The Story of Betty MacDonald, Author of the Egg and I.” Her detailed bibliography and references reveal the extensive study she put into this book. She is already working on a book about another author.

Anne has lived in Scotland, Australia, England and the United States of America. She worked for the government for 35 years.This is her first published book, but hopefully not her last. It is available through Amazon.

If you have questions, you can contact Anne at

Books we read as children generally leave an impression and many can remember their favorite books years later. Was it Wind in the Willows, Black Beauty, Harry Potter, Heidi, Treasure Island? Author Lois Szymanski loved Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague and has written a lot of books about ponies, as well as on other subjects. What books made a difference in your life?

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