Specificity in Writing

Like many people I know, I cut my early reading teeth on Little House on the Prairie, and reading the new fictionalized version of Ma (er… Caroline) brings back the days when reading a chapter in a real, fat book was a very big deal.

The book is an interesting take beyond the troupes linked with each character – blue calico and blonde hair with Mary, a red dress and brown braids with Laura, Ma and the china shepherdess, Pa with the gun, baby Carrie and her beads, even loyal Jack warning his growl – into the grownup terrain of a woman in labor.

At the end, I remembered Jacqueline Woodson saying that she insists her writing students know all stories have a specific place and a time. Not long after the Osage left their land, here’s sometimes naughty, sometimes sweet little Laura taking one last final look at the cabin her father built in a sea of virgin grass, as their wagon rolled away.

The wagon lurched as Charles jumped down, then shuddered with the loosening of the rope at the back so that Laura and Mary could peep out through the wagon cover. For a long moment it was still. The Caroline heard Charles’s footsteps, receding instead of approaching. She did not trust herself to look forward again if she looked back, but she turned. Laura and Mary crowded the small keyhole Charles had made in the canvas. Past their heads, a narrow swath of the cabin was visible.

– Caroline, Little House, Revisited, by Sarah Miller

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