This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for May 11, 2017: To the Woman at the Retirement Center

May 11, 2017: birthday: Mari Sandoz

It’s the birthday of Mari Sandoz (books by this author), born near Hay Springs, Nebraska (1896), best known for books like Old Jules (1935) and Slogum House (1937), which explored the harsh realities of pioneer life on the Plains. Sandoz was the eldest of six children born to Swiss immigrants. Her early life was hard: her father was violent and domineering and didn’t believe much in education or reading for pleasure. Sandoz’s life on the homestead involved daily hard labor. She had to sneak reading by candlelight.

She finally graduated the eighth grade when she was 17, took the rural teacher’s exam in secret, and when she passed, she hightailed it off the homestead, heading for Lincoln, Nebraska. She taught for a time, and worked odd jobs. Every time she’d earn 50 dollars from a job, she’d quit, so she could write, but she didn’t have much luck getting published, and got so frustrated she burned 70 manuscripts in a trash can.

It wasn’t until he father was dying, and called her home, that her life began to change. He asked her to help him write his memoirs, and she did. That book became Old Jules, which finally found a publisher years later and made Mari Sandoz’s name. People had no idea how hard life in the Plains was, and she got death threats from fellow Nebraskans who thought she made them look bad, but she didn’t care. She said, “You have no right to falsify life, ever. That’s the cardinal sin of the writer.”