Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Wendy McClure

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author answers three questions about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

I’m a sucker for anything related to Laura Ingalls Wilder, so when I saw @halfpintingalls tweeting on Twitter while I was still living in Shanghai, I followed immediately.

Whoever had taken on the persona of Laura Ingalls Wilder was hilarious. She tweeted things like:

“Curling your bangs with a slate pencil works pretty well. Giving yourself a pedicure with a spinning wheel? Not so much.” (April 26, 2011)

“I’ve got the worst case of wagon butt and this sack of cornmeal I’m sitting on isn’t helping any. OW. #happytrails” (April 17, 2011)

“Today I’m going wireless! I’m going out in this blizzard without holding on to the clothesline!” (March 25, 2011)

Of course, back then I had no idea that @halfpintingalls was really Wendy McClure, an author and humorist on a mission to recapture her childhood via the Little House books (the series of books published way back in the 1930s and 1940s by Laura Ingalls Wilder).

Now I know. And today I am absolutely delighted—and as smug as Nellie Olsen after pulling a cheap trick—to introduce Wendy McClure, author of the recently published memoir The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie.

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Wilder Life in a Starred Review:

Obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books about an 1880s pioneer family, children’s book editor and memoirist McClure (I’m Not the New Me) attempts to recapture her childhood vision of “Laura World.” Her wacky quest includes hand-grinding wheat for bread, buying an authentic churn, and traveling to sites where the Ingalls family attempted to wrest a living from the prairie. Discovering that butter she churned herself was “just butter,” McClure admits she “felt like a genius and a complete idiot at the same time.” Viewing a one-room dugout the Ingallses occupied that was “smaller than a freight elevator” prompted McClure to admit that “the actual past and the Little House world had different properties.” [spoiler deleted] ….Readers don’t need to be Wilder fans to enjoy this funny and thoughtful guide to a romanticized version of the American expansion west. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

So please enjoy reading about Wendy’s writerhead. As I suspected, it’s as entertaining, off-beat, and humorous as the tweets by @halfpintingalls. Once you’ve read it, go on and order the book. If you’re a Laura fan, you’ll love it. If you’re a Mary fan, well, no worries…you’ll still love it.

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

Writerhead must be watered. Specifically, it needs a shower. In the morning I can creep out of bed and sit at my desk with my coffee and use the caffeine and quiet to gather a few thoughts together (the slow-moving thoughts that trail behind the herd—sometimes they’re important). But once writerhead’s groggy frost has thawed, it needs to be rinsed off. The scalp above it is itchy and dirty and unhappy. Sometimes I can take advantage of this discomfort and use the promise of a shower to coax out another line, another sentence. But writerhead begins to wither without water—it begins to feel like, well, just a head. It needs a blast of hot water to keep working, animate the thoughts, clear off the dead leaves.

Sometimes, of course, I’ll just shower first, but there’s something about starting the morning dry and then rewarding my early efforts with a commitment to clean up, get dressed, and get down to work. I can trick myself into doing some good writing in my pajamas, but only for an hour or so—after that, I need to get serious. I suppose linking writing to this most basic of routines, the morning shower, helps me weave it into the fabric of my day.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

Nothing happens at first. I get other things done—important things! I tell myself. But if the interruptions go on long enough, then writerhead gives me insomnia and I creep out of bed again and work in fitful bursts that aren’t quite as productive as my daytime writing but help feed the beast.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

Clearly writerhead is a hydroponic garden. It needs water, grows under artificial light, and you hope that other people will get high on the end product.


Wendy McClure is an author, a columnist for BUST magazine, and a children’s book editor. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Chicago Sun-Times, and in a number of anthologies. She has an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her previous books include her 2005 memoir, I’m Not the New Me, and the 2006 humor book The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan. Her new book is The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie. She lives in Chicago with her fiancé, Chris, in a neighborhood near the river.

You can connect with Wendy at her website (http://www.wendymcclure.net), on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TheWilderLife), and on Twitter at both @wendy_mc and @halfpintingalls.


Readers / Writers / Looky-Loos: Okay…where are my Little House fans? Favorite book? Laura or Mary?