My home when I was a child was a grain and dairy farm near Montrose, Minnesota. My parents had come from Sweden in their youth and settled there, and I was the youngest of their nine children. There were few other children in the neighborhood, but there were so many of us, and always a few cousins or family friends visiting, that we never felt lonely. We did everything together, went swimming in the muddy Crow River, skated on pasture ponds, and had a homemade tennis and volleyball court out under the trees, and on winter evenings a big kitchen table around which we all played games or did our lessons or read our books.
Though libraries were far away, books found their way into our home somehow, and a Christmas without books under the tree would have been no Christmas at all. The loft above the woodshed held a many years’ accumulation of reading matter and one of the delights of my childhood was to hide away under the dusty rafters and lose myself in some fascinating book or delve into a stack of old magazines.
Even at the age of nine, I dreamed of becoming a writer. In spite of her busy life, my mother sometimes wrote poems and sketches which were published in a Swedish magazine, and one of my sisters had begun writing stories and broken into print. I longed for the same glory, but though I filled the blank pages of my father’s discarded old ledgers with one “novel” after another, I always left them half done. Yet I was sure I was going to write books someday. No other future had any appeal for me.
When I was thirteen we moved to Minneapolis. In my senior year in high school, and after some experience on the school paper, I decided that I would become a journalist. Armed with a letter from the dean of girls, I set off for the Minneapolis Journal to offer my services to the editor, but though I walked back and forth in front of the building most of the day, I never had the courage to go in. So ended my career in journalism.
That fall I entered the University of Minnesota, where I studied to become an English teacher. Dreams of a writing career were laid aside and might never have been taken out and dusted off except for one of my instructors, who suggested I try writing for children. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea, mostly because I have always liked children.
During the years I was teaching, I wrote for young people’s magazines, but I never thought of attempting a book. Then one summer when I was listening to some of my mother’s recollections of her childhood in Sweden, I thought, “Why not write it down and weave it into a story?” It wasn’t until I was hard at work on Flaxen Braids, my first book, that I realized this was what I had really wanted to do ever since I was nine—write a book. Only now I was better equipped to do it.
Flaxen Braids, my mother’s story, was published in 1937. The following year I visited Sweden and there wrote a second book, The Copper Kettle, most of it on the little island of Oland where my father was born, basing the story on his childhood.
Several girls’ mysteries followed before I came to New York City to work on teen-age magazines and in a book publishing house. New York is still my home. I often return to Minnesota, and a number of my books have had that state as their setting.
Source: Wilson Biographies Plus online database
This collection contains material for a manuscript, a few pieces of artwork for Flaxen Braids and The Copper Kettle. Also included in the collection are several published books
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[Identification of item], Annette Turngren Papers, Ax 557, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.
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