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Author’s Note:

I’m thrilled that Hardscrabble my third children’s book, is the winner of Women Writing the West’s 2019 Willa Award in the children’s category.  The Patchwork Bride is a finalist for historical fiction. Awards will be presented at WWW’s annual conference in San Antonio in October 2019.  My daughter Dana is going with me.


Growing up in Colorado, I was immersed in tales of homesteaders on the eastern plains.  I especially liked reading the stories of women and girls.  It seemed to me they gave up so much to follow their husbands and fathers to the lonely prairie farms.  They left behind not only family and friends but school, church, and neighborhoods, the things that gave joy and purpose to their lives. Still, they worked hard alongside the men to make a success of their homesteads, and after a time, they grew to love the open land and fresh air and were proud they had made the desert bloom.  I had always wanted to write about such people, and when Jack Martin, the husband of Diane, my best friend in junior high, gave me a collection of reminiscences of Wyoming pioneers, I knew I had my book.  Hardscrabble is a look at homesteading in the early part of the 19th century, but it is also a story of a family whose love for each other and faith in the land allow them to triumph over hardship and even death.




In 1910, after losing their farm in Iowa, the Martin family moves to Mingo, Colorado, to start anew. The U.S. government offers 320 acres of land free to homesteaders. All they have to do is live on the land for five years and farm it. So twelve-year-old Belle Martin, along with her mother and six siblings, moves west to join her father. But while the land is free, farming is difficult and it’s a hardscrabble life. Natural disasters such as storms and locusts threaten their success. And heartbreaking losses challenge their faith. Do the Martins have what it takes to not only survive but thrive in their new prairie life? Told through the eyes of a twelve-year-old girl, this new middle-grade novel from New York Times–bestselling author Sandra Dallas explores one family’s homesteading efforts in 1900s Colorado.


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