The Way I See It, book by Little House star Melissa Anderson
Melissa Anderson looks back on her life on Little House on the Prairie
Many remember Melissa Anderson as “the blind sister” on frontier family drama Little House on the Prairie. But the sweet lady with the bright blue eyes has done much more, and now she can add “author” to her credits.
She has written a book, Melissa Anderson: The Way I See It, which is a look back at her life on Little House. It’s about her journey as a child performer, when she was known as Melissa Sue Anderson. Her book is filled with personal and revealing anecdotes from her Little House years, which started in 1974.
It is also a portrait of a young performer who became a successful adult actress. Unlike the horror stories we’ve heard about other former child stars, Anderson is a well-adjusted adult who took time off from her career to be a stay-at-home mom to her daughter Piper and son Griffin, with husband producer-director-writer Michael Sloan.
Anderson appeared recently at book stores in Los Angeles, and she created a wonderful atmosphere when crowds gathered for her book signings. She not only did readings from her autobiography, but also got the fans involved by getting them to help “perform” the script-styled chapters in the book. It was a fun and an interesting way to turn a book signing into a “show.”
The unique concept of describing key moments in her life in script form has “scenes” sprinkled through the well-written hardback.
Anderson got that idea when she read a book that Maria Shriver had written for graduates. She said, “It was something different, and I was thinking along those lines. Then, since I had to put myself at age 11 at beginning of the book, I thought to do that in screenplay form.”
She said, “I had to learn to pick the ‘scenes’ from my life very carefully, because I didn’t want to take the reader out of the narrative at important moments in the book. So it had to be lighter moments that would flow with the stories.”
What inspired her to do the book? Anderson revealed that she never thought of writing a book. And when she was approached by the publisher, she thought it was a mistake, and the offer was meant for her husband Michael Sloan, because he’s the professional writer in the family.
“It turned out they were interested in me. I was surprised that no one had written a book [about the Little House experience] already.”
Later she found out that Melissa Gilbert, who played her Little House sister, is coming out with a book, but by that time Missy had considered it, “and I thought of a way I could present it and make it a little bit different. I didn’t want it to be like every other memoir. And I didn’t want it to be dark and depressing. Yet I wanted it to have some substance, and I wanted people to learn something.”
One of the lessons to be learned from her book comes when she talks about her friend Edward Woodward, with whom she co-starred on The Equalizer. She thought of him often, yet wasn’t in touch, and then he passed away. So she makes a plea for readers to be in touch with their friends, relatives and people they hold dear.
Another message she wants to get across is for child actors, “or potential child actors, or actors in general, not to take themselves too seriously. It’s all well and good to be passionate about it [acting], but it’s really smart to have something to fall back on. Education is important. And to have other interests besides the business.”
Much of the business is luck, she emphasized. “And that’s another lesson. It’s luck. There are so many fantastic actors and directors and writers out there, and if you’re not really incredibly lucky, and in the right place at the right time, it doesn’t matter.”
So again, she said, “It’s so much better to have a really great education, because it’s a hard business. Actors wear their hearts on their sleeves. They’ll hear ‘You’re too short. You’re too fat.’ It’s ironic, you have to be emotional as an actor, and then you’re stabbed in the heart all the time.”
What does Anderson consider her greatest personal accomplishment, and her greatest professional accomplishment?
She said, “Personal would have to be my kids. And professionally, I’m proud of my work in The Equalizer. I loved doing that. It was my favorite thing that I’ve ever done.”
“I saw it recently and thought, ‘Gosh, I wasn’t bad in that.’ Because sometimes you are. You’re never as good as you think you are, or sometimes it turns out better than you thought. And I wanted to live up to the material, because the writing was so good. So I really felt I did good work there, and I was proud of being associated with that show.”
Now making her home in Montreal, Anderson fondly looks back on her early days in Hollywood, giving Bobby Brady his first kiss on The Brady Bunch, meeting Beau Bridges over the years, plus her observations about Michael Landon and playing sweet blind Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. It’s all in her book.