If you’ve never heard of Betsy-Tacy, then this isn’t the convention for you. The event — which has been held only five times since 1997 — is strictly for fans of the Betsy-Tacy novels, published by Maud Hart Lovelace in the ’40s and ’50s. It’s an intimate gathering of readers, featuring speakers who have been inspired by Lovelace’s semi-autobiographical series and have followed the protagonist Betsy’s dream of becoming a published author.
Writers speaking at the 2018 Betsy-Tacy Convention included Alexandra Jacobs, features editor at The New York Times; Jia Tolentino, staff writer at The New Yorker; and New York Times best-selling author Laura Lippman.
The writers reflect on their “journeys that for many of them were directly informed and influenced by Betsy’s and Maud’s own,” said Josephine Wolff, chair of the 2018 convention. “They also sometimes talk about what the books meant to them as children and what they mean to them now, as adults, and why these particular books hold such a special place in their hearts.”
Following Betsy from her childhood up through her wedding, the novels were written progressively for the youngest of readers to young adults. The 133 attendees — primarily women from all over the U.S., as well as a few from Canada and the U.K. — cover an even greater generational span. It’s not uncommon for “mothers or daughters or sisters or spouses or best friends” to come together, Wolff said. “We even had a few grandmother-mother-daughter groups. Attendees range in age from under 10 years old to over 80, speaking to the lifelong impact of these books and their appeal for fans of all ages.”
Pages Come to Life
In addition to touring sites from Lovelace’s later life in Minneapolis, one full day of the three-day program is dedicated to touring spots in the nearby city of Mankato, including Lovelace’s childhood home as well as that of her real-life best friend’s home (whom the Tacy character is patterned after).
“Perhaps most fun of all,” Wolff said, “is watching the children or first-time convention-goers see these places that have lived in their imaginations for so long come to life so incredibly.”
Casey Gale is a Convene associate editor.