I just found out yesterday that Madeleine L’Engle passed away. I suppose that anyone who would count her as an influence would likely point to-at the very least- A Wrinkle In Time as the book of L’Engle’s that changed their lives, but I have a confession to make: I’m just now, at the age of 32, reading the Time Quintet. It’s not that I didn’t know about them; I had seen them all over libraries and bookstores, on lists of good books for kids and books one should read before they die. But my reason for not reading them was actually pretty elementary. Everyone I knew that had read them was a girl, and for whatever reason my brain relegated them to boring books about kissing and wishing for true love rather than important things like killing people and being generally amazing.
For me, the inspiration from L’Engle came from this book:
I read Walking on Water when I worked at the University library while getting my Master’s degree. It had come into the collection as a new purchase and, being in Circulation, I had access to such things before anyone else (which, incidentally, made numerous people angry as they were constantly asking, “When is this guy going to return this book?”). The synopsis on the dust jacket intrigued me, as I was just now beginning to really understand that I had a passion for writing but, like any good writer, thought everything I wrote sucked cheese through a straw.
Mrs. L’Engle changed all that. She taught me that art is art, and that it should be created for its own sake. She taught me that age-old adage that writer’s write, and if you’re going to be a writer the greatest thing you can do in the pursuit of that goal is to write. She taught me that sometimes you must be tenacious, that rejection has nothing to do with whether or not the story is any good but often it has to do with whether or not the person reading your work will be able to sell it. I owe quite a bit to Mrs. L’Engle and this little book, as it was the first book that encouraged me to write for the pleasure of writing and for no other reason, but to take comfort in the knowledge that even if I am rejected a thousand times, so was she.
Now I find myself on the cusp of having my first book published. I have only been rejected a handful of times for this book, so I can’t relate to the idea of hundreds or thousands of rejection letters. But I do know that every rejection letter I got hurt, made me angry, made me want to give up. But I couldn’t, because I knew that if I gave up I might be letting down a woman I had never met and who, incidentally (though unknown to me at the time) had already passed by the time I read her book. I felt responsible to this woman whose other works I had never read to keep fighting, working to get my work out there no matter what. And for that drive that she instilled in me I am eternally grateful.
Rest In Peace Mrs. Madeleine L’Engle.
Until Death is defeated,