Writer Madeleine L’Engle Dies

madeleine l'engleMadeleine L’Engle died Thursday of natural causes; she was 88-years-old. L’Engle was a prolific writer, publishing poems, plays, essays, and autobiographies. She wrote for children as well as adults. She is beloved for her Time Quartet, which includes A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. The concept of the series was taken from Einstein's theory of relativity.

An only child, L’Engle relished her solitude and filled her hours reading and writing stories. She wrote her first story at the age of five. As a shy teen in boarding school, solitude was hard to come by so she learned to shut out the sound of a bustling school, focusing on her writing instead of her schoolwork. This groomed her for being able to write anywhere.

Already a published writer by the late 1940s, L’Engle stopped writing for a while to focus on marriage and family. But the pull of writing was too strong, and this conflict between family and writing was something she struggled with for a good part of her life. As she explains it, “The problem was that I put two things first. My husband and children came first. So did my writing.” Even after years of rejection letters, L’Engle still continued to write, not caring if she never published another novel.

And then came A Wrinkle in Time. Rejected by twenty-six publishers in two years, publishers were stymied as to how to promote the book. Was it science fiction or fantasy? Was it for adults or children? Publishers were afraid it was too difficult for children and would not find an audience. Boy, were they wrong. It should be said that we need more writers who don’t sell our children short.

L’Engle finally handed a publisher a copy of A Wrinkle in Time warning him “here’s a book nobody likes.” She was warned in turn not to be disappointed if nobody liked it because they did, which is why they were taking a chance on it. Audiences loved it, too, and the book won the Newbery Medal in 1963.

The awards L’Engle has amassed over her lifetime are too numerous to list here, as are her books and other writings. Please check our JCLC catalog for a list of her works, and our Biography Resource Center for more information on her life and achievements.