Wednesday, September 4, 2019

In memoriam: Madeleine L’Engle

I was a weird kid: nerdy, awkward, fuzzy-headed with black-caterpillar eyebrows and the opposite of grace or talent or athleticism. I went to a music magnet school for elementary and a math-and-science middle school, and though I diligently played violin and competed in math contests, I wasn’t a superstar and mostly flew under the radar. Other kids teased me for a variety of reasons, and I can’t really fault them. I was a mess. The lone thing I did well was write things, but I did it in private for the most part, because whoever would want to read this nonsense I was churning out?

And then one day I read A Wrinkle in Time, and it was like someone had written a book about me, for me. First, Meg, the heroine, was a girl. Second, she was different, weird. Third, she didn’t have to save the world with her brilliant problem-solving or physical bravery or derring do. She saved the world by loving people.

This book changed my life. And even more, when I read up on the author, Madeleine L’Engle, her personal story spoke to me. I mean, my parents weren’t rich and distant artists, but my sense of isolation in childhood and adolescence was very prominent. When she described the peace of her private writing bubble and talked about how it helped her get through some rough spots, I was inspired to inhabit a similar peace.

Madeleine L’Engle died in 2007, long before I published even a short story, but I credit her work and her personal life as reasons I kept going, kept working, kept hoping that despite all my strong feelings to the contrary, someday someone would want to read fantastical stories penned by a weird little girl.

Hey there, Ms. L’Engle, up among the stars: thank you.