Image: Madeleine L’Engle. Juror for The Scholastic Writing Awards, Short Story Division. Literary Calvacade, 1973.

Sci-fi author Madeleine L’Engle enjoyed careers as a librarian and an actress by the time she judged short stories for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in the early 1970s. But like the young writers whose work she evaluated, she was no stranger to criticism. L’Engle’s best known work, the sci-fi children’s classic A Wrinkle in Time, was initially rejected by dozens of publishers in the early 1960s. Why? According to Madeleine L’Engle: “A Wrinkle in Time had a female protagonist in a science fiction book, and that wasn’t done.”

L’Engle drew inspiration for the Newberry-winning book from several places: a camping trip in the American west, time travel, her family’s farmhouse in Connecticut and a book on quantum physics. But in addition to having a female protagonist (awkward, mousy-haired Meg Murry), the manuscript also drew criticism for its religious references, and because many publishers didn’t initially see it as a young adult book. By a stroke of luck the manuscript came into the hands of an editor who was supportive of the work, and the book was published in 1962. A Wrinkle in Time became the first book in a science fiction quartet that includes A Wind in the Door, Many Waters and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. A Wrinkle in Time has never been out of print and has been republished in numerous editions. A graphic novel adaptation will be released in Fall 2012.

Of the Award-winning student short stories submitted in 1973, L’Engle commended young writers for their embrace of fiction and fantasy. “I am pleased to note a wider enthusiasm for the world which is beyond the world of provable fact, an awareness of fantasy and fairy tale as vehicles of truth, rather than as escape from truth.”

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