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.”

Print Friendly

no comments

Post a comment