Madeleine L’Engle was born on November 29, 1918, in New York City. Her father was a writer and her mother was a pianist. She grew up in an artistic household among creative people.
The first book of science fiction I ever encountered was A Wrinkle in Time when my sixth grade teacher read it aloud to our class. The idea of another planet or dimension and the ability to tesseract caught the imagination of our class for months afterward and I developed a thirst for possibilities, the future, and imaginable ideas. I also read any kind of science fiction I could, particularly those written by Madeleine L’Engle. She bases her books in science and theology, writes fiction, and has done an incredibly adept job of interweaving the families and characters found in her more than 64 books for children and adults.
She attended a Swiss boarding school and graduated from Smith College. Ms. L’Engle then moved to New York City, where she shared an apartment with several other girls.
Her first novel, The Small Rain, was published in 1945. And Both Were Young, her first children’s book, appeared in 1949, followed by another adult novel,Camilla Dickinson, in 1951. She then went through a tough, non-published spell, during which time she began working in the theatre as an actress, which she ultimately found to be very good training for a writer. Acting in plays with the likes of Eva La Galienne and Ethel Barrymore, she also met her husband, Hugh Franklin (you may remember him as Dr. Charles Tyler on All My Children), while performing in The Cherry Orchard. They were happily married until 1986, when Mr. Franklin died.
Her most famous book, A Wrinkle in Time, had the most difficulty being published. Twenty-six publishers rejected the book because it dealt with difficult themes and they couldn’t imagine who the audience would be. At a writers’ group, Ms. L’Engle met someone who knew John Farrar of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which didn’t have a children’s list. He liked the book tremendously, Ms. L’Engle felt it should be published as a children’s book, and Farrar, Straus & Giroux began their children’s list. The book won the Newbery Medal in 1963. Meet the Austins, the first book about the Austin family, almost didn’t get published either. It dealt with death and publishers felt children weren’t capable of dealing with the subject.
In 1998, L’Engle was named the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards award, honoring her lifetime contribution in writing for teens. In 2004, Ms. L’Engle received the National Humanities Award, only the second children’s author to receive this honor. She has been named one of America’s most treasured writers. Movies of Ring of Endless Light and Wrinkle in Time are available. Madeleine L’Engle’s writing has inspired, encouraged, and provided solace for generations of readers. Sadly, Ms. L’Engle died in 2007.