Meet Madeleine L'Engle
"It was a dark and stormy night."
So begins Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Award-winning 1962 novel, A Wrinkle in Time. For nearly 40 years, children have listened, enthralled, as parents and teachers recounted the story of 12-year-old Meg Murry; her 6-year-old brother, Charles Wallace; and their journey through space and time. Their mission? To rescue their father from a distant planet and save Earth from the powers of darkness. Their weapons? The power of love, and the biblical assurance that "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise."
For many, the ability to conceive of such fantastic, otherworldly adventures is incomprehensible. But for L’Engle, writing such stuff comes naturally. Her books (over 45 of them) span a wide range of genres, from children’s fantasy and adult novels of romance and intrigue, to lesser-known volumes of poetry, introspection, and religious reflection—each springing from a powerful imagination deeply grounded in Christian spirituality.
Born in New York City in 1918, L’Engle was immersed in arts and education from early childhood. Her mother was a pianist and her father a journalist, so the house was filled with a steady stream of artists, writers, and musicians. When Madeleine turned 12, her family moved to Europe, enrolling her in a Swiss boarding school. From there she continued her education at Smith College, where she graduated with honors in 1941.
After graduation, Madeleine’s adult life continued in a kaleidescope of varied and colorful experiences—each contributing to her spiritual journey and feeding into her writing. She toured with a production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and met her husband, actor Hugh Franklin (now famous for his role as Dr. Charles Tyler on the TV soap opera "All My Children"). They were married a year later, in 1946. In an autobiographical sketch published in More Junior Authors, Madeleine continues the story:
"We had an old white farmhouse in northwestern Connecticut, and [Hugh] wanted to settle down, put down roots, and get away from the tensions of the city and the theater. In order to earn a living, we acquired a defunct general store. I must honestly admit that helping to . . . run a large farmhouse and raise three small children [Josephine, Maria, Bion] is the perfect way not to write a book. However I did manage to write at night."
The fruit of this "writing at night" was the award-winning A Wrinkle in Time (which was rejected by 26 publishers in two years!), followed by its best-selling sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters.
Madeleine and Hugh moved back to New York City, but still returned often to their beloved farmhouse in Connecticut, where Hugh died in 1986. In addition to writing, Madeleine has taught at private schools and at the University of Indiana. For many years, she served as the librarian at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Ranked by American Bookseller as one of the 10 most popular children’s authors in the country, L’Engle recently celebrated her 81st birthday. She continues to write and enjoys the role of grandmother.
Among Madeleine’s recent works are Miracle on 10th Street, a collection of Christmas stories; Glimpses of Grace, a daily devotional; Mothers and Sons, a celebration of the mother-son relationship; A Full House, a look at Christmas with the Austin family when they open their home to 2 young mothers;, Friends for the Journey, a collaboration with friend and editor, Luci Shaw, that Dee Brestin calls "an exquisitely beautiful portrait of feminine friendship."; and The Genesis Trilogy, an exploration of Genesis with fresh insights. A Wrinkle in Time has been released in audio book format.
(Quotes and information were gathered from L’Engle’s books, Friends for the Journey, A Wrinkle in Time, and A Circle of Quiet, as well as from L’Engle’s autobiography on Wheaton College’s Web site.)