Happy birthday wishes go out to Madeleine L’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time.
Everybody who enjoys reading and/or writing can fondly look back to see the books that inspired them to follow a particular genre. For me, being an avid Fantasy/Sci-Fi enthusiast, the book that really started it all for me was A Wrinkle In Time.
I had previously read the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, who also would be celebrating a birthday today if he was still alive (for more on that read Ric’s blog here) as well as the Lloyd Alexander Prydian Chronicles, and though I was an avid fan of the work they did not inspire me to pick up a pen and write my own fantasy stories. L’Engle’s writing changed that for me.
Up until that time my writing was very Detective based. As a youth, my main source of material was The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigator books (the real Alfred Hitchcock connection, not the revised ones they release today). From about the age of seven I was bypassing my horrible handwriting to pen stories which appealed to me, using myself and my close friends as characters. My writing and imagination grew from these exercises, and I found myself wanting to read as many books as possible to inspire my own ideas from the scenarios offered.
Then one day on a trip to the library I found A Wrinkle In Time and gave it a spin. I remember being floored by the combination of Fantasy and Science Fiction in one novel. Fantasy itself is fairly common place in children’s and young adult literature…it’s a great vessel to use as metaphor, but true Sci-Fi was unusual at the time.
The main characters were kids who felt different and outcast from everybody else – just like I did…which drew me in further to the story, and then WHAM…the concept of the Tesseract just ripped new pathways into my brain that weren’t there previously. I was ready to read not just for the idea of reading and obtaining writing ideas, but to challenge my own beliefs of reality and pursue new ideas. I can even remember having heated arguments about ideas I was reading about. A nine year old philosopher – a very scary thing indeed.
Having this new mindset pushed me to authors such as Andre Norton and William Sleator and into limits beyond and I liked to question everything all of a sudden. My Baptist Sunday School teachers did not like this new me, however…and I found myself in consistent run-ins with them during class. Especially when I discovered the dreaded Dungeons & Dragons (gasp!). I suddenly felt that I had been brainwashed by them previously…not for purposes of hurt (I didn’t expect the tainted cool-aid to come out) but just for the sake they don’t like any other reality to choose from…where I had an endless supply at the other end of the author-reader chain. I stopped going to church altogether at that time in a fit of disgust for the system.
I picked up a copy of some of her novels last year and gave them a re-read for the first time in twenty years, and though the writing is obviously focused at a younger audience they still hold up very well to any other fantasy writing offered today. I look forward to cracking them out for my children as they grow.
By my calculations, Madeleine is 86 years old today, and again, I wish her a wonderful birthday. Thank you for the gift of words you have given me and the world.