Madeleine l'Engle


Madeleine L'Engle got out of Smith College in 1941 and sold three books before she was 30. Then she ran into a dry spell. For the next decade, she sold only two books, neither of which was a great success.

On her 40th birthday, she was anxiously waiting to hear from a publisher about a book for which she had great hopes. Instead of a birthday present, she got a call from her husband, who was at the post office. Regretfully, he told her the book had been rejected. At the time, it seemed clear to her that she was being told that she had to give up writing, bake cookies, and concentrate on raising children.

She covered up her typewriter and cried. But that night, she conceived the idea for a novel about failure. She wrote in her journal, "I'm a writer. That's who I am, even if I'm never published again."

She never sold a book on failure, but she worked on another book, "A Wrinkle in Time," which received nearly 30 rejections before it sold. That book was published in 1962 and from that time on Madeline L'Engle (Mrs. Hugh Franklin) sold a book nearly every year for the next 20 years or so. In the meantime, she raised three children.

"A Wrinkle in Time" won the American Library association's Newberry medal for children's literature. It has been read by millions of children and adults and made into a motion picture by Norman Lear.

"Over the years I've worked out a philosophy of failure which I find extraordinarily liberating," she said. "If I'm not free to fail, I'm not free to take risks, and everything in life that's worth doing involves a willingness to risk failure. Although I have had 30 books published, there are at least six unpublished books which have failed, but which have been necessary for the book that then gets published. The same thing is true in all human relationships. Unless I'm willing to open myself up to risk and to being hurt, then I'm closing myself off to love and friendship."

Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.

Thanks to WITandWISDOM(tm) - December 13, 2000 subscribe-wit-wisdom@xc.org

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