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Madeleine L’Engle and Me

I bought the book A Circle of Quiet just after my booksigning at the BYU symposium. It was on sale, and I can’t turn down a sale. I love to tell Scott how much money I save him. Besides, I loved reading A Wrinkle in Time when I was in fourth grade and was happy to read more about her.

I have shed many a tear since then. Madeleine and I have quite a bit in common. We’re both neurotic writers. We’re both mothers trying to juggle writing careers while dealing with the tsk tsks from other mothers who have it all together when we don’t. We both own grocery stores in small communities. We both married men who loved acting. We’ve been dealt the stinging blow of rejection and have come back screaming, “Is that all you got?”

Okay so maybe neither of us came back screaming for more, but we did come back . . . isn’t that the important thing?

I  hate how I’ve discovered how much I love this woman only after it was too late to ever meet her. Madeleine died last September. I would love to give her a hug and say, “Thanks for understanding my very weird life.”

Something that struck me as utterly profound was this statement she made after a rejection she received on her fortieth birthday. This was after her years in the thirties, which were filled with endless manuscript rejections and incredible guilt for taking time to write books when she worried she might be better occupied to learn to make cherry pie and do as other–more proper–mothers do. She decided to, “Stop this foolishness and learn to make cherry pie.”

She covered her typewriter in what she refers to as a great gesture of renunciation and walked around and around her room bawling, totally, utterly miserable.

While pacing and bawling, she stopped, realizing her subconscious mind had already begun working out a novel about failure.

She uncovered her typewriter.

This was her moment of decision. This was her moment where she realized she WAS a writer, no matter what, even if she never had another book published.

A quote from her on this matter is, “I’m glad I made this decision in the moment of failure. It’s easy to say you’re a writer when things are going well.”

I mourn the fact I never got to hug her.

There have been several rocky years where I was faced with the very real possibility that I would never see my name on a future publication. There was a time when I covered my computer, and said, “Stop this foolishness and learn to make pie.” Okay, maybe I never said I’d learn to make pie, but there are so many ways I fall short of other women because I have split my life into other things. I would stop the foolishness of writing, and be like other moms.

I uncovered my computer.

I, too, am glad to have made this decision in my moments of failure.  And now with another book coming out,  quite possibly two, I wonder that I even considered it.  There is no such thing as second child infertility with novel writing. If you can write one . . . you can write two, and more. If you can make the choice to keep writing amidst rejection and failure, then you’ve proved something important–to you and to the world, but most importantly to you.

You proved you really are a writer.

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14 Responses
  1. Annette Lyon says:

    I absolutely love this–and Madeline. I love her more now that you shared this. Now I HAVE to get that book.

    (And as one of your readers, may I say I’m glad you uncovered that computer?)

  2. Wonderful blog, Julie! And countless readers are grateful that L’Engle (and Julie Wright!) didn’t leave that typewriter covered.

  3. Karlene says:

    Thanks for sharing that. That was a “wow!” moment for me. Glad you’re still writing.

  4. Marcia says:

    It’s amazing–what you wrote is exactly how so many of us feel. It’s great to know other people get it.

  5. Melinda says:

    Sometimes I think about the people who may have given up, or shelved their manuscripts after getting rejected and maybe they were so close to acceptance and just didn’t know it. I wonder what books I may have missed out on and loved.

    That makes me want to finish my book even more.

    I’m also glad you didn’t cover your typewriter. I am still thinking about your last book I read and loved.

  6. Luisa says:

    Beautifully done!

    I DID meet her–and hug her–on more than one occasion. She lived in our neighborhood in Manhattan. Such an inspiring life she led. Have you read her book Walking on Water? It’s a MUST for any writer who is also a spiritual person.

  7. I’ve given up writing at least three times. I always have a huge spurt of creativity within twenty four hours of giving it up. I’ve finally figured out that I can put writing aside for a time if I need to, but I can’t ever give it up.

  8. Jenna says:

    This was a great post for me to read today, about writing and many other things. Thank you for (yet another!) job well-done!

  9. Tamra Norton says:

    Beautiful words! Thank you–I needed to hear them!

  10. Oh Jules – never stop writing. I love your books!

  11. Now I want to hug her too–Dang! Sounds like a great book and one I’ll have to read. You go, Jules!

  12. Kimberly says:

    Oh honey, I’m all teary, that’s how badly I needed to read this. I adore Madeleine as well. And I can’t make pie either.

    I’m tackling the rewrites as soon as the kiddos are tucked into bed.

  13. Karen Hoover says:

    Awesome post, Jules. She was one of the writers who influenced me most and made me fall in love with fantasy. She will be deeply missed.

    By the way, you’ve been tagged (as if you don’t have enough to do already). Don’t worry, it’s a fun one. Check out my blog for details.

  14. Amazing post. Thanks! You are very inspiring.

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