I planned to write several short paragraphs on a variety of authors including some of my favorite contemporary CBA authors, but I instead found my heart drawn to the late Madeleine L'Engle. She has impacted my authoress heart perhaps as much or more than anyone I've read. My hope is that my thoughts of her will encourage your writing journey as they have mine.
November 29, 1918 - September 06, 2007
Madeleine L'Engle published 63 books in her lifetime of 88 years. The most famous, of course, is A Wrinkle in Time. Part of the reason I celebrate Madeleine today is that she persevered. According to the sources I checked A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times. But Madeleine didn't give up.
Madeleine's perseverance and tenacity are certainly to be admired, but as I've read her non-fiction books I've also experienced her as a woman of great humor, intellect, and compassion. While her thoughts of life ran deep, she also didn't take herself too seriously. She accepted that the world was full of those more talented and intelligent than she, but believed she still had something to contribute. Her faith journey was quite unique, and it inspires me. She interacted in a culture of great intellects, many of who were agnostic or atheistic, but despite and environment that (to me) didn't seem to support faith, she emerged as a woman who not only knew God, but offered Him, in her own, unique way, to those she encountered.
But perhaps it is my personal experiences with her writing and the briefest of experiences of her as a person that made me choose her for this post. Here's my story: As a youth, my brother loved the Wrinkle trilogy and encouraged me to read them. However, they freaked me out! Something about them tested the safe little "Christian" box I had created for myself. After graduating from college, I gave them another try while teaching 3rd graders in public school. My closed mind was ready to think (a least a little) outside the box, and I was blown away by how these fiction stories impacted me. I explored new ideas I hadn't dared to think about life, God, control, freedom, good and evil. I couldn't help myself. I stayed up late one night and scribbled a long, messy missive pouring my heart out to the famous author. Not too long after I was surprised to receive a hand-written response scribbled to me on a family letter that told of Madeleine's personal life--her children and travels. Soon after my fiance took me to hear her speak, and I got my first autographed book. Somehow I felt my little 23 year-old heart and that of this woman I greatly admired had truly connected.
Recently I had another heart-connection as I read A Circle of Quiet, a non-fiction book where she shares a lot of her inner self--her thoughts on writing, faith, and interacting with the world. In this little book I was especially impacted by two things. The first is a personal story she told. She sets up the scene by talking about how she'd spent her thirties writing and being rejected while she raised her children. She believed the surrounding neighbors thought her an oddity, and she weathered what she perceived to be whispered comments about poor Madeleine who spent all those hours scribbling away but would never be published. (Whether or not the neighbors were talking, I don't know, but I have, of course, imagined just such gossip circulating about me and felt her angst!) Madeleine had told herself that her forties would be years of productivity and success, when her books actually made it into print and she began her life as a true author.
Madeleine then went on to write about her 40th birthday. It was on that very day she received another of those 27 rejection letters. She decided then and there that she wasn't spending another decade writing only to be rejected. She began to dismantle her office, telling herself she would never write again. After she'd been cleaning out the office for a while she realized that in her mind she was composing a story as she worked--a story about an author who weathered rejection. She says at that moment she realized she was a writer. She would never quit. Madeleine talked about how the decision, made in the midst of rejection, was more powerful than it could ever have been if it had been reached at any other time. Again, I had BEEN there and her words resonated deep within. I was a writer. I had determined to be one in the midst of rejection, not just success. I would persevere.
The second thing that impacted me greatly was a thought she had about what she had to offer the world. I can't find my book right now or I would give you the direct wonderful quote. But here's the heart of what she said. Madeleine was told by one of her intellectual friends that she had nothing to offer the world that had never been said. As she processed his comment, she came to believe that he was right. She may never have anything to say that the world had never heard--but it didn't matter. It had never been said the way she would say it.
Then and there I felt validated. I may not be the smartest or more original person I know. I may not even have anything especially new or profound to offer. But what I do have is me. What God wants to say through me will not be said the same way when offered by anyone else. It is the Lord's truths, offered through my fingerprints, that will leave their mark on just the people who could only hear it the way I say it. And that is enough.
My interactions with Madeleine have offered me perspective in the face of disappointment, faith that grows outside my safe little boxes, a determination to persevere, and a belief that what I say has value to the world. In my opinion, Madeleine has given me some of the most important gifts a writer needs.
A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website, Soul Scents, offers devotional thoughts, and you can visit her blog at GraceReign. Paula serves as president of HIS Writers, the north Denver ACFW chapter. A devoted Pride and Prejudice fan, she loves good conversation, peppermint ice cream, and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to breathe His fragrance.