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Juvenile Books Author of the Month
Madeline L'Engle
Madeline L'Engle 
Photograph courtesy of Wheaton College (IL) Special Collections
29 November 1918 -- ???

Madeleine L'Engle Camp was born on November 29, 1918 in New York City, New York, to Charles Wadsworth and Madeleine Hall (Barnett) Camp. L'Engle's father had been a foreign correspondent in World War I as well as a writer. For a while, he was also the drama and music critic for the Herald-Evening Sun. Her mother had studied to be a pianist until she married, when she decided to concentrate on caring for her family. L'Engle was an only child.

The family lived in a small apartment that was always full of books and music. Being an only child allowed L'Engle to learn to appreciate her time alone. Her solitary time was often interrupted by various types of lessons. L'Engle had lessons in piano, which she loved, and dancing, of which she was not quite as fond. She took advantage of the rest of her spare time to enjoy reading and writing. L'Engle always had an interest in writing, which she started when she was five. "I always wanted to write, but I was not encouraged at home because my father was a writer ... My early teachers didn't encourage me to write either." [4]

L'Engle was not incredibly fond of her school years. She enjoyed the empty notebooks to write stories in and the colored pencils to make pictures with and the friends to play with. "I don't think I learned nearly as much from my formal-education as from the books I read instead of doing homework, the daydreams which took me on exciting adventures in which I was intrepid and fearless and graceful, the stories Mother told me, and the stories I wrote." [4].

In her adolescent years, L'Engle entered a poetry contest being judged by the head of the English Department of her school. She ended up winning the contest, which was a surprise to everyone because she had never really been one to stand out in school. In fact, her homeroom teacher did not believe that she had even written the poem. L'Engle's mother ended up having to go to school with a mass of poems, novels, and stories she had written so they would finally allow that her poem was hers.

It was at about this time that L'Engle's father started to have health problems. His lungs had been severely damaged by mustard gas while he covered World War I as a foreign correspondent. The family decided that they could no longer continue to live in New York and moved to France. While her parents settled into the French Alps, L'Engle was sent to a boarding school in England. It was a big adjustment to being an only child who valued her solitary time to sharing a dormitory with twelve other girls. While it was not easy, she still appreciates all the things she learned while attending school there.

Traveling abroad did not end for her with her new home and school. On her vacations, the family would take advantage of the opportunity to see the world. The family often spent her Easter holiday with her grandparents, who had a lovely home in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. She loved to write poetry in their garden because it was so beautiful.

During her senior year in boarding school, L'Engle found new-found control of her life. She was editor of the school's literary magazine, played leading roles in a number of the school plays, and found that for the first time in her life, she was popular with her peers.

L'Engle started attending Smith College in Northampton, Massachussetts in 1937. She graduated cum laude from the school with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. "The best thing I learned at Smith was how to do research in any field that interests me, and how to keep on studying and learning all my life. I spent four years living with great writers, the best teachers a learning writer could have." [1]

When she finished college, L'Engle got an apartment with some friends. Two of the girls she lived with were aspiring actresses. L'Engle became one as well. She landed a role in the Broadway production of "Uncle Harry" and went on to be an understudy in Chekov's "The Cherry Orchard" once the road tour of the show closed. Both shows starred Eva Le Gallienne and Joseph Schildkraut. She played an active role as an actress until 1947.

L'Engle did not settle for writing stories and supporting herself through acting. She also attended the New School for Social Research in New York from 1941 to 1942.

It was at about this time that L'Engle seriously concentrated on trying to get her work published. Up until this point, most of the magazines that paid to print works had turned her down, but she had gotten published in some smaller magazines. It was through one of these publications that she got her first offer to publish a novel. Bernard Perry, then with Vanguard Press contacted her to see if she had a novel she was looking to have published after reading one of her published pieces. When he found out she was working on one at the time, Vanguard offered her a hundred dollars for the book, which was published under the title The Small Rain, in 1949. She also published her first children's book with Vanguard, And Both Were Young, at that time. The New York Times named it one of the Ten Best Books of the Year

While she was working as an understudy on "The Cherry Orchard", L'Engle met her future husband Hugh Franklin. At the time, Franklin was working as the lead. On January 26,1946, they were married in Chicago where they were working on a play entitled "The Joyous Season," which starred Ethel Barrymore. Once they were married, L'Engle quit the theater so she could concentrate on her writing career.

L'Engle and her husband Hugh had three children: two daughters named Josephine and Maria and a son, Bion, who passed away recently.

The same year of their marriage, the new Franklin family moved to Goshen, Connecticut, where L'Engle still lives to this day at her home called Crosswicks. They bought the old, white farmhouse for $6300.

In 1952, Hugh left the field of acting and started a career running a General Store called Crosswicks, Ltd. in Goshen. He built it up from a struggling little store to a flourishing business.

During this time L'Engle found time for writing while being a wife and mother of small children as well as a part time clerk in the store. During this time, most of L'Engle's manuscripts were rejected, and in 1958 she was determined to give up writing altogether. She soon found, though, that she could not stop.

The family spent nine years living exclusively at Crosswicks. In 1955, Hugh and L'Engle decided to move back to New York, but also to return to Crosswicks each summer. Hugh returned to working in the theater.

It was a difficult adjustment for the familiy and, particularly, for L'Engle. When they first moved to New York, she had decided that she would get up each morning to get the children off to school and stay up late for Hugh to come home from the theater. The strain was so great that it eventually landed L'Engle in the hospital.

In 1961, L'Engle decided to return to school. She completed her graduate studies at Columbia University in New York during the 1960-1961 school year. That same year, she started teaching at St. Hilda's and St. High's School in Morningside Heights, New York.

A Wrinkle in Time was published in 1963 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. More than 20 publishers initially rejected the book after reading it. The book went on to be a great success. L'Engle was awarded the John Newbury Medal for the book, which has become a classic in children's literature.

In 1966, L'Engle started another new career. This one was in the field of librarianship. The position she took was with the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. This is another position she holds to this day. "....I keep office hours there in order to have time to write, then rewrite, then revise and edit." [3]

L'Engle has also had strong connections with the college community. She was a member of the faculty of the University of Indiana at Bloomington during the summers of 1965, 1966, and 1971, and has been a lecturer at Wheaton College in Illinois since 1976. She also took the position of writer-in residence at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio in 1970 and the University of Rochester in New York in 1972.

Hugh did return to acting when the family moved back to New York. In fact, he eventually became a soap opera star when he played Dr. Charles Tyler on ABCs All My Children. Hugh passed away on September 26, 1986 from cancer-related complications.

L'Engle has written poetry, plays, autobiographies, short stories, articles, and novels for both children and adults. Her work explores a number of issues including Einsteinian concepts of time and space, telepathic communication, injustice, evil, war, the environment, and personal and religious love. Although many of her works of fiction are classified as being for children and young adults, she never consciously writes for children. According to L'Engle, she writes about what interests her. She blends science fiction, fantasy, and moral issues in her works. [7]

L'Engle still keeps herself busy when she is not writing. She enjoys playing the piano and walking the dog. She also loves to have friends over for dinner. Her granddaughters Charlotte and Lena lived with her for a short time while they were attending college in New York.

Information for this biography was taken from:
1) Biography Today, Author Series, Volume 1; Omnigraphics, Inc: New York, 1992.
2) Tracy Chevalier (ed.). Twentieth Century Children Writers; St. James Press: New York, 1989.
3) Anne Commire (ed.). Something About the Author, #1; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1971.
4) Anne Commire (ed.). Something About the Author, #27; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1982.
5) Blocher, Karen Funk. The Tesseract: A Madeleing L'Engle Bibligraphy in 5 Dimensions; http://users.aol.com/lengleweb/LEnglfaq.html.
6) "L'Engle, Madeleine", Educational Paperback Association; http://www.edupaperbacthk.org/authorbios/lenglema.html.
7) "Madeleine L'Engle Papers", USM de Grummond Collection; http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/findaids/l'engle.htm.
8) Madeleine L'Engle; http://www.davison.k12.mi.us/dms/projects/women/alengle.htm.
9) Madeleine L'Engle, 1918 -; http://www.cwhf.org/browse/inductees/lengle.htm?.
10) Madeleine L'Engle: About the Author; http://www.wheaton.edu/learnres/arcsc/collects/sc03/bio.htm.

J-L'Engle The Moon by Night (1963) -- Fourteen year old Vicky Austin has a lot of uncertainties, but she is not so consumed with her problems that she cannot enjoy her family's summer cross-country camping trip.

J-LEN A Swiftly Turning Planet (1978) -- The youngest of the Murry children must travel through time and space in a battle against an evil dictator who would destroy the entire universe.

J-LEN/J-P-LEN A Wrinkle in Time (1962) -- When an atomic physicist disappears on a secret mission, his son, daughter, and their friend search for him, going on an interplanetary journey through space and time.

Blocher, Karen Funk. The Tesseract: A Madeleine L'Engle Bibligraphy in 5 Dimensions; (http://users.aol.com/lengleweb/LEnglfaq.html) -- This site not only provides a fairly detailed biography of the author, but it also looks closely at her works and where they can be found.

"Madeleine L'Engle Papers", USM de Grummond Collection (http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/findaids/l'engle.htm) -- While this site focuses on USM special collection of materials relating to the author, it does provide some great informatin about her life and her various works.

"Sharmat, Marjorie Weinman", Educational Paperback Association (http://www.edupaperbacthk.org/authorbios/lenglema.html) -- At this site, visitors will find a brief biography of Sharmat as well as places to look for more information and a list of her works.

Madeleine L'Engle; (http://www.davison.k12.mi.us/dms/projects/women/alengle.htm) -- This school project provides some neat and interesting facts about the author of a Wrinkle in Time.

Madeleine L'Engle, 1918 - (http://www.cwhf.org/browse/inductees/lengle.htm?) -- This is a nice brief biography of the author.

Madeleine L'Engle: About the Author (http://www.wheaton.edu/learnres/arcsc/collects/sc03/bio.htm) -- At this site, visitors will find a biography in the authors own words. it is taken from More Junior Authors, which is a bit dated, but it provides some interesting details.

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