It’s the birthday of the writer Madeleine L’Engle (books by this author), born in 1918 in New York City. She was an only child. Her parents always had a house full of artists and writers and musicians, and she said, “Their lives were very full and they didn’t really have time for a child. So I turned to writing to amuse myself.” She wrote her first story at age five. She was shy and clumsy, and some of her teachers thought she was stupid. Her parents sent her to a fancy boarding school in the French Alps, and she hated it. She went to a series of boarding schools, then to college, and then worked in the theater, where she met her husband, an actor. When they had a daughter, they decided to raise her away from New York City, so they bought an old farmhouse in Connecticut. And since there was nowhere to be an actor in rural Connecticut, the family needed some more money, so they bought an old general store and managed it.
The family went on a 10-week cross-country camping trip, and Madeleine L’Engle was reading about quantum physics, and she said: “We drove through a world of deserts and buttes and leafless mountains, wholly new and alien to me. And suddenly into my mind came the names, Mrs Whatsit. Mrs Who. Mrs Which.” From there the idea for a story unfolded, about a girl who travels with her brother, a high school classmate, and Mrs. Whatsit, Who, and Which, through space and time to find their father, a physicist researching the space-time continuum, who has been imprisoned on another planet by an evil being called “IT.” It didn’t take her long to write the book, but the manuscript got rejected by 26 publishers, because no one understood what kind of book it was. L’Engle wanted it to be a children’s book, but publishers thought it seemed too dark and difficult. Even L’Engle’s agent finally gave up on her. Then L’Engle threw a tea party for her mother, and one of the guests was friends with John Farrar of Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, and arranged for L’Engle to meet with Farrar. He liked L’Engle, and he liked her manuscript, and even though FSG had never published a children’s book before, they started with Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time (1962), which went on to win many awards and sell 8 million copies.