I grew up in a house of readers (and no TV!), but my parents didn’t read science fiction or fantasy. A friend of theirs introduced me and my sister to A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle’s first in the Time Trilogy (never mind that a fourth book came much, much later).
What was L’Engle’s influence on me as a writer? She blew the doors off my little mind, opening me up to worlds of possibility. She told stories about smart girls with little brothers whose mitochondria were tied up in the stars. There were wise, crafty old women, and loving families, and warm houses in her stories.
In 9th grade I learned mitochondria were real, five years after I’d read the books. Another door blown open. Imagine my disappointment to learn the boundaries of fiction. Sadly, no such thing as farandolae. But it was too late. L’Engle had already planted the seed. There’s a part of me that holds on to the wonder, and believes that in some way, our cells dance with the heavens.
I returned to A Wrinkle many times after my first reading, and each time, I found something new. A different perspective or layer I hadn’t remembered or seen. Like a story that unfolds, I found my own sense of the world continue to expand. First there was the superficial story on the surface. A later reading revealed another story at a different level. I began to see the layers, not just in her stories, but in other stories as well.
As far as her influence on me, it’s hard to point to specifics. I devoured all her books, regardless of whether there was a sci-fi element. They still stand out as stories of hope against an encroaching darkness. She acknowledged the horror in the world, and she found a way to tell stories that made me believe we could stand together and dispel it. L’Engle was deeply religious, and all her stories are laced with her rich spirituality.
Her stories are embedded deep within me, and I draw on L’Engle’s own history as a source of inspiration. She said, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times before it got published. She believed in her stories, and eventually, she found her audience. It is this aspect of her career that emboldens me to keep marching. Someday, my stories will find their readers, too.