Image via WikipediaWhat a night! I was both excited and terrified as the husband and I got dressed and made our way over to The State Room in downtown Albany where the gala was being held. Cocktails (seltzer with a lime twist) was followed by the dinner, and a full program of events. (The State Room is also a Comedy Club and a popular wedding venue, so imagine, if you will, the high ceilings, the columns, the gorgeous hardwood floors.) The husband and I sat with some lovely folks, (including several tireless organizers of the festival) and we all applauded as we watched Pulitzer prize-winning poet John Ashbery, Willa Cather, Herman Melville, Ralph Ellison, Julia Deburgos, Dorothy Parker, Lorraine Hansberry, Paula Fox and Madeleine L'Engle be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Wait. Madeleine L'Engle was inducted in the middle of the program, and I accepted the award for her!
Here as promised, is the short speech I prepared this morning for this event. My hands were shaking and I spoke a little too fast, but I got through it. And I was SO PROUD and HONORED to do it!
I am thrilled to accept this honor on my grandmother’s behalf.
Madeleine L’Engle may have died three years ago, but we still find her influence both among other writers and fans. She would have loved this evening, as she always loved meeting people. She would have loved to be included in this group of literary luminaries of the past and present.
Thank you for recognizing not only her body of work, spanning 1944 through 2008 and 63 published books, but for who she was and what she gave the world as an artist. She modeled for both readers and other writers a passionate work ethic, dedicated to the need for story and its deeper truths.
Two books that came out in 1951 helped birth the modern YA genre: Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, and Camilla, by Madeleine L’Engle. Reviewers at the time compared Camilla as a female counterpoint to Holden Caulfield, yet Camilla didn’t become the icon that Holden did.
Still, my grandmother continued opening doors of perception in highlighting strong female protagonists. She always insisted that she was just writing what wanted to be written, but she managed to become subversive in how she was able to chip away at the female stereotypes often seen in literature through the early 1960s.
I often wonder where we would be now if in 1962 she she hadn’t given us Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time – a character who paved the way for so many girls to accept their passions, differences, and feelings. She gave us the permission to be the heroines of our own lives too.
During the 1950s, my grandmother had a difficult time getting each of her works published, until in 1962 she hit international renown with A Wrinkle in Time, which everybody knows very nearly didn’t get published at all. After 17 rejections, John Farrar of FSG was the one who took the chance on this book… a book even he didn’t think would sell very well.
Well . . . you all know what happened!
Madeleine would have wanted to meet all of you, to hold your hands and look you in the eye with her signature twinkle, and say thank you. Thank you for reading and loving her work. She wouldn’t be where she is today, in this Hall of Fame, without readers and their own imaginations.