A Wrinkle in Time was published under the radar by two up and coming publishers, John Farrar and Roger Straus.
The author, my grandmother Madeleine L'Engle, had fiercely believed in her book and suffered through 26 rejections, before luck had brought her to John Farrar. He agreed to publish it, but warned my Gran that it wouldn't sell very well.
Thankfully, he was wrong about the book, and very right to publish it.
Now A Wrinkle in Time is still one of the business' top sellers and the forward thinking team of Farrar Straus became Farrar, Straus, Giroux: the créme de la créme in the publishing industry.
Yesterday afternoon on February 11th, FSG put on a "celebration" at the distinguished Symphony Space, and live video-streamed the event to 85 book stores across the country. My family and I arrived to a packed house, and I was thrilled to see friends from our old neighborhood, as well as some of my Writopia Lab students in the audience. We had reserved seats in the second row with my brother Edward, right in front of my sister Charlotte and her family.
The event kicked off with a screening of the 90 Second Newbery Award video of A Wrinkle in Time, the brain-child of YA author James Kennedy, who hosted the first festival of kid-made videos last November. Betsy Bird, the fabulous children's librarian from the main branch of NYPL came out as the host for the afternoon and gave us some lovely words about her own connection to the book, and introduced us to the book trailer on the screen, followed by my sister Charlotte who spoke beautifully about the importance of community celebrations.
I was caught off guard by the amount of video and aural footage they had of my grandmother, hearing her voice fill Symphony Space, either from interviews or reading aloud from her book. Indeed, it made me feel as if she was in the room with us, and I remembered seeing her at Symphony Space LIVE, many times.
Betsy curated a panel of Newbery award winning authors Lois Lowry, Katherine Patterson, Rebecca Stead and R.L. Stine. It was an interesting panel because neither Lowry, Paterson or Stine had read Wrinkle as a child, so their perspective was much different from Rebecca's who is younger and was tremendously impacted by Wrinkle as both an author and a human being. (Just read When You Reach Me to find out why!)
Rebecca really shone on the stage, and even wore a 1960's dress with dark blue and green circles on it, reminiscent of the original cover. She completely rocked that panel!
You may think that would be enough for the event, but we were treated to more! The actress Jane Curtain did a stellar reading from WIT - the scene in which they tesser for the first time. Then we had another amazing performance from Greenwich Academy students, taking us through Meg's father saving them from IT but leaving Charles Wallace. And last but not least, the astute Leonard Marcus read us an excerpt from his forthcoming biography on M L'E entitled Listening to Madeleine, in which he compiled a book through a series of interviews. I already was excited to read it, but am even more now that I heard him read part of his interview with Sydney Offit - about what a remarkable speaker and performer my grandmother was.
Charlotte, Edward and I were whisked off to a table at the back of the theater where people could say hello while they were on line to get books signed by the authors from the panel, and we signed some posters and book plates as well. A lovely reception followed in the Thalia Café downstairs where it was fun to hob nob with lots of people from the publishing industry, and where my daughter Scarlett was the belle of the ball in her Wrinkle in Time tee shirt. (She was asked to be interviewed about Wrinkle by the publishers and immediately jumped up and down in glee, my little actress. Her favorite part of the evening? Why, the party and being interviewed of course!)
My favorite parts? Hearing my Gran's voice fill the room, seeing my sister on stage, my buddy Rebecca, Leonard Marcus, and the feeling that it really was a celebration.
If you were there, what were some of your favorite moments?
Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.
"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.