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Unveiling the Writing Journey: Insights from a Mom’s Perspective

In the years leading up to crafting her iconic children’s novel, Madeleine L’Engle treated her typewriter with the care and precision akin to a paramedic handling a victim awaiting transport from the scene of an incident to the morgue. This dramatic gesture unfolded during the 1950s as she grappled with the arduous task of writing and rewriting a novel centered around a character named Rachel, as shared by Charlotte Jones Voiklis, the author’s granddaughter and executor of her estate.

Rather than discarding her work, L’Engle persisted in refining the same beginning of a flawed narrative, refusing to part ways with her beloved “darlings.” Despite her efforts, the manuscript never saw the light of publication. However, in a twist of fate, her renowned masterpiece in children’s literature, “A Wrinkle in Time” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), emerged as a phoenix from the ashes of her failed project.

The intricate process of creativity and its transformative power inspired the English department at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to inaugurate the Festival of Faith & Writing in 1990. This biennial event has evolved into a vibrant congregation of writers exploring the nuanced relationship between religious beliefs and literature, offering a fertile ground for personal and professional growth.

After a hiatus of six years prompted by pandemic-related concerns, the much-anticipated 2024 Festival welcomed over 2,000 writers from across the nation. The lineup featured 64 speakers, including Pulitzer Prize winners and distinguished voices from diverse literary realms, united in their commitment to unraveling the tapestry of stories that shape our collective narrative.

Amidst the enriching lectures and insightful discussions, attendees delved into various facets of the writing craft, ranging from the experiences of a renowned speechwriter for Michelle and Barack Obama to the endeavors of novelists whose works transcend linguistic boundaries. The sessions also shed light on compelling narratives, such as the repatriation efforts aimed at returning stolen sacred artifacts to their native lands, including the infamous theft of St. Nicholas from Turkey.

Reflecting on Madeleine L’Engle’s journey, her granddaughter underscored the importance of embracing failure as a stepping stone to growth and innovation. By pivoting away from her stagnant manuscript and embarking on a transformative road trip with her family, L’Engle unlocked a realm of creativity that birthed the iconic characters of “A Wrinkle in Time.” This literary masterpiece, born out of resilience and reinvention, continues to captivate readers worldwide, transcending generations with its timeless allure.

In essence, L’Engle’s narrative arc serves as a poignant reminder that setbacks and rejections are integral parts of the creative process, shaping the narrative landscape in profound ways. Through perseverance and a willingness to embrace change, writers can breathe life into new stories, much like stirring a pot of simmering stew with fresh ingredients to enrich the flavors of life itself.

For inquiries, Pam Mellskog can be contacted at 303-746-0942.