Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Some Words from Madeleine L'Engle

[An excerpt from her Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech, August 1963]

Because of the very nature of the world as it is today, our children receive in school a heavy load of scientific and analytic subjects, so it is in their reading for fun, for pleasure, that they must be guided into creativity.  These are forces working in the world as never before in the history of mankind for standardization, for the regimentation of us all, or what I like to call making muffins of us, muffins all like every other muffin in the muffin tin.  This is the limited universe, the drying, dissipating universe that we can help our children avoid by providing them with “explosive material capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly.”

So how do we do it?  We can’t just sit down at our typewriters and turn out explosive material.  I took a course in college on Chaucer, one of the most explosive, imaginative, and far-reaching in influence of all writers.  And I’ll never forget going to the final exam and being asked why Chaucer used certain verbal devices, certain adjectives, why he had certain characters behave in certain ways.  And I wrote in a white heat of fury, “I don’t think Chaucer had any idea why he did any of these things.  That isn’t the way people write.”

Most of what is best in writing isn’t done deliberately.


  1. I think some writers do write with adjective purpose, whether Chaucer did... I don't know.

  2. True. I usually find out why I did things after I'm done writing.

  3. I LOVE M.L'Engle and trust the gut and inspiration more than deliberation.

  4. I think M.L'Engle was a great writer and I think we construct our writing in the way we do because it makes sense to us that way. I strive to make everything I write as complete as I can. It is good to be reminded of this.

  5. I love L'Engle, and that is such a great quote. People forget that readers bring as much to a book as the writer did. That's why no people read exactly the same thing.