Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time

Monday, February 9, 2009

If you were to ask me to list my five favorite books, one of the books on the list would be Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.

I thought about that book the other day. Someone was writing about the present recession and what that is doing to book publishing. They said that maybe it would make good books harder to get published. That made me think of A Wrinkle in Time.

How many times was that book rejected? I don't remember any more, but I know it was a bunch.

The thing that strikes me is that no matter how many times it was rejected, it was still what it was. In that case, a great book! And I don't mean "great" in the superficial sense. I mean "great" in the sense that it stands at the level of the best of its kind ever written.

People's reactions to us or to what we write don't totally define us. Should we listen to criticism from qualified people? Of course. And are some of our manuscripts failures, worthy of to be put aside? Of course. But neither me nor my writing is just what you think it is. There is story after story of oft rejected novels which became classics or best sellers.

We need to have the courage to recognize what really doesn't work and to put it aside, but we also need to have faith in the things we think do work. And faith in ourselves.

I truly believe that some of the best novels ever written were never published. That's a great tragedy, of course, but it is also the nature of life. There are surely huge numbers of star basketball players or other potentially great athletes struck down as children by the violence in all the different countries of the world. There may well be an Einstein who has been killed in the fighting in the Middle East.

That's the most terrible thing about murder. It cuts off our possibilities. We as authors shouldn't murder our books, cut off their possibilities because someone rejects them. If you hope to have a book published some day, you have to have the courage to face the possibility of rejection. And you have to understand that some good books have been rejected many times.

PS One thing I like about A Wrinkle in Time is that it is based on a passage from the Apostle Paul. L'Engle was a deep and subtle theologian whose journals make for special reading. How wonderful it is that she could tell good stories too.

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Erica Orloff said...

Hi Joe:
You know that I started as a comedy writer and still love writing comedy. The climate, at least a year ago, was no one would buy "chick lit" or anything that mildly seemed like chick lit. I think my best comedy ever . . . is at least for now, going to stay rejected. I had two editors say, "Adore it. Can't get a comedy past committee. Tell her to write something darker for right now." There are factors beyond our control. If that book never gets published, it may be my funniest material never sees the light of day.

Joe Barone said...

I appreciate your wisdom.