Madeleine L’Engle Inspiration on Writing and Marriage

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The author of A Wrinkle In Time Madeleine L’Engle with her devotee Dyane Harwood at the Mount Calvary Benedictine Monastery in Santa Barbara, California.  I love this picture even though I have a triple chin.  I got that chin in part from eating lots of the delectable, freshly baked cookies made by the monks each day – it was all their fault.

 

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” 

― Madeleine L’Engle

Writing, writers and books are on my mind much of this week while I’ve been primarily homebound with my two sick little girls. (They are getting much better, by the way!)  While I’ve been used to the luxury of being alone while my girls are in school, this week I was faced with the challenge of writing with extra distractions, i.e. the Spongebob Squarepants oeuvre, that set my teeth on edge.

Despite Spongebob’s maniacal laughs, I’ve plowed forth with daily writing because writing has become an ingrained habit.  I feel better when I just do it.  (Ah, Nike, I blame you for planting your smug, little tagline in my brain!)

There have been periods in my life when I wrote all the time, such as my four years majoring in English/American literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz.  Conversely, there were many months in which my bipolar depression prevented me from writing a single word.  While daily writing can seem rather extreme, my rule is that as long as I enjoy it and I pay attention to the other key areas of my life (kids, husband, laundry, and the like) it’s fine.

I also take comfort in the fact that I’m following the advice of Madeleine L’Engle, one of my favorite authors.  She asserted, “Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour — write, write, write.”  (hmmm, perhaps I could get that tattooed on my writing hand to remind me!)

During my most severe bipolar depressions, one of the few things that took my mind off my mind were the Madeleine L’Engle’s books.  I continue to read her books periodically without experiencing any boredom.  With each re-reading I notice details that slipped by me in the past, which is always fun.

Her books give me a satisfaction akin to easing into a warm, fragrant bath, and I share my appreciation of her work with millions of her other fans of all ages.  It truly amazes me that L’Engle’s classic, Newberry Award-winning book A Wrinkle In Time was rejected so many times by publishers before it made the big-time.

In some of her non-fiction books  L’Engle recounted her decade of writing rejection in which she felt so down that she contemplated giving up writing altogether.  But when she came to the brink of carrying out that momentous decision, her heart and faith (she was highly religious) kicked in.

This revealing quote explains her perspective when she wasn’t a famous writer:

“If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing.  I’m glad I made this decision in a moment of failure.  It’s easy to say you’re a writer when things are going well.  When the decision is made in the abyss, then it is quite clear that it is not one’s own decision at all.”

― Madeleine L’EngleA Circle of Quiet

Apart from her writing advice, L’Engle’s marriage to her husband Hugh Franklin as depicted in her book Two-Part Invention has influenced me deeply.  Two-Part Invention is one of my favorite L’Engle books, and I have probably read it at least twenty times!  The structure of the book starts with present day, in which L’Engle’s husband of forty years is dying from cancer, and shifts to the past revealing how they met and developed their relationship.

Back and forth the narrative flows, in a seamless, beautiful way.  Their marriage most definitely wasn’t without numerous terrible times, many of which were not included in the book, such as the death of their son Bion.  If you haven’t read this book yet, you are in for a treat.  Her “story of a marriage” will make you appreciate your own relationship whether you are married or not, and it will allow you to observe love in action during one of the most difficult times of life: witnessing the death of a beloved.

If you’ve never read one of Madeleine L’Engle’s books before, I strongly encourage you to do so!  A Wrinkle In Time is a great start (billed as a children’s book, but appropriate for all ages) and aside from Two-Part Invention I highly recommend A Small Rain (the first of L’Engle’s books, and semi-autobiographical) and A Live Coal in the Sea.

Happy Reading!

 

“The growth of love is not a straight line, but a series of hills and valleys.”

― Madeleine L’EngleTwo-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage

“Love of music, of sunsets and sea; a liking for the same kind of people; political opinions that are not radically divergent; a similar stance as we look at the stars and think of the marvelous strangeness of the universe – these are what build a marriage. And it is never to be taken for granted.”

― Madeleine L’EngleTwo-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage

 

This blog post is dedicated to my husband, the author Craig S. Harwood, pictured on the left with his co-author Gary Fogel.  Together they wrote the award-winning book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West.  I am fortunate to have a husband who encourages me to write and gives me writing/publishing advice when I ask for it.  (And sometimes when I don’t!)

Barnes-Noble book signing copy

 

 

 

To read more Madeleine L’Engle quotes about a wide range of topics, visit: 

395 Quotes of Madeleine https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/106.Madeleine_L_Engle

Facing challenges with writing books when you have bipolar

That’s what’s on my sleepy mind this rainy morning – how authors with brain challenges have the ability to complete an entire book.  I wish there was a magic potion I could drink that would get me to sit down and finish the piece I’ve been working on (and mostly off) the past several years.  I’ve been thinking books-books-books all stormy weekend long.  I selected some of my longtime “friends” (I know it sounds schmaltzy, but I consider books to be friends) for my blog hit lists that I wrote over the weekend.

If you search Amazon listings you’ll find that a brand-new bipolar memoir is being published almost every day.  Many of these books are self-published, and they usually run the price of a small double mocha instead of twenty-five dollars.  As much as I’d love the author to make more of a profit, I love that affordability.

It’s getting easier and easier to get your work out into the world, which is wonderful.  I’ve noticed that more authors are using self-publishing companies such as CreateSpace and Author House.  While it’s a blessing that these organizations give writers the opportunity to share their stories with a worldwide audience, it’s also easier for mediocre or downright awful books to emerge.

Even if a new book is lousy, I still have so much admiration for the author; I’m also envious because I want to complete a project too.  Anyone who can focus enough to finish  a two-hundred page manuscript has made a remarkable achievement.  I’ve been wondering why I want to finish my book so badly.  The reasons are simple: I want all my suffering to help other moms with bipolar feel less alone, I want to feel productive, and I want to be able to tell people (and myself) that I’m a bona fide author.  It’s true am a writer – the fact that I’ve made a couple thousand dollars off my articles tells me that, but it’s different to have a book published.  A book is (usually) a true labor of love.  Writing a book was a labor of love for my husband Craig Harwood, who took seven years to write his book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West in his free time.

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(shameless plug!)

Yesterday I was working out on my NordicTrack elliptical.  While I’ve had phases where I’ve been an exercise purist eschewing magazines, lately I’ve been reading my Kindle on the machine.  The workout time flies by while I surf Facebook and read books on my Kindle and I still break a decent sweat.  I also blast the Pandora Disco channel.  There’s nothing like hearing the Bee Gees’ “More Than a Woman” or Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” while on an elliptical.

A couple days ago I was working out and Kindle surfing.  I spotted a book announced on Amazon that very day: Deborah Kaminski’s Bipolar and Me for just $2.99.  What caught my eye was the book cover – it was hard to miss, even with sweat dripping into my eyes:

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(There’s nothing quite like an eye-catching cover.)

The author describes her book simply on Amazon: “This book talks about my journey with Bipolar Disorder and has information for both those suffering and those who have loved ones who suffer with bipolar.”  Her self-publishing company is BookRix.  I had never heard of them, and their recent press release sounds too good to be true .  They “will no longer charge for their eBook-distribution-services, allowing authors to publish eBooks for free via BookRix and distribute them to all major eBook stores such as Amazon.”  When I observe books being published so frequently by these types of companies, I am reminded that I can just go for it.  I’ve seen books that are only fifteen or twenty pages long for sale on Amazon – to me that’s more of a chunky brochure, but I admire the writer’s resolve in getting her work out into the world.

Many people with bipolar have attention challenges and/or struggle with sedation due to medication side effects.  I have both of those issues, but I won’t let them stop me.  If others can do it, I can too.  I also realized that I won’t become a career blogger or a fly-by-night sensation who gains thousands of followers.  It’s a hard to give up the idea of hitting it big via a blog, but I can’t blog regularly and work on a book – at least not now.  I have two little girls who are my priority, and at this point I am not able to do everything I want to do.

However, I can still set out to accomplish my dream to complete a book project.  One of my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle had her infamous A Wrinkle In Time manuscript rejected by at least 26 publishers, because it was, in L’Engle’s words, “too different”, and “because it deals overtly with the problem of evil.”   She also went through an entire decade of getting rejection slips, which is hard for me to believe.  She describes that tortuous decade in her own writing in the book Two Part Invention – the Story of A Marriage. (It’s one of my favorite books.)

I’ll boast about this until the day I die, but none other than Madeleine L’Engle liked my writing, even though it was just a measly fourteen line sonnet I wrote with sweaty palms about dolphins.  L’Engle had me recite it at her writing workshop.  Take my word for it, she was not the type to lie about liking anyone’s writing.  She made that astoundingly clear at the two workshops I was lucky enough to attend.

There’s the famous saying that to be truly excellent at anything, one must practice for 10,000 hours.  I’ve been using this blog to get into the daily practice of writing, and I’m hoping it won’t take me another 9,995 hours to get where I want to be.  At least I have the aforesaid hope, and if I have hope, I can write a book – I really think I can.  I’m going to finish reading this:

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and hop to it!

I’ve selected March 1st as my start date to return to writing/editing my Birth of a New Brain manuscript.  (I have one hundred pages so far.)  I will devote at least a half an hour each day to writing.  My husband told me he spent twenty minutes every morning to write his book Quest for Flight.   He woke up before the rest of us each day to do it, which I can’t realistically do yet.  The three medications I take (lithium, Seroquel and the MAOI Parnate) make it so that I need to sleep as long as I can in the morning.  Then my girls get up, and we all scramble to get ready for the bumper-to-bumper schlep to school.

I’ll stick to blogging for the next couple weeks and try to shorten my posts.  I never thought I’d write overly long blog posts, but I figure you can skim it or maybe you’re hopefully a fast (and tolerant) reader!  Thanks for reading this from the bottom of my sleepy heart!