More Quotes from Madeleine L’Engle

In today’s blog post, I’m revisiting a favorite book, Madeleine L’Engle {Herself}: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase. This little book is filled with gems from author Madeleine L’Engle.

Here’s a sampling of Ms. L’Engle’s quotes from the book:

From page 287, “Avoid Limiting Vocabulary”

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

          “I have a profound conviction that is it most dangerous to tamper with the word. I’ve been asked why it’s wrong to provide the author of a pleasure book, a non-textbook, with a controlled vocabulary list. First of all, to give an author at list of words and tell him to write a book for children using no word that is not on the list strikes me as blasphemy.”

She goes on to give the word soporific from Beatrix Potter’s description of the effect lettuce had on Peter Rabbit. Soporific was the perfect word and much better than saying, “Lettuce made Peter sleepy.”

From page 295, “Writers Are Dangerous”

Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

          “When Hugh and I went on a trip to Russia I almost didn’t get a visa because our travel agent put down my occupation as writer. Writers think. Writers ask questions. Writers are dangerous. She finally persuaded ‘them’ that I write only for children and was not a threat. In any dictatorship, writers are among the first to be imprisoned, and vocabulary is quickly diminished and language deteriorates. Writers, if their vocabulary is not leashed, are quick to see injustice, and rouse the people to do something about it. We need words with which to think; kill words and we won’t be able to think and we’ll be easier to manipulate.”

From page 106, “The Pain of Rejection”

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

          “During that dreadful decade [of rejection’ I pinned on my workroom wall a cartoon in which a writer, bearing a rejected manuscript, is dejectedly leaving a publisher’s office; the caption says, ‘We’re very sorry, Mr. Tolstoy, but we aren’t in the market for a war story right now.’

From page 39, “A Work of Art Is Work”

          “A young writer told me once that she was asked by a neighbor what she did; and when she replied that she writes poetry, the neighbor said, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean your hobby.’ A woman probing about how much a year I make in royalties remarked, ‘And to think most people would have had to work so hard for that.’

          “Well, make no mistake about it, a work of art – great or small, major or minor – is work. It’s hard work. El Greco’s paintings didn’t just spring to the canvas in an hour. And it encourages me to think of the enormous amount of rewriting Dostoyevsky did – thousands of pages just thrown out.”

I think that’s a good Madeleine L’Engle quote to end my post. In case you want more of her quotes from Madeleine L’Engle {Herself}: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase, look for this delightful book in an independent bookstore or online. Also, here’s the link to my June 20, 2022 blog post, A Book Chock-Full of Gems.

Madeleine L’Engle {Herself}: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase

Since my last blog post

Along with almost everyone else in the northern hemisphere, I’m trying to stay cool during this very hot summer. My thoughts are with the people who have been affected by severe drought and wildfires, the people who have to work outside, and the people who don’t have air-conditioning.

I grew up without air-conditioning. When you’ve never had something, you just make do. Once you’ve grown accustomed to air-conditioning in the summer and central heat in the winter, though, it’s hard to give them up. I don’t want to go back to those hot, humid nights when it was too hot to sleep.

Until my next blog post

Read a good book. More than one, if you have the time and opportunity.

Don’t take a single day for granted.

Spend time with friends and family.

Remember the people of Ukraine, Uvalde, Highland Park, . . . .


17 thoughts on “More Quotes from Madeleine L’Engle

  1. Excellent post Janet. Yes, writers are a threat to dictatorships all over the world and now with the Internet dictators should really tremble with fear. Lamentably they don’t because they hold the power to control even that. Well stay cool and hydrated. At least around these parts it hasn’t really gotten too, too hat, and it’s always breezy, until today that I finally had to put the A/C on. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Francis. They’re predicting it will only be 89 degrees on Saturday, so there’s light at the end of the tunnel. A day below 90 degrees! Somehow that seems to be a magic number, as if “we can tolerate 89 degrees, but please don’t let it go up to 90.” LOL! It’s July, folks, in North Carolina. I’ll take it over winter any time I can get it. I hope you’re having a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Liz. Yes, I was reminded of that first one today when I saw a report on TV about the Miami-Dade County School Board caving in to four people who protested the sex education textbooks for middle and high schools. Now, there will be no sex education in the district’s schools this coming school year because the school board reversed their earlier decision to adopt the textbooks. It makes my head spin. Four people!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Janet. This is awesome! A work of art is work! I love it. I put my writing off for so long because it wouldn’t feed my family in its beginning stages and I felt guilty about putting it before anything else. It’s a great reminder that it’s still work. Something to take pride in!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh how fortunate that your wife actually took a course under Madeleine L’Engle! That must have been a special opportunity for her. Thank you for sharing that bit of personal information. I send you my best regards.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for finding my blog and taking time to leave a personal comment, Destiny. I look forward to checking out your blog. We writers must stick together!


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