A couple of years ago I bought a whole new set of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet. Because they had beautiful new matching covers:
And because one corner of my original copy of A Wind in the Door had been gnawed on by an unidentified something … A dog? A rat? Galloping mildew? Me, in a moment of desperate love trying to literally consume it? Whoever knows.
And then recently I saw a hardback of A Wrinkle in Time re-released with its original cover for the 50th anniversary, and I wanted to buy that too. (But I refrained, because... because WHY? That was so foolish.)
Madeleine L’Engle is just about the only author whose books I own multiple copies of. I love her books.* And I love her musings on love and commitment.** And growing-up, and ageing.*** And I love her writings about writing, especially writing for young people..
“If it's not good enough for adults, it's not good enough for children. If a book that is going to be marketed for children does not interest me, a grownup, then I am dishonoring the children for whom the book is intended, and I am dishonoring books. And words.”
Several days ago, I went into a bookshop and bought a couple of YA books. The guy behind the counter was quite annoyingly condescending about my purchases. He carried on in that vein, despite my frostiness. I should have quoted Madeliene L’Engle at him:
‘You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.’
On the other side of the coin, I went to a Children's Book Council forum, held at the offices of Random House. The panel was made up of Derry Wilkens from Sourcebooks Fire, Bronwen Hruska from Soho Press, Brett Cohen from Quirk Books and Jean Feiwel (in this case talking about her newly launched Swoon Reads, a crowd-sourced YA romance imprint, of which more later, but whose imprint Square Fish publishes L’Engle’s backlist).
The panel was really interesting, lots of food for thought. And afterwards I met some excellent people and ate cheese and drank champagne. But the whole time, the undercurrent of my thoughts was basically just: Holy cow; I’m in New York City, in a room full of people who believe in making and selling wonderful books for children and young adults, and who love and admire the books they work on. Madeleine L’Engle lived and worked in this city, many of the people who worked with her are still here, making new books for young people.
So if you want a glimpse into the vibe of the children’s and YA publishing scene in New York – I don’t think you can do better than this Publisher’s Weekly article from 2012 Remembering Madeliene.
And, yes, smug man in the coolsie bookstore, those YA books are for me, thank you very much.
*Murrays, Austins, O’Keefes – Chronos, Kairos – I love them all
**Happy Valentine’s Day to my favourite Tom, who is far away. Or he is close and I am far. Either way.
*** Away from home, in a place that is both foreign and familiar, feeling both very grown-up and very green, I agree with her that, ‘I am still every age that I have been.’