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Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life (Writers' Palette) Hardcover – October 16, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For Madeleine L'Engle, writing is as connected to her Christian faith as breathing is to air. Madeleine L'Engle {Herself} comprises hundreds of L'Engle's reflections on writing, most shorter than a page and many illustrating her equal devotions to writing and prayer. L'Engle believes in collaborating with the subconscious mind. She believes that what you need for a work will come to you. She believes not in writing for children, but in retaining a childlike mind. And she believes it is her job to serve her work (though she claims frequently that she has "never served a work as it ought to be served"). She listens to the book she is writing, L'Engle says, just as she tries to listen in prayer. "If the book tells me to do something completely unexpected, I heed it; the book is usually right." But don't think this means that the work will write itself, and don't wait around to be inspired. "Inspiration comes during work," says the author, "not before it." --Jane Steinberg

Review

"Madeleine L'Engle is one of the wise women not only of our time but of the ages. She would be comfortable in the company of Sappho and Sophocles, Dante and Chaucer, MacDonald and Dostoevsky, and they would rejoice in hers. She understands, as they did, that, confronted by the mysteries at the heart of the cosmos--the mysteries of union and separation, of progress and retreat, of good and evil--one must enlist in the struggle with all one's might and at the same time bow in awe before the unspeakable beauty and pain and all that is inexplicable."
--Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gifts of the Jews, and Desire of the Everlasting Hills

"Although it would be impossible to distill into one volume all of Madeleine L'Engle's wisdom about writing, this book comes close to doing just that. The selections address the whole writing life and capture those memorable expressions that are truly Madeleine. An inspiring and helpful resource--suitable for any writer at any stage of development."
--Vinita Hampton Wright, author of Grace at Bender Springs
and Velma Still Cooks in Leeway

"This is a work that could only have come from Madeleine L'Engle. She is one of the few writers who has married the life of faith and the life of art together so beautifully. There are not many literary heroes among us, and if ever there was one, it is her. Within L'Engle's reflections on the mystery and the craft of writing there is more than enough wisdom to help those of us who read it to become far better writers than we might have been otherwise. Sometimes when you read a great writer when they write about the art of craft itself, you want to retire immediately and become a plumber. This book made me want to pick up my pen and go back to work, and to work harder than I ever have before. That is no small gift."
--Robert Benson, author of Between the Dreaming and the Coming True
and Living Prayer
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Product Details

  • Series: Writers' Palette
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Shaw Books; 1st edition (October 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087788157X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877881575
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #911,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I somehow missed reading L'Engle's childrens books when I was young, so my first introduction to the works of Madeleine L'Engle was the Crosswicks Journals collection. This book is along the same lines as her other nonfiction; not only is the reader delighted by her extraordinary interpretations and observations, but the reader is also privy to the idiosyncratic personality of M.L'E. "Reflections on a Writing Life" is composed of short selections; while each is complete in itself, i found myself wishing for her longer musiings. But that is the only reason I give the book four rather than five starts. Highly recommended for those who enjoy Madeleine.
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Format: Hardcover
As a writer, I am challenged and encouraged by L'Engle's storytelling. She evokes emotion and images, fantasy and reality...all with a seeming effortlessness.
In "Reflections on a Writing Life," we see into the heart and mind of this incredible woman. We discover the amount of work that goes into her writing, and, along the way, we realize that this 'work' is really a process of letting go.
Each section can be read in a minute and mulled over for days. This is deep and rich food for thought. Artists and creative people of all sorts can find enrichment in L'Engle's shared wisdom. I recommend heartily this mine of daily gold.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read L'Engle's fiction, but this is the first non-fiction by her that I have read. It's a lengthy collection of very short pieces -- nearly all are one page or less. A lot of depth is packed into the pieces, though. I'll often read just one or two before going to bed at night, and I'll have an idea or thought to reflect on as I'm falling asleep, and the next day. Many are thoughts on writing, but could be applied to any art. All are thoughts on life.
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Format: Hardcover
Any person of a spiritual bent who is interested in writing would benefit greatly by reading this book. Not purporting to be a full course in "creative writing", these short one- and two-page excerpts from lectures and other works are inspirational to the budding author. L'Engle is a strong believer in the power of story, in allowing the characters in the story to take the author to unexpected places, in "serving the work", and in the belief that there is no difference in writing for children or adults. Biblical inerrantists may stumble a little at her theology (she seems to be somewhat neo-orthodox), but that should not hinder the creative Christian and non-Christian alike from gleaning much wisdom from this book.
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Format: Hardcover
The compiler (a fine writer herself), Carole F. Chase, knows Madeleine's work like no other. The reading selections collected and brilliantly edited here will inspire and motivate anyone who writes. Besides her own substantial corpus of work (more than 40 books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction), L'Engle is widely known for her writing seminars and workshops -- she has lived the writer's life for more than 60 years; always working to 'serve her gift'. But, she has also laboured long and hard to help others serve their gifts as fruitfully. Chase, L'Engle's best biographer, met the famous author years ago and knows her teaching on writing well. The selections which make up this great book come from many unpublished sources and constitute the best of L'Engle's teaching/coaching/mentoring on good writing and the writer's life. I have shared this book with several of my writing friends and have yet to encounter a less than enthusiastic response. My five-star assessment comes from rigid standards and sober contemplation. Quite simply, the book EARNS it. Besides Julia Cameron's THE ARTIST'S WAY, and Rilke's LETTERS TO A POET, this is the most significant writing book on my shelves.
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By A Customer on January 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you are a writer in need of a spiritual and creative lift, this book is for you. Madeline L'Engle has been through it all, and these short, inspiring passages give you something to think about--and think about again. It is definitely the type of book you will read over and over, and it will give you a whole new outlook on your own writing life.
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