As the Newbery Medal-winning author of A Wrinkle in Time (1962) and of the bestselling adult memoir A Circle of Quiet (1972), Madeleine L’Engle catapulted from obscurity to become one of America’s best-known writers and most outspoken literary presences. L’Engle, it seemed, who died in 2007, always had some new book on offer, and a frenetic touring schedule that on any given day might place her before a banquet gathering of hundreds of librarians, a volunteer workshop for inner-city teens, or the assembled worshippers of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. L’Engle served as president of the Authors Guild (1985–86) and as the Cathedral’s longtime librarian, and was equally at home speaking out on TV for freedom of expression and leading a weekend silent retreat at a Hudson River Valley monastery. A tortuous and at times tortured family life was partly responsible for her seeming compulsion to remain in perpetual motion. But so too was an article of faith she lived by: the belief that everyone had a story to tell, and that it was her calling to encourage others to tell theirs, even as she – with help from the editors and staff at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Dell – set down her own quicksilver stories in book after book for all to know.
The following excerpt from Listening for Madeleine (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Nov.) focuses on a few of L’Engle’s key publishing relationships. Other interviews in this wide-ranging book examine her childhood years and many-sided later life as a mentor, matriarch, devoted friend, and cultural lightning rod.
I was hired as editor in chief of the children’s book department after Clare Costello left. It was a very small department, in part because Michael di Capua, who edited many of the great picture books of the period, including those by Maurice Sendak and Bill Steig, was in adult editorial. We certainly cooperated, but he was separate from us in day-to-day matters.
In 1969, when I came into publishing, I went to work for Ann Beneduce at T.Y. Crowell. I worked with Ann for seven years, and when I went to Farrar, Straus, I was relatively young for that job and had not been a senior editor, only an associate editor. But I had done some books that did well, and the reason I got the job is that it had been offered to Ann Beneduce first and she had laughed at the salary they offered her and said, “Who you want to talk to is Sandra.” And so they did. It was a great opportunity, but going in, I felt, Oh my God. Nervous doesn’t even come close. The FSG children’s book house authors included heavy hitters like the Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Caldecott Medal winner Uri Shulevitz, and the Newbery winner Madeleine L’Engle. Madeleine in particular had been calling Roger Straus once a week, saying, “Where’s my editor? I’m working on a book. Where’s my editor?” As soon as I arrived, she came down to the office, and Roger brought her to meet me, and we went to lunch at the Dardanelles, which was our hangout. We could sign for meals there, and the bill went on the company tab. My memory of that first lunch is of relaxed and easy conversation about books and theater and things we loved. My aunt Gay, who was an actress, had known Madeleine and Hugh back in the 1950s. When Gay first came to New York, she toured with the Lunts in I Know My Love, which Hugh was in. She’d been to parties at Hugh and Madeleine’s house, feeling, she said, “like a very small mouse,” because the two of them were both so glamorous. Madeleine wasn’t conventionally pretty, but she could project a great aura of glamour.
All those many years later, the Madeleine I met was not the same one my aunt had known. She was a big presence but the Madeleine of the writing world, not of the theater. She ordered her clothes from catalogs. She was the first person I knew who did so. And she had a haircut that looked like Hugh’s barber had given it to her. Her hair was very short, in part because she liked to swim every day when she could and didn’t want to have to bother with her hair. Before she put the pool in at Crosswicks, she used to drag her guests off to the lake near the house every day to do some swimming. I would paddle around, and she would swim laps! She was exuberant but not stylish, a person you would notice in any room she entered. I liked her immediately in the way that you just meet someone and feel that you have always known them. I’ve been thinking about why that was, and part of the reason is that she was a great listener. She not only heard what you said but heard what you didn’t say. She was curious about everyone and brilliant at subtext, which made her fun to talk to. I think she was my mother’s age, but she didn’t relate to me that way. In fact, at our first meeting, by way of welcoming me, Madeleine said to me, “I need an editor!”
In preparation for that first meeting, I had been taken to lunch by Hal Vursell, who had been her editor for A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. Hal was retired but lived in the neighborhood, and he met me at the Dardanelles to brief me on what the house considered an important relationship. His words of advice to me were “Don’t be intimidated!” He was an editor of the old school, from back in the days when editors were tweedy gents: very turned out in the manner of a distinguished academic. It was clear that he had been very fond of Madeleine.
Bob Giroux, who edited Madeleine’s adult books at Farrar, Straus, also prepped me at lunch. Bob was one of the partners and had edited T.S. Eliot and E.M. Forster, among others. He socialized with Madeleine and Hugh in those days and with their mutual friends the Broadway theater critic Walter Kerr and his wife, Jean, who was also a writer. Bob was a really nice man, and he started the conversation by saying in his quiet, growly voice, “I just don’t understand children’s books at all!” Years later, he would describe Madeleine to me as “a writer right down to her bones.” Madeleine, unlike anyone else I had ever worked with, would show you the first forty pages of a book. That’s what she did when we met for lunch that first time. It was a very rough draft. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, except to stay out of her way because she obviously wrote very fluently. Writer’s block was never a problem. What I discovered as we went along is that you had to be very careful what you said to Madeleine editorially. If you didn’t pick your words right, you might end up with a whole new revision on your desk twenty-two minutes later – that is, with a manuscript that had been changed much more than you thought was necessary.
So in the early stages of work on a book I tried to be little more than an encouraging presence, to act as a sounding board, and maybe say, “A little heavy on the history here – things of that sort” – and “But leave it for now, and we’ll see how much you need when the first draft is finished.” Sometimes you’d get pages and pages of a character’s backstory, material that Madeleine needed to know about the character but that the reader ultimately did not need to know. There would also be false starts. It was an interesting way to work, and I enjoyed getting to see so much of a writer’s process. The only difficulty for me was that it was hard to bring a fresh eye to the final draft, because by then we had been through so many versions that I needed time lines to keep track of the progression.
The first year I was at Farrar, Straus was devoted to getting A Swiftly Tilting Planet finished and published. The book had a time travel element and a lot of historical material, and it was a challenge to keep track of all the characters and discuss how much material was needed to link the characters of the past with those of the present. Even so, A Swiftly Tilting Planet was a very comfortable book for me to start out with her on because I had always been interested in pre-Columbian America and the elaborate theories about early explorers, Druid chambers in New Hampshire, things like that. So I was a good person to help her with the research aspects of her story. We talked about this at our first lunch, and it put us on the same wavelength right from the start. Once that book was completed, we then went directly into work on A Ring of Endless Light, which is a more linear story. The editing was always in stages. We would work out the plot, then focus on the characters, and then look at the manuscript line by line. Madeleine didn’t always agree with me, but she listened. Once, when I was up at Crosswicks, I knew I was going to have to tell her something she’d find difficult to hear. We were working on A Ring of Endless Light, and I thought that she had made the heroine, Vicky, so self-righteous that she came across to the reader as unsympathetic and smug. When I said this to Madeleine, she paused, thought about it for a long minute, and then said, “It’s interesting how someone who loves you can say something like that and have it be okay, while someone who doesn’t love you might say the same thing and it wouldn’t be.” She was right. I did love her enough to say it. Because with a successful bestselling writer there can be a temptation to let tough issues slide by. Madeleine never wanted that kind of pass. Not at all. It was a true pleasure to see how she took our conversation and transformed it into what the story needed.
Madeleine didn’t come to our office on Union Square very often. I would talk to her a lot by phone. Because she and I both lived on the Upper West Side, she would sometimes stop by my apartment. Very often at the end of my day, I would go to the cathedral library and see her on my way home. Or I would go up there for lunch and then spend the afternoon working with her. I went up to Crosswicks for the weekend several times during each book. Those would be working weekends, but again we would set out across the fields with her eternal battle against bittersweet, which is a vine that strangles trees. The back hall of the house was a little unkempt but in a homey, comfortable 1950s way, with a random assortment of wraps and hats. I always said we looked like Mrs Who and Mrs Whatsit when we ventured out together in the cold months wearing hats, gloves, and anybody’s old coat, so long as it was waterproof. Madeleine had these huge loppers – a longhandled pruning shear – and we would go out for a long walk across the fields, talking about the characters in her manuscript of the moment, talking about our families – all intermixed. Every once in a while she would stop and whack off a piece of bittersweet.
As you took that walk, she would say, “There’s the stargazing rock. There’s the wall where the snake is. That’s the vegetable garden where they see the angels.” She had the property all around her house mapped out with her literary landmarks. At the end of the walk you came to a marsh, which is where she thought the ancient lake mentioned in A Swiftly Tilting Planet would have been. It was all there. So in a sense were her characters, including Calvin’s toothless mother, Branwen O’Keefe, whom Madeleine told me she modeled on a real person – whether it was a neighbor in Goshen or someone she knew from the cathedral in New York, she did not say. Mrs. O’Keefe became very important in the third book, in a way that she hadn’t been previously, and reveals herself to have the key. Madeleine talked about the significance of that character, which was meant as a caution to readers not to assume by a person’s appearance who or what that person really was.
When Madeleine and I were at the library working together, we were always being interrupted because when she was there she was the acting librarian. Canon West’s cavernous office was next door, and he would drop in now and then. When the three of us were together, he was a little proprietary toward Madeleine. He was gruff. He was sarcastic. He always made it clear that I was the junior member of the corporation. He was not a man who was going to be my friend just because Madeleine was my friend. It was a very formal relationship. During the work on A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Hugh read the manuscript editorially and so did Canon West. They both had strong opinions and weren’t shy about expressing them. Canon West yelled at me for cutting some of the unicorn scene in A Swiftly Tilting Planet. What he didn’t realize – or chose to ignore – is that while I made suggestions, occasionally strong suggestions, Madeleine had the final say. She did all the cutting and revising. Every single change, large or small, was her choice.
People who needed to use the cathedral library would wander in, as would people for whom Madeleine served as a spiritual adviser, who would come by to see if she was free to talk. She had a great many of those relationships, including with a number of people whose lives had been hard or complicated or who had suffered great losses and for whom Madeleine was a huge source of comfort. I think she felt a responsibility to people in need, as well as a responsibility to people who responded to her writings from some deep place in their lives. She was willing to engage them in dialogue. I asked her at a writers’ conference once how she withstood all that intensity, the overwhelming tide of people wanting something from her, needing something beyond a book signed or a comment about their manuscript, needing a spiritual connection. She said, “I have a rule. At 9:00 p.m., I go to my room no matter what, and I’m done for the day.” When we traveled together, she would excuse herself promptly at 9:00. Madeleine always traveled with a flask, the contents of which she referred to as “Ear Water” – it was brandy usually, for which you don’t need ice – and about which she said, “A person needs a drink at the end of one of these day!” She also said, adopting the appropriate accent, “No southern girl ever travels without her Ear Water!” The two of us would go upstairs and have a drink, and then Madeleine would settle in for the night and write in her journal for an hour or two.
When A Swiftly Tilting Planet was just coming out, we thought it was going to be the last book in the Time sequence. So we decided to press-tour Madeleine, to make a big deal of the event. Madeleine was impatient about shopping, and being a full-service editor, I said, “You can’t go out on tour in that dress1 You’re going to be on television. We’ve got to go shopping!”
I lined up a personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman, and Madeleine said she would go and do that if I would go with her. We arrived at the store and made our way to a special room where we picked out a couple of outfits, including a then-top-of-the-line pink Ultrasuede suit. She wore that suit for years. It was a good outfit to travel with because – no pun intended – Ultrasuede doesn’t wrinkle.
Sandra Jordan is the co-author with Jan Greenberg of Ballet for Martha, Action Jackson, and other books about the arts for young readers, and is a former editor in chief of children’s books at Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
George M. Nicholson
I became acutely aware of Madeleine after 1965, when we were putting together the paperback reprint list for Yearling Books at the Dell Publishing Company. We went through every publishing house’s lists and frankly picked what we thought were the big bestsellers. Clearly, A Wrinkle in Time was one of the major titles. A few years earlier, I had included an excerpt from A Wrinkle in Time in an educational reading program that I helped create for Science Research Associates. So I already knew bits and pieces of the novel. Rereading it at Dell, I found that I loved it. I approached Farrar, Straus not through the person in charge of the juvenile department but rather through Hal Vursell. I never fully understood his position there. He was a senior person and was handling Madeleine outside the juvenile department. The editor in charge of juvenile publishing at the time was Clare Costello, but I didn’t deal with her, only with Hal. I remember going to lunch with Hal and making the case to him about why a paperback edition would not destroy the hardcover sales of the book, which had done so spectacularly well once it won the Newbery. We bought paperback rights not only to A Wrinkle in Time but to several of Madeleine’s novels. I don’t remember what we paid for the rights, but it was a lot of money. That is when I first met Madeleine.
Hal understood what we were trying to do at Dell Yearling, and when he talked it over with Madeleine, I think he must have made the point that we were a respectable operation. My having a son at her granddaughters’ school may even have figured in the pitch. Hardcover houses in those days saw themselves – and were widely seen – as the center of Literature, whereas paperback houses were vulgar reprinters riding on the back of the literary horse. The other-side-of-the-tracks mentality persisted for a long time – until writers began to realize the financial benefits that only the paperback houses could bring them.
It was not unknown to Farrar, Straus and the other publishers in town that rather big money was being thrown around for the purpose of acquiring paperback rights to the most desirable books. This of course was in the pre-conglomerate days of independent ownership. Every house, but particularly smaller publishers like Farrar, Straus, kept a close watch on the flow of money, as you would immediately sense on a visit to Farrar’s offices, which were very modest in an engaging – and I thought English – sort of way. You might see mice or other creatures scurrying about, but at least you knew the partners weren’t squandering their money on glitz. In the 1970s and 1980s, Union Square, where Farrar, Straus’s offices were located, was itself a pretty horrifying place, with drunks and drug dealers everywhere. It was not the high-rent district!
So to Hal Vursell, $150,000 – or whatever it was that we paid for Madeleine’s books – was a spectacular sum of money, of which the publisher got half. We negotiated a straightforward contract, which ran for a term of seven years, with a clause that provided for automatic renewal in perpetuity, or until such time as either party wished to terminate the agreement.
I left Dell in 1970, and by the time I returned to the house in its much-expanded form about nine years later, Hal was semiretired, and A Wrinkle in Time had sold so well in both hardcover and paperback that there was no thought of termination on either side. Ironically, it was the great success of the book that led to the one major “incident” I had with Madeleine, in which I found myself doing my best to protect her.
I had learned from my colleagues at Dell that the company had underpaid Farrar, Straus in royalties for a period of years, to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars. It was an appalling moment for me, not least because of my role in having brought Madeleine’s books to Dell in the first place. I was so embarrassed, and I couldn’t see how this would have happened. It turned out to have been a simple accounting error. I knew that Roger Straus, who was a fierce protector both of his own interests and of the interests of his authors and who was a famously hot-tempered man, was going to be in hysterics. His position had always been that the paperback houses were the “bad guys.” In any case, when I got this news, I called Madeleine’s agent, Bob Lescher, with whom I was friendly, and told him the situation. I said that I was going to call Farrar, Straus and that what I thought should happen was for Madeleine to get all the back-payment money that was due – not just half – in light of the fact that Farrar, Straus had overlooked the accounting errors too, and therefore bore equal responsibility with Dell. That in the end is how the matter was resolved, and from then on Madeleine knew that I really was on her side. We began to have occasional dinners together, during which we would talk about what we were reading and about religion in one’s life – she as a practicing Episcopalian and I as a nonpracticing Roman Catholic. She was amused by my stance that if you didn’t want to play by the rules of your religion – which in my case would have meant going to confession, observing the sacraments – it was best to pull away from it altogether. She said she found a good deal of comfort in religion. This was also the time in her life when she was leading spiritual retreats, primarily for women.
At Dell, we were in a position to publish paperback editions of many of Madeleine’s books that had gone out of print in hardcover, including religious books as well as fiction. We could be a “full-service publisher” for her as well as for a number of other authors. In those years, Walden and B. Dalton were the two national bookselling chains, and because they demanded “product” month in and month out, we were able to take a big career like Madeleine’s and give focus to it by publishing paperbacks across the complete spectrum of her published work. Part of our strategy was to give all her titles a unified look, including even a specially designed “Madeleine L’Engle” logo. We released the books one per month, as if they were a series, even if the books weren’t actually linked in terms of content. “There’s a new Madeleine L’Engle book!” is what we wanted the people who shopped at those stores to be telling one another.
I met Hugh only a few times. His fame as a television actor was enormous. Often when she spoke, Madeleine would be introduced as Hugh Franklin’s wife, and a great collective sigh would rise up from the audience. He wasn’t startlingly handsome, but he had a distinguished presence. He was always genial and supportive of Madeleine.
One of my most vivid memories of Madeleine is from two years after Hugh’s death: her big seventieth birthday party, in November 1988, at St. John the Divine. Madeleine was dressed in a long gown and was wearing a chaplet or crown of ivy. She looked positively regal as she sat in a great wooden, throne-like chair and received her guests. It was her party, and she was going to have the time of her life. It was quite a performance! Madeleine was strong and indefatigable. She took on financial responsibility for several members of her family, and I think she was really working for them as much as for herself. In general, the women who worked with her tended to become closer to her than the men. I always felt that I was one of Madeleine’s courtiers, that my job was to look after her, make her life easier – not to be her best friend.
Nicholson is a senior agent at Sterling Lord Literistic. Earlier in his career, he founded Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers and Yearling Books and served as publisher of books for children and young people at the Viking Press and as publisher of Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Children.
I came to Farrar, Straus and Giroux, her publisher, in January 1979, having taken a job there without even realizing it was in the children’s book department. Farrar, Straus was a company where I very much wanted to work.
In 1979 Union Square, where FSG had its offices, was a shambles: a well-known hangout for addicts and homeless people. There was a methadone clinic in our building. When I arrived in the morning, I was more likely than not going to be riding up the elevator with someone who had slept in it that night. The company’s offices were themselves incredibly dingy in their way, crowded with desks and bookshelves. We all worked on top of each other. There was a kind of reverse-chic principle in operation, the message being that the money all went into the books we published. In fact, I felt it was a privilege to work at Farrar, Straus, and that was because of the books – and the authors we published. On a given day you might be running into Philip Roth or Bernard Malamud or Isaac Singer or Susan Sontag – or, from the children’s book list, William Steig or Maurice Sendak or Natalie Babbitt. As was typical of publishers in general in that period, you got a very fancy title and very little money. My title was director of library services and academic sales, which essentially meant “children’s book library marketing person.”
Soon after my arrival, I had lunch with John Donovan, who was head of the Children’s Book Council. When the conversation turned to what I had to look forward to in my new job, John said, “Well, you’ll get to work with Madeleine. Madeleine is a queen!” I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that, although it was obvious that he meant it affectionately. Looking back, I think he was preparing me for the formidable woman that Madeleine could be.
Not long after that I invited Madeleine to lunch for a get-acquainted session. Madeleine was of course very tall, and I am not. It was a cold winter day, and as we were leaving the restaurant, I asked for her coat and gallantly attempted to put it on her shoulders. Madeleine’s shoulders were so high that I could barely reach them! I was thrilled to meet the author of A Wrinkle in Time, which I had first read as an eight-year-old, soon after it won the Newbery Medal. I had been given a copy by a friend of my grandmother’s, most likely because it had won the Newbery and was thus deemed a suitable present for a boy who loved to read. It instantly became my favorite book and remained so for many, many years. I loved the science fiction and fantasy elements in the story – the tessering and all that – and as an only child I could identify with Meg’s sense of isolation and introverted personality. I was completely unaware of the religious underpinnings of Madeleine’s writings or Madeleine’s own spirituality. It wasn’t until I got to Farrar, Straus all those years later that I realized what a significant part of her life that was.
At the time I joined the company, Madeleine and her editor, Sandra Jordan, were working on the final draft of A Ring of Endless Light, and we were all starting to prepare for its publication the following year. Anticipation within the house was running high. A Wrinkle in Time was one of Farrar, Straus’s perennial bestsellers, as were the second and third books in the Time sequence, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Ring was her first novel about the Austin family since The Young Unicorns in 1968. We knew Madeleine’s fans were eagerly awaiting her next book. Around that same time, we repackaged the hardcover editions of the Time books with new jackets that Sandra had asked Leo and Diane Dillon to design. So Madeleine had a lot going on.
I was responsible for advertising, promotion, and publicity on behalf of all the children’s books we published. I organized and attended conferences on behalf of the house. In addition, I was responsible for marketing our adult books to colleges. Yet I’d say that Madeleine occupied about 40 percent of my time, in part because no other author received anything like the same number of speaking requests that she did, and it was my job to field those requests, negotiate her fees, and make her travel arrangements, the latter in collaboration with Madeleine’s rather fearsome travel agent. I also forwarded her fan mail to her and sometimes answered it on her behalf. The range of her correspondents was unlike any other author’s too: everyone from the latest eight-year-old to have fallen in love with A Wrinkle in Time to religious acolytes seeking spiritual guidance. Madeleine had a wicked sense of humor and could also be very casual about certain matters. To herald the repackaging effort for the Time books, we created a set of beautiful posters featuring the new cover art by the Dillons. When I asked Madeleine if she would sign a number of posters for booksellers, she said, “Oh, just sign my name, Neal!” I thought, My God – and for once I think I meant it literally, considering what a spiritual person Madeleine herself was!
Madeleine could be intimidating and she could be theatrical, but she often spoke in a quiet voice, and I suspect that buried within the public Madeleine L’Engle was a very shy person. She was always sweet to me. When we first met, she asked me about my previous jobs in publishing, about my family, and about my interests. We shared a love of the theater, and we often talked about that. We even went to the theater together a couple of times, which was fun because it would prompt stories of her touring days. Although I was at Farrar, Straus for only a bit more than a year, it was long enough for her to invite me to Crosswicks, where she made me feel completely at ease. I was her only guest that summer weekend, and I remember accompanying her on long walks and meeting Hugh, who was distinguished-looking and slightly arch and who struck me as very much a helpmate to Madeleine. On one of the two nights I spent there, we watched a spectacular lightning storm together. Madeleine, as the archetypal WASP, always seemed as if she should be fancy, but in reality she was something of an Earth Mother.
Still, she liked things to be done well, and there are certain things one did for her. The first time I ever rode in a limousine was when Madeleine and I were traveling together and I ordered one to take us to the airport. I remember feeling, Wow, I’m in a limo! But for her everything always came back to her work. She wrote continually and could write anywhere. When we were on the road together, she would agree to meet me in our hotel lobby at such and such hour. When I found her, she invariably had a notebook in hand and was scribbling away.
My most memorable trip with her was to Peoria, Illinois, for a regional International Reading Association meeting. It was in wintertime, and it was bitterly cold. A major snowstorm had blanketed the Northeast and the Midwest, complicating our plan to fly to Chicago and then take a puddle jumper to Peoria. All flights were delayed, and when we finally reached O’Hare, we had to run, dragging our bags from terminal to terminal, to make our connecting flight. We arrived in Peoria hours late, at something like two in the morning. What astonished me was Madeleine’s reaction to all this: it was an annoyance, but one dealt with it. She was due to speak at nine o’clock the next morning, and when the time came, she took the podium, sharp as could be, and delivered a brilliant talk while giving the impression of being completely rested and relaxed. Coming back, we flew into LaGuardia, and Hugh came to the airport to pick her up. Hugh was well-known to soap opera fans as Dr. Charles Tyler on All My Children. The show had made him quite a celebrity. At the conference in Peoria, Madeleine had been a great star. Now, in LaGuardia, we were making our way through the corridor in the arrivals area, where essentially nobody had any idea who she was. When we reached Hugh, we found him surrounded by a massive crowd of adoring women, all calling out things like “Oh!”; “You’re Dr. Charles Tyler!”; and “I love you so much!” Madeleine stood back, obviously used to scenes like this but still slightly bemused by it all. Eventually, we got out of there.
Madeleine was one of the Farrar, Straus authors I accompanied to the 1979 American Library Association conference in Dallas. It was quite a heady meeting, with the temperature hovering around 105 degrees. As it happened, I was running a fever of 103 myself, but I had to be there because I was in charge of orchestrating a whole series of events for a cast of characters that, besides Madeleine, included Isaac Singer, Uri Shulevitz, and two or three other stars from our list. Madeleine, ever the lady, was sitting with me at dinner one evening when I became so feverish that I was practically sliding under the table. Each time I began to sink in my chair, Madeleine would prop me up again! It was so typical of her: having immediately grasped the situation, she carried the conversation for both of us, allowing me to save my breath as I quietly turned green! Isaac Singer had brought along his wife. I still can picture him in a cowboy hat as he stepped into the all-glass Hyatt atrium elevator and went up and down, up and down, because, as he said, he enjoyed the ride.
I kept my horribly mangled childhood copy of A Wrinkle in Time, in which, on receiving it as a gift, I had proudly written, “This book belongs to Neal Porter.” Madeleine of course was delighted when I showed it to her, and writing above my name, she inscribed the book for me: “To Neal, companion on the way.”
Neal Porter, editorial director of Neal Porter Books at Roaring Brook Press, has worked in publishing for more than 35 years.
This is excerpted from Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L’Engle in Many Voices by Leonard S. Marcus, published in November 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright ©2012 by Leonard S. Marcus. All rights reserved.