Happy Birthday x 3!

The Writer in its November 2013 issue marked the November 29th birthdays of Louisa Mae Alcott [1832], C. S. Lewis [1898], and Madleine L’Engle [1918] with the comment “These birthday triplets transformed the way we write for younger audiences.” I must admit that the three writers’ influence on me is not equal.

Both Lewis and L’Engle wrote fantasy for young people. My appetite for reading as I was growing up limited itself to realistic fiction and nonfiction. As I’ve grown up, my range of reading has increased much like the variety of foods I’m willing to eat. Still, I’ve enjoyed both of these writers more for the works they've done for adults than for children. I did enjoy L’Engle’s trip to Noah’s ark in Many Waters, and have profited from her Walking on Water with its encouragement and instruction for writers.

I didn’t have to wait for adulthood to see Louisa Mae Alcott’s influence. As I read Little Women multiple times, I saw my own family in the four sisters with a preacher father. Mind you, they were not perfect matches. I was Jo with a temper and a penchant for reading and writing. I thought it a mismatch that she was not the oldest until I considered her spunk. My sister Beth, second sister like Jo, matched her spirit much closer. Gwyn corresponded to Amy’s elegance if not to her birth order. Ruth, strong and self-reliant, certainly didn’t mirror Beth March’s frailty. We lacked an attic for me to squirrel myself away in, but my sisters went out to play with their friends and left the nerd to her own amusement of reading and scribbling. The parallels didn’t work exactly, but the same family spirit was present with the March and McGee sisters' support of a crazy obsession with words.

Lewis and L’Engle set a standard and opened a door for much of the wonderful fantasy literature being enjoyed by today’s readers. Like me, many writers and wannabe writers first saw possibility in the example set by Jo March as she pursued her dream and felt Alcott’s heart in a story that took the life she knew and improved on it.

So, happy birthday and thanks for showing the way to C. S. Lewis, Madeline L’Engle and Louisa Mae Alcott!