Sincerely Yours: Madeleine L’Engle and “children’s” literature

The Ava DuVernay-directed A Wrinkle in Time is the most recent example of beloved children’s book-turned-blockbuster hit. For many of us, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is more than just a “children’s book.” Many of my friends have turned to L’Engle repeatedly through life, similar to other supposed “children’s” authors like J.K. Rowling or Ursula LeGuin. L’Engle’s commitment to manifesting authentic childhood experiences is reflected in her mighty oeuvre, which often expanded the A Wrinkle in Time universe across multiple series centered on families with young protagonists. Despite this, L’Engle confirms her discomfort with the label of “children’s literature” in a 1965 letter Indiana University Writers’ Conference organizer Robert W. Mitchner. The Indiana University Writers’ Conference records at the IU Archives include letters from literary icons such as Joan Didion, William Faulkner, Margaret Atwood, George R.R. Martin, and the aforementioned LeGuin. Madeleine L’Engle’s file, though, shows what a uniquely lovely correspondent she was. Continue reading “Sincerely Yours: Madeleine L’Engle and “children’s” literature”

Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The Indiana University Writers’ Conference is celebrating its 76th anniversary June 4– 8 of this year. Many of the conference faculty over the years have been award-winning writers, such as Elizabeth Bowen, Ray Bradbury, E. E. Cummings, William Faulkner, Seamus Heaney, Sam Shepard, and John Steinbeck, to name a few. Correspondence from these authors and many more can be found in the Indiana University Writers’ Conference records, 1940-2004 in the IU Archives.

Fifty-two years ago, Kurt Vonnegut was finalizing his plans with Robert W. Mitchner to attend the IU Writers’ Conference. Mitchner requested a photograph and biography from Vonnegut in preparation of his participation in the conference. Below is the biography Vonnegut sent to Mitchner:

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Mitchner also writes to Vonnegut asking if a 10:30 am slot would be acceptable for his short story workshop, as well as if Vonnegut would read a chapter from one of his books and participate in a question-answer panel that would be televised by Indiana University. Vonnegut is happy to oblige; however, the story he chooses to read is one of the most interesting parts of the letter. “The story I will read will be a short story about President Kennedy. It was bought by the Post two days before he was shot. It will never be published. It should go over well.”

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Included in Vonnegut’s folder of correspondence is an article in The New York Times Book Review from August 6, 1967, where Vonnegut writes of his time at Indiana University during the Writers’ Conference.

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Below is a photograph from the IU Archives Photograph Collection of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from President John W. Ryan at Indiana University on May 13, 1973.

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