May/June 2018 Issue

Town Vibe

Wrinkle Free: Penning a biography of a celebrated grandmother––Madeleine L’Engle author of "A Wrinkle in Time"

By John Roche

The first half of this year has been one long magical moment for the classic novel A Wrinkle in Time, and Katonah resident Léna Roy has been at the heart of it.

Although first published in 1962, the science fantasy novel by Madeleine L’Engle, beloved by young readers around the globe, is perhaps more popular than ever these days, thanks in large part to a film adaption released in March starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and other top-tier stars, as well as a new biography of L’Engle, Becoming Madeleine, written by Roy and her sister, Charlotte Jones Voiklis.

While millions of young readers have fallen in love with A Wrinkle in Time over the past half-century, along with the other 59 books L’Engle wrote before her death in 2007, Roy and her sister have an even deeper bond with the author: L’Engle was their grandmother. “Working on this biography of our grandmother was such a gift,” says Roy, who has called Bedford home for nearly a decade—first living in Bedford Hills before moving to the hamlet of Katonah.

Roy, a local writing instructor and the author of a young adult novel, Edges, and her sister, who manages L’Engle’s literary legacy, tapped into never-before-seen photographs, letters, and journal entries spanning from L’Engle’s childhood until just after the publication of her first novel to tell their grandmother’s personal and professional story. “Being able to incorporate her own voice into a narrative about her life was priceless,” Roy explains. “We really felt that she was with us every step of the way, and it brought us all closer. Working on Becoming Madeleine also brought me to a deeper understanding about death and how we never really lose the people we love. Even though we knew her in her 60s, 70s, and 80s, the voice in her journal entries from when she was 12, 14, 17—or even age 31—was so familiar and endearing to us. It was so her!”

A Wrinkle in Time follows the adventures of a young girl, Meg Murry, who along with her younger brother and a friend travel through time and space in search of Murry’s father, a notable scientist, who has been imprisoned on another planet by evil forces. At its core, the fantasy novel is a story of good versus evil, with Murry and her two traveling buddies battling against a looming darkness called the “Black Thing.” But Roy believes it’s much more than a coming-of-age story. “It’s not a simple story about self-actualization,” Roy says. “Yes, each one of us has the capacity to do great things, but why and how does Meg rescue her father? Because he loves her and she loves him. Meg eventually learns that there is much more at stake than her own problems, and that she needs to find what’s truly inside her, including her faults, to overcome the darkness and evil.”

Becoming Madeleine, like L’Engle’s iconic novel and the star-studded Disney film adaptation still in theaters, is largely targeted to middle schoolers and high-school-aged kids. Roy has plenty of experience with that age group, as she’s been working with young people through the non-profit Writopia Lab since 2009, first in New York City and now in Bedford and beyond.

Roy says her work with the national program that centers on helping young people find their own voice through writing helps her find her own writing voice, and is something L’Engle would surely be proud of. “My Gran believed that tapping into our creative juices is the way we become empowered, and it is through writing that we learn to communicate our thoughts and feelings effectively,” explains Roy, who as a regional manager of Writopia helps run four labs for kids and teens in Bedford Hills, Hartsdale, and Nanuet in New York, and another in Stamford, Connecticut.

“Writopia Lab’s mission is to spread joy, literacy and critical thinking through creative writing,” Roy says. “I feel so fortunate that I get to provide a space where young people feel safe to explore and expand their thinking.”

As to why her grandmother’s debut novel has not only stood the test of time but is currently going through such a resurgence in popularity, Roy pointed out that the metaphor of hope and light overcoming the threat of evil and darkness is as relevant today as when A Wrinkle in Time came out more than 50 years ago. “We always need stories that give us a sense of hope and purpose,” she says. “We always need reminders that we are part of that cosmic struggle, and that we matter.”

Writopia Lab in the News

Cancellation Policy

If a child withdraws two weeks (or more) prior to the workshop start date, payment can be credited toward a future workshop at no cost, or refunded with a $50 cancellation fee. If withdrawal is requested within two weeks of the workshop start date, the same policy applies, as long as we are able to fill the spot. However, if we are unable to fill the spot, we cannot refund or credit the workshop.

About our Sliding Scale Tuition

Writopia Lab is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that operates with limited resources, relying heavily on support from the community to sustain our programs--over 85% of our funding comes from the community in the form of tuition. Because we know there are families who cannot pay the full tuition, we have created a sliding scale for our tuition. While we don't require supporting documents to demonstrate your financial hardship, we do ask that families pay as much as they can afford to pay; this is what enables us to offer our workshops to families in more difficult financial situations.

Writopia Lab's fees cover the expenses of running a workshop program and allow us to provide generous scholarships and flexible sliding scale fees. We will not be able to offer honor-based sliding scale discounts to those in need if those who can afford the fee choose to pay a discounted amount. If you wish to support Writopia Lab, please make a donation to help families afford our services.

Applying for a Scholarship

We never turn away a family because of their inability to pay. Writopia Lab offers need-based scholarships to many students. If you require additional tuition assistance beyond the sliding scale, please send your latest tax returns and a brief statement of need to

Can You Sponsor Another Writer?

We never turn away families because of their inability to pay for workshops; by sponsoring an additional student, you help us further our mission of fostering joy, literacy, and critical thinking in children and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

To do this, select “Sponsorship” in the tuition dropdown menu. This payment will cover your workshop fee and sponsor an additional young writer in need. Thank you!

Our Mission

Writopia Lab fosters joy, literacy, and critical thinking in children and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

We have never turned away a student whose family was unable to pay for workshops. Fifty percent of our students attend on either partial or full scholarships.

Learn more!

Impact Report

Media Kit

Join the Team!

If you love writing and want to share that love with young writers, apply today to join Writopia Lab! Click here to learn more!

Summer Camp!


Just For Fun

Have a birthday? Party with us! Have your very own Writopia Lab Birthday Party.

Check out our online store and take a piece of Writopia Lab home with you!

Connect & Interact with us on:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Email