As an ambitious fourth grader, I set out to write the next Great American Novel. There was one problem: in my brief time on this earth, I had not gathered enough experiences to amount to a book-length manuscript. So I did what I thought was the next best thing: I imitated one of my favorite books: “A Wrinkle in Time.”
After submitting my tome, I felt certain that my teacher would have nothing but glowing praise to shower on my masterpiece. Instead, she called a meeting with my mother and pointed out that my story was almost exactly the same as Madeleine L’Engle’s. I had changed the names and species of some of the characters, but otherwise it was a faithful copy. That’s when I first learned about the concept of plagiarism.
When I think back on this embarrassing mistake, my response is not that I should have been more original or a better copy-cat. My take-away is that reading “A Wrinkle in Time” had such a powerful effect on me that I needed to understand how the author had achieved such magic. In reading L’Engle’s book, I discovered the possibility of creating new worlds.
As a stubborn weirdo myself, I related to Meg Murray’s character. Her growth on that magical journey gave me hope that I, too, could break out of my childishness and do great things. That’s the power of seeing yourself reflected in a story, and the power of being exposed to inventive women.
Flash forward about 20 years, and I now work in an environment where I am surrounded by books every day. This has led to life-changing discoveries of new writers that have become some of my favorites, like Jesmyn Ward, N.K. Jemisin, Carmen Maria Machado, and Jenny Odell.
Christine Utz (she/her) is a sales associate at Magers & Quinn.
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