Sylvia Plath

sylvia plath

Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) was a gifted writer of poetry and fiction whose life ended all too soon. Triggered by the death of her father when she was eight years old, a deep-rooted depression took root and led to a life of struggle. She made no pretense about the degree of her pain in her writings. Plath’s poetry is part of the “confessional movement,” frank and revelatory about her personal life and innermost thoughts.

Plath went to Smith College on a Fulbright scholarship. While there, she met and married the British poet Ted Hughes. The success of her poetry was rapid and impressive. She published The Colossus in 1960. The poetry in this collection was intense, personal, and delicately crafted. Ariel, another of her best-known collections, was published posthumously in 1965. Though the beauty of craft remains, it reveals more of the fissures and anguish growing in the poet’s psyche, and becomes more confessional.  Read More→

Willa Cather’s Love/Hate Relationship with Fame

Willa Cather

While laboring in obscurity, many writers dream of doing radio shows, granting interviews, going on author tours, and appearing on television. If and when this becomes a reality , however, these fame-themed flights of fancy can morph into sheer panic. Me, a public person? That’s not what I signed up for!

Willa Cather’ love/hate relationship with fame the press was fierce. She courted fame in her youth, but expressed discomfort with it once it arrived. Yet, she left a wealth of public pronouncements, derived mainly from interviews she granted and public speeches she made. She also wrote many autobiographical sketches, press releases, and even semi-reviews in the third-person as a way to promote her work. Still, the more known she became, the more irritable she grew with loss of privacy.

For someone as ambivalent about publicity as Cather claimed to be, she granted tons of interviews, and judging by the vigor of her responses, she gave the impression that she was enjoying holding forth on subjects dear to her heart—to wit, her writings. Read More→

Self-Acceptance: A Hard-Fought Battle for Writers

Virginia Woolf

There’s a cartoon on my bulletin board of two caterpillars creeping along, with a butterfly hovering above them. One caterpillar eyes the butterfly suspiciously, and says, “You’ll never catch me going up in one of those things!” Maybe it isn’t what the cartoonist intended, but I see it as a metaphor for the sad state of women’s self-esteem. We’re destined to become glorious butterflies, yet we persist in perceiving ourselves as caterpillars, opting for crawling the safer but less exciting ground, instead of allowing ourselves to take flight.

It’s a tough task to attain the kind of self-acceptance that allows a writer to feel she deserves to own her talent and reap the rewards of hard work. Think of favorite classic authors such as Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, and Louisa May Alcott, with their distinct styles and personas. It’s hard to imagine that they didn’t burst forth with the kind of self-regard that would allow them to write and succeed gloriously. And yet—they didn’t. Like most of us, they struggled with self-acceptance for years, sometimes for decades. Consider: Read More→

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1971)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

While living in London in 1961, American poet Sylvia Plath wrote to a friend about her desire to write a novel: “I have been wanting to do this for ten years but had a terrible block about Writing A Novel. Then suddenly in beginning negotiations with a New York Publisher for an American edition of my poems, the dykes broke and I stayed awake all night seized by fearsome excitement, saw how it should be done, started the next day & go every morning to my borrowed study as to an office & belt out more of it.”

The result was The Bell Jar. Sylvia Plath’s only published novel was originally published in England under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in 1963, and published in the U.S. eight years later in accordance with the wishes of Ted Hughes, to whom she had been married at the time of her suicide. Read More→

Do you learn anything from reviews of your books?

L.M. Montgormery

Dear Literary Ladies,

Is there anything to be gained by reading reviews of one’s books? For most authors, it’s hard to ignore reviews; what with Google alerts, Amazon and Goodreads reviews; everything’s in your face 24/7. What was your experience with reviews, and did you learn anything of value from them?

Talk of reviews! I subscribed to a clipping bureau and they come in shoals every day. So far I have received sixty-six [reviews of Anne of Green Gables ] of which sixty were kind and flattering beyond my highest expectations; of the remaining six two were a mixture of praise and blame, two were contemptuous and positively harsh. Read More→

Self-Searching Quotes from Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton

Journal of a solitude by May Sarton

Here are some Introspective quotes from Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton, her 1973 follow-up to Plant Dreaming Deep, in which she continues her search for self. These poignant passages and quotes from Journal of a Solitude illustrate her search for self and her facing of buried emotions as she not so much seeks answers on the meaning of life, but dares to ask hard questions.

“I hope to break through into the rough, rocky depths, to the matrix itself. There is violence there and anger never resolved. My need to be alone is balanced against my fear of what will happen when suddenly I enter the huge empty silence if I cannot find support there.”

“I woke in tears this morning. I wonder whether it is possible at nearly sixty to change oneself radically. Can I learn to control resentment and hostility, the ambivalence, born somewhere far below the conscious level? If I cannot, I shall lose the person I love. There is nothing to be done but go ahead with life moment by moment and hour by hour — put out birdseed, tidy the rooms, try to create order and peace around me even if I cannot achieve it inside me.” Read More→

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