The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life
Welcome to a site celebrating classic women authors who wrote in the English language. Here you’ll find their words of wisdom for readers and writers. Enjoy their life stories and quotations; learn more about their books; read their advice on the writing life; and enjoy contemporary voices on the writing process.
Dear Literary Ladies
Dear Literary Ladies,
With a full-time job and a thousand other things on my plate, my writing time is catch as catch can. Is it important to have regular writing times, so that writing becomes habitual?
I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.
—Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964), from a letter
Contributed by Susan Bailey. Madeleine B. Stern’s Louisa May Alcott A Biography is considered the definitive biography of the famous author of Little Women. Tracing the life of Louisa the writer, Stern gives penetrating insight not only into Alcott’s life, but her very essence as a writer. As a writer myself, I have found much wisdom in these pages and have marveled at Alcott’s ability to “simmer a story” in her head while fulfilling duties around the house, and then later sitting down to spill it out on paper to submit without editing.
Stern’s brilliant chapter on the creation and writing of Little Women analyses the creation of the book, how Alcott wove fact and fiction together, and why the book has such universal appeal, transcending not only gender and age, but time. Read More→
Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, (1873-1954), was as known for her writing and performing as she was for her scandalous lifestyle. As a child, her mother Sido was her number one inspiration, and allowed the young Colette to drink deeply from the well of life to gain courage and individuality. She conducted her life with no regrets, and disdained the restraint society had on human, especially female, expression.
Her stories of strong females were often based on her own experiences, and were controversial for their time, being more sexually explicit than most fiction of their time. That being said, Colette’s first marriage to a man much older than herself was a disaster — he had her write the Claudine stories, but then published them under his name. One she broke free of him, her sprit soared. She remained a flawed figure; it is said that she was an abominable mother to her only daughter.
Gigi, her best-known work (which inspired a popular film), is a story of a French girl training to be a courtesan, but falls in love with a wealthy gentleman. Its stage adaptation was greeted with critical acclaim with then unknown Audrey Hepburn playing the main character. Colette remains a master for her realistic and fresh descriptions on the ups and downs of love. Her works have been adapted to film and stage. Read More→