The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life

Welcome to a site celebrating classic women authors who wrote enduring literature. 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.

Classic Authors on Motherhood and the Juggling Act

Harriet Beecher Stowe

When discussing the challenges faced by women authors, one of the questions asked with startling regularity is why it has always been so difficult to master the work / life / motherhood balance. It’s an even trickier balance with a writing career.

It was grueling for Harriet Beecher Stowe in the nineteenth century; and while it may have been somewhat easier for Madeleine L’Engle in the twentieth, it was just as guilt-inducing. For those of us who write today, there are still no easy answers.

I’m not one to bandy about gender stereotypes, but it’s hard to dispute that in traditional relationships women still bear the greatest share of childcare and household management. This is tricky enough in situations where both partners work, and even more so in instances where the woman’s work is something she actually likes and that gives her creative gratification. Read More→

Anne Brontë

Anne Bronte

Anne Brontë (January 17, 1820 – May 28, 1849) was a British author born in Thornton, West Yorkshire. She followed in her sister’s paths (Charlotte and Emily Brontë) by delving into the literary world as a novelist and poet. Working as a governess — caring for and teaching children — influenced her writings later on. The heroine in Agnes Grey has the same occupation. Unlike her sisters, Anne spent a good amount of time traveling, which allowed for her experiences with religion and society to come through in her writing. She had modern observations for her time, as well as feminist views.

Her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was more popular then Agnes Grey, although they are somewhat similar. Both were controversial in that they were “…unfit to be put into the hands of girls.” Both of Anne’s novels, as well as her poems, contain a lot of autobiographical elements that correspond with events and people prominent in her life.

Unfortunately, the literary career of this talented writer was cut short, as she had not even turned thirty when she died of consumption.

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An Interview with Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty younger

Excerpted from Writers and Writing by Robert van Gelder, 1946. A short story writer of exceptional talent talks of her work – June 14, 1942:  Eudora Welty said that when she was younger she was very much interested in herself and always projected herself into her stories.

“The stories were awful. I’m from Jackson, Mississippi, and never had been much of anywhere else, but the action in my stories took place in Paris. They were awful. I remember the first line in one of them: ‘Monsieur Boule deposited a delicate dagger in Mademoiselle’s left side and departed with a poised immediacy.’ This, of course, makes no sense at all. I loved the ‘poised immediacy’ so much that I’ve remembered the whole sentence. Read More→

Should I take time off work to write full time?

Flannery O'Connor

Dear Literary Ladies,
Miraculously, I’ve saved a bit of money, and I’m considering taking a few months or a year off of work to write full time. I want to see if I can make a go of it, once and for all. Is this a good idea, or would I be putting too much pressure on myself? 

It might be dangerous for you to have too much time to write. I mean if you took off a year and had nothing else to do but write and weren’t used to doing it all the time then you might get discouraged too easily.

Of course I don’t know. But don’t anyhow say to yourself that you will give yourself so long to find out what you can do—because these things don’t work on time limits. Too much time is as bad as too little.

Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964), from a letter to a friend

A Novel of One Day: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway original cover

A Novel of One Day: Mrs. Dalloway: A review by Esther Gould originally published in The Daily Herald (Chicago), July 1925:  Virginia Woolf has written an entire novel about one day. Imagine the facial expression of Sir Walter Scott and his contemporaries if they had been told that such a thing was possible.

Writers of romance, of intrigue and adventure unfolding during the first twenty-five years of a hero’s life, how could they visualize such an innovation! But Virginia Woolf, admirer of Marcel Proust and James Joyce, has done it, and done it admirably. Read More→