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

How can I tell if what I’m writing is any good?

eudora welty

Dear Literary Ladies,
How can you guage, in the midst of writing, if your work is any good? It’s so hard to be objective, and see the forest from the trees. Should I compare my writing with that of other writers I admire? Read More→

Featured Essay

Tracing the steps of Little Women: Madeleine B. Stern’s brilliant analysis

laurie and amy Little Women Louisa May AlcottContributed 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→

Featured Author

Lessing, Doris

Doris-Lessing

Doris Lessing (1919-2013) was a novelist, playwright, poet, short story writer, and biographer.  She was born in what was then Persia (present-day Iran) to British parents, raised in Rhodesia (what is now Zimbabwe), and spent much of her life in London. Lessing left school age 14, and received no further formal education, though she self educated from then on. A passionate social observer, she wrote about women’s issues, communism, motherhood, mental health, and eroticism. She even wrote science fiction laced with social commentary.

In her teens, Lessing held a number of jobs to piece together a living. She worked at various times as a telephone operator, office worker, and journalist. When, at age15, she got one of her first jobs as a nursemaid, her employer gave her books on politics and sociology to read. Around the same time she started writing stories, and successfully sold two to magazines in South Africa. Being a writer at once gave her a feeling of freedom. Read More→