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 does keeping a journal help a writer’s practice?

Madeleine L'Engle

Dear Literary Ladies,
Do you think it’s a good practice to keep a journal? What did you use your journal for, and how did it benefit your writing practice?

One of the most helpful tools a writer has is [her] journals. Whenever someone asks how to become an author, I suggest keeping a journal. A journal is not a diary, where you record the weather and the engagements of the day. A journal is a notebook in which one can, hopefully, be ontological. Read More→

Featured Essay

Jane and I — a Love Affair for Life

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{Contributed by Jillian M.G. Fuller} I was eleven. My sixth-grade class was participating in a reading challenge, recording all of the books we read on a giant chart so that we could see how many we finished by the end of the year. For some reason, I took the challenge quite literally and really strove to challenge myself. I still don’t know why I got it into my head to find the biggest, thickest books on the school bookshelf with the biggest, longest words.

It’s not like I still didn’t enjoy the Babysitters Club series or Ella Enchanted. But while I don’t remember the inspiration that drove me to check out Great Expectations, or Dr. Doolittle, or Wuthering Heights, I did. My little head did not understand every word or plot point or character development, but it did take in enough to realize that there was so much to discover beyond the books I had read before. None of the three books I mentioned above became favorites. In fact, I have never yet reread them. But one classic stuck. And her name is Jane Eyre.

About a year ago, I revisited my old grade school’s library and found the copy I first read, sitting there still on the shelf. Small in size, the words are printed tight together on browning pages. The cover is white with a blue border; a drawing of a woman in period dress stands in the foreground, while behind her is a man on a horse. Read More→

Featured Author

Godden, Rumer

Rumer Godden2

(Margaret) Rumer Godden (1907-1998) grew up and lived most her life in an area of India so secluded that writing was one of the only things to do. She moved back to England for periods of time, but inevitably ended up in India, where she wrote, ran a dance school, and grew and sold herbal teas.

Writing made her feel alive and you can tell from her emotional, funny and energetic prose that usually teetered on the edge between real life and fiction. In Kingfishers Catch Fire she included the true story of how two of her servants tried to poison her and her daughters. She wrote over 60 books in all different styles, nine of which were made into films; many are still read and relevant today. Her later work focused on the comparison and connections of religion and everyday human life.

Read More→

Classic Book Reveiew

Ethan Frome (1911) by Edith Wharton – a review

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

From the original review in the San Francisco Call, January 14, 1912:  While it will not be possible to bestow too much praise on Edith Wharton’s latest story, Ethan Frome, it is one of those stories which absolutely defies an adequate description. It is so short, a long short story, and not one word can be skipped in the reading. It is such a complete and perfect piece of work that the reviewer can only say — read it.

The art and the technical skill are not surprising from this author — do you not remember the flawless Duchess at Prayer, which appeared years ago? She has not made one mistake, there is not one word too much, but one is impelled to say over and over that it is perfect. Read More→