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 do I get into the mood to write?

pearl buck

Dear Literary Ladies,

Some days, I’m just not in the mood to write, even if I can find the time. I’m tired, preoccupied, distracted — I can find any number of reasons not to get started. How do you get into the mood to write? Read More→

Featured Essay

Du Maurier’s Rebecca, A Worthy ‘Eyre’ Apparent

NPG x19829; Daphne Du Maurier by Dorothy Wilding

Contributed by Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post book critic. Almost from its inception in 18th-century England, the gothic novel has been adored by readers and deplored by critics. For the fastidious ladies and gentlemen of the quarterly reviews and academe, its central conventions — nature red in tooth and claw; haunted castles atop windswept moors; defenseless young women at the mercy of strange, obsessed men with terrible secrets; bondage, imprisonment, sexual torment and ambiguity, raging fires — are simply too too. But readers love it, as well they should, for in the best gothic fiction, realism and romance join forces to create a territory somewhere between this world and some other in which almost everything is slightly, deliciously over the top.

Gothic fiction has produced oceans of stuff that can’t be credited with much more than entertainment value, stuff that usually ends up in airport bookshops and on bestseller lists. Think Stephen King. But gothic fiction also has produced a few of the indisputable masterpieces of the English language, from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” to Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” to William Faulkner’s “Absalom! Absalom!” as well as a number of works that rise well above mere entertainment but don’t quite make it all the way to the sacred halls of literature. Read More→

Featured Author

Olsen, Tillie

Tillie Olsen

Tillie Olsen (1912-2007) did not produce much work in her lifetime, but what she did made a great impact on many. Born in Nebraska, Olsen did not do well in school and left to work so she could support her parents and six siblings. Her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants and their socialist views and activism added much to Olsen’s childhood and influenced her later life.

Olson started writing her first novel, Yonnondio, at the age of 19 while sick with tuberculosis; she found out she was also pregnant. She published the first three chapters as a short story called The Iron Throat in The Partisan Review, which lead to Olsen signing with Random House and she went to work in Los Angeles. She could not stand being away from her daughter and in 1937 with her novel unfinished, she went back home. She was married in 1944 and had two more daughters.Olsen worked odd jobs to support her husband and children whom were her top priority. Read More→