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

What goes through you’re mind when you feel blocked?

Fannie Hurst

Dear Literary Ladies,
You seem like such a prolific bunch, but like the rest of us who live by our pen, you likely feel blocked from time to time. How does this funky, uncomfortable, and sometimes scary feeling play out in your mind?

The dark times that came to me as a writer, those sterile periods when it seemed that not only the inkwell but the wells within had dried, were suffered alone. There doubtless have been and are creative writers who have not encountered this dark experience. The sense of aridity, the mind a desert, that usually follows the completion of a book. That sudden panic when every theme or plot your brain has cradled no longer so much as stirs. Read More→

Featured Essay

Behind a Mask: The Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott

Behind a mask: the unknown thrillers of Louisa May Alcott

Adapted and excerpted from an article by Joy Stilley, AP Newsfeatures, August, 1975: Louisa May Alcott, famed though out the world as the author of Little Women, a gentle book about a loving family, had a lesser-known side to her life as the author of “blood and thunder” stories.

“They are terrific, suspenseful cliffhangers and reveal a side of her that has never been investigated,” says Madeleine Stern. An Alcott scholar, she has edited and written the introduction to a book in which four of these “novelettes” were reprinted for the first time in more than 100 years. Read More→

Featured Author

Smith, Betty

Betty Smith

Betty Smith (1896-1972), an American novelist and playwright, is best remembered for her evocative coming-of-age story, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She herself had a rough childhood, dropping out of school at age 14 and going to work to help support her family. Smith borrows everything from her own life to use in her novels, drawing from the various jobs she held, as well as her personal life.

After going to college and separating from her husband she was left with two children and found herself broke and in trouble, but this all changed after A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was published in 1943. Smith is known today as a cultural historian, as her stories are detailed records of life in the early 20th century. In 1951, she helped write and put together the musical version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In 1945, she helped write the film adaptation for it, as well as for Joy in the Morning in 1965. Read More→