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.

Pavilion of Women (1946) by Pearl S. Buck

pavilion of women by Pearl S. Buck

From the original review by Laura Scott Meyers in the El Paso Herald-Post, December 1946: Anyone who has read a considerable number of Pearl Buck’s books approaches each new one with a definite expectation that it will be excellent if it is about China, but only mediocre if its setting is elsewhere.

Pavilion of Women is in the happy tradition of Mrs. Buck’s Chinese novels, and so it may be recommended for its pithy observations upon human actions and motives, for its quiet restrained humor, its detailed and faithful depiction of a phase of Chinese life. For whether Mrs. Buck writes of the rich or the poor, the humble or thereat, her books have authenticity, and the reader is richer in knowledge of a people with every volume he reads. The secret of this integrity in her writing is doubtless her love and respect for the Chinese people. Read More→


Mary O’Hara

Mary O'Hara

Mary O’Hara (July 10, 1885 – October 14, 1980; born Mary O’Hara Alsop) was an American author, screenwriter, and composer, best known for the horse story for all ages, My Friend Flicka. Born in Cape May, New Jersey, she was raised in the Brooklyn Heights, New York, mainly by her father. Her mother died when she was a child.

Against her father’s wishes, in 1905 she married a distant cousin, Kent Kane Parrot. Sadly, their daughter died of skin cancer when in her early teens. The couple, who also had a son, divorced around 1920, after which, Mary began working as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Following the end of her marriage to Parrot, Mary worked as a Hollywood screenwriter. The Prisoner of Zenda became the best known of the screenplays she wrote. Read More→


Why Criticism of Your Writing Stings — and Stays with You

Madeleine L'Engle

Say you’ve gotten a whole slew of great reviews and a tiny number of negative ones. Which ones are you most likely to remember (or more precisely, still be obsessing about) five years hence? Of course, it’s the nasty reviews. This is actually one of the top clichés of the writing life, right up there with “write what you know.” I never quite understood why this was until Madeleine L’Engle made it crystal clear in the passage below. It’s the negative comments that reawaken our own self-doubts, the very ones we thought we overcame once our work was in print. Read More→


Can you give me a reason to persist with my writing?

Enid Bagnold

Dear Literary Ladies,

Sometimes I get so frustrated with my writing that I want to give up. It’s as often a pain as it is a pleasure, and it’s getting so hard to be published these days. Can you give me a reason to persist in this often thankless pursuit?

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. To why am I here? To uselessness. It’s the streaming reason for living. Read More→


Maggie-Now (1958) by Betty Smith

maggie-now (1958) by betty smith cover

Adapted from the original review by Saturday Review, April, 1958. It is some years since A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith scored its dazzling hit and a few less since the appearance of its less impressive successor, Tomorrow Will Be Better.

Maggie-Now is the story of an Irish immigrant family in Brooklyn in the early part of this century, when the stream of immigration, from the Old Countries was at its flood. Though Maggie is Irish, the book turns its eye also on the other immigrant stocks as they converted Brooklyn into a churning microcosm of the American melting pot. However, the author does not make the mistake of diffusing her attention over too large a field. Maggie-Now, her parents, her itinerant husband and her family are the group on whom the spotlight is turned. Read More→