Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson (December 14, 1916 – August 8, 1965) was an American author whose work was quite influential. Two genres of writing, in particular, put her on the literary map:  imaginative tales of psychological horror, as well as prettied-up accounts of everyday family life. Her stories and novels, though undeniably competent and well written, have often disturbed readers with their insistence on exploring the dark side of human nature.

Jackson’s haunting short story, “The Lottery,” catapulted her to fame in 1948, and her output continued at a fast clip — six novels, four children’s books, and dozens of short stories — all throughout the years of raising her four children. Read More→

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Culinary Wisdom from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Yearling and her memoir, Cross Creek, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was as comfortable in the kitchen as she was at the typewriter — maybe more so, as cooking was a joy to her, whereas she was in the “writing is agony” school of thought. Rawlings collected the recipes of her time and place in Cross Creek Cookery (1942).

For the most part, the recipes are simple and familiar, with a decidedly Southern accent. Still workable if not always healthful (lots of butter and sugar!),  some of the dishes would be considered a bit extreme for today’s tastes — Alligator-Tail Steak and Minorcan Gopher Stew among them.

Rawings enjoyed sharing her writing and publishing experiences, and seemed to completely relish holding forth with her kitchen and entertaining tips even more. Here are a few pieces of culinary wisdom and forthright Rawlings-style opinions from Cross Creek Cookery: Read More→

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Classic Women Authors on “How Do Writers Get Ideas?”

Willa Cather

“How do writers get ideas?”  is a question often asked of published authors, but which defies easy answer, if it can be answered at all. Most often, ideas seem to find you, not the other way around. Of course, something you see, hear, or read can ignite sparks of inspiration, but the day-to-day work habits you develop can fuel the inception and development of ideas.

Here, Louisa May Alcott, Willa Cather, and Madeleine L’Engle share a common technique: they consciously allowed seedlings of ideas to blossom in their heads before setting them to paper.  Read More→

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The Three Daughters of Madame Liang by Pearl S. Buck (1969)

Three Daughters of Madame Liang

The Three Daughters of Madame Liang by Pearl S. Buck is a 1969 novel in the tradition of her colorful and vivid China stories. This one is takes place in China around the time of the cultural revolution. Madame Liang is the proprietor of a fashionable restaurant in Shanghai, serving the top echelon of the city. She sends her three daughters to America to be educated, with varying and dramatic results. Grace, Mercy, and Joy are torn between loyalties to their home country and their adopted one. Here’s a review of this engaging novel from the time of its publication date:


From the review by Louise Zerchling of The Three Daughters of Madame Liang by Pearl S. Buck in the Sioux City Journal, August, 1968: There’s no one in America who has a deeper comprehension of and compassion for Asian culture that Pearl Buck, who’s knowledge of the China of the past enables her to understand the China of today. Read More→

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Is it possible to write well if you are a “starving artist”?

Katherine Anne Porter

Dear Literary Ladies,
It’s so hard to make a living at writing these days. There used to be so many more paying outlets for short stories, essays, and sketches; now everyone expects writers to contribute free content. How did you manage to earn a living while building your reputation? Do you think it’s necessary to be a “starving artist” until one’s ship comes in?

I always took little dull jobs that didn’t take my mind and wouldn’t take all of my time, and that, on the other hand, paid me just enough to subsist. I think I’ve only spent about ten percent of my energies on writing. The other ninety percent went to keeping my head above water.

And I think that’s all wrong. Even Saint Teresa said, “I can pray better when I’m comfortable,” and she refused to wear her haircloth shirt or starve herself. I don’t think living in cellars and starving is any better for an artist than it is for anybody else; the only thing is that sometimes the artist has to take it, because it is the only possible way of salvation, if you’ll forgive that old-fashioned word. Read More→

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Virginia Woolf: A Biography by Quentin Bell (1974)

Quentin Bell (1910-1996), the author of Virginia Woolf: A Biography, was the son of Virginia Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell. He was an artist like his mother, working across several media, and like his father Clive Bell, he was a writer and art critic. Quentin Bell also held posts as Professor of Fine Art at several prestigious universities in England.

He once recalled: “Virginia Woolf was my aunt and as a child I illustrated and to some extent inspired some rather fanciful biographies of her friends and relations. Hence the fact that I am mentioned in the preface of Orlando as ‘an old and valued collaborator in fiction.’” In producingVirginia Woolf: A Biography, he possessed the access and family lore that made this biography a more intimate expression than another biographer may have achieved. Here’s a description of this fascinating biography: Read More→

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