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 you develop the discipline to write?

madeleine L'engle

Dear Literary Ladies,
Some days, I just can’t find the resolve to work. I could blame all sorts of distractions and interruptions, but maybe it’s the discipline I lack. If words don’t flow right away, I’ll get up and find some fine excuse not to stick with it. How do you develop the discipline to just sit down and write? Read More→

Featured Essay

Self-Acceptance: A Hard-Fought Battle, Even for Accomplished Authors

Virginia Woolf

There’s a cartoon on my bulletin board of two caterpillars creeping along, with a butterfly hovering above them. One caterpillar eyes the butterfly suspiciously, and says, “You’ll never catch me going up in one of those things!” Maybe it isn’t what the cartoonist intended, but I see it as a metaphor for the sad state of women’s self-esteem. We’re destined to become glorious butterflies, yet we persist in perceiving ourselves as caterpillars, opting for crawling the safer but less exciting ground, instead of allowing ourselves to take flight.

It’s a tough task to reach the level of self-acceptance that allows a writer to feel she deserves to let her talent shine, and reap the rewards of hard work. Think of favorite classic authors such as Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, and Louisa May Alcott, with their distinct styles and personas. It’s hard to imagine that they didn’t burst forth with the kind of self-regard that would allow them to write and succeed gloriously. And yet—they didn’t. Like most of us, they struggled with self-acceptance for years, sometimes for decades. Consider: Read More→

Featured Author

Brontë, Charlotte

Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Brontë’s (1816-1885) life as a writer is both romantic and tragic. Born in a small Yorkshire village, she was part of a clerical family that valued education for their daughters as well as their sons. She lived to tell the tale of how the three sisters took masculine pseudonyms to improve their chances of finding publishers, and the challenges and prejudices they faced in their pursuits.

Her brother and two literary sisters, Emily Brontë and Anne Brontë, died tragically young of illness when barely out of their twenties; she herself lived only to age 39, from complications dues to pregnancy. Her story is one of sheer genius meeting tireless determination. Some of her contemporaries said of Charlotte that she would have traded her genius for beauty.

It took a long time for Charl0tte’s work to be appreciated. The manuscript for The Professor was making its rounds and been rejected everywhere, while her sister Emily had found a home for two of her novels. There was a glimmer of hope when one publisher responded that she should send her next work to them, so she wrote and sent the mauscript for Jane Eyre, which was published just six weeks after its acceptance, and was an immediate bestseller.  She approached fiction writing in such an original way that it attracted many to her romantic tales and gained her neverending importance in the world of literature. Read More→