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 does keeping a journal help a writer’s practice?

Madeleine L'Engle

Dear Literary Ladies,
Do you think it’s a good practice to keep a journal? What did you use your journal for, and how did it benefit your writing practice? Read More→

Featured Essay

Developing the Discipline to Write Regularly

Edna Ferber

A famous writerly quote goes something like: “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” Attributed to Mary Heaton Vorse (1874-1966), variations of it have been credited to (mostly male) authors from Ernest Hemingway to Kingsley Amis.

If only it were that simple. The obscure Ms. Vorse plied her trade in an era when the only thing between the writer whose seat was on the chair and the typewriter or notebook on the desk was the dreaded blank page. Now, that dreaded blank page is on the computer screen, and behind it, the entire universe on the web, seducing you with endless distractions.

It’s hard to quantify whether it’s more difficult to be disciplined now, when there are infinite ways to procrastinate than it was one hundred or two hundred years ago. If inclined to dawdle, a literary woman in the 19th century could just as easily have found a myriad of reasons to avoid writing. There were chickens to be plucked, babies to be swaddled, and infirm elderly parents to attend to. Read More→

Featured Author

Chopin, Kate

Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin (1851-1904) made her mark writing stories for both adults and children in magazines like Vogue and The Youth Companion. Following the death of her husband and the failure of his businesses, she suffered from depression, but found writing to be the therapeutic outlet she needed. And because of the various changes in occupation and location, Chopin drew upon her experiences as material for her writing.

Living in the New Orleans area, she was inspired by those who, like here, were searching for a more fulfilling life of love and happiness. Chopin was a realist and wanted to represent the world as it was in her time, and she did this stunningly. She wasn’t afraid to confront harsh themes, as she did with the issue of racism in her short story, “Desirée’s Baby.”

Chopin is admired as one of the foremothers of 20th century feminist literature, though she may not consider herself a feminist as such; she simply thought that women’s desires and ambitions were just as men’s. Her best known work remains The Awakening. Though she wrote fiction, her stories contain profound and very real observations. She allowed the range of human experience she viewed in everyday life to come through in her writing. Read More→