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. This site was created by Nava Atlas, author of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life.

Miles Franklin

Miles Franklin

Miles Franklin (October 14, 1879 – September 19, 1954),was an Australian novelist and feminist, born Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin. Her best-known novel, My Brilliant Career, is the story of a teenage girl growing up in Australia eager to break free as her own person. Franklin was only 18 years old when she finished writing it. Though Australian publishers rejected it, it was published in Britain in 1901 under the name Miles Franklin.

Like a small number of other female authors, she wanted to keep her gender a secret from the public so she would be taken more seriously; though a friend had “outed” her as a woman in the introduction of My Brilliant Career.

Life in the U.S.

She soon met and became close with members of the feminist movement, and in 1906 moved to the United States to work with the National Women’s Trade Union League of America.

While in the U.S., she wrote a number of drafts for later works, one of which, Up the Country, was published in 1928. It couldn’t have come at a better time. She and her family were struggling financially, as they were most of their lives, despite her literary successes.  Read More→

Librivox: Listen to Classic Literature Online

Anne of Green Gables Cover 1945

Librivox is a free resource for audio versions of classic literature that you can download onto your devices or simply listen to from your browser. These audio readings of public domain literature are read by volunteers, so they’re more variable than the kinds of audiobooks read by professional actors.

Librivox offers audio versions of many classic books that are otherwise unavailable. You can search by author or title; while of course, there are many classics by male authors available, for the purposed of this site, we’re here to promote classics by women.

Here’s a list of literary ladies whose novels, short fiction, and poetry have been recorded for Librivox. Not all the authors’ bibliographies are complete, so if you notice a public domain work that’s not there, perhaps you can volunteer to create an audio version!

Read More→

George Sand on the Agony and Ecstasy of Writing

George Sand young

George Sand (Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin; 1804-1876) the French novelist, memoirist, and essayist, was noted as much for her adventurous life and loves. George Sand’s writing life took her through great ups and downs, something familiar to those of us endeavor to live by the pen.

Pretexts and distractions

“While you are running around to get material for your novel, I am inventing all sorts of pretexts not to write mine. I let myself be distracted by guilty fancies, something I am reading fascinates me and I set myself to scribbling on paper that will be left in my desk and bring me no return.

That has amused me, or rather that has compelled me, for it would be in vain for me to struggle against there caprices; they interrupt me and force me…you see that I have not the strength of mind that you think.”

(From a letter to Gustave Flaubert, 1869) Read More→

Nobody’s Family is Going to Change (1975) by Louise Fitzhugh – A Review

Louise Fitzhugh, Nobody’s Family is Going to Change, Nobody’s Family is Going to Change review, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

From the original review in The Lincoln Star by Mary Somerville, February 1975: Publishers have recently come a long way toward liberating children’s books … in general, there are more titles with strong female characters.

This does not mean that all books now being published are nonsexist. Far from it. As a matter of fact, nonsexist easily readers are practically unobtainable. But a large number of new picture books, nonfiction, and fiction for older children reflect the craving for human liberation. Witness Nobody’s Family is Going to Change, a 1974 American Library Association Notable Book by Louise Fitzhugh, author of Harriet the Spy. Read More→

Why am I imitating authors I admire?

agatha christie

Dear Literary Ladies,
Perhaps because I haven’t learned to trust my own voice, I sometimes find after I’ve written something, that it’s almost an homage to a writer I admire, and not very well done at that. Judging from my writers’ group, I know I’m not alone in this unconscious copying, but will I ever stop?

When you begin to write, you are usually in the throes of admiration for some writer, and whether you will or no, you cannot help copying their style. Often it is not a style that suits you, and so you write badly. But as time goes on you are less influenced by admiration. Read More→

The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing (2004)

The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing

From the 2004 HarperCollins edition of The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing: With the four short novels in this collection, Doris Lessing once again proves that she is unrivaled in her ability to capture the truth of the human condition.

The Grandmothers

Two women, close friends, fall in love with each other’s teenage sons, and these passions last for years, until the women end them, promising a respectable old age.

Victoria and the Staveneys

A poor black girl has a baby with the son of a liberal middle-class family and finds that her little girl is slowly being absorbed into the world of white privilege and becoming estranged from her. Read More→