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.
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→
Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë might be linked by their early 19th-century British backgrounds and legions of devotees, but, according to James Edward Austen-Leigh, nephew of the former, “No two writers could be more unlike each other than Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë; so much so that the latter was unable to understand why the former was admired, and confessed that she herself ‘should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses.’”
A distinct talent
Born in 1775 in Hampshire, England, Jane Austen was part of a convivial middle-class family consisting of five brothers and an elder sister, Cassandra, with whom she was very close. The Austens valued education; the two girls briefly attended boarding school and continued to receive further education at home. Read More→
“How quickly the minutes fly when you are writing to please your heart. I pity those who write for money or for fame. Money is debasing, and fame transitory and exacting. But for your own heart … Oh, what a difference!”
—Anaïs Nin, The Early Diaries of Anaïs Nin, October, 1921
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Ah, youth! To be unconcerned with the intersection of art and commerce, to create only to please your own heart! How lovely, how idealistic—but ultimately, if you want to shape any semblance of a career doing what you love, how unrealistic. There’s no shame in writing for your own pleasure if you’re sure this is your true aim. But if you say you write for yourself or itself, but secretly long for an audience or monetary reward, you may often find yourself at cross purposes. Women writers have long had a complicated relationship with money. Read More→
This analysis of Herland, the 1915 utopian novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is excerpted from an in-depth review on Exploring Feminisms.
Years ago, I bought Herland after reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin, craving that same satisfied woman-centered feeling that I was left with as I closed Chopin’s book. As I read the first few pages of Gilman’s Utopian text about a land of only women, I noticed that it was from a man’s point of view and immediately lost interest.
I had very little interest in a man’s perspective, even if it was written by a woman. Recently, Herland has been on my mind and decided to pick it up again. This time around, I decided to read the preface, which is what I hear adults do and was delighted to learn that it was satirical in nature. Within a first few pages, I was hooked and looking back, maybe at 21 I just wasn’t ready. Read More→
Dear Literary Ladies,
Like most writers, I want to be published, and truth be told, I’d love to be successful. But I’ve heard so many stories of long years of toil, false starts, and tons of rejection. Isn’t there an easier way? I’d prefer to become an overnight success, earn fame and fortune, and avoid all the struggle.
I can only say to you as I do to the many young writers who ask for advice—There is no easy road to successful authorship; it has to be earned by long and patient labor, many disappointments, uncertainties and trials. Success is often a lucky accident, coming to those who may not deserve it, while others who do have to wait & hope till they have earned it. This is the best sort and the most enduring. Read More→
Frances Hodgson Burnett began writing at the young age of sixteen to help the family out with finances after the death of her father. Through depression and illness, Burnett found inspiration for her work and often spent time in her garden. Here is a selection of introspective quotes from her classics, A Little Princess and The Secret Garden.
From A Little Princess, 1905
“Everything’s a story – You are a story — I am a story.”
“When people are insulting you, there is nothing so good for them as not to say a word — just to look at them and think. When you will not fly into a passion people know you are stronger than they are, because you are strong enough to hold in your rage, and they are not, and they say stupid things they wished they hadn’t said afterward. There’s nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it in — that’s stronger. It’s a good thing not to answer your enemies.”