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 it feel to achieve a breakaway success?

L.M. Montgomery

Dear Literary Ladies,
I dream of the day when all my efforts might come to a completely successful culmination. Like many writers, I’ve had some modest coups, but who doesn’t long for that big breakthrough, a work that shines in the national spotlight, or climbs the bestseller lists? How does it feel when you first realize that your work has achieved this kind of dreamed-about success? Read More→

Featured Essay

Based Upon the Book: An Interview with Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Bronte

Following the release of the latest Jane Eyre film adaptation in 2011, it seems only fair that Charlotte Brontë, author of the beloved novel, gets her say. That she’s been dead since 1855 is a mere technicality. Her first-person narratives provide incisive answers, needing only someone (that would be me) to ask pertinent questions:

How did you and your sisters first set about to get published?

Charlotte Brontë: We had very early cherished the dream of one day becoming authors. This dream, never relinquished even when distance divided and absorbing tasks occupied us, now suddenly acquired strength and consistency: it took the character of a resolve.

We agreed to arrange a small section of our poems, and, if possible, get them printed. The book was printed: it is scarcely known…* Ill-success failed to crush us: the mere effort to succeed had given a wonderful zest to existence; it must be pursued. We each set to work on a prose tale: Ellis Bell [Emily] produced Wuthering Heights, Acton Bell [Anne], Agnes Grey, and Currer Bell [Charlotte herself] also wrote a narrative in one volume. These manuscripts were perseveringly obtruded upon various publishers for the space of a year and a half; usually, their fate was an ignominious and abrupt dismissal. Read More→

Featured Author

Colette

Colette (french author)

Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, (1873-1954), was as known for her writing and performing as she was for her scandalous lifestyle. As a child, her mother Sido was her number one inspiration, and allowed the young Colette to drink deeply from the well of life to gain courage and individuality. She conducted her life with no regrets, and disdained the restraint society had on human, especially female, expression.

Her stories of strong females were often based on her own experiences, and were  controversial for their time, being more sexually explicit than most fiction of their time. That being said, Colette’s first marriage to a man much older than herself was a disaster — he had her write the Claudine stories, but then published them under his name. One she broke free of him, her sprit soared. She remained a flawed figure; it is said that she was an abominable mother to her only daughter.

Gigi, her best-known work (which inspired a popular film), is a story of a French girl training to be a courtesan, but falls in love with a wealthy gentleman. Its stage adaptation was greeted with critical acclaim with then unknown Audrey Hepburn playing the main character. Colette remains a master for her realistic and fresh descriptions on the ups and downs of love. Her works have been adapted to film and stage. Read More→