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.

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde

Audre Geraldine Lorde (February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992) was a self-identified “black lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” who grew up in New York City to West Indian parents. Starting to write at an early age, Lorde was first published in Seventeen magazine while in high school.

As society progressed with the anti-war, feminist and civil rights movements, Audre moved from themes of love to more political and personal matters. She used her platform as a writer to spread ideas and experiences about the intersecting oppressions faced by many people.  Her poetry developed an angry aura as she became more involved in activism but developed into an emotionally-supportive outlet and connected her to the world of politics with well-known figures like Langston Hughes. Read More→

Poetry & Politics: Quotes by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde, self-identified as a black lesbian feminist, used literature to spread ideas of intersectionality during the political movements of the mid-to-late 20th century. A child of parents from the West Indies in New York City, Lorde started her writing career young and went on to teach as well as becoming involved in political activism through her work and organizations she helped found. Here are some of her quotes, which straddle the worlds of poetry and politics.

“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

“My sexuality is part and parcel of who I am, and my poetry comes from the intersection of me and my worlds . . . Jesse Helms’ objection to my work is not about obscenity . . .or even about sex. It is about revolution and change . . . Helms knows that my writing is aimed at his destruction, and the destruction of every single thing he stands for.” Read More→

The Four Difficulties of Becoming a Writer

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Excerpted from Becoming a Writer (1934) by Dorothea Brande, proving that good writing advice is timeless:  There is a sort of writer’s magic. There is a procedure which many an author has come upon by happy accident or has worked out for himself which can, in part, be taught.

To be ready to learn it you will have to go by a rather roundabout way, first considering the main difficulties which you will meet, then embarking on simple, but stringently self-enforced exercises to overcome those difficulties. Last of all you must have faith, or the curiosity, to take one odd piece of advice which will be unlike any of the exhortations that have come your way in classrooms or in textbooks.

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Dorothy Parker’s review of Ice Palace by Edna Ferber

Ice palace by Enda Ferber

It’s always fascinating to come upon  a review by one classic author of the work of another. In this case, Dorothy Parker’s review of Ice Palace by Edna Ferber, one of her behemoth later novels, gets the acid-penned treatment. Of the two authors, Parker is the one who has been more enduring; in their time, Ferber was one of the richest, most successful writers, something to which Parker hilariously eludes.

Parker was the book reviewer (Constant Reader) for The New Yorker for a number of years; later, she was the reviewer for Esquire, where this review was published. Keep in mind that when Ice Palace was published in 1957, Alaska was not yet a state (that would imminently happen in 1959). Read More→

Isn’t there an easy road to writing success?

Louisa May Alcott young

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→

Influential Quotes by Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin (1850 – 1904) started her writing career with stories for magazines such as Vogue and The Youth Companion. She is known to be a foremother of 20th century feminism and often wrote in a realist perspective, reflecting the setting of her time. She suffered from depression which also influenced the themes in her work. Chopin is best known for the short novel The Awakening, which was quite scandalous in its time. Here are some of her influential quotes.

“Some people are born with a vital and responsive energy. It not only enables them to keep abreast of the times; it qualifies them to furnish in their own personality a good bit of the motive power to the mad pace.” (The Awakening and Selected Stories, 1899)

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