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

Does one need connections to get published?

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Dear Literary Ladies,
I’ve often heard it said that “it’s who you know that matters.” Well, I don’t know anyone in the publishing world. Does that mean my work doesn’t stand a chance of being looked at seriously?

There is no easy road. “Pull” will not help. Knowing an editor, or a publisher, or a successful writer, or having a friend who knows one, will not make up for a poor manuscript. Do not write to editors, or established writers asking them to criticize your work, or for help or advice in getting your book or story published. They are unable to help you, even if they were willing to spend half their working hours trying to assist the beginner. Your work must speak for itself.

The young or beginning writer must realize that every manuscript mailed into a publishing office of any sort is carefully read by trained and competent readers. This does not mean that such readers necessarily read every word or every page of a submitted manuscript. A few paragraphs often tell the sad tale that the piece of writing is worthless. Amateur writers have been known to place a small object between pages, and finding it undisturbed, to announce triumphantly that the manuscript had not been read. But one does not need to eat a whole apple to know that it is no good.

—Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (“If You Want to Be a Writer,” 1948)

Featured Essay

10 Quotes by Agatha Christie on Writing

Agatha Christie

“Nothing turns out quite in the way that you thought it would when you are sketching out notes for the first chapter, or walking about muttering to yourself and seeing a story unroll.”

“The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

“I’ve always believed in writing without a collaborator, because where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worry and only half the royalties.” Read More→

Featured Author

Fitzhugh, Louise

Louise Fitzhugh

Louise Fitzhugh (October 5, 1928 – November 19, 1974) was an American author, born in Memphis, Tennessee. She wrote and illustrated children’s and young adult books, the best known and most beloved of which remains Harriet the Spy.

Fitzhugh’s first work was Suzuki Beane (1961) – a beatnik spoof of Eloise. Collaborating with Sandra Scoppattone on this book, she functioned as the illustrator. Though the book was lightly tossed off as a parody, it proved charming and well done. Today, this rare book is much sought after. In addition to her writing, Fitzhugh had a minor career as an artist, with her drawings shown in New York galleries. Read More→

Featured Essay

Black Narcissus (1939) by Rumer Godden – a review

Black Narcissus by Rumor Godden

From the original review by John Selby in The Record-Argus, July 1939: The temptation so attempt to read Rumer Godden’s “character” from her Black Narcissus is almost overpowering by the time one has finished this strange and delightful novel. The author is far and away more interesting than anything in the book —which is saying much, for the book is an extraordinary job.

It is, to put it bleakly, the story of what happened when a group of Anglican sisters went into the mountains near Darjeeling to establish a school and hospital in a “palace” built and rather shockingly used by the former ruler of the state, now happily dead and succeeded by a son of quite different tendencies. The sisters had been preceded by a set of Brothers of the same general style, and these had failed. In almost no time at all no traces of the Brothers were left; the sisters seemed tougher. Read More→