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

What’s the biggest mistake beginning writers make?

Willa Cather2

Dear Literary Ladies,
What is the biggest mistake or miscalculation aspiring writers make when first start sending their work out? There’s usually no feedback, so what’s the single most important lesson to keep in mind?  Read More→

Featured Essay

Edith Wharton’s Struggles with Self-Doubt

Edith Wharton

From much anecdotal evidence, it appears that women suffer from the “impostor syndrome” more frequently than do men. Even among high achievers, there’s a fairly common belief that personal success has more to do with luck, timing, or external circumstances other than talent. If it’s any comfort, the book If I’m So Successful Why Do I Feel Like a Fake? by Joan Harvey presents research demonstrating that accomplished people often feel like frauds. This was certainly true for Edith Wharton as she tremulously tiptoed toward her literary aspirations. Read More→

Featured Author

Porter, Katherine Anne

Katherine Anne Porter

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980), a writer from the South, lived her life according to what she believed in and learned early on about the stark realities of life. She spent her early years working as a teacher of drama, dance and song to help support her and her father. These misfortunes are what made Porter the amazing writer that she is, focusing on themes of death, mistrust and depraved human behavior. In 1962 she published Ship of Fools, which took her 20 years to write. Critical opinions were mixed although it was the best selling novel of her career and of 1962. It is set before the start of World War II and follows the voyage of a group of passengers on their way from Mexico to Europe.

Porter often took many, many years after events to write about and analyze it fully, using her own life as a base for her work. Her writing was a way to face questions that were left unanswered in her own life, giving her work a passionate, realistic and harsh voice. In 1966 Porter won a Pulitzer Prize, the Gold Medal for Fiction and the National Book Award for The Collected Stories, published in 1965. Read More→