Laura Z. Hobson

Laura Z. Hobson

Laura Z. Hobson (June 19, 1900 – February 28, 1986) was an American Novelist best known for her novel Gentleman’s Agreement, which was made into an award-winning film of the same name.

Born Laura Kean Zametkin in New York City, she and her twin sister Alice grew up on Long Island, their parents were highly educated refugees from czarist Russia. Her father was the first editor of the Jewish Daily Forward ; her mother did social work. 

Before she became a full-time novelist with the 1947 publication of Gentleman’s Agreement, she had been a successful writer of advertising and promotional copy on the staff of Luce publications, where she wrote for Time, Life, and Fortune.  Read More→


Based Upon the Book: An Interview with Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë painting

It seems only fair that Charlotte Brontë, author of the beloved novel Jane Eyre (and others), which seems subject to continued film adaptations and will be in print for time immemorial, should have 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: Read More→


On the Art of Fiction, According to Willa Cather

Willa Cather

Willa Cather (1873-1947) was the consummate craftswoman of the written word. Her novels are known for their stark beauty and spare language, reflect her philosophy that writing is a craft to be honed and polished. Her considerable wisdom has been fully preserved, especially in the numerous interviews she granted despite her professed disdain for the press and with fame in general. Who better than Willa Cather to get advice on the art of writing fiction? Here’s an essay from 1920, with the kind of wisdom you’d expect to get from a master of the art:


By Willa Cather, originally published in The Borzoi, 1920:   One is sometimes asked about the “obstacles” that confront young writers who are trying to do good work. I should say the greatest obstacles that writers today have to get over, are the dazzling journalistic successes of twenty years ago, stories that surprised and delighted by their sharp photographic detail and that were really nothing more than lively pieces of reporting. The whole aim of that school of writing was novelty—never a very important thing in art. Read More→


Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (1937) – a review

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

From the original review of Nightwood by Djuna Barnes in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 1937: This is a rare and tempting book, because it might be easily underestimated and just as easily overrated. The introductory praise by T.S. Eliot, which is meant to attract serious readers, will perhaps lead to a few of them to contradict his opinion; and certainly Mr. Eliot’s advice is the best way to understand a rather perplexing book:

“I have read Nightwood a number of times, in manuscript, in proof, and after publication … for it took me some time to come to an appreciation of its meaning as a whole.” Read More→


How do you develop ideas for plots?

Madeleine L'Engle

Dear Literary Ladies, 
How does a writer develop plot, and more specifically, how do you develop scraps of ideas into plots?

When I start working on a book, which is usually several years and several books before I start to write it, I am somewhat like a French peasant cook. There are several pots on the back of the stove, and as I go by during the day’s work, I drop a carrot in one, and onion in another . . . When it comes time to prepare the meal, I take the pot which is nearly full and bring it to the front of the stove. Read More→


Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work

From the 1989 Beacon Press edition of Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work by Louise DeSalvo: Although at her death Virginia Woolf left diaries, memoirs, letters, stories, notebooks, and drafts of novels as well as published work that documented the trauma she endured as a child, one of the most significant facts about Woolf’s childhood — that she was sexually abused — has been glossed over by her biographers.

Louise DeSalvo’s long-awaited Virginia Woolf creates a portrait of Woolf that reveals the extent of her childhood abuse – what she endured, how she coped with it, reacted to it, understood it. Born in 1882, into a Victorian family where incest, sexual violence and violent and abusive behavior were common, Woolf was molested from the time she was six years old until well into her adulthood. Read More→


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