The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas

The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life: Inspiration and Advice from Celebrated Women Authors Who Paved the Way by Nava Atlas (2011)

The desire to put pen to paper has been described by many writers as an obsession that can’t be denied. Perhaps best expressed by author Anaïs Nin, who writes, “You write out of a deep inner necessity. If you are a writer, you have to write, just as you have to breathe…”

Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life

In The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing LifeNava Atlas presents a treasury of intimate glimpses into the unfolding creative writing process across twelve brilliant careers in women’s literature and relates their stories to women writers of today.


Drawing from diaries, journals, letters, memoirs and interviews, Atlas reveals the views of twelve classic women authors on the subjects of importance to every writer—the creative process, the inner critic, finding the time to write, rejection and acceptance, and developing a “voice.” The pages of this book are a feast for the eyes as well, with  130 vintage full-color photographs and illustrations

Atlas provides her own illuminating commentary and discusses how the lessons of classic women writers of the past still resonate with women writing in the present. What better mentors and muses than these twelve literary ladies:

  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Jane Austen
  • Charlotte Brontë
  • Willa Cather
  • Edna Ferber
  • Madeleine L’Engle
  •  L.M. Montgomery
  • Anaïs Nin
  • George Sand 
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe 
  • Edith Wharton  
  • Virginia Woolf

Within the pages of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, Atlas delves into the lives of these and other classic  authors of the past to find lessons for women writing today. From learning how to stay disciplined, focused, and not getting distracted to finding tools of motivation and methods of practice, readers are able to find comfort and reassurance from some of our most beloved women authors.

Anais Nin and her Diaries

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About Nava Atlas

Though Nava is best known as the author of many books on vegan and vegetarian cooking, she also produces visual books on women’s issues, including the book shown here.

Nava Atlas is also an active fine artist. Her work is shown and collected by museums and universities across the U.S. You can see her work at Her home is in the Hudson Valley region of New York State.

More about Nava can be found on her wikipedia page, and in her permanent archive of papers at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library.

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