Book Review: The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life —

About the Book. Author Nava Atlas’ The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life: Inspiration and Advice from Celebrated Women Authors Who Paved the Way is not just a great read but also a gorgeous one. Before I even got into the content, I was struck by how darn pretty it is. Kudos to Atlas and collaborator Amy Papaelias for the stunning page design.

But then I started reading, and I fell in love.

Literary Ladies includes insights, quotes, and excerpts from the personal writings of 12 classic female authors: Edith Wharton, Louisa May Alcott, Madeleine L’Engle, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, L.M. Montgomery, Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, Anais Nin, and George Sand. Although I was surprised to see a little something of myself in each of the ladies, I was particularly struck by feeling connected with Anais Nin, whose work I must confess I have never read, and Virginia Woolf.

Inside shot of Literary Ladies, pages 86 and 87
Inside my copy of Literary Ladies, pages 86 and 87.

Wrote Nin in a 1921 journal entry (see Literary Ladies page 87):

When I look down upon my work it shrinks to almost nothing. One day I write poems and essays, and the next I tear and burn them, to begin again, and in the same manner I have done this for years. Nothing satisfies me. The reading I do serves only to impress me with my inferiority of style and character. I write in a scattering fashion, always with a purpose in mind and yet never capable of reaching it. My work lacks “roundness,” concentration, and clearness. I drift into vague revisions and abstract forms and above all superfluities. Although it is not so, it appears very much as if my mind wandered; when I most want to appear fixed upon my subject, I deviate and I miss my point, and above all what I cannot forgive in myself is the unreliableness of my judgment because of my enthusiasm.

…Nevertheless, I am resolved to write, write, and write. Nothing can turn me away from a path I have definitely set myself to follow.

I believe in a strange sort of connection among writers, those who get it and who write because it’s all they know and they cannot imagine another way. What startles me and leaves me mute is the way the connection can travel across 90 years and how many thousands of printed pages to grab me by the throat as this excerpt did.

The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life was for me a series of revelations, about myself as a woman, about myself as a writer, and about myself as a woman writing. Of course I learned a lot of about the ladies Atlas so warmly presented herein, but I learned more about me in the process. Consider Literary Ladies a highly recommended read, and a great gift for the writerly women in your life. It’s available new and used on as we speak



Author Nava Atlas

About the Author. Nava’s life has included many artistic endeavors.  Both a writer and a visual artist for many years her “day job” has been vegetarian cookbook author. Literary Ladies has been stewing on a back burner  for several years. A visit to Edith Wharton’s home, the Mount, convinced Nava to turn up the heat and put the finishing garnishes on her book. Watch the book trailer. Order the book.

Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King


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