Win The Literary Ladies Guide To The Writing Life

The hardest thing about writing is writing – I can’t remember where I heard that, but sometimes it’s the truth. Sitting down in front of the blank screen can be a harrowing adventure. I never have a lack of things to write about, but my old negative loop of “someone else probably already wrote about this, and they probably did it better than you ever will” starts playing, making self-expression extremely difficult. These are times when I find it really helpful to get re-inspired.

Wouldn’t it be great to have Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen or Anais Nin all hanging out in your kitchen, offering you support and wisdom, food for thought to continue on? Don’t we all need an older, wiser friend telling us to keep at it, keep writing, don’t lose your voice, don’t give up?



This is exactly what Nava Atlas’ new book The Literary Ladies Guide to The Writing Life has become for me. I can turn to any page and find inspiration, guidance, and wisdom from some of the most amazing writers of the last two centuries.

I was inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s thoughts, gleaned from a personal letter to a friend in 1853, on earning money as a writer when there is a household to run (something I encounter every day): “Now, if you will keep the babies and attend to the things in the house for one day, I’ll write a piece, and then we shall be out of [this financial] scrape.” This one line was enough to make me put aside the laundry and dishes, and instead dive back into my daily writing assignment with gusto.

Nava found a strong similarity between most of the authors – they had “at least one person, if not several, who supported and stood by them.”

In an age when most girls didn’t continue their education past childhood, Louisa May Alcott, Anais Nin, Willa Cather, and Virginia Woolf were all encouraged to pursue their writing careers by loved ones and friends. Reading their accounts of “suffering for their art” and finding solace in the talent of other authors reminded me that I do have an incredible community of creative, productive people in my life who have helped me continue on this path of self-expression.

One section of this book made me smile, because its subject returns to my thoughts so often:

“Say you’ve gotten a whole slew of great reviews and a tiny number of negative ones. Which ones are you most likely to remember (or more precisely, still be obsessing about) five years hence?” This is something the glorious writer Madeleine L’Engle found herself ruminating on throughout her career as well. If someone as amazing as Madeleine, the author of A Wrinkle In Time, was worried about bad reviews, I guess I’m in good company. Between this book and the radio show Being Here, hosted by Ariel & Shya Kane, which offers such great reminders on how to stay present, I have found myself writing and producing more work, in an easier, more natural flow. I like this!

This book feels like a collection of good friends with lots of advice to share, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is drawn to writing.

Want to win a signed copy of The Literary Ladies Guide? Leave a comment here on my blog by 4/24 to enter!


  1. Jennifer says:

    I would love this book! I could use some inspiration in my writing life.

  2. I need inspiration!

  3. Hey Alexandra!

    You’re a doll to gift someone with this book. How I’d LOVE to have a wrap session with Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Anais Nin and you in my kitchen. I can see us sipping and snacking the nite away!


  4. Marsi says:

    Inspiration…yes please!!

  5. Kathleen says:

    Inspiration AND distraction in one package! It’ll have to go on the bedside table, not near the comfy chair. Reading about writing is not writing; reading from woman who have written – well- under all sorts of circumstances is encouraging company.

  6. Ricki says:

    No need to enter me in the contest (I already have a copy), but wanted to say how much I love this book! It’s not only beautiful to look at and hold, but contains words of wisdom from so many of the writers I admire (Nava Atlas included!). I love your image of all these greats “hanging out” in my kitchen. :)

  7. Vanessa says:

    The book sounds great!! Would love to own it :)

  8. Linda Moore says:

    Nava, I love the things that you have done. I only wish you would have put something in about your own experiences from when you first started to write and create. Maybe someday you will do another Literary Ladies with more current people including yourself as an update about the struggles of women writers combining their passion with everyday life.

  9. Jamie says:

    Wow! This book is proof of the power of words. They can inspire you or shut you down. We all need some inspiration now and then! Thank you!

  10. Coreena says:

    Thanks for introducing me to this book. I would love to win one.

  11. I just started my own blog and I am always looking for inspiration and good ideas!

  12. Ashley says:

    Literary lady seeking advice and guidance. <3

  13. Lisa says:

    Always in need of some new inspiration!

  14. M. Lori says:

    inspire me please!

  15. Varina says:

    Yikes, I need two copies! Lol. One for my mother ‘n one for me :)

  16. michele says:

    this book sounds as Delicious as Nava’s wonderful recipes!!! love Harriet Beecher Stowe’s resourcefulness. thanks so much for sharing, and for offering this exciting give-away. Your blog always has something fresh and new to keep me returning! Happy Easter

  17. Victoria Laine says:

    Hi Alexander!
    Wow, sounds like a really inspirational book. You are an inspirational writer yourself with your uplifting thoughtful books and blogs. I love your approach to helping change the world. I haven’t read all your blogs, but remember one imparticular, regarding your influence in your son’s school when you found healthier alternatives. Keep up the good work.
    As a writer myself, I’d really appreciate a copy of the Literary Ladies Guide! Thank you, Victoria

  18. Alex — VERY long time, no speak! I hope you and Laken are holding down the Park Slope fort – I miss the old neighborhood!!!

    You’ve been on my mind lately — and as usual, I LOVE the newsletters and emails about all the magic happening in your life… THRILLING!

    Let me know if there’s ANYTHING I can do to help support you and your work.

    Big hug & Love,


  19. angela says:

    i am beginning to write my love story and would LOVE to be literally inspired by these magnificent women from our written history!!!!

  20. Liz says:

    I just met my future mother-in-law and I my fiance is going through stunning acts of courage while battling in Family Court for his dear children! We could ALL use inspiration and the truth! :)

  21. Gabriela says:

    Love it!

  22. Erin says:

    I too, crave the wise, encouraging words of female literary giants …I know I NEED to write as if my life depends on it, but my motivation is fleeting. It suddenly appears, then darts away again. I am exhausted from chasing it…

  23. Kaitlin says:

    I’m intrigued! And very interested in how this author uses this to inspire others. Thanks for, at the least, bringing it to my attention, Alex!

  24. Conny says:

    As a first time writer I could use all the help I can get

  25. Johanna says:

    I find all of Nava Atlas’ work inspiring — she’s inspired me as an artist, as a writer and with her wonderful vegetarian cookbooks.

  26. Elaine says:

    Sounds great. Could really use some positive inspiration for my writing x :)

  27. Ariella says:

    Sounds great!

  28. Grace says:

    Oh pick me, pick me. I so need connection to the Literary Ladies. With their muse, I can soar thru to elation and write of wonderfully lovely and enchanting things. With the support of the ladies I can carve into words all the most excellent thoughts I’ve collected and sculpted. Wouldn’t you love just a wee hand in making the world a better place by picking me to favor with The Literary Ladies Guide to The Writing Life? I’m dusting off my finest book mark in preparation. Thank you so much.

  29. Joanne Klein says:

    As a visual artist, I have the same doubts, fears, joys and emotions as these great literary ladies. But I have to give them alot more credit for the difficult times in which they each lived.

  30. Susan says:

    Sweet! If I can’t have my favorite authors standing beside me, encouraging me then reading their encouragement is perhaps the next best thing.

  31. kathy says:

    Love your blog Alexandra!
    Thanks for the chance to win such a valuable writing tool :)

    It was such fun to meet you at Borders in Fairfield not too long ago …

    Happy Health :)

  32. Clare McNally says:

    Hi Alex, thanks again for the chance to win something. Inspired by your enthusiasm – your emails an blog keep me on a healthy path. Cheers, Clare.

  33. Vicky says:

    Great – food for body and mind from one inspiring source. Always learning something new from your blog.

  34. Leah says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for your inspiring words, Alex. I love your honesty and humor and passion – and taste in books! This sounds like a great read. Thanks for sharing!

  35. Deborah says:

    Desperately seeking support and wisdom….

  36. Jen says:

    A Room of One’s Own, Jane Austen, Alexandra Jamieson.

  37. Johanna Woodbury says:

    Inspiration for life!!! Go!!!

  38. Susan says:

    I would like to document my detox course with Alex – I seem not to have the time to write things down and I really want to since this is a life changing event. I have seen more changes in my diet and life since I began this journey.

  39. Joy Sacalis says:

    Hi Alex, I’ve got many stories to tell, some inspiring, some sad, some happy. I have always been a bit timid about revealing my true self in writing and I would love to win this book!

  40. Stephanie King says:

    This book sounds wonderful! I am a middle school history teacher and would love to add this book to add to my collection to inspire my female students. I also enjoyed your quote from Harriet Beecher Stowe. Few know but her sister was also quite the writer. Catherine wrote a pre-Civil War guide for creating and keeping a proper Victorian home. An intersting read and a bit of competition for Martha Stewart.

  41. Cindy Wilmer says:

    Sounds inspirational – and we all desire to be inspired!

  42. Migdalia says:

    Hi Alex I will love to win this book, it sounds very interesting and I really need help with my writing skills, Thanks for this opportunity!!!

  43. KB says:

    I’m certain that winning that book would help me set free the book locked in my head.

  44. turkeyduck says:

    A mom who has lost her words – help her find them again!

  45. amanda says:

    I love writing. I would love to have some direction too!

  46. Debbie says:

    The books seems really interesting. I love books that you can draw inspiration from, it’s refreshing to read someone else’s experiences and be able to learn and grown from them. I would love the opportunity to on this book.

  47. Gerry says:

    I would love to win this book. It would be very interesting to add to my collection which I already have.

  48. katie says:

    I could really use some inspiration, tips, techniques and ideas for focus to improve my writing. I would love this book. Thanks for offering this drawing!

  49. Vicky says:

    This book sounds great! I could really use some help to stay focused on my writing.

  50. Debbi Dubbs says:

    I have all kinds of ideas until I sit down at the computer, then my mind goes blank, why is it that?

  51. Donna B! says:

    Would love to read more from Nava. She is such a good cookbook author and artist. I first met her when she came to one of Chef Al’s Workshops at the Culinary Institute of America back in 2001. Thank you.

  52. Deborah Saas says:

    Would love this inspiration book to give to my mom… When my dad’s health started to fail, she took care of him at home for 5 years before he passed away a few months ago. She is such an inspiratiion to me, and now she has lots of time to read great books like this one.

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