Annie Dillard on the Written Word

"[If] you want to live, you have to die;"  Annie Dillard American author Annie Dillard has been called a mystic, a visionary, a naturalist and a modern Thoreau.  Her writing is  characterized as literary collage of the lyrical, the metaphoric and the richly descriptive. She has written over eleven books including poetry, novels, essays, memoirs, and books on …

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Katherine Mansfield on Having Her Moment

Risk, risk, everything. Katherine Mansfield Katherine Mansfield is best known for her short fiction. Born in 1888 in New Zealand, she died young at age 34. During her short life she wrote several volumes of short stories and critical literary essays. A free-spirited Bohemian, her personality as well as her writing, influenced the major writers …

Phillippa Yaa De Villiers on If Love Were Bread

"...writing is so much more than words on a page. Writing contains their [the writer's]concerns, their social context, and their history." Phillippa Yaa De Villiers An actress, a screenwriter, playwright, novelist, and poet Phillippa Yaa De Villiers grew up in South Africa. The daughter of an Australian woman and an Ghanian father  who was adopted by a white …

Willa Cather on the Essence of Writing

“I had left even their spirits behind me. The wagon jolted on, carrying me I knew not where. … Between that earth and sky I felt erased, blotted out.” Willa Cather "My Antonia" Although Willa Cather (1873-1947) was born in Virginia, she was a child of the prairies. Her parents moved to Red Cloud, Nebraska …

Sonia Nieto on Culture as Transmutation

My identity is always changing everyday. The person who I was when I was a child is different from the person I was as a young adult and the person who I am now. And those shifting identities have to do with your own individual experiences and the sociopolitical context in which you live. Sonia …

Ning Lao T’ai-t’ai on the Life of a Beggar

In the 1930s Ida Pruitt, an American living in Peking, recorded the oral life history of Ning Lao T'ai-t'ai, the elderly mother of a man working for her husband. Ning lived in the city of Penglai in Shedong Province of China in second half of the 1800s and the early 1900s. Married to a man who was an opium …

Rosa Parks on Being a Regular Person

The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.   Rosa Parks Christened "The First Lady of Civil Rights" Rosa Parks made history on a February day in 1955, when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Because this was against the segregation laws of Alabama, Rosa Parks was …

Elizabeth Barrett Browning on Love and Work

 If marriage be a contract, look to it then, Contracting parties should be equal - Just.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) or "Ba," as she was known as a child, was a child of privilege growing up in a wealthy household supported by the slave labor on sugar plantations in Jamaica. A precocious …

Pearl S. Buck on Making Meaning Out of Meaningless

If the American way of life fails the child, it fails us more. Pearl S. Buck (1982-1973) spent all her childhood and a good part of her adult life living in China. Most of her over thirty novels are based on this experience and were instrumental in shaping American views of life in China.  In 1938 …

Julia Cameron on the Language of Art

If you do anything in the arts, then you most probably have heard of Julia Cameron and The Artist's Way. Written in 1992, her book about inspiring personal creativity and empowering the artist within has become a mainstay of artists, writers, and others engaged in artistic pursuits as it continues to grow in popularity. The Artist's …

Isabel Allende on the End of Childhood

Did you once believe in Santa Claus? When you were a child were fairies and dragons and ghosts real? There is something special about the world of young children and their ability to simply believe. In the following excerpt from The House of Spirits, Chilean author Isabel Allende takes us into that magical time. Clara's …

Helen Keller on I Hesitate to Write

"I am only one, but still I am one." I cannot do everything, but I can still do something;  and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do." Helen Keller Perhaps you have seen the movie The Miracle Worker. Perhaps as a child you read a book about the …

Sarah Josepha Hale on Beginning a Novel

If you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday, you can thank Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1877). Hale, the first woman magazine editor in the United States, petitioned Presidents for 17 years until Abraham Lincoln established the day in 1863. Hale believed in educating girls  (She later helped establish Vassar College) having obtained her education second-hand from her brother …

George Sand on the Working Man

How I wish I could impart to you this sense of the intensity and joyousness of life that I have in my veins. To live! How sweet it is, and how good, in spite of annoyances, husbands, debts, relations, scandal-mongers, sufferings, and irritations! To live! It is intoxicating! To love, and to be loved! It …

Elizabeth Ellet on Women of the American Revolution

Have you ever heard of Mercy Warren, Esther Reed, Mary Philpse, or Sarah Bache? Elizabeth Fries Ellet (1818-1877) immortalized these and numerous other women in her ground-breaking work  The Women of the American Revolution in 2 volumes published in 1848. Ellet was a prolific writer who, in addition to translations, poetry, country rambles, and domestic works, …

Barbara Kingsolver on Receiving Grace

Barbara Kingsolver has written numerous books and won many awards. She is the founder of the PEN/Bellwether Award for socially conscious fiction. Her most recent work is Flight Behavior, in which she combines her background in biology, her concern for social justice, and her experience living in rural Appalachia and raising sheep.  In a NPR interview Kingsolver …

Anne Morrow Lindbergh on the Art of Solitude

 In my nightstand I keep a small book that has spoken to me many times when life becomes a whirring blur of "to dos" and "musts" and "didn'ts." That book is Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001). Lindbergh wrote the book in 1955 while living alone on Captiva Island in Florida where she …

Barbara Ehrenreich on Special Costs

Barbara Ehrenreich is a well-known investigative reporter and social commentator. She has been called a myth buster and a muckraker for her unflagging devotion to uncovering the silent and contradictory spaces in our national persona. A chemist with a doctorate in cellular immunology, Ehrenreich has chosen to focus her life's work on changing the national discourse on …

Audre Lorde on Sold on Reading

"One oppression does not justify another."  Audre Lorde (1934-1992) Writer Audre Lorde identified herself as an outsider. Black, feminist, lesbian and angry, she demanded space at the table for those who were marginalized by society. The daughter of West Indian immigrants she found her voice first through poetry and then in essays and novels. A victim of breast …

Sandra Cisneros on Too Many Kids

They say I'm a beast. And feast on it. When all along I thought that's what a woman was. from the poem "Loose Woman" by Sandra Cisneros Recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Sandra Cisneros is more than an award-winning author of novels, poems, and children's literature. A teacher, artist-in-residence, and arts administration, she has long been a force …