Reading List for Women Writers

Under Cover:

 A Reading List for Women Writers

   Eunice Victoria Scarfe

Faculty of Extension

University of Alberta

 (please note: those marked with * are Canadian,

most of which are available on  And please remember that the books here are listed because of their place in class discussions during 07-08. This is not a list of every wonderful book ever written! Also, some are hard to find or out of print. Nevertheless, I want writers to know about them.)

Reading List  (pdf)


Barrington, Judith. Writing the Memoir. Eighth Mountain Press, 1997.

Berkinow, Louis. Among Women. Harper, 1981. A ground–breaking personal piece of literary criticism looking at the relationships between women in fiction: mother and daughter, sisters, friends, lovers.  Her book observes that traditionally, when a man walks out of a room in a novel, the plot follows him. An influential book on the design of Saga writing workshops.

Bly, Carol. Beyond the Writers’ Workshop: New Ways to Write Creative Nonfiction.  Anchor Books, 2001.  This is a current, responsible look at the act and art of writing.


Boland, Eavan.  Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and The Poet in Our Time. Norton, 1995.

Autobiography and argument by one of Ireland’s best poets.

Bolker, Joan. The Writer’s Home Companion: An Anthology of the World’s Best Writing Advice, from Keats to Kunitz.  Henry Holt, l997. Well this is an ambitious claim for a book, but Bolker’s participation in the writing life is to be taken into account. The anthology includes her remarkable essay: “A Room of One’s Own is Not Enough”, written after many years of working with women who suffered writer’s block and the absence of confidence in using their own voice. The anthology also includes Anne Tyler’s essay “Still Just Writing”.

Brande, Dorothea. Becoming a Writer. Tarcher, (l934) 1981.  Written when there were few ‘writers writing on writing’.

Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Tarcher, 1992. ‘A course in discovering and recovering your creative self’.

——–The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. Tarcher, 1998.

Conway, Jill Ker. When Memory Speaks: Exploring the Art of Autobiography. 1998. One of the best.

Cixous, Helene. Coming to Writing and Other Essays. Harvard, 1991.

——–Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. Columbia U Press, l993.

Dillard, Annie. Living by Fiction. Harper, 1982.

——–The Writing Life. Harper, 1989. See also her An American Childhood, a memoir.

Epel, Naomi, ed. Writers Dreaming: Dreams and the Creative Process. Vintage, 1993.

Elbow, Peter. Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process.  Elbow is a major theorist on writing, and a master teacher.

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. The Gift of Story. Ballantine, 1993. A tiny blue postage–stamp of a book, by the author of Women Who Run With the Wolves, which addresses the healing function of stories––we are rich, and strong, only in so far as we have the story––our story––in our hands.  An eloquent essay.

Gray, Dorothy Randall. Soul Between the Lines: Freeing your Creative Spirit Through Writing. Avon, 1998. Dorothy teaches for IWWG at Skidmore College each summer. Don’t miss her class if you go!

Goldberg, Natalie. Long Quiet Highway. Bantam, 1993. (Goldberg’s own story.)

——–Wild Mind: Living The Writer’s Life. Bantam, 1990. Goldberg has a million ways (well almost) to get the content of experience and imagination down on the page.

——–Writing Down the Bones: Freeing The Writer Within. Shambhala, 1986.

Gornick, Vivian. The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001. An extremely thoughtful essay, highly recommended.

Hampl, Patricia. I Could You Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory. Norton, 1999. A Minneapolis  writer, I believe. An interesting section on how she and her mother negotiated the content of her writing – or her right to write it.

Heilbrun, Carolyn. Hamlet’s Mother and Other Women. Ballantine, 1990.

——–Writing a Woman’s Life. Norton, 1988. (Heilbrun writes mystery under the name of Amanda Cross). “There are four ways to write a woman’s life: the woman herself may tell it, in what she chooses to call an autobiography; she may tell it in what she chooses to call fiction; a biographer, woman or man, may write the woman’s life in what is called a biography; or the woman may write her own life in advance of living it, unconsciously, and without recognizing or naming the process.”

——–The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty.  Ballantine, l997. Part essay, part journal and the author of How to Write a Woman’s Life. Ballantine, 1997.

Hollzer, Burghild Nina. A Walk Between Heaven and Earth: A Personal Journal on Writing and the Creative Process. Bell Tower, 1994.

*Hodgins, Jack. A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction. M & S, l993. A major Vancouver Island writer discusses the art of writing.

Hooks, Bell. Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life. Holt, 1997. (and see her remarkable memoir: Bone Black)

Hugo, Richard. The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing. Norton, 1979. Former director of the creative writing program at the U of Montana, Missoula Campus. A  collection of lectures, essays, and reflections, all ‘directed toward helping the writer with that silly, absurd, maddening, futile, enormously rewarding activity: writing poems.’

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird:  Pantheon, l994.  The author remembers her father explaining how to write a report on birds: bird by bird.  Perhaps you hear ‘word by word’ behind her title. She has others as well.

Le Quin, Ursula. The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction. Perigree, 1979.

*Lennox, John ed. Selected Letters of Margaret Laurence and Adele Wiseman. U of Toronto Press, 1997. Intimate and informative correspondence on the lives and work of two authors who were Canadian contemporaries.

Lerner, Betsy. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers. Riverhead Books, 2000. There is nothing like this. The advice is witty, inside information no writer should do without. She also has a memoir, listed elsewhere.

Mairs, Nancy. Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer. Beacon, 1994.

*Manguel, Alberto. A History of Reading. Knopf, 1996. One of a kind by a prolific editor of anthologies.

McQuade, Molly. By Herself: Women Reclaim Poetry. Graywolf Press, 2000. Essays by contemporary poets on their lives and work.

*Melnyk, George, ed. The Literary History of Alberta, vol I & II. U of Alberta Press, 98, 99. If you’re an Alberta writer or resident, or even if you’re not, you’ll want to read this guide through western writers and writing.

Moyers, Bill. Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft. Morrow, 1999. Includes essays with Jane Hirshfield, Mark Doty ,Marge Piercy.

Nin, Anais. In Favor of the Sensitive Man and other essays. Harcourt, 1976. “I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live.  We also write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others.  We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.”

Norris, Kathleen. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. Houghton, 1993. A New York writer returns to South Dakota at the time of the grandmother’s death––and stays. An eloquent evocation of place, space and solitude. Read it with Sharon Butala’s portrait of Saskatchewan in The Perfection of the Morning. Harper, 1994.

Oliver, Mary. Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse. Houghton Mifflin, l998. And read Oliver’s prize-winning poetry too – many collections.

—–Winter Hours.  Houghton Mifflin, 1999. For the first time Oliver speaks in her own voice, reflective essays on the art of writing, and her life in writing. Tender and warm and eloquent.

Olsen, Tillie. Silences. Dell, 1978. A classic. The silencing of women’s voices, by ourselves and by others. I believe she died in late 2006 or early 2007. The only other text she wrote, to my knowledge, is a collection of stories called “I Stand Here Ironing”.

Phillips, Jan. Marry Your Muse:  Making a Lasting Commitment to your Creativity.  Quest Books, 1997. Both a guide for writers and essays by writers. “Coming to Story” (Scarfe) is in here.

Plimpton, George, ed. Women Writers at Work. Penguin, 1989.

Rich, Adrienne. What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics. Norton, 1993. Essays by one of the States’ most influential and honored poets. Read her with the Canadian (Quebec) writer Nicole Brossard.

——–Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Select Prose 1979–1985. Norton, 1986.

——–Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversation. Norton, 2001.

——–and everything else she has written, particularly  On Lies Secrets and Silence.


Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. Norton, 1934. Read this, read this, read this.

*Robertson, Heather. Writing from Life: A Guide for Writing True Stories.   M & S, 1998.

Russ, Joanna. How To Suppress Women’s Writing. U of Texas Press, 1983. “She didn’t write it. She wrote it, but she shouldn’t have. She wrote it, but look what she wrote about. She wrote it, but she wrote only one of it. She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. She wrote it, but she had help.”

*Scheir, Libby, Sheard and Wachtel, eds. Language in Her Eye: Writing and Gender. Views by Canadian Women Writing in English.  Coach House, 1990.

Schwartz, Lynne Sharon. Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books. Beacon, l996. Schwartz is the author of Disturbances in the Field, a novel. Here she scrutinizes the life of the reader, and her life as a reader.

Sher, Gail. The Intuitive Writer: Listening to Your Own Voice. Penguin, 2002.

————–. One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers. Penguin, 1999.

Sternburg, Janet, ed. The Writer on Her Work. Vol. II. W.W. Norton, l99l. Interviews with contemporary women writers. See also Vol I published in l981.

Stone, Elizabeth. Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins: How Family Stories Shape Us. Penguin, 1988.

Truitt, Anne. Day Book: The Journal of an Artist. New York: Penguin, 1982. A visual artist.

——-  Turn: The Journal of an Artist. New York: Penquin, l986. Eloquent, reflective, honest.

Truitt was a sculptor, and one day sat down to write the ‘history of my artistic life’.

Ueland, Brenda. If You Want to Write. Graywolf Press, 1987. First published in 1938.  Chapter headings: “Why you are not to be discouraged by rejection slips” and “Keep a slovenly, headlong, impulsive diary.”

—–Me. St. Paul: The Schubert Club, 1983. A lively diary of a Minneapolis Norwegian woman who was a journalist in the thirties and forties.

*Wachtel, Eleanor, ed. Writers & Company. Alfred Knopf, 1993.Interviews taken from CBC radio interviews. Listen to her interview writers every Sunday night at 5 p.m. on CBC 1.

Weldon, Fay. Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen. Sceptre edition, 1993. One of the most articulate, and witty, arguments on the function of literature.

Welty, Eudora. One Writer’s Beginnings. Warner Books, 1983. A gentle reflection on the roots of the writing life.

*Williamson,Janice, ed. Sounding Differences: Conversations With Seventeen Canadian Women Writers. University of Toronto Press, 1993.  Williamson is professor of English at the University of Alberta. She presents an interview, and then presents a dialogue with the writer in which Williamson and the writer discuss the original interview.  See also similar chapters on women writers in  Scheir ed. Language in Her Eye.

Woolf, Virginia. The Diaries, ed. Anne Olivier Bell. Harcourt, 1977. Woolf’s diaries fill several volumes, as do her letters. All are elegant, and eloquent. See also her classic essay Room of One’s Own.

Zinsser, William, ed. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. Houghton Mifflin, l998. Essays by writers on their work.

To write is to admit. Kristjana Gunnars


This list is only a selection, based on the  content of previous Eunice Scarfe Writing Workshops.

Abraham, Pearl. The Romance Reader.  Riverbend, 1995. Hasidic childhood of a young woman in New York in the 1970’s. Consider reading it with Rapture  (Sheri Reynolds) which looks at a southern church tradition.

*Alford, Edna. A Sleep Full of Dreams.  Oolichan Books, 1981. First collection of stories by Saskatchewan writer. The narrator enters each room of a nursing home, and tells a story for each resident. Edna is still the director of the Banff ‘Writing with Style’ program, I believe.

*Anderson-Dargatz, Gail.  The Cure for Death by Lightning.  Knopf, 1996. The writing is as magical as the

cure. First novel of Vancouver writer.

*Atwood, Margaret. Murder in the Dark. Coach House, 1983. Look for the most chilling piece ever written on the act of writing: “The Blank Page”. Underneath the blank page lies everything that has ever happened…The page waits, pretending to be blank. Of course, she’s also written one or two other texts…


Bergman, Ingmar. Private Confessions: A Novel.  Arcade, l996. Look for structure here, see the movie.

——–Sunday’s Children.  Bergman takes autobiographical material, and takes liberties.

*Birdsell, Sandra. The Russlanders.  20th century Mennonite history is here put in a compelling fiction.

*Braid, Kate. Inward to the Bones. Georgia O’Keefe’s Journey with Emily Carr. Polestar, 1998. The invented friendship of two painters of the 20th century portrayed in poetry. Stunning in conception and execution. One of my most favorite books. I thought it should win the GG Award in Poetry (but it didn’t).

*Brand, Dionne.  Land to Light On. McClelland & Stewart. 1997. Won the Governor General Award for poetry.

—–Bread out of Stone. Coach House, 1994. ‘cultural criticism, moving between the private and the            public, the personal and the political’. Read with Eavon Boland and Tess Gallagher.

*Brandt, Di. Questions I Asked my Mother. Turnstone, 1988. “shades of sin” is  here.

——-Agnes in The Sky. Turnstone, 1990. “prairie love song” is  here

——–Mother, Not Mother. Mercury Press, 1992. “dear reader let me tell you” is here

——–Jerusalem, Beloved. Turnstone, l995.

——–Dancing Naked: Narrative Strategies for Dancing Across Centuries.  Mercury Press, 1996. A collection of talks given over a period of ten years. Brandt has a Canadian Professorship in Canadian Writing at Brandon University (Manitoba).

*Burnard, Bonnie. A Good House. Harper, 1999.  Ontario setting. ‘Bernard’s fictional family is so real it feels like one’s own.’ (Rosemary Sullivan).

*Carson, Anne.  Autobiography of Red. Vintage, 1999. Carson is Director of Graduate Studies, Classics at McGill. “Anne Carson is, for me, the most exciting poet writing in English today.” Michael Ondaatje.

——–Men in the Off Hours. Knopf, 2000.

——–Glass, Irony and God. New Directions, 1992.

——–Eros: the bittersweet. Dalkey Archive Press, 1998.

Read her aloud – the works are demanding, and worth your time.

Chase, Joan. During the Reign of the Queen of Persia.  Ballantine, l983.  Read this for pleasure – and for instruction in managing multiple points of view. Set in Iowa. Two generations of women.

*Clark, Joan. Eiriksdottir: A Tale of Dreams and Luck. Macmillan, l994. A work of fiction which reinvents the story of the Viking arrival in Newfoundland through the eyes of Eirik the Red’s daughter. One of hundreds of recent texts giving speech to the silent/silenced voices of women in history, myth and literature. See also Ahab’s Wife and The Red Tent and The Wife of Aenaes.

Collins, Merle. Rotten Pomerack. Virago, 1992. Grenadian  poet. Some days, mother /when my thoughts are a tangle I cannot untie/when meanings are lost and I cannot say why…

*Crozier, Lorna. The Garden Going on Without Us. McClelland & Stewart, 1985. An eloquent poet – on the faculty at the University of Victoria Creative Writing program. See also Inventing the Hawk, 1992, and a dozen other collections.

*Culleton, Beatrice. In Search of April Raintree.  Peguis, 1983. A memoir/novel of two Metis sisters.

*Dumas, Jacqueline. Madeleine and The Angel. Fifth House, 1989. Growing up in French Catholic Alberta by the owner of Orlando Books. Other first novels of girlhood are The Collaborators by Kauffman (U.S.), The Expedition to the Baobab Tree by Stockenstrom (South Africa), Ceremony by Silko (U.S.), Astradeni by Eugenia Fakinou (Greece), Obasan  by Joy Kogawa (Canadian), Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Mexico), The House with the Blind Glass Windows by Herbjorg Wassmo (Norwegian), In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton (Metis). Read these for narrative strategies as well as for style and content.

*Dumont, Marilyn. A Really Good Brown Girl. Brick Books, l996. Metis writer, resident in Edmonton. Look for ‘Instructions to my mother’

Franklin, Miles. My Brilliant Career. Virago, (1901)1981. The first novel of an early 20th century Australian woman. Look for the movie. See also My Career Goes Bung, (1946), 1981.

Fredriksson, Marianne. Hanna’s Daughters. Wahstrom, l994; trans Orion, 1998. Three generations of Swedish women.

Gallagher, Tess. A Concert of Tenses. Essays on Poetry. U of Michigan. 1986. Essential reading for the poet.

—–Moon Crossing Bridge. Graywolf Press, 1992.  Gallagher’s poems after the death of her partner, the short story writer Raymond Carver. Do you want me to mourn?/Do you want me to wear black?

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. The Feminist Press, 1973. A classic, first published in 1899, and belongs with the American Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899) and the Norwegian Amalie Skram’s Under Observation (1895). All three deal with the distress of a woman artist, and the distressing treatment she receives at the hands of the medical establishments of the day. Gilman and Chopin were ‘lost’ texts until the mid 1960’s when ‘search and rescue’ operations began for out–of–print women’s texts. Willa Cather’s Song of the Lark is also a ‘portrait of the artist as a young woman’ –  in Cather’s case, the life of an opera singer  and not a life ‘broken’ by impediments to her artist’s life, as the above three are.

*Gunnars, Kristjana. The Prowler. Red Deer College Press, 1989. The image of prowler pertains both to writer and reader-an innovative collage.

            —–Zero Hour.  Red Deer College Press, l99l. A memoir of the death of her father. Gunnars has been Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Alberta. Born in Iceland. See also her poetry:

——-The Substance of Forgetting. 1992. Prose.

——-Carnival of Longing. Turnstone, 1989. Poetry. Read twice.

*Halfe, Louise. Bear Bones & Feathers. Coteau Books, 1994. A Canadian Metis poet. She has published a second and third book of poetry since this one.

*Helgason, Gail. Swimming into Darkness. Coteau, 2001. A fine first novel by Edmonton writer Helgason. Weaves  Saskatchewan history into a girlhood memoir.

*Huston, Nancy. PlainSong. Harper, 1993. Won the Governor General’s Award. Set in southern Alberta. The history of a place and family in an extended letter to the grandfather.

*Johnston, Wayne. The Navigator of New York. Knopf, 2002.

——–The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. Vintage, 1999. Five decades of Newfoundland history and a fine fiction.

*Keefer, Janice Kulyk. The Green Library. HarperCollins, 1996. A Toronto woman seeks her origins in  Ukraine.

Kenyon, Jane. Otherwise: New and Selected Poems. Graywolf, 1996. Like Miriam Mandel, Kenyon unmasks the face of depression, though her writing covers a hundred other subjects.

Kincaid, Jamaica.  The Autobiography of my Mother.  Farrar Straus, 1996.  Kincaid takes liberties with the meaning of autobiography.  See also A Small Place and Annie John. From Jamaica, now in Vermont.

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. Harper, 1998.  A story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, an evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in l959. The first novel that I know of that dramatizes the world of the evangelical missionary (and does not let him speak).

(Kingsolver has also just published (08) a non-fiction book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – which is her family’s decision to eat only locally grown food for a year.)

*Kogawa, Joy. Obasan. Penguin, 1983. The first piece of Canadian writing to speak of the relocation of the Japanese in WWII – from Vancouver to Alberta. Poetic prose worthy of comparison to Woolf’s The Waves  and Robinson’s Housekeeping.

*Laurence, Margaret. A Bird in the House.  McClelland &Stewart, 1985. The ‘Vanessa’ stories – a girlhood in Manitoba.

——–The Diviners. McClelland, 1974. Her last novel.

——–The Stone Angel. McClelland, 1964. Perhaps the most studied text in Canadian literature, and the most famous opening line: Above the town, on the hillbrow, the stone angel used to stand.

*MacDonald, Anne Marie.  Fall on Your Knees.  1996.  Cape Breton setting.  BeginsThey’re all dead now.

*MacLeod, Alistair. As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories. M & S, l986. Cape Breton Island setting. Read this aloud – it’s oral storytelling, on the page.

——–No Great Mischief. M & S 1999.  Long-awaited novel.

*Michaels, Anne.  Fugitive Pieces. McClelland & Stewart, l996. The legacy of WWII on people, on place.  see also her poetry collection The Weight of Oranges.  McClelland & Stewart, l997.

*Miseck, Lorie. the blue not seen. Rowan Books, l997. Image, metaphor, landscape, memory, meaning: “This is for the woman who will not read this poem….for her/ and the others like her/ who’ve stood on the edge/ of landscape mapping a way in/and out.” Nominated for best first book Alberta Writers Guild 98.

——–A Promise of Salt. Coteau, 2002. An eloquent prose memoir on the murder of the author’s sister, and its aftermath. Winner of the Writers Guild of Alberta non-fiction book prize, 2003.

*Mistry, Rohinton. Such a Long Journey, A Fine Balance  and Family Matters. His titles describe his work. His origin is India; his home is now in Canada.

*Munro, Alice. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. pb 2002.

——–Lives of Girls and Women. New American Library, 1974. There is a change coming in the lives of girls and women, and it is up to us to make it happen.

——–The Moons of Jupiter. Macmillan, 1982.

——–The Progress of Love. Penguin, 1987.

——–Who Do You Think You Are? Macmillan, 1978.

Does anyone deny that Munro is the best short story writer in Canada? Study every story for technique.

Naslund, Sena Jeter. Ahab’s Wife.  William Morrow, l999.  Well someone was sure to do it: the world as seen by the wife of Captain Ahab in Melville’s Moby Dick.  See also, perhaps, The Red Tent, for another sample of re-entering known, but unwritten, women’s lives. And Lavinia by Ursula De Guin (2008) which gives voice to an ancient Roman woman.

*O’Hagan, Howard. Tay John, 1960. This unusual novel is perhaps one of the first to mythologize the Canadian west in a fully realized fiction. Listen to the opening lines “The time of this in its beginning, in men’s time, is 1880 in the summer, and its place is the Athabaska valley, near its head in the mountains, and along the other waters falling into it, and beyond them a bit, over Yellowhead Pass to the westward, where the Fraser, rising in a lake, flows through wilderness and canyon down to the Pacific. In those days Canada was without a railway across the mountains…”  Pure poetry.

*Ondaatje, Michael.  The English Patient (and so many other major works. Look at Coming Through Slaughter for an innovative blend of history and fiction).

Reynolds, Sheri. The Rapture of Canaan. Berkley Books, 1995. A religious setting in the south.

Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea.. The story of the mad wife of Rochester from Jane Eyre. Andre Deutsch, l966.

*Robinson, Eden. Monkey Beach   2000. West coast native writer’s first novel.

Robinson, Marilynne. Housekeeping. Bantam, 1982. Read this not once but half a dozen times. Set in Idaho.  The lines are prose; the sound is poetry.  Her second book is Gilead, released 30 years after the first.

*Rule, Jane. Desert of the Heart. Talonbooks, 1977.

——–Inland Passage and Other Stories. Lester & Orpen Denys, 1985. Rule has written of lesbian life since she first began writing. Lives and writes on Gabriola Island, B.C. Canada.

Saramago, Jose. Blindness. Saramago is Portugal’s Nobel Prize Winner in l998. Blindness is a chilling eloquent parable.  Watch not only the plot, but the style. A movie has just been made of it (2008).

*Sawai, Gloria.  A Song for Nettie Johnson.  Coteau, 2002. Stories  set in the Saskatchewan of the author’s chlldhood. Winner of the 2002 Governor General’s award for  Fiction.


Shapiro, Myra. I’ll See You Thursday. Blue Sofa Press, 1996. First book of  poetry published well after the New York writer was 50. Look for her memoir: Four Sublets (2007). Available through Amazon.

*Shields, Carol. Unless. 2002. ‘Happiness is not what I thought. Happiness is the lucky pane of glass you carry in your head. It takes all your cunning just to hang on to it, and once it’s smashed you have to move into a different sort of life.’ p  1. Shields was born in Illiinois and lived and wrote in Winnipeg until her untimely death to cancer in 2003. She was so loved, and so awarded, and so widely read.

——–Stone Diaries. 1993. This fiction of a diary cast in stone was short-listed for the prestigious Booker Prize in England. Shields writes in Winnipeg.

——–Small Ceremonies. McGraw–Hill Ryerson, 1976.

——–Various Miracles. Stoddart, 1985.

——–  Larry’s Party. Random House, 1997.

Szymborska, Wislawa. View with a Grain of Sand: Harcourt Brace, 1993. The Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet.

*Smart, Elizabeth. The Assumption of the Rogues and Rascals. J. Cape, 1978.

——–By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. 1945; rpt Granada, 1980.

Smart’s life is as exotic as her prose. Toronto-born.

*Stegner, Wallace. Wolf Willow: A history, a story, and a memory of the last plains frontier. Viking, 1955. Stegner grew up on the border of Montana and Saskatchewan. No Canadian writer, or reader, wants to be unaware of this thoughtful and tender text.

*Story, Gertrude. The Way to Always Dance. Thistledown, 1983.

——–It Never Pays to Laugh too Much. Thistledown, 1984.

Short stories set in the German Lutheran settlements of Saskatchewan

*Thomas, Audrey. Songs My Mother Taught Me. Talonbooks, 1973. Part memoir, part novel of an American upbringing by a landed immigrant in Canada.

*van Herk, Aritha. Places Far From Ellesmere. Red Deer College Press, 1990.

——–Judith. McClelland & Stewart, 1978. A first novel and winner of the Seal prize.

——–Tent Peg. McClelland & Stewart, 1982. Look for narrative strategy here. A young woman disguises herself as a man in order to be hired as a cook in the Yukon one summer.

——–Mavericks: An  Incorrigible History of Alberta. Penguin, 2001. 405 pages on the history of one province (ignore the quite unfortunate opening page).

Walcott, Derek.  Omeros.  Homer rewritten in the Caribbean by a recent Nobel prize winner.

*Watson, Sheila. The Double Hook. McClelland & Stewart, (l959)1966.

——–Four Stories. Coach House, 1979.

The Double Hook made eloquent myth out of Canadian place and time, and gave its author a permanent place in Canadian literary history. Always Someone to Kill the Doves is a biography of Watson. She taught at the U of Alberta for many years.

*Wharton, Thomas. Icefields. NeWest, 1995. Ice as metaphor and place and character. Set in Jasper, Alberta. A highly successful and recent first novel. Read it with Alberta Huston’s PlainSong. Wharton is now professor of Creative Writing at the U of Alberta.

*Wiebe, Rudy. Peace Shall Destroy Many. McClelland & Stewart, 1962. A young Mennonite on the Canadian prairie struggles with the community and its principles during WWII. Wiebe has also told the story of Big Bear in The Temptations of Big Bear and of the Metis people in The Scorched Wood People.

*Wilson, Ethel. Swamp Angel. McClelland & Stewart, (1954)1982.Vancouver Wilson wrote her first novel after the age of 50. It’s never too late…

*Wiseman, Adele. The Sacrifice. Macmillan, 1979.A Jewish setting in Winnipeg.

——–Memoirs of a Book Molesting Childhood and Other Essays. OUP, 1987.


It is stories that save us. Sandra Benitez


I shall say what I feel and I shall talk about myself unto the last page, and I shall make no apologies. Elizabeth Smart


Allison, Dorothy. Two of Three Things I Know For Sure. Dutton, 1995. see also Bastard out of Carolina.

Anderson, Joan. A year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman. 1999.

——–An Unfinished Marriage, 2002. Anderson leaves her husband and home for a year and spends it on Cape Cod. The second volume is the year of her return to her marriage.

Barnes, Kim. In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in an Unknown Country. 1996. A Pentecostal childhood.

——–Hungry for the World: A Memoir. 2000.

Beach, Sylvia. Shakespeare & Company.  Harcourt, 1956. Paris in the 20’s. Beach came from New Jersey. There is still a bookstore of this name on the same site in Paris, though without Beach, it is of a different character altogether.

Beckerman, Ilene. Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Algonquin, 1995. A drawing, a story, a drawing, a story. Inventive in conception and design.

Blackburn, Julia. Daisy Bates in the Desert. A Woman’s Life Among the Aborigines. Vintage Books, 1994. Blackburn writes both as herself, and as Daisy Bates, a historical figure.

Bowen, Stella. Drawn from Life: A Memoir. Collins, 1941. Australian born painter, partner of Ford Madox Ford, a witness of the Paris of the 20’s and 30’s.

*Butala, Sharon. The Perfection of the Morning: An Apprenticeship in Nature. Harper, 1994.  See also Wild Stone Heart: An Apprentice in the Field,  2000.

*Campbell, Maria.  Halfbreed.  McClelland & Stewart, 1973. I believe that one day, very soon, people will set aside their differences and come together as one. Maybe not because we love one another, but because we need each other to survive.

*Carr, Emily. The Book of Small.  Clarke Irwin, 1942. Carr was contemporary with the Group of Seven, though largely ignored by them. See the poet Kate Braid and Inward to the Bones: Georgia O’Keefe’s Journey with Emily Carr, and the massive critical  text on Carr, O’Keefe and Kahlo Places of their Own by Sharyn Rohlfsen Udall. Yale U Press, 2000.

Chicago, Judy. Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist. 1975. This includes discussion of her brilliant show, The Dinner Party.

Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street.  A patchwork of scenes from her Mexican/American childhood. A model for a  first entry into memoir  for all writers.

Conway, Jill Ker.The Road from Coorain. Vintage,1990. From New South Wales to Smith College. See also When Memory Speaks, a rigorous look at the writing of women’s lives.

*Cornwall, Claudia. Letter from Vienna: A Daughter Uncovers Her Family’s Jewish Past. Douglas & McIntyre, 1995. A B.C. Book Prize Winner.

Dillard, Annie. The Annie Dillard Reader:  includes An American Childhood.  Harper, 1994.

Doig, Ivan. Heart Earth. Penquin, 1993.  Montana writer’s memoir of his mother. Innovative use of the mother’s actual  letters juxtaposed against the author’s own memories.

Duba, Ursula. Tales from a Child of the Enemy.  Twin Soul, l995. Poems from a WWII German childhood. This was self-published, and then put out by Penguin.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Wait Til Next Year. Simon & Schuster, 1997. A Pulitzer Prize-winner. Girlhood on Long Island in the 50’s. One of the best examples of memoir’s possibility: to evoke the historical, political, religious and family circles in which the narrator lived, including the world of baseball.

Hahn, Hannelore. On the Way to Feed the Swans.  Tenth House Enterprises, l982. Hahn is founder and director of the International Women’s Writing Guild. A Jewish-German childhood, and escape.

*Harries, Joyce. Girdles and other Harnesses I Have Known. Lone Pine, 2000. A collage of memory and invention. Also poetry in Blue Moon.

*Heimstra, Mary. Gully Farm. McClelland&Stewart,1955. Author’s memoir of the Barr Colony settlement in Saskatchewan at the turn of the century.

Helmersen, Hanna. War and Innocence: A Young Girl’s Life in Occupied Norway (1940-1945). Hara, 2000. Notice how she weaves historical summary and personal history.

hooks, bell. Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood.  Henry Holt, 1996. Read for strategies of composing memoir; read for pleasure. Read with The House on Mango Street  (Sandra Cisneros).

Jones, Hettie. How I became Hettie Jones.  Grove Press, 1990. Memoir of Manhattan in the late 1950’s.

Klima, Ivan. The Spirit of Prague. Granta Books, 1994. “I am a native of Prague. I was born in the middles of the Great Depression and on the eve of a political crisis that shook the world.”

Memory has its own story to tell. Tobias Wolfe

Koller, Alice.  The Stations of Solitude. Bantam, 1990. “A station is a stopping place.” Written after a winter alone on the shore of Nantucket.

Lively, Penelope.  Oleander, Jacaranda: a Childhood Perceived.  Viking, l994.  A girl’s childhood set in Egypt in the 30’s and 40’s by a former winner of the Booker Prize.

McBride, James. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother. 1996.

McCarthy, Mary. Memories of a Catholic Girlhood.  Harcourt, 1957. By the author of The Group.  “Probably the most important work she ever did was to attempt to tell the truth about her own life.” F. Fitzgerald.

McCourt, Frank.  Angela’s Ashes.  Scribner, 1996. Irish origins. A Pulitzer prize winner.

*McKay, Jean. Gone to Grass. Coach House Press, 1983. Canadian daughter of a United church minister. Another model for making memoir.

McPherson, Sigrid R.  The Refiner’s Fire: Memoirs of a German Girlhood. Inner City Books, 1992. McPherson’s writing is influenced by Jungian analysis.

*Meigs, Mary. Lily Briscoe: A Self–Portrait: an Autobiography. Talonbooks, 1981. Meigs plays herself in the magnificent film Company of Strangers. Lily Briscoe was published in her sixties. Meigs died in 2002.

*Miseck, Lorie. The Promise of Salt. 2002. A memoir, a prose-poem, a  lament. Winner of the Alberta Writers Guild non-fiction award in May 2003.

*Morck, Irene. Five Pennies: A Prairie Boy’s Story. 1999. This names an Alberta childhood, but demonstrates the hazards of writing someone else’s story as memoir.

O’Faolain, Nuala. Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman. 1996. Nuala died of cancer in May of 2008, far too early.

The page waits, pretending to be blank. Margaret Atwood

*Ondaatje, Michael. Running in the Family.  McClelland & Stewart, 1993. Set in Sri Lanka.

*Roy, Gabrielle. The Road Past Altamont. McClelland & Stewart, 1966. Four memoir pieces.

——–Where Nests the Water Hen.  Memoir of teaching in Manitoba.McClelland & Stewart, 1984.

*Salverson, Laura Goodman. Confessions of an Immigrant’s Daughter. University of Toronto Press, 1981. An Icelandic girlhood in Winnipeg.

*Schultz, Judy. Mamie’s Childrren: Three Generations of Prairie Women. 1997. There are too few Canadian memoirs by women (too few Canadian memoirs at all.) This was justly praised, and honored.

*Sullivan, Rosemary. By Heart: The Life of Elizabeth Smart. Flamingo, 1991. Smart wrote By Grand Central Station I sat Down and Wept. See also Sullivan’s anthologies of Canadian Women’s short stories.

*Sullivan, Rosemary. Shadow Maker: The Life of Gwendolyn MacEwen. Harper , 1995. MacEwen has a distinct, utterly original, poetic voice. A Canadian, who died either of overdose or alcohol, far too young.

Tiberghien, Susan.  Looking for Gold.  Daimon, l995.  A year in Jungian analysis.

Ullman, Liv. Changing.  Knopf, 1976. A Norwegian girlhood by the actress married for a time to Ingmar Bergman. (see his novel Private Confessions)

*Wah, Fred. Diamond Grill. NeWest, 1996. The son of Chinese and Swedish parents writes his memoir set in Nelson, B.C.

Wilde-Menozzi, Wallis. Mother Tongue: An American Life In Italy. 1998. The writer, a poet, writes an astute analysis of relocation, and its effect on language and longing.

Young, Carrie. Prairie Cooks: Glorified Rice, Three-Day Buns, and Other Recipes and Reminiscences. 1993. Set in the Dakotas. See also Nothing to Do but Stay.

Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness. The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, knows how difficult it is.  Willa Cather


NON-FICTION: Essay, Argument, Information

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous.  Vintage, l997. “This book ponders the violent disconnection of the body from the natural world and what this means about how we live and die in it.”

Angier, Natalie. Woman: An Intimate Geography. Anchor Books, l999. “If Our Bodies, Ourselves has become the Bible of women’s bodies, let Woman: An Intimate Geography be our Shakespeare.”  Peggy Orenstein.

*Blodgett, Astrid, McIntyre & Pullan. Recipes for Roaming: Adventure Food for the Canadian Rockies. Babes in the Wood Press, 1996. Recipes contributed by the Grant MacEwan Mountain Club.

*Brandt, Di.  Wild Mother Dancing.  U of Manitoba, l993. Taken from her thesis which studies the absence  of  the  mother in fiction. See also by Brandt: questions I asked my mother.


*Brossard, Nicole. The Aerial Letter. Trans. Marlene Wildeman. Toronto, The Women’s Press, 1988. Canada’s foremost Quebec writer.  Read her with Adrienne Rich.

*Crozier, Lorna, ed. Desire in Seven Voices: Dionne Brand, Bonnie Burnard, Lorna Crozier, Evelyn Lau, Shani Mootoo, Susan Muwgrave, Carol Shields. Douglas & McIntyre, 1999. A fine collection on a subject rarely addressed before: the nature of women’s desire.

Denby, David. Great Books. Touchstone, 1996. The author returns to Humanities classes, and reflects.

Ensler, Eve. The Vagina Monologues.  Villard, 1998. A remarkable text in both content and design, now enjoying stage performances around the world.

Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Harvard, 1982. A ground–breaking text. See also her most recent Meeting at the Crossroads: Turning Points in Girls’ and Women’s Lives. Ballantine, l992.

*Kostash, Myrna. Long Way from Home:  The Story of the Sixties Generation in Canada.  Lorimer & Co1980. Essential reading for Canadians as well as Americans. And she’s written a dozen other ‘creative non-fiction’ texts.

Pipher, Mary. Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. Ballantine, 1994.

Showalter, E. ed.The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature & Theory. Pantheon, 1985.

Taylor, Shelley. The Tending Instinct. How Nurturing Is Essential to Who We Are and How We live. ‘Social  ties are the cheapest medicine we have.’  Recent research on the ‘tend and befriend’ response to stress (as opposed to ‘fight and flight’) – and of particular interest to women.

Williams, Terry Tempest. Leap. Pantheon Books, 2000. Leap is an unexpected pilgrimage through the landscape of a painting, Hieronymus Bosch’s 15th c The Garden of Delights. See also Williams’ essays on the southwest: Red. She is from Utah, a Mormon, and a strong articulate voice as a naturalist.

*Woodman, Marion. The Ravaged Bridegroom: Masculinity in Women  and Addiction to Perfection  and The Pregnant Virgin.  All these are Jungian in conception and theme. She also has a journal of her battle with cancer: Bone: Dying Into Life – in which she constantly tells the doctor that she will have to ‘dream on it’ before she decides what treatments to follow. She is so respected, and has developed a superb program of movement and creativity.

Your first job is to get your own story straight. Natalie Goldberg



Journal Writing/ Life Writing

Baldwin, Christina. Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest. Bantam, 1991.

Metzger, Deena. Writing For Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds. Harper San Francisco, l992.  A journal writing guide.

Progoff, Ira.  At a Journal Workshop: Writing to Access the Power of the Unconscious and Evoke Creative Ability.  Tarcher, 1992. First published in 1975.  Progoff, who studied with Jung, has developed a systematic use of journal work for integration, transformation and healing.  Fundamental to understanding the process used in the Writing Adrift workshop, and to understanding the function of writing in healing the self.  This book should not (cannot?) be used fully without participating in a Progoff workshop. Write to Dialogue House, 80 East Eleventh Street, NY, NY 10003 for time and place.

Rico, Gabriele. Writing the Natural Way: Using Right–Brain Techniques to  Release Your Expressive Powers. Tarcher, 1983.

Journal Writers

*Chown, Alice. The Stairway. Diana Chown, ed. (Cornhill Press, 1921.) University of Toronto Press, 1988. A recovery of an out–of–print book by the author’s niece. Alice Chown was single, educated, travelled, feminist, pacifist, Canadian, Methodist––and an astute journal writer.

Lifshin, Lyn, ed. Ariadne’s Thread: A Collection of Women’s Journals. Harper, 1982

Sarton, May. Journal of a Solitude. Norton, 1973.

——–I Knew a Phoenix: Sketches for an Autobiography. Norton, 1959.

Sarton made an art out of living in solitude, and an art of writing about it.

*Schiwy, Marlene. A Voice of Her Own: Women and the Journal-Writing Journey.  Simon & Schuster, 1996.

See also Schiwy’s recent Simple Days.  She writes and teaches in Vancouver.

Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge:  An Unnatural History of Family and Place. Vintage, 1991. Williams is a naturalist in Utah; in Refuge, she records her mother’s dying days, accompanied by a record of the Great Salt Lake’s course of flooding, and near-disaster for wild life.

Wolfe, Christa. Cassandra. A Novel and Four Essays. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984. This novel, which gives voice to the Cassandra of Trojan War fame, is accompanied by the journal of the writer as she wrote Cassandra.

Any story told twice is a fiction.  Grace Paley


Ascher, Carol, Louise DeSalvo and Sara Ruddick. Between Women: Biographers, Novelists, Critics, and Artists Write About Their Work on Women. Routledge, 1993.

Bauermeister, Erica, Larsen & Smith ed. 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide. Penquin, 1994.

—–& Holly Smith. Let’s Hear it for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Ages 2 – 14. Penquin, 1997.

Dubois, Ia and K Hanson. Echo: Scandinavian Stories about Girls.  Seal, 2000.

*Edwards, C. and Stewart, K. ed.  Wrestling With the Angel: Women Reclaiming Their Lives.  Red Deer College Press, 2000. ‘No Time to Die’ (Scarfe) is in here.

Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar, eds. The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. Norton, 1985. The work of Gilbert and Gubar is a story in itself––look for everything else they have edited––The Madwoman in the Attic, for example.

*Greer, David. Simple Pleasures: Soothing Suggestions and Small Comforts for Living Well Year Round.  Conari, 1996. Edited by David but written by dozens of contributors. (Edmonton writers Scarfe and Candace Jane Dorsey are in here.)

Hanson, Katherine, ed. An Everyday Story: Norwegian Women’s Fiction. Seal Press, 1995. Works from l850 to the present. Read the writer who influenced Ibsen, in my opinion: Camilla Collett.

Harjo, Joy and Gloria Bird. Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America. Norton, 1997. A terrific anthology which ignores the boundary of country and includes a personal statement from each writer represented.

Hasselstrom, Linda et al. Woven on the Wind: Women Write About Friendship in the Sagebrush West. Houghton Mifflin Co, 2001. Two Saga Seminars writers are in here: Lillian Vilborg and Faye Schrater.

Howe, Florence, ed. No More Masks! 20th Century Women Poets. Harper, 1993.

*Ondaatje, Michael, ed. From Ink Lake. Canadian Stories. Knopf, 1990. A good collection.

Sewell, Marilyn, ed. Claiming the Spirit Within: A Sourcebook of Women’s Poetry. Beacon Press, 1996.

—–Cries of the Spirit: A Celebration of Women’s Spirituality in prose and poetry. Beacon Press. 1991.

*Shields, Carol and Marjorie Anderson. Dropped Threads: What We Aren’t Told. Vintage, 2001. A fine collection of life-writing by women. The second volume came out in 2003.

Simpkinson, Anne and Charles. Sacred Stories: A Celebration of the Power of Stories to Transform and Heal. Harper, 1993.

——Nourishing the Soul: Discovering the Sacred in Everyday Life. Harper, 1995.

Each of these includes wonderful essays by various writers on the power of story.

*Smith, Barbara. Passion Scandal: Great Canadian Love Stories. Detselig, 1997.

*Stovel, Bruce and Lynn Weinlos Gregg. Ed. The Talk in Jane Austen. A lovely collection of essays about Jane Austen. U of A Press, 2002.

*Sullivan, Rosemary, ed. Stories by Canadian Women. OUP, 1984. See also the second volume.

Walker, Barbara, ed. The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Harper & Row. 1983.

——–The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. Harper & Row, 1988.

ON LANDSCAPE (one in particular: the SOUTHWEST)

The Southwest


Saga Seminars has presented a week-long workshop in New Mexico since 2001, the first at Sunrise Springs south of Santa Fe, and the following ones at Ghost Ranch, north of Santa Fe. These books are ones I collected during these dry, windy weeks of teaching in the southwest landscape, a list which includes several ‘lone ranger’ women artists who came to the southwest as adults, whose work flourished there, and who remained. See in particular O’Keefe, Luhan, Colter, Austin.


Alvord, Lori Arviso. The Scalpel and the Silver Bear: The First Navajo Woman Surgeon Combines Western Medicine and Traditional Healing. Bantam, 1999.

Barkan, Rhoda and Peter Sinclaire. From Santa Fe to O’Keefe Country: A One Day Journey Through the Soul of New Mexico. Ocean Tree Books, 1997.

*Braid, Kate. Inward to the Bone. A Canadian poet writes a hugely innovative  text of an invented friendship between the American painter Georgia O’Keefe and the Canadian painter Emily Carr. If you read only one book on this list, read this!


Cather, Willa. Death Comes for the Archbishop. A fictionalized account of the early church leader (from France) in the southwest. Cather also has scenes from the southwest in the ‘portrait of the female artist’ called Song of the Lark.

Church, Peggy Pond. The House at Otowi Bridge: The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos. U of New Mexico Press, 1959.

Dewitt, Miriam Hapgood.  Taos: A Memory. U of New Mexico Press, 1992.  Dewitt was sent by her parents to Mabel Dodge Luhan in her late teens, and struck up a life-long friendship. Dewitt died in 1990.

Ellis, Reuben, ed. Stories and Stone: Writing the Anasazi Homeland. Pruett, l997.

Eisler, Benita. O’Keefe & Stieglitz: An American Romance. Penguin, 1991.

Gabriel, Kathryn. Marietta Wetherill: Life with the Navajos in Chaco Canyon. U of New Mexico Press, l991.

Grattan, Virginia. Mary Colter: Builder Upon the Red Earth. Colter was born in Minneapolis, I believe, and

spent most of her adult life designing buildings for the national parks, in keeping with the original people’s designs.

Hillerman, Tony. ed. The Spell of New Mexico. U of New Mexico Press, 1976. An anthology of writings including D.H. Lawrence and Jung. Hillerman is a prolific novelist of texts set in the southwest.

Luhan, Mabel Dodge. Edge of Taos Desert.  U of New Mexico Press, l937. Luhan came out to the southwest in l917 and was a major influence and force in the cultural life of northern New Mexico. This is one of several volumes of memoir.

*Murrell, John. The Faraway Nearby. Blizzard Publishing, 1996. A Canadian playwright’s text on Georgia O’Keefe’s last years.

Nealson, Christina. Living on the Spine: A Woman’s Life in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Westcliffe Publishers, 1997. A lovely structure in this book. She has also written Sacred Places of New Mexico.

Osborn, Karen. Between Earth and Sky. 1996. Written as a novel, entirely as letters between a woman settler of the southwest and her sister in the east.

Patten, Christine Taylor  and Alvaro Cardona-Hine. Miss O’Keefe. U of New Mexico Press, 1992. A memoir by the nurse/artist who cared for O’Keefe in l983 when O’Keefe was 96.

Palmer, Gabrielle, et al. Cambios: The Spirit of Transformation in Spanish Colonial Art. U of NM Press, 1993.

———Sculpture in the Kingdom of Quito. U of NM Press, 1987. This is Gabrielle’s thesis, a study of work not seen before by a researcher. Some of you met Gabrielle at the 2001 NM Saga Session.

Priestley, J.B. and Jacquetta Hawkes. Journey Down a Rainbow. Penquin, l955. An old classic, where JB and his wife Jacquetta alternate writing essays (rather like letters to each other) in their visit to the southwest many years ago. She goes to the old southwest (she’s an archaeologist) and he goes to the new southwest.

Waters, Frank. The Woman at Otowi Crossing.  1966. The story of Helen Chambers  (in ‘real life’ Edith Warner) whose coffee shop served  the scientists who moved into Los Alamos in the 40’s.

Williams, Terry Tempest. Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert. Pantheon, 2001. Small essays, big moments.

———An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field. Vintage, 1994.

——— Refuge: An Unnatural History of Time and Place (set beside the Great Salt Lake)

New York

Ishac, Allan. New York’s 50 Best Places to Find Peace and Quiet. City & Company, NY. 1995. A gem of a small book, describing the unlikely: solitude and silence in New York City.

When the writing starts, listen. Marianne Moore


Aron, Elaine. The Highly Sensitive Person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you. Broadway Books, 1996. She has also written The Highly Sensitive Person in Love.

Anderson, Susan. The Journey from Abandonment to healing: Surviving through – and recovering from – the five stages that accompany the loss of love. Berkley, 2000. Well the title says it all…

*Arnott, Joanne.  Breasting the Waves: On Writing and Healing. Press Gang, 1995.

Bass, Ellen and Laura Davis.  The Courage to Heal. Harper & Row, 1988.

—–ed.  I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Harper, 1983.

Colbin, Annemarie.  Food and Healing.  Ballantine, l996. By the founder of the Natural Gourmet Cookery School for Food and Health in NY City. She argues we must take responsibility for our own health and rely less on modern medicine which focuses on cure rather than prevention.

Cuttin, Linda Katherine. Memory Slips: A Memoir of Music and Healing. Harper, l997.  A pianist who experienced, and recovered from, crippling depression.

*Danica, Elly.  Don’t: A Woman’s Word. Gynergy, 1988. A horrific memoir set – and lived – in Saskatchewan.

——.  Beyond Don’t:  Dreaming Past the Dark. Gynergy, 1996. A memoir narrative describing the outcome of having broken the silence in Don’t.

Danquah, Meri Nana-Ama. Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Through Depression. Norton, l998.

*DeMarco, Dr. Carolyn. Take Charge of Your Body. 1989. The Well Women Press, 1994.

*Edwards, Wynne & Shirley Serviss, ed. Study in Grey: Women Writing about Depression.  Rowan Books, l999. First person accounts.

Eisenberg, David. Encounters with Qi: Exploring Chinese Medicine. Penquin, 1985. One of the earliest narratives of Chinese medicine by a western doctor observer.

Jahauer, Cathi. My Sister’s Bones. Delacorte  Press, l996. One of the few fictions, or few sister’s stories, written about anorexia.

Harner, Michael. The Way of the Shaman. Harper, l980.

*Harpur, Tom.  The Uncommon Touch: An Investigation of Spiritual Healing.  McClelland & Stewart. l994.

Herman, Judith Lewis. Trauma and Recovery. Harper, l992.  One of the best on trauma’s aftermath.

Ingerman, Sandra. Welcome Home: Life after Healing. Harper, l993. See also Soul Retrieval. Read with Michael Harner.  Ancient shamanic practice brought into modern use.

———–Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins. Three Rivers Press, 2000. Ingerman lives in Santa Fe, and teaches all over the world. You might want to read articles on her website.

Jamison, Kay Redfield. An Unquiet Mind. A Memoir of Moods and Madness. Vintage, 1996.  Redfield is a professor at Johns Hopkins University, and bravely writes her own story of depression.

*Laidlaw, Toni Ann and Cheryl Malmo. Healing Voices: Feminist Approaches to Therapy With Women. Jossey–Bass, 1990. Case studies of individuals in therapy with the author are accompanied by first–person accounts written by the individuals themselves. A first of its kind. Malmo is an Edmonton feminist therapist. See also their fine collection of first-person essays by women, Consciousness Rising.

Lederman, Ellen. Vacations That Can Change Your Life. Sourcebooks, 1996.

Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals. Spinsters Ink. 1980. “Should cancer of the breast be in my future, Lorde’s words of love and wisdom and courage will be beside me to give me strength”. Alice Walker

Miller, Alice.  The Drama of the Gifted Child.  Harper, 1981. If you read only one book on this list, read this. And read all the others of Alice Miller you can find.

Murdock, Maureen.  The Heroine’s Journey.  Ballantine, 1994.

——-The Hero’s Daughter: Through myth, story, and Jungian psychology, an exploration of the shadow side of father love. Fawcett, 1994. Murdock teaches at Pacific Institute in Santa Barbara, CA.

Myss, Caoline. Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing. Three Rivers Press, l996. A highly respected ‘medical intuitive’.  She has many others…

Northrup, Christiane, M.D. Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing. Bantam, 1994.

Phillips, Jane. The Magic Daughter: A Memoir of Living with Multiple Personality Disorder. Penquin, 1995.

*Potvin, Liza.  White Lies (for my mother).  NeWest, 1992. Poetic prose, wrenching.

*Rand, Evangeline. Imagination and the Healing Process. Sigo, l989.

——–. Recovering Feminine Spirituality: The Mysteries and the Mass as Symbols of Individuation. 1997. Rand is a Jungian analyst practicing in Edmonton.

Remen, Rachel Naomi. Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal.  Riverhead Books, 1996. A medical doctor’s account of the healing power of story.

Silverman, Sue William. Because I Remember Terror Father, I Remember You. U of Georgia Press, l999. This memoir of incest and healing won the Associated Writing Programs Award for Creative Non-Fiction in 98.

Simpkinson, Charles and Anne, ed.  Sacred Stories: A Celebration of the Power of Story to Transform and Heal.  Harper San Francisco, 1993.

Storr, Anthony. Solitude: A Return to the Self. The Free Press, 1988. An eloquent essay.

Styron, William. Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. Vintage, l992. By the author of Sophie’s Choice.

Wisechild, Louise.  The Obsidian Mirror: An Adult Healing From Incest. Seal Press, 1988.

———ed.  She Who is Lost is Remembered: Healing from Incest Through Creativity.  Seal Press, 1991.

Women’s Health Collective. Our Bodies, Ourselves. 1998 (first revised edition in the last ten years).

*Woodman, Marion. Bone: Dying Into Life. Viking, 2000. The journal of her experience of uterine cancer by a renowned Jungian analyst.  Look in your local library for videos of workshops she offers, often with Robert Bly.

——–. Leaving My Father’s House: A Journey to Conscious Femininity. Shambhala, l992.


Abraham, Pearl. The Romance Reader. Riverhead Books, l995. This is a novel,  one of the few fictions I know of the portrays a girlhood in the Hasidic tradition. Read it with Sheri Reynolds The Rapture of Canaan – a Protestant novel of girlhood set in the south. Read it with The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, a text that looks at Protestantism’s evangelical urge, and its effect on the children of the evangelist, to say nothing of the people in his congregation.

Andrew, Elizabeth. Swinging on the Garden Gate: A Spiritual Memoir.  Skinner House Books, 2000. “There was a time when I was not yet out of the closet when I’d stand for hours scanning the bookstore shelves for a book that dealt honestly with both sexuality and spirituality, that might reconcile the experience of being bisexual with the Christian faith. …The gap on the bookshelves gave me a mandate: Walk into your longing. Write this book.”

Bal, Mieke. Lethal Love: Feminist Literary Readings of Biblical Love Stories. Indiana UP, 1987.

Bergman, Ingmar. Private Confessions: a Novel. 1996. This may be identified as a novel, but it mirrors closely the author’s upbringing in religious life (or rather his mother’s upbringing.)

Booth, Father Leo. When God Becomes a Drug: Breaking the Chains of Religious Addiction & Abuse. Tarcher, 1991. ‘If the church has taken God away from you, Booth’s book can be your source of reconnection to wholeness….’ The Phoenix.

Broner, E.M.  The Women’s Haggadah. Harper, 1993. Miriam gets equal time to Moses here, at last.

Buchmann, Christina and Celina Spiegel, eds. Out of the Garden: Women Writers on the Bible. Fawcett Columbine, 1994.

Christ, Carol P.  Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest. Beacon, 1979.

Christ, Carol and Judith Plaskow, eds. Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion. 1979, rpt, Harper Collins, 1992.

Craighead, Meinrad. The Mother’s Songs: Images of God the Mother. Paulist Press, 1986.

Diamant, Anita. The Red Tent. Picador, l997. Jacob had a daughter and her name was Dinah. A fully realized novel of her life.

Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schussler. Bread Not Stone: The Challenge of Feminist Biblical Interpretation. Beacon Press, 1984.

——-In Memory of Her: A Feminist Reconstruction of Christian Origins. Crossroad, 1983.

Flinders, Carol. At the Root of this Longing: Reconciling a Spiritual Hunger and a Feminist Thirst. Harper Collins, l998.  “Feminism and spirituality are more than just compatible–they are mutually necessary.”

Gadon, Elinor. The Once and Future Goddess. A Sweeping Visual Chronicle of the Sacred Female and Her Reemergence in the Cultural Mythology of Our Time. Harper, 1989. Richly illustrated, well written.

Gallagher, Nora. Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith. 1998. Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara –  a woman’s story, organized, as you might expect, around the liturgical calendar of the church year.

Hanh, Thich Nhat. Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Bantam, 1991. Born in Vietnam in 1926, the author now lives in France where he has established the contemplative center, Plum Village. A Zen monk, and this volume is only one of many he has eloquently written.

Horsley, Kate. Confessions of a Pagan Nun: A Novel. Shambhala, 2002. A fiction of a 6th century Irish nun.

Kidd, Sue Monk. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine. Harper, 1996. After this memoir, she wrote The Secret Life of Bees (a novel) and is now finishing The Mermaid’s Chair. She has a website: – and many pages written there regarding the act and art of writing. From the US south.

Lane, Belden. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. Oxford, 1998. A visit to Christ Church Monastery in New Mexico is included here.

Lischer, Richard. Open Secrets: A Spiritual Journey Through a Country Church.   Doubleday, 2001. The memoir of a Lutheran clergyman in his first church, southern Illinois in the 60’s.

Pitzele, Peter. Our Father’s Wells.  Harper, l995. I mind the title, but the text is excellent.

Rehmann, Ruth. The Man in the Pulpit: Questions for a Father.  Hanser Verlag, 1979. trans. U of Nebraska, 1997. The daughter of a Lutheran minister remembers her childhood in WWII, and asks searching questions.

Ruether, Rosemary and Eleanor McLaughlin, eds. Women of Spirit: Female Leadership in the Jewish and Christian Traditions. Simon & Schuster, 1979.

Ryan, M.J. A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles. Conari, 1994. (Conari is worth watching as a press. It does many wonderful things. Based in San Francisco).

Some’, Malidoma. Ritual: Power, Healing and Community.  Swan Raven, 1993. The author was raised in the Dagara tribe of West Africa and educated at the Sorbonne. His elders informed him that his life purpose was to translate the way of the Dagara to the west.

——. Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. Tarcher, 1994. The biography of Malidoma Some’.

——. The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual and Community.  Tarcher, 1998.  I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Some’ Sobonfu. The Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient Teachings in the Ways of Relationships. Berkeley Hills Books, l997. She writes the wisdom of her west African Dagara village.

Spong, John Shelby.  Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile. Harper, 1998. The Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. ‘He has been on the leading edge of movements to bring blacks, women, and homosexuals into the full life of his church.’ NY Times.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady and the Revising Committee, Seattle Coalition on Women and Religion. The Woman’s Bible. 1898; rpt. Seattle: Coalition Task Force on Women and Religion, 1974. “We took sweet counsel together” says Stanton, describing the process by which she undertook to “make a commentary on those parts of the Bible directly referring to women. As all such passages combined form but one–tenth of the Scriptures, the undertaking will not be so labourious as one would imagine.” As to the manner of doing the practical work, she writes in her 1895 introduction, “Those who have been engaged this summer have adopted the following plan. Each person purchased two Bibles, ran through them from Genesis to Revelations, marking all the texts that concerned women. The passages were cut out, and pasted in a blank book, and the commentaries then written underneath.”

Tiberghien, Susan. Circling the Center: One Woman’s Encounter with Silent Prayer.  Paulist Press, 2000. See also Susan’s account of a year in Jungian therapy:  Looking for Gold.

Phyllis Trible. Texts of Terror: Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives. Fortress, 1984.

Twain, Mark. The Diary of Adam and Eve. Modern Library Edition, rpt 1996. So witty, and so gentle.

*Vardey, Lucinda. Belonging: A Questioning Catholic Comes to Terms with the Church.  Clarkson Potter, l988.

Whitehead, Sally Lowe.  The Truth Shall Set You Free. Harper Collins, 1997. A memoir of childhood in a fundamentalist protestant tradition, followed by marriage to a man who eventually acknowledges his homosexuality. Sally and her former husband’s loyalty and love for each other permeate every page, and he writes an afterword.


Ajjan, Diana, ed. The Day My Father Died: Women Share Their Stories of Love, Loss and Life.  l994.

Auster, Paul. The Invention of Solitude.  Faber and Faber, 1982. A memoir of a father’s life, anddeath.

Bolen, Jean Shinoda. Close to the Bone: Life Threatening Illness and the Search for Meaning. Simon & Schuster, l996. A contemplation of the journey of the dying, by a Jungian analyst.  An excellent companion for those who accompany the dying.

Brener, AnneMourning & Mitzvah: A Guided Journal for Walking the Mourner’s Path Through Grief to Healing. Jewish Lights Publishing, l993.


Broner, E.M. Mornings and Mourning: A Kaddish Journal.  Harper, l994.

Caine, Lynn.  Being a Widow. Penquin, l988.

Gallagher, Tess. Moon Crossing Bridge. Graywolf Press, 1992.  Gallagher’s poems after the death of her partner, the short story writer Raymond Carver. Do you want me to mourn?/Do you want me to wear black?

Hall, Donald. Without.  Houghton Mifflin,1998. Jane Kenyon’s husband writes poems to her in the year after her untimely death. See also Jane Kenyon’s volumes of poetry.

*Harpur, Tom. Life After Death. McClelland & Stewart, l991.

Levine, Stephen. Healing Into Life and Death.  Doubleday, l987.

Lewis, C.S. A Grief Observed.  Bantam, l963. His journal after the death of his wife.  See the movie Shadowlands. The writer of the Narnia series, and a fine Oxford theologian.

Moffat, Mary Jane, ed. In The Midst of Winter: Selections from the Literature of Mourning.  Vintage, l992.

Noel, Christopher.  in the unlikely event of a water landing: a geography of grief. Random House, l996. Noel’s wife was killed in a car accident. This is his eloquent story of his ‘return’ from the edge of the grave.

Rice, Rebecca.  A Time to Mourn: One Woman’s Journey Through Widowhood.   Penquin, l991.

Smith, Doug.  The Tao of Dying.  Caring Publishing. l994.

Starhawk. The Pagan Book of Living and Dying.  Harper, 1997.


*Forbidden Love: the Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (Lynne Fernie & Arlyn Weissman) 24.95.

*Fiction & Other Truths: a Film About Jane Rule (see the fiction section). (Lynne Fernie & Arlyn Weissman) $19.95.

*Who’s Counting?  Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies & the Global Economy (Terre Nash) $19.95.

*Women & Spirituality Trilogy (Goddess Remembered, The Burning Times, Full Circle) (Donna Read) $49.95 set or $19.95 each.

*Company of Strangers. Cynthia Scott, 1991.


Sage Hill Writing Experience. In Saskatchewan’s Qu’Appelle Valley. Summer workshops in Fiction, Playwriting, Poetry.

Humber School for Writers. A correspondence program for 30 weeks, working with an established author. 1-416-675-5084.

Kripalu Yoga Center. 1-800-741-7353. Box 793. Lenox, MA 01240-0793 For yoga – no better way to support the writer in you.

Writing Seminars Banff Centre for the Arts. Registrar, The Banff Centre.  For writers with published work and a manuscript-in-progress.

Hollyhock A retreat setting offering writing workshops, among others. tel: 1–800–933–6339. Box 127 Manson’s Landing, Cortes Island, BC V0P 1K0.

Omega Institute 260 Lake Drive, Rhinebeck, New York. A retreat setting offering week–long workshops, many of them writing ones. tel: 1–800–944–1001

The International Women’s Writing Guild Box 810 Gracie Station, New York 10028. tel: 212–737–7536. This organization sponsors a one–week workshop/conference for women writers of all abilities at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY every summer. Membership gives six issues of information per year.

Progoff Journal Workshops A process developed by Ira Progoff who was much influenced by Jung. His Center – Dialogue House – is in New York, but there are Progoff workshops all over the country.

Writers Guild of Alberta tel: 780–426–5892 This guild is open to all. You do not need to be published to join. Their newsletter is invaluable for information on readings, courses, competitions, grants.

Poets and Writers magazine––an indispensable resource for writers. 72 Spring St., New York, NY

Writing and Publishing Program Continuing Studies Simon Fraser U at Harbour Centre 515 W. Hastings St., Vancouver BC V6B 5K3

Other Voices takes work from both new and established writers. Submission deadlines are March 15 and September 15. Other Voices, Garneau Box 52059, 8210–109 St. Edmonton AB T6G 2T5.

Annual Women’s Writing Week. Early June. Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta. Edmonton, Alberta. Phone 780-492-3093 to request brochure. Check the website.

SAGA SEMINARS Women and Words Sessions. Run by Eunice Scarfe. Edmonton, Victoria, etc. call 780-433-4687 to be put on the mailing list.



Submit a short cover letter with your name, address and phone.  (I am enclosing a set of three poems for your consideration is long enough.) If you have published previously, say where.  (My last published piece was in Dandelion in 1993 is enough here.)  If you have published nothing, why mention it?  Read at least one copy of a journal before submitting.   Order the guidelines of journals.  Do not call and ask how they like it.  Do not expect a speedy answer––many magazines are run by volunteers.  Do not feel they are judging your writing. Many times they are judging their writing and saying that what you have sent is not what they publish.  It’s easiest for some people to think of acceptances as a kind of lottery.  Do not expect editing of your work.  Do not expect big money––or even any.  Expect rejections. You’re in good company.  Paper your bathroom with them.  Treasure them.  Save them.  Have envelopes ready to re–submit a piece the minute it comes back.  Always send an SASE.    Go to the writing section of bookstores and find books on submitting writing.   Watch for competitions, and requests for submissions to anthologies.  Find these at the back of newsletters and literary magazines.  Design your own anthology. Read How to Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ. Watching for ‘call for submissions’ at the back of the Alberta Writers Guild Newsletter, or in the IWWG newsletter, or advertised in issues of literary magazines, is one of the best ways of finding a home for your pieces. Anthologies are constantly being designed, for which you might have an appropriate piece in your files. Ignore all advice––including this.  Good luck, and remember that choosing to write as a way of keeping fit in your life––without any view to publishing––is as good a reason to write as any––you’ll certainly have fewer rejection letters!


You write and while you write you are ashamed for everyone must think you are a crazy one and yet you write and you know you will be laughed at or pitied by everyone and you are not very certain and you go on writing.  Then someone says ‘yes’ to it and never again can you have completely such a feeling of being afraid and ashamed that you had when you were writing and not any one had said ‘yes’ about the thing. Gertrude Stein

Add your own recommendations:


    When misfortune threatened the Jews it was the custom of a certain Rebbe to go to a particular place in the forest.  There he would light a fire and say a special prayer.  Thus was misfortune averted.

His disciple, in a similar situation, went to the same place in the forest.  He said:  I do not know how to light the fire but I am still able to say the prayer.  And misfortune was averted.

Again a later Rebbe went into the forest and said:  I do not know the prayer and I cannot light the fire but I know the place, and this must be sufficient.  And so it was.

Yet again, it fell to a Rebbe to intercede.  Left with almost nothing of the ritual, he could only plead:  I do not know the prayer and I cannot light the fire; I cannot even find the place in the forest:  All that is left to me is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient.  And it was.

— Traditional


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