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“I, too, want to return the punch”: 10 Inspiring Quotes by International Women Writers

Looking for inspiration? These quotes from international women writers prove that while Women’s History Month may be over, the work is far from done. Read how these women writers got started, learn about their creative process, and explore what they hope to achieve through writing with the quotes below.

Getting Started

Fiction author Gisèle Pineau in 2018. By librairie mollat. (CC by 3.0 license.)


  • Carmen Boullosa, author of “Sleepless Homeland”

    I was a girl that grew up late. So it was my body that changed, my city that changed, and my immediate environment that had been totally broken. And I had no sense of myself or what was around me. And I invented that I was a writer, and that gave me my original bone. I thought I was a writer, and with that fantasy, I built a person around it. (Words Without Borders Campus)

  • Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, author of “Grass”

    Since I was a child, I liked to draw pictures. By the time I was 13 years old, I began dreaming about becoming an artist. I was little, but I had already begun wondering what is left behind after one passes away. I thought nothing lasts forever, not even love. Yet somehow art seems to last. And that’s why I wanted to become an artist. (The Korea Society)

  • Gisèle Pineau, author of “Carnival Life”

    At the age of 10, I began to write because I was a lonely, little girl. I was a little girl who lived in a big family, in a city in the suburbs of Paris, where there was a lot of racism. And I was isolated. I didn’t have any friends. So, literature consoled me, comforted me, permitted me to invent the world, to laugh with my character, to write their destinies. (Radio France International)

The Writing Process

Fiction author Can Xue.
  • Can Xue, author of “The Old Cicada”

    I’ve already been writing for over thirty years, and the writing method I use is precisely the creative method of modern art: Reason monitors from afar. Emotions are completely unleashed. I turn towards the dark abyss of consciousness and plunge in, and in the tension between those two forces, I build the fantastic, idealist plots of my stories. (Asymptote)

  • Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, author of “Bruises”

    I discovered I was a lion. My ancestras were all lions. Toni Morrison remarked on one occasion, ‘I get angry about things. Then, go on and work,’ and I identify myself completely with those words. Anger jumpstarts my work as well as indignation. I, too, want to return the punch. (United Nations program: Women, memory, creativity)

Why They Write

Writing is an attempt to restore moments in our lives that were there and are now gone, that should be there but aren’t. Restoring is more complicated than remembering or lamenting. It’s really a way to make sense of this world. (

There’s a certain way that people must behave in society, a common sense that people recognize as ‘common’. Through my work, I want to shape those perceptions, maybe even flip them around. (The Straits Times)

As a human being, a Black woman, writing helps me to make sense of the world. The more I write, the more I read, the more I see the world and its challenges—the deep inequalities, the constant struggles of the majority of the world’s population to live decently—the more I see writing as an urgency. (Words Without Borders)

What I do for a living —journalism in Iran—is of special consequence. I stay because, as my mother never stopped repeating, I am my own woman, but also my own man. Not only do I have to compete, neck and neck, with men in Iran as a single woman… but also, on the other side of this societal split, I find myself being censured by my own milieu for bothering to stay at all, for bothering to fight it out. Because this is a fight. And if women like me don’t stay, nothing will ever change. (“How to be a Woman in Tehran“)

Being a Woman

Poet Suzanne Dracius. By Yolanda Aline Helm.

“I’m not ashamed of being a woman. On the contrary, I’m proud to be a woman and to own all of these desires that are within me and to be able to express them.” (Words Without Borders Campus: interview and blog post)

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Updated from a post originally published on March 30, 2022, and written by Education Fellow Allison Tim.