WOMEN WHO WRITE <i> by Lucinda Irwin Smith (Julian Messner/Simon & Schuster: $9.95; 165 pp.) </i>
Opening under Anais Nin’s succinct quote--"The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say but what we are unable to say"--"Women Who Write” is intended as a how-to cum inspirational guide for young readers, presumably young female readers. The main section of the book is devoted to authors from Jane Austen and George Eliot to Carolyn See and Tama Janowitz. Lucinda Irwin Smith presents the contemporary authors in interview form; her selection, though obviously limited, is most imaginative and diverse, including poet Denise Levertov, young adult novelist Norma Klein and Lorraine Vivian Hansberry, the first black woman to have a play produced on Broadway (“A Raisin in the Sun”). “Women Who Write” closes with a section addressing readers as future writers and offering them ideas on “Developing Your Gift.” Although the book’s earnest, wholesome tone occasionally betrays textbook intentions--particularly in the chapters on authors on the wrong side of the grave for interview purposes--it would certainly be an inspired choice for classroom use.