Bristow became interested in writing while reporting junior high school functions for her local newspaper. After studying at Columbia University, she wrote for a number of literary magazines and journals. Eventually, she moved to New Orleans, and worked at the Times-Picayune. She became interested in longer forms of writing—novels and short stories—through her husband, screenwriter Bruce Manning, and published her first novel in 1929. Bristow reached the pinnacle of her career with the western romance Jubilee Trail, which became a bestseller in 1950, and was adapted to a moderately successful film in 1954. She continued to write novels and articles for magazines until her death in 1980.