A Broom of One’s Own: by Nancy Peacock

Posted: May 22, 2013 in Book Review
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I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy reading about the writing experiences of others. There is nothing quite like the feeling that you are not the only person who has ever felt these things, not to mention the wisdom within these shared stories. It is for this reason that I love following writing blogs (I love them so much that after I find one I enjoy I’ll go back in the archives and read it like a book, starting at the beginning of the story and working my way towards the present). I’ve been reading one published author memoir per month since the year started. Perhaps I’ll endorse those as well some day, but to start with we’ll go with one that was surprisingly not at all what I was expecting when I picked it up.

Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning, and Life is probably my favorite author’s memoir so far, but at the onset it doesn’t seem to have much to do with writing at all. Within this book Nancy recalls a variety of houses she’s cleaned and the people who live in them. Every chapter stars a different family and a different struggle ranging from the meticulous elderly couple who always seem to have extra tasks to request of her to the pleasant woman who enjoys chatting with Nancy as she cleans the floor.

Considering the book was in the writing section I was actually taken aback by how much she talks about cleaning houses, which is her day job as she struggles to earn a living through her books. A Broom of One’s Own was a stark reminder that not everyone makes it big, even when they have an editor and have published two books. Yes, you heard that right, she was published twice, her book being reviewed by magazines and all that jazz, but she wasn’t earning enough to quit her day job. That fact, I think, is perhaps what has endeared her story to me. When you walk through the library and see authors with several books you assume they’ve done it, they’ve beaten the odds and been able to earn a living through their art. (Or am I the only person who has thought that at one time or another?) The more I look into authors the more I realize this isn’t the case, you just don’t hear about it.

Terry Brooks mentions how he waited a long time before quitting his job as a lawyer, afraid to let go of the certainty of that paycheck even though he was earning enough as an author to make a swap to full time. Hugh Howey details in his blog how scary it was to take that same leap even after he realized he was earning more as an author than he was at his day job and was therefore losing money by continuing to work his job. I’m sure Patrick Rothfuss has probably talked about this on his blog as well (although I don’t remember reading that…admittedly I would have read that part of his blog over a year ago and perhaps did so when I was ready to pass out from exhaustion. To be fair, he does talk a lot about his days when he was barely scraping by eating Ramen, even after graduating college). The difference between these anecdotes and Nancy Peacock’s memoir is that they’re just that: anecdotes. They’re mentioned in a few blog posts or during interviews but the majority of the content focuses on their current success or life stories. This book focuses on the challenges of being that struggling writer, of identity and the desire for something more than your current life.

I wish I had taken a picture of it when I had it in my possession but, alas, I’ve since returned it to the library. Perhaps I’ll smuggle a camera in during my next trip and have a covert photo shoot. Or, looking at the price on Amazon, maybe I’ll just buy a copy for myself. Yes, it was so good I want a copy for my very own.

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