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A Broom of One's Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning, and Life Paperback – March 25, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; First Edition edition (March 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061357871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061357879
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,559,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As a struggling writer, novelist Peacock (LifeWithout Water) took all kinds of jobs to support herself, fantasizing about the day she'd be published and could write full-time. But after two critically acclaimed novels, not only could she not afford to quit cleaning houses for a living, she wasn't sure she wanted to. She hadn't yet developed the confidence, the strong foundation, to write full-time, and cleaning houses provided her with the two things writers love more than anything else... solitude and gossip. But Peacock offers an honest and refreshing look at what life is like for most writers, few of whom can expect to crack the bestseller lists or make it to Oprah's Book Club. She also offers an insider's look at housecleaning that may lead readers to start cleaning their own houses or, at least, be more careful about the messes they leave for their cleaning people. Peacock no longer cleans houses for a living (it began to wear her down physically); now she supplements her income by teaching. If you can't make it to North Carolina for one of her classes, she offers plenty of useful lessons here. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The life of an artist may sound glamorous and thrilling, but Peacock’s life is quite the opposite. Despite having two novels published, Peacock still has to work to keep a roof over her head and she chooses to do so by cleaning houses. Being alone all day gives her time to reflect on her writing and create new stories. When she’s outed as the “writing maid” in the National Enquirer, she begins to think about what defines her: writing or housecleaning. In this collection of essays, Peacock describes the mundane details of her life and the glimpses into the lives of others that she gleans while scrubbing toilets and vacuuming carpets. She then weaves her observations with advice and reflections on writing to create an unusual mix. Peacock’s unconventional approach to work, story, and writing in her honest, conversational, down-to-earth essays proves that art can be accessible to anyone regardless of age, occupation, or level of education. Readers and aspiring novelists will identify with Peacock’s Everywoman and Everyman point-of-view. --Hilary Hatton

More About the Author

My first love is fiction. My second love is memoir. My third love is poetry. My fourth love is good food, and I can't have any of my three other loves without this one. I sometimes envy the poets because I imagine (although I might be wrong about this) that they live in the moment more than novelists or memoirists. Novelists live in two parallel worlds, the real one with the dishes in the sink, and the fictional one, which may or may not have dishes in the sink, but which is certainly peopled with characters we find interesting and grow to love, and whom we must sometimes kill off. Memoirists live, by necessity, in the past, their own past, which is not always a comfortable place to be. But a poet can chop parsley and turn it into a good dish, and a poem. I admire that.

I think I must live the most outwardly boring life in the whole world. I always thought I was a pretty interesting person until I started trying to convince other people of it. Aside from my own classes in my studio and a free prompts workshop which I teach each month, and my own writing group, I do very little but work on my next book and cook good food. Honestly, when someone asks me what I am up to, I always feel dull and inadequate, but I'm a homebody, and that's how I get my work done.

If I am lucky then you have read one or maybe more of my books, and if I am extremely lucky then you may be asking when the next one is coming out. It's a very good question. One that I hope to have an answer to if you ask again.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 21 customer reviews
Peacock has a great sense of humor and wonderful sensibilities.
Brenda S. Osborn
If you are someone who thinks, 'if I was a writer FULL TIME, then I'd get things done' this book is for you.
Marsha Marks
A great choice for a writer's bookshelf, this book will encourage beginners as well as seasoned writers.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Wolf on June 25, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nancy Peacock's new book, A BROOM OF ONE'S OWN, is a true gem. The clever title evokes Virginia Woolf and delves into the challenges faced by most creative artists--namely, earning a living to support one's work and finding the space and solitude to create that work. Each of the essays in this collection starts with an anecdote about housecleaning, and each piece moves smoothly toward a description of some aspect of the writer's life. The writing is seamless and clear and evocative. As other reviewers have noted, there is a great deal of wisdom--and often humor--in these short essays. Peacock speaks to all of us, whether or not we are artists, and whether or not we clean our own houses. A BROOM OF ONE'S OWN is that rare book that entertains the reader at the same time that it teaches.

I am tempted to say that A BROOM OF ONE'S OWN reminds me of other books that address the creative process--books like Annie Dillard's THE WRITING LIFE or Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD--but the writer that Peacock reminds me of is May Sarton. I thought of Sarton's JOURNAL OF A SOLITUDE when I read Peacock's book. Both writers are intent on exploring the nature of solitude and how it nourishes us. Like Sexton, Peacock is a writer capable of revealing truth through the description of common objects and simple actions.

Peacock's two earlier books--LIFE WITHOUT WATER and HOME ACROSS THE ROAD--were novels, and both were acclaimed by critics. Peacock is a natural storyteller, and the characters in her fiction are as real and true to life as the homeowners depicted in A BROOM OF ONE'S OWN. Hopefully, the publication of A BROOM OF ONE'S OWN will send readers back to these wonderful novels.

A BROOM OF ONE'S OWN will sweep you off your feet.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Carpenter on June 27, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is funny, wise and superbly written. Peacock is a novelist who has earned her living by cleaning houses, and her account of this has worlds to say about the writing life and how to cultivate it, and also about the rich, often overlooked tapestry of society, with the great themes that are underfoot. The house is the embodiment of the self, some phenomenologists have said, and this is what Peacock notices as she cleans them. With keen perception, she looks at dirt and clutter, show places and hidden places, colors and accoutrements, and sees the shapes of lives unconsciously expressed. In their houses people tell about themselves nakedly, albeit inadvertently. Peacock tells about herself too, openly but consciously. About these themes of life she is often funny, and sometimes acerbically perceptive, but also kind and understanding. Aspiring writers will find the book enormously refreshing as she writes about a universal struggle of the artist: how to earn a living doing something as base as dirt, and also honor that life in such a way as to transmogrify it into the stuff of art. She tells how, she shows how to do this.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Strayed on May 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book came to my attention by chance about a month ago. I'd never heard of Nancy Peacock, but I bought this book anyway, intrigued by the subject and approach. I am so glad I did that, as this is a wonderful book. I could really not put it down (and being a mom to two preschoolers, that's saying A LOT). Each essay is an engaging, well-written, funny and poignant journey into Nancy Peacock's generous spirit, humble heart and incisive mind. I am a writer too and I appreciated all the things that Peacock writes about the writing life, but those who are not writers will love this book too. Like most good books, this book manages to be utterly universal while telling a very specific, personal story. A Broom Of One's Own is a riveting and lovely thing. Buy it and read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Angela Reads on January 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
Nancy Peacock has published two novels. She's accomplished something many writers only dream of. She's "made it", as they say.

And yet...she cleans houses for a living.

This book is a series of essays about her writing and her housecleaning, and how they (sometimes) work together. She discusses the negative feelings many people have toward their "maids" - "How could a MAID write a book!?" as well as her favorite and least favorite clients. She also writes about her lack of a college degree and whether she should apologize for that or not. Is she as worthy as other writers even though she cleans toilets and doesn't have her degree?

In addition, she shares her advice for budding writers, such as finding the time to write, where to write, dealing with rejection, writer's workshops, etc.

I loved this book because I could relate to the author. For a period of two years I cleaned people's houses to earn a living. When Ms. Peacock described her annoying clients, I felt irritation rise in my chest because I had the same experiences. I also dealt with the stereotypes that 'cleaning ladies are not smart enough to have a real job', etc...

Ms. Peacock also has an engaging style. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves books about writing, or to anyone who's ever cleaned house for someone else!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joyce C. Allen on June 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
A Broom of One's Own is a delight--absorbing, sometimes surprising, often funny, wise. Nancy Peacock gives us a deep look into two worlds that may seem at first to be an unlikely pairing: that of a paid housecleaner and that of an insufficiently paid (although critically acclaimed--and with good reason, I can add) novelist. But a great many readers will recognize, as I did, the juggling act it can be between the work that sustains us physically and the work that sustains us creatively. Peacock has some fine things to say about that, and about how you can manage not to sell yourself short at one end while keeping yourself afloat at the other. She speaks to writers, certainly, and to artists in other areas, but I believe she also has something real to say to anyone who is trying to keep life larger than paying the rent.

She says it well, too. This is writing I sank into--smooth, transparent writing, that is often unexpected and always satisfying. It's a cliche to say, 'I couldn't put it down'--but I couldn't put it down. It pleased me a great deal to add it to the list of good reading for writers that I give out to students in the writing classes I teach.
Joyce Allen
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