Book Review: A Broom of One’s Own

HerStories Memoir Challenge #2

I like Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own: Words About Writing, Housecleaning & Life so much that it’s taken me over two months and two missed deadlines to untangle my thoughts and write this four-sentence review, an irony Peacock, author of two critically acclaimed novels, would no doubt address were I in one of her writing classes.

She would probably tell me that there is no perfect writing life; that her job as a part-time housecleaner, begun when full-time writing wouldn’t pay the bills, afforded time, solitude, and the “foundation of regular work” she needed;  that engaging in physical labor allowed her unconscious mind to “kick into gear,” so she became not the writer but the “receiver” of her stories.

She’d probably say that writing is hard; that sitting at a desk doesn’t automatically bring brilliance; that writers have to work with what they have; that “if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love”; that there are a million “saner” things to do and a “million good reasons to quit” and that the only good reason to continue is, “This is what I want.”

So, having composed at least two dozen subordinated, coordinated, appositived, participial-phrase-stuffed first sentences and discarded them before completion; having practically memorized the text searching for the perfect quotation to end with; and having once again stayed awake into the night, racing another deadline well past the due date, I am completing this review—because I value Nancy Peacock’s advice; and because I love A Broom of One’s Own; and because I consider it the equal of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird; and because I want other readers to know about it; and because I want to.

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They’re back…

The FTC/book review kerfuffle having been resolved to my satisfaction, book reviews are returning to Whiskertips. (See October 7 post for full and snippy explanation.)

Their removal resulted from my creating a tempest in a teapot, making a mountain  of a molehill, and  turning a wart into Ossa.

But when the ruling hit the web and commentary hit the blogs, and I learned I might be an offender, the effect was, to say the least, jangling. I was  in the process of cruising the New England-Canada coast in search of fall foliage. It was difficult to concentrate on leaves when I expected momentarily to be set upon by Mounties with orders to hustle me back to where I came from.

All is well now, however. Story Circle Network Book Reviews provided the form for a disclaimer acknowledging when a review copy has been provided by a source interested in the bottom line. I’m no longer looking over my shoulder for the RCMP or anyone else. (Which, since I have from childhood dreamed of being swept up onto a horse and into the arms of a baritone who is calling me-eee-eee, is, to be honest, a bit of a letdown.)

The alleged kerfuffle also taught me something about the responsibility of the blogger to remember he’s not writing in or for a vacuum. And it gave me the opportunity to refer to Ossa and the wart, something I’ve wanted to do ever since I first read Hamlet a million years ago.

So in the next few days, the deleted book reviews will reappear, one by one, accompanied by the appropriate disclaimer. And I shall settle in to read more books, write more reviews, and await the next dust-up, which will, I hope, afford me the chance to mention the quills upon the fearful porpentine.

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The author wrote the above post by and for herself. Nobody gave her a book or money or in any way paid her for the effort. Darn it.

Book Review: Have I Got a Story for You

Patricia Hoglund’s Have I Got a Story for You: A Collection of Life’s Lessons is the happiest book I’ve read in a long time. I finished it in one sitting—but I’ll remember and reread it many times more.

Hoglund’s pathway to writing began in conflict, between her desire to write and the belief that she had neither talent nor anything worth saying. At mid-life she began keeping a journal, which she found “perfect” because she could write “anything that came to mind and no one would read it or put red marks on it.” Later she felt prompted to share her writing with others. Through participation in Story Circle writing groups, she was encouraged to continue writing and finally to publish her work.

The stories Hoglund relates concern events and emotions familiar to nearly every woman: discovering and making time for what is important to her; watching children grow up, leave home, and begin their own lives; listening to other people’s woes; knowing when not to offer advice.

Several of her descriptions made me laugh aloud. In “Shopping Nightmare,” I see a reflection of my own trips to the grocery store:

“…I go to the store on a mission: get in and get out as fast as possible, with as few incidents as possible. I do not go to the store for an experience. Like the woman who made it to the celery just before I did today. She picked up at least five stalks of celery and carefully looked at them, then replaced each one and picked up another. I didn’t get it. Celery is celery. Unless the tops are all curled, in which case you know it has been in the case way too long and you should find a better grade of store to shop at, celery is pretty much all the same. But somehow she felt there was the perfect stalk. I couldn’t watch. I moved on to the mushrooms and came back.”

I’m also partial to the description—in “Waz Up?”—of her fear that the “thumping” of the speakers behind the seat in her son’s car will rearrange his internal organs so “we would never be able to locate his spleen again.”

Other stories are introspective. In “The Music Plays On,” Hoglund writes about “those feelings of disconnectedness” from herself and asks, “When was it that I first lost my way?” In “Place as Teacher,” she contemplates thirty years of opportunities believed lost, now found. Beautifully written, these are more meditation than story. They also end, as meditations should, in hope.

If I met Patricia Hoglund, I would tell her about the woman in the grocery store who held me up for ten minutes while she filled a sack with green beans, one at a time. I would also tell her that she is a fine writer: thoughtful, insightful, optimistic, and funny; and that I’m glad she realized she has both talent and stories worth telling. And I’d say I’m recommending Have I Got a Story for You to all my friends.

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Patricia Hoglund, Have I Got a Story for You: A Collection of Life’s Lessons. iUniverse, Inc., 2008. ISBN 978-0-595-44084-9.


Patricia Hoglund is a facilitator of Women’s Story circles and conducts workshops on the power of story. She is a businesswoman, storyteller and mother of three adult children. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. More information about Hoglund can be found on her website.

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This review was written for Story Circle Network Book Reviews and appears on that website.

StoryCircleBookReviews.org has received a copy of this book for review from the author, publisher, or publicist.

FTC ruling and book reviews

Over the past year, I have written book reviews for Story Circle Network. Reviews are published on the SCN website; SCN posts them to Amazon. I also posted them on Whiskertips as well as on NaBloPoMo.

Recently the Federal Trade Commission published a ruling concerning reviewers who receive free copies of books.  I haven’t read the ruling but commentary I have read suggests that bloggers must acknowledge receipt of free materials when a review is published or face penalties.  There’s a suggestion that reviewers should not keep the books after reviews are published.

So in the spirit of full disclosure–I have received several “free” books from SCN for the purpose of review. I’ve kept some and donated some to nonprofit organizations. Because I underline and write in the margins as I read, the books aren’t always in good condition when I finish with them.

Whiskertips is not a book review blog. It’s not a blog about anything in particular. I write reviews because I want to share books I’ve read with others who might enjoy reading them. Reviewing is also makes me a better reader and writer.

I do not write reviews so I can get “free” books. My compensation comes from seeing my words published on the SCN website. Period. I don’t try to “sell” books I don’t like. If I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Until yesterday, I was unaware that my activities could create a conflict of interest. Now that I know–or until I know–what is acceptable, I have deleted the offending reviews from my blog.

One review–The Autobiography of the Queen–remains online. I bought and paid for that book myself.