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An Interview with Nancy Peacock, Part 2

Nancy Peacock and I continue our conversation related to her memoir about supporting herself by cleaning houses while writing and publishing novels. Here's one of many quotations I've appreciated from the book: "I think that in the beginning of my writing life I believed that writing, publication in particular, could, besides making me rich, also make me invulnerable. It might have been the stupidest thought I ever had, because there is nothing, with the exception of love, that has ever made me feel more vulnerable than writing and publishing."

I'm glad she adds publishing to that thought, the reminder that a couple poems or stories out and about online, or even a printed novel, doesn't relieve us of the vulnerability we feel as writers forging ahead, or falling behind, on some creative project or other.

In fact, though, in beautiful weather, at the South Carolina Botanical Garden, I had a chance to immerse myself in her memoir in the early evening, and, as a reader, I didn't feel vulnerable at all; rather, I enjoyed it very much.

But here are some of Nancy's additional thoughts from our interview.

AK: Do you have regular writing habits (for example, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. five days a week) or do you work your writing around your other obligations (your teaching or your housecleaning, for example)?

NP: The only house I clean these days is my own, and I don't do that much. But I do have to earn a living. I try to put my writing first. It helps that I am naturally a morning person - so I get up early (5:30) and write for one or two hours before anything else. If I am not working on a big project - a novel or a book of essays - I tend to be more casual about it. But I love it when I am working on a large project, and am keeping that early morning schedule.
AK: How long does it take you to compose a rough draft of a full manuscript?

NP: It depends on the book, but a first draft usually takes one year.
AK: How long does it take you from first rough sentence to final polished draft?

NP: Usually 2 to 3 years.

AK: Do you know many, or any, successful novelists who also have full-time “careers” and children? Does it seem like these are luxuries a contemporary American writer cannot afford or the exclusive realm only of our few “rich and famous” writers?
NP: Most of the writers I know also have jobs. Many are teachers at universities, but I also know lawyers, tech writers, secretaries, counter help at a garage, ministers, scientists, mothers, bartenders, etc. I live in an area where you couldn't swing a cat without hitting a writer. But I also live in an area which is very academic. I did feel pretty alone when I was cleaning houses for a living - and although I've met writers who cleaned houses at some point in their lives, I don't know of any who were doing it during the time their books were being published.

AK: What are some of the other more interesting writer's day jobs that you are aware of? In your literary circles in North Carolina, how are writers surviving if they aren't teaching school?

I always wanted to work several different jobs (knowing that each was temporary) simply so I could write about them. I've named some jobs above. Some of my own have been milker on a dairy farm, bartender, cocktail waitress, carpenter, newspaper delivery, drum maker, costumer, exercise instructor, stall mucker, locksmith, hardware store clerk, drugstore clerk, grocery clerk, baker, and housecleaner of course. They were all interesting, and although I may have hated some at the time, I always observed what each was like, and I could write about any one of them.

AK: I have several friends who are struggling in this economy, and I know of many others are having a hard time of it. From your perspective, does it seem as if this “recession,” or whatever we should call it, is any worse than what we’ve been through before as a country?

NP: I think it's worse in that the culture seems a lot meaner now than in the past. I think classism is much worse. I think there's very little respect for hard work, and that too many folks assume that anyone who doesn't have a desk job is not intelligent. But everyone is intelligent. Everyone has something they are smart about. Most people have many things that they are smart about. I think a lot of our problems could be lessened if only we respected each other more.

AK: Stay tuned, as there is possibly a Part 3 on the way.


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