Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An Old Maid

The summer before I headed off to the Midwest for graduate school, I decided to forgo my usual waitressing job and take up housekeeping at the historic Flanders Hotel in Ocean City, New Jersey.

My reasons for the job switch had nothing whatsoever to do with my desire to master the art of toilet scrubbing or crisp hospital corners — heck no.

I wanted the job because I could get paid for full time work, yet be on the beach by noon…

There I could spend the remainder of the day reading novels while working on the crow’s feet and laugh lines I enjoy so much today.

Ah, but I digress.

The whole point of this particular post is to inform you that this week is International Housekeepers Week!

And anybody who knows anything knows that housekeeping and writing go hand in hand.

Ask David Sedaris, who worked for years as a “maid” (his word, not mine) while he wrote National Public Radio essays and collected book deals the way sofas amass cat hair.

In an interview around the time his career began to take off, he commented on his housekeeping this way — "I can only write when it's dark, so basically, my whole day is spent waiting for it to get dark. Cleaning apartments gives me something to do when I get up. Otherwise, I'd feel like a bum."

Novelist Nancy Peacock has also spent many a day cleaning up after other people. Her book A Broom of One's Own explores the writing life via pens, mops, buckets, and paper.

And what about the awesome books that feature feather duster-wielding women?

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is fabulous, of course. Aren't you happy that Kathryn didn't give up after rejection number 44? I know I am.

And for the younger crowd, who can forget the delightfully literal Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish?

So, while Neil Young can warble on about a man needing a maid, clearly every writer needs one, too…

But only in our books, of course.

After all, if the house is clean, how will we ever manage to find a reason to procrastinate?

PROMPT: Get yourself a chambermaid, housemaid, or domestic, and give him a story today. By the way, is the male counterpart to cleaning lady cleaning lord? Inquiring Elbows want to know.


  1. I never knew you worked as a maid so you could lie on the beach. What a fun Barb fact! I bet you collected great material for your books! Love THE HELP and the Amelia Bedelia series.

    I'd rather have a maid in my house than in my fiction. ;) I can do the laundry because I get good ideas when I do laundry and it's my favorite chore. HE can do everything else!

    1. Dawn, there actually is a maid in my middle grade manuscript (what else am I going to do with all of that experience?). Like you, my favorite chore is laundry-related (ironing -- curse you, wrinkle-free wear!).

      Now I must admit that I'm starting to warm up to the cleaning lord idea... but he MUST do windows.