What Does a Mote Spoon and a Red Violin Have To Do With Creativity?

This year’s AWP ( Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference was held in Seattle, Washington and it ran from Thursday March 8th through Saturday March 11th. Even though I wasn’t there, I felt like I was, because my email box kept filling up with notices pertaining to everything that was going on: workshops, readings, informational presentations, a book fair.

The good news I received from the conference is that despite the number of fine publications that have closed due to lack of funding, volunteers, or a combination of both, the literary magazine and small independent publishing industry is alive and thriving.

Editors and publishers however have some new challenges: submitters who rely on artificial intelligence to help them select their words and craft their sentences. As in previous years, writers decry the acceptance and rejection process and editors are frustrated by submitters who plagiarize and send previously published work.  

Much of the dialogue between editors and writers that has been shared online recently has been about where do you find your inspiration as well as what type of work various literary magazines think their readers want to read.

So how does the creative writing process begin? When you read something memorable, is it the characters, the place or the situation that most strongly resonates with your psyche?

It is different for each person and for each writer.

Often repeated to beginning writers by instructors is the adage, write what you know.  This is often followed by the other popular wisdom, show do not tell. If the character is stingy, don’t rely on telling the reader, ”He was a stingy man”, show him counting his change and reluctantly leaving a tip for the waitstaff who kept refilling his coffee.

My professional occupation used to be, Antiques Dealer. The Antiques business drew upon my talents as a researcher, artist, and observer. For many years I wrote an antique column that focused on a certain type of item such as American Art Pottery in the 19th century or collectible shoes.

One thing about the antiques business was I was always learning something new, discovering objects I’d never heard of like a mote spoon. Mote is defined as fine particles of dust or extraneous bits of things A mote spoon served as a small strainer. It removed mote from your cup of tea because the mote remains on the spoon and the liquid flows through the spoon and back into the cup.

In addition to having the curious pattern of punched through stamping on the bowl of the spoon to create the strainer affect, a mote spoon has a thin pointed handle. The sharp edge of the pointed handle was used to clear out the tea leaves and mote that tended to stop up the entrance of the tea spout.

Writing Prompt

So here is a writing prompt: try starting with an object such as the esoteric mote spoon. Who made the spoon and who used it? Although they contain less silver, mote spoons are approximately four times as valuable as a comparable spoon of the same age. For this reason, sometime unscrupulous dealers may attempt to convert an antique silver spoon (they stopped making mote spoons in approximately 1780) of the same approximate age into a mote spoon by punching out a design in the bowl and attempting to flatten and roll the handle into a spear with a point. You could write about someone trying to make a counterfeit mote spoon or one that is a family heirloom.

Easier, you could write about the old battered stuffed dog you’ve held on to childhood or the hammer that belonged to your grandfather, you now use. Fairy tales such as Aladdin’s Lamp (magical lamp) or Jack and the Beanstalk  (magical beans) start with an object, and the wonderful film The Red Violin, focuses on a musical instrument and tells a story  spanning four generations.

The possibilities are infinite. In one successful essay I wrote, published by Open: Journal of Arts and Letters, I began by thinking about my grandmother’s silver pitcher. You can read it here. Thank you for reading. Please subscribe to my blog on wordpress or Medium. Follow me on Twitter at SN Maril.

Published by Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Her short stories and essays have been published in several small online journals including Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, Scarlet Leaf Review and Defunkt Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: