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Using a teapot as a window to the past, and enrich your writing

October 1, 2012

Red Sofa Literary is one of Writers Digest’s 101 best websites this year. Two of their agents, Jennie Goloboy and Dawn Frederick, will be at the conference this year. They have also agreed to a little slumming, posting on our humble blog. A hearty thanks to them as we pass these posts along to you.

By Jennie Goloboy

Given that I was trained as a historian, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I love antiques.  And estate sales.  My best find ever is a beautiful cream teapot, covered with hand-painted pictures of birds and flowers.  But the thing that made it special was a small scrap of paper stuffed inside, that read:


“Mama’s mother gave her this teapot when she left her home in Virginia to come west with papa in the covered wagon to settle in Mo. in 1830.  The teapot originally belonged to Mama’s great Grandmother and Mama always treasured it.  It always stood in a place of honor in our old log house so that as Mama said, ‘All who visited would know we came of cultured people.’

                                                                                                                written Dec. 8, 1890.”

 In my course, “No More Carriage Accidents,” which I will be giving at the Florida Writers Conference this October, we will spend time talking about the material, concrete details of daily life in the past.  We’ll discuss how we can use these details to make our fiction feel more real– just as the image of the teapot in the log cabin, used to bring culture and refinement to the frontier, fleshes out the details of this family’s history.

As for the teapot itself– last year, my friend Jenika got to visit Antiques Roadshow, and she brought it along to get it evaluated.  If you’re curious, stop and ask– I’ll tell you what happened next!

In Fall 2011, Jennie Goloboy joined Red Sofa Literary as an Associate Agent. Jennie Goloboy has a PhD in the History of American Civilization from Harvard. She is also a published author of both history and fiction, and a member of SFWA, RWA, SHEAR, OAH, the AHA, and Codex Writer’s Group. Her funny, spec-fic short stories appear under her pen name, Nora Fleischer.


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