For each issue of Literary Mama, Literary Reflections shares a writing prompt, inviting our readers to respond. Our editors provide feedback on the responses we receive, and we post our favorites on the blog. This month’s writing prompt is inspired by Sara Dutilly’s essay, Daily Bread.
Recently, in my job at the public library, I spent a few hours canoodling with The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. It is a hefty tome of the sort that exudes an air of deep magic—secrets lost to common memory, made intelligible and practical to the common layperson. Life-enriching goodness available to those with eyes to see and a heart to receive (and hours to practice and room to experiment and money to invest). As with all such books in this genre, I thumbed through its wells of knowledge for a couple of days, giddily imagining the new age fermented foods might usher into my life, and then it sat on my desk until my place of employment started sending overdue notices to my email.
I find so much resonance with the struggles and joys of motherhood that Sara Dutilly shares in her essay, “Daily Bread.” She recounts her creative shift from writing to mothering to baking and the generative chaos created by the admixture of those three callings. Reflecting on her grandfather’s comment at her graduation—What good is high salary or great business power compared with artistic creativity?—Dutilly connects the lofty idealism in her grandfather’s words to the gritty reality of her daily life: “Artistic creativity. How did he know I was on that path? Mothering is not a job that boasts a description; it is an act of constant creativity.” Mothering interrupts our creative endeavors even as it, itself, is a consummately creative endeavor.
As Dutilly charts a topography many mother writers will find familiar, she discovers that the writing she pursued as a college student necessarily takes a backseat to the more immediate demands of family and bill paying. But another creative practice emerges—breadmaking. More specifically, sourdough breadmaking. “It started as something intriguing,” she remembers. “It turned out that I loved the trying, and I continued.” Dutilly’s description of her daily practice of feeding and baking with sourdough is a living metaphor applicable to mothering and, of course, writing. She writes:
Creation breeds creation, that feeding even the simplest of foods will sustain our lives, that beautiful words can bubble anywhere if I wish, nay practice, nay continue. Feeding my writing life is like feeding my family, like feeding my sourdough starter, like feeding my need for creativity in many forms. I do not every day find my answers, but I continue my simple daily tasks, sustaining the life that I have built alongside my family, knowing that our days will always, sooner or later, result in something that we cannot live without.
We’re trying something new this month with the writing prompt—historically we have asked for an essay. This month we’d like you to read Sara Dutilly’s essay and respond with a flash-fiction piece 500 words or shorter containing a mother and a reference to any kind of fermentation (sourdough, kimchi, beer, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, cheese, etc.). The fermentation can be intended or unintended (e.g. a sourdough starter or chocolate milk left in a sippy cup in a hot vehicle). The mother and/or the fermentation can be central or peripheral to the story. We can’t wait to see what you write! Submit your response by October 31, 2021 for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note “October Prompt” in your subject line. Please do not attach the essay; rather, paste the response in the body of the email.