Story Starter December – Sally Thurlow


We had a phenomenal number of entries with our November Story Starter! Thank you, and good luck to all who entered.

Our December Story Starter features a beautiful work by Sally Thurlow.

To enter, write a short piece (100 words maximum) inspired by the art featured below. It can be any form of writing (poetry, prose, dialogue, haiku, etc.) as long as it is original. Submit your entry in the comment section below. Check the full entry rules and format here.

Introducing our December inspiration piece:


About The Artist:

Sally Thurlow is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Greater Toronto. Her practice is based in sculpture, installation, photography and painting. For several years she has been exploring the dynamic range of figurative forms using driftwood, and other ephemera collected on her beach walks. This is often complementary to her work with other media. Questioning our cultural and environmental practises are a constant in her work. Currently, she is introducing paints, stains, and manufactured additions to her anthropomorphic figures, creating symbols for re-examination of dominant cultural ideas and re-evaluation of our propensity to judge.

Sally Thurlow has been the recipient of various Ontario Arts Council Awards, and is a member of The Iris Group and The Red Head Gallery, both artists’ collectives. Her work is held in private collections across Canada.

Want to check out the November entries? Click here.

Feeling inspired? Paste in your 100-word entry below!

  • The Tern

    Her bosom reaching towards the sky
    Extends an invitation
    Come lay with me
    Together we will build

    Perched on precarious legs
    Bruised that bend and faulter
    Suggestions of a shady past
    Cloud your mind

    Yet who can resist
    The Roseate Tern
    With swollen Cloaca
    As she beckons

  • Absinthe, or Abby to her friends, always wanted to be a model. It was all she dreamt of since before she could remember.
    But, family genes had a way of mucking with dreams.
    She was “big-boned”, as her mother said, and carried her weight poorly.
    When the old woman, in the strange booth on chicken leg stilts, at the fall fair offered her the amulet with the promise of three wishes, she didn’t hesitate.
    She knew exactly what she wanted. She wanted to be just like her idol.
    “I want to be Twiggy.”

  • Little Red House

    Waist-high in anorexic fishnets
    dancing like a stork
    all the way up to the little red house
    where winter sits ever so still

    collecting flotsam
    bones, breasts and savages
    all in a day
    all in a day.

  • Title: Questioning existence
    I wonder
    I ponder
    standing on my skinny legs
    A Pair of Compass
    A Pair of Twigs
    With one foot at home
    The other in the office
    I am caught between two worlds
    I am entrapped like caged birds
    Enslaved to play many roles
    Striving to achieve my goals
    A Home maker?
    A Society girl?
    Who am I?
    What am I?

  • We’re drowned in these illusions that seemingly create this superior “special” and “better” version of our self. It was always the fear of not being good enough. Society today is so corrupt and is called to be seen with a one point perspective. We try so hard to fit in and feel like we belong, we try so hard that we lose ourselves in the process. But the media, oh they’re out to get us. She took what they said as poison to the mind, but still she put on a smile when her world was crumbling. But just like that, she started to slip into the crowd, and she became one of them. They attacked like vultures, chewing up any last bit of confidence that she had left. But darling let me tell you…true beauty is hard to find, you see it doesn’t take a pretty face to b beautiful, but a pretty heart and a pretty soul. So when I tell you this, listen carefully: Be the best version of yourself that YOU love, be you be beautiful.

  • I was looking at you from afar; admiring everything about you –
    the way the curves took over, the gentle strokes of color, the abstract yet clear message.
    All I could do was stare.
    There was something so complex and simple about you, all at once.
    You were art, in the way all people should be – unique, self-aware and proud.
    You were art.
    And the most beautiful part of all was that you were so incredibly happy, skipping along the outskirts.

  • It wasn’t easy going through life with such long legs and a permanent red boot. Sometimes, when she was around other people, their stares and rejection served to remind her that she was different. Early on, though, she had learned to look up, never down, where true beauty existed. She knew that loving and accepting herself meant noticing the important things – a sky so blue it made her eyes ache, stately verdant trees that provided an umbrella of comfort, a vast variety of birds that reveled in their air born dances, the serenity and solitude provided when hiking forest trails (and she was always a good hiker, with legs sturdy enough to carry her wherever she wanted to go). She frolicked like a child through the tall grass in the meadows, uninhibited and undetected. Instead of feeling awkward when she stumbled on a boot heel, she continued to twirl like the ballerina she imagined herself to be. When she finally paused to lay in the bosom of Mother Earth, embraced by flowers and fragrant soil, she gave herself over to the gratitude and peace that always came to her when she rediscovered that her connection to the whole had very little to do with what she looked like or where she came from. No, it wasn’t always easy being different…it was glorious!

  • Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder,
    With arms, I’d be so much bolder ,
    What’s with the fishnet stockings ? they giggle and laugh,
    The red lighthouse appears to be a gaffe,
    I grew in the dirt and Sally saw my potential,
    I am Funky , what I was is inconsequential.

  • Once I looked upon myself and saw what wasn’t there. Ruby red lips, lushous hips and a head of beautiful hair. Today I stand withered and old my life torn from a dream. The mirror shows another soul stolen from a magazine. I shudder and cry an empty sigh as my frailty grows. Never will I be again and only now is when I know.

  • When Willow clomped through the kitchen door two seconds ago, I knew I had done something to really piss her off.
    She had a way of cocking her body off to the right and tapping her right foot like a grouse in heat that said, “I’m fucked.” Not that I mind getting some on a regular basis. I wanted to climb her tree right now. I could make out the vee in her Lulu Lemons. I felt my wood growing. Then it twigged on me, she was still talking.
    “See! That’s what I mean—you never listen to me.”


    Journey’s End –
    Someday I’ll get there
    I guess
    But till then
    I’ll just keep on
    Plodding on
    And floundering through life
    Like a chicken
    Without a head
    I’ll be gasping for breath
    Like a fish out of water
    And like a dog without a bone,
    I’ll be searching for my comfort zone
    I’ll be limping along
    On these weary, brittle limbs
    Oh, this red wine
    Slides down so fine;
    Eases the fear inside
    Journey’s End –
    We’ll all get there in the end
    Just seems to take forever though
    To find a place one can call…Home.

  • Snarls and thickets suffocate the unhappy forest. Oaks and aspen drop their branches but will not fall. Majesty grows in the stricken wasteland, swamp, river, bush in between. Mighty, bare, brazen trees remain the kings of the forest but the birds will have their way.

  • Deity, Dainty, Goddess, Mother Earth
    Fertile, Fecund, Fruitful, you cradle the world like a crown
    Red, Black, White, Brown, you are all races
    Last night, I was with you
    You, scantily clad
    We danced the Waltz, then some Zumba, some Bata
    I saw a tear at your knee, I know you hurt
    Beauty of ages, gently depreciating
    With huffing and puffing of the mankind you bore
    But still,
    You stand pretty, your gait and all.

  • Drawn from his home by their cries, Deeproot could feel his children’s roots bleeding. Hard, clear diamond eyes brought him to intercept the master orc. Massive and covered in black armor it was twice the size of any other in the army brewing behind it. A black axe that would cut normal trees in half was gripped in two powerful hands. Deeproot pulled on the great reserve of power beneath the forest. In a blur, the axe bit hard and lost its edge to the potent sap. He would plant seeds on a field of orc graves come tomorrow.

  • His thin, shaky hands caressed the knotted wood of an old cane. It had become his only constant, his only friend. After losing his wife’s comforting hand, it steadied him. Forced from his home by wobbly legs, it followed him. From one room to the next, old furniture to new, it supported his weight and never let him fall. Legs don’t improve with time and so a wheelchair took its duties although not its place. Resting in his lap, it comforted him.

  • The pasta dinner didn’t turn out so well, I’ve got nail-clippings all over my bathroom floor and now someone has turned my trusty divining rod into some grotesque featherless birdhouse! What have you done? I need to find the water! The people thirst for drink!

  • “Twiggy”

    Twiggy stared into the mirror, peering at a bird’s-eye view of her attire.

    “Where’s my other red shoe?” she asked, bewildered.

    Pondering for a moment, she surmised that Woody, her Lab, must have scoffed it. As she wondered through her capacious abode, she found Woody, slobbering over her missing shoe. She tried to relieve him of his treasure when he barked. She struggled, but to no avail.

    Returning to her dressing room, with Woody following, Twiggy grabbed her other shoe and tossed it to the Lab. Two reds were fitting for a Lab in the Autumn of his years.

  • I’ve heard many times that there is nothing beautiful about me…frankly I don’t give a damn. I overheard a visitor once snidely recommend I be thrown in the fire where I would at least provide some heat, produce some light. Why they didn’t follow through I am not certain. I like the way I look standing here against the starkness of this space. I think I am a character, I add character to the otherwise predictably drab and boring. Against the wall, like a flower nobody will ever pick, I am the art, it is my canvas and they? Inconsequential!

  • Tim Curry entered the retirement home, put on his Rocky Horror Transylvanian, transsexual, transvestite outfit, transformed into a fancy walking stick, and did the Time Warp, thus entertaining the other residents.

  • What should I be? A birder, or a bird? I could not decide, so I became both. I put on my silk stockings, my sexy red heels, only one because the other had gone missing, my frilly black camisole, and my spiffy red hat, my grey hairs poking out all over, and transformed into a birdhouse cane, and I walked with joy.

  • Marie Beswick-Arthur December 17, 2015 at 1:39 pm


    But where will we live this season? Dot asked. Her little wings flapping to keep her in the air. “This was forest when we left.”
    “We’ll have to adjust,” said her partner, Donald. “Maybe try out a funky apartment.”
    Dot extended a chirp into a birdsong’s sigh. “Oh, for the days of gathering grasses and weaving nests.”
    “Times are a-changin’,” said Donald
    “You sound like Dylan,” she said
    “Trust me,” said Donald. “I know of a place where the music is fine and the lights are always low. “
    “Now you’re channeling Petula Clark?”
    “There,” he said. “Downtown.”

  • Terra’s Violation

    We treated her like a whore. In the end times, we paid for her, tarted her up, and pimped her out. We claimed we were saving her and that she’d be dead without us. We said it was her fault. We denied responsibility. We used her quickly, roughly, and with no reprieve. We beat her as we used her. We contorted her into unnatural positions, and twisted her wretched form into our scratching, deforming, and complicated garments of desire. We left her feverish. We left her freezing. We left her heaving. We broke Nature, and never expected her to resist.

  • The Plan

    Peel away the bark
    Splay wide the knotted limbs.
    Build a house on top.

  • Her mind wandered, as it often did while she worked.

    In the morning, watching birds at the feeder on the tree, she had experienced a moment of impossible grace. But grace did not simply grace people like her. She was a blunt, caustic and practical atheist, and her line of work – forget it. The delicacy of the sparrows’ wings, though, and the meditative fluttering repetition had made her pause. Two flew in, pecked, left. Then more, gone, returned. Winged prayer on repeat.

    As she slowly peeled her corset away and arched her back, she ached to be that tree.

  • A Cry for Help – Aey Gee

    An internal struggle to fit the mold she allowed them to create for her.

    Trapped between two worlds, frustrated – living someone else’s life.

    Desperate for authenticity, but unsure how to achieve it.
    Her head a nest of warbled thoughts and the distorted opinions of others.

    Maybe if I dress this way…

    Maybe if I accomplish this…


    Glances of envy, whispers of jealousy – of a life they thought she had.

    Cracks of doubt and insecurity, well hidden beneath the cloak of accomplishments and a confident persona.

    Stop. Consider. A CRY FOR HELP!

    Dying unfulfilled is not an option.

  • This is what the camera sees.
    A house, red sided, perched on a cliff next to the ocean.
    Alone, it weathers storm and sea, sunshine and butterflies
    that rest on the warm clapboard.
    They are flying from here to there, captured in a single frame.
    The camera zooms out again,
    revealing sea grass growing up against empty windows,
    whispering names when the wind blows.
    A final frame, the camera backing up on a low slow dolly.
    Blue, blue sky,
    whitecaps, and dead centre in the yard,
    a single gravestone.
    On it, in long elegant lettering, her name.

  • “A piece of driftwood. That’s what I feel like.” She pulls on her fish net stockings, sprays perfume in all the right places.
    “Driftwood?” I’m intrigued.
    She takes a long drag on her cigarette, positions it on the edge of the table. Her hands reach for her red boot and she steps into it. “Yes, my dear. An old tree branch that has been adrift in the ocean too long.”
    “Too late for us to leave the business now. Who’d want to hire us?”
    “Hmmmm. Time was when I had lofty ideas of going into real estate.”

  • Elisha was a dichotomy who chose to live in her red birdhouse, sheltered from reality. The only sustenance she knew was pecking for grubs on her trunk. She lost any sense of the feminine mystique as her beautiful limbs became lifeless twigs tottering on uncertain ground. One day she observed a handsome camper approaching. All of her feminine desires were suddenly aroused when he gathered her twigs and lay them in a heap on the ground. Anticipation turned to horror when he struck a match and she vanished in the flames leaving only toasted marshmallows to sweeten his day.

  • My story starter entry:
    Title: Hey Stud!

    Hey stud!
    You lookin’ at me?
    I know you’re thinkin’
    Way too many rings
    All dried out
    Bark worse than her bite.
    Still I stand
    Even if on one shoe.
    Left the other
    In some John’s planter.
    Seen it?
    That’s right Einstein, red.
    I like my outfits matchin’
    Like the fishnets.
    Sexy, no?
    I figure an upright guy
    Like you might pine
    For my long, long limbs.
    Ah, getting’ a woody are you?
    A knotty boy like you
    Is always welcome
    To climb my tree,
    Enter my bird house.
    We’ll rub our sticks together
    And make fire.

    The illusions that we project onto nature as ours to exploit rather than honour, has endangered our future. Houses built with misguided egotism, precariously rest on this abused planet that we don’t truly understand; even birds know how to more securely build their nests. Our roots in the history of this planet may not be deep enough to secure our tomorrows.
    Will the travelers of this vast universe come and help us or did they already visit and laugh at our foibles and moved on to other planets?
    Do we have a plan? Alex did.

  • Few of the original strain remain. Fewer every year. Genetically modified, our resistance to disease is inbred. Prenatal options are extensive. Post-birth alterations are unlimited, and for the most part, unrestricted. Regulations do not allow the removal of the individualistic nature of our brains, so creativity, innovation and subjectivity flourish. While plastic and ink enabled our ancestors to sculpt and paint their exterior, gene manipulation addresses the complete being. Self-expression has become rampant. Some view us as freaks, others as living and evolving works of art. The vanguard has always felt scrutiny.

  • In Her Sister’s Shoes

    Unformed string bean
    Too scrawny to fill her sister’s clothes
    Blue jeans cinched twice round
    Discarded with one shoe
    Fishnet stockings slacken
    In need of elastic bands
    Postured cleavage barely fits the part
    Impersonation fails.

    A joint!—squirreled away in a secret place.
    She’s in her wheelhouse now.

  • Heart rot;
    A disease that exploits vulnerabilities,
    Entering the trunk through wounded bark.
    The only treatment is removal of infected limbs,
    Cut it all off if you have to.

    A stunted growth,
    Never reaching full height,
    Too occupied with remedying the decay.

    Put on a fresh coat of paint,
    Newly weaved cloth,
    And smile as expected of you,
    Others cannot notice the difference.

  • Birch-Bark Thighs

    Jerrine’s body was thin, her legs mere twigs, but she couldn’t see it, still felt she was fat, too fat for dance. She was getting taller, but weighed the same. Rarely home, she spent most of her time at the studio, working her body, fighting against the changes that were coming. If she just exercised more and ate less. She told her mom she ate out, she told her dance instructor she ate at home. Eating seemed such a slovenly habit. Her period had stopped shortly after it started, but she was glad. Thigh-gap was all she cared about.

  • Bombastic legs stomp the ground. In the Village of the Forest, villagers tell stories of how their Tree Goddess was merged with the Dark Mage’s cabin. The Dark Mage is a wicked man who rules these lands. They say the Dark Mage came to the village about 10 years ago but was driven out. This led to the Dark Mage to inhabit the surrounding forest where he took shelter in the abandoned cabin and imprisoned the Tree Goddess that protects these lands. With the Tree Goddess in his possession the villagers have lived in fear for these past 10 years.

  • In a world were magic exists, a creature of unorthodox nature was born. It happened one night in the woods, were an old witch who longed for a child forged her red house with a fallen tree branch. With that her house transformed into a new being. At undying heights, the bewitched red house sits atop a pair of unruly branched like tree legs. With this, the abomination of a life form tread the grounds of the earth. Each step it takes brings about, high streaking trembles shaking the ground bringing fear to those that come upon it.


    I love my world of make believe and the tales of wonder that I weave. You can say that I’m out of touch with reality, but it makes me happy. I’m skinny and gawky and my footsteps are unsteady. But my imagination takes me to a safe, magical place. Sometimes that magical place is a faraway land; sometimes it’s a castle built with seawater and sand. Mostly it’s a cozy little home suspended on the edge of time. Everything’s good and pure in my world of make believe. I’m free of pain here; don’t ask me to leave.

  • I stand atop thee.
    This quaint red house is my castle.
    I am strong like a sturdy branch enduring the cold winter seasons.
    I am proud to be me.
    I stand high and strong waving my banner of red rebellion.

    Come try and knock me down.
    For my woman’s intuition is my strongest asset.
    No men can cease it.
    They fall before my knees much like the leaves in the autumn seasons.

    Come forth and seek the elusive glory of pleasure.
    Though they cannot grasp it for it is saved exclusively for him.
    And him only.

  • You can’t always see what’s underneath… the yearning to make roots, but then what? What if the roots you made now feel like ankle-weights keeping you from the life you never knew you wanted to live? They only see the suburban life I’ve made fore myself, but they’ll never know the me that lives just beneath the surface. I don’t know what they’d think if they ever found out the vivid details of the fantasy-life I live in my head. The roots run deep, just like my secrets.

  • When you look at me what do you see?
    A housekeeper who cleans up while you watch tv?
    When you look at me what do you see?
    An object you flock to when you need release?
    When I look at you, all that I see,
    Is a man who doesn’t know the real me.

  • Time may have taken her face, but she still had the best legs in the room. Veins like explosions of webbing—nature’s ink—commemorating the years. Her naughty knee, barking in extension, ended in a graceful point. Shame about the foot, but really—what was there to do now but pose? Pose in perfect perpetuity.
    The fairest in the land.
    Let them look on. She was done with their jealous eyes and nervous fingers. Their caustic tongues and moral compasses. They didn’t know the secret.
    Her secret.
    She still had the best legs in the room.

  • For most, Flamingo Pass was the ugliest piece of natural wonder this side of the Orion Belt. How the mile high mountain range obtained its name was a mystery, for they didn’t even come close to emulating the graceful birds for which they were named. The bullet shaped peaks resembled extracted molars standing on stilts in danger of toppling over at any minute.
    But, for Petal McGraw, it was home to her blissfully solitary existence. That is, of course, until the day of the disaster.

  • His gritty eyes passed over her. Distaste and judgement. Who are you to sneer, with bulging belly and rotted teeth, you have no legs to stand on, reeking of festered cabbage and self righteous sludge. Where is your mirror old man? Her force and lovliness blaze too far above your scaly hairless head. Blackened, shrunken, you have no breath. She will tower, everlasting, sparking alive. Honest beauty and determined…she will be planted above, while you, lonely pitch backward into the grave of your own digging.

  • I stand crooked but strong
    My core exposed, but I don’t care
    Head up high, I flaunt it
    Red the color of vulnerability
    It’s not me, but then who am I?
    Who is anyone to question my stance, my demeanour, or what is at my core
    I may look like I’ve washed up onto the shore
    I have sunk to the very depths of emotions
    But I rose up and I am buoyant again
    And now I live anew with a chirp in my step!

    Thanks and good luck to all who entered. Check out the January/2016 contest here:

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