Story Starter February 2018 – Anya Burgay

Our February Story Starter features artwork by Anya Burgay, a textile and word artist from Whitby.

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

There is no restriction of age, location (subject to local laws), or cost associated with entering the contest. You have until midnight on February 28, 2018 to submit your story. Check the full entry rules and format here.

Finalists and winners will be determined by judges selected by the OWC and will be announced Spring 2018.

We look forward to reading your Story Starters.

About The Artist  
Anya Burgay has been inspired by a long line of makers and creative people throughout her life, starting with both grandmothers, who were skilled seamstresses making clothes and home décor items, usually without patterns. Her grandfather was a cobbler who made and repaired shoes and leather goods.  Other talents abounded, with her mother’s sewing and crocheting skills, and her aunt’s use of hand-dyed yards to created beautiful cross-stitch pictures.
Anya’s favourite materials to work with are textiles and wood. Much of the material she uses is reclaimed and recycled, often integrating items gathered during walks on the beach or through the woods. These unusual materials and bright colours incorporated into precious pieces are most often weather resistant, allowing them to be utilized to enhance gardens or outdoor spaces.
Go to for available art or inspiration for your own custom work of art.

Want to check out past contest entries? Click here.

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

** Please note, there is a delay between comment submission and approval, so please submit an entry one time only. Thank you. **

  • “I can’t do it.”
    “That’s never stopped you before.”
    “It’s different now.”
    “There’s more of ‘em.”
    “All the more reas…”
    “I know. It’s just…”
    “She needs this, Liam.”
    “Don’t you start.”
    “They’ll see through me, Fiona, I know it.”
    “Rubbish. You’re the most gifted since… well, ever. Now c’mon, you can do this. Besides…”
    “Besides? Damnit, what aren’t you telling me?”
    “Nothing. Forget it.”
    “Alright, here. Don’t tell anyone.”
    “But… this is…”
    “Yes, hers.”
    “When were you gonna…”
    “Doesn’t matter.”
    “Fine! But when I get back…”
    “Yes, yes. Now go!”
    “OK, already!”
    “Good luck, Liam.”

  • It was disconcerting having uninvited guests in my house. She just showed up one summer day, parking her slight frame, legs crossed tailor-style, on a corner table in my dining room. A chunk of the forest cloaked her body and a shawl macramed of vines draped her shoulders. She also had a companion, a red-crowned speckled bird that nested in her lap. Neither made a sound, just tilted their heads and watched me as if I were the intruder. Maybe I’m a coward, but I tossed them out and put screens up on all my open windows.

  • Oh my dear little feathered friend
    Of course you’re better off than I am
    You pay no rent for your little nest
    You are always dressed in your best
    Your life mate is forever faithful to you
    Your offsprings will soon be due
    You fiy and find food freely
    And you find them abundantly
    Your worries are but few
    You drink of the morning dew
    You sing of songs of beauty
    You are always so chirpy
    Nothing ever gets you down
    I have never seen you frown
    You can fly away if you like
    You sleep soundly at night

  • Oh dear pretty lady you mustn’t fret so
    You too can decide to be bold
    Face life’s challenges with courage
    Life can be good no matter what age
    Envy not the lives of others
    You know not their true struggles
    Compare not but be thankful
    A simple life too can be plentiful
    Beauty still surrounds you in tough times
    Gratitude can make experiences sublime
    There’s no good or bad in life
    Focus on living fully alive
    Of things past just let go and forgive
    Old hurts and pains will find relief
    No matter what you face
    Remember it’s all grace

  • The Destined

    We’re at Nature’s knee
    As eager as Icarus
    in Haversham’s lace.

  • May I sit with you for a while?
    You are peaceful, and inquisitive,
    And I am in exile…

    Not wanted at school, or even at home,
    I wish I could live in the forest,
    With you, like a gnome.

    You watch me eat berries, some nuts, a few seeds,
    I’m happy to share,
    We won’t survive on greed.

    How cold does it get, on your rock, here at night?
    Are you ever afraid?
    If it were me, I might.

    I have my shawl, though it has a few holes,
    They act like little windows,
    To my young sad soul.


    These lifeless eyes
    Which once shone so bright
    This black heart
    Which once beat with such passion
    Roses from yesteryear
    Still stuck in my brittle hair
    Gold satin dress
    Wrapped around this fallen goddess
    A shawl made from the finest silk
    Draped around this scrawny neck
    All I ever yearned for was fame and fortune
    And it came in abundance
    And at a terrible cost
    “So, what to you say about it all, Little Bird?
    I lost everyone
    My family and friends have all gone
    It’s just you and me now
    And my stone-cold fortune
    … and this black heart”

  • Be gone human lady do you hear
    You look very strange and oh so queer
    I can’t see your face so very pale
    Scarecrows I know of them I have no fear
    I don’t want you anywhere here
    I don’t want you quite so near
    You humans have cost me dear
    Robbed my nest year after year
    My never ending grief soaked in tears
    I can’t trust you or your peers
    Your offer of friendship brings me no cheer
    Your presence here makes danger very real
    Have I made myself quite clear
    Begone human lady do you hear

  • Joyce George-Knight February 5, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Mothers are knowing;
    instinctively they see
    maternal instincts

    Lady in bronze bends
    down on one knee listening
    to the bird’s sweet tune.

    Unafraid, the bird
    continues in chirping song,
    seated on her eggs.

    Silently, they stare
    in respect for each other
    with adoration.

    Simpleness abounds.
    She, in natural wonder;
    Bird, creating life.

    There’s no need to speak
    for each senses trust and peace –
    gifts for one another.

  • Hello there stranger what’s your name
    I must say you’re a rather odd looking dame
    I don’t recall seeing you around here before
    Are you cold that’s not much of a shawl
    Oh! I see now you’re just a statuette
    Not at all real oh shame my bad
    You’re no different from mere scarecrows
    Those stick and hay figures they’re quite old
    I’ve built my nest from hay plucked from those
    They move and creak when the wind blows
    Their tattered clothes in the wind flapping
    The crows fly up and land on them laughing

  • Searing tears
    have melted her eyes
    Silent screams
    from her hidden mouth belies

    Loss of a child
    is unspeakable
    Unseen tears now flow inward
    so bitter

    Face to face
    with another mother
    Each has no words
    for the other

    One awaits
    its offsprings with hope
    Whilst the other struggles
    to cope

    Two lives
    so close to each other
    Their futures
    cannot be farther

    are God’s beautiful creatures
    On both
    He has poured his riches

    One is dressed
    always in her best
    The other
    now has much less

    From whence
    will comfort come
    When one’s life feels
    broken and undone


    Who are you now my childhood friend –
    Princess Grace or the queen of England?
    Airs and graces
    When you mingle with those empty faces
    Dreaming of Valentino or Rasputin
    As you desperately try to shed your skin;
    Those second – hand clothes you had to wear
    And the smell of poverty you could no longer bear
    Once the warmest heart one could ever know
    And a smile that could melt the artic snow
    But the time has come to set me free
    There’s nothing more you need from me
    As you gather the roses they throw at your feet

  • King Midas loved Princess Beatrice who loved Prince Brian. The King ordered his court sorcerer to get rid of Prince Brian.

    The sorcerer changed Prince Brian into a bird. Princess Beatrice was heartbroken. She made a nest using her hair to line the entwined twigs.

    King Midas saw the nest and knocked it down. Princess Beatrice knelt to pick it up. King Midas touched her shoulder, changing her into a golden statue and the nest as well.

    Prince Brian came every day and sat in the nest at looked at his beloved Beatrice.

    Can they be changed back somehow?

  • “A bird in the house means a death in the house,” she said cocking her head to mimic the finch. “That’s what my grandmother used to say.”

    She stood and stared at the little thing. How had it gotten in? More importantly, how was she going to get it out?

    She slowly removed the shawl from her shoulders, planning to toss it like a net, but the threatening movement frightened the wee finch and it flew toward the front room.

    She bent over to pick up her shawl and that’s when she noticed him lying still on the floor.


    There you are, in the same old outfit, invading her space. Your body language is cold and accusing. She hates you for it. She cut you out of her life on that fateful night, many years ago, when her hands were so badly damaged. Your haunting eyes are driving her crazy tonight. Suddenly she gets up and grabs her razor- sharp scissors. She thrusts it at your emotionless face. Be very afraid; she’s taking control of her life! She puts down the scissors and with trembling hands, she finally picks up a sewing pattern again. Are you happy now, Mannequin?

  • There you are, in the same old outfit, invading her space. Your body language is cold and accusing. She hates you for it. She cut you out of her life on that fateful night, many years ago, when her hands were so badly damaged. Your haunting eyes are driving her crazy tonight. Suddenly, she grabs her razor- sharp scissors. She thrusts at your emotionless face with it. Be very afraid; she’s taking control of her life! She puts down the scissors and with trembling hands, she finally picks up a sewing pattern again. “Are you happy now, my Mannequin?”

  • Homing

    My lover’s note flew, far and away
    Rolled round the leg of a dove.
    I am frozen in anticipation
    I glisten with groanings of love.

    The wind aspired his words to me
    Their heat has melted my heart.
    Clouds have cradled his daydreams
    And stars, his cries in the dark.

    Oh burden, oh weight of emotion!
    Oh heavy with longing your wings!
    Rest, little messenger, tenderly,
    Will I stay such travelling.

    Come, pretty dove, at this low tide
    With quickening hands will I clip
    Gold feathers, to keep you alongside,
    Till my lips once again own his lips.

  • Are You?

    “Are you my mother?” Little Bird asks.
    “In a way, yes. I built this nest for you. I watch over you. I love you and feed you special seeds. In that way, I am your mother.”
    “Do you fly?” asks the little bird.
    “Oh, yes. With the outstretched wings of my mind, I have flown to the Orient, caught the updraft of the Rocky Mountains and even floated on the breezes that warm the South Pacific Ocean.”
    “Will I be like you?”
    “If you want to.”


    Thank you for always seeing the beauty in me. Age has finally caught up with me – my limbs so weary and my eyes so blurry now. I was lost and alone when you found me, and I had done my fair share of wandering. If you ever fly south one day, please say hello to the friends I made on my trips in search of sunnier weather. I’ve lived a full life, so please don’t be sad for me. The years have flown and now I too must fly; this old bird must fly away to her resting grounds.

  • The brown figure crept unnoticed, her only facial feature, the tip of a nose. Years of inhaling dirty Delhi air had sapped her strength. Unable to expel the dross, it oozed through her skin, hair and clothing.

    Into this sepia frame flew a flash of blue.

    A bird!

    It landed on a rock. She stooped to look at it.

    Poor thing … you need a nest.

    She removed her hat, and lay it down.

    The bird bobbed over, nestled, then looked up at his benefactress.

    She felt her soul stir and a tear fall. She gasped. “You see me!”

  • My sister and I stood at the oceans edge starring at the treasure in awe.

    “ Do you think our friend is this colour intentionally? Or did the rusty tone come from the water?” My sister asked and cradled the figurine.

    “ Oh don’t you wish she could talk ?! I think she’s travelled across the Pacific to share her story with us .” My imagination was racing.

    “ Look, it’s an artists logo !” My sister was twisting the art around .

    “ Let’s get her cleaned up.” And we skipped toward the house with delight .

  • The bird perched in her nest diligently protecting her progeny,
    peering towards the faceless woman with curiosity.
    The seasons are changing predators are engaging,
    snakes try to swallow her eggs whole.
    Nesting on the ground wasn’t this mama bird’s first choice.
    Growing seriously concerned she sees a hollow crevice that resembles a hole in a tree.
    Beneath the tattered degrading clothing was there safety?
    But what of the shadow screaming.
    Was it an omission of ill tidings?
    Torn with indecision.
    Like any expecting mother,
    the mama bird yearns to see the birth of her baby.


    I never strayed far from the nest. You called me your little bird and you loved and protected me with everything you had. You were my whole world and I only felt safe when you were near. I’m older now, but I still get afraid sometimes. When the sense of danger is overwhelming, I desperately call out for you. But you don’t respond – you just sit there with eyes so lifeless and distant. It tears me apart. When I awake from those painful nightmares, I remember you’ve been gone for many years. I still miss you so much, Mom.

  • I was walking downtown when I saw her through a storefront window.
    Calm, collected, dressed in saffron and leaf green. I could not see any of the other art pieces, jus her, waiting to listen to whomever would confide in her.
    I leaned closer to the window, looking for a price tag, did not see any.
    I already called her Lady Margaret.
    My life had been a rollercoaster for the past few months and the presence of this lady, on the other side of the window, already brought me some peace.
    I walked in to take Margaret home with me.

  • Jeanned'Arc Labelle February 19, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Word Count 98


    Qwi had witnessed them from the Cedar Grove, many times before. They occupied his roof— That large, golden stone, they now sat upon.
    Qwi listened to their quiet conversation.
    He imagined the Goddess sitting casual. Arms wrapped around her knees, she shouldered a lacy shawl.
    The fledgling she cradled close, protective of her charge.
    Her words, melodious, “how does it feel?” were heard.
    “It feels soft and sturdy.” The green-barred woodpecker sang, in reply.
    And, she trimmed her nest made of golden hair . . . the goddess’s own dreadlocked tresses.
    This too, Qwi knew for fact.

  • An Ancient Hug

    A glow, shiny bright
    In the garden, every night.
    I go.
    Where flowers grow,
    It smells of peach pie.
    But how? Why?
    I’m isolated here,
    Just birds and deer.
    Yet in the meadow,
    I feel not alone.
    Although quite invisible,
    Warm hugs hold.
    Then again, an aroma of peach pie.
    Memories surface,
    Images of Gran, swirl.
    Taking me back to when I sat curled,
    At her feet,

  • Gloria

    “Don’t look at her,” momma said.
    I whispered hello anyways.
    “Why hhhello,” the woman stammered handing me a piece of bread.
    I looked at my mother. She nodded.
    Shredding the crust into a million bite-sized pieces I cast them into the wind.
    Seagulls swooped down to catch them.
    Laughter bubbled from my lips.
    “Ppprecocious,” the woman smiled.
    “Yes,” my mother agreed. “Time to go.”
    “Lavender blue dilly dilly…” the Woman sang as we walked away.
    “Not a penny to her name, poor thing” my mother whispered.
    ‘Oh but when she sings,” I answered “even the birds stop to listen.”

  • Perception

    Valerie walked by the bird several times a day as she went about her endless tasks, hanging the washing, weeding the garden, trimming the grass. They had become friends. Each time she passed, their eyes met and Valerie called out a greeting, “Hello my beauty” or “Good morning sweetheart”. Today she slowed her step and leaned in more closely than usual, the folds of her skirt nearly touching the nest. “Hello my little darling”, she said. The bird’s eyes bulged, it squawked loudly and flew frantically away, frightened and angry.

    Things are not always as they seem.

  • Rejoice

    I fashioned my dress from emerald moss
    Draped myself in a spider-silk shawl
    Three dainty pink roses, twined in my hair

    I sat on my perch of ancient grey stone
    the dew caught the sun and turned me to gold
    My tiny winged friend all speckled and mauve
    sat silent, content, her eyes sparkled black
    A gentle breeze made the red poppies dance
    nearby a brook murmured song, the notes silvery blue

    The Universe wrapped us in infinite Grace,
    an invisible quilt, whispering:
    be blessed in Joy
    be charitable in Mercy
    find Peace, for it is in you

  • If this submission duplicates kindly remove one. The website kept crashing as I was submitting them.
    Kind regards, Lu (Elsie)

  • Leave me be
    Sitting here
    Hugging my
    bended knee
    In silent contemplation
    Of nature
    She is
    My window
    To the world
    She is
    My inspiration
    She is
    All I need to
    Set me free

  • The roses in her hair were the piece de resistance in her otherwise drab wardrobe. They were the only part of her attire that did not currently have holes. She wore them each spring, when the parakeets’ migratory path coincided with the location of her lonely heart. The number in the flock rose and fell, but it was only one bird that mattered. The bird who looked into her aching heart, with the familiarity of a lover. Filling her soul up enough to survive another year on earth without her beloved soldier, fallen in battle in the land of parakeets.

  • “I don’t have any,” said Kay sadly to the blue and yellow parakeet on the ground before her. She flapped her shawl at the bird. Some empty seed husks fell to the ground. “Go! Fly away!” Kay said, tears filling her eyes.

    The parakeet hopped closer, certain that Kay could find some seeds. It chirped plaintively at her.

    First Kay had brought the cage outside. Then she opened the door. Now she was urging her beloved parakeet to leave, without even a seed for the journey.

    What have I done to make her send me away? the tiny parakeet wondered.

  • Golden Boy sat on the rock contemplating the little bird in the golden nest. His thoughts could not get around the fact that the bird had colours. Why was it not golden coloured as he had decreed? It was most disobedient and should be punished. He had to admire the bird’s audacity in keeping its colours. Surprisingly he was enjoying this variety of hue displayed before him. The golden tone of the nest was pallid next to this beautiful bird. Then he thought, “A world full of individuality is much more stimulating than one of uniformity.”

  • Little bird.
    I see you there, fragile dollop of feathers.
    Gravity’s nemesis.
    Eyeing my raggedy shawl.
    Perhaps you want its withered threads for your nasty nest.
    You think I am too old to swat you away,
    And you will just steal them.
    Hold them safe in your beak,
    While you escape to the treetops with a flash of strong wings.
    That could easily happen.
    Yet, my eyesight is still fine.
    Good enough to see the cat
    Crouching behind you.

  • Wendy Barrick Rhead February 27, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    As a child she was called “Bird,” because of her fascination with them. Her yard was adorned with bird houses and feeders. Birds visited daily. It seemed she knew each by name. In her golden years she sat on different park benches in her town, holding a small pouch of seeds. She fed them and spoke to them. She no longer has a voice, or eyes to watch. She is remembered by the figurine that was created in her honor. It is in the library close to the window that looks out to her favorite bench.

  • Metamorphosis

    I feel like I am
    m e l t i n g a w a y.
    My body suddenly losing
    its shape,
    my mind losing its

    The birds
    sweet songs,
    promising future beauty
    and bliss,
    but in this moment,
    with my
    marred by stretch marks
    and my
    heart s
    n into
    my stomach,
    all I feel
    are the constant stares
    as puberty
    struggles to mold
    this lumpy,
    formless shape

    a woman.

  • I had some issues with the website freezing, so my poem may have posted more than once. I apologize for the trouble! Kindly delete any duplicate posts 🙂

  • *** CONTEST CLOSED. *** Thanks to all who entered and good luck! The longlist will be announced before our Festival of Authors, which takes place on April 6th.

  • Jenna walks slowly into her moms bedroom with her head down, trying not to look at the statue across from her mom. Eyes puffed up and red like a cherry. She walks right up to the bed shaking her legs and hands and suddenly, she pauses. “It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault.” Over and over again in a whisper while breathing heavily. Before her mom could say anything, She collapses onto the floor. Her mom notices the scratches and bruises all over her body. She slowly sits up with her eyes in the back of her head, only seeing the white of her eyes. She points at the statue.

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