Story Starter January 2018 – Vivian Tserotas

Our January Story Starter showcases artwork by Vivian Tserotas, a textile and glass artist who is co-owner of the Art Gallery of Lambeth.

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 January 31, 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  

Vivian Tserotas has been working as a full time artist since completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts and her Bachelor of Education degrees. She has also been teaching for the Thames Valley District School Board and created a textile arts program, which she taught at Fanshawe College.  Seven years ago, she started and became the co-owner of the Art Gallery of Lambeth where she continues to teach her craft and is the head curator and the educational arts programmer.    

Although her studies involved contemporary sculpture installation, and painting, today she is primarily known as a textile artist and most recently a glass artist.

Her work continues to evolve as she enjoys pushing the limits of her medium and combining various materials to create unique pieces of art. The challenge of the unknown and the process of problem solving is what intrigues Vivian to create and also why she never duplicates her work.  Vivian’s artwork can be distinguished by her signature use of vibrant colours, and the illuminating energy flowing from her stiches into whimsical swirls. These same elements are also recognized in her fused glass creations.  Vivian’s work is spontaneous and full of life allowing the viewer to experience her passion, enthusiasm and her laborious love for her art form. 

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. **

  • Spring Cleaning

    The crows who meet in the tree
    always know when it will snow,
    but in spring they grab branches
    and caw, “Duc in altum! Go into the deep!”

    It’s spring! Inspired, I go deep inside,
    pull out the radix, bitter root of pride,
    radish that lures with spicy redness,
    and it feels radical to get to the root that way.
    The crows, like ancient Church fathers
    in their black robes, would be pleased
    that I know it’s the right thing to do.

    It’s spring! I dance with new lightness
    and strength, until next spring
    when I must do it again.

  • I walk beside the winding river; a place I have come to often.It is here, that the people of my
    tribe have looked upon with reverence.
    The cold, deep waters are home to many fish; which have fed my tribe for many moons.
    But upon this cold morning, as the last remnants of frost cling to the river bank, my eyes seek out a lone crow.
    Carefully, I follow him, my silent moccasins treading in reverence.

  • I’ve never found a crow feather, in all our walks through Earl Row. Not once. But there are always lots of feathers around… goose, seagull, even blue jay! But never a crow feather. Not one!

    “Why do you think that is?” I wonder aloud.

    You grin, “Why do you think that is?”

    And truthfully, I am at a loss. I shake my head; “I haven’t the faintest idea.”
    You walk ahead, hands clasped behind your back, leaves crunching under your feet; no longer considering my question.

    And for some reason, it’s all I can think about at the moment.

  • Joyce George-Knight January 3, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    Energy, powerful as a raging fire encircling the world, holds God’s messages. Wise and frustrated eagle takes notice as it hovers before the sun. “My spiritual messages from God go unnoticed. What can I do?”

    Radiant Sun replies, “Raging fires, volcano eruptions, and other disasters make me fear that evil is winning. ”

    “The earth’s solar plexus seeks peace, trying to calm the intense dissension confusing and blinding earthlings. They can’t distinguish between the anger and spiritual energy.”

    Eagle offers, “We’re united with the Trinity. Together we’ll cover the earth until earthlings awaken to our messages of love, peace and sharing.”

  • I looked skyward , gazing at the Supermoon in awe. It was as if I could just reach out and touch it. I was reminded of my elders fables of the moon and green cheese.

    My smile turned to a gasp as the spectacular osprey glided in front of the moon’s face. Folklore taught me that an osprey hunting at night was the sign of enemy intruders.

    I broke into a gallop as I ran to the safety of my cabin.

  • I submitted a second version of this story …could you delete the above and use the second version. I am never sure if the message is delivered. Thank you.

  • A Northern Manitoba Morning

    I scratched a hole in the frost-covered window. Suspended like an eerie gossamer curtain, an ice-mist stretched across the frozen landscape. Chimney smoke rose in thin straight lines.
    I knew it was a more-than-minus-thirty-degree morning.
    You learn to estimate the temperature by how the snow sounds under your boots.
    On such days, teachers did not allow pupils to play outside where exposed skin became frostbitten within minutes. Despite the numerous absentees, and the admonition: “Please play quietly”, indoor recesses seemed crowded and noisy.
    Only the occasional raven call breaks the silence.

  • The ruined city was my domain. From my night aerie high above the bowl of life I watched the last thin wisps of meagre cooking fires rise towards the brilliant stars. The soft lights of habitation flickered in and out.

    It had been many years since the war in the sky. The street lights — ancient staffs, heads now bowed and hanging by threads — no longer illuminated the black shadows. Now great birds wheeled over the bowl of the city by day, and returned at night to nest in the hollows left by their toppled crowns.

  • The rusty sky burned, showering down raw fire that stripped the trees. The heat touched her skin, but nothing was left of her that could feel it. Here, in the collapse, she remained. She endured.

    Fine. She could be patient. It wouldn’t be long now.

    A single bird circled overhead and dipped his wings in salute. She squinted upwards, but didn’t bother to shade her eyes from the ruin of sun. What would be the point?

    Had she earned this? Had she done well? The bird screamed at her, and she smiled.

    The world could finish burning. She’d wait.

  • Illuminated
    shadows to light, you and I
    like a moth to flames

  • Scarf on a sweaty face,



    burning leaves
    and livelihoods.

    This radio forecasting tragedy.
    No return.


    through the swirls of smoke,

    high above the treetops
    spirals a hawk,
    searching for a place to land.

    Maybe, I will find one too.

  • Looking up through the naked branches I could see a vulture fly across the early moon searching for carrion. The sparkling water below danced in a light breeze revealing the body of a dead squirrel floating aimlessly on the surface.

    Swooping down he grabbed it in his claws and carried it to the dry land where he feasted on the rotting carcass. It was a prize for the vulture fulfilling his purpose. But the claws in our society satisfy a different appetite for greed and privation upon the most vulnerable among us.


    Again, and again the raven came to her in a dream
    Though the haze of passionate purple and vibrant green
    She shuddered each time he perched on her window sill
    His eyes were as black as coal; lit the fire in her soul
    Even as they sent shivers down her spine
    “Pray, Raven, what do thee seek of one as forlorn as me?’
    But the raven Just flew away towards the halo of the moon
    She fell in love with him, there was nothing else she could do
    For the raven offered sweet dreams in darkness for the lonely few

  • These spindles I know,
    and this turquoise, haloed now,
    in this Van Gogh glow.


    I’m one with the swirling mist in the woods
    and my stormy moods
    I try so hard to dry my eyes
    While shadows of the moon flounder across the skies
    You promised you’d keep me safe and warm
    Especially if my wings ever got torn
    Now you’re but a raven picking at my brain,
    Causing me pain
    I tried to paint a portrait of you and me tonight
    to make things right
    But all that emerged from my soulful endeavour
    was a solitary raven silhouetted against a pale moon;
    …And a kaleidoscope of chaotic colours reflecting this darkness inside

  • Jeanned'Arc Labelle January 15, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    Night At The Pond

    Reddish hues blended day into the lure of its setting sun.
    High, silhouetted branches reached wide lacing the horizon. They shadowed a quiet march of lady bugs, skirting the pond.
    Qwi, broke that silence with one blow of his trumpet.
    “Twoop twoo to”, pitched clear, across the meadow.
    Within a heartbeat, echoes thick with danger reverberate from above. Magnificent squawked, with eagle adroitness. Each slow wing swoop, carried him closer.
    “Twoop Twoo to”, rang again, and again. Everyone halted, crouched deep into the damp ground.
    Qwi stood very still, his back tight, against the dogwood.

  • hot red sky veils night
    river golden bubbles rise
    dark crow shadows plunge

  • “We have a problem, Jim…”

    Crows don’t have a knee to take.
    Rise above the burning hate
    And fly to freedom.

    (written on Martin Luther King Day, 2018)

  • When it is the time, it was told, she will come in the form of a bird. She will devour your body and carry your soul in her talons to the next place. Your energy will be loosed to the earth again. It will help feed and shelter other life, in the air they inhale, and the food they eat, and the earth that they burrow into.

    Cal remembered this tale, now. He no longer felt the pain he had before. The sky that was blue appeared red. He blinked. The shape of a bird was silhouetted against the sun.

  • Maslow
    built a hierarchy
    with self-actualization at the top
    And homeostasis at the bottom. Basic needs.
    Breathing, Eating, Drinking, Sex, Sleeping, Excretion.
    Anything else is more than this First Nation can manage right now.

    Raven raises the alarm from a bare black branch.

    Crumbling in dark poverty, a cluster of tentative structures stand vigil.
    Dirty diapers and saturated pizza boxes wash up onshore,
    trash lapping against a past
    where sad-eyed ancestors linger in the mist.

    Raven, curious coroner, glides down to investigate
    gold thread of a girl’s coat on weather-ruined memorial.
    Research in Maslow’s frozen basement.

  • In the sky a lone crow flew over as the early morning sun danced and sparkled on the water.
    Frank held up a dynamite stick and lit the end with a match. He flung it as fast and as far as he could. He did this three more times. The seconds ticked by ever so slowly, but then, suddenly, almost simultaneous geysers of water spewed into the air with ear-splitting bangs. Just as quickly the atmosphere filled with silence. In the sky a lone crow flew over as the early morning sun danced and sparkled on the water.


    Your laughter rings through the air
    My blood flows as I lose myself in the echoes
    Bewitched, another unsuspecting male
    oblivious to the secrets hidden behind your multicoloured veil
    The truth dawned when the stake was driven through my heart
    This old vampire can’t feast tonight
    And my strength is waning on this foggy night
    I hear a raven’s screech; I look towards the skies –
    He flies close beside you, ye witch with the hazel eyes!
    These are my last breaths,
    but I’ll find you when I’m awakened by the sacred crows
    Yorkshire Moors, I’ll hear again your echoes

  • Remembering DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

    The moon rises,
    An unbroken loaf of bread
    In a wine red sky
    Forming a backdrop
    To trees that may be dead.

    Or merely resting,
    Waiting for the breath of life
    To transform all that it touches.

    Carried by circles of music,
    Life will be the gift of a dreamer,
    One who does not fear the eagle,
    A child protected by the moon.

  • There was joy in the creation.

    “The sky will be red,” she said, and laughed as it became a brilliant, deep red.

    “There will be shelter,” she said, and tall, short, bushy, and spindly trees sprouted. She beamed.

    “There will be water, to quench our thirst,” she said, and a bubbling current burst forth from the rocks. She splashed and delighted in the coolness.

    “Now”, she squealed, “some company!” She raised her hands. Countless sparkling bubbles emerged from the earth, water, trees and air. They rose, shining in the sky, with figures of all shapes and sizes forming in each.

  • No glow of its own, a sunless moon
    Burns red
    Jealous of Raven.
    He who glides and casts shadows,
    He who rises and falls,
    He who soars through sinewy rays of gold
    Leaving light-less moon to watch, and wane.

  • Red flames
    Yellow flames
    Wildlife fleeing
    No escape
    Birds circling
    Nowhere to land
    Their homes
    Their perches

    Look away
    Away from
    The illuminated scene
    Flip the switch
    Darkness returns
    Calmness prevails

  • Ruby-rich sunset –
    dreams begin before my sleep –
    luxurious rest.

  • ev’ry tapestry
    tells a story yet unlearned
    with tactile knowledge

  • As the massive moon cast a jacinth hue on the forest, a slumbering eagle opened her eyes. The orb was mesmerizing. It beckoned her to fly toward it, and she complied.

    When the moon framed the tips of her wings, something pinned the bird down. Struggle was futile; any movement was infinitesimal.

    The eagle sensed a sinister presence, then a prick to her underbelly. As power seeped from the bird’s inner being, the stream bubbled below, and a velociraptor rose from the water. Its spindly wings flapping, the prehistoric bird cawed to the languishing eagle, “Thanks for the xenograft”.

  • Patricia von Holstein-Rathlou January 22, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    Rose traced her finger over the golden threads that encircled the moon.
    Her raven was on the moon.
    Then folded the old frayed tapestry, placed it in her satchel and left her home, on Skye.
    Her family was forced to immigrate to Canada to make room for the laird’s sheep.
    It was 1847.
    She traveled on a stinking, disease ridden ship, watched her parents die of fever, landed
    on a strange continent at a place called Cholera Bay.
    Her only heirloom from home was the old red tapestry.
    Rose knew her raven would protect her here.

  • Red Sky Night

    In the red sky twilight crow passes before the moon. The trees below her darken, painted a deepening burgundy. Crow loses no colour herself. Her black wings are set agleam as she tips a wing to Sister Moon. Nothing of this is important to Crow. She has come from the outer lands and she must find the one who raised her from a fledgling to give her the message the elder sends. “The beast of fire and drought and heat has woken and gains strength. Gather your children and flee to the high places.”


    For some reason, crows find me. I see them everywhere.
    They look at me with their keen eye – their knowing gaze.

    I know. They know.

    A flock of crows is called a murder. A murder will hold a mobbing when threatened,
    And they never forget a face.

    They memorize mine. They wait me out.

    Will my murder come quickly? Will they surround me? Mourn in the moonlight,
    As they hold my funeral?

    For now, they roost.

    See the sky darken? It changes my blood from black to red,
    And back again.

    Crows are omnivores. They’ll eat me up.

  • Hello, I just submitted a slightly different version of my piece “Hunted.” Can you delete the first version and use this new version instead?

  • Another vision. Gordon wondered if this one would come true like his last one. But this vision was different. It was so vibrant; the crimson, like an enormous fire behind the black skeletal trees. The blue river, was it boiling? Were those bubbles rising from it? And what of the yellow sphere behind the black bird? Was that a raven? What was Gordon’s vision telling him?


    Feathered breaths whispered,”Come, follow.”
    My heart nudged me forward, I knew I had to go.
    Twinkling, tiny, intelligent Lights then said, “Look up, let yourself be lead.”

    “Let out-stretched wings become your guide.”

    Soon, Spherical Beings were by my side.

    The waterway became my road.
    Torments of red transformed yellow, then gold.
    Illuminating despondency that had me trapped.
    Oppression soon unshackled, as the great wings flapped.

    Gazing upwards once more, I saw a face!
    Where feathers should be, it took their place.
    It’s mouth open, whispering again.
    This time though, calling my name.
    Healing my Soul.

  • Wendy Barrick Rhead January 29, 2018 at 9:57 am

    It is early evening of the third day that I lay immobilized after my fall. My horse never returned! I was slowly being transformed from pain, semi-consciousness and fear to peace, contentment and awe. The large black crow (or maybe it was a raven) did not stop circling high above me. I was now his.
    The earth around me was effervescent, I dared not shut my eyes. I feared they would never open again. I didn’t want to miss the mesmerizing display of colour. I was no longer scared or in pain. I was on a journey to beauty.

  • The wind lifts as I ride the currents and scan for my brothers.
    In the failing light I fear they have already found somewhere safe to dream.
    I curve across the river, rising higher and higher, sweeping above the trees.
    Silence. Silence.
    The breeze washes any chorus away.
    I don’t like to be alone at night.

  • Autumn moon calls to my kind to take flight
    And watch midnight blue waters wash by crimson earth,through barren trees
    We do not squawk, for the empty quiet of approaching winter has made us mute
    And as we soar closer to the moons light, even the flap of our wings are silent.


    Silent limbs stretch towards the heavens
    In silent desperation
    But there’s no hope that they can find
    The landscapes are bleak
    And the forests are barren
    The skies are scarred
    The sun is fragile and the moon is frail
    The animals are vulnerable
    And the humans are apathetic
    And relentless in their quest for self-destruction
    The raven comes by every once in a while
    As a reminder, maybe, that the end is nigh;
    And that our time is running out far too soon
    We only have ourselves to blame
    For this catastrophe…and our harvest of shame

  • Auntie’s Painting

    “Auntie, your painting; beautiful!”

    The painting hung in the rural home of my elderly relative.

    “It speaks to dark world possibilities. Aye sweetie”

    A believer in Armageddon, she hoards supplies.

    Since young the house spoke of mystery, especially the two darkened hallways.

    The only liveable room, was the living-room. Three armchairs offered a cozy spot in front of a wonderful picture window.

    Sitting I realize the scene past the window WAS the painting.

    “Okay. Auntie did you paint it?”

    “No. It found me.”

    Then, from one of the hallways crackled the plea, “can someone please bring me tea”.

  • for a time, I was a raven

    in my bed
    wings sprouted and I
    dreamed escaped
    into the night sky

    I flew across the face
    of the moon
    over the still water

    alone and searching

    one night
    on your balcony
    I called cawed to you

    waking to see
    who dared call—
    you appeared
    your crow appeared

    come join me, I croaked

    together we spiraled the trees, the earth, the moon

    in the morning
    we floated down into separate beds
    waking to a half life with others

    years later
    we pluck black feathers from our skin

  • as the crow flies

    a shadow crosses the falling sun
    breaking the silence in my heart

    barren trees stretch long shadows
    across the snow to touch my soul

    set against the sun a silhouette
    crow crosses but pauses briefly

    here in the woods my breath stops
    crow touches me and I am changed

    on a winding path as the crow flies
    I am walking in the woods again

  • Raven whispers at the wind

    Trees brush his wingspan
    remind him that river rocks rest
    just beneath the surface
    they long to break up and out
    offering a trickle of noise
    to the untamed brambles, pine and birch that
    cradle the river’s twist and turn
    Raven calls wild against the sunless moon
    his voice echoes and ripples
    sacred currents follow each flap
    each winged push to rise above
    a ragged, desperate call
    too ugly for us to hear
    the sorrow caught
    in his throat

  • Gold and Scarlet

    The horizon was a rich
    gold and scarlet
    as the sun slowly
    Around me,
    the search party began to
    and glance back
    as the trees’ shadows
    but I pressed on.
    I could hear the river
    lapping against the rocky shore,
    and I knew
    I would find you there,
    as I so often had before,
    stretched out on your back and
    staring up at the
    circling birds.
    But this time…
    This time,
    the birds had landed.
    Their golden eyes
    reflected the scarlet
    splashed across the rocks
    as you lay
    stretched out on your back.

  • When he had first flown her to his palace, she had felt like she was entering infinity. It was a sea of light, a river of jewels. She’d felt nothing but softness and peace. Her reflection in his eyes made her feel like a queen. Why her?
    The outside world had seem lame and pale in comparison.
    But now it was all she desired. To fly through the forest, free, turning and twisting as she pleased. To fly just above the sea for miles and miles soaking in the sun’s diamonds.
    That’s where infinity was, she understood now, too late.

  • Crow flew through the portal, the tips of her wings grazing the walls of the entrance as she passed through. She had arrived once again in this beautiful land that brought peace and contentment to her soul. Its trees sparkled like gold and its waters glistened like blue sapphires. Alone and tranquil, Crow observed her surroundings. Her head cleared and her heart swelled with happiness. She realized that she had discovered love for a place and the joy that kind of love can bring.

  • Richard van Duyvendyk January 31, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Nights of Glory and Wonder

    Translucent Northern Lights, starry nights
    Crisp snows and breezing
    Elder twigs, beaver dams, and frozen ponds
    A solitude that’s pleasing

    Above Earth an eagle cries, a full moon descending
    Glimmering, shimmering, the icy mirrors of snow
    Green and red dancing lights fading and glowing
    A soul figure walks on ice
    With senses overflowing

    Nights of glory and wonder
    full of constellations filling the milky sky
    Where the eagles with opened wings high above us
    pull the ripened moon with tethers as they fly

    Nights of glory and wonder
    In the skies, the winter skies

  • Bernadette van Duyvendyk January 31, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    moon walk

    captivated by the luminous night sky
    I set out across the pond
    I meander through magnetic fields of crisp, tangible energy
    slide on frozen layers of fused glass
    slip through blades of ochre grasses
    my dog ahead, tied up in a bundle of energy

    an old road allowance
    opens to a starlit field
    flanked by the blurred greens of white pine.
    I stride toward the fenceline
    along gleaming filaments of icy furrows
    crisscrossed with narrow shrifts of molten snow

    above, the full moon
    pregnant with light
    awaits the eagle’s passing
    to signal the return of night

  • *** CONTEST CLOSED. *** Thanks to all who entered and good luck! To enter the February Story Starters contest, click here:

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