Writing by Dagmar Bayer, Eleanor Updegraff, Jasmine Fassl, and Connie Phlipot

Sunday Writers’ Club organises a creative writing session on almost every Sunday of the year, bringing people from all over the world together. We write and share our newly created works with one another. On Sunday 18th June 2023 we were invited by the Bank Austria Kunstforum [https://www.kunstforumwien.at/de/startseite] to create a special writing session inspired by the exhibition ‘Now Is The Time’ by Austrian-born, New York-based artist Kiki Kogelnik.

Here are some of the stories and poems which were created that morning in response to the exhibition:


Body of Work

By Dagmar Bayer

Writing prompt: Scissors
Scissors are a recurring theme in Kogelnik’s work. Use scissors as an image to begin
a story or a poem.
Rock Paper Scissors Skin
I censor and cut out silhouettes.
The slides are so thin that they tremble
while they crawl over the surface.
Rock Paper Scissors Fur
My primeval skin:
Renewed, dried, moistured,
Permeable fur.
It can perfectly detect,
but not prevent, fear.
Rock Paper Scissors Snake
I safely casted my skin
and dried it on a hanger
With each moulting
my skin grew even bigger.
Eventually it had to be hanged on a clothesline.
Yes I know, girls are taught
not to brag about their biggest organs.
Body tissue bears testimony to
previously fulfilled wishes.
So we better keep it lean and functioning.
Dry your snake skin,
it has a greenish sparkling like seaweed
and if there`s sushi, it`s a wrap.
Rock Paper Scissors Hammer
I had to destroy my „Lover Boy“
because it became too big for the room.
No worries, it was made of bowls and tins.
It felt cruel – and liberating.
Still the clanking of tin gives me shivers.
Rock Paper Scissors Pen
It hurts with scissors
as it does with a pen.
It hurts with an application form
to file for bankruptcy.
Console me with exotic currencies,
a blanket of banknotes
with an abundance of zeros.


Rock Paper Scissors Brush
Put oil on the skin canvas.
Hide and expose.
A turquoise like
a lazy afternoon on a clothesline
shaking in the wind.
Counting on that the weight
of unfinished projects
won`t make it collapse this time.


Rock Paper Scissors Face
Back to the drawing board:
Paint a mask that makes me
look more like me.
Put it on,
raise your hand
towards your face,
reach out  and dare:


Writing at the Kiki Kogelnik exhibition in Vienna
Writing inspiration at the Kiki Kogelnik exhibition!


By Eleanor Updegraff

Writing prompt:
Are you comfortable in your skin? Do you love it? How fragile is it? Have you ever wanted to shed it?’ Writing also inspired by the title of one of Kiki’s artworks: ‘I Can See My Footprints’.
The nights are short, the city restless, a shifting canvas of colours and half-formed shapes. I feel, these days, as though I am floating, pulled along by unseen currents against my will – and yet there is a certain power in this surrender, in choosing, wilfully, to let go. It’s an exercise in trust; perhaps a small admission that whatever I would like to happen is, in any case, beyond my control. The nights are short, the days are hot, and all this gives me the idea to swim.

I come to the pool in the early morning, when the sunlight is still a thin, translucent glare. Even at six the warmth of the day is stirring, an animal preparing to pad out from its lair, but the night-cool is still there faintly, a soft breath at the back of my neck. The bus I take is itself caught in limbo, half its passengers on the way to work, the others straggling home, and me there in the middle, present but not belonging, a cut-out in skin and bone. By the time we reach the top of the hill, I am the only one remaining, unable to decide if this makes me more solid or less real.

The pool attendant sells me a ticket, mildly surprised to see someone here a minute after opening, and I push through the barrier and on to the dirt-red tiles surrounding the water. Later, they will be thronged with children, slick with sunscreen and drink, but in the slowly brightening morning they are still pristine, sun loungers lined up in neat white rows. I choose one in the far corner, pause for a moment to admire the view. The city where I woke up just an hour ago seems oddly distant, its towers glittering. I can feel, still, the press of bodies, millions of commingled breaths, the gathering heat, and despite the fact that it is anything but cold, this sensation makes me shiver. I pile my clothes neatly and step into the water. It parts effortlessly to let me through.

I swim a length, then two, then three, my strokes inelegant but steady. After every couple I pause to catch my breath, clinging one-handed to the side. The ripples I leave refract the sunlight, chasing sparks across the surface, and as I move I feel my own weight in the water, gain more awareness of my skin. So often, down there in the city, I feel invisible, as insubstantial as air. Here, with nothing but the water to buoy me, I take on shape, become a solid presence.

When I grow tired, I hoist myself up and sit on the edge, feet trailing in the water. I wait until my breathing settles, then wait some more, droplets drying on my arms. The tiles are already much warmer than when I got here, and soon there will be other swimmers, other bodies to share this peace. I will not linger in the fragile summer light, and so I stand slowly, pace the length of the pool to collect my things.

As I reach the far corner, I turn back briefly. The surface of the water is once more still, unbroken. Soon, the day’s heat will make them fade to air, but there, on the tiles where I have walked, for this one fleeting moment, I can see my footprints.

Eleanor Updegraff

Eleanor Updegraff

Sunday Writers' Club Member

Eleanor Updegraff was born in London and studied English Literature, German and Russian at Durham University. She is an author and translator, ghostwriter and editor, and reviews books for various publications online and in print. She has lived in Austria since 2015.

Writing at the Kiki Kogelnik exhibition in Vienna
SWC writers sharing their work inspired by the Kiki Kogelnik exhibition

Sewing – Lesson One

By Jasmine Fassl

Writing prompt: Scissors
Scissors are a recurring theme in Kogelnik’s work. Use scissors as an image to begin
a story or a poem.
On top of the list were scissors. 

It was my first lesson in the subject ‘Werkstätte’ – roughly translated this means ‘workshop’. In fact, it was the hands-on subject of the actual dressmaking. Going to a in fashion school with a practical focus on art, design and drawing, I was familiar with having to get unusual and specialist equipment for most subjects. Anything from particular paint, brushes, paper, rulers, knives, rollers and much more – all bought in small shops where the merchandise was behind a counter and only fetched by the assistant when asked for it.

For our the dressmaking class the list was unusual, long and expensive. The very first item on that list were scissors – but with a little note after the word saying: Do not buy before first lesson.

Once all the students had chosen a seat round a massive table in the middle of the classroom, the teacher welcomed us. The table was surrounded by sewing and overlockers hugging the walls, a blackboard at one end, and cupboards at the other. On her table she had a box with a selection of scissors, which she presented one by one. There were big ones with two broad blades and metal handles which felt medieval to me. There were medium-sized ones with oval-ish blades. And there were small, dainty ones with very pointy tips. 

She talked about their advantages and disadvantages. Their exact uses in dressmaking. Their life expectancy. Their prices. Yes, she was indeed selling them to us. She also showed examples of scissors she wouldn’t be accepting in her class. These were scissors meant for paper or for opening packages in the kitchen. Scissors with plastic handles or with colourful, patterned blades – fancy but useless.

Before we placed our orders, making another dent in our parents’ savings’ accounts, she said that once per year a professional scissor grinder would visit the school to sharpen all the scissors.

Back then, as a 14 year old, I thought she was mad. I found it ridiculous to put so much emphasis on one simple tool. To elevate scissors to such important heights. 

I have changed my mind since though. In four years of fashion school, in hours and hours of cutting hundreds of different fabrics up, I learned that there is a pleasure in using a good, well-maintained tool. I learned that when something is severed cleanly, it can be put back together – re-fashioned – easier. A blunt blade makes for sore blisters after a while. I started to appreciate her wisdom. 

I still own the scissors that I bought that day. I don’t get them sharpened every year any more – they don’t see the use that they used to back then. The likelihood that I will pass them on to my daughter is very high. Together with the knowledge of what they were meant to be used for – what what not. 

Jasmine Fassl

Jasmine Fassl

Sunday Writers' Club Team Member

Jasmine Fassl works for Vienna University and is a co-founder of SWC. She loves it when she finds the time to write while hosting online Sunday Writing Sessions. You can find out more about Jasmine on the Sunday Writers' Club about page here.

writing group
So many inspirational artworks to choose from!


By Connie Phlipot

Writing prompt: Scissors
Scissors are a recurring theme in Kogelnik’s work. Use scissors as an image to begin
a story or a poem.
They lay in a straight line across the off-white linen tablecloth, from the tiniest, the blade no longer than her finger nail, to the ponderously wicked gardening shears.  In between were the half-moon shaped cuticle scissors, blunt-edged children’s scissors, the curious doubled-jagged ones used for snipping chives, regular kitchen shears for herbs, long decisive tailoring and jaunty jagged pinking shears.  She picked up one of the smallest, but most elegant pair.  The blades were thin and dagger sharp, half again as long as the tiny embroidery scissors.  The finger holes were adorned with a rainbow assortment of glass jewels.  Margaret jabbed the  fleshy pad of her index finger with the scissors point.  A ruby bead of blood popped up into the sunlight.  She licked its ferrous bitterness.  

A pair of scissors hung from a black grosgrain ribbon around her mother’s neck whenever she worked upstairs.  Margaret was terrified the blades would penetrate the soft pillow of her mother’s breasts, but her seamstress mother was agile, twisting her torso to lay out a pattern on a fabric spread across her cutting table, grabbing the scissors’ handles without taking them off her neck, wielding the scissors like a fencing champion to produce the first elements of a dress.  Margaret loved the cut pieces of cloth pinned to the paper patterns.  An arm, a bodice, a collar — like shadows disconnected from the body.  The first time she saw the movie “Peter Pan” she thought the shadow he had lost was a pattern piece.

Next to her mother’s sewing machine were small, delicate scissors.  With the same deftness with which she used the shears, she sipped off the end of threads, or trimmed away excess fabric.  On another table lay the pinking shears — magical instruments leaving not a straight line but a mystical jagged edge like a jack-o-lantern’s teeth.  “So the fabric doesn’t fray,” her mother explained, picking up the special cutting device to attack a finely woven piece of cloth.  Margaret didn’t understand how these teeth prevented the material from doing what it was inclined to do.  Unravel.  When her mother went downstairs to pee, Margaret cut a piece of the curtains with the “pinks.”  She pulled at the edges of the cloth.  The threads stayed intact.  She pulled harder, releasing tiny shards of organdy.  Margaret hastily placed a thread box in front of the curtain to hide the damage from her mother.

Each pair of scissors had a specific, well-defined function.  You didn’t cut your finger nails with embroidery scissors.  Sewing shears never touched paper.  Kitchen scissors were for parsley, dill and scallions.  The minor exception was for trimming the edges of cut flowers.  But then they had to be cleaned thoroughly with soap before being returned to the appropriate cupboard drawer.

“Mamma, Mamma,”  Margaret ran home from school, a long white strip of paper dangling from her hand.  “See what I made!”  She spread out the paper strip.  A parade of identical little girls holding hands skipped across the table. From her notebook, Margaret pulled out a paper snowflake and laid it next them.  “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Her mother folded the dolls back to their starting point.  “Good, but you see the cut are uneven, the dress is clumsy.”

Margaret shriveled her face in tears and grabbed the paper dolls, crumpling them in her sweaty hands. 

“Oh, but you can do better.”  Her mother patted her daughter’s head.  “Wait here a moment.” 

Margaret laid her head down on the table.  She was no good.  She could never make beautiful things like her mother.  She tore the dolls and then the snowflake into tiny pieces.

“Close your eyes and open your hands.” Margaret felt something cold and sharp in her palms.  “Now look.”

Scissors like she had never seen before.  As beautiful as a diamond necklace.  As powerful as a magician’s sword.  

“It’s all about the tools,”  her mother said.  “We are nothing without the right tools.” 

Connie Phlipot

Connie Phlipot

Sunday Writers' Club Member

Connie draws upon her experiences as a former U.S. diplomat in her short stories, flash fiction and creative non-fiction.  Her novel-in-progress is loosely based on her grandparents’ lives as Belarusan immigrants in the coal mining community of early 20th century America.


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