Story Starter February 2017 – Barbara E. Hunt

Our February Story Starter features a poignant work by Barbara E. Hunt.

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 February inspiration piece:

Feb 2017 SS

About The Artist: 

Barb Hunt Feb 2017 SS headshot (1) Barbara E. Hunt writes everything from poetry through fiction to screen play. Her work has been featured in literary journals, anthologies and magazines [even two writing craft books] across North America as well as CBC Radio One, The Globe and Mail and Homemakers Magazine. She was selected for a Diaspora Dialogues poetry mentorship in the City of Toronto and released The Patternmaker’s Crumpled Plan (Piquant Press) in 2011. Since she’s dabbled in collaging several years and always has some creative reno project on the go, a forthcoming poetry book will combine many of her passions.

As well as her writing work with Phanta Media in Markham, the many years with The Writers’ Community of Durham Region and the decade organizing the Ontario Writers’ Conference are her heart.

Want to check out past contest entries? Click here.

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

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

  • Dr Velma McClymont February 1, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Haiku: Message in the Mist

    Head in hand moment
    Inkblot tears falling like lead bullets
    On war torn letter

  • My pen screams out your names,
    You my dead and dying,
    My kin, you will not be forgotten.
    Your names shall be heard
    Carried by the whirlwinds of ink and paper.
    Thousands dead, thousands dying,
    Cry out o brother, cry out o sister,
    Our children are bereft,
    Our hearts are rent and battered,
    But your names will live on, forever.

  • Head in hand—script dancing on the backs of his eyelids—Yousef perches on his cane. The fog will screen his break from routine but only for a breath. Already, Omar whistles for the goats and announces that he is close at his back. Yousef hasn’t long to read the ink and to translate its message. Meteors spin like spindles feeding wool into weaves. Allah tells Yousef more than he wants to see—wills to believe. War is coming. Men with guns in their hands; rage in their bellies. Yousef’s home, isolated inside a thirsty vein of rock, will burn.

  • The Notetaker
    He weeps for the earth, pen in hand, unable to gather his thoughts.
    The ink lays in pools, nowhere to land.
    Scribbles, passages in time, no rhyme or reason.
    What have we done? Nowhere to run.
    We toiled and suffered, harvested and rejoiced.
    Now barren, soulless, nowhere to turn.
    Rocks, weeds, a wasteland have we created.
    Unmoved, yet feeling forsaken. Nowhere can we find justification.
    What are the words that can describe the loss and the lost.
    We bear witness to the wrath we unleashed. We are nowhere without her.

  • Jennifer L. Turney February 2, 2017 at 4:53 am

    From the depths of my soul, it exhausts me.
    My words, flowing onto the paper,
    Forever scratching, the ink bleeds, as I would.

    My thoughts could be my blood.
    My ideas could be my tears, happy and sad,
    So much it’s overwhelming.

    I should rest, but I cannot.
    The journey is long, the path is clear.
    When I get to the end, if I do,
    Will anyone see it?
    Will they read it?
    Will they understand?

    My quill, my closest companion.
    It knows my mind and my soul.

    I can turn to it,
    Expressing words better than mouths can.

  • “Pablo”

    Alone I stand

    on limbs so tired

    bent and warped by time

    I watch dust settle

    caught in the scattered sunbeams

    pondering which way to fall

    If only they would realize the choice was but the winds

    Splinters on broken rails bite my hand, begging to hold on

    Tiles weep beneath my feet

    I mount the stairs

    One step

    at a


    I trace damp letters drying on a cool terracotta wall

    “Pablo was here”

    I sigh


    I was

  • Old Father Time

    Youth sacrificed on the altar of men

    Of ambition: carnage in the Great War.

    Letter home to the father of the land:

    Bomb blew up in youth’s face!

    Inkblot tears dropping like shrapnel on the

    Torn page of the “fallen” on Western Front.

    Father weeping on the empty grave of

    His son in a misty wasteland of grief,

    Emptiness, loneliness and barrenness.

    Propping himself up with the mighty pen.

    Ghost of yesterday haunting the backdrop

    In no hurry to escort the dead home.

    Old Father Time getting closer and closer:
    “The minstrel boy to the war has gone…”1

    1. Song by Thomas Moore (1779-1852).

  • Oh, what will I write about now? My teacher is behind me waiting. For me to tell the world of the defeat of my soul.  And how I lost in the battle in heaven and earth in 1752. No one expected me to be standing here today.  As if I am carrying the whole world around on my forehead. “Gosh, what a pity?” A man of my caliber, homeless, and penniless, not a cent to my name. A pen with no ink to write my story. In the battle in 1752, I was the one man left standing among millions.

  • The book ban, Executive Order 4271, had been in place for a year by then. The libraries were empty. There were still a few eBooks – people from other countries kept uploading Shakespeare and Harry Potter – but legal records, science journals, and government statistics had disappeared.

    Protestors took to the streets in paper costumes, carrying giant pens, reciting lines like the characters from Fahrenheit 451. At home, readers started secret book clubs. They tested each other on the Dewey Decimal System. They tweeted “shhhh” to government officials from fake accounts.

    Then the explosions started….

  • Patricia von Holstein-Rathlou February 5, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Her body was so very cold when I placed her in the ground. I had covered her
    sweet lovely face with a silvery white veil that had been treasured by her mother.
    This was all I had left to send her on her way. The vicar said his few words over
    her grave then moved on to the next grave. He had four other burials that day; all
    were young, like my daughter. She had died because of those cruel words on this
    paper. She died on July 7th 1848 in Arichonan.


    I’m mourning the death of my wife and children. Cold-blooded warriors massacred them and so many of my people. Their arrival in the new millennium, had cast painful shadows upon our lives. Our world was plunged into darkness during the long battle that raged. In a barren wasteland, surviving humans laboured to record the story of humankind. The enemy, wanting to leave no evidence of humanity, tried to destroy our writings, but the pen is a powerful weapon. I wrote the final chapter in the blood of their leader – I melted him down after we finally defeated the machines!


    The old man’s story was so heart-wrenching he could hardly bear it. His childhood friend, Xiang, watched helplessly as he wasted away. One day Wei-shan would be furiously writing away; the next day he would be desperately trying to destroy the words which had spewed from his soul. The mighty pen had taken over his life and his story was consuming him. It simply wouldn’t go away! He died unexpectedly one morning and his pen was still in his hand when Xiang found him. Wei-shan’s story was completed; the ink was dry. Heart-broken, Xiang buried him in the field.

  • It’s a mild headache that turns into a throbbing. Working its way from the back of your head to the front. Interrupting your sleep. Distracting your daily tasks.

    In time, it will worsen. Become a migraine, making nothing but the throbbing in your head matter. Clouding your vision.

    You will do anything to make it stop. There is no pill that can help this brain-hurt. The only cure is to stop everything, and have the shadow in your brain removed.

    Sit before the keyboard. Not looking up cures, but to remove the story from your brain before it kills you.


    Many years have passed but I’m still traumatized by the carnage we wreaked. The orders had been severe: “Quell the uprising; show no mercy!” We hunted down the rebels and slaughtered them. We destroyed the elders’ manuscripts. I found one of the elders lamenting the destruction of his life’s work. He froze in terror when he saw me – the monster in the uniform. The old man’s eyes were dark tortured pools in his withered face. I couldn’t bring myself to shoot him and everything he stood for. I took my gun and vanished into the night.

  • I mourn the loss of the written word. My written word. The ink no longer flows freely. It pools, after travelling the difficult journey from my soul to my page; barely reaching my page. It used to touch every part of me! Seductively gliding over my skin, gently massaging my heart, freely dancing on my tongue. I transformed thoughts into feelings into words. Alas, there is no more life here. Like my love, my desire, and my feelings; my words are gone. I am silenced, finally, by those who wish me not to speak. Bleak reminders are all that remain.

  • February OWC Short Story Starter.

    Decreed on a Wednesday, or more probably a Friday, that cursive writing was to be no more.

    Oh, misery!

    Will children grow-up incapable of reading love letters from Great-Grandmaman to Great-Grandpapa scribed during the war, much as they cannot calculate simple change without the assistance of a cash register?

    You type well, hardly replaces, you have such beautiful penmanship. Will handwriting experts become printing analysts? Shudder!

    Still out of the ashes may come some good. After all, how can one take a certain swear-word seriously without the emotional flourish of the letter f?

  • “Bettina… my Bettina,” Horst moaned, head in hand, leaning over the shovel shaft.

    Horst’s shale encrusted boots shifted on the uneven, rocky ground. His breath laboured as a bleak, grey mist threatened to engulf him. Horst’s soul cried out for the colour that had left the world when Bettina did.

    Suddenly the shovel shaft blazed red, widened, and the scoop became a pen nib.

    A voice whispered: Fill this nib with your tears and expel them on paper. This rapier will disentangle you from the tentacles of grief. Write. Now. Release.

  • The gray world awaited her presence. She would not be conquered by the morose atmosphere. It was her daily challenge. She dreamt of shiny golden sun with lush green fields and a crisp blue sky. The joy disappeared once she opened her eyes. Her calico cat, Petunia, tip-toed over her body that was lost in the feather duvet. Merde! Never could she regain her dream when Petunia demanded her attention.
    Then she saw it was 0700; she was late to catch the trolley. The shallow pithy woman stomped her Taurean foot when she raised the curtain.

  • Lester took off his hat and wept in shocked misery. It had not been invisible ink. The others were coming now. The morning fog shrouded Lester with cold fear. The damage done, and Lester now was at a loss for words.

  • I bow
    I’m broken
    my spirit weeps
    inky black tears
    leak and puddle.
    I have so much to say,
    but an aching grips
    my soul, my heart,
    and rips the words away.
    What does it matter now
    when all that’s left
    is rubble and stone?
    You’re gone and I’m here all alone.
    I didn’t think it would end this way;
    me without you.
    I miss your touch, your voice, your scent
    the smile on your lips.
    I close my eyes
    I see you still
    in memories faded with time
    you will always be mine.

  • His mood was dark in the grey mist. The message in the letter was all too clear. He threw it on the ground and scattered stones on it chipping them up as if trying to destroy the words one letter at a time. But the message remained in defiance, refusing to let him forget the unspeakable act he committed.

  • Fountain pen-tilled soil
    Reveals chthonic love letters
    Harrowing the soul.

  • Exhausted, almost defeated, Etienne had always believed in the power of truth and of the pen but now his words were like blobs of silver solder that fell on the paper and no longer formed words.
    Was there anyone who could help him? Would he stranger approaching be the one?

  • It was journey’s end. And in that moment I had finished my tale. Yet when I turned from the cold and obscure of the unknown, with him waiting for me to finish that last closing blot, I had then realized I wanted so much more to be remembered. But as I aimed my heavy pen, I saw the writing that was my life, dictated with such loving prose on pure paper, torn and marred and pained by my story, were not mine. I knew then as he came toward me, I would not fade to silence.

  • “This bloody pen is dry, and I have no tears left to wet it again,” said father and cried without tears, “You should know it by now,” said mother,”that no amount of writing will bring him back again. I tried of for 8 years now and it does not work. You have to try to make a new normal for yourself and try to live it. Hard work is the answer.

  • “Too tired now,” thought the man who wrote the world. He set his ink down, having carefully built to the height of all he had written. The foreshadowed conclusion of his careful plotting lay before him: initial subtlety allowing each a turn pawn and queen and back again, needing only his deft final movements to resolve and replete. But now that the end was needed, now that he had to tie it together, to make it mean something, he could only weep, and kill his darlings.

  • DREAMS DIED (haiku)

    Torn into tatters
    Words gone and lost forever
    Dreams died here today

  • They buried it today. It was my best copy yet. I despaired when I couldn’t find it in the local news section. I had to search the paper two times before I found it. It was there, but hidden in the back pages surrounded by ads for automobiles, winter tires and oil changes. My words had become insignificant ink spots. I wept when I considered by dreams and aspirations. I was going to be the spokesperson for my community in the world. My tears were dropping onto the newsprint ink and smearing my voice into oblivion.

  • Exhausted, almost defeated, Etienne had always believed in the power of truth and of the pen but now his words were like blobs of silver solder that fell on the paper and no longer formed words.
    Was there anyone who could help him? Would the stranger approaching be the one?

  • Hunched over in shame, he wept at the mess he had made of his life. Year after year he would try to repair the damage, but that only proved to be more detrimental to the chaos he had been living. In the end it was pointless. Once the words of his existence were written they could not be revised. So it went for every chapter in his life. The old adage that it is never too late did not hold true for him. There are times when we must stop and accept what is. Only then can we truly live.

  • In my Great Aunt Mabel’s dream, she has her walking stick. Her brother, my grandfather,has his pen, his ink, his paper. All his journals, lost in the flood, still haunt her. Never read or shared; always “some day”. The Spanish Flu took him and, years later, the flood took what he’d left behind. In the dream, a grey mist of longing and regret enshroud them. She approaches her brother but cannot reach him where he leans on his pen in sorrow.

  • Joshua leaned heavily on his cane and prayed for the sweet, strong, handsome young man killed in a faraway war.
    “Why, God, why did you take my son? I tried to save him with my words, to stop the violence with my mighty pen. I hoped … but perhaps my words displeased you.”
    In his heart, Joshua understood God’s response.
    “Humans have displeased me. I needed a sacrifice. You must continue your work on earth to bring peace to humanity.”
    Joshua looked at the grave by his feet, sighed, and slowly walked home to write again.

  • Catching my breath
    Bent in thought of earlier times
    Holding on to words not yet written
    Wishing what could have been
    A love long since withered.

  • Son gone forever
    Buried in earth, stones and words
    Memories only.

  • Quicksilver

    Legislate against this hate of the Earth.
    Protect, don’t wreck, her gifts and their worth:
    The falcon that flies, the babies that nurse,
    Mercury-laden from the day of their birth.
    Defend our North from this southern curse
    The quicksilver spills that leave dying and dearth.

  • The dead word
    The word is dead
    The silver tongue is spread
    The soul is fed
    The word is turd
    And I see red

  • Patricia von Holstein-Rathlou February 28, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    They always left us behind.
    The old, the frail and the blind.
    We never saw the new shores.
    The joy, the strength and the hope.

    One hundred years from now they will return.
    Their history, their land, their Scotland will call them home.

  • winter smaze threatened
    veins disappearing with death
    their union ended

  • If only she had known
    I wish I had said
    All the things I wrote down
    Which she never read

    Just look at me now
    So broken and sad
    My heart aches for the love
    That I never had

    Her eyes were so kind
    A smile quick and bright
    And now that you’ve taken her
    You’ve taken my light

    I’m begging you God
    Let’s return to the past
    To when we were young
    And no stone had been cast

    But if we can’t return
    To our younger years
    Then please take me with her
    And wipe away my tears

  • Christine dela Cruz March 1, 2017 at 12:38 am

    The heavy fog hides
    a multitude of horrors.
    Spent, I await dawn.

  • Cynthia Englert March 1, 2017 at 1:02 am

    *** CONTEST CLOSED.*** Thank you and good luck to all who entered.

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