Story Starter October – Joe Cebek

October Story Starter

Our September Story Starter got a terrific response; we read some wonderful submissions! October features the innovative creations of Joe Cebek!

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 October inspiration piece:

October Story Starter


Joe Cebek self portrait

Joe’s Self-Portrait


Joe Cebek has a diverse background which includes periods as a professional knifemaker and professional biologist. And always, there has been photography. I received my first camera when I was eight or nine, and ever since have used photography to help me explore the diversity of life that surrounds us. Photography has been a passion, and while I have used it as a tool to aid my work as a biologist, I have also used it as a vehicle to see in new ways.

My home is in the Kawartha Lakes and I am constantly inspired by the shapes, structures, and textures of fragments that I find while rambling across the myriad landscapes of southern Ontario. For many years I have shown my photographs in public lectures, and recently had my first solo exhibition of photographic prints.


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Want to check out the September entries? Click here.

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

  • Feathery but staunch, swaying to the gentlest touch of the warm winds
    Stitched into the grainy gray landscape
    Footprints in time from the palms of the dinosaurs
    Lying in wait below the sandy surface
    Springing forth with new but ancient life,
    formed centuries ago

  • Bernadette McClenaghan October 1, 2014 at 11:14 am


    Camouflaged surroundings betray you
    posing pinnate all the while the
    stipe that supports your flattened blade revealing
    not all is as it seems

  • The shadow of the claws was getting bigger! He quickly hid underneath the covers. Never in his eight years had he been so scared. He clung to his Superman bedspread. He was going to be Superman for Halloween. Superman wasn’t afraid of anything; so why was he? He strummed up all his courage and inched the blanket down from his face. He slowly turned his head, looked at subject of the shadow. Relief swept over his entire body. It was just the tree branch outside his window swaying in the night wind. He smiled proudly to himself and fell asleep.

  • A patch of a million grains of sand – regular, smooth, unremarkable – decide to present a new face to the world. They strike a deal with Mother Nature, who needs a location for her latest humble weed. “We will support your common, indifferent, vertical growth, but you must supply guaranteed sunlight to project it to the horizontal plane. We will catch the angles and ratios to bring out its essence, its beauty, and its grace.”


  • Prints on the sand
    Patterns that land
    In a different point of view
    In its place anew

    Standing still
    Stoop on a hill
    Bowing to the wind
    Beloved thoughts rescind

    Time in a halt
    Though a statue of salt
    Out loud laughing
    Oh my humble writing!

  • It’s hazy and grey, a shadow on the grains of the ground. Even though it looks like leaves, she wonders if that’s the whole story. Is it a plant, or a headdress? Is it group of feathers or a cardboard cut-out? Staring at shadows only shows the world that we have no idea what we’re looking at.

  • “That looks pretty good, Josh,” she whispered. “No, no, I want a few more,” he retorted. “Josh, I really think you have enough,” Annie said, looking up from the weather-worn fragment of bone that she was rubbing between her fingers. Josh stopped and turned to look at his twin sister. The low tide aroma was potent, as the ocean breezes ruffled their hair. “I don’t think you get it, Annie” he announced, frustration furrowing his brow. “I want it to be – well –important looking. Chiefs have to look important. C’mon Annie,” he stated pleadingly, “help me find some more feathers.”

  • Barefoot, I cross the sand where I had walked with you yesterday. Another had walked here with me, some years ago. Do the fragments of shell and bone along my path, recognize me? Do they expect to feel the weight of your step next to mine? Absently, I pick up a feather and regard its ragged barbs. I recall how your hand had slipped out of my grasp yesterday, and you had walked away. Someone else then, not me. Echoes of those years ago. The sea air is bitter on my tongue, or is it the salt of my tears?

  • Just the thought of her tickled me like the lengthening shadow of palms tickling the sunset over the sand. Enough time had passed that my memory of her softened. Gone were the deeply grooved waves of anger, the storms that raged when her tides were low. Only her hair, her touch and the corners of her smile stayed in the safe place of my mind. Soft, warm nestled in bone. Not even a cyclone could blow them away.

  • I see a Family united by love, by blood in their veins, by systems working together to sustain life, have roots established to be firmly bound. Like the Palms the roots hold together the stalks and leaves, to nourish, to grow. The father stands tall, the provider; the mother, the caregiver, the children the fruit of their love. As the family continues to be in unity fed by love, their ties become stronger, they become ONE until…the roots rot, the green leaves turn brown then fall, and the winds carry them to the great beyond. The same with MAN.

  • Marie Beswick-Arthur October 12, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    The Jingle-Dress Dance: shadows of myself

    I thought some might think my walking on stage was the dance. Pictured a guy saying, “Sum-kinda-Injun-thing?” His wife’s reply: “Shut-the-hell-up, Herb.”

    BOOM! The elder’s throaty-chant in drum’s echo: a primal scream.

    I stepped over the Fescue, into the valley. Teasing river’s edge. Turning, twisting. Became: mountains, the cones singing like Chinooks in bitter winters; streams, the spring ten-thousand bears stirred from hibernation; bison-calf teetering beside its protective mother, in a thin stand of trees; salmon labouring upstream under a golden canopy. I crossed the ocean by riding the wind. Returned to earth, deep-deep my bow, joining buried-bones and tangled-roots of ancestors.

    • Shadows cradle life in fleeting moments,
      Moon and sun carve out shapes,
      Silhouettes in forgotten places.
      Presence where there is none,
      Nothing but suggestion.
      Sentient reality fades to shade patterns
      Papered on sand walls,
      Wed to eternity.

    • Love this!

  • Man leaves only shadows among the ruins
    Ego matters little to nature
    Even stones will waste away in time
    Driven by forces of a distant future.


    Frond shadows now lying on the pebbly beach had been waving
    over the moist sand that once held footprints which had been
    claimed a few hours ago by the lapping waves. Would anyone
    know where to look for her? Alice’s white shell barrette had
    slipped from her wet hair and landed near one of the shadow
    leaves. Perhaps someone might notice it lying in the sand.
    W. Bloesel

  • the strength of the shadow
    detailed and devouring in hunger
    as it sways in the sun
    the pebbles, so miniscule
    the grains embedded in the sand
    as they meld into the same color
    yet the detail obvious
    the roots buried in the earth below
    as it survives
    no nourishment for days
    the sun unyielding
    yet it lives
    by only the edge of existence
    as we, all do…

  • Greg and Eddy went on a journey in search of the Golden Paradise where everything was pure gold. Their eyes bulged as they walked on the golden sand. They came upon a gold Palm shrub. Thinking that only one shrub would make them rich, they tried to uproot it but the Palm would not budge. Unsuccessful, they stopped pulling. Then the whole shrub turned black, withered, and fell on the now brown sand. They heard a loud, deep voice saying “This Paradise is not for the greedy, but for those with hearts of Gold. Banish, before you turn to stone!”

  • Amal wandered away from the caravan while looking for his sheep. All around him was the vast ocean of white sand reaching up to the horizon. He looked back to see where the caravan was but it was nowhere to be seen. He was very thirsty now. He wished he was a camel. He could have conserved water. Far ahead, he thought he saw water sparkling in sunshine but to his chagrin it turned out to be a mirage. Exhausted, he kept on walking. Suddenly he saw the shadow of palm leaves on the sand dune ahead. “Oasis”, he screamed.

  • I could hear faint voices, but not comprehend. As I struggled to regain consciousness, the voices became clearer, and I knew they were discussing my case. What was my prognosis? I desperately wanted to know. Then I tried to force my eyes open. My husband was close to my bed, and my doctor was standing at the end of my bed. I could place them by their voices. Finally my eyes started to focus, and I saw their smiles. I took a deep breath of relief and knew all was well. Then I saw the fern silhouette. A gift of love.

  • tanka:

    Projecting as claws
    the dark shadows of the fern
    loomed on her landscape
    casting an ominous air
    the memory unsettling.

  • Triangle Craft

    Hidden in the night,
    or cloaked by daytime green
    triangle craft are rarely seen.
    Sometimes they are immense,
    sometimes quite small,
    they perplex we Earthlings,
    one and all.

    Triangle craft, just briefly viewed,
    do not reveal their why or who.
    They depart at trajectories oblique
    at velocities beyond man’s current feat.

    Perhaps our descendants are stopping by,
    on guided tour, or perhaps to correct
    some key event,
    put the History straight,
    we had badly bent.

    Or perhaps they come to say hello,
    imbue mankind with hope and faith,
    that we shall survive, and a wondrous
    future waits.

  • Joy permeates the reed as it collides with the damp, chilly breeze, the ocean air leaving sprinkles of salted moisture on my lips, the sand sparkling its greeting to blinding rays of sun.

    Gazing on the edge of the world, where the bluest horizon converges with the white caps of spirited waves, I melt into the sand as the tide grabs my feet to pull me into her magical oasis where one never emerges without profound metamorphosis.

    This is the potency of our beloved Earth weaving a spell of mystery and awe with every silent wave of wind.

  • “What a perfect holiday this has been . Doesn’t even feel like Boxing Day ” sighed Sean
    “And to think you didn’t want to leave London and come to Thailand ” Alexis smiled .
    Sean grabbed his binoculars from the beach bag. He was an avid bird watcher and something had his attention this morning.
    ” Odd. It looks like the birds know something that we don’t . Those doves are moving higher and higher up the trees. ”
    “hmmmm? ” Alexis looked up from her novel
    “Would you mind if we did something else for the rest of the day ?
    My gut and those birds tell me a storm is brewing ” Sean frowned.

  • Four feathers in the sand.
    Are they marking the place where he buried her? No silly, this is a distraction, it is not where she is. And why he did it? Did he really? Such lovely place so tainted by suspicion and uncertainty now. Why is its remoteness leading to such crime? I think that he lied to me. I will never enjoy this beach again. I am confused under the hot sun. Hell is other people. This is one time for sure when it applies. My steps are leading me back to reality of everyday living. What if ….

  • The dream was ominous.The beauty of nature seemed raw and clouded and as some of the branches blew in the wind, they fluttered and almost coughed. I awoke with the sense that we have to create a world where we need to take care of mother earth and nurture the beauty we have in every frond of green that grows. The urgency became apparent in the shadows, the hope for coming generations.

  • Running to the point of exhaustion, physically and mentally. So much darkness stabbing into her being. As she fell she caught a glimpse of a plant standing tall in the sun, a feeling of peace came over her. Mother nature embraced her in that split second and comforted her. She was not alone, she was never alone. The wind whispered in her ear, there can be no shadows without light and no light without darkness. One cannot exist without the other and as she wiped the tear soaked sand from her face she knew she could continue on.

  • The waves carry him onto a beach as black as midnight. He stumbles forward and collapses faced down in the sand. He feels the ocean pull at the precious ground beneath him, and wonders if this is heaven. Did one exist for captains who flee their sinking submarines? He thinks of the men, clawing like the tide at his back as his hands push open the hatch. He crawls up the shore and casts one final thought about the bomb. Then the air around him goes white. Sands illuminate. A single plant casts its last shadow. Its leaves stand together.

  • While Richard enjoyed the squeals and laughter of his two children – Alice 6 and Mary 4 – playing along the beach, it was thoughts of his pal Harry that occupied his mind. All medical expertise and ‘miracle drugs’ had proven ineffective against the disease’s onslaught which reduced his friend from a strapping fellow to a hundred pounds of opaqueness.
    An interesting shadow on the dune drew his attention. ‘How representative of the latest developments,’ he thought. ‘No matter how hard the wind strains to bury the image, the silhouette persists.’
    Richard bit his quivering lip. He will miss Harry.

  • We all have a dark side. That’s what a shadow is. Following us around all day and night, even though we may not see it. Just waiting to pounce out at those who cross the line and get on our last nerve. You can try and hide them all you want but they will always be beside you the whole way through life. Shadows aren’t something you can rid yourself of it’s something you just have to put up with. Our dark sides whether you believe it or not are meant to help us conquer our fears and anger.

  • Shadow puppetry on sand
    has me racking brains for monikers.

    Unfathomable, swayed by winds of doubt
    behind me in Plato’s cave, jagged strangers
    cast aspersions with gloomy silhouettes,

    savage claws into kind flesh.
    And yet, taxing anchors on my craft yank
    to fertile depths, the likes of Blake

    have meditated on like grains of sand,
    where cycles of light and shade assemble
    fragile steps of sawtooth ladders

    that seers, tooth fairies, and conscious dreamers
    scale as information up strands of DNA,
    through time, across space, down lines of poetry

    ushering dutifully the power
    of the nameless.

  • The wind ruffled the feathers of his headpiece, whispering.
    He heard other whispers too. From the plants. The animals. All of Creation was speaking to him.
    But should he go? After all, he was Shooting Star, leader of his people. Surely, the white ones would listen to his pleas for peace. But the war had already begun. If he didn’t join now, his people would lose their land. The land was sacred. It must be protected at all times. He knew he must heed the whisperings.
    Why did the white ones always want more?

  • The dancing shadows of the oasis trees on the smoldering desert soil provided a cooler refuge for the sand lizards.
    Bark pulled at Joh’s bare skin as he quietly inched up the tree. A few more feet and he would be directly above the half buried grey monster that had eaten his foot eight days ago. It had been difficult finding enough meat and bone in the small oasis to fuel his bodies regenerative ability. His foot was whole again and it was time to claim this bumpy, green eyed beast as his mount. He took a breath and dropped.

  • Hot empty sand, burning toes, blinding eyes, desiccating the unwary.
    Endless water, stench of seaweed and decayed salt, frothy nothingness.
    Meaningless horizon, scraggly bits of scorched grass, failing to hold back the dunes.
    A shadow, barely cast, harshly outlined, provides no shade. A shadow, a spectre, a shade that does not shade, as shades are wont to do.
    Do the leafy fronds exist? Misplaced seaweed? Perhaps all is underwater after all.
    Debris collects, casts new traces. Odd bits, dead things washed clean. Bones. Bonefish. Decayed birds.
    Wings or fins? Fronds or feathers?
    The soul withers of thirst.

  • Omaha Beach

    Today the image of valor and peace
    Seven decades ago a very tragic scene
    They did not know the conflict would cease
    Lives lost the dangers unseen
    Nothing went as planned that June day
    Heavy casualties on all sides
    Not even a moment to stop and pray
    A conflict so deep the world divides
    Now marble headstones most in a cross
    Create a tribute of a troubled time
    Its hard to imagine a battlefield of loss
    We pay homage to those gone before their prime

  • Today, I start the countdown. Enough warnings. When first I let my children loose among my gardens, they prospered. Each generation brought a deeper insight into the learning of those who went before. There was, I remember, a time of peace. Under my watchful guidance, they filled the aching expanse. How I loved them, my seeds of inspiration. Yet now they dredge the last ounces of my veins. Seek not the stars to escape my tempest. I shall wash your sins away with my bounteous tears. We will begin anew, your surviving grasses making lush the dryness of my heart.

  • Title: Am I Old?

    Semi-naked bodies frolic in the waves. The smell of coconut and rum skin fills me; the youthful allure brings tears. Their hard bodies flit along the shoreline: supple, college aged—and I, old as the sand beneath me. My eyes dash from the youth. To my right, ferns rustle in a dune blown by a salty breeze. The end-of-day silhouettes resemble plant fossils engrained in bedrock. I’m that fossil. Am I old? I glance to the fit bodies playing on the beach. I smile. No, I’m not that fossil, not on the inside; where youth keeps an old heart alive.


    Thanks and good luck to all who entered. Check out the November contest here:

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