Inspired by Art: Who’ll win the OWC “Story Starters” writing competition?


©2014 Allyson Latta

©2014 Allyson Latta


Click to read stories based on this photograph.

Story Starters

I was thrilled when the Ontario Writers’ Conference committee asked me to contribute one of my photographs to Story Starters. Now in its second year, the competition brings together artists and writers in a creative and entertaining way.

From January to March, at the beginning of each month, OWC featured the work of a different local artist. My photo (above) was published in February. I was honoured to share the Story Starters stage with artist, writer, and editor Ingrid Ruthig (January) and artist Gretel Boose (March).

Participants had till the end of each month to submit their writing prompted by that month’s art — prose or poetry of no more than 100 words. The result was amazing, as you’ll see when you click the link at the top of this page. My photo gave birth to an unexpected and provocative array of stories and poems. Altogether the three Story Starters inspired almost 200 contributions.

The committee chose its top ten for each month, from which judge James Dewar selected three finalists per Story Starter. Good luck to the following writers!

Marie Arthur-Beswick

Joe Balevi

Mona Blaker (2)

Kristy Leigh Logan

Alicja Merifield

Claire Sylvan

Lori Twining

Caroline Wissing

At the Ontario Writers’ Conference this Saturday, delegates will be able to read the finalists’ stories and vote for their favourites. The three winners will receive their prizes at the close of the conference.

And if you need more proof that art can plant a seed in a writer’s mind, here it is. One writer, Audrey Ksepka, used her Story Starters submission as the jumping-off point and wrote a 1500-word story that won first prize in a writing contest in Brownsville, Texas.

The Conference

I’ll be at the Ontario Writers’ Conference this Saturday, presenting a workshop on memoir writing titled “Truth and Dare” (with bonus self-editing tips). If you’re attending, maybe I’ll see you there.

And if you haven’t yet discovered this annual conference with its wonderful lineup of authors, editors, and workshop leaders, you don’t know what you’re missing. There’s still time for you to register for the Festival of Authors on Friday night (May 2). Or just come along and pay at the door.

Look Around You

Really look. What art — visual or otherwise — do you see that might get your pen moving and the words flowing?



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  1. Such an evocative image — and what a fine collection of stories it engendered!

  2. I love this image Allyson – of course you know where my mind went, but it’s an incredibly evocative photo and I’m not surprised that it generated so many story starters!

  3. carin says:

    I can’t stop seeing the surface as something to do with an elephant. Which renders the human rather small and tick-like. This, however, begs the question: why is the elephant so ‘rolly’? A modern rendition of ‘The Little Prince’ also comes to mind…

  4. It’s a very striking photo – the lone figure in white and the rolling earth. In terms of story generation, for some reason it reminds me of a song Johnny Cash sang on his last album: I forget the name but it’s about a guy who was looking out over a landscape and then shot a man. At least I think that’s what it’s about but I may be mixing it up with Folsom Prison Blues, which isn’t the song I mean. Anyway, to me there’s a Johnny Cash sensibility about this image: loneliness, masculinity, the rural…

  5. Cheryl says:

    Pensive. A young man, alone, contemplating, what? Life? His life? The future? A girl, perhaps a first love? A wonderful image that holds the viewers eye and the writer’s imagination. Your choice of tone in the post-processing enhances the mystery.

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