Writing prompt – empty

Bird feeder_Photo by Judy Darley

This bird feeder has been hanging empty from a local tree for more than a year. It feels a bit like a ‘cost of living crisis’ metaphor, or maybe just a reminder that we need to be resourceful to provide for ourselves in difficult times.

Of course, the creatures who come here and are disappointed may not be birds at all. What other hungry mouths might it attract? How could they respond to the emptiness?

Can you use this as the prompt for a dark fairytale or satirical story?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition

Heart leaf by Judy DarleyWriters’ & Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition is one of my favourites on the literary calendar.

Your story must be no more than 2,000 words long. For the first time in a while, there’s a theme – so your story must involve the theme of ‘love’ in some way.

The deadline for entries is midnight BST on 14th February 2023.

The winner of the competition – along with two runners-up – will be announced on the W&A blog pages in March 2023.

Entry is free, but don’t forget to register (also free) with the website www.writersandartists.co.uk before submitting your story.

This year’s judge is Naomi Booth, the author of Animals at Night, Exit ManagementSealed and The Lost Art of Sinking. Her work has been longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award and included in the Guardian’s Best Fiction of the year 2020. Her story, ‘Sour Hall’, was adapted into an Audible Originals drama series. Naomi lives in York and teaches at Durham University.

Prizes of this writing contest

Find full details and competition rules at www.writersandartists.co.uk/competitions/writers-artists-short-story-competition-2023 

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) iCloud (dot) com.

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Writing prompt – flood

Pulteney Weir, Bath. Photo by Judy Darley

We’ve had such heavy deluges this winter that normally tranquil streams and weirs have grown uncharacteristically ferocious. The one show here flows beneath Pulteney Bridge in Bath and looks like it might just sweep all the bridge-top shops and cafes away.

The ridges are where gulls, ducks and even pigeons like to perch, but now those spots may be to tumultuous for fish, let alone birds.

Can you use an extreme weather event or natural disaster to thread drama through a flash fiction tale or other creative work?

Alternatively, pick one of the figures shown. What struggles will a calamitous storm bring for them?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Enter the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize 2023

Bud. Photo by Judy DarleyThe Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize 2023 invites entries from women over the age of 18 who have written a novel “that marries literary merit with unputdownability.”

Deadline for low-income writers’ submissions: 12 noon on 8th February 2023.
Deadline for paid submissions: 12 noon on 10th February 2023. 

The judges say they’re open to literary fiction and genre fiction, as well as to young adult fiction and children, providing they are primarily word-based.

Your submission must be previously unpublished, and you must not have had other full-length novels published. However, having short stories, poetry, non-fiction or picture books published previously does not exclude you.

To be considered, you need to submit the first 40 to 50 pages of the novel via the online form and a three to five-page synopsis of the remainder. You must not have agent representation at the time of submission.

If you accept agent representation after your submission and before the judging is complete, you will no longer be eligible to take part in the competition and your entry will be discounted.

The entry fee is £12. Sponsored entries for low income writers are available – simply tick the appropriate box on the entry form. You will need to be able to provide proof of financial eligibility such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Disability Benefit, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, proof of being a full-time student, Housing Benefit or proof of being a full-time carer.

The winner of the 2023 prize will receive guidance and support from literary agent and sponsor Peters Fraser Dunlop as well as a cash prize of £1,500.

The 2022 winner of the Fiction Prize was Hannah Stapleton with her novel Blue Tears.

For full details, visit www.lucy.cam.ac.uk/fictionprizewww.fictionprize.co.uk, and make sure you follow the competition Terms and Conditions.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) iCloud (dot) com.

Writing prompt – path

Arnos Vale fog. Photo by Judy Darley

Sometimes the bravest thing we can do at this time of year is set off without knowing where we’re going to end up. Even on sunny days there may be obstacles ahead.

The fog at the end of this path reminds me that we can never truly be certain where our steps will lead. The best we can do is pick a direction, imagine a destination, and go forwards. There may be some re-routes or detours along the way, and perhaps even a few hazards, but one thing is sure, we’ll get to somewhere and maybe have some adventures along the way.

Can you use this as the foundation of a story or other creative work?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Jaipur Literary Festival

Jaipur Literary Elephant

Image © Steppes Travel www.steppestravel.co.uk

Founded by William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale sixteen years ago, Jaipur Literature Festival takes place from 19th-23rd January 2023. From Nobel Laureates to local language writers, Man Booker prize winners to debut novelists, the annual event brings together more than 400 authors, thinkers, politicians, journalists and popular culture icons from India and from around the globe.

Events to look forward to include talks and insights from authors ranging from Abdulrazak Gurnah to Bernadine Evaristo, Katherine Rundell to David Olusoga and Shobhaa Dé to Edmund de Waal. Set alongside discussions on global issues including climate crisis, geopolitics, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Indo-China relations, agriculture, and energy, there will be plenty to fire up your synapses, whet your imaginative appetite and send your spirits soaring!

Keen to take part yourself next year? Contact the organisers through the website to find out more.

Find full details of Jaipur Literature Festival here.

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Writing prompt – glove

Lost glove in a bush by Judy Darley

I’m always intrigued when I see a lost glove clinging to a shrub or balanced on fence. Is someone walking around with one warm hand, and one cold, wondering where their lost knitwear fell? Did a rodent or robin carry it off to turn into a cosy bed? Did someone take the promise to lend a hand a tad too literally?

Who lost this glove, and how? What happened next?

Is there some magical myth here in the making? Take these seeds and turn them into a story fit for this chilly season.

On 12th December 2019 my winter’s fairytale ‘Click Clack Twitch‘ appeared as part of Storgy Magazine‘s flash fiction advent calendar.

You can read ‘Click Clack Twitch’ here. The story also appears in my 2022 short fiction collection from Reflex Press, The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Call for botanical short stories

Bee on purple flowers by Judy Darley

At this time of year, I’m already looking forward to springtime. Submissions are open for Botanical Short Stories, an anthology of fresh writing about plants and flowers which will be published by The History Press in spring 2024.

The deadline is 12pm on Friday 10th February 2023.

The book’s editor is Emma Timpany and illustrations will be by RHS Gold medal winning botanical illustrator Sarah Jane Humphrey.

This collection of contemporary fiction will celebrate the world of flowers and plants and the meanings they hold, in twelve intriguing and surprising new short stories. Submissions should be complete fiction works of between 3,000 to 5,000 words by new, emerging and established writers.

If you’re a flash writer with a story that’s perfect for the anthology but falls outside this word-count range, don’t worry. Emma invites you to email botanicalshortstories@gmail.com to check this with her before submitting.

While nature is a great solace for many of us, bringing colour and light to our homes and surrounding, many plants also have historic and folkloric meanings, which can inspire great stories too.

The organisers say: “From tokens of love to neolithic burial gifts, bridal bouquets to seasonal wreaths, healing potions to artistic masterpieces, flowers and plants have a multitude of meanings and a long and complex relationship with all our lives. They are the stuff of myth, of gods’ metamorphoses and the emblems of kings and saints. They brighten our homes and bring joy to our senses, delight us in gardens and countryside, convey our emotions, symbolise new birth and human mortality, and yet are often overlooked as an inspiration for writers of fiction.”

Find full details and submission guidelines here: botanicalshortstories.uk

Got an event, challenge, competition, opportunity or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) iCloud (dot) com.

Writing prompt – doorway

Dove Holes to Whaley Bridge gap in wall by Judy Darley

With the year stretched before us like a rather intoxicating promise of possibilities, I find myself picturing my world as a doorway that could lead just about anywhere.

Of course, not all doorways are built the same way – some look more like windows, while others could seem like trapdoors into tunnels, onto bridges or the spaces between stars. Some lead to new jobs, new activities or simply lead us home.

Some may even feel less like ways through than a barrier – consider ha-has (dug-down ditches that stop livestock scattering or fires spreading). Then there are the ones that can serve as both a barrier and a means of escape, like drawbridges and, well, any door in a house. What about cat-flaps, drainpipes and stiles? They’re all potential ways through and over.

I’m told the one at the top of this post, photographed in Derbyshire, is a lunky hole, a feature of dry stone walls meant to let water or wildlife through.

Can you use this imagery as a springboard into a work of fiction where anything is possible?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

The Fiction Desk seeks ghost stories

Arnoa Vale Cemetery cr Judy DarleyGot a spooky tale to share? In these early days of the year with so many hours to each dark night, The Fiction Desk invites you to seek a home for your spooky scribblings by submitting an entry to their annual call for ghost stories of 1,000 to 10,000 words.

The deadline for entries is 31st January 2023.

They say: “We have a loose definition of ‘ghost story’: it can mean a lot of different things, from an encounter with an actual phantom in the style of classic ghost stories, to more unusual supernatural phenomena and unexplained events. All types of story are welcome, so feel free to experiment: if you stray too far from the supernatural, we’ll still read it as a general submission. Keep in mind that our readership (and by extension our editor) may be more likely to respond well to psychological chills and unexplained mysteries than in-your-face gore.”

They pay £25 per thousand words for stories they publish (eg £100 for a 4,000 word story, or £150 for a 6,000 word story). Contributors also receive two complimentary paperback copies. The stories they publish are also eligible to enter the Writer’s Award, a cash prize of £100 for the best story in each volume, as judged by the contributors.

Rules of this call for submissions

Entries should be between 1,000 and 10,000 words in length. Most of the stories they publish are between about 2,000 and 7,000 words.

To cover admin costs, submission fees are £3 (down from £4 last year) per story. Stories should be submitted online.

You might find it helpful to take a look at their previous ghost story anthologies.

Find full details of how to submit your ghost stories here.

Got an event, challenge, competition, new venture or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com.