Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2019 Short Story Competition

Beautiful skies, Victoria Park cr Judy DarleyThis annual competition is one of my favourites on the literary calendar. There’s no theme for you to base your story on – all you have to do is make sure you’re registered with the website www.writersandartists.co.uk, that the subject line of your email reads ‘W&A Short Story Competition 2019‘ and that you send it to waybcompetitions@bloomsbury.com.

Your story must be no more than 2,000 words long. The closing date for entries is midnight on Wednesday 13th February 2019.

The winner of the competition – along with two runners-up – will be announced on the W&A blog pages in March 2019.

Entry is free, but don’t forget to register before submitting your story. Continue reading

Submit your sculpture to the RWA’s new exhibition

RWA Open 166 Photo by James Beck

RWA Open 166. Photo by James Beck

Following a hugely successful annual Open Exhibition in 2018, the RWA Galleries in Bristol are branching out with a brand new Open Exhibition devoted to sculpture.

They say: “We’re inviting artists to submit their work to our Sculpture Open Exhibition in 2019. We’re so excited to be giving our gallery space over to the art of sculpture and all the disciplines within it.”

The exhibition will run from 12th March until 2nd June 2019, and you have a chance to be part of it.

“Submissions are welcome from artists from any stage in their career and all work is for sale, making it the perfect opportunity for artists to be discovered by collectors, galleries and the general public.”

This is an exceptional opportunity to showcase your work alongside some of the most renowned sculptors working today (including Invited Artist Ana Maria Pacheco) within the grandeur of the RWA’s grade II galleries.This year’s selection panel include internationally-known sculptors Ann Christopher RADaphne Wright and Kate MccGwire.

The deadline for entries is 5pm on Thursday 7th February 2019.

You can find the full details here, but here are a few of the rules:

  • Artists of all ages and experience are invited to submit
  • Submissions must be no more than three years old
  • Submissions must be for sale
  • No more than three works may be submitted per applicant
  • Work cannot have been exhibited previously at the RWA
  • A submission fee must be paid for each entry (find details of prices here) other than those by RWA Academicians
  • All works must be submitted online via the RWA’s Online Exhibition Submission System (OESS)

Good luck!

Writing prompt – beholder

Artwork at the RWA_Photo by Judy Darley

I caught this moment on camera almost by accident, and love the miscellany of disparate figures and objects. Some of these items are bona fide art complete with a price tag, others are simply clothing or possessions set down for a moment. Best of all, I love the people pausing or passing by.

What jumps out to you when you look at this photo? What do you see as art, or happenstance? Can you express this through fiction, poetry or art of your own?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Curtis Brown Creative courses for aspiring novelists

Notebook and pen cr Judy DarleyAs the new year gets underway, why not rev up your writing skills? Curtis Brown Creative, the creative-writing school run by Curtis Brown Literary Agency, is inviting applications for an array of writing courses aimed at aspiring novelists, with London-based and an online options to choose between.

There are also lower-priced online ‘taster’ courses to give you the chance to work out if this is the right approach for you, or if you’re not ready to take on the full time and financial commitment required for their longer courses.

Learn to edit and pitch your novel, or get to the end of that all-important first draft, get insights and hands-on help from successful authors and experienced editors. The creative writing school was launched in 2011 and remains the only one run by a literary agency.

“I’m proud to say that over the past few years, many of our alumni have gained deals with major publishers,” says Curtis Brown Director Anna Davis. “Some of our former students have written international bestsellers, others have won prizes and several more have gained representation with literary agents and are working to edit their novels for publication. Yet more are still working away, often with the support of their former Curtis Brown Creative cohort. It’s great to see how many of our alumni stay closely in touch with their student groups long after their courses end.– have seen more than fifteen students secure book deals with major publishers and several others find representation.”

Find full details of how to submit here.

Writing prompt – out

Kalamazoo homeless. Photo by Judy DarleyWhile visiting Kalamazoo, Michigan, I passed a park full of tents. The waitress where I ate lunch confirmed what I feared – the tents were evidence of the growing issue of homelessness. It’s a problem that’s growing in the UK as well, where cuts to benefits are resulting in more people losing their homes when things go wrong.

Think about how that could happen to you, but don’t scare yourself silly. Instead think of what could keep you strong in that situation.

I invite you to write a piece either from the point of view of a) someone holidaying who encounters such a scene, b) from the point of view of someone newly homeless seeing someone holidaying, or c) someone who has been homeless for years responding to a) a holidaymaker, and/or b) someone newly homeless.

Whatever point of view you choose, try rewriting your finished piece from one of the alternate protagonists to see how that changes you reading of the situation.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Review – Quartet: The Four Seasons

Quartet coverEdited by Deborah Gaye of Avalanche books, Quartet is a celebration of the moods that make up each season. The anthology of poetry and short prose doubles up as an almanac reminding us of the best that every quarter of the year has to offer.

Two of my pieces, a poem and a flash fiction (More Water Than Land and The Moth Room), lodge in these pages, among with many, many others. We begin in winter with a murmuration, glimpses of lapwings, an “upturned umbrella” on Pendine Sands, and the generosity of a dawn sky “layered in gold.”

In DecemberJohn Mole welcomes nostalgia in the form of “our ghosts/ as they come out of hiding/ to warm their hands/ at the fire we have made”, while in Foula, Auls Yule, Katrina Porteous invites us to “drink to the days/ the sun makes ripe”.

In Precious, Gaia Holmes evokes the magic of ice working “its dark magic,/ gliding and glazing/ the grid of dull roads,/ laminating grass/ and slug tracks,/ making rotten fence posts/ precious”. It’s such a vivid, recognisable scene of the ordinary rendered spectacular. Continue reading

Enter the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize 2019

Bud. Photo by Judy DarleyThe Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize 2019 invites entries from women over the age of 21 who have written a novel “that marries literary merit with unputdownability.”

The judges say they’re equally 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 40-50 pages of the novel via the online form and a five to ten-page synopsis of the remainder.

The entry fee is £12.

All shortlisted entrants receive a half-hour one-to-one consultation and editorial feedback from PFD literary agency. In addition, the 2019 winner will receive a cash prize of £1,500.

Shortlisted applicants will also be invited to the Annual Fiction Prize dinner at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, on Thursday 23rd May 2019.

Find out about previous winners.

For full details, visit www.lucy-cav.cam.ac.uk/fictionprize/how-to-enter, and make sure you follow the competition Terms and Conditions.

The closing date for entries is 12 noon on Friday 8th February 2019.

Writing prompt – sea

Oban bay. Photo by Judy DarleyHappy New Year! Have you had any time to write or read over the festive period? I’m currently reading the wonderful A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit. Early on in the book, the author mentions the correlations between science and the creative arts, drawing the distinction between the two thus:

“They [scientists] transform the unknown into the known, haul it in like fishermen; artists get you out into that dark sea.”

What dark sea would you choose to lure readers, viewers and other bystanders into? What might they discover through allowing you to get their feet wet, and following you, possibly far, beyond their depth?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writerly resolutions for 2019

Spring crocus cr Judy DarleyAs we edge into the greyest month of the year, this feels like the ideal time to take stock and see what’s working or not working in your creative life.

But this I mean not necessarily whether you’re creating and selling more, but, rather, whether the moments you can find to write, paint or whatever is continuing to satisfy you, and whether you feel you’re making progress, whatever that may mean to you.

Before continuing, I must confess, I rarely make new year’s resolutions as such. To me, they seem at best like a form of procrastination (‘oh, I’ll start doing that in Jan’), at worst a way of setting yourself up to fail. But it is a good time to look at how your life is going and see if there’s anything you need to change to stay on or get back on track.

It’s also a fab way to lay the foundations for a new habit that will pay dividends in years to come. Here are three that have served me well in the past.

1. Write whenever I can find the time

In 2012 I set myself the challenge of writing at least one short story every month, which is something I did without fail every month until last year. I found it a great way to keep those creative muscles taut and ready for action 🙂

But it was also a demand I couldn’t keep up with in 2017, as family calamities and new work commitments ate into my time. With writing such an ingrained part of my everyday life, however, I discovered that whenever I did find time to write creatively, whether that was a flash, a poem, a vignette, or simply editing a chapter of a novel in progress, I emerged feeling brighter and lighter and a little bit sunnier.

It’s a fuel that keeps me going even when I don’t have the chance to spend as much time dreaming up new characters and worlds as I like. Writing sustains me in a way I’ve only recently come to understand.

2. Submit regularly

A few years before that I set about ensuring I submitted at least four works of creative writing somewhere each month, which I also continue. The challenge was flexible enough not to cause undue stress (some months I submit all four pieces in the same week then forget all about them for the rest of the month, other months I’ll find I’ve submitted six or eight by day 30), and also ensures that whenever I receive a rejection, part of me breathes a quiet sigh of relief – now I can send that piece off elsewhere to fulfil part of the current month’s quota.

It also helps me stay positive, because for every rejection, there’s a healthy handful of tales still out there dreaming big dreams. And when I get an acceptance, it’s a lovely surprise, because by continually sending out creative pieces I’m never quite clear what’s out there, and therefore not too focused on any one thing.

Which brings me to the third resolution.

3. Stay organised

Around the same time I started sending out four and more stories each month, I set up a simple spreadsheet to help me keep track of them all.

This helps my writing in two ways, firstly, by ensuring I know what I’ve sent where and whether they’ve responded, and secondly, by distancing me from the process emotionally.

By transforming all these acts of hope into columns and rows, I save myself from heartache. Each time a email or post out a piece of writing, I enter its name into the spreadsheet along with the details of where I’ve sent it and the date. Then, when it comes back, I colour that row according to the response – one colour for ‘no thanks’, one for ‘no, but positive feedback’ and one for ‘yes please!’

It all provides an immense sense of productivity, without too much effort at all, which in turn helps me stay motivated. And I’m happy to say that over the years the colour dedicated to ‘yes please’ is infiltrating the worksheets more and more.

4. and 5. This year, as I’ve said, I haven’t made any resolutions other than to keep writing, keep submitting and keep hoping. Actually, I do have two new pledges to stick to (or should that be polish?) – simply to celebrate even the smallest literary successes, and relish writing for its own purpose. Lovely.

How about you?

Become a woodland writer in residence

Arnos Vale light in the canopy. Photo by Judy Darley

Forestry Commission England is seeking two writers to share the stories of our country’s woodlands.

They ask: “What do forests mean to you? If you’re a writer with a passion for nature, we want to hear from you.”

The successful applicants of the Writers in the Forest opportunity will be invited to observe the Commission’s expert foresters, wildlife rangers and world-class scientists at work in a bid to understand the trees that make up the forests that still sprawl across sections of England. The works created in response to these experiences will form part of the centenary year celebrations of the Forestry Commission.

You will receive unique access to England’s forests, promotional support and a platform on which to share your work, development opportunities and £2,500.

The submission deadline is midnight GMT on 14th January 2019.

To apply, you need to send your CV and a pitch outlining your interest in the opportunity and how you might respond creatively to our nation’s forests, whether that’s through poetry, short story or something else entirely, providing it is rooted in words.

Pitches can take the form of up to 750 written words, a video of maximum three minutes durations via YouTube or via Dropbox/WeTransfer, or up to three minutes of audio via SoundCloud.

They say: “We’re looking for innovation and imagination, and welcome all forms of storytelling.”

Find full details here: www.forestryengland.uk.