Writing prompt – tenant

Reggie cr Judy DarleyOur new home came with an unexpected lodger, who seemed rather surprised to discover us peering into his pond after months, or even years, alone.

Imagine a couple moving into a house only to discover someone or something is already resident. What could ensue?

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.

Write for a Flash Walk

Totterdown coloured houses cr Judy DarleyI’m happy to say that after a year’s hiatus, the #FlashWalk is set to return as part of the National Flash-Fiction Day celebrations on 16th June 2018. Far less seedy than it sounds (depending on the tales submitted), the Flash Walk will take place in Bristol, celebrating fiction in its shortest and most intense form.

The Flash Walk will take place in central Bristol, and your words can be part of it.

To be in with a chance of being included, all you need to do is send us a piece of flash fiction, prompted by some aspect of the theme Urban Landscape. You can take this idea in any direction you choose, using any theme and any genre, providing your tale is between 40 and 400 words in length.

Bristol can be but doesn’t have to be a source of inspiration for your submission.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 21st May 2018.

The selected stories will be shared by  actors during the walk, so if yours is chosen, all you need to do is come along and enjoy the performance!

The walk begins at 10.30am on 16th June, just outside the main entrance to Bristol’s M-Shed on the harbour side. It will finish at the GreenHouse, Hereford Street, BS3 4NA (just under a mile’s stroll away), between an hour and an hour and a half later.

The GreenHouse will also be the venue for the afternoon’s free writing workshops

To be part of National Flash-Fiction Day‘s #FlashWalk2018, submit your entries to bristolflash@gmail.com before midnight on Monday 21st May 2018. There’s no charge to enter, so why not give it a go?

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

Bristol Short Story Prize 2018

Bristol hot air balloons cr Judy DarleyOne of my favourite writing competitions (and not just because it’s local), Bristol Short Story Prize 2018 is now open for entries. Flick through any of their anthologies and you’ll discover a wonderful breadth of theme, topic and style.

The closing date for entries is May 1st 2018. Submissions can be up to a maximum length of 4,000 words.

The 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Dima Alzayat  for her story, Ghusl. Following her win Dima has been signed by literary agent Juliet Pickering.

BristolShortStoryPrize-vol-9-coverThe 2016 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Stefanie Seddon for her story, Kãka.

The 2015 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Canadian writer Brent van Staalduinen for his story A Week on the Water.

The 2014 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Mahsuda Snaith for her story The Art of Flood Survival.

Find the full competition rules here.

The writing competition prizes

First prize is £1,000. Second prize is £700, and third prize is £400.

Each of the 17 remaining shortlisted finalists will receive £100.

For full details or to enter, go to www.bristolprize.co.uk.

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



Wading in

Big Blue No. 1 by Emma JacksonI’ve been entranced by the art of Emma Jackson ever since encountering the contemplative peace of her canvasses at Bristol Affordable Art Fair and discovering that she is prone to wading right into the watery scenes she recreates. It’s an immersive technique that helps her to fully experience her surroundings, and thereby convey them more compellingly to us, the viewers.

“The more directly I come into contact with nature, the more I am able to make an emotional connection with and make sense of a place,” she explains.

Big Blue No.5 by Emma Jackson

Big Blue No.5 by Emma Jackson

For her recent BIG Blue series, she’s delved into recreations of an underwater world glimpsed off-shore from Australia and Hawaii “where I was lucky enough to go diving and experience at first hand the ethereal quality of nature and life beneath the ocean.”

Back on dry land in her studio, Emma uses a range of photographs for an initial set of drawings, “then I create a music playlist to set the scene before I can start painting. I played Modern Kosmology by Jane Weaver over and over again during my Blue painting sessions.”

Big Blue No. 2 by Emma Jackson

Big Blue No. 2 by Emma Jackson

Each of Emma’s paintings begins as a search for “the ‘Genius Loci’ the spirit of a place. I’m quite often drawn in be a certain light at a certain time of day. I’m currently experimenting with some nighttime photography to capture that very special light between day and night.”

Quarry No. 6 by Emma Jackson

Quarry No. 6 by Emma Jackson

Forests, oceans, quarries and streams all play their part in feeding both Emma’s urge to be outside. As she mentions in her artist statement, “I start the creative process by getting outside, walking and exploring, sometimes trespassing searching for unusual and remote areas within the landscape. This could be a deserted slate quarry in the Lake District, an ancient woodland in Scotland or island-hopping in Finland. It’s important to make an emotional connection with the place before I can start to make art. I will spend a lot of time in one place, taking photographs and making quick sketches. It is essential to capture the ‘sense of place’ before I head back to the studio and start making art.”

Finland No. 6 by Emma Jackson

Finland No. 6 by Emma Jackson

Her pieces offer slices of shadow and light, and a hint of the movement of a breeze over water and through leaves. There’s a suggestion that if you concentrate and inhale with care you may just catch a whiff of damp earth and the heat of living things. “I’m aiming to recreate the emotional experience I had at the time of being there,” she comments. “This is sometimes representational or it can be quite abstract. I think my work is most successful when they reflect both styles – semi abstract.”

River No. 1 detail by Emma Jackson

River No. 1 detail by Emma Jackson

Life as an artist suits Emma through and through, as she relishes “thefreedom and diversity, and the opportunity to travel and see the world.”

From 21st-25th March Emma was lucky enough to head to the New York Spring Affordable Art Fair where she exhibited with Wills Art Warehouse.

“My work is on show throughout the year with either Wills Art Warehouse in London or with Woodbine Contemporary Arts Gallery in the Midlands. I will also be showing my work at The Moreton Gallery in the Cotswolds over the summer starting 11th May.”

For details of all Emma’s latest work and exhibitions, visit emmajackson.org.uk

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – brink

Stepping stones cr Judy DarleyThis image captures a moment of carefree fun, just before one small child (not pictured) fell in with a squawk and a splash, and another (also not pictured), lost his rag and threw his welly into the mire.

I love the concentration on the kids’ faces as they traverse this perilous series of stepping stones. Could the older boy in the background actually walking on water? So many fantastic story possibilities!

Um, and yes, that is the bobble of a bobble hat in the foreground, but make of it what you will 🙂

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.

London Book Fair 2018

English Pen Literary Cafe

London Book Fair 2018 runs at Olympia, London, from 10th-12th April, so don’t expect any in-depth response from agents or publishers for a while! I attended some years ago with a publisher I was working with, and it was one of the most exhausting, intriguing, chaotic, exhausting, extraordinary events I’ve ever attended. Sorry, did I say exhausting twice?

It’s a vast, sprawling space filled with people who haven’t slept in days and aren’t quite sure where they’re going – a bit like an international airport but with the added requirement of being ready to schmooze at a moment’s notice.

Previously I’ve urged aspiring authors not to attend with the aim of pitching unpublished novels, but last year for the first time there was a special Author Club area at the fair which is returning in 2018 and will be well worth investigating. Plus there’s the London Book Fair Insights Seminar Programme covering everything from the impacts of Brexit on the book publishing industry, to how to publish books about mental health.

On the whole though, this is very much a trade show, where the emphasis is on publishers pushing titles, discussing international rights and new markets, seeking out new business collaborators, stifling yawns and drinking rather a lot of coffee.

If you’re going along, good luck!


Writing prompt – visitors

Little House by Gilly Mound

This gorgeous picture is Little House by Gilly Mound, who was my featured artist last week. I love the house tilted beneath the moon and the sea rushing up to the garden wall as though considering dropping by. There’s something magical about the scene. I can almost hear the waves murmuring against the stones and the rustle of wind whispering through the trees!

Write a few lines to describe the people who live here. They’re clearly so fascinating that the sea and moon both want to visit.

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.

Underwire – a short story

TearsInTheFence67This beauty arrive last week, brimming with noisy poems and tales all fit to stop you in your tracks for a moment (or far longer, if you’re not careful). I’m thrilled to have my surreal flash fiction Underwire included in issue 67 (Winter/Spring 2018) of Tears In The Fence.

The issue boasts a spine and 184 pages, making it a journal, if not a full-blown anthology, rather than a magazine.

You can buy back issues of Tears In The Fence or subscribe here.


Here’s a sneak preview of my tale:

Underwire by Judy Darley

The pebbles of the beach are cold lumps beneath my soles. A January wind whistles in from the sea, but I ignore the goosebumps sprigging my flesh and with effort I think the core of me into heat. That’s a trick, imagining a small inferno lit at the centre of my gut, flames licking the ropes of intestines and keeping me warm.

That’s how it begins, and the image below is where it ends, but you’ll have to get your hands on a copy of the issue to find out what happens in between.

Underwire by Judy Darley

Winchester Writers’ Festival competitions

Stripe Image provided by The WInchester Writers' ConferenceWinchester Writers’ Festival returns from 15th-17th June 2018, offering the opportunity to mingle with writers, hungry agents and lots of other interesting literary types.

The Writing Competitions are now open for entries. Don’t miss the earlier than usual deadline of 11th April!

The Shortlist will be announced on the Festival website at noon on 11th May, with the Winners due to be announced on 18th May.

Founded in 1980, the conference now encompasses a festival, book fair and  in-depth workshop schedule, as well as masses of opportunities to network with other aspiring and established authors.

Promised highlights include the festival’s renowned One-to-One Appointments with literary agents, commissioning editors, authors, poets and industry experts. There will also be masterclasses, talks and open-mic readings, all devised to inspire and inform you so you can take the literary world by storm!!

The Winchester Writers’ Festival takes place June 15th-17th 2018.

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

A moment’s respite

Old Harry Rocks by Gilly Mound

Old Harry Rocks by Gilly Mound

There’s an enticing hint of reminiscence about Gilly Mound’s mixed media artworks – looking at them I find myself recalling childhood holidays to picturesque villages, often within sight of the sea and almost always within earshot of sheep. The vivid colours and bold shapes are deliciously inviting, with an impression of sunshine throughout.

“I have always loved colour,” Gilly comments. “Initially my art was based around mixed media and stitch and was quite colourful, but not as bold. Then a few years ago I decided to pare down the media and processes I was using and began to experiment with acrylics. I was instantly hooked.”

Home From Home by Gilly Mound

Home From Home by Gilly Mound

Gilly describes her style as “quite ‘blocky’ and naïve. Acrylic is a perfect media for this style.”

Her surroundings are frequently the impetus of a new work of art. “For me it’s down to environment,” Gilly explains. “I live in the countryside where the changing seasons are very defined and inspirational. I love to walk in a rural landscape of fields, trees, leaves and sheep! And the British coastline, particularly Cornwall and Wales is very influential in providing imagery of little boats and harbours.”

Little Harbour by Gilly Mound

Little Harbour by Gilly Mound

Gilly is also a fan of ceramic pots and jugs, and these, too, appear in many of her works as still life elements, often providing a foreground focus to an idyllic view. I love the details she chooses to include, such as the pebbles in the scene above.

Three Sheep crop by Gilly Mound

Three Sheep, crop, by Gilly Mound

Gilly’s aim is to share her affection for the places she lives close to in Worcestershire’s Teme Valley, and the locations she visits.

“I try to portray the way I feel about places and everyday objects rather than capture their exact visual reality,” she says. “For instance, my painting of Bayards Cove, Dartmouth, is pared down and stylised but still recognisable as the subject.”

Bayard's Cove by Gilly Mound

Bayard’s Cove by Gilly Mound

Prior to immersing herself in fine art, Gilly worked as a fabric retailer and knitwear designer, before studying and then teaching fashion and textiles. I couldn’t resist asking how she feels her background in this area impacts on her work.

“A really interesting question!” she exclaims. “I believe it has given a commercial leaning to my work. Colour, shape, pattern and form are important features of fashion and textile design and yes, I believe these ‘organising’ factors do influence me when I am making art.”

Where I Want To Be by Gilly Mound

Where I Want To Be by Gilly Mound

The pleasure of creating is evident in her work. “That moment of making art and ‘being in the zone or flow’ is a priceless experience,” she says. “Unfortunately it doesn’t happen every day, but when I’m fully connecting with my work there’s a sense of immense satisfaction in simply being involved in the creative process. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

Find more of Gilly’s work at www.gillymound.co.ukThe Art Agency, 118 – 120 High St, Esher KT10 9QJ and Whalley Fine Art & Framing, Holywood, Belfast, Co. Down.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.