2020 Costa Book Award Winner Hosts UK Writer’s Retreat 

The Grange by the Sea_Skyros_2021Fancy taking a trip to the masterclass of a lifetime? Costa Book Award winner 2020 for her novel for The Mermaid of Black ConchMonique Roffey is hosting a life writing coastal masterclass on behalf of Skyros. The ‘Your Story’ Writer’s Retreat will take place at Skyros’ UK Retreat, The Grange by the Sea on the Isle of Wight, within earshot of the ocean.

Eight hours of tuition on top of afternoon drop-ins will offer a solid start to any life writing project.

Mermaid of Black Conch coverMonique Roffey is an award-winning Trinidadian-born British writer. As well as winning the Costa Book of the Year 2020, The Mermaid of Black Conch was also shortlisted for the Goldsmith Prize 2020 and longlisted for the Rathbones/Folio Award. She is author of seven books, six novels and a memoir. She is Senior Lecturer on the MFA/MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and has taught for Skyros for many years.

“In the world of writing memoirs, understand how shame can limit your potential and tap into your vulnerabilities, transforming them into strengths.”

The Grange has Good To Go accreditation with Covid measures in-place, and is well suited to solo travellers as well as couples and friends.

Monique’s masterclass runs from Monday 17th until Friday 21st May, 2021.

The price, £575 includes:

* Eight hours of coaching per week
* Breakfast, lunch and dinner
* Afternoon drop-in classes for three afternoons
* Additional ad-hoc morning and evening activities
* Community structures unique to Skyros that bring everyone together in a fun and authentic way
* Twin shared 4-star guest accommodation at The Grange by The Sea (single upgrades available).
* Coastline walks and opportunities for excursions

For more information, call +44 (0)1983 865 566, email holidays@skyros.com and see the full season of UK retreats here www.skyros.com.

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

Writing prompt – No Mow May

Bee on purple flowers by Judy DarleyAs #NoMowMay begins, it reminds me of how much damage we’ve done to our busy pollinators with pesticides and eradication of much of our planet’s green spaces.

Happily, this initiative from Plantlife offers us the chance to make a difference by… doing nothing. Don’t tidy your garden or titivate your lawn – allow it to grow unkempt and unruly with wildflowers as bees and other insects search for vital nectar.

If you’ve glimpsed my first short story collection Remember Me To The Bees (available from Tangent Books), you’re probably already aware of how much I love natural in general and bees in particular.

This #NoMowMay, can you write a small, celebratory tale about the important work our pollinators do and how we can help them, whether that’s by banning pesticides, planting bee-friendly flowers or just being a little more willing to let our green spaces run wild?

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 may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Enter Frome Festival Short Story Competition

Frome rooftopsFrome Festival Short Story Competition welcomes submissions, with a deadline of 31st May 2021.

This small Somerset town of layered roofs is set roughly between Bath and Taunton has become a hive for writers, with the  annual festival featuring writing residencies throughout the small, characterful shops, and street performances seemingly on every corner.

This year’s judge is Frome resident and author Frances Liardet.

The competition costs £8 to enter. You can purchase a detailed critique of your work for an additional payment of £47 per story.

Stories may be on any theme, but must be between 1,000 and 2,200 words in length, not including the title.

First prize is £400, second prize £200 and third prize £100.

You can read 2020’s winning stories here:

There will also be special awards for writers living within a 25-mile radius of Frome Library, in a bid to support and encourage local writers. This year there will also be an additional prize for a local writer aged under 21.

Frome Festival is going ahead this year and the competition prize-giving will be held on ECOS, Frome’s Merlin Theatre’s outdoor stage.

The Frome Festival is well worth visiting for its own charms, especially the incredible busking that takes place throughout the narrow streets.

For full details visit the competition website.

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.

Publications in April

Mushrooms by Judy DarleyMy flash fiction Stretching Out found a home in Hencroft’s Issue One, a spectacular debut entirely focused around the theme of Fungus. It’s about the relationship between Agnes and her Grandfah, who encourages her to be more that society dictates.

Here’s a paragraph from the tale:

It was Grandfah who encouraged her thirst for knowledge about the natural world. When she knelt to admire the gills of clouded agaric fungi clustered in leaflitter, he told of their strands stretching and intertwining far underground.  He suggested Agnes sketch the honey fungus clinging to rotted boughs, nodding in response to her observations as though her words had weight. He even had a special name for her interest: mycology, and said that one day she’d be a great mycologist.

My small strange micro tale The Sideways House, inspired by the so-called ‘new normal’, appeared in Issue 4 of Twin Pies Literary.

At just 92 words, it explores the challenges of living within previously unforeseen constraints.

Here’s a line from the centre:

All our pictures hung askew, books domino-ed, and the showerhead swung like a perturbed cat’s tail whenever we dared turn it on. 

You can read the rest here www.twinpiesliterary.com/volume-four/thesidewayshouse

In other news, I was nominated for a Sabotage Reviews Award in the Best Reviewer of Literature category. You can vote in all the categories here by 5th May. If you enjoy my reviews, please consider voting for me. Thank you!

Writing prompt – walkway

Walkway from here to there by Judy Darley

My part of town seems to be overflowing with building works currently, with scaffolding and partial constructs glinting through every view.

Rounding a corner, I glimpsed a crane apparently leading directly to a cloud, and for a dreamy moment my brain accepted that as truth.

In that instant, I thought, ‘Oh look, a walkway from here to there.’ As though that made perfect sense.

If ‘here’ is the urban centre I’ve barely stirred from for more than a year, where might ‘there’ be?

What optical mis-step or misunderstanding could you weave into a magical tale or work of art?

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 may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Poetry review – The Estate Agent’s Daughter by Rhian Edwards

The Estate Agents Daughter book coverOpening her collection with the title poem, Rhian Edwards immediately sets the tone: wryly humorous, unabashed, yet slightly self-depreciating, as she describes herself in the terms of a property complete with a ”white dogleg staircase”. With lines such as “Her writing desk has been nudged to the brink/ of the bay” and “cable-knit cardigans draped across Ikea chairs come as standard”, I feel I’m gaining an instantly relatable image of the poet in Part One.

‘House Share’ is a clear demonstration of Edwards’ observational acuity as we find ourselves in the midst of an apartment that is “a dog-eared novel, laced in saliva” where a lethargic Labrador “pricks up/ her envelope flap of an ear” before collapsing “into a coil of herself.” It’s so vividly written that I feel I know this dozy dog and the affection both felt by and towards her.

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Enter the Bridport Prize

Burton Bradstock, Bridport. Shows figures on a pebbly Devon beach. Photo by Ben Collins on Unsplash

Photo by Ben Collins on Unsplash

The Bridport Prize, one of the UK’s most prestigious writing competitions, is currently seeking your short stories, flash fiction, poems and debut novels.

The deadline for all competition entries is 31st May 2021.

Poems may be up to 42 lines in length. The entry fee is £10. The winning poet will receive £5,000.

Short stories may be up to 5,000 words long. The entry fee is £12. The winning short story writer will receive £5,000.

Flash fiction may be up to 250 words long. The entry fee is £9. The winning flash fiction writer will receive £1,000.

Novel extracts may be up to 8,000 words long. You must also supply a 300-word synopsis, which should be the first page of your entry. The fee is £20.

First prize is £1,500 plus mentoring by The Literary Consultancy and consultations with literary agent AM Heath and publisher Tinder Press.


Victoria Hislop, author of The Island, One August Night and other novels, will judge novel submissions. She says: “I am really excited to be judging the Bridport Prize! I will be looking for readability and originality, for writing that engages both my imagination and my curiosity! I am really looking forward to reading the entries.”

Raymond Antrobus, author of author of Shapes & Disfigurements, To Sweeten Bitter and The Perseverance, plus the first ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre (In 2019), will judge poetry submissions. He says: “I’m looking for poems that are written with both eye and ear…poems that unfold, surprise, delight, haunt its readers all at once. Don’t be afraid to take risks, be bold and show us something singular that only you are able to do or say.”

Former Literary Editor of the Observer and author of Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption, Robert McCrum will judge short story and flash fiction submissions. He says; “I’m on the look-out for the only thing that really matters in new fiction: an original voice. At 5000 words or so, the short-story is the ideal arena in which to pitch that new note. Flash fiction is like 20/20 cricket, an exciting new genre battling on a venerable pitch. I can’t wait to see what exciting novelties and reverse sweeps, the Bridport Prize will come up with. But it must be flash!”

Don’t forget to check out the resources section of the Bridport Prize website.

Find full details and enter your creative works at www.bridportprize.org.uk. And don’t forget to sign up for their newsletter full of useful tips and inspiration.

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.

Writing prompt – communicate

Smiley face written in white against a blue sky by a small unseen plane. Photo by Judy Darley

During the past year, we’ve all learnt new ways to communicate, and to show our affection without infringing social distancing requirements. Facebook even introduced a new heart-hugging emoji representing ‘care; to join the ranks of ‘like’, ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘wow’, ‘sad’, and ‘angry’. (Still waiting for the ‘frankly confused’ option).

In the UK’s southwest, a local skywriter has been adding smiley faces to our views.

Imagine if your only option to communicate with distant loved ones was by skywriting! How might the public nature of these declarations influence what you choose to say? How might two people be implicated for their shout-out? And given how the image is altered by perspective, what confusions and misapprehensions 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 may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Enter Bristol Short Story Prize 2021

Bristol hot air balloons cr Judy DarleyGot a story shuffling about inside your head? Bristol Short Story Prize 2021 is open for entries. The closing date is 5th May 2021. Submissions can be up to a maximum length of 4,000 words. There is an entry fee of £9 for each submission.

The writing competition prizes

First prize is £1,000. Second prize is £500, and third prize is £250.

Each of the 17 remaining shortlisted writers will receive £100. The 20 shortlisted stories will be included in Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 14published by Tangent Books.

An additional prize of £100, The Sansom Award, in recognition of the contribution to Bristol publishing of John and Angela Sansom, will be presented to a Bristol writer selected by Angela Sansom. The Sansom Award winning story will also be published in the print edition of Bristol 24/7 magazine.

The 2020 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Florida-based writer Stephen Narain.

The 2019  Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Sydney-based writer Cameron Stewart for his story Black Snow.

The 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Dizz Tate  for her story, Cowboy Boot. 2nd prize went to Chloe Wilson. You can read an interview with Dizz about her win, here. Chloe Wilson has been signed by literary agent Kate Johnson of the New York-based MacKenzie Wolf Literary Agency.

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.

The 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.

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

Book review – The Naming of Bones by Jan Kaneen

The Naming of Bones cover showing a drawing of a woman in front of a green ocean at night.The beauty of this book is dazzling. From the first page, I felt myself being drawn into a work of art where light catches on grains of sand and waves hush continually. There’s a quietness to the prose that’s deeply beguiling. It makes you want to listen harder, to breathe in every word and nuance.

Dreamscapes, memories and make-believe all play their role, climbing into each other’s arms and laps until you can’t be sure where real ends and made up begins.

We commence in the middle of the night with a sound of singing, “soft and faraway.”

Jan Kaneen‘s narrator is in bed, just woken and “straining to hear.” In the following pages, it seems that straining to hear could sum up all her efforts – to identify, to gain clarity of a surrounding resonance that hums always somewhere just beyond reach of full comprehension.

Our location is a shoreline where a beachcomber is seen each day, whatever the weather. It’s a wonderful, wind-swept setting, and one that feels shaped by the narrator’s sense of grief. Kaneen sums up the mood and our narrator’s mood in two lines: “I favour wilder weather and stormier skies, and I only go outside on rainy days. I prefer to watch people rather than be with them, and the rain keeps them away.”

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