Writing prompt – Unreal

Making friends at the Art Institute of Chicago. Shows woman in an art gallery standing with outsize sculpture of child. Photo by James HainsworthMy hub took this photo a while ago when we were visiting Chicago’s Art Institute. It’s one of the most exceptional art establishments I’ve had the pleasure of exploring.

Imagine waking to find yourself in a world where everything is a) larger than life, and b) slightly unreal. Would you embrace the opportunity of adventure or devote your energies to getting back to reality?

The fact this huge boy-child and I are wearing matching shoes only adds to the sense of the strange, in my opinion. I can’t remember what we’re both staring at, but I appear to share his amazement!

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.

Time to rev up for the Writers’ Weekend 2021

Butterfly cr Judy DarleyThe Writers’ Weekend 2021, formerly Winchester Writers’ Festival, runs from 24th-27th June 2021, and is your virtual opportunity to mingle with writers, agents and lots of other interesting literary types.

Authors Diana Gabaldon and Chris Riddell have been announced as keynote speakers.

Book for events with a wide array of novelists, including Robert Fabbri, Kate Mosse, Lissa Evans, Tracey Corderoy, MG Leonard, Derek Miller, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Helen Fields and Ness Wood, as well as talks from top literary agents on the craft of writing and how to get published. Learn, discuss, ask questions, be inspired and entertained, and meet other writers.

There are more than 600 opportunities to sign up for virtual one-to-one appointments and Group Chat rooms for topic-driven small-group discussion. This year look out for Writers’ Circles too. These virtual writing groups offer the chance for peer feedback.

The programme will close on Sunday evening with a panel discussion from international best-selling author Kate Mosse, novelist Abi Daré and literary agent Lucy Morris. Read all about it in the programme.

The Writers’ Weekend takes place from 24th-27th June 2021. Choose the package that suits you.

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.

Writing prompt – ladybird

Red ladybird on a red rosebud. Photo by Judy DarleyWith so much rain followed by an abundance of sunshine, everything around us is blooming, and that inevitably includes invertebrates. I’ve been struck by the sheer numbers of iggly wiggles besieging our roses, from vast number of greenfly and aphids to the ants farming and milking them for honeydew.

Happily, the juicy green critters have alerted a patrol of predators, including this beautiful crimson ladybird. Nature always has a solution for keeping things in balance.

Can you use this truth to seed an eco-optimist #clificlifi story or other creative work?

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.

Ledbury Poetry Festival 2021

Ledbury cr John EagerSome British towns seem better suited to literary festivals than others, and Ledbury in Herefordshire is ideal – with reams of streets and architecture that the word ‘picturesque’ could have been invented for. This year, Ledbury’s annual Poetry Festival is from 2nd-11th July 2021 and invites you to the first ever hybrid Ledbury Poetry Festival with a mixture of online and in-person events. Digital events are happening across the ten days of the Festival, with the second weekend (10th-11th July) offering a full schedule of readings, workshops and open mics.

Online, you can look forward to events with Jorie Graham, Margaret Atwood, Kwame Dawes, Fred D’Aguiar, Chen Chen, Luke Kennard, Kim Addonizio, Phoebe Stuckes, Gillian Clarke, Zoë Brigley, Billy Collins, Martina Evans, Valzhyna Mort, Victoria Chang, Anthony Anaxagorou, Nikita Gill, Séan Hewitt, and John Challis, Versopolis, Ledbury Poetry Slam Online, Juliet Stevenson on Stevie Smith, readings from Ledbury Poetry Competition Winners and more events to be confirmed.

In-person events include readings, talks and performances from Julia Copus, Rosalind Hudis, Ruth Stacey, Jamie Thrasivoulou, Beth Calverley, plus community events including an interactive poetry trail.

There will also be a mixture of online and in-person workshops with Phoebe Stuckes, John Challis, Zoë Brigley, Martina Evans, Jamie Thrasivoulou, Ruth Stacey, and Rosalind Hudis.

Don’t forget to enter the LPF Poetry Competitions. Poems for the adult and under 18s (12-17 years) categories must be received on or before Thursday 15th July 2021 at 5pm British Summer Time.

The image at the very top of this post was kindly supplied by John Eager of www.visitledbury.info.

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.



Book review – Deep Water by Lu Hersey

I originally wrote and published my review of Deep Water by Lu Hersey in September 2015. I really loved this book and have been awaiting the sequel avidly! The book has just been released in a fresh edition by Tangent Books, so I decided to re-publish the review in support of Lu’s beautiful writing.

Deep Water by Lu HerseyLu Hersey’s debut may have been written with a teen readership in mind, but it transcends the YA category with a tender, eerie tale of marine myths and magic. Lu won the 2013 Mslexia Children’s Novel Writing Award for Deep Water, and the gentle, almost stealthy start belies the thrill and beauty of this book.

Danni is your average 15-year-old with an average family life, or so she thinks until the day she comes home to find her mother missing and a mysterious pool of salt water on the kitchen floor.

Along with cheery sidekick Levi, Danni is packed off to stay with her dad in Cornwall and soon becomes immersed in a world where curses take the form of ‘poppets’, the weather can be charmed with knotted fabric and a select few can take the form of seals when the fancy takes them.

In Cornwall, Danni gets to meet a family member she thought was long deceased, and discovers an inherited trait that will change her life forever – she’s a sea person, and needs to transform into a seal on a regular basis to retain her health and sanity.

Drawing on Cornish Celtic legends, Lu has created a version of the metamorphous stories that’s far removed from the fey prettiness of most mermaid tales – changing is physically excruciating for Danni and a mackerel she consumes while in seal form is painfully thrown up when returned to human physiology. Details like this keep the fantasy elements firmly rooted in reality, and make you invest wholeheartedly in the flawed yet potent core characters.

The underwater scenes are powerfully written – atmospheric and charged with dazzling energy. “Out in the open water, we circle a swarm of ghostly jellyfish with cauliflower-like tentacles that have somehow survived the winter, drifting along on some invisible current. I swim through the darkening water, somersaulting round and round in sheer joy at the sensation and the freedom.”

Continue reading

Writing prompt – glimpse

Tree folk by Judy DarleyDuring a woodland stroll, I happened to glance upwards, and my heart jumped in alarm. High above me, a small face peered down – not a squirrel or a blackbird but something utterly unexpected.

I live in the kind of area where fairy doors are added to trees, complete with miniature umbrellas and hats. It’s a fun place to take a stroll!

Imagine the different ways a character might react to this glimpse. Once their heart has stopped racing, are they more likely to smile or scowl? How can you use this response to highlight aspects of their personality, or even flashback to an incidence in their past?

Or, if you like, focus on the tiny figure in the tree. What’s their primary emotion on seeing and being seen by some large lumbering creature like us?

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.

Wells Festival of Literature competitions

City of Wells cr Judy Darley

Wells Festival of Literature takes place from 15th-23rd October 2021, but before that they hold their annual writing competitions, with entries accepted until 30th June 2021.

The categories are short stories, poetry, children’s books and poetry by anyone aged 16-22 inclusive.

The first prize in their Open Poetry Competition will this year be £1,000. Second and third prizes will be £500 and £250 respectively.

The Short Story and Book for Children categories have the following prizes:

  • First prize = £750
  • Second prize = £300
  • Third prize = £200

There are Local Prizes of £100 each for the Short Story, Open Poetry and Book for Children competitions.

The Young Poet category the following prizes:

  • First prize = £150
  • Second prize = £75
  • Third prize = £50

All three prize winners will also receive a year’s subscription to the Poetry Society.

Short Story Competition
Entries may be on any subject and should be between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length.
The Short Story judge is writer of fiction and non-fiction Sally Bayley.

The fee for each entry is £6.

Open Poetry Competition
Poet, author and playwright Owen Sheers is the 2021 Open Poetry Judge. Entries may be on any subject but must not exceed 35 lines in length.

The fee for each entry is £6.

A Book for Children Competition
The judge for this category is author Dr Joanna Nadin, who has published more than 80 books for children, teenagers and adults, including the award-winning Penny Dreadful series.Entries to the Book for Children Competition should be aimed at readers between the ages of 7-16 years. You must submit the first two chapters or first twenty pages, (whichever is the shortest), together with the synopsis of up to two pages and the age range of the book specified.
The fee for each entry is £6.
Young Poets Competition
Competitors may submit only one entry and must be aged 16 to 22 inclusive, at the closing submission date on 30th June 2021. Entries may be on any subject but must not exceed 35 lines in length. The judge is poet Phoebe Stuckes.
The fee to enter is £3.

The closing date for all entries is 30th June 2021. Prizes for all four competitions will be presented on Monday 18th October 2021 during the Festival.

Find the full rules and details of how to enter.

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 – parade

The Festival of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres on the Azores, 2017. By Judy DarleyI took this photo in Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel, the largest of the Azores islands. Jetlagged after a full day of airports and planes, I was mesmerised by the shininess of this man’s shoes against the black and white pavement.

The Festival of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres is a major holy event on Sao Miguel. It’s up to you whether you want to research the intricacies of the religious beliefs and rites, or invent something original. Who might this man be? Why the red coat? What’s with the floral carpeting in the centre of the road? Whose feet appear almost out of shot?

Are drums playing, women ululating, children tooting on horns, animals braying? Can you smell beer or coffee, toasting sugar or crushed petals? Is the air warm and drowsy or crackling with excitement? How might the festival’s zenith impact one person or group?

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.

WFH? Work from The Canaries!

WFH From The Canary Islands. Shows woman working on a laptop with tropical beach and blue sea and sky beyond.With so many of us working from home these days, the views really are growing a little bit dull. Happily, the Canary Islands Tourist Board have launched a competition which will lead to one lucky homeworker winning six months of remote working in the Canary Islands, all expenses paid.

The prize includes return flights, accommodation, co-working space and activities in the destination for six months.

The competition closes to entries on 9th June. To enter, you’re invited to record yourself answering the question: ‘What do you do and what would you get out of working from the Canary Islands?

You must upload your video to social media using the hashtag #RemoteWorkerWanted and tagging the Canary Islands’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or YouTube channel.

The winner will be chosen by a jury of five members, including experts in remote working and in tourism marketing, and will be announced on 30th June 2021 via the Canary Islands’ social media channels.

For self-employed workers the case may be business as usual, but remote working has been a growing trend in recent years among 9-to-5-ers, with and has rapidly accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly accelerating the trend. Many companies are now changing the way they work, as well as their openness towards remote workers.

The Canary Islands is a haven for the WFH-ers the tourist board has labelled “digital nomads.” The Archipelago has always offered high internet speed, better than the European average, which is set to become even faster with the introduction of 5G. With a climate of endless summer, thirty natural parks and protected spaces, biosphere reserves stretching to 60% of the Archipelago’s terrain, five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, world-class beaches and an array of original cultural activities, the Canary Islands has plentyto offer outside of working hours.

Choose between Tazacorte, La Palma, for its tranquillity, Corralejo in Fuerteventura, for its beaches, or Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria when you want to pair natural beauty with a cultural city.

All competition participants will have exclusive access to the Remote Talent Directory, a tool to connect freelancers and remote workers with professionals and companies residing in the Canary Islands. This tool will be shared with co-working and co-living spaces located in the Archipelago, as well as companies and professionals open to work with remote workers from all over Europe.

Full competition details can be found at www.remoteworkerswanted.com.

It might be time to swap that digital Zoom ocean backdrop for a real one!

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

Hay Festival 26th May to 6th June 2021

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

While the wonderful Hay Festival isn’t taking place physically this year thanks to Covid-19, the Hay Festival Digital runs from Wednesday 26th May to Sunday 6th June!

More than 200 acclaimed writers, global policy makers, historians, poets, pioneers and innovators will strive to inspire, enthral and entertain with FREE events for all ages.

The Opening Gala is titled A Night of Hope, and will stream in notable voices from around the world  including HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, actors Richard Eyre, Jessica Raine, Stephen Fry, Theresa Lola, Romola Garai, Charly Arrowsmith and Louise Brearley, comedians Sindhu Vee and Rob Brydon, writers Elif Shafak, Juno Dawson, Clemency Burton-Hill, Simon Schama, Rufus Mufasa, Hafsa Zayyan, Margaret Busby, poets Hollie McNish and Karl Nova, rapper Guvna B, scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and more.

Other highlights include conversations with authors spanning the literary spectrum from JoJo Moyes to Michael Rosen to Raven Leilani to Cassandra Coburn to David Hockey to Floella Benjamin, amid countless other luminaries.

Find the full programme and register for the events that pique your curiosity here.

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.