Enter The Masters Review Award for New Writers

Lake Michigan beach.Photo by Judy DarleyThe Masters Review is inviting entries for its Summer Short Story Award for New Writers.

The deadline for submissions is 30th August 2020.

The winning story will be awarded $3000 and publication online. Second and third place stories will be awarded publication and $300 and $200 respectively.

All winners and honorable mentions will receive an agency review by: Nat Sobel from Sobel Weber, Victoria Cappello from The Bent Agency, Andrea Morrison from Writers House, Sarah Fuentes from Fletcher & Company, Heather Schroder from Compass Talent, and Siohban McBride from Carnicelli Literary Management.

Crucial details

  • $20 entry fee
  • $3000 prize
  • Stories must be under 6,000 words in length
  • Previously unpublished stories only
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
  • Emerging writers only (Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a low circulation are welcome to submit.)
  • International English submissions allowed
  • Deadline: 30th August, 2020
  • No identifying information on your story

Find full details here.

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.

Sky Light Rain – Apollo’s Offspring

Apollos Offspring
Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My seventh story in the collection is ‘Apollo’s Offspring’.

I glimpsed the above scene at Bristol Botanic Garden, and got to wondering about the uncanny qualities of a crow who can seemingly walk on water.

Seeking out myths on the topic, I discovered masses about ravens, and decided to shift my corvid focus for purely artistic purposes. I then catapulted my characters into the present and made my protagonist a perfectly ordinary modern mother fretting over the  inevitable guilts of farming out child-care.

Giving the children such old-fashioned names (Mabel and Stanley) reminded me of Ladybird books and their resolutely matter-of-fact prose. I get a lot of pleasure from mixing the mundane and otherworldly. Perhaps because of its utter oddness, this is one of my favourite tales in Sky Light Rain.

The tale begins:

Raven comes highly recommended, but despite this, something about him makes me nervous. That beak, those clawed feet, and his way of looking at Mabel and Stanley with one eye and then the other makes me deeply uneasy.

The children are delighted by their new au pair, however. I haven’t heard Mabel chatter like this since before their father left.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Writing prompt – scooter

Scooter by Judy DarleyThis scooter stands abandoned on the brim of a local park. Who do you think the owner might be? Write a list of ten attributes, including gender, age, size, favourite food, scariest moment so far, and so on.

Now write a list that reflects the exact opposite of each chosen attribute.

Select five at random from each list, mixing and matching to create an original character that you can then build your story around.

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.

Edinburgh Book Festival welcomes word-lovers online

Edinburgh book festival gardensThis year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival is on from 15th-31st August, with more than 100 free online events bringing writers and thinkers to an avid lit-loving audience. Topics will include everything from the climate crisis and race to the best fresh poetry from across the globe.

They say: “Take a journey of discovery through fact, fiction, poetry, personal stories and world affairs.”

The festival attracts 900 authors from over 60 countries, including novelists, poets, scientists, philosophers, sportsmen, illustrators, comic creators, historians, musicians, biographers, environmentalists, economists, Nobel and Booker prize-winners and more.  Continue reading

Sky Light Rain – Two Pools of Water

Twin Blue and Green Lakes, Sete Cidades cr Judy Darley
Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My sixth story in the collection is ‘Two Pools of Water’.

As you may have noticed, I have a passion for myths and fairytales. This story is inspired by a local legend of a princess and lowly shepherd I was told while visiting Sao Miguel, one of the Azores islands.

My tour guide took me to a ruined hotel to take in views of Sete Cidades, the twin blue and green lakes. The stark contrast between the rotting building and the extraordinary contrasting pools struck a chord with me. It became the prompt for a story about two sisters, the elder of which, Estella, is trying to protect her younger sibling from the adventures she craves.

Initially I was intrigued by how different the two sisters seemed, but discovered as I wrote that Estella, too, once yearned for escape, and learnt to quell her unquiet nature. In this way, the girls mirror the two pools that appear so unalike, but are far more similar than you might suspect beneath the surface. The question is whether the younger sister will listen to Estella, or instead follow their mother’s example in seeking something more.

An earlier version of this tale was published by Dear Damsels.

The tale begins:

The hotel has stood empty for seven years, or eight. In the humid island air, lichens and moulds bloom along the balustrades. Almost every valuable item, from linens to sinks, has been stripped out by creditors. The carpet remains – squelching under our sneakers. In one en-suite a claw-footed bath still stands; its curve of porcelain laced with grime.

My sister Estella leads me to a balcony. The twin lakes show beyond, half-shrouded in cloud. With the sky overcast, the green and blue are harder to see.

Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Writing prompt – sneakers

Sneakers by Judy DarleyI don’t know if this happens in your area, but where I live it’s common for people to leave objects they no longer want on their front wall. It’s a tendency that’s proliferated throughout lockdown while charity shops have been closed.

It drives me a bit bonkers. While it’s good to find ways to prevent objects going to landfill, the items often remain outside for days and weeks, being destroyed by rain and sun. Why not hang onto them a little bit longer then pass them on to charities who can sell them for crucial funds?

Why not turn this into a psychological creep-fest? Dig into the twisted corners of your imagination and devise a dark motive for someone to leave items outside. What trap might the person who takes them home fall into?

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.

Book review – Seventy Percent Water by Jeanette Sheppard

SeventyPercentWater coverJeanette Sheppard’s debut flash fiction collection brims with sensitively perceived, reflective stories that creep beneath our surfaces, reminding us how drops of water can change a landscape, physically, aesthetically and psychologically.

These compact stories embrace big topics. The shifting boundaries of awareness linked to ageing and dementia recur throughout, like ripples spreading outwards, inexorably.

‘Rattle and Spin’ is a beautiful story of a woman who is growing unrooted from her sense of self, yet retains her dignity. The tale flows with steady momentum from line to line, guiding ‘you’ to treat this woman with the respect she has earnt and discover how much more she is than what you take in at first glance.

“Go on, sit in her chair. She will pull up a seat, make you laugh until your mouth swells ready to burst.”

The last sentence is heartachingly tender.

‘How to Enter Another Galaxy’ is another instructional piece. This time, the subject in for exaltation are those annoyingly futile calls to corporations, while you, the caller, have one hand gripping the phone and the other juggling a cat. Naturally, the intergalactic being you need to speak to is never the one on the end of the line.

Continue reading

The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

MShed cr Judy DarleyThe Aesthetica Creative Writing Award celebrates outstanding short fiction and poetry from around the world. The deadline for entering the award is 31st August 2020, making this the perfect time to get polishing your poetry and prose.

Prizes include publication within Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology and £1,000 for each category winner. Winner of the short fiction competition will receive a consultation with literary agency Redhammer Management, while the Poetry winner will have a Full Membership to The Poetry Society. To whet your appetite for creating more literary works, the winners will also receive a one-year print subscription to Granta and books courtesy of Bloodaxe Books and Vintage Books.

  • Poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines
  • Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words

There’s no theme – just submit your finest story or poem offering your own unique window on a slice of the world!

Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words each and poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines each. Both short fiction and poetry entries should be written in English.

Entry fees are £18 for short fiction and £12 for poetry.

Works published elsewhere are accepted.

For full details, visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/creative-writing-award

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.

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Sky Light Rain – Knotted Rope

5_Knotted Rope_by-Judy-DarleyOver the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. The fifth story in the collection is my three-voice tale ‘Knotted Rope’.

I used to live next door to a nursery school that took its tiny charges on daily meanders in the nearby Victorian cemetery – the atmospheric sprawling wilderness that provides the setting for this tale. I’d encounter them occasionally playing amid the headstones or obediently clinging to their strip of rope like the one pictured above.

I think we’ve all experienced that dizzying moment when you realise you’ve mislaid your wallet or door keys. As a child I liked little better than disappearing for a time. I decided to combine the two to examine the plummet of mislaying a child, as well as touch on the tot’s motivations for wanting to be gone, if only momentarily.

An earlier version featured four voices, including that of the tot who’s gone missing.

The tale begins:

Rita and I and our two volunteers count with care on the nursery steps. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen… That’s everyone, isn’t it? A whole flock of little ones. Every child wears a fluorescent tabard and clasps tight to the length of blue rope, tiny hands wrapped around knots tied like memories.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Pandemic prompt – Sky Orchestra

Hot air balloons over Bristol by Judy DarleyA magical event will soon resonate through Bristol’s skies, as hot air balloons will debut an especially commissioned musical composition.

The Sky Orchestra experimental artwork from artist Luke Jerram (who previously brought us boats in woodlands, a waterslide on Park Street, as well as the moon and the sun), and BAFTA-winning composer Dan Jones is due to take place on an unnamed day, partly due to unpredictable weather conditions and partly to embrace the joy of surprise.

Imagine waking to an extraordinary unexpected air-borne art form. What impact could it have? Or, more darkly, what might it distract us from?

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.