A short story – Milk and Other Lies

Bristol, Avon Gorge by Judy DarleyI’m thrilled to have had my very short story Milk and Other Lies published by SmokeLong Quarterly. I’ve had my eye on this excellent publication for a while, and I’m really pleased that this is the story they’ve chosen to publish.

I submitted my piece during a submission when students in the Amsterdam Creative Writing course got to have a say, and received the exciting news that they had chosen my story as their favourite during their week of guest editing for SmokeLong!

Also very happy that my story featured in SmokeLong’s weekly mail out, which means that if you subscribe to their newsletter, my words will have arrived in your inbox this morning 🙂

You can read my story here: http://www.smokelong.com/milk-and-other-lies/ 

Win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat 2019

Gullfoss Falls Iceland photo by Judy DarleyThe good folks of the Iceland Writers Retreat have partnered with Iceland Travel to offer one person a free spot at their retreat scheduled for April 2019. The winner will receive  a free hotel stay, tours, most meals, and all workshops for the duration of the event, from 3rd to 7th April 2019.
To be in with a chance you need to write an essay, story or poem on the theme of equality, preferably including a mention of Iceland. Your entry must be no more than 500 words long.
The submission deadline is 23:59 (GMT) Monday 17th December 2018. There is no fee to enter. Click here to enter.
If you win and have already paid to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat, your payment will be refunded. Entries will be judged anonymously.
Find the full details and conditions here. but note that the prize does NOT include airfare to Iceland or airport transfers.
About the Iceland Writers Retreat
Held for the first time in April 2014, the Iceland Writers Retreat is an event comprised of a series of small-group writing workshops and cultural tours designed to introduce participants to Iceland’s rich literary heritage. Faculty in 2019 include Louis de Bernieres, Tessa Hadley, Ivan Coyote, Chigozie Obioma, and Lina Meruane. The Iceland Writers Retreat was named one of the world’s best writers’ retreats by the Sydney Morning Herald, and one of the top 10 “Events to travel for in 2014” by Four Seasons Magazine.

Theatre review – A Christmas Carol

Ensemble and Felix Hayes as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint LewisOver the years, Bristol Old Vic has set expectations high with its inventive, ingenious takes on classic Christmas shows. The production of A Christmas Carol met those hopes head on with a bundle of exceptional touches:

  • A multi-talented cast
  • Infectious music
  • Light audience participation
  • Magical lighting
  • Creative sets
  • Impressive puppetry
  • Gender swapping

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick and tick.

Full Company in A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint Lewis

Adapted by Bristol Old Vic’s Artistic Director Tom Morris, Dicken’s spooky, marginally gloomy tale of redemption is revved up into an exultant spectacle. Scrooge is misanthropic and menacing (helped by actor Felix Hayes’ height and undeniable stage presence), but delightfully droll. Wry asides ensure that at times we’re almost on his side for eschewing the glitz and kitsch of Christmas in favour of a bit of peace and quiet…

Felix Hayes, Saikat Ahamed and Nadia Nadarajah in A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint Lewis

Nadia Nadarajah’s Bob Crotchet, shown far right above, converses entirely in British Sign Language, which serves both to enhance the physical exuberance of her performance, and to keep Scrooge at one remove as he struggles with and largely turns from what he refers to as “wavy hand language”, at least initially.

Saikat Ahamed and ensemble in A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint Lewis

The majority of the cast members play multiple roles, with the audience invited into the theatrical mischief – snow is delivered in handfuls from the top of a rolling staircase, and when stepping from his nephew Freddie’s home to that of the Cratchit family, Scrooge passes Freddie the bonnet belonging to Mrs Cratchit, commenting, “You’ll be needing this”, and reminding us of actor Saikat Ahamed’s dual role.

Felix Hayes as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint Lewis

More doubling up occurs with several of the ensemble also providing the original musical score, right up to musical director and composer Gwyneth Herbert, who also plays the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Full Company of A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint Lewis

Designer Tom Roger’s set is equally adaptable and dynamic – as well as the staircase mentioned above, there are doorways on casters and Scrooge’s four-poster bed, with Anna Watson’s skilful lighting adding atmosphere in spades. Humour is woven throughout, but never more so than in the scenes of revelry, including the Fezziwigs Christmas party where dance moves include flossing. The British Sign Language for ‘dance’ is incorporated as another enthusiastic move.

Audience participation  includes a brief singalong near the end, which, while fully optional, gives the audience a chance to release some of the giddy joy that has inevitably been building up throughout.

In many senses, Dicken’s story is a moral coming of age tale. With the Bristol Old Vic treatment, this production ramps up this theme, as Scrooge is reminded of the power of the imagination he’s set aside since his school days, as well as the love he let slip by and the value of human connection.

A gorgeously rambunctious and imaginative production.

Production photography by Geraint Lewis.

A Christmas Carol is on at Bristol Old Vic until 13th January 2019. Find out more and book tickets.

Seen or read anything interesting recently? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – Advent

Arnos Vale Cemetery in the snow cr Judy DarleyToday’s writing prompt offers 25 for the price of one, courtesy the good folks of National Flash Fiction Day’s Flash Flood! On Saturday they launched their Advent Calendar with a writerly twist – this one offers a writing prompt every day.

They says: “To celebrate the holiday season, Flash Flood would like to gift the flash fiction community with an Advent Calendar full of flashy prompts.”

The snowy cemetery scene above is my own, separate contribution to their flurry. To see what they’ve suggested to inspire you already, head to flashfloodjournal.blogspot.com.

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.

A short story – First Light

Victoria Park frost by Judy Darley

My short story First Light has been published in the December issue of Living Quietly magazine. This Christmas story is inspired by my dad, who in retirement used to go and watch the sunrise and share stories with a group of friends. I remember him coming home more than once wearing a carved wooden medal enscribed with the words Best Liar!

My story begins:

Living Quietly Issue 4 front coverIt’s still dark when he wakes me, the familiar creak of the bedroom door and his low “Time to get up, love” making me think for a moment that I’m a child still, on the brink of a school day’s slog. The blaze of his white hair catches the light spilling in from the landing, dragging me back to the present.

I haul myself out of bed and pull on thermal underlayers, jeans, socks, extra socks, a lambswool jumper. A scent of spice catches the back of my throat: cinnamon and nutmeg.

Downstairs the kettle rumbles, a flask standing by ready to be filled. Dad’s wrapping oven-warmed mince pies in a clean tea-towel so they’ll hold their heat.

Download your copy of the issue here or click on the lovely glowy issue cover above.

How to work with an editor

Italian sunset by Daisy McNallyToday’s guest post comes from Daisy McNally, the author of I See Through You, which is hot off the presses from Orion. She provides an insight her personal experiences of working with an editor to prepare her debut novel for publication.

Everyone’s experience of the editorial process is different. This is mine, beginning when I was on holiday in Italy and my agent called. She rang in the evening so I had a glass of wine in hand and was watching the sun disappear into the sea. She said that Orion loved my book and wanted it – but there were some suggestions about plot to run past me. How fantastic – and …hmm. I drank the wine and didn’t sleep!

I SEE THROUGH YOU spineI spoke to the commissioning editor at Orion the next day and any worries I’d had in the night completely disappeared. She didn’t want to alter the tone or the central premise of the book (which to my mind has always been the sadness of unrequited love, and the obsessional lengths it can drive us to). She asked if I’d heard of the term ‘ghosting’, which I hadn’t, but the commissioning team at Orion who had read I See Through You, all remarked on getting the same feeling from the book which reminded them of theirs, or their friends’ experience of being ghosted. Apparently 80% of millennials report being ghosted.

So this was my first taste of publishing being an industry – they’d spotted something in the book that they thought might sell and wanted to emphasise it. Thankfully it wasn’t a problem for me to shift the nature of the breakup from a slow burn out to a sudden amputation – I was writing after all about not being heard and feeling powerless, and confused. Wondering if we have a place in the world without someone we thought part of our future to validate it. It turned out to be the same thing in many ways.

I SEE THROUGH YOU city

Trust the experts (aka your literary editors)

This was before the #metoo movement but my editor was already on to it.  I don’t want to give anything about I See Through You away but there is an unlikely and unexpected female friendship made that wasn’t there before. When the “Dr Foster meets The First Wives Club” slogan was touted, she had me sold.

I See Through You coverI was very fortunate that these suggestions were both things that I agreed with and really enjoyed putting into place. Added to which, I was no longer writing blindly on my own; my editor’s support was constant and she was always there if I needed her. There were two rounds of edits and finally, toward the end of the process, a brilliant freelance copy editor came on board whose input was brilliant.

Up until this point, i.e., throughout the editing process, nothing was ever mandatory and I always had the final say. Then we got to the stage of choosing the cover. I love the cover now but I had a preference initially for a different font and colour (it’s a small thing, I know). And now I had to give way and concede that there were professionals at work here, who understood the market and who they were targeting much better than my inexperienced self. This is what they do, they don’t write books, they sell them. Over to the experts.

So I discovered that the process in its entirety is sometimes collaborative, and can involve several opinions and at the end of the day. Most importantly, isn’t just about the writing. When I wrote The End, it wasn’t – at least not for me. And it was hard work sometimes but most writers know the difficulty and panic that accompanies unpicking material, holding it all together and finally the satisfaction of putting it back in place. It was almost exactly one year between the phone call in Italy and publication day – and another celebratory drink.

Daisy McNallyAuthor bio

Daisy McNally began writing I See Through You on the MA for Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. She is currently doing the PhD there and lives in Oxford and Lymington with her two children and partner James. When she’s not writing her second novel, she enjoys reading, running by the sea and going out on the water.

Writing prompt – mimic

Blackberry Ladybird by Judy DarleyI snapped this photo a while back when I had a surprise when blackberry picking. This gorgeous ladybird has made a fatal choice in mimicking a succulent autumn fruit.

Can you use this idea as the starting point for a story? What error might a person or beastie make when selecting its camouflage or warning spots? How could a stealthy skill backfire?

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.

Seven days of books

Alison Uttley A Traveller In TimeA while ago my sister tagged me on social media to share the cover of a favourite book every day for a week. In the shopping frenzy that precedes Christmas, I thought I’d share those recommendations here.

1 On day one I chose one of my favourite childhood books: Alison Ottley’s A Traveller In Time. This book captivated my imagination. We lived in an old house and I often thought I could feel the vibrations of the people who’d lived there before us. Uttley’s words gave these fantasies vivid realisation, as well as introducing me to Mary Queen of Scots.

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer was another favourite at this time.

The Persephone Book of Short Stories2 I knew I wanted to include some short stories, but picking just one writer was a problem.  The Persephone Book of Short Stories came to my rescue.

It comprises 30 stories by women writers, with their original publication dates spanning from 1909 to 1986.

Amongst this number are an array of excellent stories including gems by Katherine Mansfield, Dorothy Whipple and Diana Athill.

Plus it’s a really beautiful book.

The Bone People by Kerry Hulme

 

3 It’s a long time since I read this book, but I was really keen to include The Bone People by Keri Hulme. It’s a truly magical blend of Maori and Christian fables wound into a suspense-filled narrative – begun as a short story before blossoming into a self-published novel that ended up as a Booker prize winner in 1985.

4 Emily Hinshelwood’s On Becoming A Fish is the poetry collection I turn to when asked to read something aloud that I haven’t written myself. I love poems than encompass journeys, and Emily’s invite us to accompany her on a series of meandering strolls through the coastal landscapes of west Wales. Read my full review of On Becoming A Fish.

Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland

5 Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales by Sara Maitland contains her revitalised fairytales interspersed with thoughtful writing on Britain’s great ancient forests, month by month. There’s also a sentimental reason for including this book, as my dad and I went to hear her read twice and got her to sign this volume to us both.

Sara also wrote the wonderful A Book of Silence.

The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett

6 By chance, Terry Pratchett is the only male author to make it onto this elite list. The Carpet People (ironically photographed here against bare floorboards) opened up the possibilities of what grown ups will accept in their fictions – in other words, quite possibly anything, providing it’s done with incomparable skill and daring. Written prior to his Discworld Series, this debut is fabulously bonkers and was an early indication of his imaginative genius.

Beakless Bluebirds and Featherless Penguins by Sister Barbara Ann

7 It was a challenge to decide what to post  ton my final day. My heaving shelves of books all seemed to have an opinion! So I decided to share what I was reading at that time, and in retrospect it was an excellent choice.

Beakless Bluebirds & Featherless Penguins by Sister Barbara Ann is a book I discovered in a remarkable bookstore while visiting my American cousins. It’s part journal, part nature writing, with a passion for flora and fauna expressed with wry common sense and a light touch of humour.

Put simply, it’s like spending a weekend in the rural cottage belonging to a favourite, slightly eccentric aunt.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

The Island Review invites submissions

Desertas Islands, Maderia

Got a story inspired by islands, or ‘which explores ideas of islandness’? The Island Review is currently open for submissions.

It’s a literary website I drop by often, simply to relish their short stories, poems, photography, and Flotsam. I highly recommend it. Submission periods are intermittent, but they’ve recently put out a call for “fiction, non-fiction, interviews, poetry, photo-essays, illustration, graphic stories, cartography, music, short films – or a combination of these, just as long they’re inspired by islands, wherever they lie (even if they’re just in your head).”

So very enticing!

To find out exactly what they’re seeking, drop by www.theislandreview.com/submissions/.

If you have anything that might fit the bill, make sure you get in touch. Who knows where your words, images or thoughts might wash up?

Writing prompt – flight

Glider. Photo by Judy DarleyRecently I had the good fortune to take my first ever glider flight. It was an extraordinary experience, offering the opportunity to ascend through sunlight, mist and cloud to meet the sun head-on. I had a bit of an Icarus-moment, but happily my wings remained unscorched.

The magic of gliding sans engine is accomplished through a boost into the clouds, in my case thanks to a tow plane, which is released when you reach the right spot in the sky. My pilot explained that you then depend on natural lift as the air rises over hummocks in the land. It’s the same principal as birds riding thermals.

I love the fact that a seemingly impossible act is achieved via a phenomenon we cannot see, but trust exists. Can you turn this concept into a written or visual piece?

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.