Midweek writing prompt – street view

Street view cr Judy DarleyOccasionally I’ll find an unfamiliar corner of a familiar city or town and begin wondering about the people who live and work there, and all the characters who pass by.

Street view alley cr Judy Darley

This week I suggest you do the same, or just take an imaginary meander through the street pictured here. Pay attention to the details – what are the walls built from? I love the fact that in the shot above one side is neat brick and the other rugged stone. What graffiti has been left here, and who by? I love the cheery but potentially foreboding message: Be Good. Who was that written for, and why?

Street view steps cr Judy Darley

What alleyways open off the street? What windows overlook it? What might be overheard here, or surreptitiously seen?

Street detail cr Judy Darley

There’s a whole tumult of possibilities in any street, especially those off the main track. It’s up to you, and your imagination, to settle on a few and turn them into a tale.

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.

Book review Things That Are by Amy Leach

Things That Are book coverA beautiful book crammed with exquisite details about our universe and everything in it. The subtitle is Encounters with Plants, Stars and Animals, and in this collection of poetically observed scientific essays, Stars really do seem like just another bobbling entity, not that dissimilar to a whirligig beetle, a baby penguin (which she describes as a “pear-shaped bit of fluff”) or a biscuit starfish.

I found myself entranced by the juxtapositions Leach throws together – drawing unexpected connections between tomato frogs and bears and grass (they all prefer to live in light) or between man-of-war jellyfish and Leo Tolstoy (both resembling, she asserts, a single entity while actually being made up of many).

Moments of surrealism gather you in – there’s a whole section on sirens, were “free like thunder, and dangerous like tornadoes, and enchanting like fire” and who used to sing songs “people would follow to the other side of life” and now forced into service as Emergency Warning Sirens sounding the alarm.

There’s a whole chapter marvelling on the efforts of the hapless water lily, and another on the delight of peas (which Leach describes pleasingly as “clocky children who become spoony adults”). Continue reading

Help Celebrate Lake District Culture This Spring

Daffodils cr Judy DarleyLakes Culture is currently seeking innovative artists to create and exhibit work as part of their new ‘Spring Awakening’ programme, which will take place in the Lake District between April 6th and May 26th 2015.

Lakes Culture is seeking to support an innovative and exciting programme of events to showcase creative ingenuity in the grand setting of England’s Lake District.

The brief is open to works created by local, national and international artists, who work in any artistic form, including mediums such as painting, illustration, sculpture, installation, film, photography and performance. Continue reading

A cuppa with cartoonist Rolli

RolliRolli is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist from Canada. He’s the author of two short story collections (I Am Currently Working on a Novel and God’s Autobio), two books of poems (Mavor’s Bones and Plum Stuff), the middle grade story collection Dr. Franklin’s Staticy Cat and two forthcoming novels – Kabungo (Anansi/ Groundwood, 2016) and The Sea-Wave (Guernica Editions, 2016). His cartoons appear regularly in Reader’s Digest and Harvard Business Review, among others. Find him at rollistuff.com and follow him on Twitter @rolliwrites.

Kettle’s on. What can I get you?

Coffee.  Or failing that, very strong tea.

What made you want to become a cartoonist?

I never wanted to be a cartoonist, funnily enough. I did early on want to be an artist—maybe like Van Gogh only with both ears—and a bit later a writer, but cartooning was never a desire of mine, burning or otherwise. I could draw, though, and believed I was clever, and on a whim doodled a few things and sent them off and had success straightaway.

Bankrupt cr Rolli

Bankrupt © Rolli

Continue reading

Elisabeth Barry’s uncommon interiors

Vessels cr Elisabeth BarryThe soft, rhythmic slap of clay against the potter’s wheel can induce a meditative state. In the case of artist/ceramicist Elisabeth Barry, the resulting creations exude their own quiet peace. The white exteriors and often tantalising interiors invite you to look, lean in and perhaps reconsider your preconceptions. To me this meets all my needs from a piece of art.

Porcelain churns in dove grey cr Elisabeth Barry

Porcelain churns in dove grey © Elisabeth Barry

And yet, those that work with clay are often not considered artists.

“There does seem to be a gaping divide between art and pottery, which troubles me. I like the fact that my pieces are all very much designed for use (and benefit from a trip through the dishwasher) but will also be beautiful when placed on a shelf,” says Elisabeth. “I struggle with the idea that something is ‘too good’ to be used. Pottery came about to fulfil very functional needs. And yet we started to decorate them and refine the shapes. What a joy it is to be able to use something we deem to be incredibly beautiful.” Continue reading

Midweek writing prompt – portrait

Old Woman, Burma cr Premgit

Old Woman, Burma © Premgit

Some faces really tell a story – their lives are printed on their skin, in the lines like rivers in a   landscape tracing the journeys around their eyes, mouths, brows.

The image above was caught by Premgit, and you may use this if you wish, but equally look to the people you know, and see if you can pick out the experiences marked out on their faces. What has made them joyful, hopeful or afraid? And how can you spin this into a fictionalised narrative?

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.

Book review – Unthology 6

Unthology 6A lover grows upset about an increase in hairiness, a hiker must make a difficult choice about two lives, an old man uses spreadsheets in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of death, a father undergoes an unexpected transformation…

The stories in Unthology 6 celebrate the uncanny, the unnerving and the world we live in, set slightly askance.

The ones that stayed with me are those whose fullness offers up images I can see clearly in my mind. In Daughter, God Daughter by Chrissie Gittins, grief is mirrored in puddles “sealed with thin sheets of ice”, while the entirety of Roelof Bakker’s exquisitely taut Blue resonates with fine-tuned tension.

In Egor by Daisy Lefarge, a lonely woman in a foreign city makes excuses to herself for welcoming the advances of a man she’s not attracted to. As Lefarge explores the woman’s growing guilt, offset by a worrying listlessness, she lays out lines that seem drawn from poetry: “The meshes of the afternoon tighten. Outside men sing songs of themselves. I breathe in until evening.” Continue reading

Enter the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2015 Short Story Competition

Beautiful skies, Victoria Park cr Judy DarleyThis annual competition is one of my favourites on the literary calendar, and well worth entering if you have a story that fits this year’s theme, or if the theme prompts the germination of a grand idea.

In stark contrast to the January blues, the theme for 2015 is ‘Joy’. How lovely, and yet how challenging! Your story must incorporate this theme in some tangible way, and must be no more than 2,000 words long.

The closing date for entries is midnight on Sunday 15th February 2015. The winners of the competition will be announced on www.writersandartists.co.uk in March 2015.

Entering is free, but you need to register on www.writersandartists.co.uk before submitting your story. Continue reading

How not to procrastinate

Severn River shadows cr Judy Darley

In this week’s guest post, poet Sheenagh Pugh offers her thoughts on why we procrastinate, and how we can overcome the fears that lead to that urge.

‘A piece on my writing habits’ is very liable to turn into a piece on my non-writing habits. When it comes to writing, especially poems, I can procrastinate for Europe; indeed I am doing so now, for what could be a better excuse for not writing than penning a blogpost about writing?

It starts, after all, with a blank page, and on this page, potentially, is the perfect poem, the one in your head that you set out to put into the exact, right words. The only trouble is, directly you make a mark on said page, it starts to be less than perfect, less the poem you had in your head, and the more you write, the further from the ideal it gets. Well, it does for me, anyway, at least most of the time. I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve looked at a poem and thought “yes, that was how I wanted it to be.” Continue reading

Photographer Premgit invites you to open your eyes

Dai-Chin Woman 2, Chin State, Burma cr Premgit

Dai-Chin Woman 2, Chin State, Burma © Premgit

Some photographers have a skill that goes beyond lenses and shutter speeds to offer up views of the world and its people that tell entire stories. I’m a fan of portraits anyway – the human face is endlessly interesting to me. Premgit’s work, which also includes landscapes and abstracts, captures glimpses of people’s lives, loves and hopes. It’s incredibly powerful.

Ganga Puja 6, Varanasi, India cr Premgit

Ganga Puja 6, Varanasi, India © Premgit

And yet, Premgit says that he never set out to become a photographer, instead dreaming of being a musician. “I spent a good few years pursuing this course, having lots of fun, but then realising I was not a musician,” he says. “I wasn’t very good, I did not practice, and I felt totally unfulfilled. So armed with an old Rolli 35mm, my then wife and I left England for India.” Continue reading