Sunshine and romance

Buds appearing cr Judy DarleyToday is one of those days when it feels like spring might actually almost be here. Recently I saw my first primroses and this morning I’ve noticed shiny little buds appearing in the garden.

Valentine's card cr Judy DarleyYesterday, of course, was Valentine’s Day, which necessitated me making a card for my hubla. Inspired by Iviva Olenick’s creations, this is what I came up with.

He cooked me dinner (bacon and mushroom pancakes, just a day late!) and we went to Watershed to see Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. What a gorgeous film! Wed actually had a small row on the way there (isn’t that obligatory on Valentine’s Day?), and were snuggling and kissing (our apologies to the lone man who sat beside us…) by the time the credits rolled. The power of storytelling, mmm?

Annex - Hepburn, Audrey (Roman Holiday)_03

Today is one of my lovely writing days, and my main goal is to finish writing up the first draft of an interview with a woman who seems to live in a swirl of crocheted art, flowers and sunshine – I really need to find some new synonyms for the word colour.

Then tomorrow I’m off to London to catch up with a dear friend and see the Harold Pinter play Old Times. Can’t wait, even if it does mean a dawn scurry to the Mega Bus!


Embroidered love poems…

“Rivers, Floods, Home.” Embroidery and applique on fabric. 2012. 8.5x12in

“Rivers, Floods, Home.” Embroidery and applique on fabric cr Iviva Olenick

Ever find that you have a phrase or string of words lodged in your mind and don’t know quite what to do with them? Me too. Perhaps that’s why the narrative embroidery of Iviva Olenick strikes such a chord.

“I have an ongoing conversation with myself about past and present experiences, and my dreams and hopes for the future – this ultimately leads to stream-of-consciousness snippets, which I choose to embroider,” explains Iviva, before confessing that she sometimes incorporate ‘borrowed’ overheard conversations into her work, “so be careful what you say around me!”


Iviva first developed her unique styles when internet dating. “The process was unlike anything I’d experienced before. I had no idea what to expect, and was surprised by the mix of vulnerability, frustration, and hope the activity inspired in me. Instead of keeping a journal, I began stitching excerpts of some of my most emotional and admittedly confusing experiences.”

ytht cr iviva OlenickShe adds: “I had never intended to show these embroideries to anyone, but eventually thought there might be something to what I was doing from an artistic standpoint.”

When asked what single phrase or statement she would stitch to sum herself up, Iviva answers: “I took myself as far as possible outside of my safety zone, only to find that I want to be home safe with you.”

What would you stitch about yourself or your love?

Iviva is collecting and embroidering ‘Twitter poetry.’ To contribute, tweet Iviva  @EmbroideryPoems or @IvivaOlenick.

Poems about slugs…

Knitted slug cr Woolly GoodnessFor the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail 2012 I wrote two pieces in response to Jenny Jones’ (aka Woolly Goodness) knitted slugs. This was a real challenge for me as I am absolutely definitely without a doubt not at all a fan of the slimy molluscs.

Jenny’s fuzzy slug was inspired by a childhood memory: “When I was little I dared my brother to kiss a slug, and he did… I’ve had a soft spot for the slimy rascals ever since.”

You can see more of Jenny’s work here.

 Instructions On How To Kiss A Slug

Jenny Jones kissy knitted slugClose your eyes, and hold your nose,
Pretend you’re just smelling a rose.
Purse your mouth, tight and round,
Bend down almost to the ground.
Ignore the slime, kiss him quick,
And don’t forget to wipe your lips!

Slugs Slither Slowly

Slugs slither slowly
under garden gates,
through cracks in garden walls
through each and any space.

Silently and after dark
when you’re tucked up, sleeping tight,
they wriggle in and set their mark,
waiting long into the night.

And as you snooze away the hours,
they fill their bellies with your flowers
sneaking away as morning comes
betrayed only by their sticky tums.

Ahem. The deadline for joining for the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail 2013 is 14 February 2013.


Weekends are for creativity

Bird cr Judy DarleyIt’s been a great, creative weekend. On Friday a fully formed very surreal short story burst into my brain as I was running and made its way out onto the screen and into its first submission by the end of Saturday. To me that’s a good day’s writing!

I finally made my hubla’s birthday and Valentine’s Day cards, and my mum’s (70th!) birthday card, complete with a poem my dad asked me to write as part of her upcoming birthday celebrations.

I received the contract for the piece I sold to ‘ONE SENTENCE STORIES’ anthology – a project that I’m really excited about. My sentence is 110 words long, making it a rather lengthy sentence (hurrah for punctuation) but an extremely short story of love and heartbreak in a library.

And then my short story ‘On The Ledge’ was published as the story of the day at Fiction 365 on Saturday, giving me a warm glow all weekend long. Click here to read my story. It begins with the lines “I suppose, in a way, the dead pigeon did exactly what I couldn’t do for myself, and for that I’ll always be grateful.”

I’d love to know what you think of it!

The Simple Things magazine review

The-Simple-Things-Issue-6-coverLaunched last year by Future Publishing, The Simply Things seeks out the pleasures in everyday living, emphasising the ideals of using our hands rather than our wallets, and spending time with people rather than spending money.

It’s a welcome antidote to the usual glossies, with a distinctly on-trend homespun feel, perfect for wrapping yourself in on a drizzly Sunday.

Issue six has some glorious touches, each designed, it seems, to show you how lovely your life could be with just a little time and (enjoyable) effort.

Timorous Beasties London Toile wallpaperOn opening the front cover I’m presented with some utterly beautiful ‘London Toile’ wallpaper by Glasgow design studio Timorous Beasties. So immediately I know I’m with people who appreciates beautiful surroundings.

The Simple Things issue 6 contentsGet into the body of the magazine, and I find a series of invitations: to ‘visit an inspiring home’, ‘escape to a winter beach’, ‘share a cosy night in.’ No glitz, just pleasing suggestion after pleasing suggestion. Moments later someone imparts a love of shimmering rain-drenched pavements – and I’m still only on page 6.

Beautiful photography is key throughout – something to bear in mind if you’re considering pitching feature ideas to The Simple Things team.

My City cr The Simple Things issue 6

I’m drawn immediately to the ‘My City’ feature (above) where French photographer Nico Alary rhapsodises about the delights of Melbourne, answering questions like “Which season makes your city feel most alive” and “How does your city smell?” it’s like being shown around the favourite neighbourhood of a friend.

I’m also glad to find an unexpected feature entitled ‘A Mid-winter Caterpillar’ by gardener Christopher Raeburn, accompanied by gorgeous imagery that reminds me of the curious childhood joy of stroking caterpillars found amidst leaves in my parents’ garden – soft to the touch and silky cool.

Winter Beaches with The Simple Things issue 6The ‘winter beaches’ feature is utterly enticing – with pages of light-filled, stretched-shadowed images interspersed with foraging suggestions and a run down of some of the best shores to visit, though less meandering beach-combing that I’d hoped.

The other features include a multitude of recipes, advice on growing chillies, and an intriguing series of images by John Londei of 70s and 80s little shops – each one brimming over with possible narratives.

In fact, the whole magazine glimmers with an atmosphere conducive to creative ideas – so that by the time you set The Simple Things aside there’s every probability you’ll at once want to pick up a pen and start writing.

Grow chillies with The Simple Things issue 6

The Yellow Room Spring Short Story Competition

Alice's WeddingDo you know The Yellow Room? It’s a sunny nook of the web for writers, with a print magazine and lots of resources for writers.

They are currently inviting entries for their Spring Short Story Competition. Stories must be no more than 1,000 words long, but can be in any genre, and on any subject.

The closing date for entries is 31 March 2013.

The entry fee is £4, and prizes range from £100 for the first prize to £20 for third prize.

The shortlist and winner will be announced on this website by 1st June 2013.

Find full details and competition rules at

Good luck!

Inspiration from nature

Autumn's Ghosts detail cr Michelle McKinneyA while ago I published a post about Riptide Journal editors’ upcoming workshop on writing from art. The post was illustrated with a gorgeous image by Michelle McKinney, an artist who draws inspiration from elements of nature, from sycamore seeds to migrating birds.

As someone who’s utterly entranced by nature and the changing seasons, I had to contact Michelle to gain an insight into the thinking process behind her exquisite creations.

Catching Shadows cr Michelle McKinney“I find nature a constant source of inspiration and for me it is almost a challenge I lay down to myself to see if I can create something as beautiful inspired by it,” Michelle explains. “I only tackle a subject if I think I can do it justice and create that same sense of natural movement, colour and form in my work. I try  to capture a moment of beauty: the opening of a flower, falling of a leaf, flight of a butterfly in summer – before it is gone forever.”

Michelle initially trained as a jeweller, a background I can see reflected in her copper and steel-wrought work today.

“I love the process of having an idea in my head and then gradually seeing it become a reality a physical thing in three-dimensions that I can touch, manipulate and form,” she says. “Working with my hands to create something is very important to me and I use many of the skills I learnt as a jeweller to create my artworks now: how to manipulate the metal, colour and a knowledge of how the material will behave.”

To me, Michelle’s sculptures seem like a form of poetry without words. See more of her work at

How to boost your online presence

Cobweb at Victoria Park, Bristol cr Judy DarleyWhile books, magazines and newspapers are likely to be around in future, there’s no denying that the internet is increasing powerful when it comes to getting your message across. Writer, journalist and social networking addict Angeline Trevena offers her top tips for boosting your online presence.

Angeline TrevenaThe Internet is such a huge place it can be daunting to even get started. But you can actually carve out a niche for yourself. Try putting your own name into Google and see what comes up. You might see your social networking profiles, you might see your own website, you might see some sites about other people with the same name. You want control over the sites that show up, and the only way to do that is to create the information you want the search engines to pick up on.

Have your own website or blog

The best way to control information is to have your own website or blog. You don’t need an ology in web design, and you don’t need to spend a fortune either. There are many companies offering affordable web design, but you don’t even need that these days –Wordpress, MySpace or even Google Blogger are all easy to use.

There are also an entire range of different DIY website packages you can try. Some are better than others. But stick to this rule; if you’re not confident about designing your own site, keep it simple.

Update often

Regular updating is key. Search engines have a short attention span. If you don’t keep your site updated, it will slide down the results. Put latest news on your homepage, add your Twitter updates, announce new blog entries. And don’t be tempted to have a huge picture with a link saying ‘enter’ as your front page (known as a ‘splash page’): you need to feed the search engines with words, they can’t appreciate artwork!

Remember your readers

But the No 1 rule with your website is this: ALWAYS write for your readers. Google appreciates keywords, but Google is never going to buy your book or commission you for an article. Make your website attractive for humans and useful to search engines.

cr Angela TrevenaStart social networking

The Social Networking giants are Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and, increasingly, Pinterest. MySpace has largely become a domain for bands, but a lot of indie writers, designers, businesses etc still have profiles.

The ones that will work best for you depend greatly on your audience.

But when you do decide which ones to sign up to, don’t let the page languish; your social media pages are like your shop window, so keep them clear of cobwebs and dust!

Poring Hot Springs cobweb cr Judy DarleyLink things together

If you have social networking profiles, paste links to them from your website, and links to your website from your profiles. The web is so-called for a reason. It’s all about linking things together, networking and making connections. Don’t allow your website to simply drift away into space all alone.

Make friends on Facebook

If you’re not already on Facebook, go and put your email address in and you’ll be surprised how many people you know are on it. So right from the start, you’re not going to be alone.

You have to have a Facebook account, but once you’ve set that up, you can create your own Fan Page. Set up your page, invite all your friends and get them to invite all their friends too.

Again, always keep the page updated. Post interesting and useful links, links to new blog entries, links to your work published on the net, put up all your latest news, musings, thoughts and endeavours.

In the modern age people like the personal touch, they like to think they’re getting inside information and that they know you.

Tweet up!

Twitter updates are limited to 140 characters, so it’s not going to take up a lot of your time. Follow other writers for mutual support. Follow magazines and writing societies for news. Follow anyone posting competitions and opportunities. There is a wealth of information on Twitter, you just need to be following it!

Friday is ‘Follow Friday’ day (#FF). Do yours early and put in all the profiles you fancy stealing followers from. Then, when other people do their #FF listings, they’re likely to return the favour and post your profile. You can also do ‘Writer Wednesday’.

Hashtags are used for popular topics. Use them, you never know who’s watching.  #amwriting and #iamwriting are common ones.

Join forums

There are millions of forums out there for writers. Chat to other writers and put your website address(es) in your signature. Be friendly, supportive and interesting and people will check out your site.

But don’t don’t don’t spam. People don’t appreciate it and it won’t help your online presence at all.

Keep up to date

The Internet changes so fast and you need to keep your finger on the pulse.  There are many Internet magazines online and in print, and companies talking about all the latest developments via Twitter and Facebook.  What works today might not work tomorrow.

My three golden rules are:

1 – UPDATE: don’t let any of your sites or profiles get forgotten and out of date.

2 – NETWORK: get involved and get your name out there as often as you can.

3 – BE SAVVY: be aware of the constant ebb and flow of Internet trends.

4 – Have fun with it!

Find out more about Angeline at and

This week I’m reading…

What I'm readingThis week I’m reading Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman, The Persephone Book of Short Stories, The Simple Things magazine issue6, and Kath Kelly’s How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day. Learning so much!

The Mussel FeastAnd this morning I’ve just started reading The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke from Peirene Press. Look out for the review, I’ll post it on these pages soon!