Why we cherish time alone

Green lizard, Borneo cr Judy DarleyThe world is full of attention-seekers. Loud-mouthed, large-charactered, extroverts who seem never to have a thought without it spilling outwards. It’s the way we’re told we ought to be to get on in life, prosper.

But nature enjoys balance, which means there is very much a place for those who think more often than they speak, who sometimes like to observe without engages, who are enriched by time alone. Who occasionally actually need time alone.

I’m one of those people. And it turns out, ironically, I’m not alone. Continue reading

Mid-week writing prompt – a Bornean longhouse

Longhouse, Sabah, Borneo cr Judy DarleyI took this photo in Sabah, Borneo, but really it could be anywhere in rural Malaysia.

This was the longhouse where our guide, Manuel, grew up, on a typical Sunday when everyone was relaxing,

What are these kids up to? What does their day have in store? And how do they feel about the tourists who are taking photos of them and their home?


Breathe life into an original graphic novel

Breaker's EndAward-winning comics artist and illustrator Corban Wilkin is seeking funds via Kickstarter to publish his first full-length graphic novel.

Breaker’s End is the tale of Chloe and Isaac who live in the woods. It opens with an evocative scene of elderly Isaac playing a piano surrounded by trees.

Breaker's End artwork cr Corban Wilkin

Every line in the book has been hand drawn with brush and Indian ink.

The book is complete and ready to be printed, but to make this a reality and give you the chance to read it, Corban needs you to put your faith in his art and storytelling by pre-ordering your copy for £10.

For £20 you’ll get a printed copy of Breaker’s End with an original ink sketch on the inside cover.

Isaac's Stronghold cr Corban WilkinFor £25 you’ll get the book, the sketch and this 15x21cm mini print.

For £30, you’ll get the book and the sketch plus (a 15x21cm ink drawing of YOU in the Breaker’s End style drawn from photos provided by you!

There are other options too, so why not take a look?

This project will only be funded if £5,000 is pledged by Wednesday Aug 21, 12:10pm EDT.

Please do your part in breathing it into life.

Enter a DNA-themed Flash Fiction Competition

DNA cr Judy DarleyDNA – what does it mean to you? It’s the reason why some of us have curly hair and other have none, and helps some of us run faster than others. It contributes to our personalities, our strengths and weaknesses and how our lives will pan out. That’s a lot of power for a squirling double helix, and it’s now 60 years since Francis Crick and James Watson made the discovery that changed our understanding of ourselves forever.

To mark this anniversary, Creative Industries Trafford and Manchester Literature Festival are collaborating to host a Flash Fiction Competition to coincide with the festival that runs from 7-20 October 2013.

You’re invited to create a piece of flash fiction inspired by the theme of DNA. They say: “We are interested in all genres of fiction and themes of creation, mutation, evolution and transformation.”

Stories should be no longer than 500 words and you may enter more than once. Entry is free.

Email submissions to literature@creativeindustriestrafford.org by 5pm on Monday 16th September 2013.

Looking for inspiration? Read The DNA of Bats, a specially commissioned short story by author Jane Rogers.

Find out more about writing flash fiction.

Full competition details can be found here.

The winning entries will be featured online during Manchester Literature Festival 2013 and short-listed authors will be invited to read their stories at a special event on Saturday 12th October at Waterside Arts Centre. The overall winner will receive £50-worth of book vouchers.

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 9

Girl and paddling poolAlmost every freelance writer experiences the occasional lull. In this series of guest posts, freelance journalist Deborah Willimott shares some of her favourite tips for surviving those quiet times, and even find some inspiration in them.

Survival tip 6: Allow yourself to have a lovely time 

When you don’t have any work, the theory goes that if you do not spend every waking hour seeking work you are the worst kind of lay-about waster. The truth of the matter is, as a workless flancer, given the opportunity of a nice day out (as opposed to weeping gently over your bank statements) you are torn between gleefully skipping out of the house (away from those nasty bank statements) and the broodingly intense guilt born of illicitly enjoying yourself when you should be coming up with better ways of generating cash than rooting around in the washing machine door seal.

On some level, perhaps the more superstitious flancer feels that this devil-may-care frivolity will anger the Employment Gods further, resulting in another month of cleaning the bathroom walls with a toothbrush just for SOMETHING to do (before realising that was your only toothbrush and you can’t afford a new one).

Others feel that in having ‘fun’ they will lose the motivational terror that results in every feature editor’s in-box haemorrhaging under the influx of 347 of their desperate ideas at least twice a week.

Perhaps being in a situation that results in the thought: “I really shouldn’t be outside enjoying the sunshine mid-morning on a Tuesday…” is just plain depressing.

Put those negative thoughts firmly to one side and justify yourself with the fact that anything you do that’s even remotely entertaining may in fact be considered research for a future feature or work of fiction. So in fact, having fun is part of your job!

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’
Survival tip 2: :Accept the commission from hell
Survival tip 3: Google your illnesses
Survival tip 4: Seek food
Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font
Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts
Survival tip 7: Cook something complicated
Survival tip 8: Dress inappropriately  


Explore England’s forests this summer

Bracken, Wyre Forest cr Forestry Commission and John McFarlane

Bracken, Wyre Forest © Forestry Commission / John McFarlane

If, like me, you’ve found yourself entranced by Sara Maitland’s Gossip From The Forest, you’ll be able to satisfy your yearnings thanks to VisitEngland’s summer forest activities. Part of a national campaign to promote England’s forests and woodland with Forestry Commission England, there are magical experiences to choose between, from al fresco film screenings to fairy kingdoms and bat trails. Continue reading

Mid-week writing prompt – an economic wreck

I encountered this boat while meandering along the shore of Latchi, on the Greek side of Cyprus. I love the text across its bow, and the way it looks so abandoned.

Latchi boat cr Judy Darley

There are so many possibilities with an image like this. Why is the boat up on the shore? Who does it belong to? What will it be used for once it’s fixed?

You could bring in the curiosities of this island that is divided by Greece and Turkey, or even explore the dramas of the Greek economy. It’s your call.

Poetry book review – Notes from a Bright Field by Rose Cook

Notes From A Bright Field book coverI encountered this poet at the night of readings I took part in for Telltales at Penzance Literary Festival. In a sea of stories and performance poetry, Rose Cook’s poetry rang out as something deeper and more substantial than most – nourishing in a way that few assortments of words achieve.

Because as writers, that’s what we’re trying to do, isn’t it? To string words together in ways that are original and fresh, yet cut through to a truth all can recognise and potentially be enriched by?

Rose has a defter hand than most, or should that be a keener eye? She sees the world with uncommon clarity, noticing the things, small and large, we might easily overlook, and helps the reader view it afresh. The collection reads as being distinctly personal yet generously shared, as Rose talks us through strolls through woodlands, pointing out the birds she seems to love, then sweeps us indoors to peek into her mother’s hand mirror, to spy contains reflections of “my eyes, quick green,/ wild sticklebacks in a rain pond.” Continue reading

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 8

Tiara etc cr Judy DarleyAs the summer months stretch on, freelance writers find themselves at one of two extremes – either inundated with work as holiday cover for understaffed magazines, or lost in a barren desert as commissioning editors apparently slip into a sun-induced lethargy. Freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers her tips for surviving the lean times of being a freelance writer.

Survival tip 8: Dress inappropriately 

Barely any flancers ever dress themselves properly. Today for example, I am wearing pyjama bottoms two-sizes too big, some pink ballet pumps over chunky walking socks, an assortment of denim and a sequinned tiara left over from a hen party.

For most flancers, the daily ‘commute’ consists of: bed to coffee machine to desk. Therefore, dressing like you’ve covered yourself in glue and sprinted though a charity shop’s ‘To Be Sorted’ pile is commonplace. I regularly scare postmen requiring a signature, unexpected visitors and myself if I happen to stumble near a mirror.

The other day, a friend called me up for coffee. So eager was I to go outside where other human beings are, I turned off my laptop, put on a coat and unthinkingly left the house. Halfway through coffee I looked down at myself. I realised I had simply gone through the morning’s non-dressing ritual as per, which is fine for my living room/work space but very not-fine for a vaguely respectable – and more importantly, public – area.

As it happened, I was wearing (a) no bra, (b) my pyjama top and a cardi which I had slept in (c) no socks and (d) jeans that had been on the floor of my room longer than the rug.

On the plus side, looking this bad means people regularly offer to pay for your coffee. On the minus side, people pull their children away in horror (actually, this could turn out to be a plus) and intimate relationships rapidly degenerate when for the third time that month your partner sees you in your ‘work clothes’ and assume you have a drink problem.

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’
Survival tip 2: Accept the commission from hell
Survival tip 3: Google your illnesses
Survival tip 4: Seek food
Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font
Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts
Survival tip 7: Cook something complicated

A season for winged creatures

Farah Morley artThis season is so gorgeous for butterflies and moths. In a twenty-minute wander through Arnos Vale cemetery, I saw dozens of dancing pairs and trios of cabbage whites and red admirals.

Farah Morley art1On the same theme, I also came across a lovely selection of paper-cut moths at a pop up shop in town. Though the physical shop has since closed, the online shop is thriving at www.objetsdedesir.com.

Created by artist and author Farah Morley, these dainty designs are an homage to “ the Victorian naturalists that gathered specimens and framed them like pieces of art.” Minus the macabre element, thankfully.

Intriguingly, Farah attended medical school as a “sensible career choice,” though she “never really gave up my love of art. I would spend every bit of money I had on supplies and every spare moment creating”

Perhaps her scientific mind explains the exquisitely botanic feel to her pieces.

Find out more about Farah at http://www.objetsdedesir.com/frubean-art-92-c.asp