Mid-week writing prompt – the camera’s eye

Iona beach cr Judy Darley

Photographs are fantastic starting points for stories, offering up a wealth of ideas. But what if you were to consider what was behind the camera instead of what’s in front? Who might be taking the photograph you’re looking at, and why?

If it’s a travel shot, where are they, and where are they going next? If the photo is skew-whiff, why might that be? And how might the person respond to the imperfect image when they see it on-screen or printed?

If this idea prompts you to write something, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. You could end up published on SkyLightRain.com!


Poetry review – Animals by Miles Salter

ANIMALS coverA fluttering mix of religion, politics and the plethora of scandals large and small that fall between, Animals is a collection designed to nudge you into wakefulness, like a cat early on a Sunday morning.

In his second collection, Miles Salter takes you by the scruff of the neck and shoves you into a world of smells and sounds – always on the brink of chaos.

From the pandemonium of ‘Two By Two’ where “Ants queued up at the flattened hamster”, to an uneasy peek into Jimmy Savile’s caravan, there’s plenty to catch you with your guard down and slap you sideways.

There’s beauty amid the sorrier tales too, where ageing dogs have eyes that are “milky with lack of sight” and in ‘Apology’ a slap to a child’s backside transforms bath water into “a trickle, a stream, a river/that carried you away from me.” Continue reading

Become a poet

Gyllenvase footprints cr Judy DarleyMiles Salter shares his experiences of becoming a poet, from inspiration to tinkering. His second poetry collection, Animals, was published this autumn.

I’ve been writing since childhood. I had a great English teacher, Chris Copeman, in the 1980s and I wrote what I thought was ‘poetry’, although it was probably more like prose. I read a bit of poetry at University and went on a creative writing module. Much later, I read Philip Larkin when I lived in Hull.

Then, around 2003, I went to some gigs that Antony Dunn put on in York called ‘Poetry Doubles’ – he had some brilliant people like Andrew Motion, Colette Bryce, Wendy Cope and Douglas Dunn. They were great gigs – intimate and very inspiring. All of life was contained in those evenings: humour, grief, hope, sadness. Poetry is very life affirming.

Developing as a poet

It wasn’t until 2007 that I realised I needed to be more disciplined in my approach, so I started to read more widely. It took a while, but I started to improve and develop my own voice. I entered a lot of competitions and my writing improved gradually. I usually read at least ten collections each year, and try to write with a critical eye. You become very self-critical of what you’ve written. Continue reading

Word art at Spike Island

I recently attended an outdoor writing workshop led by Spike Island’s writer-in-residence Holly Corfield Carr.

Judy Darley cr Holly Corfield Carr

The workshop was one in a series taking place each Sunday from 2pm until December 6th, exploring the area around the Spike Island art gallery. They’re part of a collaborative literature project called Spike Archipelago.

On the day I went along, the air was bright and uncommonly warm. We strolled down past to Lockside to an area where we could see both the Floating Harbour and the Avon Gorge with Clifton Suspension Bridge hanging across it. We gazed up at the colourful stacked houses of Clifton and down at the river sucking at its mud. Holly had brought extracts from works including Dart by Alice Oswald, and other pieces on rivers and that day’s theme, circles.

Wheel and river mud cr Judy Darley

As we walked and paused and looked about, and talked about our lives, hot air balloons rose into the blue sky. Not quite circles, but close enough.

Hot air balloon cr Judy Darley

Our wanderings resulted in a collaborative piece of writing called Concentric, which Holly describes as “a lyric narrative for two voices”, adding: “We wrote around each other, leaping from one circular frame to the next, producing this pleated poem of first loves, last loves, a guilty city and coffee-rings.”

A wonderful experience. You can see the outcome here, and find out about future workshops (which are free to attend) here.

Mid-week writing prompt – classifieds

It’s an old trick, but a good ’un. Take a classifieds page from any newspaper, and use one of the ‘for sale’, ‘wanted’ or ‘searching for love’ adverts as your starting point.

Classifieds cr Judy Darley

Better still, take a handful and mix vigorously. That way there’s far less chance of your subjects discovering themselves mired in your fiction.

More often than not this approach will offer up the seeds of plot and characters in one neat newspaper-print package. Then all you’ll need to supply is the story arc.

If this idea prompts you to write something, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. You could end up published on the site!

Mid-week writing prompt – imperil your characters

This is a good trick that sometimes has breathtaking results. Take your characters and place them somewhere perilous – abseiling down a cliff face, on a small boat in a stormy sea, far underground – and then get them to have that conversation they’ve been putting off for far too long.

Judy abseiling

Their emotions will be heightened by the circumstance you’ve stuck them in, which will add drama to every niggling complaint, accusation, declaration of love, or whatever fearful thing you want them to own up to.

If this image prompts you to write something, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. You could end up published on the site!

Travellers’ tales

Foreign and Far Away coverOne of my short stories has been published in the Writers Abroad anthology Foreign & Far Away.

The book comprises short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction pieces and poetry, all on the theme of foreign places.

My story, Longhouse, was inspired by time spent in Sabah, Borneo, and includes the following line:

I look up. Tourists. They always target me, because I’m fair-skinned, tall, so obviously not local. To them I must look like a life-ring in a dark and unfamiliar sea.

Continue reading

Short story readings for November

Art trails in Bristol have developed to include musicians and others performers, which is great – especially as I now seem to fall under the category ‘other performers’!

Totterdown Front Room Art Trail artworkI and a couple of writer friends will be reading short stories and novel extracts as part of Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail, 15-17 November 2013. It’s aimed at grown ups (though children won’t be scarred too badly if you bring them along). After all, why should kids be the only ones to get to enjoy being read to?

Writers Judy Darley, Helen Blenkinsop and Suzanna Stanbury

That’s us, just above. I’m the one on the far left.

Remember-Me-To-The-Bees-cover-smlWe have two performance slots at the Cinema on the Green, Higham Street, in Totterdown, from 1-2.30pm on the Saturday and from 1-1.45pm on the Sunday. Find out more. I’ll be reading stories from my collect Remember Me To The Bees, which will be fresh off the presses!

I hope to see you there!

Halloween may have passed, just, but there’s still a chance to be creeped out. I’m taking part in a night of eerie readings on Wednesday 06 November at The Thunderbolt’s Word of Mouth event.

Word of Mouth is a monthly literary event, and for November Bristol Fiction Writers’ Group (that’s us, pictured below – I’m the blue-tinged one, bottom row, second from the left), will be hijacking it to read tales from our anthology A Dark Imagined Bristol.

Bristol Fiction Writers

Doors open at 7.30am, and I’m going on first (eeps!), reading my short story Untrue Blue. It’s a strange story set in and around Bristol’s Cabot Tower, as well as in the skies over the city. It’s a free event, so why not come along to see what you think of it?