London invites you to take a literary load off this summer

The Librarian, Discworld, by artist Paul Digby

The Librarian, Discworld, by artist Paul Digby

What a wonderful idea! London streets are being peppered with books this summer – or rather, benches designed in homage of some of the world’s best-loved literature.

From Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels to Lewis Carol’s The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, the National Literacy Trust’s Books About Town campaign celebrates reading in the most vivid of ways – with seats resembling open books.

Dr Seuss by artist Jane Headford

Dr Seuss by artist Jane Headford

Many, such as the Dr Seuss bench, with the author’s deliciously weird characters recreated by Jane Headford, are instantly recognisable. Others, including the ‘Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary’ bench inspired by J.M. Barrie’s novel The Little White Bird, are likely to have people guessing, but still stand out as glorious works of art that will have visitors to London’s streets pondering literature in new ways.

Always Try To Be A Little Kinder by artist Sian Storey

Always Try To Be A Little Kinder by artist Sian Storey

There are 50 unique BookBench sculptures in all, created in collaboration in with Wild in Art, and devised mainly by local artists.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe 1

“Our events are designed to bring the enjoyment of public art to thousands of people while offering new ways to explore a host city or town,” says Sally-Ann Wilkinson, Director of Wild in Art. “We are delighted to be working with the National Literacy Trust on this project bringing many of our favourite books to life through the visual arts.”

I’d love to see the venture spread across the UK, awarding every city, town and village with a bench revealing a local literary connection.

Best of all, the benches are actually there to be sat on, so you can take a load off, pull a favourite book from your bag and enjoy a few moments’ escapism. And before you walk a way, take a look at the back of your bench, which in most cases will be as gorgeous as the front.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe 2

To find the full list of books featured, pay a visit to www.booksabouttown.org.uk where you’ll be able to download maps of the four BookBench trails.

The BookBenches will remain scattered across London until 15 September, before being auctioned off at the Southbank Centre on 7 October 2014, so you’ll have the chance to bid on your favourites. All funds raised will go towards enabling the National Literacy Trust to tackle illiteracy in deprived communities across the UK.

Happily, new research from the charity reveals that 53.3% of 8 to 16 year olds now say they enjoy reading, compared to 51.4% in 2005. So it’s definitely going in the right direction. Here’s hoping a summer of spotting beautiful book-inspired benches will boost this literary love even higher!

Through The Looking Glass by artist Ralph Steadman

Through The Looking Glass by artist Ralph Steadman

Midweek writing prompt – the cable car

Cable car cr Judy DarleyA really simple one this week, with lots of potential for utter mayhem! Pop your character in a cable car hanging over somewhere meaningful to them. As their car approaches another, they see something or someone unexpected in the one passing theirs.

I love the idea that the sighting would be so fleeting, and that they’d be trapped in a bubble travelling in the opposite direction to whatever or whoever they’ve just glimpsed – how frustrating!

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 publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

From Cabot Tower to the towers of Hong Kong

orange stained sky, Hong Kong cr Susan LavenderThis week I received the exciting news that one of my stories has been selected to be performed at a Liars’ League literary night in Hong Kong! How’s that for international?

Liars’ League are a series of events across the globe, with the strap line: ‘Writers Write. Actors Read. Audience Listens. Everybody Wins.’

Can’t argue with that!

My story Night Flights, which explores the somewhat dark and twisted relationship between a brother and sister, takes place entirely on Brandon Hill and up Cabot Tower in Bristol. The idea of it being shared with story-lovers in Hong Kong is somewhat mind-blowing!

As part of the ‘Night & Day’ themed event hosted by Liars’ League Hong Kong, Night Flights will be read aloud by Susan Lavender. Susan is a writer, performer and lawyer, and also took the glorious photo at the top of this post.

The Night & Day event is at the Fringe Club Dairy on 28th July 2014 from 8pm sharp, so if you happen to be in that part of the world that evening, do go along!

On Monday 7th July (from 7.30-9.30pm), I’m taking part in Small Stories, the monthly literary event hosted by  Natalie Burns and Sian Wadsworth, at Small Bar on King Street in Bristol.

I’ll be reading two of my flash fictions. The first, This Gallery, includes the following paragraph:

At least I had an umbrella with me that day, which was unusually efficient of me. But you didn’t yet know that of me, any more than I could guess that you organised your sock drawer by hue, transforming the balled-up grey and blue woollens into something resembling a close up of an Impressionist painting.

The second story, well, you’ll just have to wait and see!

Midweek writing prompt – future self

Pol meets lizard cr Judy DarleyThe Write Life magazine, which is on the App Store for iPads and iPhones. Laura’s idea utilises Futureme.org, a great service that allows you to write an email to yourself and have it delivered to your inbox at some point in the next 50 years. I’d just like to add the suggestion of doing this for one of your characters instead of yourself, and imagining the response of their future self to receiving the email at some random time in the future.

Of course, there’s no reason not to send an imaginary missive to your past self too…

What a great chance to write about something you’re going through right now, a challenge, a blessing; a hard job or a young love, and think about what your future self would think about it. Another way of thinking about it is, what will your future self want to say to the younger you?

Warm it Up!

1. Decide what event to write about, and which “future you” you want to send the email to. Do you want to read it six months from now, a year, five years, ten? You can choose to have the email delivered anytime in the next 50 years.

Work it out

2. Head to www.futureme.org/

3. Spend 10-15 minutes writing the letter. What do you want to say about what is happening right now, and perhaps where you hope to be when you read the email?

4. Be sure to choose an email address that you’re likely still to use in the future. Also check that futureme.org is whitelisted by your email provider so that it doesn’t land in your spam folder.

Cool it Down

5. Choose whether to make the letter private or ‘public, but anonymous’. The ‘public, but anonymous’ letters that have been delivered recently are published on this page, http://www.futureme.org/letters/recently_delivered?offset=0, and make for great reading.

6. Hit send!

Got an idea for a writing prompt you’d like to share? Send it to me at Judy(at)socket creative.com!

And if you write something prompted by this, please let me know. With your permission, I’d love to publish it on SkyLightRain.com.