Midweek writing prompt – future

Ruined tower by Judy DarleyIt seems fitting that on the final day of 2014, we should look to the future. I passed this building site on a bus and was struck by the bleak beauty of that one remaining tower – ready to come down to make way for whatever’s coming.

Ruined tower1 cr Judy Darley

In a way we need to be that ruthless with our creativity. Tear down old ideas to make way for fresh successes.

This particular shot reminds me rather of Anselm Kiefer’s ‘heavenly palaces’.

With this in mind, I wish you a very happy, fulfilled 2015, and hope that if you’re out celebrating tonight you stay safe, wake warm and recover gently.

Interpret this scene however you like.

If you write something prompted by it, 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 – Waterlog by Roger Deakin

Waterlog by Roger DeakinFew books can claim having seeped into as many lives as Roger Deakin’s Waterlog. An outwardly simple account of one man’s aim to swim across as much of Britain as possible, this quietly joyful tale has gained cult status (and spurred on countless wild swimming societies) since its publication in 1999.

Prompted by his own love of wild swimming, and John Cheever’s iconic short story The Swimmer, Deakin’s account blends his love of nature, a wealth of historical and geographical titbits and a very contemplative view of our country’s waterways.

There are moments of drama too, as in when he visits the aptly named Hell Gill in Cumbria – a canyon with water funnelling through it. “Courage up, I returned to the turbulent rim of the gorge and did what u knew might be an unwise thing. I couldn’t help it. I began to slide into the mouth of the abyss itself.” It’s a dizzying read as he slithers, swims and careens down “Hell Gill’s dim, glistening insides”, descending into the darkness: “I felt like Jonah inside the whale.”

Continue reading

Become a Faber New Poet

Victoria Park cr Judy DarleyIf you’re making headway with your poetry writing, but are yet to publish a first collection or pamphlet, now’s your chance to make that happen.

In partnership with Arts Council England, Faber and Faber is inviting submissions for the 2014-15 Faber New Poets scheme. You have until 30 January 2015 to get your submission to them.

They say: “Faber New Poets exists to encourage new writers at a crucial point in their career. Open to those who have yet to publish a first collection or pamphlet, the scheme offers mentoring, pamphlet publication and financial support.”

If you feel like you would benefit from this, and that your poetry is already gaining substance and momentum, why not apply. There are four place available to poets keen to develop their work.

Manuscripts should meet the following guidelines

• 16 A4 pages of poems
• Set in 12pt Times New Roman or similar, and spaced at 1.5 lines
• Each new poem to be started on a new page

Your submission should be emailed to fnp@faber.co.uk and must be accompanied by a separate cover sheet including contact details and confirmation that you have yet to publish a single-authored volume of poems either in pamphlet or full-collection form.

Submissions may not be agented. Manuscripts must be received on or before 30th January 2015.

The successful candidates will be announced in Spring 2015.

Previous beneficiaries of the scheme include Fiona Benson, Heather Phillipson, Joe Dunthorne, Sam Riviere, Rachael Allen and Zaffar Kunial.

It’s an exciting opportunity, offering the chance to have your talent nurtured and brought to the public’s attention.

Find full details at www.faber.co.uk/blog/faber-new-poets-2014-15/

A cuppa with writer David H Worsdale

David H Worsdale photo by Michael SlaterDavid H Worsdale has published many children’s poems, and recently brought out his first full-length novel for children, titled Pedro and the Magic Marbles. Today we settle down over a cosy cuppa for a chat about how David maintained his motivations (and retained his marbles) over the novel’s 40-year writing period.

Kettle’s on. What do you fancy?

Strong tea with milk and one sugar, please!

What prompted you to write Pedro and the Magic Marbles?

It was a major idea that came into my head back in 1973. The book’s aimed at children aged eight years and older.

Who were you initially writing it for?

It started life as a short story on three sides of A4 paper when I used to write the Children’s pages for the company weekly magazine while I was working in Saudi Arabia. It was then call The Magic Marbles and was serialised over a period of about six weeks.

Marble cr David H WorsdaleHow did you maintain your energy and interest in the tale over that 40-year period?

Over the years I just added to it now and then. That was before computers and so it was typed using a portable typewriter. When I learned to use a computer then I re-wrote it and was able to save it in the computer’s memory. Sometimes a gap of a couple of years would go by before I looked at it again. During the past ten years or so I joined a couple of websites where likeminded people had the same interests as myself and so that encouraged me to stick at it. We would review one another’s work and comments would be passed about what we had read. Lots of these comments were really helpful.

How much time did you spend re-writing and editing the story?

Whenever I started to write again I always had to read through what I had previously written to keep me up to speed with the story and plot. as well as the characters’ names and how they fitted into the story. (As I get older the ‘personal memory bank’ is not as good as it once was!).

Pedro and the Magic Marbles cover

Once complete, how did you go about seeking a publisher?

I’ve sent emails and letters to various publishers whose addresses I obtained from Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook & received a call from Xlibris Publishing and Print on demand company, offering to publish the book for me. They said they could publish it for me and the cost of editing would be included in the price. I decided to give them a chance and sent them a copy of the book. In due course they sent me a copy of the front of the book and asked for my approval. I was very pleased with it and gave them permission to go ahead and publish. It was made available on Amazon from day one, either in book form or for Kindle.

How did it feel to finally see the novel published?

It felt really great. All my family and friends were delighted with the completed version.

David H Worsdale at The House of Marbles Museum, photo by Michael Slater

David H Worsdale at The House of Marbles Museum, photo by Michael Slater

Have you had a book launch?

I have not had a book launch. I suppose really because I could not afford to buy enough books to have one. I did go in to see W.H.Smith and Morrison’s but they were not interested. I had the same response from The Works. I did get it accepted by the Dorset Library and there is a copy in the Weymouth Public Library and the Wyke Regis Library. Equally we did have a low-key launch session at the House of Marbles Museum in Bovey Tracey.

How important to you feel a book launch is for an author, and for a book?

It is probably very important but for me I could not afford a  major one on my own.

What advice would you offer someone embarking on their first novel?

If you have belief in your novel, stick at it. Don’t be afraid of criticism some of it can be very helpful. Beware of people who say they can help you but at a cost, which may be un-affordable for you.

Now that the novel is published and out in the world, what comes next for you?

It would be very nice to have it recognised nationally and for myself to be seen as a credited author. I do have a collection of children’s poems, which I hope one day to have published in the form of picture books.

I look forward to seeing those! Thanks for dropping by, David. Hope you have a very Happy Boxing Day!

Photos of David used in this post were taken by Michael Slater. Thanks Michael!

Merry Christmas!

Little Christmas Tree2 by JDarleyI hope your day is filled with laughter, contentment and warmth.

And if you wanted to know how our little tree is getting on, it survived the year and is thriving!

Here’s how it looked last year…

Little Christmas tree cr Judy DarleyAnd at the top of the post is how it looks now! Last year I called it “a reminder that from small beginnings, great things can grow…”

This year I think I’ve learnt that patience, love and plenty of sunshine is needed too.

Midweek writing prompt – ice skating

Ice skating cr Judy DarleyHow nostalgic is this winter scene? It could be twenty years ago, or last week! When I was a kid ice skating was the best fun in the world, but as I got older and taller, falling seemed more perilous and the soaring joy diminished.

Why is it that as we age, our mortality looms? I had a conversation once with a man who’d been cleaning the windows of a skyscraper for a decade and was just beginning to develop a dread of heights. The idea intrigued me.

Use this as your prompt this week and create a character who loses their love of a potentially dangerous activity that previously held no fear for them. It could be Banksy growing afraid of being caught, or a lion-tamer now terrified of wild animals.

How do they overcome their new-found trepidation? And if they don’t, how does it change their life?

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 – Summertime by JM Coetzee

Summertime by JM CoetzeeBook review by Emma Bragg.

As we edge into midwinter, it seems oddly fitting that this week’s review should feature a title naming the opposite time of year, but the third volume of JM Coetzee’s ‘fictionalised memoir’ is about as far as you can get from an undemanding beach read, says reviewer Emma Bragg.

Summertime was on the shortlist for the 2009 Booker Prize and claims to portray a series of interviews conducted by a young biographer. Mr Vincent is researching the life of Coetzee between the years of 1972 and 1977, which he believes were a key period in the life of the writer.

The book starts with several seemingly random dated passages and italic notes such as ‘to be expanded on’. The relevance of these passages becomes clear in the following interview with Julia, the first interviewee, who had an affair with Coetzee in the 1970s. It appears a curious method by which to start a book but it offers an insight into the setting and period.

Throughout the book, Coetzee appears to be self-critical in how he allows his characters to describe him as cold, antisocial, and even as a bad lover.

“John had what I would call a sexual mode, into which he would switch when he took off his clothes. In sexual mode he could perform the male part perfectly adequately – adequately, competently, but – but for my taste – too impersonally.”

It would be naive, however, for the reader to take this as honest self-examination. The writer even ventures so far as to fictionalise the biggest element of all – his death – with the biographer supposedly undertaking the writing of the biography after the writer’s death.

It begs the question as to why Coetzee would write of himself in this way: is it in good humour or is it representative of other elements of the book? One of the key themes throughout the book is the sense of place. John Coetzee in the book is an outsider, even within his own family, having previously left South African and now returned but to a welcome that’s anything but warm.

Coetzee frequently appears to feel like an intruder in South Africa and this is further commented on by the interview with Martin:

“…our presence there was legal but illegitimate. We had an abstract right to be there, a birthright, but the basis of that right was fraudulent… grounded in crime, namely colonial conquest…”

Does Coetzee’s self criticism perhaps more deeply symbolise how he feels about South Africa? Is his description of himself as an impersonal lover perhaps representative of how impersonal he feels towards South Africa?

Coetzee is an infamous recluse and did not collect either of his Booker Prizes in person so perhaps the more important message of the book is how he feels about his private life. In the final interview Sophie questions how ethical writing a biography without permission is and maybe this is the real question that Coetzee wishes the reader to consider.

Summertime by J.M. Coetzee is published by Vintage and is available to buy from Amazon.

To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Geese among the trees

Lost Garden of Heligan geese cr Judy DarleyChristmas is coming and the geese are getting fat…

But actually this post is about something entirely different. The lovely folks at Liars’ League Hong Kong are hosting a literary night of performances on 29th December, and invited me to submit a tale. Always a pleasure!

Susan Lavender will be reading my short story Geese Among The Trees as part of a special festive showcase. She considered performing Night Flights again, but thought it might be a little dark for the occasion. That’s probably true!

Geese Among The Trees is a bitter sweet tale of hope and possible redemption. Susan Lavender will be performing it as part of the Liars’ Trump night at the Fringe Dairy jazz and cabaret club in Hong Kong on 29th December. The event starts at 8pm. Do go along if you’re in the area – I wish I could be there!

Asmaa Elnawawy’s paper dolls

Decision by Asmaa ElnawawyDelicate paper dolls strung across a scene instantly bring childhood to mind – such a simple act of folding and oh-so carefully cutting to create countless people!

In the hands of artist Asmaa Elnawawy, however, a more sinister impression forms, as she draws on the fragility of paper dolls to explore concepts of feminism. These figures are easily torn, and once they lose their pristine beauty they’ll be cast away.

“For me, the paper dolls in my paintings represent the concept of feminism,” Asmaa says. “They form a connected string of figures, which refers to the continuity of life.”

Asmaa is from Egypt, where the paper doll is used in traditional ceremonies to ward off the evil eye “We puncture the paper doll with a needle to prevent negative forces taking hold.” So an apparent act of violence against these paper women is actually intended to be protective. It’s a disturbing thought, given how much domestic violence is dealt out to ‘helpfully’ curb a woman’s behaviour.

Controlling by Asmaa Elnawawy

Controlling © Asmaa Elnawawy

Throughout her work, Asmaa explores “the stories of women in my society – what they’re suffering and what they hope for. I enjoy the art of Frida Kahlo, Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler, Gustav Klimt and the Pre-Raphaelites.”

Asmaa’s influences are evident in the richness of her works, painted in acrylic and oil on canvasses with intricately rendered backgrounds. In fact, the patterns on these ornate wallpapers each represent something significant for the viewer to puzzle out. Continue reading

Midweek writing prompt – Bathhouse

Bath House drawing cr Linda Samson

Bath House © Linda Samson

The beautiful artwork by Linda Samson that I featured a few weeks ago reminded me what a gorgeous time I had at Budapest’s Gellért Baths. There’s something so public and yet so intimate about bathhouses like these, where you can wallow for hours chatting and daydreaming. It’s the perfect place to plan out adventures, swap scandalous stories and reminisce.

Linda says “Woman Bathing appeared first as an etching, but after seeing Lord Leighton’s house with the central atrium and Turkish tiled pool in Holland Park, I reworked the image as the ceramic ‘Bath House’. There was an echo of the past in the piece as one of my earliest oil paintings was Turkish Women, created in homage to Delacroix, but based on my experience as a student where I stayed in a Turkish village near the Syrian border, helping to build a bathhouse for the villagers.”

This week, why not situate yourself as a fly on a (no doubt condensation-slick) wall of a bathhouse and see what you can observe – what rumours or conspiracies might come to your attention? And of course, some first-hand research might be needed, which offers the perfect excuse for an afternoon relaxing at your nearest spa…

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.