Writing prompt – bridges

Clifton Suspension Bridge cr JDarleyThere’s something breathlessly astonishing about bridges, the way they span dizzying gaps, link places and people. Iain Banks set an entire novel on a bridge (one of my favourite books, actually), and it makes sense when you consider the possibilities they present.

By its very nature of hanging in space, a bridge offers an element of danger, while equally providing a sense of safety, potential for escape, and, of course, outstanding views.

This week, begin to write a tale set on a bridge, and see where it takes you.

If you create something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to JudyDarley(at)gmail.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.

Book review – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The-Miniaturist coverThis richly detailed, immersive book draws you into the life of Nella Oortman, 18 years old in 1968 and freshly married to a man she barely knows. At the start of her story, she arrives in Amsterdam, a very different place to the rural Assendelft she’s left behind. Her life is on the brink of changing forever, but not in the ways she anticipates.

Told solely from the point of view of this naïve yet spirited girl, The Miniaturist is a story that crackles with suspense, straining at the seams with vivid descriptions and characters so finely sketched they seem utterly real. Within the first few pages we meet Marin, the stern sister-in-law with a hunger for distant shores, and Cornelia, the servant who will prove a crucial ally as the novel unfolds, and Otto, the first black man Nella has ever seen.

The actual miniaturist of the title, however, is a far more intangible creature, difficult to meet and impossible to grasp, yet armed with an uncanny knowledge of Nella’s new household and its many mysteries.

Continue reading

Eco-art in Bristol

Bristol Whales2 cr Judy DarleyI recently encountered a pair of whales in the centre of Bristol. Not in the harbour, where you might expect the occasional sighting of a cormorant, but in a fountain on Millennium Square.

Bristol Whales cr Judy Darley

Made from Somerset willow woven into the two immense marine mammals, it’s a truly imposing work, with 70,000 plastic bottles, collected at the Bath Half and Bristol 10k forming the swirling, glimmering ocean they swim through.

Bristol Whales, the tail-cr Judy Darley

And yes, those are bottle tops hanging from its imposing tail.

It’s a really dramatic, beautiful way to draw attention to the 15 million bottles we send to landfill every day – apparently around eight million tonnes of plastic end up in oceans each year, equivalent to the body weight of 45,000 blue whales.

Bristol Whales4 cr Judy Darley

So the message is, avoid single use plastic, upcycle and, when you’re thirsty, think of the whales.

The artwork will be in situ until 1st September 2015, when, I presume, the whales will migrate to warmer waters. Find more details at www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-33548708 and www.bristol2015.co.uk/bristol-whales/

Writing prompt – details

Leaves, Bristol Botanical Gardens by Judy DarleyInspired by Karl Blossfeldt’s amazing botanical photography, this week’s writing prompt is all about the details.

Create a protagonist who really sweats the small stuff, and I mean REALLY, both the good and bad. While you can have fun making them annoyed with every little thing about their partners, their colleagues or the people they encounter on the bus, but remember to balance that out by having them relish the tiniest details most of us overlook – the veins of a leaf, the pattern in the foliage, the dinky heart in the photo above…

How do these characteristics reflect on the life they lead and the decisions they make?

If you create 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.

Music, marvels and mayhem

Harbour Festival sign cr Judy DarleyThis coming weekend one of my favourite summer events rears its beautiful tousled head – Bristol Harbour Festival.

And yes, there will be boats of all varieties, but there will also be music, dance performances, an area of green leafy eco-friendliness, and circus acts to watch or participate in (including a chance to discover what slacklining is), plus the occasional eruption of juggling, tango or aerial gymnastics.

There will also be plenty of shows that defy tidy classification, such as last year’s splendid Trolleys (featuring actual shopping trolleys by the marvellous C-12 Dance Theatre, not to mention a broad array of imaginative oddities.

Harbour festival 2012 cr Judy Darley

Tempting stalls of food and marvellous treasures will line the parks and harbourside, and stages will resonate with music from folk-rock to techno-bhangra, samba to English gospel. Oh, and there’ll even be a floating cinema. Now we just some sunshine!

Bristol Harbour Festival takes over central Bristol from 17-19 July and is joyfully free 😉

Writing prompt – cumulus

Sky and barbed wire cr Judy DarleySometimes I get mesmerised by the beauty of the sky. Walking home recently I spotted this impressive display. I think they’re stratocumulus – do correct me if I’m wrong.

I particularly love the way the barbed wire in the shot catches at them, juxtaposing the concept of freedom with the threat of being caught – trapped.

Use this as the foundation of your story. Is your character imprisoned and daydreaming about their release, or is it a less obvious form of confinement, such as a bad marriage or hated job? Will they actually escape, and if so, how?

If you create 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.

Writing prompt – monsters

Snail cr Judy DarleyI recently glimpsed a video someone posted to Facebook, showing a monstrously gigantic hamster laying waste to a town.

It made me chuckle, and reminded me of the joyful possibilities available when you tweak something’s scale, making it outlandishly large or a teeny speck of its former self. Make this the starting point of a story, and see where it takes you.

If you create 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.

A poem about pigeons

Pigeon cr Judy DarleyI admit, I have a curious fondness for pigeons. Something about their dauntlessness as they crowd the city streets, pecking for crumbs and dodging vehicles impresses me, possibly more than it should. So when I saw a call for poetry submissions about these generally unbeloved birds, I had just the poem in mind.

Happily, my poem Crusty was accepted for publication and now roosts in the poetry anthology Poeming Pigeons along with many feathered friends. It’s available from The Poetry Box, but you can read it here.

Crusty by Judy Darley

We’ve reached an understanding, he and I
sharing the same street corner
ignored by the same passersby.
His stained blanket mirrors my ragged wings
We both limp from hunger and on twisted limbs.
His fractured, fractious stories echo my plaintive call
His rheumy eyes, filth-clouded, reflect my skies, dismal.
We’ve both experienced the same fall from grace,
existing on life’s edges in this wretched place.
He raids the bins, eats what he can, and what he can’t he passes on.
When night crowds in, I rise to roost
watching over him till dawn.

Writing prompt – cloud

A Cloud Being Born cr Judy DarleyI was at the beach last summer when a strange fog rolled in. One of my companions said it was the result of a cloud being born far out at sea, and forgetting to rise before travelling over the land. Curious!

As we lay there, trying to soak up the sun, we found ourselves bathed in icy water droplets instead. I think it makes an eerie shot – what other reasons, supernatural say, could there be for such an event on a hot summer’s day? What if, instead of dispersing, the fog just kept getting thicker?

If you create 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.