Writing prompt – sound crowd

Sound CrowdI came across this group in an art gallery a while back. The idea was that you made yourself comfortable on the rug, put on some earphones and listened to a deluge of words, music and natural sounds.

There’s something rather odd about the scene – if you had no idea, what might you think these people were gathered for? Why so many of them? What kind of recording might they be trying to decipher? With what aim?

There’s also an uneasy impression of the figures floating in space, which you can play with as you wish.

Sound Crowd2

If you write something prompted by this idea, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Poetry review – Learning to Make an Oud

Learning to make an oudI have an ever increasing respect for poets. The skill and confidence to reduce an emotion, a story or an entire history to a few sparse stanzas is breathtaking. I recently re-read Ruth Padel’s simmering collection Learning to Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth, which takes in Middle Eastern politics, culture and religion with a deftness I aspire to.

From generously crammed paragraphs to glimmering non-rhyming couplets, the poems examine the richness of beliefs in conflict with uncommon grace and intensity.

In the title poem, we’re walked through the steps of making a traditional musical instrument, and in Padel’s clear, thoughtful words, the act becomes unexpectedly sensual: “He damascened a rose of horn/with arabesques/as lustrous as under-leaves of olive”.

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Kristell Ink invites novel submissions

Sky light cr Judy DarleyWritten something peculiar, beautiful, and exciting? Kristell Ink are seeking completed novel-length works that offer a fresh alternative to the tried-and-tested.

Your manuscript should be in the genre of Science Fiction, Fantasy or a blend of the two, and can comprise any sub genres that fire your rocket, from high to paranormal, epic to quest, romance to steampunk, comedic… well, you get the picture.

Kristell Ink is open for novel submissions until 30th April 2016.

The editors are particularly keen to see:

  • Urban Fantasy – make it original, please. No Dresden Files clones. Strong characters, rich stories, and twists and turns galore!
  • Science Fiction – all forms, but a good space opera makes the editors feel warm and fuzzy…
  • Epic Fantasy – hero(ine) focused quest novels, providing they avoid tedious cliches.

If you have work that you feel may fit these very open and wide criteria, submit a covering letter with a 2-3 paragraph synopsis of your work and a little about yourself.

Additionally, ensure the work has been checked for typos and grammar mistakes. “The odd misplaced comma won’t put us off! But do try and ensure the work is the very best you can make it before submitting.”

Find full details and a link to the Kristell Ink submissions manager at kristell-ink.com/submissions/

Let’s talk about death, baby

Death the human experienceWhat are your thoughts about death? Do you think of it freely, with curiosity or turn from it with dread? The current exhibition at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery invites us to face our fears and explore the myths and realities surrounding our eventual expiration.

death: the human experience is an unexpectedly beautiful, contemplative exhibition, displaying archaic associations with death (from an exquisite death’s head hawk moth to a Victorian mourning dress. There are insights into burial practices across the world, including a piece on ‘sky burials’, examples of items left at gravesides and buried with the deceased, and a cheeringly rambunctious Ghanaian coffin shaped like a lion.

You can listen to funeral and mourning songs from a variety of cultures, admire memorials intended to honour the dead or display how well they were loved, and perhaps reconsider or identify your own attitudes to these rituals, and what’s important to you personally.

The subject matter is handled sensitively and thought-provokingly, with special separate sections where you can consider darker aspects such as infant mortality and cannibalism, with small doors to open on exhibits that may be especially distressing. For me the mortuary table from a former Bristol hospital was a more sobering sight – something about its clinical contours just seemed very cold. There are also videos of commentaries for and against assisted suicide, which tackles the important issue of quality of life.

Whatever your feelings on death when you enter, I think you’ll emerge able to speak about death more readily – this is an aspect of life we’ll all experience at some point, whether as the deceased or as a mourner, and being able to talk about it can only help.

As the Mark Twain quote emblazoned on one wall states: “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

What a curiously comforting idea.

death: the human experience runs at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery until 13 March 2016. Visitors are invited to pay what they feel the exhibition is worth.

Writing prompt – impressions

Tulip quilt by Jane Brocket

Tulip Fields quilt by Jane Brocket

This week’s writing prompt was inspired in a rather round about way by a particularly vibrant quilt. A while back I interviewed designer Jane Brocket for Simply Sewing magazine and we discussed her Tulip Field quilt, which resulted from her passion for Holland’s dazzling tulip fields. Jane‘s quilt appears in her book The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making.

Tulips cr Judy DarleyAfter a grey January day in the office, I came home to the discovery that my man had brought me a bunch of hot pink tulips, reminding me of Jane‘s quilt and seeding an idea.

Quite simply, I encourage you to imbue your next written piece with a particular flavour by keeping a scene of your choosing in mind, whether that’s a frosty hillside, raging sea or cosy coffee shop. Hold the colours, shapes, sounds and scents in your imagination, and layer your story around it. Hopefully the atmosphere of that view will coil through your fiction, adding extra depth, texture and richness.

Let me know how you get on by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com With your permission, I’d love to publish your written response to this prompt on SkyLightRain.com.

A writing course in the Lake District

LinthwaiteAs the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth approaches, authors are invited to take a break in the spectacular wilderness she called home. Couple with her love of writing and creating iconic whimsical characters, Potter was ardent about the Lake District’s rural splendour, and left 14 farms and 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust when she died in 1943.

Fancy tapping into the energy of that scenery?

Designed to unlock a writer’s creativity, the residential course at 4-star country hotel Linthwaite is designed for every level of writer, from beginners to published authors. It will run from 29th February, concluding on 3rd March 2016, just before the region’s annual Words by the Water literary festival in Keswick on 4th-13th March 2016.

The three-day Creative Writing Course will be run by Angela Locke, author of six internationally published novels and non-fiction/travel books, as well as being a prize-winning poet with five published collections. The course aims to help participants “find their creative voice, expand their minds and encourage them to write poetry, stories and prose in a supportive environment.”

Linthwaite private tarn

The real draw here is the location. Linthwaite is situated only a few minutes from the famous Bowness-on-Windermere, and is set within 14 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens including its own tarn. Its picturesque location, with panoramic views over Lake Windermere.

The course fee of £462 per person covers the course itself, three nights’ accommodation, and three evening meals, one of which will take place at William Wordsworth’s family home, Rydal Mount, and will include a private viewing of the property and recital.

For full details and to book your place, visit www.linthwaite.com or call 015394 88600.
Find the full programme of Words on the Water at www.wayswithwords.co.uk

How to write children’s books

Sunshine snail cr Judy DarleyI’ve decided to treat myself to a special gift by signing up to Rachel Carter’s Children’s Book workshop at Bristol Folk House.

Taking place on Saturday 12th March 2016, Children’s Book in a Day promises inspiring exercises that will help you explore aspects of writing “such as character, setting and plot.”

Ethan's Voice coverRachel Carter is the author of children’s novel Ethan’s Voice, about a boy who cannot speak. I was keen to discover more about the course teacher, so got in touch with Rachel to find out what drives her own writing.

“I was always drawn to creative writing as a child,” she says. “When I was twelve, I was chosen to be sent on a residential writing course in a big old house for a week. I think that experience sowed a seed.”

Rachel grew up surrounded by animals and fields on a Somerset smallholding. “There was lots of space and time to reflect. I worked in publishing for years, including children’s non-fiction publishing. I decided instead of editing other people’s work my heart lay in creative writing and I was drawn to writing for children because it felt like such a flexible medium…a really broad genre.”

She admits that writing for children is challenging. “I think it’s harder than writing for adults because you have to tailor your language and so on to the age of the children you’re targeting. It’s very competitive and hard to make a living just from being a writer. There is a lot of rewriting involved as with any form of writing.”

Rachel CarterThe best things, Rachel suggests, are “being able to lock yourself away, or sit in a cafe, and focus on creating something you really want to create; meeting children who genuinely love what you have written, and going into schools to do author visits.”

The course is designed to provide the tools needed to start writing your children’s book. “It’s a combination of discussion, imparted advice and inspirational creative writing exercises,” says Rachel, who is also available for school author visits, talks and workshops. “It covers character, plot, setting, the ages and stages and the industry/getting published side of things. It is a fun, uplifting day that uses pictures and objects, and guided exercises to prompt the imagination.”

Sounds wonderful to me.

Children’s Book in a Day at Bristol Folk House is on Saturday 12th March 2016. Taking part costs from £18.10 to £25.90. Find out how to book your place at www.bristolfolkhouse.co.uk.