Writing prompt – realm

S. Germany 1 by Abeer ElkhatebThis beautiful painting is by artist Abeer Elkhateb, and is his reimagining of a town in Germany. I think it’s a wonderful reminder of how we can transform every scene we encounter to suit ourselves.

What magic can you see in the streets you encounter every day? Could that office block be reinvented as magical tower, or that poorly lit car park as a shadowy forest full of trolls? Let your imagine paint over the mundane and create something wonderful.

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

Spring literary leaps at Southbank Centre

Neil Gaiman. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Author and fabulist Neil Gaiman. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Norse myths have been a source of inspiration for author and fabulist (how’s that for a job title) Neil Gaiman throughout his literary career. Discussing this influence and his latest book Norse Mythology (due out today – 7th February 2017), Neil Gaiman is part of Southbank Centre’s Spring Literature programme and year-long exploration of Nordic culture Nordic Matters.

On 15th February you can learn how Gaiman brings Norse gods to life through his inimitable fiction, where fantasy meets fairytale, fable, nightmare and happy endings in equal measure.

Other events to look out for include the Southbank Centre’s Imagine Children’s Festival returns to Royal Festival Hall from 9th-19th February (speakers and storytellers include Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, Michael Morpurgo, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, and Icelandic author Þórarinn Eldjárn), and Southbank Centre’s new year-long Belief and Beyond Belief festival, which examines belief, faith and spirituality as well as what it means to be human in the 21st century. So, plenty to inspire, intrigue and get your mind ticking!

To find out more and book, visit Southbank Centre’s website southbankcentre.co.uk or call the box office on 020 7960 4200

Submit crime fiction to a Flash Bang contest

Pink water pistol cr Judy DarleyDid you know the phrase ‘flash in the pan’ originated with the priming of guns? I didn’t either before discovering the Flash Bang contest.

They’re seeking 150-word submissions of short crime fiction that packs a helluva punch, and emphasises the skill of flash fiction in utilising the skill of surprise and illumination in an artfully condensed package – one you may not wish to open without guidance from a bomb disposal squad.

Deadline for entries is midnight BST on 3rd March 2017.

Prizes of this writing contest

  • 1st prize is two weekend passes to CrimeFest 2018 (access to all interviews, panels and receptions, exc. accommodation, dinner, travel)
  • 2nd prize is one weekend pass to CrimeFest 2018
  • 3rd prize is a special CrimeFest delegate bag with books and other goodies

In addition to the above, all those on the shortlist will be invited to attend the Crime Writing Day on Friday 19 May 2017, when the winners will be announced.

Rules of this writing contest

Max 150 words. No minimum. Title not included in word count. One entry per person. £2 entry fee to cover admin, to be paid via PayPal. No entries from established crime authors, please. No other restrictions apply, but you’ll want to be able to attend CrimeFest in Bristol, UK, in May 2018 if you win.

Find full details of how to enter at flashbangcontest.wordpress.com/about-flashbang-2017/

The longlist will be published 7 April 2015. Shortlist will be published here 21 April. Winners will be announced at CrimeFest15, 14-17 May 2015. Good luck!

Re-envisioning the world

Rose Temple by Abeer ElkhatebThrough the eyes of artist Abeer Elkhateb, the world assumes a majestic splendour. With Fantastical turreted cities beneath fabulous skies, the scenes look like glimpses from exotic fairytales, a dramatic contrast to his ultra-realistic bronzes of entwined figures.

Lovers No.1 by Abeer Elkhateb

Lovers No.1 by Abeer Elkhateb

This contrast of styles takes me by surprise, but talking to Abeer Elkhateb makes it clear that there’s always been a touch of the rebellious about his art.

“As far as I remember I was about 10 years old. For no reason at school, I was just painting and painting and painting,” he says. “It got me into a lot of trouble at that time and it sent me to jail at a later age.”

When he was 16, Abeer’s uncle Abdallah Alkhateb (a PhD Historian and artist) took me under his wing in a way and opened his massive library to my eyes, which allowed me to be introduced academically to the art and art history.”

Following that, Abeer says, art became a way of life,  “or I can say it is my life.”

The Golden Moon City by Abeer Elkhateb

The Golden Moon City by Abeer Elkhateb

Abeer has developed a very particular way of working.

“Every five years I take a new path and start building everything around it,” he says. “The last project I worked on was based on reverse-ism. I took some well known physical laws like gravity, perspective, fundamental construction and turned them upside-downs, inside-out.”

Observation and imagination both play vital roles in this process.

I love Albert Einstein’s statement that logic takes you from A to Z, but imagination takes you anywhere,” he says. “In many case I’ve wondered about the borders between reality and imagination, wondering if my imagination created the world I’m in or if the observed world by me created my imagination. Do thoughts really become reality?”

Mont Saint Michael by Abeer Elkhateb

Mont Saint Michael by Abeer Elkhateb

Abeer mentions painting places he’d thought were dreamt up in his imagination, but then later coming across those locations in the real world.  “I also have ongoing dreams – when they come they just continue where they stopped the previous time, as if a different dimension of me lives in a different world. I use those dreams as one of the sources of my artwork.”

As a result, many of his enchanting scenes are re-envisions of real places, such as St Michael’s Mount in France, Port Isaac in Cornwall and various parts of Germany.

Port Isaac by Abeer Elkhateb

Port Isaac by Abeer Elkhateb

Transforming a nebulous idea into a work of art is part of the excitement.

“I love it when a new idea is about to come up,” he says. “First thing is drawing or outlining the idea and if I need to perform and film the performed concept, I do.”

Once this is done, he can concentrate on painting or sculpting, according to the form of expression that feels right. “Basically I let the idea grows organically. Many of my recent works are in 2D and 3D alike.”

Lovers No.4 by Abeer Elkhateb

Lovers No.4 by Abeer Elkhateb

Abeer has  been experimenting with materials since the seventies, “from scrap material  found in the streets, metal, wood, clay, wax, plaster and bronze on the sculpted production and oil colour, watercolour, ceramics, textile, etchings and mosaics. I think what I want to say is material and skills are always working side by side and when they don’t, I feel that I’m being challenged and that is exciting because it pushes me into the unknown territory. At that stage I feel there is something to explore. So, I don’t really prefer particular materials – it’s the concept that informs me.”

S. Germany 2 by Abeer Elkhateb

S. Germany 2 by Abeer Elkhateb

Abeer can’t imagine his life without art. “I came to England from the war zone in Baghdad,” he says of his struggles to survive as a man and an artist. “I’ve failed in so many things in my life as well as succeeding in many others; I’ve had my ups and downs, been crushed and stood up again,” he says. “But even at the craziest times, paper and pen were always somewhere beside me, either in my pockets or in my bag. Paper and pen act as a reminder to myself that I am an artist. Recording experiences helps me see how every day, every experience, every breath is important. That is love itself.”

Lovers and Child by Abeer Elkhateb

Lovers and Child by Abeer Elkhateb

Abeer Elkhateb’s Imagined Worlds is on at Skylark Galleries 2, Unit 1.09, First Floor Riverside, Oxo Tower Wharf, London until 19th February 2017. Find out more here abeerelkhateb.wordpress.com and www.skylarkgalleries.com.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Writing prompt – possibilities

Icelandic time machine photo by Judy Darley


You come across this scene while strolling in the Icelandic countryside.

What could it be?
a) A modern art installation;
b) An Icelandic time machine;
c) An offering to the elven folk;
d) Some rusting farm equipment that’s seen better days.

Write a story around this idea.

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