Writing prompt – afterwards

Azores post religious festival. Photo by Judy DarleyI took this photo the day after Festas do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres on São Miguel Island, the Azores. 

Just hours earlier, the streets were carpeted with pristine flowers and evergreen fronds. Now it resembles crushed confetti.

What else might have been altered almost beyond recognition during the mayhem of those religious revelries?

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

 

Enter the Bridport Prize

Bladderwrack by Judy Darley
The Bridport Prize, one of the UK’s most prestigious writing competitions, is currently seeking submissions of short stories, flash fiction, poems and debut novels.

The deadline for all competition entries is 31st May 2019.

Bridport Prize artwork cr Paul Blow

Image by Paul Blow

Poems may be up to 42 lines in length. The entry fee is £10. The winning poet will receive £5,000.

Short stories may be up to 5,000 words long. The entry fee is £12. The winning short story writer will receive £5,000.

Flash fiction may be up to 250 words long. The entry fee is £9. The winning flash fiction writer will receive £1,000.

The winning and highly commended flash fiction, short stories and poems will be published in the Bridport Prize anthology 2019.

Novel extracts may be up to 8,000 words long. You must also supply a 300-word synopsis, which should be the first page of your entry. The fee is £20.

First prize is £1,000 plus a year’s mentoring through The Literary Consultancy’s Chapter & Verse mentoring scheme, and possible publication. T

Second prize is £500 plus a full manuscript assessment from The Literary Consultancy

There are runners-up awards of £100, plus a 50-page manuscript assessment (redeemable against a full appraisal if desired), which will be made to three shortlisted writers.

The opening chapters of the first prize and runner-up novel will be published on the Bridport Prize website.

Find full details and enter your creative works at www.bridportprize.org.uk.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Hay Festival 23rd May to 2nd June 2019

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

I remember visiting Hay-on-Wye as a child and being entranced by this place built, it seemed, entirely on, around and with books. Yet I’ve never yet made it to any of the much lauded Hay Festivals (have you noticed how they’ve spread throughout the world? Good to know that the love of the written word is so contagious).

The festival runs from 23rd May until 2nd June 2019. The organisers say: “The line-up features over 600 writers and thinkers in events over 11 days, spanning award-winning fiction, non-fiction and poetry; science and tech; UK politics; global affairs; sustainability (Green Hay); a rich strand for children and families; a free programme for schools; and a vibrant line-up of late night music, comedy and performance.”

With the strapline: “Let’s talk. Let’s Listen”, speakers and inspirers include Arundhati Roy, Ian McEwan, Jeanette Winterson, Caroline Criado Perez, Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig, Jimmy Carr, Bill Bailey, Sara Pascoe, Nish Kumar, Judith Kerr, Jo Brand, Jacqueline Wilson, Maxine Peake, Max Porter, Germaine Greer, Joanna Lumley, Carole Cadwalladr, Fintan O’Toole, Emily Maitlis, Robert Macfarlane, Monty Don, and Moby.

If you can only make it to one event, don’t miss novelists Jayne Joso and Deborah Kay Davies in conversation with Dylan Moore on Wednesday 29th May.

Get your tickets from www.hayfestival.com. And if you’re lucky enough to attend any of the events, please let me know! I’d love to publish your festival review on SkyLightRain.com. Just email me at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

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Writing prompt – key

Key by Judy DarleyHave you ever found a key and wondered what it could possibly open? Have you ever lost a key and wondered where it could have gone?

Imagine that this is the key your protagonist has found. Where did they find it? To what adventures or discoveries could it lead?

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

Enter the Big Issue’s crime fiction competition

Inside a Bristol Bridge by Judy DarleyThe Big Issue magazine has launched a competition looking for the next big name in crime fiction.

The author of the winning entry will be awarded a two-book deal to be published as  paperbacks under the Avon Books UK imprint by HarperCollins. Only one overall winner will be chosen from all submissions.The deadline for entries is Friday 31st May.

The competition is open to authors seeking their big break with a crime novel that’s complete or close to completion.

“We’re delighted to announce the launch of this competition,” says The Big Issue editor Paul McNamee. “Everybody is said to have a book in them but people frequently don’t know how to get their great ideas to the right people and into print. Working with such a legendary publishing house is a way to make somebody’s dream become reality. We’ve assembled a terrific panel to help uncover Britain’s best new, as yet undiscovered, crime writer.”

To enter the competition, submit:

  1. Your synopsis of no more than 100 words
  2. Your full and complete manuscript. The text must be double spaced and typed in Times New Roman font, point size 12 and must be the entrant’s own original work
  3. Your contact information including telephone number, email address and any social media handles

“It is with great excitement that we launch the search for the UK’s next big crime writer, and we couldn’t wish for a better publication to do this with than The Big Issue,” say Helen Huthwaite, publishing director at Avon. “With the help of some of the best talent in the business, we will be scouring the length and breadth of the country for an author who can deliver heart-stopping writing and nail-shredding suspense. This is a life-changing prize for one talented winner, and we can’t wait to see what the entries have in store for us.”

The judging panel includes The Big Issue’s books editor Jane Graham, literary agent Julia Silk, author Katerina Diamond, and editor and author MJ Ford.

The shortlist will be announced in September, with the winner’s announcement to follow in October. All terms and conditions can be found on bigissue.com or avonbooks.co.uk

Honouring loss through paint and music

26 October 1859 by Anthony Garratt

26 October 1859 by Anthony Garratt

The urge to communicate is key to any artistic endeavour, but for the work to truly connect with others, it helps for artists to look beyond themselves and be moved by the world around them. In 2016, artist Antony Garratt achieved this with his painting installation High and Low.

His 2019 project returns him and his team to Anglesey’s wild spaces, this time looking out to sea.

In October 1859, The Royal Charter, a steamship en route to Liverpool from Melbourne was wrecked in the Irish Sea off Anglesey in a ferocious storm. It’s estimated that 800 lives were lost in the storm, which was coined ‘The Royal Charter Storm.’

“The Royal Charter is legendary on Anglesey, not least due to the heroic efforts of locals from Moelfre who attempted to rescue crew and passengers,” he says. “In a dreadful twist of fate, the ship was carrying a cargo of gold and many of the people on board had sewn gold into their clothes. Upon entering the sea, they were immediately committed to the seabed.”

The tragedy of the Royal Charter Storm led to the development of the meteorological office, with the first gale warning service being launched in 1860 to prevent similar catastrophes.

Anthony and his team, enabled by the Outbuildings, Anglesey, and shipwrights Mark and Loz Cann, are creating a painting and theatrical installation titled To All At Sea, or, in Welsh, ‘i barb ar y mar to mark the160th anniversary of the storm.

26 October 2019 by Anthony Garratt

26 October 2019 by Anthony Garratt

Collaborating with the wind

The work will comprise a 4.5-metre-wide double-sided painting panel with a black steel foresail shaped to echo the rig of the royal charter. It will be located in a coastal position near to the location of the wreck off Moelfre, East Anglesey, on 13th May.

“I have just completed the two sides of the painting – one of which communicates a calm, foreboding day at sea; the other the gale which tragically wrecked the Royal Charter amongst many others that fateful night,” says Anthony. “I created the two paintings in my studio over two months; the time it was meant to take the Royal Charter to reach Liverpool from Melbourne.”

Like a weather vane, the painting panel will pivot on a central mast with each change in wind direction. As a result, chance will dictate whether you see the depiction of the calm day, or The Royal Charter Storm, “just as the weather was a form of roulette on that fateful night, before the days of weather forecasting.”

Now we come to the really clever bit

With each pivot and change of direction in the wind, the painting panel communicates data to a website, which each day at 17.55, (the time of the UK Shipping Forecast), draws an arc representing the change in wind direction.

After two months of these ‘wind arcs’ being collected, the lines will be translated into a musical score to be performed and recorded by concert violinist Philippa Mo, accompanying a local Welsh male voice choir.

The performance and culmination of the installation will take place on 26th October, the 160-year anniversary of The Royal Charter Storm.

The installation and composition will be dedicated to those who lost their lives in the storm and rescue efforts.

An art competition will run concurrently with the installation and dedicated social media channels for the entrants to share their work. The subject will be the weather forecast and The Royal Charter Storm. Prizes will include a day creating a painting with Anthony Garratt to keep.

Find out more about all of this at www.toallatsea.co.uk.

Writing prompt – expedition

Foz bikes at sunset, Porto, by Judy DarleyFollowing on from last week’s Specimens writing prompt, imagine if familiar 21st century means of travel no longer or had never existed, perhaps because of a lack of fossil fuels. No more trains, planes or automobiles!

How might your characters reach a crucial location? What challenges and perils might they face?

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

How to set up a writing school

Rain on window by Judy DarleyThis week’s guest post comes from author, editor and creative writing tutor Ashley Stokes. He explains how he came to launch the Unthank School of Writing, and the challenges of establishing a writing school.

The first ever Unthank School of Writing workshop took place in January 2011 at the York Tavern in Norwich, with five writers and me in the upstairs room on a rainy night. Some I’d taught before in my various guises. Some were new to me. One, Marc Jones, has a story in Unveiled: The First Unthank School Anthology.

That the little school has now produced a book feels like a milestone. We have something solid to present to the world, something that showcases the talent of the writers we have supported. It’s great to have something solid, great for the contributors to have a book to hold in their hands, and great for us as a school because the school was born not out of solidity but uncertainty.

The Unthank School was founded both as an accompaniment to Unthank Books, and as a direct response to the cutting of community creative writing after the 2008 crash.

Several of us had been working as associate lecturers in creative writing for many years. As austerity swept its scythe through the system, the university departments that had provided us with employment disbanded around us (without any warning in some cases). Creative writing in the community was becoming a thing of the past. Believing that writing is for everyone, we didn’t want to let this happen.

Kaunas, Lithuania, River. By Judy Darley

A sense of community

We wanted there to be an affordable option outside of time-consuming MAs and prohibitively expensive courses run by big literary agencies and publishers. Furthermore, we also liked the idea of providing a rolling workshop that would always be there for you if you needed it (unlike an academic course). This came to be. We do have students who return to us after going off to work alone on a draft, who now need some feedback, just as we have students who stick with us all the time to be their continual first audience.

Another thing we wanted to nurture was a sense of community between writers, of all being in something together. Our workshops, whether online or face-to-face tend to be fun, relaxed, intimate, spontaneous. Unveiled is testimony that an international Unthank community of writers now exists, and that’s the most rewarding thing of all.

It’s frequently fed back to us that no one teaches creative writing like Unthank. Although we had all benefited from teaching creative writing for universities and art schools – and many of us still do – we were able, outside of the institutional setting, to ditch elements of university teaching that we felt inhibited writers, namely grading, tick-box assessments, self-reflective appraisals, and too much emphasis on close-reading and line-editing.

Kaunas, Lithuania, River1. By Judy Darley

Finding the focus

Close-reading and editing are important, obviously, but with new writers or writers working on a first draft, excessive comma patrol and quibbling about usage can suck the life out of a promising story that’s not yet found its flow.

Instead, in workshops at least, we focus on storytelling and listening to the writer discuss what he or she intends for the story and helping to shape an unfolding narrative. We will help you write what you want to write, whatever that is, whatever the genre. Unthank’s cure is very much a talking cure and uses the example of the writer’s own work from which to teach. We pride ourselves on being eclectic and responsive. We prompt and pre-empt. We try to make things work for the writers, so their stories realise themselves on their own terms.

UnveiledWe have become proud of the work that the school produces, impressed by the wit, doggedness and inventiveness of our students. It is this that inspired us to put out a call for submissions for Unveiled.  Unthank Books has carved out a little niche for itself in the short fiction world, most prominently in the form of Unthology, yearly, eclectic, wide-ranging short story anthologies in which the submitted writing finds the theme. That the school should have its own equivalent anthology was the natural next step. We received writing from over fifty former and current students.

The fifteen stories in Unveiled are the ones Stephen Carver and I felt are the most realised, the stories with the most authoritative voices, that demanded that we include them. They all tell you something about what we are about and what we cultivate.

Ashley StokesAbout the author

Ashley Stokes is Head of the Unthank School of Writing and publisher at Unthank Books. His stories have appeared in The Warwick Review, Bare Fiction, The Lonely Crowd, Wales Arts Review, London Magazine, Staple, and Fleeting, among others. His first novel,Touching the Starfish, was published in 2010 by Unthank Books. Ashley’s short story collection The Syllabus of Errors came out in 2013. He is also co-editor of the Unthology short fiction series and Unveiled, and edited The End: Fifteen Endings to Fifteen Paintings, also from Unthank Books. Find him at www.ashleystokes.net.

Read my review of Unveiled.

Got some writing insights to share? I’m always happy to receive feature pitches on writing genres and writing tools. Send an email to JudyDarley(at)iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – specimens

RWA sculpture exhibition

Chronology by Duncan Cameron

I spotted this curious array of specimens at the RWA’s Sculpture Open Exhibition.

Chronology by WreckDiveIt’s part of Chronology by Duncan Cameron, a multimedia exhibit of cases and cages and glorious curiosities.

To me they look like specimens and luggage collected by some fabulously eccentric 17th century naturalist.

Imagine encountering this lost luggage in an airport arrivals hall.

Now match it to the owner. What adventures might they be heading home from?

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