Heading to the Flash Fiction Festival?

Bee sheltering from April shower. Photo by Judy DarleyThis Friday marks the start of one of the hottest UK-based events for fans of intense, bite-sized fiction – the Flash Fiction Festival.

Taking place at Trinity College, Bristol, it promises a high calibre assortment of workshops, readings and talks from the field’s finest literary luminaries.

Stellar attendees are too many to mention, but include Vanessa Gebbie, Kathy Fish, David Gaffney, Meg Pokrass, Jude Higgins, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, K M Elkes, Santino Prinzi, Carrie Etter, David Swann, Michelle Elvy, Nod Ghosh and Nuala O’Connor.

I’ll be attending as a volunteer, which means I get to relish as much of the festival as I can fit around bar shifts and so on. I’ll also be reading my flash Skip Diving at the Friday night launch of the National Flash Fiction Day anthology 2019, And We Pass Through.

Hope to see you there.

Writing prompt – foster

Brandon Hill, Bristol, child in tree by Judy DarleyThe word foster is a slightly curious one, meaning as it does to harbour everything from suspicions to emotions to children.

Imagine a family that takes in a child. Are the motives of the adults genuine or suspect? Are there offspring resident who will colour the experiences of the foster-child?

What led to the child being fostered?

What can you introduce that will catch your readers by surprise and challenge their expectations?

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 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize

Terra Nostra Tropical plants cr Judy Darley
Wasafari magazine invites submissions of Poetry, Fiction and Life Writing for The Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize. Now supported by Queen Mary University of London and Routledge, the top prize in each category has increased from £300 to £1,000.

The winners of each category will also be published by Wasafiri in print and online and be offered the Chapter and Verse or Free Reads mentoring scheme in partnership with The Literary Consultancy (dependent on eligibility).

The prize closes on 28 June 2019, so you just have time to enter.

Winners will be announced on 9 November 2019.

Find full details of how to enter at www.wasafiri.org.

This year’s judges include Louise Doughty, who will be judging the fiction, Warsan Shire, who will be judging the poetry, and Nikesh Shukla, who will be judging the life writing category. Wasafiri Editor-in-ChiefSusheila Nasta will chair the judging panel.

It’s worth bearing in mind the international ethos of the magazine. ‘Wasafiri’ is Kiswahili for ‘travellers’ and, as the Editor explains, “the name was chosen because many of those who created the literatures in which [Wasafiri was] particularly interested … have all in some sense been cultural travellers either through migration, transportation or else, in the more metaphorical sense of seeking an imagined cultural ‘home.’”

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.

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Writing prompt – traffic

Traveller caravan by Judy DarleyA bus I was aboard got delayed by this assortment of ponies and contraptions, and what could I do but admire the procession?

I particularly enjoyed watching the man to the left of the photo pause in his domestic chores to gawp at the scene. What do you think might happen next?

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.

Review – new publishing house Grand Iota

Apropos Jimmy Inkling cover for webThe first two books released by publishing start up Grand Iota each entice us into streams of consciousness states of very different kinds.

In Apropos Jimmy Inkling by Brian Marley, we enter a court case where an unwitting customer, unnamed, has become the jury for the afore-mentioned Jimmy Inkling. Written entirely in dialogue with numerous digression into random topics, we soon learn that in the world our characters inhabit, gods tread alongside us and seem very like to us. We’re taught early on in the book that gods have far less power that we mortals suppose, but “have a tendency to boast”, hence this misconception. Instead of causing or preventing “typhoons and tsunamis”, for example, they are responsible for tasks such as making hinges squeak.

I’m a fan of authors who play with space on the page, and Marley works with his text as though it is clay, building small mountains by careful tweaks to font and alignment that lifts some passages so that they seem more akin to spoken asides:

His speed of thought was such that
he was incapable
of finishing one sentence
before starting another.

There’s a wonderful surreality to the court case’s progression, as time is taken out to honour the loss of a tooth, from the mouth of a character whose godly name is almost impossible for mortals to pronounce.

By this point I had lost track of whether I’d ever known what the court case was actually about, or even who was on trial, but was enjoying the ride.

It’s a frame of mind equally well suited to Grand Iota’s other bibliophilic pioneer.

Wild Metrics cover for webIn Ken Edward’s Wild Metrics we meander through the life of alternative poet K, sharing a squat in the early 1970s where, as in Marley’s book, characters ebb and flow, and the text is laced with the aura of dreaming philosophers, with punk, and Thatcher, on the horizon and literary genius bubbling below the surface.

In a neighbourhood of squats, the one where our hero resides (run by a bloke called Des) is special enough that nearby residents, including Big Steve, want in: “Steve would scrounge items from skips or dustbins that he thought Des or other members of the household might like and bring them round hopefully, like a cat depositing the gift of a decapitated mouse on the doorstep.”

There’s a sense of memories having been poured onto the page, possibly from a substantial height. Rather than being channelled towards a specific destination, each syllable nudges you one way, then another in a way that offer an impression of being immersed in K’s consciousness. I found myself setting the book aside for a few weeks and then, inexorably, returning to it – once it’s in your blood you’ll need more than a session of cold turkey to push past it.

Part memoir, part trip and part novel, it does, as the publisher promises, confound easy categorisation.

More than anything, reading Wild Metrics is akin to overhearing a discombobulating conversation on a bus that draws you to lean in with the aim of catch every muttered word.

In short, Apropos Jimmy Inkling and Wild Metrics are great companion reads. As you align yourself to unfamiliar atmospheric and gravitational pressures, you’ll find yourself hungering for another paragraph, another page and, most definitely, another book to allow you access back beneath the surface of this unconventional and intriguing waterway.

Apropos Jimmy Inkling by Brian Marley and Wild Metrics by Ken Edwards are available to buy from Grand Iota

Please note that Grand Iota is not currently open to submissions.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Short story – The People of The Soil

Dinefwr water meadows. Lake. Photo by Judy DarleyI’m delighted to see my story The People of The Soil published by Enchanted Conversation magazine.

The story is inspired by the Welsh myth of the Lady of the Lake, and has found a home is Enchanted Conversation’s June 2019 Issue: A Drop of Water, A Flood of Dreams.

ThePeopleOfTheSoil-DARLEY-CoverABergloffThe story begins:

I stirred as I heard the river move beneath the crops, its murmurs rejoicing. My brothers lay intertwined beside me. “Fam’s leaving,” I whispered, and their eyes snapped open. We crept outside, leaving Dad asleep. We’d known this day would come, even before he struck her for the third time.

What rises from water can’t live on land forever…

To read the full story, click here.

Loving the gorgeous artwork by Enchanted Conversation Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Amanda Bergloff too!

Open the door to flash fiction

Otter wood grainNational Flash Fiction Day UK kicks off tomorrow with events across the country. Highlights include the grand launch of the National Flash Fiction Day anthology 2019And We Pass Through.

Edited by Santino Prinzi and Joanna Campbell, the eight annual instalment of the anthology is crowded with stories inspired by doors. I’m thrilled that my story Skip Diving has been included. It features a door with some wood grain resembling an otter. That detail is inspired by the above, which floats on the back of our bathroom door.

As part of the excitement, the Flash Flood journal will publishing flashes throughout the day. My story Clatter will appear on the journal at around 11.10 a.m. BST.

This year, the National Flash Fiction Day epicentre has relocated from Bristol to Coventry. If you’re heading over there for the huge celebrations of the bite-sized literary-form, have fun!

Writing prompt – pools

Pendine Sands, brittle star. Photo by Judy DarleyAs a child, I thought there was little that could match the magic of a beach brimming with rock pools. Each one cradled a world that promised countless living treasures.

Why not give your character, whether they’re an adult or child, a chance to investigate their local shoreline and discover something unexpected? Could they encounter a chatty brittle star, for instance, or something far more sinister?

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.

Wells Festival of Literature competitions

City of Wells cr Judy Darley

Wells Festival of Literature takes place from 18th-26th October 2019, but before that they hold their annual writing competitions, with entries being accepted until 30th June 2019. The categories are short stories, poetry, books for children, and Young Poets, open to anyone aged between 16 and 22 inclusive.

Prizes in the Young Poet category consist of 1st: £150, 2nd: £75, 3rd: £50 plus a year’s membership of the Poetry Society.

Prizes in the existing categories of Short Story, Book for Children and Poetry are 1st: £750, 2nd: £300 and 3rd: £200. There are also dedicated prizes for local authors up for grabs – the Hilly Cansdale prize of £100 for Poetry; the Wyvern Short Story prize, also £100, and £100 to the best local author of a Book for Children.

Short Story Competition
Entries may be on any subject and should be between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length.
The Short Story judge is travel writer and author Mark McCrum.

Open Poetry Competition
Entries may be on any subject but must not exceed 35 lines in length. This year’s Open Poetry judge is Simon Armitage, recently named the UK’s Poet Laureate.

A Book for Children Competition
Stories in this category may be on any subject, providing they are aimed at readers aged 9 and up, including young adult. Submit your first three chapters or thirty pages (whichever is shortest), plus a synopsis no longer than two pages. The judge is Gill Lewis, a children’s author who writes books about humanity’s connection with the natural world.
Fees  and prizes
In each of the competitions above, fee to enter is £6. First prize is £750, second prize is £300, and third prize is £200. There is also a local Prize £100 for the Short Story, Open Poetry and Book for Children competitions.
There is also a Young Poets Competition, to be judged by poet, performer and educator Miriam Nash, with prizes of £150, £75 and £50. The first prize winner will also receive a year’s subscription to the Poetry Society. The fee to enter is £3.

The judges will also present prizes at a special ceremony in the Bishop’s Palace during the Festival in October. Immediately preceding this, the shortlisted poets will be invited to read their entries.

Read the full terms and conditions.

The closing date for all entries is 30th June 2018. Prizes will be presented on Sunday 20 October 2019. All shortlisted participants will be notified in advance.

Find the full rules and details of how to enter.

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

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Care Home Vignettes in print

Snapdragon journal Summer 2019A selection of my Care Home Vignettes have been published as creative nonfiction in the Summer 2019 issue of Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, with a theme of Inside / Out. I find myself feeling unexpectedly moved!

The pieces are drawn from the experience of visiting my father, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. I’ve often been struck by how, as he paces the Home’s corridors, he seems to see a world beyond where we are, which made this issue’s theme particularly apt.

Snapdragon is full of poetry, creative nonfiction and photography capturing thoughtful moments of connection, many of which speak of hope and beauty even in challenging times.

The issue’s editors Jacinta, Petra and Aimee have done a beautiful job. The cover artwork is by J. Ray Paradiso!.

You can buy the issue for $5 here.