Sky Light Rain – Two Pools of Water

Twin Blue and Green Lakes, Sete Cidades cr Judy Darley
Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My sixth story in the collection is ‘Two Pools of Water’.

As you may have noticed, I have a passion for myths and fairytales. This story is inspired by a local legend of a princess and lowly shepherd I was told while visiting Sao Miguel, one of the Azores islands.

My tour guide took me to a ruined hotel to take in views of Sete Cidades, the twin blue and green lakes. The stark contrast between the rotting building and the extraordinary contrasting pools struck a chord with me. It became the prompt for a story about two sisters, the elder of which, Estella, is trying to protect her younger sibling from the adventures she craves.

Initially I was intrigued by how different the two sisters seemed, but discovered as I wrote that Estella, too, once yearned for escape, and learnt to quell her unquiet nature. In this way, the girls mirror the two pools that appear so unalike, but are far more similar than you might suspect beneath the surface. The question is whether the younger sister will listen to Estella, or instead follow their mother’s example in seeking something more.

An earlier version of this tale was published by Dear Damsels.

The tale begins:

The hotel has stood empty for seven years, or eight. In the humid island air, lichens and moulds bloom along the balustrades. Almost every valuable item, from linens to sinks, has been stripped out by creditors. The carpet remains – squelching under our sneakers. In one en-suite a claw-footed bath still stands; its curve of porcelain laced with grime.

My sister Estella leads me to a balcony. The twin lakes show beyond, half-shrouded in cloud. With the sky overcast, the green and blue are harder to see.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Writing prompt – sneakers

Sneakers by Judy DarleyI don’t know if this happens in your area, but where I live it’s common for people to leave objects they no longer want on their front wall. It’s a tendency that’s proliferated throughout lockdown while charity shops have been closed.

It drives me a bit bonkers. While it’s good to find ways to prevent objects going to landfill, the items often remain outside for days and weeks, being destroyed by rain and sun. Why not hang onto them a little bit longer then pass them on to charities who can sell them for crucial funds?

Why not turn this into a psychological creep-fest? Dig into the twisted corners of your imagination and devise a dark motive for someone to leave items outside. What trap might the person who takes them home fall into?

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 may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Book review – Seventy Percent Water by Jeanette Sheppard

SeventyPercentWater coverJeanette Sheppard’s debut flash fiction collection brims with sensitively perceived, reflective stories that creep beneath our surfaces, reminding us how drops of water can change a landscape, physically, aesthetically and psychologically.

These compact stories embrace big topics. The shifting boundaries of awareness linked to ageing and dementia recur throughout, like ripples spreading outwards, inexorably.

‘Rattle and Spin’ is a beautiful story of a woman who is growing unrooted from her sense of self, yet retains her dignity. The tale flows with steady momentum from line to line, guiding ‘you’ to treat this woman with the respect she has earnt and discover how much more she is than what you take in at first glance.

“Go on, sit in her chair. She will pull up a seat, make you laugh until your mouth swells ready to burst.”

The last sentence is heartachingly tender.

‘How to Enter Another Galaxy’ is another instructional piece. This time, the subject in for exaltation are those annoyingly futile calls to corporations, while you, the caller, have one hand gripping the phone and the other juggling a cat. Naturally, the intergalactic being you need to speak to is never the one on the end of the line.

Continue reading

The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

MShed cr Judy DarleyThe Aesthetica Creative Writing Award celebrates outstanding short fiction and poetry from around the world. The deadline for entering the award is 31st August 2020, making this the perfect time to get polishing your poetry and prose.

Prizes include publication within Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology and £1,000 for each category winner. Winner of the short fiction competition will receive a consultation with literary agency Redhammer Management, while the Poetry winner will have a Full Membership to The Poetry Society. To whet your appetite for creating more literary works, the winners will also receive a one-year print subscription to Granta and books courtesy of Bloodaxe Books and Vintage Books.

  • Poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines
  • Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words

There’s no theme – just submit your finest story or poem offering your own unique window on a slice of the world!

Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words each and poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines each. Both short fiction and poetry entries should be written in English.

Entry fees are £18 for short fiction and £12 for poetry.

Works published elsewhere are accepted.

For full details, visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/creative-writing-award

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

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Sky Light Rain – Knotted Rope

5_Knotted Rope_by-Judy-DarleyOver the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. The fifth story in the collection is my three-voice tale ‘Knotted Rope’.

I used to live next door to a nursery school that took its tiny charges on daily meanders in the nearby Victorian cemetery – the atmospheric sprawling wilderness that provides the setting for this tale. I’d encounter them occasionally playing amid the headstones or obediently clinging to their strip of rope like the one pictured above.

I think we’ve all experienced that dizzying moment when you realise you’ve mislaid your wallet or door keys. As a child I liked little better than disappearing for a time. I decided to combine the two to examine the plummet of mislaying a child, as well as touch on the tot’s motivations for wanting to be gone, if only momentarily.

An earlier version featured four voices, including that of the tot who’s gone missing.

The tale begins:

Rita and I and our two volunteers count with care on the nursery steps. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen… That’s everyone, isn’t it? A whole flock of little ones. Every child wears a fluorescent tabard and clasps tight to the length of blue rope, tiny hands wrapped around knots tied like memories.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Pandemic prompt – Sky Orchestra

Hot air balloons over Bristol by Judy DarleyA magical event will soon resonate through Bristol’s skies, as hot air balloons will debut an especially commissioned musical composition.

The Sky Orchestra experimental artwork from artist Luke Jerram (who previously brought us boats in woodlands, a waterslide on Park Street, as well as the moon and the sun), and BAFTA-winning composer Dan Jones is due to take place on an unnamed day, partly due to unpredictable weather conditions and partly to embrace the joy of surprise.

Imagine waking to an extraordinary unexpected air-borne art form. What impact could it have? Or, more darkly, what might it distract us 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 may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Hidden River Arts invites submissions activist writing

Hidden River by Judy DarleyHidden River Arts, an independent literary, visual and performing arts organisation based in Philadelphia, US, is inviting submissions in a range of categories, including anthology, numerous contests, and the possibility of publication in the Hidden River Review.

The organisation is named after the Schuylkill (Dutch for “Hidden River”), which winds its way through the region, and is committed to nurturing the artistic community by providing varied and supportive services to writers and artists of all genres.

They say: “We will search for the writers who are finishing their novels while working as Emergency Room nurses, sculptors working as steam-fitters, song-writing dairy farmers or choreographer cowboys. We want the creative talent that is grown, nurtured, and matured in the kiln of real life experience. It is our belief that many, many talented people go unheard because they labor in obscurity or isolation, working with little or no support for the practice of their art.”

This support includes writing workshops and classes, writing awards, outreach and live arts events, and the Hidden River independent small press.

Find details of all opportunities here, but note that submission fees apply in most cases.

Look out for The Thomas Paine Award, Hidden River Arts’ contest inviting submissions of original book-length manuscripts of political or social activist writing. This may be a full-length work, or a collection of essays. Previous publication of individual essays is acceptable, as long as you include the list of the published essays, the journals and magazines where they appeared, and can show that the publication rights have reverted to you, as author.  The submission fee is $20, with an award of $1,000 going to the winner author, along with publication by Defarge Press, an imprint of Hidden River Publishing. The deadline for this award is August 30, 2020.

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.

Sky Light Rain – Shaped from Clay

4_Shaped From ClayOver the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My fourth story in the collection is ‘Shaped from Clay’.

This tale was prompted by the scene above, photographed in a local school playground, coupled with an urge to write something that made my skin creep. That strange white horse just looked so out of place. I needed to know what and who, and why. Personally, I also believe that any story populated mainly by children teeters on the brink of savagery.

‘Shaped from Clay’ explores how communities can turn unhealthily insular, and the way coincidences might string together to suggest something uncannier. Add a couple of outsiders and you have an inevitable hint of love story…

The tale begins:

On the last day of term I allowed the children to bring in toys to play with. As her choice, Ebie brought a bag of whitish clay dug from the river that ran through the village. It wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind, but she looked at me with those silver-blue eyes, and I couldn’t think of a reason to say no. I instructed her to use the area by the sink where we washed our story-time milk bottles, and watched from the edge of my concentration as she began to pound out air bubbles. Her hands dug into the clay, pushing into the flesh of it like it was something she was attempting to throttle the life out of, or palm life into.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Pandemic prompt – rooftops

Rooftops by Judy DarleyLockdown has meant that the city-dwellers amongst us have had more than our share of rooftop views lately. Restrictions have eased considerably in England, but can’t take away from the minutiae of everyday weirdnesses we’ve already observed in these times.

Imagine a neighbour whose natural nosiness has become heightened by these circumstances. What oddity might they glimpse?

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 may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Enter a Bedtime Story Competition

Ted. By Judy Darley

The lovely folks at Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts, are inviting entries of bedtime stories for their competition, inspired by their current series of online Bedtime Stories performed by Dorset artist Michele O’Brien.

They say, “Not only do we think bedtime stories can be the best part of the day for lots of children but also for parents. As part of our ‘It’s All About You!’ #Lockdown themed creative engagement programme we are giving you the opportunity to be creative and write your very own Bedtime Story with the winning story performed by one of our associate artists from Black Cherry Theatre Company.”

There are no age restrictions and you may want to team up with your household and do this as a family project. Stories must be typed and no more than 2500 words

All you have to do is read and comply with the Conditions of Entry, give your story a title and submit it with your name, contact number, email address and social media handles to learning@lighthousepoole.co.uk by midnight on Tuesday 21st July 2020.  

Find full details here.

Entries can be on any subject relevant to a bedtime story and in any style or form and you can enter more than once if you wish.

Worldwide copyright of each entry remains with the author, but Lighthouse Poole has unrestricted rights to publish the winning stories and any extracts from the opening chapters along with any other relevant promotional material.  Lighthouse Poole will commission a Lighthouse Associate Artist to perform at least one of the winning stories which will be uploaded to its social media platforms and website.

Winners will be notified by email on or before 31 July 2020.

Good luck!

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