Writing prompt – happy

Windmill Hill City Farm itchy goatA writer I know via Twitter recently commented that people often ask them why short stories are so depressing. Do you know what? They don’t need to be! The days are getting longer and brighter in the Northern Hemisphere and our hearts should be filling up with hope!

So this week’s writing prompt is less about inspiration than about challenging yourself.

If you usually write thought-provoking tales with a sorrowful core, try a sunnier slant. Can you write a tale in which no one dies, no one is mulling over a dark past and everyone is cheerful? In essence, make your tale as contented as this pygmy goat scratching an itch in the springtime 🙂

Alternatively, write a jolly story about the pygmy goat.

You can still write from the depths of your soul – just give it a flash of sunshine on the way up.

Count this as your challenge. Write bright!

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.

Unstill Life With Plums – a new publication

The Pomegranate coverI’m delighted to have received issue 1 of The Pomegranate, a beautiful new #litmag devoted to stories, poem & essays about art & artists. It contains my flash fiction ‘Unstill Life With Plums’. The tale is under 200 words, and begins:

Our neighbour leaves them on the doorstep, paper-bagged against the sun. We peek inside and inhale their faint, wine-sweet smell. You mix the colour in the lid of your paintbox – red and blue blended with a whisper of green. I check my thigh and admire your skill – the paint’s the exact hue of yesterday’s deep-pinched bruise.

The Pomegranate interviewIssue 1 of The Pomegranate also features a 2-page interview with me (which happens to be many times longer than ‘Unstill Life With Plums’). In it I chat with the journal’s founder Zerlina Mastin about my writing habits, obsession with human fallibilities, passion for art, and my upcoming adventures with Reflex Press.
You can buy your copy of issue 1 here: thepomegranatelondon.com/what-we-publish
The front cover is by American artist Shelton Walsmith, who describes his work as lyrical abstraction. I think a lot of my stories could be described the same way!

A poem a day…

The challenge for April is to write a poem every day. Did you know that?  ‘A poem a day through April till May’. Any length, any form, any topic, as long as you end up with something vaguely resembling a poem.

Seashell interiorNaPoWriMo will be offering daily prompts to help your writing along, and urge you to mix-and-match poetry prompts. They also remind us that you can find prompts by Robert Lee Brewer at his April Poem-a-Day challenge. Look out for the #promptaday hashtag on Twitter.

This year I made a choice in January to read at least one poem a day. I have a huge admiration for the mastery poets have over words, and some of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read have been by poets. It’s something to do with the linguistic agility and originality required to take a commonplace sentence or sentiment and imbue it with a rhythm that makes it really shine in the reader’s mind long after they’ve read it.

For a long time I’ve thought about trying to develop my rudimentary poetry writing skills, so this seems like too good an opportunity to pass up. My aim is to discover how to take my flash fiction writing and elevate the brevity of that skill to a new, glittering level that more efficiently and resonantly expresses what I’m trying to say.

Perhaps this challenge is my opportunity to achieve this – a sort of intensive month-long poetry masterclass, inspired by some of the best poets in the business.

Find out more at www.napowrimo.net.

Got an event, challenge, competition, opportunity or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) ICloud (dot) com.

Writing prompt – blooming…

Totterdown springtime. Photo by Judy Darley. Shows coloured houses, one of which has a windowsill full of blooming daffodils.There are few sights more heartening than proof of spring, and all the new life, sweet budding aromas and birdsong that accompanies it.

In the vibrant corner of Bristol where I live, daffodils bob on windowsills, as well as gardens and parks. I love to imagine the people who go to such efforts to make the most any small outdoor space. Surely they’re as sunny as the flowers they tend!

But I also like the concept of opposites. Perhaps the person who plants these daffodils bulbs and places them on windowsills does so to disguise an inner darkness. It’s a thought that can seed the foundations for brilliantly flawed and complex characters.

Can you use to this as inspiration to create a protagonist whose exterior is utterly at odds with their interior? What might they be trying to hide, and why? Who might discover the truth of their sweet or sour centre? What outcome could ensue as a result?

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.

Join Writers & Artists’ fiction submission masterclass

Notebook and pen cr Judy Darley

Got a novel almost ready to submit? Now’s the time to polish your submission package. The canny folks at the Writers & Artists are hosting an online Manuscript Submission Masterclass for fiction writers.

The class takes place on 7th April 2021 from 6pm to 8pm.

They say: “This masterclass isn’t about writing craft, it’s about how to give you and your book the best possible chance when it comes to approaching literary agents.”

Participants will join two leading literary agents for a two-hour online masterclass packed with advice on how to produce a covering letter, guidance on producing an attention-grabbing pitch, tips on writing a synopsis, and general insights into the role literary agents play for their authors.

Thirty minutes will be made available for a Q&A.

All attendees have the opportunity to submit their covering letter to receive feedback from one of the participating agents.

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Book review – The Yet Unknowing World by Fiona J Mackintosh

The Yet Unknowing WorldLayered like skeins of vivid ribbons, the stories in Fiona J. Mackintosh’s flash fiction collection The Yet Unknowing World strew colours through their readers’ minds.

Each tethers a moment in time, offering a sense of eavesdropping on stranger’s secrets. Many are portraits of love, others a sidewise glance at grief or betrayal. Woven by Mackintosh’s deft fingers, even the deepest losses are shared as exquisite parcels to be marvelled over. In ‘Hindsight’, the author opens with an image of cartwheels and trailing silk, before revealing that it’s these slippery fabrics that led to our narrator waking with his “heart fractured.”

There’s poetry whirled into these tales, and imagery rich enough to leave your senses tingling. Though most of the stories are only a paragraph or so long, they’re packed with details that evoke more than the sum of their words, and yet lie lightly on the page.

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Sky Light Rain – What Rises

Dinefwr water meadows. Lake. Photo by Judy Darley
I can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s why I launched this series of posts offering insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The thirty-fifth story is ‘What Rises’. The story was inspired by the Welsh myth of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach. In the original myth, she has three sons who became great healers. I began to wonder about the fact these children weren’t one thing or the other, not land dwellers, nor water. In my mind, one sibling, Eillian, changed shape in ways that explored the restrictions of gender too.

I was also intrigued by the aspect of the myth that the lady of the lake left her children after her husband struck her for the third time. I questioned why he hit the woman he worshipped, and examined the violence in love through Eillian’s experiences, which in my tale echo their mother’s.

‘What Rises’ was published as ‘The People of the Soil’ by Enchanted Conversation magazine.

The 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.

Outside, our mother was already a distant glimmer, her milkwhite cattle streaming behind. We rushed after her, silenced by the dawn and the river and the intentness with which she strode.

At the lake’s edge she turned, her fist-blackened eyes like shadows.

“Fam!” cried the youngest of us, Brychan, unable to keep his fear inside. “Fam, take me too.”

He ran to her and we saw her place her water-cold fingers on his half-human cheeks.

“You stay here, son, you and your brothers. You stay here and tend to the people of the soil.”

My elder brother Mab and I took our sobbing sibling between us, each with an arm over his shoulder. We thought comfort into him, and strength, performing our first act of healing.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Merrow Cave‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Milk and Other Lies‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Edge of the Sand‘.

Writing prompt – green

Arnos Vale leavesAs we approach the spring or vernal equinox, this is the perfect time to celebrate lighter mornings, longer days and the sweet fragrance of young leaves.

I invite you to take a stroll where you can see at least a tree or two. Take time to notice the creatures rustling amid the trees – the finches, wrens, blue tits and robins. Perhaps beetles creak here, and spiders teasing out the silken threads of their webs. Maybe a squirrel flurries past or a tiny shrew. What else might lurk, unseen?

Why not make this flourishing wild environment the focus of a poem, painting or other creative act? Could the unfurling leaves represent a fresh beginning or renewed hope? Could there be a threat – human or otherwise – hidden among the new abundance?

Bear in mind the colour green as you create, with all its connotations of nature, luck, health and tranquillity, but feel free to add a ribbon of danger too!

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.

Novel Nights’ Indie Publisher Series

Novel-Nights-Literary-Events-Bristol4-photo credit Sophie Carefull

Novel Nights © Sophie Carefull

Novel Night’s next edition of its popular Indie Publisher Series invites you to spend an evening with Myriad Editions, from the comfort of your own home. On 17th March from 7.30pm till 8.30pm, join Novel Night’s Grace Palmer along with Myriad’s Publishing Director Candida Lacey and Publicity Director Emma Dowson as they discuss their experiences of the publishing industry, opportunities for emerging writers, and how you can break through.

Myriad publishes award-winning literary fiction, graphic novels and political nonfiction, including ground-breaking infographic atlases. The indie publishing house  supports new and emerging authors via two work-in-progress competitions. These launch in Spring 2022 with the First Drafts competition for unpublished writers and the First Graphic Novel Competition. Both competitions have a track record of uncovering and launching authors who go on to achieve creative and commercial success.

In 2017, Myriad merged with New Internationalist as part of a joint plan to expand, reach wider audiences and publish books that push boundaries and embrace diversity.

There will plenty of time for Q&A.

Tickets cost £5 plus a booking fee.

Find out more and book tickets here: www.novelnights.co.uk

Got an event, challenge, competition, opportunity or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) ICloud (dot) com.

Writing prompt – heritage

Toppled tree cr James HainsworthThis grand old tree fell down in some winter storms and took out half the footpath, plus a chunk of riverbank with it.

It makes me ponder how we live so intertwined with nature, yet many of us barely register its importance in our lives. As spring bubbles into wakefulness around us, maybe it’s time to think of how much we need every little plant, insect and bird.

Today I challenge you to write or otherwise create a piece of climate fiction or art from the point of view of a speck of wilderness and the humans it encounters. What fresh twist can you bring to turn this into a positive work?

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.