Writing prompt – walkway

Walkway from here to there by Judy Darley

My part of town seems to be overflowing with building works currently, with scaffolding and partial constructs glinting through every view.

Rounding a corner, I glimpsed a crane apparently leading directly to a cloud, and for a dreamy moment my brain accepted that as truth.

In that instant, I thought, ‘Oh look, a walkway from here to there.’ As though that made perfect sense.

If ‘here’ is the urban centre I’ve barely stirred from for more than a year, where might ‘there’ be?

What optical mis-step or misunderstanding could you weave into a magical tale or work of art?

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.

Poetry review – The Estate Agent’s Daughter by Rhian Edwards

The Estate Agents Daughter book coverOpening her collection with the title poem, Rhian Edwards immediately sets the tone: wryly humorous, unabashed, yet slightly self-depreciating, as she describes herself in the terms of a property complete with a ”white dogleg staircase”. With lines such as “Her writing desk has been nudged to the brink/ of the bay” and “cable-knit cardigans draped across Ikea chairs come as standard”, I feel I’m gaining an instantly relatable image of the poet in Part One.

‘House Share’ is a clear demonstration of Edwards’ observational acuity as we find ourselves in the midst of an apartment that is “a dog-eared novel, laced in saliva” where a lethargic Labrador “pricks up/ her envelope flap of an ear” before collapsing “into a coil of herself.” It’s so vividly written that I feel I know this dozy dog and the affection both felt by and towards her.

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Enter the Bridport Prize

Burton Bradstock, Bridport. Shows figures on a pebbly Devon beach. Photo by Ben Collins on Unsplash

Photo by Ben Collins on Unsplash

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

The deadline for all competition entries is 31st May 2021.

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.

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 £1,500 plus mentoring by The Literary Consultancy and consultations with literary agent AM Heath and publisher Tinder Press.

Judges

Victoria Hislop, author of The Island, One August Night and other novels, will judge novel submissions. She says: “I am really excited to be judging the Bridport Prize! I will be looking for readability and originality, for writing that engages both my imagination and my curiosity! I am really looking forward to reading the entries.”

Raymond Antrobus, author of author of Shapes & Disfigurements, To Sweeten Bitter and The Perseverance, plus the first ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre (In 2019), will judge poetry submissions. He says: “I’m looking for poems that are written with both eye and ear…poems that unfold, surprise, delight, haunt its readers all at once. Don’t be afraid to take risks, be bold and show us something singular that only you are able to do or say.”

Former Literary Editor of the Observer and author of Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption, Robert McCrum will judge short story and flash fiction submissions. He says; “I’m on the look-out for the only thing that really matters in new fiction: an original voice. At 5000 words or so, the short-story is the ideal arena in which to pitch that new note. Flash fiction is like 20/20 cricket, an exciting new genre battling on a venerable pitch. I can’t wait to see what exciting novelties and reverse sweeps, the Bridport Prize will come up with. But it must be flash!”

Don’t forget to check out the resources section of the Bridport Prize website.

Find full details and enter your creative works at www.bridportprize.org.uk. And don’t forget to sign up for their newsletter full of useful tips and inspiration.

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.

Writing prompt – communicate

Smiley face written in white against a blue sky by a small unseen plane. Photo by Judy Darley

During the past year, we’ve all learnt new ways to communicate, and to show our affection without infringing social distancing requirements. Facebook even introduced a new heart-hugging emoji representing ‘care; to join the ranks of ‘like’, ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘wow’, ‘sad’, and ‘angry’. (Still waiting for the ‘frankly confused’ option).

In the UK’s southwest, a local skywriter has been adding smiley faces to our views.

Imagine if your only option to communicate with distant loved ones was by skywriting! How might the public nature of these declarations influence what you choose to say? How might two people be implicated for their shout-out? And given how the image is altered by perspective, what confusions and misapprehensions could ensue?

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 Bristol Short Story Prize 2021

Bristol hot air balloons cr Judy DarleyGot a story shuffling about inside your head? Bristol Short Story Prize 2021 is open for entries. The closing date is 5th May 2021. Submissions can be up to a maximum length of 4,000 words. There is an entry fee of £9 for each submission.

The writing competition prizes

First prize is £1,000. Second prize is £500, and third prize is £250.

Each of the 17 remaining shortlisted writers will receive £100. The 20 shortlisted stories will be included in Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 14published by Tangent Books.

An additional prize of £100, The Sansom Award, in recognition of the contribution to Bristol publishing of John and Angela Sansom, will be presented to a Bristol writer selected by Angela Sansom. The Sansom Award winning story will also be published in the print edition of Bristol 24/7 magazine.

The 2020 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Florida-based writer Stephen Narain.

The 2019  Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Sydney-based writer Cameron Stewart for his story Black Snow.

The 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Dizz Tate  for her story, Cowboy Boot. 2nd prize went to Chloe Wilson. You can read an interview with Dizz about her win, here. Chloe Wilson has been signed by literary agent Kate Johnson of the New York-based MacKenzie Wolf Literary Agency.

The 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Dima Alzayat for her story, Ghusl. Following her win Dima has been signed by literary agent Juliet Pickering.

The 2016 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Stefanie Seddon for her story, Kãka.

The 2015 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Canadian writer Brent van Staalduinen for his story A Week on the Water.

The 2014 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Mahsuda Snaith for her story The Art of Flood Survival.

Find the full competition rules here.

For full details or to enter, go to www.bristolprize.co.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

Book review – The Naming of Bones by Jan Kaneen

The Naming of Bones cover showing a drawing of a woman in front of a green ocean at night.The beauty of this book is dazzling. From the first page, I felt myself being drawn into a work of art where light catches on grains of sand and waves hush continually. There’s a quietness to the prose that’s deeply beguiling. It makes you want to listen harder, to breathe in every word and nuance.

Dreamscapes, memories and make-believe all play their role, climbing into each other’s arms and laps until you can’t be sure where real ends and made up begins.

We commence in the middle of the night with a sound of singing, “soft and faraway.”

Jan Kaneen‘s narrator is in bed, just woken and “straining to hear.” In the following pages, it seems that straining to hear could sum up all her efforts – to identify, to gain clarity of a surrounding resonance that hums always somewhere just beyond reach of full comprehension.

Our location is a shoreline where a beachcomber is seen each day, whatever the weather. It’s a wonderful, wind-swept setting, and one that feels shaped by the narrator’s sense of grief. Kaneen sums up the mood and our narrator’s mood in two lines: “I favour wilder weather and stormier skies, and I only go outside on rainy days. I prefer to watch people rather than be with them, and the rain keeps them away.”

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Writing prompt – calm

Eastwood Farm pond by Judy DarleyI recently discovered a rural idyll just a half-hour stroll from our home in the hectic centre of Bristol. Brimming with spring-fresh greenery and duck playgrounds aka ponds, it’s a place to unwind and relax amid a natural soundtrack of birdsong and gently lapping water.

Of course, I instantly thought of the bodies that could be lurking in the murk, and the dubious deeds that could be committed here under the cover of starless nights.

Can you create a character who finds a sense of calm here, either through pure or nefarious means?

What does it prompt in your mind? Can you turn that into a tale or work of art?

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.

Sky Light Rain – Carry the Sky

Severn River reed beds cr Judy DarleyI 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-sixth and final story is ‘Carry the Sky’. The story sprang from a variety of sources, including me visiting a town in Italy built to re-home a community after their streets were intentionally flooded to create a leisure lake. The idea of that money-driven cruelty scandalised me! It provided a side-note in a story about a man caring for his eleven-year-old granddaughter in the aftermath of a family tragedy. I wanted to find a way for the pair to bond on the riverside, when the granddaughter would rather be “just about  anywhere else when he’s charged with keeping an eye on her.”

‘Carry the Sky’ also reflects elements of ‘Untrue Blue’, the first story in my Sky Light Rain collection, creating a hint of symmetry, if not quite resolution.

‘Carry the Sky’ begins:

Not many folks are out this afternoon. All it takes is a fine dousing drizzle to keep the dog walkers, cyclists and joggers away, John thinks, half-pitying them, half-glad for the peace their absence affords. In front of him, the river dapples like a thing alive, reflecting fractured pieces of sky. Following the storms, large branches still drift through, faking at being creatures worth pointing out to Amy before sinking out of sight.

They’d seen an eel the afternoon before, dead and sliding with the current like an old piece of tubing. Amy had recoiled, face screwed up. John isn’t buying that though. He remembers when she was small, nudging frogspawn with curious fingers. That inquisitive child still has to be in there somewhere.

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 ‘Lamp Black’.
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 ‘The Blue Suitcase’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breathing Water’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
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‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘What Rises’.

If you’d like to request a review copy of Sky Light Rain or interview me about my writing, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com.

Writing prompt – leavings

Home for tea with every step the sound of the riverThere’s a woodland I love to walk to where the trees are gloriously sculptural and a white egret once posed like a storm-blown umbrella, whiles dogs and children rampaged in the brook and remnants of old tin barrels hulked beneath the earth over the bridge. It’s a curious mix of bucolic and industrial histories, and there’s always some new wonder to see.

Recently, the treasure was a scrap of poetry affixed to a trunk. What a lovely glimpse from ted.poems

‘home for tea
with every step
the sound of the river’

It made me think of how we draw inspiration from nature while contributing to our surroundings. There’s a constant rhythm of ebb and flow, whether that’s the act of adding something meaningful or only a shower of litter.

What would you choose to leave behind? Can you use this thought to dream up a story or other creative 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.

Night Sky Press invites you to collaborate on a fictional planet

Iceland cr Judy Darley. A winter sunrise over a snowy landscape where everything is white, silver, blue and blackNight Sky Press is a brand-new, biannual, same-world anthology series. For every issue, Founders A’liya Spinner and Keith Nelson come up with a different unique and original world for you to root your stories on. The first issue’s focus is Orcanus: The Crystalline World, a brilliantly detailed creation designed to inspire your imagination and prompt a curated collaboration while pushing “same-world speculative fiction into an accessible, modern spotlight.”

Your submissions must, in some way, have this world as a setting or key factor in the story. “This is meant to inspire creativity, rather than constrain it, and we encourage authors to expand on the world’s provided skeleton in unique and visionary ways.”

Selected works will appear together in that planet’s anthology, reimagining collaboration to build a world from contributors’ shared vision.

Submissions are open until 30th April 2021.

The emphasis is on collaboration.  “As an idea, it’s as expansive as the universe we wish to create,” A’liya Spinner and Keith Nelson say. “Night Sky Press was founded on the ideals of teamwork, creativity, and openness to ideas that haven’t garnered ‘mainstream’ attention. For now and forever, our vow is that every issue will be a new and incredible vision, every planet will be a playground for inventiveness, and every author will be as greatly valued as they deserve to be. (…) We have created the skeleton and the sky; you will create the stars.”

You are invited to send:

  • Flash fiction and short stories between 500 and 5,000 words. Longer stories accepted within reason. Poetry submissions are also accepted, so long as they relate to that issue’s world.​
  • Stories about hope, discovery, mercy, love, and passion. “We love tales about the better half of humanity (or alien-ity!), but we won’t reject stories about struggle, turmoil, or conflict, either. We acknowledge that life, even in the interstellar age, isn’t all glory and tranquillity.”
  • The founders welcome works from authors of all backgrounds, and especially encourage works by and about LGBTQ+, BIPOC, disabled, and other traditionally marginalised writers and characters.
  • Unusual perspectives are welcomed. “Have you always wanted to write from the viewpoint of an android, alien lizard, or amorphous, sentient fog, but been unsure where to submit it? We love the creative, the strange, and the new.”
  • “Stories that take creative use of our setting, and expand, deepen, and enrich our world. Don’t be afraid to add your own flare, aliens, landmarks, and history within our provided framework.”

Along with the usual vetos on gore, sex and hate-writes, the founders comment: “Our anthology is open to all writers, of all experience levels, ages, and perspectives. Don’t doubt yourself or your work; we want to hear your voice!”

Find full details of how to submit here: https://nightskypress.wixsite.com/night-sky-press/submit 

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.