Writing prompt – time

Forever 3pm by Judy Darley. Shows an old carriage clock on a garden wall.

I don’t know about you, but as summer wanes into autumn and the greens begin to turn rust-red, I grow increasingly aware of the passage of time. While other people may feel this at New Year, for me it’s now that I start to look at what I’ve done with the past nine months of 2021, and what I need to cram into the next three.

This mantel clock left on a wall for any stranger to claim is a great representation of that. Who might happen across this spare time, and what might they choose to do with it?

The other option is to imagine a world set at 3pm. I know a few school pupils who would love that idea! What wonders would tie in with being eternally at that time of day, and what monotony or danger might creep in.

Plus there’s always the chance that occasionally the protagonist could stir from the lethargy of an endless afternoon and realise that somehow 3pm has morphed into 3am – a very different prospect!

What creative works could you muster from these ideas?

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.

London Literature Festival 2021

Candice Carty-Williams - credit Ekua King

Candice Carty-Williams – credit Ekua King

Following a year’s hiatus, London Literature Festival hosted by the South Bank Centre is returning from 21st to 31st October 2021, with literary events exploring what friendship truly means in our current times.

“In response to the isolation we’ve all endured, London Literature Festival creates space for a timely conversation about contemporary friendship, while our autumn season offers unmissable encounters with the writers and artists shaping our cultural life,” says Ted Hodgkinson, the Southbank Centre’s Head of Literature and Spoken Word. “Truly an exceptional programme for exceptional times.”

Exclusive events include Caleb Azumah Nelson, Vanessa Onwuemezi and Naomi Ishiguro on 21st October, reflecting on the complexities of contemporary friendships forged in London. Also on 21st October, catch a London exclusive appearance from neuroscientist Anil Seth. Candice Carty-Williams (pictured top), author of Queenie, will talk to Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff about her debut YA novel and the value of true friends on 23rd October, while on 24th October novelist Tahmima Anam and essayist Roisin Kiberd will scrutinise friendship and disconnection in the age of social media, in an event chaired by Jenny Kleeman.

On Sat 30th October, novelist Kate Mosse will chair An Extra Pair of Hands, an event focusing on experiences of the NHS and the friendships formed between carer and patient, with children’s author and poet Michael Rosen, award-winning poet and specialist nurse practitioner Romalyn Ante and writer and former nurse Christie Watson.

Don’t miss bestselling picture book maker Oliver Jeffers discussing his new picture book, There’s a Ghost in This House, on 31st October in a family friendly free event.

alchemymay23. Credit Belinda Lawley

Credit Belinda Lawley

In short, have your imagination thoroughly stirred.

For the full programme, visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk.

All images supplied by the South Bank Centre.

Writing prompts – classifieds

Northern Slopes stream and woodland by Judy DarleyNeighbourhood Facebook groups often serve as modern-day classifieds pages. A recent post on one in my area offered a wealth of story ideas.

A local helpful person wrote: “Just retrieved a rucksack from the bushes. It doesn’t look that old and was completely empty apart from a photo that may have sentimental value. Please contact me if you think this may be yours.”

She then adds: “Photo is dated 1978 and has a hand written message on the back if that helps.”

This actually gave me shivers! What might the photo show? Who could the backpack belong to? How do you think it ended up in the bushes? If it was stolen, was anything taken from it? Or is this all a red herring?

Soooo many questions! Now, your task is to write the story that answers at least some of these.

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.

Celebrate writing at Manchester Literature Festival


This year’s Manchester Literature Festival promises a mixture of digital and real-world events celebrating writing in all its forms.

With #MLF LIVE from 9th-17th October and #MLF DIGITAL from 1st-14th November, there will be plenty to ignite imaginations, inspiration and an appreciation of how we can make sense of our world through reading, writing and experiencing literature.

Live highlights include:

Jeanette Winterson and Mark O’Connell in Conversation with Kate Feld.

Saturday 9th October 2021, (Central Library)

An Evening with Bernardine Evaristo
Monday 11 October 2021, (HOME Theatre)

An Evening with Colm Tóibín,

Thursday 14 October 2021 (Central Library)

Tenement Kid: Bobby Gillespie in Conversation
Saturday 16 October 2021, 8pm, HOME (Theatre)

Malika Booker, Vahni Capildeo & Jason Allen-Paisant

Sunday 17 October 2021 (Central Library)

Look out for exclusive commissions by exciting contemporary poets responding to our current times.

Celebrated poet and musician Roger Robinson was commissioned by Manchester Literature Festival to write a new series of poems exploring the idea of Black Lives Matter and how it pertains to the Black British experience.

A rising poetry star Caleb Femi was commissioned by Manchester Literature Festival to write new poems exploring the impact of solitude during the pandemic, touching on themes of the inner and physical self, friendship, joy and imagination as a coping tool.

California-born poet and the Director at the Centre for Imagination in the Borderlands at Arizona State University Natalie Diaz was commissioned by Manchester Literature Festival to write a series of poetic sensualities exploring the words ‘origin’, ‘migration’, ‘freedom’ and ‘love.’ The Festival say: “A deeply lyrical poet, she created linguistic maps of these words in English and Mojave, diving deep into their roots and the ways in which they echo in physical connection.

Find out more about these commissions and all the Manchester Literature Festival events: www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk.

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.

Writing prompt – site

Realm by Judy DarleySome of the most unlikely places have a kind of beauty about them that’s hard to explain. This strange slice is an example of that for me. Photographed between strips of metal, with tangles of weeds and rubble, it has a grandeur that you yourself may not see.

Imagine a spot that one person views as a wasteland, and another regards as a realm of untold possibilities. What informs their different responses? How does their state of mind impact their viewpoint? What transforms a site into a sight?

Can you build this into a story where one character captures the other’s intrigue and changes their mind about the beauty, or ugliness, of the space?

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.

Brooklyn Book Festival celebrates literature city-wide

Brooklyn. Photo by Miltiadis Fragkidis on UnsplashBrooklyn Book Festival (BKBF) is going hybrid for 2021, with online and real world events to choose between from 26th September and 4th October.

They say: “The mission of the Brooklyn Book Festival is to celebrate published literature and nurture a literary cultural community through programming that cultivates and connects readers of diverse ages and backgrounds with local, national and international authors, publishers and booksellers. To this end, the Brooklyn Book Festival develops original programming that is hip, smart, diverse, inclusive and collaborative and presents free and low-cost public events including the Brooklyn Book Festival, Children’s Day and Bookend events.”

They add: “The Brooklyn Book Festival is New York City’s largest free literary festival and connects readers with local, national and international authors and publishers.”

A fantastic line-up of 300 authors are taking part, including word conjuror Goddexx,  bestselling poet, essayist, and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib, Mostly Dead Things author Kristen Arnett, and Earth scientist and writer Darcie Little Badger, to name just a few.

This year’s real world Children’s Day on Saturday 2nd October offers a full day of readings, workshops, performances, book signings, yoga, and art projects with renowned authors and illustrators.

As well as hosting virtual happenings, the Festival Day and Literary Marketplace, a day-long celebration of authors and books on Sunday 3rd October, will take place in Downtown Brooklyn with a reduced number of vendors to ensure safety. Citywide Bookend events — in person and virtual — take place on 26th September as well as 2nd and 4th October.

Sign up for their newsletter to discover information on highlights as it becomes available.

Find full details here: brooklynbookfestival.org.

Photo of Brooklyn Bridge by Miltiadis Fragkidis on Unsplash.

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.

Poetry review – Fontanelle by Helen Sheppard

Fontanelle cover by Helen SheppardFontanelle by Helen Sheppard opens aptly with ‘Opening’, a poem that deposits us directly in the most intimate of situations – a birth. We’re at the business end with Sheppard, guiding a person into the world with all the gunge and wonder it entails.

And herein lies the power of Sheppard’s poetry. As a former midwife, her awe at this daily miracle is evident, even garlanded in the gravy of bodily excretions. Far from shying away from squeamish sights, Sheppard celebrates them for their essential role in our most earthbound and miraculous acts.

“A gestation reaches its timely conclusion./ Her muscled hammock softens, slackens./ I am with her wet slit, hands quiet, ready.”

In Safe Harbour we meet a person yet to breathe: “You flex and stretch/ and wallow in water,/ all bump and tail./ You tether, then float,/ wriggle to sea sounds”.

The writing is visceral, yet tender, each layered emotion wound in with exquisite tension.

Continue reading

Writing prompt – 6 words

Child's blue t-bar school shoes. Photo by Judy DarleyIf you write flash fiction, I suspect you already know the six-word story famously attributed to Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

As disconcerting micros go, it’s pretty powerful. It popped into my head when I saw these child’s shoes on a wall in my neighbourhood. With Hemingway’s ultra-micro in mind, can you devise an unsettling tale that explains why these cute blue t-bar toddler-sized shoes are no longer needed? And why are they in such pristine condition?

How low can you keep the word-count without losing the impact and heart of your tale?

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.

Delve into the ‘Reading Is Magic’ online literature festival

Child reading cr Julian Foxon Photography

© Julian Foxon Photography

Hungry for writing inspiration, or simply got young book-worms to entertain? The Reading is Magic Festival returns this autumn with five days of free, fantastic, imagination-stirring digital events.

The festival runs from 27th September until 1st October 2021, with events for all ages.

As with last year’s festival, Bath Children’s Literature Festival has teamed up with festival partners in different parts of the world, with events coming from Kingston in Jamaica, Toronto, Dublin, and more, with a collaborative partnership comprising Bath Children’s Literature Festival, Boswell Book Festival, Bradford Literature Festival, Kingston Book Festival, the Irish Children’s Laureate, New Dutch Writing, Seven Stories, Toronto International Festival of Authors and Wigtown Book Festival.

Look out for inspiring and entertaining conversations, draw-alongs, concerts, workshops and ecological adventures in the company of authors, poets and illustrators including  Joseph Coelho, Michael Rosen, Harry Baker, David Litchfield, author Emma Shevah and writer Marc ter Horst, Laura Ellen Anderson, BB Alston, Holly Bourne, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Rob Biddulph, birdwatcher and author M.G. Leonard, Dr Shini Somara, Dean Atta and many more! Have a giggle while discovering self-belief with Helen Rutter and Benjamin Dean, uncover the power of friendship with Phil Earle, Bali Rai, Lesley Parr and Anna Woltz, and tell your own story with Alice Oseman, Rebecca Tantony and Gordon Shaw. Find out how changing your library could change your life with Cressida Cowell.

The 2020 festival is now available to access for a one-off fee of £5. Click here to sign up or to log in if you are an existing member.

The name for the festival comes from Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2019-2022 Cressida Cowell’s comment that “reading is magic, and magic is for everyone.’

As an added bonus, Bath Children’s Literature Festival is back in the real world too, running from 24th September till 3rd October. Find the full details here.

Image supplied by Bath Festivals. Photo by Julian-Foxon-Photography.

Find details at www.readingismagicfestival.com.

Witch sought for spooky season at Cornish hotel

TravMedia_United_Kingdom_1474398_The_Grand_High_Witch_enjoying_a_Witches_Afternoon_Tea_at_The_Headland_HotelIf you grew up enamoured by the glamour, ferocity and grotesqueness of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, your dream job may be on offer this October.

Five-star hotel The Headland is seeking someone adept at scaring adults and children alike, with a particular talent in turning people into mice.

The successful Grand High Witch will join the team in time for a spooky season of Afternoon Teas, to mark the hotel’s connections with the brilliant book.

The Victorian building overlooking Newquay’s Fistral Beach provided the setting for the 1990 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.

Director Veryan Palmer said: “The Witches is close to our hearts here at The Headland and every October we like to celebrate the film with a spooky Afternoon Tea tribute.

“This year we’d like a Grand High Witch who will evoke the spectacular effect that Anjelica Huston created for her role of the Grand High Witch in Roald Dahl’s The Witches.”

The upcoming role requires the chosen candidate to be vocal and capable of impersonating the role embodied by Anjelica Huston when delivering key witchy phrases punctuated by eerie cackles. You must also have a flair for theatrical performance, as they sashay and stalk around public areas of the hotel.

You’ll need to be confident in interacting with strangers and able to engage with children, even if you’d prefer they were mice. The hotel will provide the gruesome face mask and cape – all you need is a suitable black outfit.

Think of all writing prompts and inspiration this could provide!

The film was created by Jim Henson Productions and directed by Nicolas Roeg, with the cast – which included Rowan Atkinson, Brenda Blethyn and Jane Horrocks – taking up residence in the hotel for the time it took to film at The Headland.

Grand High Witch Anjelica Huston was Jack Nicholson’s partner at the time. Enormous bouquets of roses would be delivered for her and Nicholson frequently created a buzz among switchboard staff by phoning the hotel to speak to her.

Three bedrooms and the ballroom were used for scenes in the film, whilst a pram pushed towards the cliff edge belonged to the Armstrong family, who still own the hotel today.

The gritty details

Part time/fixed term contract.

£9.10 per hour plus service charge and discretionary monthly bonus


  • 2, 3, 9 &  10 October 1.30pm – 5pm daily
  • 16 to 31 October 1.30pm – 5pm daily

Find full details and apply here: www.headlandhotel.co.uk/work-with-us-2021.

Image supplied by Flamingo Marketing on behalf of The Headland.

Update: Mimi Attenburrow, a trained actor who recently completed her Masters degree in Creative Writing at Exeter University, has been appointed as The Headland’s Grand High Witch. Congratulations, Mimi!

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