Retreat West online flash fest –5th-6th March

Three editors in a boat. Photo by Ivan Lapyrin on UnsplashI’m excited to be taking part in Retreat West’s online flash fest that’s happening on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th March.

Ten_Ways-anthology book coverThere are inspiring events unfurling all weekend, including the launch of ‘Ten Ways Animals Will Save Us‘, Retreat West’s tenth birthday anthology, which contains one of my climate fiction flashes, ‘Fishing for Green and Blue’. The anthology is crammed with amazing stories from spectacular authors, on the theme of ‘ten’.

The anthology launch is at 10am, when the festival begins. Writers who will be sharing their anthology stories at the festival include Sara Hills, Martha Lane, Amy Barnes and Edward Barnfield.

Unfortunately I’m not able to attend the launch, but I will be there for a panel discussion on Sunday:


I’ll be answering questions and sharing insights from the perspective of my flash fiction editor role at Reflex Press, along with Christopher Allen of Smokelong Quarterly and J. Archer Avary of Sledgehammer Lit.

Find full details of this energising literary weekend here.

I hope to see you there!

Got a literary or arts 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 – proximity

Fallen tree, Victoria Park, with train in the background. Photo by Judy Darley

A storm felled this beautiful tree in a local park. Nature seems to have teamed up with gust and gale to create a glorious sculpture. I love the fact this shot also captures the proximity of the railway tracks to a playground. Each of these elements feels to me to reveal the tame fringes of our wild spaces, and the wilderness edging even the most domestic scenes.

Can you interpret this to write a dramatic story? Once written, can you turn it on its head so the untamed elements reveal themselves to be the most civilised, and vice versa? What could that tell us about the way we live?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) for possible publication on

The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain book launch and literary night

TheStairsAreASnowcapped Mountain_fullcoverweb

I’m delighted to share the news that my new short story collection, The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain, is available to pre-order from Reflex Press here:

The image shown above is the full wrap-around book cover created from one of my paintings.

To celebrate, I’m hosting a launch party and literary night at Waterstones in Bristol’s Galleries (11a Union Galleries, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3XD), from 7-9.30pm on Saturday 26th March. It’s open to the public and I’d love you to come along!

The evening will include live music from singer songwriter Eve Appleton, poetry from former midwife Helen Sheppard and atmospheric readings from local fiction writers, including myself. With hints of fairytales and myths rippling through everyday scenarios, you may emerge seeing the world with fresh eyes.

Free tickets are available here

I hope to see you there!


Writing prompt – fixation

John Healy model ships, Mshed. Photo by Judy DarleyOn a rainy February weekend, I visited Bristol’s M Shed with my sister and nephews. This brilliant museum on the waterfront is packed with nuggets of the city’s history, from being the place the first chocolate bar was made by Fry’s to the site of riots and anti-slavery movements. There’s an exhibition celebrating the city’s formerly unsung heroes, and an assortment of model ships made by John Healy, presented in front of the real harbour.

A notice stated that John had a lifelong fascination with the port, photographing and recording every ship visiting from 1930 to around 1980 and making near-scale models from wood saved from wine cases.

I’m always intrigued by other people’s fixations.

Can you write a story about a character with a museum-worthy obsession?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) for possible publication on

Flash Frontier entreats your stormy words

Tintagel storm cr Judy Darley

The lovely folks at New Zealand’s Flash Frontier magazine are currently inviting submissions of short tales from across the world on the theme of ‘thunder’.

The deadline is 28th February 2022. Submissions must be only 250 words in length. Stories of 251 words won’t be accepted.

They say: “We are looking for variety and originality. Tickle us, haunt us, gobsmack us. Choose your words carefully and leave our readers wanting more. And do it in a small space. (…) We love original art in all forms – colourful and daring, muted and understated. We’ll choose art each month that reflects the theme.”

Send only previously unpublished stories, and make sure you follow their style guide to the letter!

For a taste of what the editors like and to be inspired, read Flash Frontier’s recent issue on the theme of Salt, which includes my flash fiction story The Salt Sting of Learning When To Say No.

Find full details of how to submit your work here: 

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

Writing prompt – topiary

Heart tree_Totterdown by Judy Darley. Topiary of a heart outside an ordinary terraced house on a residential street.I love the fact that this impressive heart-shaped topiary stands outside an ordinary terraced house on a residential street.

What would it take to make you trust a person’s declaration of undying devotion? A ring delivered on bended knee, some impressive topiary, or something else?

As Valentine’s Day nears, consider the lovelorn and hopeful, and see if you can write a comic yet sympathetic tale about your protagonist offering or being offered love in an unexpected way. What details could swing their response one way or another? What baggage might they be lugging that influences how they respond?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on

Enter The Rialto’s Nature and Place Poetry Competition

Dragonfly nymph by Judy DarleyThe Rialto is inviting you to send in your nature and place-inspired poetry for their competition celebrating the natural world. With our personal universes shrunken to the spaces within walking distance of our homes, wildlife has begun to gradually take back the streets, making this the perfect topic for our peculiar times.

What have you glimpsed in your pond, on your windowsill, in the places for the most part now vacated by humans?

The deadline for entries is Friday 1st March 2022.

Hosted by The Rialto in association with the RSPB, BirdLife International and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, the competition will be judged by Pascale Petit, whose seventh collection, Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe, 2017), won the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize 2018 – the first time a poetry book won this prize for a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry best evoking the spirit of a place.

Nature and Place Poetry Competition Prizes

1st prize – £1000
2nd prize – £500
3rd prize – £250

Once the current pandemic restrictions are lifted, one entrant will receive a personal tour with celebrated nature-writer Mark Cocker of his most cherished wildlife places in East Anglia.

How to submit your poems

You can submit up to six poems in one batch. The entry fee for the first poem is £7 (including an administration fee). The fee for each subsequent poem in the batch is £4.

If you wish to submit more than six poems you will need to make a second submission, which will include a second administration fee.

Find full details of how to enter here.

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

Novella review – Season of Bright Sorrow by David Swann

Season-of-Bright-Sorrow-webBook Balm recommendation: read to rediscover the beauty in every rock pool and puddle.

With a cover printed to resemble a weathered and pre-loved artefact, Season of Bright Sorrow by David Swann is a find to treasure. Scattered with elegant miniature artworks by Sam Hubbard, the strung-together stories piece together a precarious time in a young girl’s life on a seashore, with a physically  absent father, an emotionally absent mother and uncertain friendships with an old man and a young boy who both seem to live on a perilous edge just as she does.

Swann sketches the setting and its inhabitants with sparse but carefully selected lines. In Set Your Clock, we have our first meeting with Mr Flook, who “knotted his neck-tie as tight as a whelk and kept his trilby at the correct angle, no matter how hard the wind charged in.” With him is his border collie Ringo, aka “that daft article”. It’s so sharply written that you’ll feel you’ve met the pair.

Then there’s daydreaming, story-spinning Archie who’s “drawn to the puzzle of fields on the edge of the bay” and “spent whole afternoons hopping between the little islands. But the hero of the novella is Lana, the young girl whose life we’re pulled into as though by a tide as she struggles to keep herself and her mother afloat.

Continue reading

Writing prompt – wonder

Little Egret in sunshine by Judy DarleyI’ve enjoyed some unusual sightings on my lunchtime walks recently – a small egret that seems to have come on a city-break, presumably swapping a coastline or wetlands for the tameness of our urban streamside walk. It’s a wild creature of such beautiful grandeur, and yet as I stand and stare, people job, cycle and stroll by without paying it any heed. It makes me feel lucky to be someone who notices and finds pleasure in the rarities others overlook.

Can you turn this into an ecological fable, a story about community or something more fantastical?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) for possible publication on