Writing prompt – buzz

Bee House. Photo by Judy DarleyIn the part of Bristol where I live, people not only paint their homes gorgeous vibrant colours, they also add murals that make me smile.

This bee-emblazoned property is one of my favourites, and makes me think of Erin Morgenstern’s glorious book The Starless Sea, which feature a house inhabited by cat-sized bees.

What wildlife would you be perturbed to find in your home? Would it be more or less unsettling if it was extremely large or very much smaller than usual? Can you spin this into a tale?

What kind of buzz could the creature’s arrival make in the neighbourhood?

If you’ve chosen to make your species extra big (or extra small), how does the tone shift if you switch it to being especially dinky (or especially large)? Is that more or less alarming for your protagonist?

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


Writing prompt – bridge

Banana Bridge cr Judy Darley. Shows a yellow bridge crossing a Bristol river.The city I live in has a two rivers and a harbour, which manages to add up to rather a lot of bridges. I do love a bridge – that in-between space spanning two tracts of land and the chance to pause and watch the water flow. I even gave one of the rivers a voice in my new collection The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain in a story that asks and partially answers ‘Why rivers run to the sea’.

But back to the bridges, the yellow one above (Langton Street Bridge, known locally as the Banana Bridge) also features in The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain in a story titled ‘Tidal Suck’.

Can you write a tale inspired by a bridge you know? What might happen in that space between? If it’s over a river, what could the water carry or conceal?

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

Click here to read about The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain book launch & lit night.

Writing prompt – hidden

Fungi_Victoria Park. Photo by Judy Darley

I recently encountered this impressive fungus structure in a woodland. To me it resembles an ornate ceramic sculpture. Yet this glorious thing is only the fruiting body, and a fraction of what exists hidden beneath the surface. A network of threadlike filaments called hyphae spread through the soil out of sight, carrying nutrients and information as well as passing news to other plants including trees.

I’m also intrigued by the green filaments decorating the frilled, saucer-like structures. Is this another lifeform? Is it working in symbiosis or attacking the fungi?

It’s all fascinating, isn’t it? Imagine if the parts of icebergs that are under could communicate in this way and warn of coming storms and other risks? What about our own hidden depths, and the microscopic bacteria that help us function? Is that a thrilling thought for you, or downright creepy?

Explore this idea and see if you can turn it into a story.

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

A Misplaced director walks into a tavern… Interview & review

MISPLACED's Amy Tanner, Norberto Bogard, Jo Butler and Ciaran Corsar

MISPLACED’s Amy Tanner, Norberto Bogard, Jo Butler and Ciaran Corsar

Jo Butler is a founding member of brand-new theatre venture MISPLACED, and directed their recent sell-out production of Decadence at the Alma Tavern Theatre. I stole a few moments of her time to find out more.

Jo Mary Butler_cropWhat are your theatrical experiences?  

Many and varied. I studied Theatre at University and have worked as an actress, director and theatre company tour manager. I also taught Drama in London secondary schools for six years. My first experiences of theatre were watching my dad play King Rat in pantomime and making my own shows featuring poetry, storytelling, singing and funny little dances when I was 5 or 6. My large, immediate family were my first audience. But my most critical formative theatre experience was performing the Lady Macbeth ‘screw your courage to the sticking place’ speech in front of my English class when I was fourteen. I was the only member of the class who had learnt it by heart. I felt something shift inside me as I performed. From that moment, theatre had its hooks in me.

What other creative ventures do you practice?  

Again, many and varied. I write poetry, short stories and songs. I have also been known to paint and draw. Now we’ve started Misplaced, I’m sure a play will emerge at some point.

I know you established MISPLACED with Norberto Bogard, Ciaran Corsar and Amy Tanner. What made you personally want to do this?  

Ciaran got me very drunk and convinced me to get involved. No. That’s a joke. I had became extremely bored and disillusioned with how theatre and performance was going – even before COVID. I’d done and seen A LOT. Then I met Ciaran, Amy and Norberto at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School doing a Shakespeare intensive. The week after the intensive, we had a theatre company, a production and a mission statement. I think I wanted to do it because of the brilliant actors involved, and because Norberto threw a large pile of used banknotes on the table for us to do it. The Mexican way!

What made you choose Decadence as your first production?  

It was a very quick decision. Amy suggested doing ‘Kvetch’ – also by Steven Berkoff. I’d had previous experience directing Berkoff and of the Berkoff style of performance and loved it. Norberto was returning to New York – where he lives – for a few months so we needed to find a play that Amy, Ciaran and I could do. Then Ciaran suggested ‘Decadence’ and it seemed a perfect fit.

What do you relish about the directorial process?  

Firstly, the almost overwhelming sense of directorial vision that arrives and kind of takes you over when you are offered a great play like ‘Decadence’ to direct. All those ideas, and tiny detailed moments your subconscious has been storing away come to the fore, ready to be woven in to the show. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch those things see the light of day. And secondly, working with great actors. It was sheer luxury to be in the rehearsal room with Amy and Ciaran and throw stuff at them and see them work with it and transform it into a thing of beauty and terror for the audience.

What were the key challenges of developing the show?  

Finding a white leather sofa and reassuring the actors that they would come off stage alive after saying all those awful Berkoff words in front of an audience. Ciaran and Amy are lovely, and the Berkoff characters in ‘Decadence’ truly are as far from lovely as you can get.

Any moments of the process that really thrilled you?  

Finding the white sofa… Finding Esther Warren, our fabulous sound and lighting designer. Plus those moments in rehearsal where the actors begin to tune in to your vision and bring their own, brilliant ideas to the show. I love co-creating with actors. I can be a dictator and make firm directorial decisions if required, but I much prefer it to be a shared experience.

What made you proudest about the March 2022 run at the Alma Tavern Theatre?

The response from our sell-out audiences immediately after the curtain came down. They really got what we were trying to do with the play. They loved it to death. It was great to see them staying around in the Alma bar discussing it and enthusing long after curtain down. That means we’ve done our job.

What comes next for Misplaced?  

A short rest. then the next show – tbc. And we’re talking about taking ‘Decadence’ to London and, possibly, New York. Lots of things.


Ciaran Corsar as Steve/Les and Amy Tanner as Helen/Sybil.

Theatre review – Decadence 

Reviewer: Alison Winter

Alison Winter is a writer and creator for Big Finish Productions and has written stage plays, screen plays, audio plays, and short stories.

Steven Berkoff’s Decadence is not a story. It’s a grotesque character study and damning portrait of Thatcherite inequality and indulgent 1980s high society, delivered in coarse couplets and darkly savage mime. What is revealed belongs to our time just as much as when it was written, to the extent that you may be struck by chilling parallels by the end of the performance.

We step into the world of two couples and their sordid sexual relations. Each couple dominates the stage like warped weather clock characters and invite you to despise, grimace and recoil as they play out their inner monologues direct to the audience, revealing a catalogue of traumas, pleasures and desires which they happily inhabit one moment, only to dismiss as folly the next.

Amy Tanner and Ciaran Corsar seriously impress in their respective roles as Helen/Sybil and Steve/Les. These characters are racked with an animality they attribute to those they consider lesser than themselves, but are perhaps unconscious of being at the mercy of their worst and most base instincts. Corsar finds depth and quiet within the brash and the unforgiving, and Tanner shifts effortlessly between sensual and base, heartless and affectionate. These are ugly characters played beautifully, with comic flourishes and real physical skill.

Directed with pace and precision by Jo Butler, and complemented by Esther Warren’s artful sound and lighting design, Decadence is impeccably staged.

All in all a blazing beginning for Misplaced. Formed to provide a platform for old pros finding their way back to the boards after time away, it’s no doubt a welcome arrival for Bristol based actors and audiences alike.

Find out more about Misplaced at www.wearemisplaced.com, on Instagram @misplacedtheatre and on Twitter @misplacedstage.

Seen or read anything interesting recently? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com. Likewise, if you’ve published or produced something you’d like me to review, please get in touch.

Writing prompt – bias

Alice's children

Today is International Women’s Day 2022, and I think the theme of #BreakTheBias is an excellent creative prompt.

Most of us experience unconscious bias, which we need to write against. If you have written a female character, try rewriting them as male. What changes do you find yourself making? What traits become more dominant as you flesh them out?

Now change them back to female, but without switching the traits that developed while they were male?

What happens if you remove all indicators of gender? How does that influence how you imagine them?

Now write their story and see what they have to tell you.

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

The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain book launch & lit night

TheStairsAreASnowcapped Mountain_fullcoverwebTo celebrate the launch of my new short story collection, The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain, I’m hosting a launch party and literary night at Waterstones in Bristol’s Galleries, from 7-9.30pm on Saturday 26th March. It’s open to the public and I’d love you to come along!
There will be live music plus readings from local writers on the themes of things being more than they first appear or different to how they seem at first glance.
There will be heart-stirring 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.
Here’s the important info:
The Stairs Are A Snowcapped Mountain launch & literary night at Waterstones, Bristol Galleries
  • Date and time: Saturday 26th March 2022, 7-9.30pm
  • Locations: Waterstones, 11a Union Galleries, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3XD (street entrance)

    Here’s the line up:

    Judy Darley photo credit Jo Mary Bulter Photography_cropJudy Darley is a British author who can’t stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind. Her words have been published in the UK, Canada, US, New Zealand and India, including Cypress, The Mechanics’ Institute Review and The Pomegranate. Judy is the author of short fiction collections Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me to the Bees (Tangent Books). The Stairs are a Snowcapped Mountain is her third collection. She is Flash Fiction Editor at Reflex Press and has co-judged competitions for National Flash Fiction Day and Oxford Flash Fiction Prize. You can find Judy on Twitter at @JudyDarley

  • Photo credit: Jo Mary Butler Photography

    Eve Appleton_Photo credit- Beth Butcher Photography @bethbutcherphotography_cropEve Appleton is a singer songwriter performing in the folk tradition but bringing a fresh, contemporary voice to the genre. Her writing is informed by her own experiences of growing up in a British seaside town, observations of adolescence, and the music and poetry she has discovered, or has been introduced to, over the years.

    You can find Eve on Instagram as @eveappletonmusic

    Photo credit: Beth Butcher Photography

    Jo Mary Butler_cropJo Mary Butler is a poet, singer/songwriter, actress and theatre director. As a founding member of Misplaced Theatre, she recently directed Steven Berkoff’s ‘Decadence’ for the company at the Alma Tavern Theatre, Bristol.

    Her debut poetry and short fiction collection Hybrid, with original drawings by Harry Simmonds, will be available in Summer 2022.

    Photo credit: Jo Mary Butler Photography


  • Harriet Kline_cropHarriet Kline works part time registering births, deaths and marriages and writes for the rest of the week.  Her story Ghost won The Hissac Short Story Competition 2012 and Chest of Drawers won the London Magazine Short Story Competition 2013. She has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, has a story at Litro online and at shortstorysunday.com. This Shining Life, published by Penguin, is her first novel and she’s slowly working on the next one, to be published in 2024.

    You can find Hartiet on Twitter as @HareandHarriet and on Instagram as harriet_kline.

    Photo by Jeni Nott Photography.

    Helen Sheppard_crop
    Helen Sheppard
    is a Bristol-based writer and worked as a midwife. Her poetry explores themes of birth, health loss, and those whose voices are often unheard. Events Helen has performed at include Milk Poetry, RTB, Torriano Meeting House and Harvard Medical School. Helen’s work has been Published widely, including These are the Hands and Under the Radar magazine. Her debut poetry collection Fontanelle was published in 2021 by Burning Eye Books. Helen interviews extraordinary poets for her podcast Health Beat Poets, their ‘take’ on Poetry, Health and Community. You can find Helen on Twitter as HelenSheppard7 and on Instagram as helensheppard58 

    Photo credit: Tom Shot Photography

    Get in touch!

    If you want to know more about my writing, about The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain book launch & literary night or would like a review copy of The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com. Thanks!


Writing prompt – owl

Owl carving and baby shoe by Judy DarleyThis carved barn owl sits in a nearby nature reserve in the depths of Bristol. Owls have always had a place in our folklore, gliding silently as they do and marrying grace with lethal speed and accuracy.

In this case, the pristine white baby shoe sitting beside the sculpture makes me think of foundlings and changelings, while raising lots of questions. Who does the shoe belong to? How did it get here?

Is it significant that the owl is wooden rather that a living feathered creature?

Depending on the direction you choose, the shoe also raises the question of whether the owl is friend or foe.

Can you turn this into a story?

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