Writing prompt – tents

Flash Festival Festival camp. Photo by Judy Darley. Shows tents among trees.I photographed these lovely tents sprouting amid trees at the Flash Fiction Festival, like a colourful crop of gigantic mushrooms. Each one sheltered a writer or two who emerged in daylight hours to chatter, attend writing workshops and imagine.

I’ve seen camps like this at music festivals slept in by revellers, at city parks occupied by people without homes, and on telly lived in by refugees. There are countless directions this prompt could take you in, from the lighthearted to the heartbreaking.

Alternatively, imagine someone coming downstairs and looking out of their kitchen window to discover a tent and interloper a la Alan Bennett’s Lady in the the Van.

Focus on one particular character and draw out the story they have to tell.

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.

Edinburgh Book Festival welcomes word-lovers

Edinburgh Book Festival. Shows people in a park enjoying the literary festivalThis year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival is on from 13th-29th August 2022, with more than 550 world-class performers, musicians and thinkers from 50 countries contributing to over 600 events touching on the theme ‘All Together Now.’

The programme builds on the hybrid format developed over the past two years, with live, in-person events, many of which are also available to stream or watch at a later date. Expect a celebration of the imagination, ideas and issues at the heart of books and stories, offering new perspectives on the world around us.

Authors taking part this year include Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa, Vietnamese American poet Ocean Vuong, Outlander writer Diana Gabaldon, plus Noam Chomsky, Jack Monroe, Alexander McCall Smith, Denise Mina, William Dalrymple and Armando Iannucci. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon steps up  for two events, interviewing novelist Louise Welsh about her new novel The Second Cut, and  Brian Cox about a life on the Scottish stage and his role in television hit series Succession. There are also events with some of the world’s most beloved children’s authors, including Jason Reynolds, Cressida Cowell, Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo and doctor turned writer and doctor-turned comedian and author Adam Kay.

The festival’s director Nick Barley says: “The world has changed immeasurably since 2019: we’re learning to live with the effects of the pandemic and war in Europe – but we’re also beginning to imagine what a better future should look like. Exploring these issues in inspiring conversations with scientists, historians, poets and novelists is exactly where the Book Festival comes into its own. I’m thrilled that thanks to Baillie Gifford, every young person coming to a Schools event gets a free ticket and a free book this year. With all online events and a selection of our in-person theatre tickets also available on a Pay What You Can basis, we’re doing everything we can to make the festival accessible to everyone.”

Find full details of the Edinburgh International Book Festival programme.

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 – echoes

Belfast Docks_SoundYard sculpture_Judy DarleyThis sculpture is titled SoundYard and sits on Belfast docks. When you step beneath its metal tubes, motion detectors kick a mechanism into life and small cogs begin to turn, recreating the metallic sounds of the vibrant shipyards that once thrived here.

It’s an ingenious way to summon an impression of history.

Just as Marcel Proust employed the sense of taste (his famous ‘little crumb of madeleine’) to plunge into memory, can you choose a sense to evoke a moment from your own or an imagined past that will transport readers to that time?

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.

Searchlight Writing for Children Awards 2022

Brandon Hill, Bristol, child in tree by Judy Darley

The Searchlight Writing for Children Awards 2022 are open for entries.

There are two competition categories: Best Picture Book (text only) and Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults.

Picture Books category

Your picture book should be no more than 500 words long.

The winner will receive £500.

Winners in this category will be chosen by BBC Children’s Writer and Director Kayleigh Keam.

The entry fee is £9 for a picture book.

Novel Openings category

Novel Openings should be for ages seven to eighteen and should be 1,200 words long (you don’t need to have completed your novel).

The winner will receive £1,000.

Winners in this category will be chosen by Literary Agent Amber Caravéo of Skylark Literary.

The entry fee is £14 for a novel opening.

The top ten entries in both categories will feature in The Winners’ Collection, a book which is sent to literary agents and publishers to help your work get noticed.

These entries will also be included along with author biographies in the Winners’ Gallery on the Searchlight Awards’ website, which agents, publishers, friends and family can access, as well as in the annual Searchlight Awards’ Anthology, which features the best entries from all Searchlight Awards competitions in the last year.

The closing date for both categories is 22nd August 2022.

Results will be published on 27th January 2023.

For full details, visit www.searchlightawards.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 – suspense

Aeroplane wing by Judy Darley

As awful as I know the emissions are for our planet, I’ve always loved the magic of flight – something about the suspension between home and destination, land and air, and in this case day and night, hold me in their thrall.

Can you write a work of fiction prompted by that sense of between-ness? How can you make it central to your plot or character? How could it inform the tension and outcome of your tale?

You could even choose to focus on the suspension between safety and calamity. What might drive someone to leave a place? What hopes and fears might they carry with them?

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.

Book review – Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash by Michael Loveday

Unlocking-the-Novella-in-Flash-webWith the sub-title “from blank page to finished manuscript”, this is very much the printed equivalent of taking a focused MA on the topic of the novella. It’s laid out beautifully clearly into modules, with delicious, restorative snacks in the form of exemplary flash fiction nuggets to nibble on along the way.

Author, editor and creative coach Michael Loveday explains that his book is an assortment of suggestions to help you find out what works for you in the area of novella-in-flash. In this way, it seems intended to be used less as a map than a tourist guide of hotspots you can choose to visit and enjoy.

Even if you would usually bypass the Prologue, you ought not to this once, as in Loveday’s hands it becomes almost like a ‘meet and greet’ at the start of a tour. “This craft guide isn’t seeking to set out fixed rules for how every novella-in-flash should be written,” he writes. “So much remarkable writing deliberately breaks the boundaries of common practice. Instead, (it) is intended as a springboard, a source of ideas and options.”

Continue reading

Enter Winchester Poetry Prize 2022

Sunshine snail cr Judy Darley

Winchester Poetry Prize 2022 invites you to submit poetry “with a good emotional thwack.” The closing date for entries is 31st July 2022.

Entries cost £5 for first poem, £4 for subsequent poems.

The organisers have introduced a ‘Pay it Forward’ scheme, which allows you can to pay for an extra entry that will fund a submission by a poet who wouldn’t otherwise be able to enter the competition.

The free entries will be available on a first-come first-served basis (one per person). Availability of free entries will be highlighted via our social media platforms as they become available.

The judge is Jo Bell, prize-winning poet, occasional broadcaster and former director of the UK’s National Poetry Day. She advises: “Don’t second-guess the judge. Trust me to recognise and honour the worth of the poems sent in, not matter what their form or subject, and no matter whether your style is anything like mine (…) Send me your best.”


  • First Prize: £1,000
  • Second Prize: £500
  • Third Prize: £250

Winning and commended poems will be published in a competition anthology.

There will be a prize-giving event on 8th October 2022. The best poem by a poet living in Hampshire will receive a prize kindly donated by Warren & Son. 

Find full details here: https://www.winchesterpoetryfestival.org/prize.

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

Writing prompt – folklore

Giant's Causeway by Judy Darley

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Northern Ireland and took a trip to the Giant’s Causeway. This beautiful, natural basalt sculpture is steeped in folklore about a giant named Finn MacCool, who wanted to conquer Scotland, so built a route across, only to flee home when he discovered the giants there were far bigger than himself.

When the Scottish giant came to confront Finn MacCool, Finn was taking a nap, luckily for him. His quick-thinking wife covered him with a blanket and told the Scots giant it was Finn’s baby snoozing there. The Scots giant took one look, imagined the man who could sire such a vast baby, and ran home (presumably to Staffa Rock), destroying the causeway as he scarpered.

My home city of Bristol in southwest England has a gorge apparently scooped out by a left-handed giant. I love the thought that our land is riddled with tales of giants.

Can you write a myth of your own to explain an exceptional local feature or landmark? If you need to, invent the landmark too!

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.

Pure Slush invites marriage-inspired poems and prose

Heart leaf by Judy Darley
Indie publisher Pure Slush is currently inviting submissions for Marriage Lifespan Vol. 6.

Submissions close on 31st July 2022.

Established in 2010, Pure Slush publishes print anthologies of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

When asked what Pure Slush is ‘about’, founding editor Matt Potter said: “Fun, humour, attention, absurdity, humanity, love, sex, more fun and more humour and more absurd humanity.”

But what do the folks at Pure Slush like?

Here are just a few pointers (and some editing tips): “Send a story about knitting that’s funny … and we’ll probably like it.

Send a story with arty, complex imagery … and we probably won’t like it.

Send an honest story about love or a funny story about sex … and we’ll probably like it.

Send a story that’s stylish but empty … and we’ll probably ask you to rewrite it.

Send a story about human foibles that’s real but has no feeling … and we’ll probably ask you to give it more emotion.

Send a story about war and the battlefield and we’ll probably yawn our way through it (sorry, but true!) … but send a story about the homefront or the army stores or the munitions factories, and we’ll look at it with renewed interest.

Send a story about desperation and we’ll probably like it, especially if it makes us weep … but send a story that’s cynical and jaded and comes not from the voice of experience but from the voice of hip and arrogance and well, it’s not going to do much for us.

Send us a ‘battle of the sexes’ story (he said / she said; he did / she did; how stupid are the opposite sex, hey?) … and we’ll have a hard time with it.

Send a story that’s 1000 words long but only in one or two paragraphs … and we’ll ask you to divide it further.

Or send us a story that is all reported (or indirect) speech – She said (that) she couldn’t keep her breakfast down – and we’ll ask you to make it direct (or quoted) speech – She said, “I couldn’t keep my breakfast down.” (What is this fashion for stories entirely made of reported speech? Direct speech is always more immediate and takes you there now!)

Send a story where you want us to love every single word and space … and not suggest changes … and, um, you will probably be disappointed and / or angry with the response. We enjoy working with writers who want to make their story better: writers married to every word can be tiresome.”

Got that?

Your Marriage submission must be:

    • original, so previously unpublished online or in print (so that includes authors’ websites and blogs)
    • 150-word minimum limit for fiction and non-fiction, stories and essays / maximum 1000 words. (That’s for each story / essay: maximum number of prose pieces you can submit is 3.)
    • 80-word minimum limit for poetry / maximum 1000 words. (That’s for each poem: maximum number of poems you can submit is 5.)
    • must include something about marriage or long-term intimate relationships.

    You must be minimum 18 years of age to submit.

Find full details of how to submit your Marriage-themed works here: https://pureslush.com.

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.