Writing prompt – splotch

Arnos Vale character_Photo by Judy DarleyI often feel anxious when I see trees emblazoned with coloured splotches in a local woodland. It generally indicates a tree set to be felled or trimmed.

Some helpful person has decided to make this ash tree’s foreboding embellishment a little cheerier, however, by adding eyes and a vibrant head of hot-pink hair.

Will it be enough to save the tree from execution? Will the tree surgeons smile and take their chainsaw elsewhere?

Or is this comical character an unlikely guardian (I’m thinking along the lines of Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life), protecting the ash tree from harm?

What direction could you take this story in?

If you write or create something inspired by water, please send an email to judydarley (at) icloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – underside

Castle Bridge Bristol_Photo by Judy Darley

I have a fondness for that curious view of the underside of bridges you can only see from water. This one is a particular beauty – the serpentine 91-metre Castle Bridge that wends its way from Castle Park to Finzels Reach in Bristol.

From this angle it could almost be the scaled belly of an immense reptile. Alternatively, it could be a futuristic home for a miniature civilisation living beneath the feet but above the ferries of the humans who visit and inhabit this city.

Can you turn one of these ideas into a story or dream up one of your own?

If you write or create something inspired by water, please send an email to judydarley (at) icloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

A sparkling review of The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain

I’m chuffed to bits with this beautiful review of my Reflex Press collection The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain.

Necessary Fiction review of The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain

Reviewer Nicie Panetta of Necessary Fiction says some rather lovely things about my stories, including: 

The collection’s title comes from the story “Family Psychology,” which speaks to the power of a child’s imagination. For the young person at the center of the story, the confines of the family home transform into imaginary worlds filled with companionship and adventure. The stairs become an alpine peak, and “the uncharted territory of the roof” becomes the moon. Suffering limitations, isolation, and loss, Darling’s characters find comfort and connection where they can — on lockdown zooms, in a dumpster, and while milking an alpaca. Whether the threat comes from cancer, lockdown, or climate change, creativity, and empathy are usually the active ingredients in the medicine for what ails.

Yep, I noticed I’ve been re-named Darling in that excerpt, but I’ve been called worse.

It’s a truly wonderful review that has made my day. Thanks Nicie and Necessary Fiction!

Read the full review here.

Find out more about The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain and purchase here.

Writing prompt – contrails

Arnos Vale vapour trails_Photo by Judy DarleyRemember how during lockdown the skies were eerily still without human traffic? Only birds, insects and weather inhabited those spaces.

When the first contrails (the vapour trails aeroplanes leave in clear skies) appeared, most people felt hope. Normal life was resuming.

But glancing up now, I see a traffic jam of countless people zipping off for holidays and work. We’ve gone back to all the bad habits we paused in the early months of the pandemic.

Can you turn this sobering thought into a story? Can you tell it through the eyes of someone who might want, or even know how, to make a change?

If you write or create something inspired by water, please send an email to judydarley (at) icloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Novella review – Sybilla by Joanna Campbell

SYBILLA COVER. Shows watercolour city scape.

The winning entry of National Flash Fiction Day’s inaugural novella-in-flash competition is a vivid splash of light striated with human emotions.

Joanna Campbell’s ‘Sybilla’ draws us into the seemingly peaceful world of a Berlin bookshop where shelves are stacked with books rescued from bombed homes. Campbell’s lyrical writing paints exquisite watercolours of each scene. In the first flash, aka chapter, ‘Stacking’, we get to know the routine of Lara and Felix, from the “blue cup and saucer” Lara keeps by the cash register, which Felix refills from “a steaming jug every hour”, to the rows they construct “of jacketless little books about trees and butterflies and canals” and the pile they build of books about “ships, viaducts and mountains.”

Adding to that the sounds of “coffee pouring and the hands of the grandfather clock juddering” and my first impression was that there’s nowhere else I’d rather spend time.

But outside in their city of ruined buildings, a wall is rising that divides West from East Berlin: “The Wall grows fast, casting the shop into shadow.”

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Writing prompt – pair

Pink doors. Photo by Judy Darley

I sometimes stroll down a street where two pink doors shine out, resplendent. I find their coordination intriguing – two separate homes, two front doors, the exact shade of strawberry milkshake pink.

Do a pair of siblings live in these two homes and share a passion for pink?

Did one person paint their door and offer up their leftovers? Was their neighbour’s door so shabby, it brought down the cheeriness of their pink, so they suggested a touch of gloss?

Is this the evidence of unrequited love? Or of a marriage where they need to, and can afford to, keep their distance on occasion?

Did a guerrilla house decorator daub both doors on the same moonlit night?

Is this secretly one home with two doors? If you were to venture in, might you find an adjoining inner door?

What answer to this synchronicity of pink can you dream up and turn into a tale?

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.

Enter Chestnut Review’s Prose Chapbook Contest

Salisbury horse chestnut. Phot by Judy Darley
Chestnut Review launched its first ever Prose Chapbook Contest in 2021 and is keeping up the trend for 2022. Editor Maria S. Picone invites you to submit any kind of prose manuscript, whether that’s fiction, CNF, or hybrid forms. A single powerful story is as welcome as a series of vivid flashes.

Submissions are open until 1st September 2022,

Maria S. Picone says: “We are looking for smart, daring manuscripts that overtake us, break us, and rebuild us with beautiful language. We welcome all forms of prose manuscripts: fiction, CNF, or hybrid. Hit us with one powerful story or delight us with a series of flash. Blur genres or stay true to form. Surprise us. Challenge us. Manuscripts with more than one piece should feel cohesive and coherent.”

The manuscript’s length should be between 5,000 and 12,000 words in total, which amounts to approximately 20-30 pages.

The winner will receive $600 and 20 copies of their published chapbook. Chapbooks will be published through Chestnut Review via a print-on-demand provider. The winner will earn 30% royalties, distributed annually on all copies sold.

The winning chapbook will be advertised in Chestnut Review and on social media, and will be featured for sale on Amazon.com and via https://chestnutreview.com/.

The winning author will be interviewed in a feature in the Summer 2023 issue of Chestnut Review.

Find full details here: chestnutreview.com/contests/

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 – mismatch

Parasol. Photo by Judy DarleyI love this image of a couple where they appear in step but out of time. The bloke on the left looks utterly contemporary, while their partner’s parasol could slide them into an entirely different era.

Can you weave this scene into a rom-com or other genre tale where a visual mismatch could prove to be the perfect match?

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.

Anthology review – Monsieur, three Novelettes-in-Flash

Monsieur_Front Cover. Shows a jetty reaching into water in sepia tones.The latest anthology of winning novelettes-in-flash from Retreat West offers up three intriguingly layered tales.

The first is the title novelette, Monsieur by David Rhymes. It opens with an impressively crafted line that succeeds in telling you reams about setting, time and character: “I tell Monsieur that if I were a man, I’d be a libertine, immune to the chains of propriety.”

That Jeannie, our heroine, is examining her master’s nipples “with the aid of an enlarging glass” within that page neatly informs us that this is a woman determined to explore life from every available viewpoint, unhindered both by class and gender.

A yearning for freedom and passion for the natural world hum throughout this densely and visually rich tale, as, encouraged by Monsieur, Jeannie disguises herself as the less fair sex and discovers a fresh side to her own nature: “with my chest pressed flat, my chin made sooty with a lick of dust, I felt more confident – I strode out in plain sight.”

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