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 prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Enter Mslexia Fiction Competitions 2022

Mum's eye view cr Judy DarleyThe Mslexia Fiction Competitions are open for entries.

There are three categories this year: Novel for Children/YA, Short Story, and Flash Fiction. The deadline for each is 19th September 2022.

Prizes include manuscript feedback and agent introductions, plus publication.

Mslexia Novel for Children or YA competition – everything you need to know

  • Judged by Cressida Cowell, Chloe Seager and Imogen Russell Williams, this competition is open to unpublished novels of at least 20,000 words in any genre for children and/or young adults.
  • Submit first 5,000 words only in the first instance. Longlisted entrants will be asked to submit finished manuscripts later in the judging process
  • Entry fee: £26
  • 1st prize £5,000.
  • The winner and three finalists will also receive manuscript feedback from leading editorial and mentoring agency The Literary Consultancy,

Plus

  • Pitch training at a day-long professional workshop in Newcastle upon Tyne, where participants will learn to summarise and present their book in an effective way.Plus
  • Personal introductions to agents and editors at a Talent Party in central London. Both the workshop and Talent Party are arranged in partnership with New Writing North. 
  • Mslexia will contribute a total of £100 towards each finalists’ travel expenses.

Mslexia Short Story competition 2022 – everything you need to know

  • Judged by Diana Evans, this competition is for unpublished complete short fiction of up to 3,000 words in any genre and on any theme.
  • The entry fee is £12.
  • 1st prize £3,000.
  • Three additional finalists will each receive £100
  • The winning entry and three finalists will be published in the December 2022 edition of Mslexia.
  • The winning entry, three finalists and eight further shortlisted stories will be published   in Mslexia’s ebook anthology, Best Women’s Short Fiction 2022, due out in December 2022.

Mslexia Flash Fiction Competition 2022 – everything you need to know

  • Judged by Audrey Niven, this competition is for unpublished complete short fiction of up to 300 words in any genre and on any theme
  • Entry fee: £6
  • 1st prize £500
  • Three additional finalists each receive £50
  • All four winning entries are published in the December 2022 issue of Mslexia
  • Winning entries plus eight more shortlisted entries will be published in Mslexia’s inaugural ebook anthology Best Women’s Short Fiction 2022.

Visit Mslexia’s entry instructions for a more comprehensive guide on how to enter, and be sure to read the full rules before submitting.

Find full details at www.mslexia.co.uk. Good luck!

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.

Published stories

View between two trees showing other trees
I relish writing and editing short stories and flash fiction, and have a self-imposed rule of submitting every month. If you write, I highly recommend this trick. It ensures that for every rejection, there are still a handful of tales out in the world that may yet be published, plus a gentle flurry of successes to bolster your writing mojo!

Here are some of my recent publications.

August 2022

The Green-Gold of Wet Kelp – Fairlight Books

June 2022

The egret and I don’t belong here – The Phare Literary Magazine Summer 2022 issue

Tricks to uproot a guest who has outstayed their welcome – Tiny Molecules issue 13

After Dad Goes into Care – National Flash Fiction Day FlashFlood 2022

Bees Breathe Without Lungs – Honeyguide Magazine

How to Hook a Heart – And We Live Happily Ever After, National Flash Fiction Day anthology 2022

The Tempest Inside – Micro Madness

April 2022

Milk Tooth – Wyldblood Press

March 2022

Awkward Liaisons – Flash Fiction Festival Volume Four

Falling in a Forest Mslexia magazine issue 93

Oxblood – Flash Frontier

Fishing for Green and Blue – Retreat West 10th Birthday Anthology

December 2021

Reasons Your Kefir Might Sour – Litro Magazine Flash Friday

The Only Language He knows Now is Touch – Blink-Ink, Moonlight #46

The Finch in My Sister’s Hair – The Birdseed

The Sea Lives in Her Mum’s Head – Ellipsis Zine

November 2021

The Salt Sting of Learning When To Say No – Flash Frontier

September 2021

My Choice – Six Sentence Stories

Three Shades of Summer – Flash Fiction Magazine

Storm Beckoner – Bandit Fiction

June 2021

Leaf After Leaf – National Flash Fiction Day Write-In

The Hare I Miss – Thimble Literary Magazine

What’s That? – Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis

May 2021

Reaching (collaborate work – I wrote the first stanza) – 100 Words of Solitude

April 2021

Stretching Out – Hencroft

The Sideways House – Twin Pies Volume IV

March 2021

Unstill Life With Plums – The Pomegranate

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 prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Submit your words to the Moth Nature Writing Prize

Moth by Judy Darley

The Moth Magazine invites you to enter the Moth Nature Writing Prize. The deadline for entries of nature-inspired short stories, non-fiction and poems is 15th September 2022.

The judge is Max Porter. His Sunday Times bestseller Lanny was longlisted for the Booker Prize and the Wainwright Prize and shortlisted for the Waterstones and Foyles Book of the Year. His first novel, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, won the Sunday Times/Peter, Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year and the Dylan Thomas Prize, and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Goldsmiths Prize.

Max says: “‘If you are engaged with being alive on this planet just now … and you are not terrified about the future half the time, you are not paying attention.”

The Prize will be awarded to the writer of the short fiction, non-fiction or poem that the judges deems to best combine exceptional literary merit with an exploration of the writer’s relationship with the natural world.

The prize is open to anyone over the age of sixteen, as long as the work is original and previously unpublished. Your submitted work must be no longer than 4,000 words.

Prizes

The winning entry will be published in the winter issue of The Moth.

The winner will receive €1,000 and a week-long stay at Circle of Missé creative retreat in the most southern part of the Loire Valley.

There is a fee of €15 per entry.

Visit www.themothmagazine.com for full details.

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.

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 prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.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.”

Continue reading

Enter the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

Arnos vale portal. Photo by Judy Darley. A natural formation of growing wood or vine that seems to hold a circle of light.

The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award celebrates outstanding short fiction and poetry from around the world. The deadline for entering the award is 31st August 2022, making this the perfect time to get polishing your poetry and prose.

Prizes include publication within Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology plus £2,500 for the winner of each category. Winner of the short fiction competition will receive a consultation with literary agency Redhammer Management, while the Poetry winner will have a Full Membership to The Poetry Society. To whet your appetite for creating more literary works, the winners will also receive a one-year print subscription to Granta and books courtesy of Bloodaxe Books and Vintage Books.

  • Poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines
  • Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words

There’s no theme – just submit your finest story or poem offering your own unique window on a slice of the world!

Entry fees are £18 for short fiction and £12 for poetry.

For full details, visit aestheticamagazine.com/creative-writing-award/how-to-enter/

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.

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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.