Writing prompt – pink

Perretts Park pink tree against Bristol city-scape and blue sky cr Judy Darley

On a rare, sunny blue-skied day (they’ve been few and far between this spring), I paused to admire this pink-blossoming tree in a local park. What a glorious sight! It makes me think ‘in the pink’ must have been born from a vision of hope and life like this.

Can you write a story stemming from this flush of vitality?

Alternatively, create something inspired by the black-clad figure hunched on the bench to the left of this image. What’s happening in their world?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Guernsey Literary Festival 2023

Guernsey Literary FestivalFancy flitting over to the Channel islands for a long weekend? The Guernsey Literary Festival, which takes place from 2nd-14th May 2023, offers the perfect excuse for a retreat. There’ll be more than 65 creative talks, workshops, film screenings and family story sessions.

GuernseyThis year themes are Community and Connection, and

The line-up includes an array of expert wordsmiths, including Suzie Dent’s An Emotional Dictionary – Real Words for How We Feel, from Angst to Zwodder and Onjali Q. Raúf speaking about Hope on the Horizon – A Children’s Handbook on Empathy, Kindness and Making a Better World

Emily Kenway became a carer for her elderly mother, an experience that prompted her to question whether carer treatment could be improved. She will speak about her book Who Cares?

Other notable attendees include Jon Snow, Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho and acclaimed poet and novelist Jackie Kay, who will head the poets and novelists’ section. She will read from her work and lead a poetry workshop. Novelists include Georgina Moore talking about her book The Garnett Girls, set to be one of the biggest debuts of the year, and Liz Hyder, whose rich gothic mystery The Gifts follows her award-winning YA novel Bearmouth. Abigail Burdess will talk about her new novel, the thriller Mother’s Day.

The Festival Tea Party will feature be led by Andrew Hislop and feature Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, one of the most iconic book characters created by children’s author and artist the late David McKee.

Art lovers can delve into an exhibition by artist Šárka Lee to view the original illustrations from her books The Bear Truth about Goldilocks and The Kingdom of Deep Sleep. Illustrator and author Rob Biddulph will lead Draw with Rob for children, and there will be live drawing and music with Tom Percival (Milo’s Monster, Perfectly Norman, Ravi’s Roar).

For YA readers, award-winning author Sita Brahmachari explores the rewilding storytelling, environmental and human rights inspirations behind her bestselling novel Where the River Runs Gold.

Event tickets are bookable at www.guernseyliteraryfestival.com where you can also find the growing diary of events.

Writing prompt – wild

Dandelion by Judy Darley At this time of year as trees bud and flowers burst into bloom, I can see how easily nature would reclaim these streets if only we did not hold it back.

This dandelion is not only growing through a crack in concrete and brick, but flourishing. It’s thanks to these determined weeds that bees and other pollinators continue to survive.

Can you use this image as the seed of a story or other creative work?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Enter the Bristol Short Story Prize

Bristol hot air balloons cr Judy DarleyGot a story shuffling about inside your head? The Bristol Short Story Prize 2023 is open for entries. The closing date is 26th April 2023. Submissions can be up to a maximum length of 4,000 words.

Twenty shortlisted stories will be selected for publications in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 16.

The writing competition prizes

  • First prize is £1,000
  • Second prize is £500
  • Third prize is £250.
  • Each of the 17 remaining shortlisted writers will receive £100.

An additional prize of £100, The Sansom Award, in recognition of the contribution to Bristol publishing of John and Angela Sansom, will be presented to the highest placed story by a Bristol writer.

Entry costs £9 for each submission, but there are 250 free online entries available to those for whom the entry fee is a barrier to submitting.

The 2023 Judging Panel comprises Abi Fellows, a literary agent at TGLA working across both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults, Heather Marks, a creative producer, editor, and writer and part of the immersive change agency Words of Colour, and Daniel Ross, the co-owner and co-founder of independent bookshop Storysmith.

The 2022 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Diana Powell for her story A Cure For All Our Ills. Sufiyaan Salam won second prize and Johanna Spiers won third prize.

An interview with Diana, where she talks in-depth about her triumph and her writing, is available here.

The 2021 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Isidora Cortes-Monroy for her story Cake for the Disappeared. Amanda Ong won second prize and Sarah Tinsley was awarded third prize.

The 2020 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Florida-based writer Stephen Narain.

The 2019 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Sydney-based writer Cameron Stewart for his story Black Snow.

The 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Dizz Tate  for her story, Cowboy Boot. 2nd prize went to Chloe Wilson. You can read an interview with Dizz about her win, here. Chloe Wilson has been signed by literary agent Kate Johnson of the New York-based MacKenzie Wolf Literary Agency.

For full details or to enter, go to www.bristolprize.co.uk.

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

Writing prompt – pick

Litterpicking_Photo by Judy Darley

Even the most pristine strip of sand  is strewn with bits of plastic rubbish these days. On a recent outing to Weston-Super-Mare in north Somerset, my sister and I couldn’t resist doing a bit of a beach clean. The more we cleared, the more we found. The hardest to gather were tiny specks of blue and red plastic that I could imagine finding their way into marine creatures’ stomachs and into the food chain.

Can you use this as inspiration for a story? You could create a piece about some strangers brought together by a communal litter-pick, or have someone change their supermarket choices, or even career options, as a result of what they see washed up.

Alternatively, focus on the animals it impacts, and don’t forget that includes us humans.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

London Book Fair 2023

English Pen Literary Cafe

London Book Fair returns to Olympia, London, from 18th-20th April 2023.

It’s a vast, sprawling space filled with people who haven’t slept in days and aren’t quite sure where they’re going – a bit like an international airport but with the added requirement of being ready to schmooze at a moment’s notice.

Previously a trade fair for literary agents and publishers, the Fair is increasing skewed towards writers, with The Author Club and Author HQ, a dedicated theatre offering the chance of agent one-to-ones and seminars attracting more than 3,700 authors and aspiring authors across the three days of the Fair. Popular topics include plotting, character, voice and pacing.

Look out for the Writer’s Summit and New Title Showcase too. For a head’s up on what agents are eyeing up this year, read The Bookseller’s insight piece on agent hotlists.


Writing prompt – nook

Snails hibernating_Cr Judy DarleyThe other day I glanced at a  plane tree I’ve strolled past a thousand times and noticed something strange. In a small nook on the patchy, rugged trunk, a community was dozing.

Snails. Lots of them. All sitting close together and still hibernating, tucked up in their shells.

What startled me was how many times I walked so close this winter and early spring, and never spotted them before.

They aren’t covered up at all – just hidden in plain sight, and relying on their predators’ lack of attention to detail. What a simple, yet apparently effective, means of survival!

What else might we be passing by in our daily lives without realising? And, equally, how precarious is our own safety in the nooks we call homes?

Can you turn this into a tale or other creative work?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Enter the Bath Short Story Award 2023

Roman Baths pigeons by Judy DarleyThe annual Bath Short Story Award is open now for entries from aspiring and established writers worldwide.

The competition closes to entries on Monday, 24th April at midnight BST. You’re invited to submit stories up to a maximum of 2,200 words on any theme or subject.

This year, the competition is Farhana Shaikh, writer, teacher and Managing Editor of Dahlia Books UK independent publisher of regional and diverse fiction.

Each submission costs £9.

The Bath Short Story Award prizes

  • £1200, first prize
  • £300, second prize
  • £100, third prize
  • £100, the Acorn Award for an unpublished writer of fiction.
  • £50 in book vouchers for the local prize, donated by Mr B’s Emporium of Books.

All short listed stories will be published in our 2023 Bath Short Story Anthology

Find full details of how to enter here. Good luck!

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