Enter the Bath Children’s Novel Award

Roman Baths by Judy DarleyThe Bath Children’s Novel Award invites submissions of books for children or teenagers from unpublished, self-published and independently published authors worldwide.

Previous winners include Struan Murray for the manuscript of Orphans of the Tide (published by Puffin in 2020), Lucy Van Smit for The Hurting (Chickenhouse, 2018) and Matthew Fox for The Sky Over Rebecca (Hachette, 2022).

Longlisted submissions are whittled down to a shortlist chosen by Junior Judges aged seven to seventeen years. Those Shortlisted manuscripts will then be judged by Jessica Hare, who runs the Children’s Books department at The Agency where she represents authors writing for every age and genre, as well as illustrators.

Deadline: 30th November 2023
Prize: £3,000, plus the coveted Minerva trophy.
Entry fee: £29 per manuscript with sponsored places available for low income writers.

Initial submissions are up to the first 5,000 words plus one page synopsis of novel or chapter book manuscripts for children, novels for teens, or up to three entire picture book texts with summaries.

Entries should not include any photographs, maps or artwork.

Shortlistees win a compilation of award readers’ comments on their full manuscript and all listees win feedback on their opening pages and synopsis from Cornerstones Literary Consultancy’s Editorial Director and Head of Scouting Monica Chakraverty.

The writer of the most promising longlisted novel will  win a place worth £1,800 on acclaimed online course Edit Your Novel the Professional Way from longlist prize co-sponsors Professional Writing Academy and Cornerstones Literary Consultancy.

Find full details and enter here: https://bathnovelaward.co.uk/childrens-novel-award/ 

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 – snap

Photographer, robin and squirrel_Photo by Judy Darley

A photographer’s lens can offer a precisely edited view of the world, and raise questions about why they chose to capture that particular scene rather than another, as well as what exists beyond that frame.

Look at any instagram feed and you’ll receive an artfully skewed impression of a life. What does the selection of shared images tell you about the photographer? Why is this the story they’ve chosen to tell? What might they have opted to leave out?

If you look at your own photos, what themes or preoccupations can you spot? What does this suggest?

Can you use this to inspire a tale?

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.

On your marks… NaNoWriMo!

Dove Holes to Whaley Bridge gap in wall by Judy DarleyWednesday 1st November marks the start of NaNoWriMo 2023. Are you taking part? I love the concept of this word-packed month, with ardent writers across the world hunched over laptops sweating out every last drop of inspiration.

New to the concept? It’s pretty simple really. As they state on the NaNoWriMo website: “On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.”

I know plenty of writers this enforced period of productivity really suits. For some folks it seems to be the ideal way to stoke up ideas and get them to catch alight on the page.

For me, the beginning stages of novel-writing are all about thinking ahead, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do some speedy planning even as you begin to write. After all, what else are you going to do when waiting for buses, in post office queues and doing the washing up?

Here are my top five preparation tips to ensure you make the most of this exceptional month.

1. Form a vision of the story you’re aiming to tell, with the beginning already shaped in your mind. If possible, do the same for the ending. Having an idea of the finale you’re working towards will mean you’re far less likely to veer off track!

2. Spend some time considering your characters – get to know who they are, how they think, what their goals are, and how they might help or hinder each other.

3. Know your setting. It really helps if you can really picture the place where your characters are spending time. Base it on somewhere you know, use maps or, for an imagined place, doodle your map! This is one of my favourites, particularly if it offers a valid excuse to meander in a much loved wilderness or similar.

4. Pick out a few dramatic moments your plot will cover and brainstorm them, then set them aside. Whenever your enthusiasm wanes over the intensive NaNoWriMo period, treat yourself by delving into one of those to reinvigorate your writing energy.

5. Finally, make sure you have plenty of sustenance to hand. For me, the essentials are coffee and chocolate. What are yours?

If you’re not a long-form junkie, why not take part in the flash version? Launched by the inimitable Nancy Stohlman in 2012, Flash Nano urges you to pledge to write 30 mini stories in 30 days. In 2021, more than 1,500 people took part. Even if not all turn out to be sparkling examples, you should end up with some that make your heart zing!

Writing prompt – dove


This statue in port of Kaleici, Antalya, is of a sea captain named Mustafa Ekizler, who lived here between 1905 and 2000. Mustafa is famed for having been present at “numerous events” including the 1919-21 Italian Occupation and Turkish-Greek exchange. He earned his living from the sea for 85 years, but is mostly renowned for bearing witness, and is regarded as an icon of the area’s tumultuous history.

My favourite thing about this statue, however, is the bronze dove on the captain’s shoulder. What better way to prevent pigeons crapping on your monument than by suggesting that job’s already taken? In fact, the dove is there to symbolise peace, and is so covetable that it’s been stolen twice previously.

If someone created a commemorative statue of you, what should be sitting on your shoulder? What could it symbolise?

Can you use this to inspire a tale?

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 Ironclad Creative Short Story Competition Winter 2023

Dusk by Judy DarleyIronclad Creative CIC is seeking stories that respond in any way to the word ‘Dusk.’

The Ironclad Creative Short Story Competition is for both published and unpublished writers. They’re hungry for original writing in English and you can be from anywhere in the world.

Your story can be any genre and length up to 6k words.

However, they’re not accepting plays or poetry for this competition.
They says: “We’re looking for writers who have exciting voices and can move us.”
23:59 (GMT) on 16th November 2023
Entry Fee:
£6 per story
You could win:
  • The winning writer will be offered a prize of £100 and publication in the Ironclad Creative CIC anthology
  • The second place writer will be offered a prize of £50 and publication in their anthology
  • Two further shortlisted writers will be offered prizes of £25 each, and publication in the anthology
  • Up to 10 other longlisted writers will be offered publication in the anthology (depending on the length of the winning, second place and shortlisted stories).

If you’re submitting more than one story, you need to pay £6 per entry. Include your name and ONE title in the reference & email subject line. Then ensure you make clear in your email what the title of the multiple entries are AND state the total amount you paid via PayPal.

A small number of free places are available for low income writers. Please email michelle@ironcladcreative.org to request this but don’t send your work – if they have free entries left, they’ll let you know what to do.

Find full details here and make sure you’ve read the terms and conditions before entering.

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 – gate

Hadrian's Gate Antalya. Photo by Judy Darley

Growing up in the UK, I grew up with the idea of Hadrian’s Wall cutting through rolling green fields resembling something like a humble version of the Great Wall of China. I imagined Hadrian building it, or at the very least overseeing its production.

In Turkey, I came face-to-face with an artefact that puts that into some doubt – Hadrian’s Gate – a grand entry to the Old Town of Antalya, a foot-polished, tourist-magnet we passed through most days, and which Roman emperor Hadrian probably never laid eyes on.

Imagine if an edifice was named after you. What would you like it to be? How would you feel if it was something you found out about accidentally, without having been told about it, let alone had anything to do with its creation.

How would you feel on visiting it for the first time?

Can you turn this concept into a story?

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 SmokeLong Grand Micro Competition

MerryGoRound cr Judy DarleyUntil Tuesday 10th November 2023, the SmokeLong editors invite you enter the SmokeLong Grand Micro Competition (The Mikey), a biennial competition that celebrates and compensates the best micro fiction and nonfiction online.


The grand prize winner of The Mikey is automatically nominated for The Best Small Fictions and other prizes. There are also some substantial cash prizes.

  • The grand prize winner receives $1,500
  • The second place winner receives $500
  • The third place winner receives $300
  • Finalists receives $100

All finalists and placers will be published in the winter ’23 issue of SmokeLong Quarterly.

Entry Fees

This year entrants in The Mikey receive discounts for the we are autumn Afterglow webinars (a series of live or recorded webinars, peer-review workshops, and feedback). If you’re planning to do both, take advantage of this discount.

Up to 2 Micros: $13
Up to 4 Micros: $19
Up to 4 Micros with 1 Afterglow webinar (attendance only): $30
Up to 4 Micros with 3 Afterglow webinars (attendance only): $48 (best value)


Your entry must be 400 words or fewer, excluding the title. There is no minimum word count.

Enter as many times as you like, but make sure the right entry fee accompanies each one. If you submit multiple entries at the same time, they must all be in the same document.

Fiction, non-fiction, and hybrid narratives are considered. While the line between prose and poetry is often blurry, you need to take into consideration that SmokeLong does not consider poetry.


All entries are read blind by a team of 15 SmokeLong editors from around the world. You must remove all identifying information from the story document itself. Please make sure you remove your name from the page number heading and the filename as well. Your name should appear ONLY in your cover letter, which the judges will not see.

You will probably receive a reply within two weeks if they decide to pass on your entries. If they take longer than two weeks, be encouraged. This means that at least one of your stories has made it through the first round of judging. Due to the blind nature of the judging process they aren’t able to communicate regarding which micro we are still considering.

If you’re unable to pay an entry fee, don’t give up hopes of entering – email editor@smokelong.com.

Before you enter

I highly recommend that before submitting your words, you devote some time to reading the kind of stories SmokeLong publishes. The editors have a very specific tastes in micro tales – sharp edges polished thin enough to see sunlight through are definitely preferred.

I recommend Fistful of Blueby Lindsey Pharr, which won the CNF competition of A SmokeLong Summer 23.

Find the full contest guidelines and enter here.

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 – cattitude

Cat and cat bench_Antalya_by Judy Darley

I love the attitude (or should that be ‘cattitude’)? of this Turkish street cat. Yes, I will sit close enough to the pink kitty bench to be viewed in the same frame. I may even deign to look at the camera. No, I will most definitely not actually sit on the pink kitty bench…

The cats in Antalya have it sorted. Humans bring food and water, and provide shelter in the form of cat houses that resemble big dovecots, yet the cats are very much their own creatures, roaming free and wild. The downside for the cats is that many are thin and more than average suffer from eye conditions. The upside is that they are owned by no one, and  go nowhere they don’t choose (including to the vets some probably would benefit from seeing).

Domesticity and rules or wildness and occasional hunger? What would you put up with to sit outside the confines of societal norms?

Can you turn this into a satire exploring the positives and negatives of alternative ways of living?

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.

Be inspired at London Literature Festival

London Millennium Footbridge by Judy Darley
London Literature Festival hosted by the Southbank Centre is returning from 18th to 29th October 2023.

With George the Poet guest curating the opening night, the festival will launch with a celebration of the vitality of London’s spoken word scene.

Non-author stars bringing new memoirs to the festival include Sir Patrick Stewart, Kerry Washington, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and a UK-exclusive with Jada Pinkett Smith.

Internationally-acclaimed writers, including Yu Miri, Teju Cole, Bryan Washington, Oliver Jeffers and Helen Oyeyemi, will present anticipated new work.

Black British Book Festival partners with the Southbank Centre for the first time, bringing a memoir launch from Leigh-Anne Pinnock and a day-long festival.

Family events will run during the October half term, with new books from Jacqueline Wilson and Jeffrey Boakye and a London premiere from Zeb Soanes with the Oprheus Sinfonia.

There will also be plenty of free events for all ages across the 12-day festival, including a live recording of BBC Radio 4’s Open Book hosted by Johny Pitts and Elizabeth Day, free family events and performances in The National Poetry Library.

For the full programme, visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk.

All image supplied by the Southbank Centre.