Writing prompt – private

Private gate_Coastal Path. Photo by Judy Darley

On the UK’s coastal path between Clevedon and Portishead, North Somerset, there are lovely woodlands, but not all of these are open to everyone. This one is privately owned, yet I’ve never seen anyone enjoying this area.

I found myself feeling annoyed they were keeping it to themselves – surely trees and greenery are for all of us? But then thought about how I would feel if that rule applied to my own tiny garden. Imagine looking out of your bedroom window to see a family picnicking on your lawn below. The smaller the space, the weirder and more intense that would be.

How could you persuade them to leave? Something about this is so absurd it hovers between comedy and horror.

Can you turn this into 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.

A poem a day…

NaPoWriMo urges you to write a poem a day for the month of April. Any length, any form, any topic, as long as you end up with something vaguely resembling a poem.

Seashell interiorFounded by Maureen Thorson, National/Global Poetry Writing Month (Na/GloPoWriMo) is now more than 20 years old!

The team will offer daily prompts to help your writing along, and urge you to mix-and-match poetry prompts.

They say: “How does it work? Simple — just write a poem every day from April 1 to April 30. If you’ll be posting your efforts to a blog or other internet space this year, you can submit the link using our “Submit Your Site” form, and your website will show up in our “Participants’ Sites” list. And if you’re not planning to post your work online? No worries! Na/GloPoWriMo doesn’t require that at all. All you have to day is write a poem a day for April.”

You can also find prompts by Robert Lee Brewer at his April Poem-a-Day challenge. Alternatively, take a look at my weekly writing prompts, published every Wednesday – could any of them sow the seeds of a poem?

In January 2021 I made a choice to read at least one poem a day, and I’ve kept that up. I have a huge admiration for the mastery poets have over words, and some of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read have been by poets. It’s something to do with the linguistic agility and originality required to take a commonplace sentence or sentiment and imbue it with a rhythm that makes it really shine in the reader’s mind long after they’ve read it.

Whether you’re a poet yourself, or simply tempted by the form, Na/GloPoWriMo seems like an opportunity to hone your writing muscles. My aim, as always, is to discover how to take my flash fiction writing and elevate the brevity of that skill to a new, glittering level that more efficiently and resonantly expresses what I’m trying to say.

Think of it as an intensive month-long poetry masterclass, inspired by some of the best poets in the business. If nothing else, you’ll end up with 30 first-draft poems!

Find out more at www.napowrimo.net.

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 – tide

High tide swallows a Clevedon beach by Judy Darley

The small coastal town where I live sits on the edge of one of Earth’s greatest tidal ranges. It re-sculpts views and terrains, providing the perfect habitat for wading birds one day and fish the next.

Last week, I strolled towards the path to a rocky beach and discovered it had been swallowed by the sea… Yet I know it will return in the next few days and shrug off its driftwood and seaweed as though it was never hidden.

Can you write a story inspired by this variance? How do these dramatic changes impact your characters?

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.

Submit tiny flashes to Paragraph Planet

Hot Water by Judy DarleyI’m growing increasingly addicted to Paragraph Planet. This fabulous website publishes a single 75-word flash fiction every day (word count includes title). The stories selected are brilliantly varied and thought-provoking. Visiting each day feels like pond dipping – you never quite know what wonders will appear.

They’re also a great place to submit to. Their online submission form is easy, and free, to use, and while there isn’t payment for writers, there is notoriety up for grabs. Each story is shared via Twitter to more than 3,600 followers.

The picture above is the one I created for my story Leavings, which is available to read in the Paragraph Planet archive section – just scroll to December 30th.

Have you ever been published on Paragraph Planet? Excitingly, there are now #author pages with a clickable link for every author published since 2008. Find them here! 

There’s something intensely satisfying about crafting a piece that exactly hits 75 words, including title, and ensuring it’s still meaningful. If you write, I urge you to give it a try, and if you read, swing by to read today’s tiny yet powerful offering.

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.

Writing prompt – between

I’ve always been intrigued by the space between things. In this case, the space shows the view between the boards of a Victorian pier, where the Bristol Channel’s waves beat far below.

Imagine a scenario where someone, or something, slips between these storm-battered planks of wood. Could it be something metaphysical rather than solid, like a promise, a hope or a memory?

Can you turn this idea into a thought-provoking 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 a comic poetry contest

Possible wergleflomp spied at Art in Action

While I’m a fan of sensitive, thought-provoking poetry, there’s definitely something to be said for an intelligent comical poem. Just writing one can lift your spirits.

The Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, sponsored by Winning Writers, seeks to celebrate the art of writing poems that make others smile. The creature at the top of is, I believe, a possible Wergle Flomp, spied in the wilds of Art in Action’s final year.


  • First Prize: $2,000 plus a two-year gift certificate from the competition’s co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $100 value)
  • Second Prize: $500
  • Third Prize: $250
  • Honorable Mentions: 10 awards of $100 each
  • Top 13 entries published online

Read 2023’s winners and the winners from 2022, to get some inspiration, and then let your imagination run riot.

Submit a single poem of no more than 250 lines long. There’s no restriction on the age of the author. Both unpublished and previously published work is acceptable. Inspired gibberish is also accepted (read an example by Wergle’s creator, poet David Taub).

This year’s judge is Jendi Reiter, assisted by Lauren Singer.

There’s no fee to enter the writing competition, so what have you got to lose?

Make sure you upload your masterpiece to winningwriters.com/wergle before the submission deadline of 1st April 2024 (April Fools’ Day – how apt is that?).

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

See you at ‘Stories for Grown Ups’ at The Festival of Stories, 9th March

Festival of Stories artwork showing drawings of people sitting on books with the words Festival of Stories in white serif font on a black starry background.I’m excited to be running a segment at Bristol’s Festival of Stories on Saturday 9th March. This fabulous one-day event is celebrating storytelling in all its forms, with a book swap, new and second-hand books for sale, writing workshops, kid-friendly stories with children’s authors, and *trigger warning* there might even be a clown or two… The section I’ve been invited to curate is titled Stories for Grown Ups and is from 2pm-3pm..

The word-revelling event takes over Sparks, the old M&S in Broadmead, from 11am-6pm on Saturday 9th March.

I’m a firm believer that adults benefit from being read to just as much as children do, and have invited some fabulous local writers to join me in sharing their words at Stories For Grown Ups from 2-3pm.

Helen Sheppard is a Bristol-based writer and former midwife whose poetry explores themes of birth, health loss, and those whose voices are often unheard. Helen co-runs Satellite of Love Poetry events. Her debut poetry collection Fontanelle was published by Burning Eye Books.

Emma Phillips’ fiction has been placed in the Bath Flash Award, Free Flash Fiction Competition and Best Microfiction 2022 and appear in various other places in print and online. Her flash collection Not Visiting the SS Great Britain is out now from Alien Buddha Press.

Jude Higgins founded Bath Flash Fiction Award in 2015, has co-run The Bath Short Story Award since 2013 and directs the short-short fiction press, Ad Hoc fiction and Flash Fiction Festivals, UK. Her flash fiction chapbook The Chemist’s House was published in 2017 by V. Press. Another flash fiction collection will be out in 2024.

John Wheway’s publications include The Green Table of Infinity, from Anvil Press; Poborden, from Faber; A Bluebottle in Late October, V Press; writings in New Measure, Stand, Magma, Warwick Review, Poetry Review, Yellow Nib, Poetry Quarterly, Compass, South Word, Agenda, High Window. He won the 2023 Wigtown International Poetry Prize.

Chrissey Harrison writes supernatural thrillers and other spec genre fiction. Books about monsters, magic, action and adventure, and fragile human characters trying to muddle through as best they can. Her debut novel, Mime, released in July 2020, is the first in her Weird News Series. Her short stories have featured in several anthologies, most recently Forgotten Sidekicks (Grimbold Books) and Fire (North Bristol Writers).

I’ll wrap up the session. I’m the author of short fiction collections The Stairs are a Snowcapped Mountain (Reflex Press), Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me to the Bees (Tangent Books). My words have been published and performed on BBC radio and aboard boats, in museums, caves, a disused church and artists’ studios.

It will be an inspiring, emotionally enriching day of events, so why not pop in? With Mothering Sunday just the day after, it’s also a great, unusual way to celebrate any literature-loving mums.

Writing prompt – reeds

Reed beds beneath blue wintery sky in Clevedon. Photo by Judy Darley

Near where I live, reed beds provide a fantastic habitat for birds such as warblers and small mammals. Whispering in the wind, I find these golden strands quite magical.

I do worry, though, that dogs running and hunting in this area could decimate nests of precious eggs or chicks.

Could you weave a tale to encourage people to keep dogs on leads in these areas?

Alternatively, why not have a dog or human character discover something unexpected sheltering in the reeds?

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.

Book review – The Naming of Moths by Tracy Fells

The Naming of Moths book coverWith such an evocative title and cover, you know you’re in for a world of wonder with this collection of short fiction. The tagline ‘Short stories of myths, monsters and mothers’ adds a flicker of curiosity before you enter the pages’ worlds.

The gorgeous title story won author Tracy Fells the Canada and Europe regional award for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. This tender tale of loss and solace weaves in the displacement of war with ancient mythologies about the longing for a child. In it, we’re invited to consider ideas of responsibility and ritual, in which the naming of moths has both an emotional and empowering purpose.

Fells has the skill to pepper potentially sad scenes with quirky, images that make you smile: “The woman with the moustache is refreshing her lipstick in the only mirror left uncovered.” In other tales, “computers squatted like fat hens” while in another a cake falls “in jammy clumps” onto a pair of “ballet pumps.”

‘Twisted’ is an exquisitely told, achingly dark tale of birthdays and family, balanced by luscious lines like the ones above.

Fells’ lyrical mastery over word choices gives every passage a special sort of glow, illuminated. A theme of metamorphosis runs throughout, as characters take back some element of control, changing lives for the better or simply shaking off the past in favour of a hopeful future. Vulnerable characters find their strength, often aided by more bolshy, beloved allies, such as Auntie Ruth in ‘Twisted’, who “said exactly what she was thinking, even if it was a bit rude.”

Other stories run along more overtly surreal tracks. ‘The Weight They Left Behind’ is a haunting piece full of colour with a hint of Black Mirror satire.

In ‘Household Gods’, Fells reminds us how little we know of other peoples’ struggles, and of the wells of compassion that run deep. Drawn into a hospital’s Special Care Unit for premature babies, we meet a couple who barely know each other, and are challenged to judge or withhold judgement from Mo, the protagonist, and his fumbling attempts to look after his ageing mother, his new wife and baby Nadira. Even here, the possibilities include the uncanny.

Fly on the Wall Press is a publishing house with a passion for great storytelling that does far more than entertain. The four-times British Book Awards’ Small Press of the Year finalists describe themselves as publishing “unparalleled political fiction, evocative poetry, and genre-defying anthologies addressing urgent global concerns.” These preoccupations are seeded subtly through their carefully selected and beautifully produced books, lodging in your consciousness and prompting you to re-examine a world where nothing should be taken for granted.

The realism in Fells’ collection forms firm foundations elevated by imaginative flights that serve to highlight aspects of human nature. These stories made me marvel at our capacity for love in all its forms, and to forge our own paths despite obstacles. Each story nudges you to remember how much happens unseen in the lives of every stranger we encounter. Sometimes it takes the surreal to help us truly glimpse the realities we live among.

The Naming of Moths by Tracy Fells is published by Fly on the Wall Press and available to buy here.

This book was given to me in exchange for a fair review.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.