Writing prompt – comma

Comma butterfly1. Photo by Judy Darley

I encountered this gorgeous butterfly sunbathing on a patch of mud beside a river. It seems like an unimpressive patch of land, and yet this butterfly, known endearingly as a comma, found exactly what it needed here. In punctuation, commas offer a pause and a moment to simply breathe, which makes this sighting particularly apt.

I love how its wings look storm-torn or artfully picot-edged, depending on your viewpoint.

I looked up the species on the Butterfly Conservation website, where it states “Polygonia c-album, the comma, is a food generalist butterfly species belonging to the family Nymphalidae.”

It also says: “The species has a flexible life cycle, which allows it to capitalize on favourable weather conditions. However, the most remarkable feature of the Comma has been its severe decline in the twentieth century and subsequent comeback. It is now widespread in southern Britain and its range is expanding northwards.”

This adaptability must have helped in its survival story. What can we learn from this? Can you harness this as a fluttering off point for a hopeful story or other creative work?

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to spotting my first semi-colon butterfly or ellipsis butterfly…

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.

Hay Festival Thursday 23rd May–Sunday 2nd June

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

The wonderful Hay Festival is taking place live from Thursday 23rd May to Sunday 2nd June, with more than 600 in-person events in Hay-on-Wye.

From debut novelists to established festival favourites, plus poets, photographers, conservationists, musicians, historians, artists, chefs and more, there will be discussions, debates, lectures, performances and workshops to fire up your imagination.

Look out for The Platform for new creatives, the daily News Review offering analysis of the latest events, the Hay Festival Green prompting innovative solutions to the climate crisis, and the first-ever Hay Festival Sports Day.

Events take place across eight stages in the redesigned free-to-enter Festival site at Dairy Meadows – which also offers a range of spaces for audiences to explore and enjoy, including the Bookshop, Wild Garden, Make & Take Tent, a host of exhibitors and market stalls, cafés and restaurants, and the new Family Garden where young readers can kick-start their creative journeys – as well as in and around Hay-on-Wye, including performances all week at St Mary’s Church.

“In a year when more voters than ever in history will head to the polls, as at least 64 countries hold their elections, we present a programme to bring people together, respectfully exploring different perspectives and the power of storytelling to unite us,” says Julie Finch, Hay Festival Global CEO.

Find the full programme and register for the events that pique your curiosity 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 – gulls

Gulls over Clevedon Pier_Photo by Judy Darley

This spring has been so unsettled – some days are calm and sunny, while others storm from dawn to dusk and beyond. While smaller birds like sparrows take shelter in coastal bushes, these gulls are riding the rioting wind and look like they’re loving every moment.

Add in a human with a bag full of birdseed, and the mayhem increases.

Can you imagine yourself as a gull, a sparrow, the person with food, or a bystander? Why not use this cast to create tumultuous 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.

Join Writers & Artists’ ‘Writing Your Children’s Book’ course

Climbing by Judy Darley

Do you have a passion for writing for children? The folks at Writers & Artists are hosting an online Writing Your Children’s Book course, taking place from 8th May 2024 6:30pm to 12th June 2024, with sessions lasting from 6.30pm to 8pm

The course costs £350, and will be taught by Lesley Parr, the author of three novels for children. Her debut, The Valley of Lost Secrets, was published in 2021 and was both a Waterstones Book of the Month and longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal. It won the Tir na n-Og Award, the King’s School Chester Book Award and the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award, as well as being shortlisted for many others.

Where the River Takes Us is described by Waterstones as “an engrossing, character-driven tale of urban legends and personal discovery set during the era of the three-day week of 1974.”

They say: “The stories we read when we are young shape us. This May, join us for a six-week online course (including a reading week) to help develop your craft and work towards the publication of your children’s book.”

The course will explore creating memorable characters, world-building and structure, as well as offering insights into the children’s book market and how to improve your chances of getting your work published.

The course will suit children’s fiction, middle-grade and YA authors* at all stages of their writing journey, whether you have an initial idea and want to know where to start, or have a full draft and need help with revising and making it the best it can possibly be.

Sessions will run online via video conferencing software, with homework assignment deadlines for the following week.

All attendees will receive a complimentary copy of the latest edition of the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook as well as Lesley’s latest book.


Week One: The Children’s Book World

Wednesday 8th May

  • What it is and how your writing fits in
  • Age ranges
  • Word counts and content
  • Themes, trends and genres

Week Two: Getting Started and Keeping Going

Wednesday 15th May

  • To plan or not to plan
  • Stimulating ideas
  • Ways to get unstuck
  • Building confidence
  • Finding a community of writers

Week Three: Character Development

Wednesday 22nd May

  • Creating memorable and believable characters
  • Viewpoints
  • Authorial and character voice
  • Dialogue
  • Character motivation

Week Four: Reading Week

Wednesday 29th May

This will not be a teaching week. Instead, students will have an opportunity to read a short children’s book set by Lesley, and encouraged to work on their writing, prompted by this.

Week Five: The Story

Wednesday 5th June

  • The messy first draft
  • Plot and structure
  • Settings/ worldbuilding
  • Pace

Week Six: Shaping up for Publication

Wednesday 12th June

  • Editing
  • Query package
  • Improving your chances
  • Synopsis

Book your spot here: https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/events-and-courses/writing-your-childrens-book-2024

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 – afoot

Tree foot. Photo by Judy Darley

Trees are magnificent natural sculptors. My sister recently shared a photo of a trunk with one glorious moss-covered ear. I’ll take that ear and raise it with this rooted foot contemplating a Shakespeare-esque or Tolkien-worthy march through the woods in North Somerset. Or perhaps I’ve accidentally taken a photo of Roald Dahl’s BFG without his slippers on, and he really needs to trim his toenails.

Whatever the truth, something’s afoot…

Can you let your imagination run free and turn this into a magical 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.

Guernsey Literary Festival 2024

Guernsey Literary FestivalFancy flitting over to the Channel islands for a long weekend? The Guernsey Literary Festival, which takes place from 23rd April until 5th May 2024, offers the perfect excuse for a retreat. There’ll be more than creative talks, workshops, music, food, family story sessions and more.

The line-up includes an array of expert speakers and writers, including best-selling novelists Louis de Bernières and John Boyne, celebrated chef Michel Roux and journalist Bryony Gordon, media personalities Louise Minchin and Sarah Beeny, plus sports stars and commentators Mike Brearley and Pat Nevin.

Each will talk about their recent books during the Festival, among a host of writers and speakers, mostly from the UK and Channel Islands, taking part in the 2024 Festival, which will be based at a number of local venues including St James, Les Cotils, the Guille Allès Library, The Old Government House Hotel and St Pierre Park Hotel.

On 5th May, Anna Mazzola will teach: Bringing the Past to Life – How to Write Historical Fiction and Paul Muldoon leads the workshop: How To Let the Poem Write Itself.

There will also be a Winnie the Pooh Tea Party.

Festival Director Claire Allen says “This year’s programme includes some of the most inspirational and creative thinkers from the worlds of literature, poetry, business, politics, stage and screen, food and drink, sport and history, amongst many others.”

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

Writing prompt – bubbles

Bubbles_Photo by Judy Darley

At a nearby sculpture woodland called Ty Sculpture Trail, one of the highlights is a natural phenomenon rather than human-made artwork. At the Bubbling Pond, silvery bubbles rise from the depths to cast circular ripples. It’s a gloriously tranquil setting.

The trail makers claim no one knows what causes the bubbles, and suggest it could be a dragon snoozing in an underwater cave.

What myth or bubble-blowing science could you attribute the bubbles to? Can you create a character who shares this idea as a tale within a tale, and give them a someone to tell it to? What might the consequences be?

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 2024

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

The competition closes to entries on Monday, 15th April at midnight BST. You’re invited to submit stories up to a maximum of 2,200 words on any theme or subject.

The year’s judge is award-winning novelist and short story champion, Sophie Haydock. Read an interview with her.

Each submission costs £9.

The Bath Short Story Award prizes

First prize: £1200
Second prize £300
Third prize £100
Acorn Award for an unpublished witer £100
Local writer prize £50 in book vouchers donated by Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath.

Final Results will be out by July/August 2024.

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.