Edinburgh Book Festival welcomes word-lovers

Edinburgh Book Festival. Shows people in a park enjoying the literary festivalThis year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival is on from 10th-25th August 2024, celebrating the joy of words with more than 550 world-class luminaries from 50 countries contributing to over 500 events.

This year’s theme is Future Tense as the Festival relocates Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) under the Directorship of Jenny Niven. “FUTURE TENSE comprises six sub-themes, each exploring an aspect of how we can, or should, change our individual and collective futures.”

Located just off The Meadows in the leafy heart of the city, the Festival’s new home is a stone’s throw from key Fringe venues at George Square and the home of the Edinburgh International Festival at the Hub.

Key themes include:

A Toast to the Future, with an opening gala event of readings presenting “a kaleidoscope of perspectives and provocations, from the hopeful to the momentous, as we ask a diverse line-up of stellar writers to explore the idea of The Future in 7 minutes each. Participants include experimental author Martin MacInnes; form-bending writer Irenosen Okojie; speculative novelist Naomi Alderman; and award-winning poet and performer Joelle Taylor.

Future Library, a project described as a meditation on time, and the imagination, which has commissioned renowned authors, including Margaret Atwood, to create works which are placed inside the Future Library in Oslo, remaining unread until 2114. Literary superstar Margaret Atwood contributed the first book to this visionary project, Atwood will join the event via livestream to explore how we can engender a better future. There will also be hands-on workshops, and the announcement of the 2025 Future Library contributor.

Generations, which offers perspectives on how we can become ‘good ancestors’, from Roman Krznaric and Ella Saltmarshe, and on how our political systems can be adapted to consider more deeply our impact on the generations after us (led by Wales’ first Commissioner for Future Generations, Sophie Howe). There will also be a series of intergenerational conversations between writers who share common ground, including  poets Roger McGough and Hollie McNish.

Discover all the themes in detail here.

Our programme Future Tense speaks to the complexity of the moment we’re in, but hopefully also brings some optimism – the world is full of brilliant, insightful people working in so many imaginative ways. We’re excited to showcase some of that incredible thinking and writing – and the ways people are working together to solve problems and keep learning,” says Jenny Niven, Director at Edinburgh International Book Festival. “It’s been an honour to engage with authors, publicists, poets, performers, artists and audience members since I took on this role, and all of these conversations have informed what you will find on site this summer.”

Find full details of the Edinburgh International Book Festival programme.

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 – coal fungus

King Alfred Cakes_Photo by Judy Darley

Since moving to North Somerset, I’ve spotted some strange phenomena in woodland: coal-black baubles clinging to tree trunks. Some investigation told me this is an inedible fungus, Daldinia concentrica, known commonly King Alfred’s cakes, coal fungus, carbon fungus, tinder bracket or cramp balls (you might want to re-read that last one).

Though not edible by human, they’re apparently great firelighters, which is ironic since their nickname ‘King Alfred’s cakes’ is from the story of King Alfred trying to get onto the Great British Bake Off, but failing as he kept burning the cakes.

Not all of this is entirely true…

Apart the fungi is widespread in deciduous woodland on dead and decaying wood, especially beech and ash.

I love this blend of folklore and nature.

Can you use this as a leaping off point for a short story or other creative work?

Read more about these fungi on the Woodland Trust website.

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 Fractured Lit Flash Fiction Open prize

Button on Kilve Beach cr Judy DarleyGot a fresh micro or flash fiction you’re ready to zing out into the world? Enter the Fractured Lit Flash Fiction Open Prize.

The deadline is 14 July 2024.

Guest judge Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of the new historical novel The American Daughters, published in February 2024 by One World Random House. He is the recipient of the 2023 Louisiana Writer Award and the Black Rock Senegal Residency. He also wrote The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You, which was published by One World Random House in August 2021. The collection was the 2023 One Book One New Orleans Selection, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a finalist for the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and longlisted for the Story Prize. The Ones was also selected to represent Louisiana at the 2023 National Book Festival. His first book, We Cast a Shadow, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the PEN America Open Book Prize. It was longlisted for the 2021 Dublin Literary Award, the Center for Fiction Prize, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. The novel was also a New York Times Editors’ Choice.

A New Orleans native, Ruffin is a professor of creative writing at Louisiana State University, and the 2020-2021 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.

The first place winner will receive $2,000 and publication, while 15 finalists will receive $100 and publication. All entries will be considered for general publication.

They say; “We want your most creative and resonant flash and microfictions. No themes. Send us those pieces that hum with life, velocity, and intimacy. Write that story you’ve been thinking about for months, the one that needs to exist, the one that caught you in its glare of white-hot inspiration. Please don’t forget that we love stories that involve actions, reactions, and reckonings. Write and submit the stories only you can tell!”

Entries must be under 1,000 words in length.

You need to pay a $20 reading fee per entry of up to two tales. Writers from historically marginalized groups may submit for free until a cap of 25 submissions is reached in this category.

Find full details and enter here: https://fracturedlit.com/flash-fiction-open/

Good luck!

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.

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 and upcoming publications.

Coming soon

All the Lives we Almost Live – Trash Cat Lit

June 2024

Moon JelliesNational Flash Fiction Day Write In

Reasons to Rescue Strangers – National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2024

Why We Dance on the PierGooseberry Pie Lit Magazine

May 2024

CleaveTiny Molecules

February 2024

Blue-naped Parrots See More Than They SayNew Flash Fiction Review Issue 32 Family Life

January 2024

A Bright Day – winner of the New Writers UK Winter Story competition

October 2023

Mycorrhiza – Flash Frontier GARDEN / MĀRA issue

A Still, Golden Light – The Simple Things Magazine issue 136

What Was Lost & How Insects Signal Their Love – Flash Boulevard

June 2023

Windowledge Archives – National Flash Fiction Day Flash Flood UK 2023

The Long Way Home – National Flash Fiction Day NZ Micro Madness

April 2023

This is Not a Story About Chickens – The Hooghly Review issue 1

February 2023

How Many is 80? Paragraph Planet (scroll to Feb 23rd)

January 2023

Life Hacks – 12 Fragile Things Not to Use as a Doorstop – Wensum Literary Magazine issue 1/Winter 2023

December 2022

Natural Miracles – Flash Frontier Wonder issue

October 2022

The Art of Pivot and Flit – Dually Noted, Brink Literacy Project

September 2022

The Bee Man’s Secret – Flash Fiction Festival Volume Five

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 – drift

Jelly fish_Clevedon Marine Lake_Photo by Judy Darley.Strolling beside a local saltwater swimming pool, I spotted a visitor. Clevedon’s Marine Lake is replenished by high tides. Occasionally waves bring in fish, eels, and, in this case, beautiful moon jellyfish.

Imagine having the entire ocean at your disposal, and being swept into a patch of water with four seemingly insurmountable sides. Imagine if large splashy primates had infiltrated this space, and hungry predators, aka seagulls, lined the edge closest to the ocean you need to access to survive..

Imagine if your only hope of escape was a high tide and a vigorous wave.

Can you turn this #writingprompt into 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 The Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize

Terra Nostra Tropical plants cr Judy DarleyWasafari magazine invites submissions of Poetry, Fiction and Life Writing for The Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize.

The prize closes on 1st July 2024 at 5pm BST.

The prize supports writers who have not yet published a book-length work, with no limits on age, gender, nationality, or background. Winners of each category receive a £1,000 cash prize and will be published in Wasafiri’s print magazine. Shortlisted writers will have their work published on the Wasafiri website. All 15 shortlistees and winners will be offered the Chapter and Verse or Free Reads mentoring scheme in partnership with The Literary Consultancy (dependent on eligibility), and a conversation with Nikesh Shukla of The Good Literary Agency to discuss their career progression

The fee is £12 for a single entry and £16 for a double entry. No entry may be more than 3,000 words long.  

Subsidised entry is available for those who would otherwise be unable to enter the prize.  

Shortlisted entrants will be notified in September

Find full details of how to enter at www.wasafiri.org.

About the judges

The chair of judges is Margaret Busby CBE, Hon. FRSL (Nana Akua Ackon) is a major cultural figure around the world. Her career has spanned work as a publisher, editor, interviewer, reviewer, scriptwriter, lyricist, radio and TV presenter, activist and mentor. She has judged prestigious literary prizes, including the Booker Prize, and served on the boards of such organisations as the Royal Literary Fund, Wasafiri magazine, Tomorrow’s Warriors, and the Africa Centre in London. She has been a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. In 2023, she was appointed President of English PEN.

Isabel Waidner (fiction judge) is a novelist based in London. Their work includes Corey Fah Does Social Mobility (2023), Sterling Karat Gold (2021), We Are Made of Diamond Stuff (2019), and Gaudy Bauble (2017). They are the winner of the Goldsmiths Prize 2021 and were shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize in 2019, the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction in 2022 and the Republic of Consciousness Prize in 2018, 2020 and 2022. They are a co-founder of the event series Queers Read This at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and they are an academic in the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London.

Cristina Rivera Garza (life writing judge) is an author, translator and critic. Recent publications include Liliana’s Invincible Summer(Hogarth, 2023), which was long listed for the National Book Award in nonfiction. The Taiga Syndrome, trans. by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana, (Dorothy Project, 2018), won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award. Grieving. Dispatches from a Wounded Country, trans. by Sarah Booker (The Feminist Press, 2020), was a finalist National Book Critics Circle Award In Criticism. She is M.D. Anderson Distinguished Professor and founder of the PhD Program in Creative Writing in Spanish at the University of Houston, Department of Hispanic Studies, and a MacArthur Fellow 2020-2025.

Meena Kandasamy (poetry judge) is a poet, writer, translator, anti-caste activist and academic based in India. Her extensive corpus includes two poetry collections, Touch (2006) and Ms Militancy (2010), as well as three novels, The Gypsy Goddess (2014), When I Hit You (2017) and Exquisite Cadavers (2019). In 2022, she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL) and was also awarded the PEN Hermann Kesten Prize for her writing and work as a ‘fearless fighter for democracy, human rights and the free word.’ Her latest published work is Tomorrow Someone Will Arrest You, a collection of political poetry written over the last decade.

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.




Novella review – Burn It All Down by Karen Jones

Burn It All Down by Karen Jones_front_coverImagine a farm on a seashore where two sisters celebrate the possible death of their brother-in-law, and the third, his wife, isn’t sure whether to mourn or join in with her sisters’ revelries.

Imagine a home where chickens, guinea pigs and hedgehogs roam free with the memory of a pheasant on a leash.

Imagine if you couldn’t be sure what was real.

Inspired by the artwork of Andrea Kowch, Karen Jones paints a world where loneliness etches figures against the dusk. Beth has been married off to a man she doesn’t love, which means that the farm where she grew up now belongs to strangers. When her husband fails to return from a sea voyage, the mood grows unstable and Beth’s main concern is whether she will ever be touched again.

Her sisters Olivia and Esther are wild, riddled with spite and mockery, yet seem to want more than anything to lift Beth from her melancholy and infuse her with their unbridled joy. They are also uncanny creatures, who, Beth notes, “know my thoughts and dreams, even though I have never told them of these fancies. They knew my mind as if it were theirs.”

The stories turn you like waves with dreamlike passages soaked through with stark realism as the sisters claim they need no man, and pragmatic Beth disagrees, stating in ‘There Goes The Bride’: “They are naïve. No one would trade with us. No one trades with women, except to take advantage.”

The last line in the same brief tale offers an excellent example of the author’s capacity for wielding wit to devastate unwary readers: “Alone in my marital bed, I counted my blessings; it did not take long.”

The ekphrastic writing is so vivid, it’s easy to envision the paintings they sprang from, but it’s well worth a quick Google – like having a rumour satisfyingly confirmed.

The penultimate story is also the title tale and contains the full novella pinned to just enough words to fill a page. It’s a gorgeously compact work of prose poetry. The rhythm offers echoing refrains and vivid scenes to revel in, from “an ungrateful cat” who spits out milk to the desire to “knead your skin and bruise it like the berries for tomorrow’s pie, because there must always be pie.” These are sentences so artfully crafted they engage all the senses and seem richly scented and as seething with heat as a crowded kitchen.

The entire novella is a feast of impressions, where grief tangles in the wind with delusions and uncertain wishes. By the end of the book however, the yearnings have settled into something satisfyingly sure and possible. An enrapturing read full of heady passages that weave together to draw you inescapably in.

Burn It All Down by Karen Jones is published by Arroyo Seco 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.

Writing prompt – wheel

Window onto Waverley paddle wheel by Judy DarleyI had the pleasure recently of taking a voyage aboard the Waverley, the world’s last seafaring paddle-steamer, from Clevedon Pier. This floating museum featured viewing decks, cafes and bars, plus portholes offering views onto the churning paddle wheels that turn to drive the ship forwards or astern.

It’s a remarkable feat of engineering, and the perfect setting for a sea-going fantasy, mystery or even horror. Imagine peering through that porthole and seeing a face looking back!

However you choose to interpret the scene, let me offer two more senses to accompany the view – the sound of the pistons of the 2100 horsepower, triple expansion reciprocating steam engine, and the scent of the oil used to keep her running smoothly.

The ship named after Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novels was built to replace the 1899 Waverley which was sunk on May 29, 1940 at Dunkirk. She carries tourists on trips across the Bristol Channel, as well as up the Clyde, The Western Isles and the Thames. A member of the crew commented as we docked that they’d be moored overnight offshore in the Bristol Channel and sleeping on board.

Really, anything could happen.

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.

Show your art at the RWA Annual Open Exhibition

RWA Open Exhibition 163

RWA © Alice Hendy

The Royal West of England Academy in Bristol is inviting submissions for its 171st Annual Open Exhibition. The exhibition will be on from 14th September 2024 until 5th January 2025.

The deadline for submissions is Sunday 7th July 2024.

Artists of all ages and experience are invited to submit.

A selection panel assesses every entry. In 2023, 665 works by 455 artists made it into the final exhibition. The RWA Annual Open is the largest open in the South West, with all artworks for sale and the opportunity to immerse yourself in a wide variety of creative works spread over the beautiful galleries at the top of Bristol’s Park Street.

Applicants must enter online, submitting images using the Online Exhibition Submission System (OESS).

Submission fees are charged per item:

  • £22 per item for General Public (£18.33+VAT)
  • £16.50 per item for Students (£13.75+VAT)
  • £16.50 per item for Friends of the RWA (£13.75+VAT)
  • £11.00 per item for RWA Artist Network members (£9.17+VAT)
  • RWA Academicians (who pay an annual subscription fee) receive free submission.

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

Read my review of the RWA Open Exhibition 166.



Discover the secrets of award-winning short story writers

I’m excited to be chairing a panel at Clevedon Literary Festival on Saturday 8th June. From 1.30pm until 2.30pm, I will be interviewing writers Keza O’Neill, whose story Lucky Strike placed 3rd in the 2023 Bristol Prize short story competition, and Julie Davies, winner of the inaugural Clevedon Literary Festival short story competition in 2023.

Book your tickets here for just £5 each. Bargain!

Taking place at St John’s Hall, Clevedon BS21 7XJ, the session will cover creative processes, inspiration, and how you know when you have a potentially award-winning story ready to send out into the world. We’ll talk about the impact of a prize win on your sense of yourself as a writer, as well as what these talented writers are working on now.

Find details of the whole summer festival (5th-9th June) here. There are masses of excellent talks and inspiring events taking place throughout the beautiful North Somerset coastal town across these days, as well as pockets of literary goodness throughout the year!

Your panellists

Keza O'NeillKeza O’Neill’s story ‘Lucky Strike’, a tale of thwarted rage and a commentary on the gentrification of coastal towns, recently won the Sansom Award and was awarded third place in the Bristol Short Story Prize with her story Lucky Strike. Keza has been longlisted for the Bath Short Story Award 2023, the CWA Debut Dagger 2021 and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2019. Keza completed a Masters in Creative Writing in 2023 via The Open University for which she was awarded a Distinction.

Keza is a qualified Coach-Mentor and spent 12 years working in Diversity & Inclusion and Learning & Development in a global Tech company, supporting clients across 40+ countries and multiple timezones. She’s interested in the relationships between people and places and the significance of ‘home’ in shaping identity.

Julie DaviesJulie Davies won the inaugural Clevedon Literary Festival short story competition with her story Remembrance in 2023. Her story Just Dessert was the second place winner in the Winchester Festival I Am Writing Flash Fiction Competition 2022.

Julie writes flash fiction, short stories, and poetry, and is currently working on her first novel. One of her favourites of the stories she’s written is about a Martian craterworm.

When she’s not writing, Julie enjoys time with her grandchildren, especially reading with them and encouraging their love of books. She also enjoys tending her garden, walking, visiting RSPB reserves, travelling, sewing, discussing books in her reading group, and a bit of drawing and mindful doodling whenever her mind needs a calming space.

Judy Darley photo credit Jo Mary Bulter Photography_cropJudy Darley is an award-winning writer, editor and creative workshop leader who relocated to Clevedon in December 2023. She is 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).

She previously judged competitions for National Flash Fiction Day UK and Oxford Flash Fiction Prize, among others, and is one of the judges for Clevedon Literary Festival Open Short Story Competition 2024. She won first prize in the New Writers UK Winter Story competition 2024 with her micro-tale A Bright Day.

In her other life, Judy is a Community Manager and helps to run conferences about financial wellbeing.