Enter Clevedon LitFest’s Short Story Competition

Gulls over Clevedon Pier_Photo by Judy DarleyDo you live in North Somerset and write fiction? If so, I urge you to enter Clevedon LitFest’s Short Fiction Competition.

Open to North Somerset postcode residents only, age 19 years or above.


  • 1st Prize is £100
  • 2nd is £75
  • 3rd is £50

One short story no longer than 500 words can be submitted.

Closing date = 12th August 2024 at 11.59pm BST.

Entry fee £5 (when paying please give the same email address as that used to submit your entry).

Your entry can only be submitted by email, as an attachment, using the email
address given when you paid your entry fee.

Find the rules and full details here.

Pay your entry fee here.

Your judges

Jackie Hales head shot cropJackie Hales moved to Clevedon in 2022 and is thoroughly enjoying being involved with local writing, reading, singing and walking groups. Before retiring, she taught Creative Writing modules, and back in the 1990s, she was a Poetry Guild national semi-finalist.

Jackie’s Her début novel was published in 2022, with her second due for release in August 2024. She has also had published memoir, short stories, microfiction and poetry, both online and in print.

She has annually marked a writing competition in Yorkshire, and she enthusiastically judged Clevedon Literary Festival short story competition last year, so she is looking forward to reading this year’s entries.

What Jackie is looking for in Competition entries:

“I’m looking for writing that draws me into its world through originality, impact and engaging characterisation, making me want to read to the end. Language use and structure  will be carefully crafted for maximum effect on the reader.”

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. 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.

What Judy is looking for in Competition entries:

“I want to be moved by what I read. Although 500 words is no longer than a flash fiction, that’s enough space to create a story arc. There should be some sense of change in the story, if only in the protagonist. I want to read stories that ignite my imagination and capture my heart!”

Good luck!

Writing prompt – summer

Clevedon shore. Photo by Judy DarleyWhat does ‘summer’ mean to you? For me it’s days like the one pictured, with skies that look like they’ve been painted, boats on the water and families on the shore. It may not be perfect blues and blazing hot days, but, as we Brits say (when we can) “at least it’s not raining.”

Can you write a tale inspired by your own particular thoughts of summer? Include specific details that bring to mind memories of summers’ past (anyone else remember sitting in the car at the seaside waiting for torrential rain to stop?), from ice cream flavours to a particular coastal walk, and any minor disasters you can laugh about now, years after the event.

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 Winchester Poetry Prize 2024

Sunshine snail cr Judy Darley

Winchester Poetry Prize 2024 invites you to submit poetry “with a good emotional thwack.” The closing date for entries is 31st July 2024.

Entries cost £6 for first poem, £5 for subsequent poems.

A ‘Pay it Forward’ scheme introduced by 2020’s competition winner, Lewis Buxton, allows you to pay for an extra entry that will fund a submission by a poet who wouldn’t otherwise be able to enter the competition.

The judge is Clare Shaw, whose fourth poetry collection Towards a General Theory of Love (Bloodaxe, 2022) won a Northern Writers Award and was a Poetry Society Book of the Year. Clare teaches creative writing at the University of Huddersfield, and is a regular tutor at Wordsworth Grasmere, the Royal Literary Fund and the Arvon Foundation.

“Whatever the subject, fill your poetry with curiosity, and an excitement for language. Tone, language, form – all of these tools bring the poem to life in the imagination, intellect and heart of the reader. Send me your living, breathing poems!”

Winchester Poetry Prizes

  • 1st prize = £1000

  • 2nd prize = £500

  • 3rd prize = £250

Winning and commended poems will be published in a competition anthology.

The Kathryn Bevis Prize will be awarded for the best poem written by a Hampshire-based poet. 

The winner of the Kathryn Bevis Prize will receive £150, will read their poem as part of a special prize-giving event at Winchester Poetry Day 2024, and will feature in a printed anthology made available on the day. In addition, The Writing School will offer the winner of the Kathryn Bevis Prize three one-day poetry workshops with leading poets, as well as a five-day Digital Poetry Retreat with Costa Prize Winner Jonathan Edwards.

This prize is designed to offer a year of development opportunities and coaching to help the winner of the Kathryn Bevis Prize to develop their poetic career, in honour of Kathryn who has supported many new writers to develop their own talent.

Flamingo, Kathryn’s debut pamphlet published by Seren, was named as one of the Poetry Society’s ‘Books of the Year’ for 2022 and shortlisted for the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet, 2022. ‘My body tells me that she’s filing for divorce’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem – Written – 2023.

Her debut collection The Butterfly House was published by Seven in March 2024.

Find full details of the competition here: www.winchesterpoetryfestival.org/prize.

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

Writing prompt – eyes

Tree branch adorned with googly eyes, Herbert Gardens, Clevedon. Photo by Judy Darley

You know that feeling you sometimes get that someone’s watching you? Imagine if your watcher was a tree. These googly eyes have clearly been added to this branch as a bit of a joke, but what if woodlands really could sense us?

I recently saw a BBC 4 show about a year in the life of a 400-year-old oak, and the presenter George McGavin explained how trees know the change in seasons not because of the drop in temperature (which is lucky, because this July could have triggered autumn), but because they can sense the colour red, which tells them when the sun sets each evening.

That knowledge changes everything I thought I understood about trees and other plant-life!

Can you use this to inspire your next 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 Searchlight Writing for Children Awards

Brandon Hill, Bristol, child in tree by Judy Darley

The Searchlight Writing for Children Awards is open for entries.

The closing date for entry is 1st September 2024.

There are two competition categories: Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults and Best Picture Book Text.

Winners will be chosen by Rachel Petty of The Blair Partnership and Lorna Hemingway of Bell Lomax Moreton.


First prize is a one-to-one call with the agent judge plus £500 for the author of the winning picture book and £1000 for the author of the winning novel opening.

Second prize is manuscript feedback from celebrated author and creative writing tutor Steve Voake or expert picture book editor Natascha Biebow of Blue Elephant Storyshaping.

The top 10 stories in both categories will feature in an agent/publisher pitch book and be sent to literary agents/publishers who have requested it.

The entry fee is £12 for the picture book category and £16 for the novel opening category.

For full details, visit www.searchlightawards.co.uk.

Poetry review – Grief’s Alphabet by Carrie Etter

Griefs-Alphabet-72dpi-rgbPinning the memories of several lifetimes to the page and shining up the gut-punch moments that really sum up key relationships is no mean feat, but poet Carrie Etter achieves it with apparent ease. From Birthday as Adoption Day to the soaring hopefulness of Reincarnation as Seed, the poems tug and pull at you like rough weather or the tumble of a hectic family. It makes the passages of stillness even more powerful, as Etter pulls back her arrow and lets it fly to strike with exquisite accuracy into your heart.

In part I. Origin Story, and especially in The Lauras, we taste the hope of belonging with the pleasure of being mis-called her sister Laura’s name (“Which did I covet more, the lyrical Laura/ or her blood and with it/ the unspoken moniker real daughter?”), while in American Dream, the panic of redundancy is played out on the precarious stage of a staircase: “She stares at him, grimaces, does not yet know./ He holds his head in his hands. He counts up his dependents.”

The duality of this time is caught in The House of Two Weathers or the Years after the Layoff, where couplets showcase doubled up possibilities suggesting the variable weight of moods on the family home: “The potted African violet on the kitchen windowsill/raised its richest purple or drooped/ The mother bustled over the stove/ or at the sink stood, staring out.”

The thin line walked throughout childhood and beyond shimmers like a fairytale where things breathe in shadows, an image given solidity in Graduation: “I put my neck in the bear’s jaws / to make a true picture / of how I / how we got here.”

This poem, like several others, sits in a dense paragraph on the page, so that reading it is a headlong rush that makes you want to go back and read once more, slowly, so you don’t risk missing a word.

In part II. The Brink, we face the worst, with a loss so great this entire collection is dedicated to it. Scenes unfold over a borrowed coffin, in a church where “hazel-haired Laura sways as she weeps’, and in the dispersal of a household and lifetime’s possessions, with laments and wonder echoing through titles such as Why didn’t I Save One of “Her Lighthouses for Myself.

In part III: Orphan Age, healing begins through an act of remembering, and noticing, from lists like the gorgeous The Modie Box, to the sudden delight of Wintering, where the poet watches a flock of small birds in a maple tree. “The day would be short, and they would have all of it.”

That line to me shouts out the emotion at the heart of Grief’s Alphabet. Life is short, and like small birds on a winter’s day, we should demand every scrap of it.

This is a collection of love stories to families and our younger selves, of forgiveness, acceptance and an appetite always for more. As personal as these slices of ordinary lives are, in each I suspect you’ll find something recognisable, moving and remarkable.

Grief’s Alphabet by Carrie Etter is published by Seren Books. Buy your copy 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 – feast

Squirrel rose feast. Photo by Judy Darley

Visiting a rose garden, I saw a squirrel helping itself to a gorgeous bloom and carrying it off to enjoy a many-petalled fragrant feast. It made me think of Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts having white roses painted red. How might she punish this greedy squirrel ruining her display.

Imagine if you had allergies that meant the only thing you could eat was roses. How would you keep your diet interesting? What would you do in Winter when the rose garden is only thorns?

Or what if rose petals., or some other unlikely edible plant, had the power to transform you, like the potions and cakes in Alice in Wonderland?

Let your imagination run free with this writing prompt!

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.

The Bridport Prize Memoir competition

Ammonite on Sidmouth Beach_Photo by Judy DarleyThe Bridport Prize for Memoirs is open.

The deadline is 30 September 2024.

All entries are judged anonymously. To avoid disqualification, make sure you do not include your name, address, phone number, email, website, twitter handle etc on the document or in the file name.

Memoir extracts must be between 5,000 and 8,000 words.

If you’re longlisted they’ll ask for a total of 15,000 words, including your original word count. Shortlisted writers will be asked to submit a total 30,000 words, again including your original entry and longlisted word count.

The fee is £24.

Kit de Waal is judging memoir entries. Kit began writing in her fifties. She won the Bridport Prize twice for flash fiction. Her recent memoir ‘Without Warning & Only Sometimes’ tells of ‘hunger, hellfire and happiness.’ Her first novel, MY NAME IS LEON was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award and adapted into a BBC drama.

Kit says: “Write what you know is great advice, what better than by writing a memoir. Don’t think you’re too ordinary – there are no ordinary lives – and don’t think you’re too inexperienced. Write from the heart and tell me who you are. I can’t wait to read.”

Top prize is £1,500. 

The winner will receive a year’s mentoring from The Literary Consultancy through their Chapter & Verse scheme. You’ll also have the chance to consult with A.M. Heath, a leading London literary agency, plus get valuable advice from an editor at John Murray, part of Hachette publishers. You have the option of a discussion with the University of Exeter’s Creative Writing Department. In addition, the opening chapter/s of your memoir will be published on the Bridport Prize website. You’ll also be championed as part of the Bridport Prize family.

Don’t forget to check out the Writers’ Room on the Bridport Prize website for resources and inspiration.

Find full details of the Bridport Prize Memoir Award.

Find full details and enter your creative works at www.bridportprize.org.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.