Writing prompt – hero

Rajah Rammohun Roy _Bristol Cathedral_Photo by Judy Darley

Not all the people we once thought philanthropists stand up under scrutiny. One that may is Raja Ram Mohan Roy, (also written as Rajah Rammohun  Roy, Rammohan Roy, or Ram Mohun Roy) who was born on 22nd May 1772 and is credited as being a reformer, philosopher and scholar. The statue shown here with Bristol Cathedral in the background was created by the sculptor Niranian Pradhan.

My favourite biographical fact about Rammohun Roy is that he successfully campaigned against sati, the now thankfully mostly past-tense Hindu practice of burning widows on their deceased husbands’ funeral pyres.

Can you build a story around a hero, fictional or historical, who instigates a change for the better that makes them worthy of a statue?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Novella review – The Exhibition by Cara Viola

The Exhibition - Cover by Cara ViolaSet in the earliest days of the 1900s, this exquisitely immersive novella by Cara Viola invites you to stride into the archives of Glasgow’s glorious Kelvingrove museum when it has been built but is yet to be filled with treasures.

Our guide is 19-year-old Madeleine, a young woodworker with a talent for recreating priceless artefacts, who arrives rain-drenched on pages soaked in Carla Viola’s lyrical writing.

We soon learn three things about Madeleine: she is from Great Yarmouth, the only thing she will miss is ‘her’ marsh, and she keeps secrets, a fact told sideways as she meets Mrs Deepdene, the wife of Madeleine’s employer (and a formidable character in her own right). Madeleine “tried to see the other woman’s face, to gauge whether she, too, would be someone who kept secrets.”

The Kelvingrove museum feels equally ripe for secrets, breathed into life by the author’s vivid writing: “From the shadows of the Gothic tradition, the structure rose into the sky, where, at a tremendous height, solid walls divided into many-armed turrets (…) The door had not been locked since the last workman left, yet nobody wanted to venture inside. Kelvingrove was a building lying in wait.”

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Enter Frome Festival Short Story Competition

Frome rooftopsFrome Festival Short Story Competition welcomes submissions until 31st May 2021.

This small Somerset town of layered roofs is set roughly between Bath and Taunton has become a hive for writers, with the  annual festival featuring writing residencies throughout the small, characterful shops, and street performances seemingly on every corner.

The competition costs £8 to enter. You can purchase a detailed critique of your work for an additional payment of £47 per story.

Stories may be on any theme, but must be between 1,000 and 2,200 words in length, not including the title.

First prize is £400, second prize £200 and third prize £100.

There are also local 1st and runner-up prizes for writers living within a 25-mile radius of Frome Library, in a bid to support and encourage local writers.

This year’s judge is the Frome-based novelist Keith Stuart. Keith is the author of the best-selling ‘A Boy Made of Blocks’, ‘Days of Wonder’ and ‘The Frequency of Us’. He is also a journalist writing about video games and digital culture.

There is a ‘Young Writer’ award of £50 for the best story by an entrant aged 16 to 21 living in the BA11 postcode. Entry to the Young Writer award is free, not through the competition website but by email to fromewriterscollective@gmail.com.

Long and shortlists will be posted at www.fromeshortstorycompetition.co.uk in late June, with winners to be announced in July and then posted on the website.

The Frome Festival runs from 1st-10th July and is well worth visiting for its own charms, especially the incredible busking that takes place throughout the narrow streets.

For full details of the competitions, visit the competition website.

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 – flora

Bluebells by Judy Darley

Bluebells are currently painting British woodlands glorious shades of purple and giving us an excuse to pause and admire their beauty.

Like the pastime of hanami (literally ‘flower viewing’) focused on Japan’s cherry blossoms to the passion for ‘leaf peeping’ at Colorado’s aspen trees turning gold, our floral world has some tricks up its billowing sleeves to make us take notice and perhaps even give thought to protecting these natural wonders.

Can you write an uplifting tale about a wild plant with the power to halt us in our busy lives and perhaps even change our behaviour for the better? Don’t forget to use the sense of smell as well for some evocative passages.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Hay Festival Thursday 26th May-Sunday 5th June

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

The wonderful Hay Festival is taking place live in-person from Thursday 26th May to Sunday 5th June in Hay-on-Wye.

With a packed programme of more than 500 events designed and selected to inspire, intrigue and entertain, this is the 35th spring event and first fully in-person for two years.

From debut novelists (including DJ Annie Mac) 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 Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour delivering open air performances of Julius Caesar at Hay Castle, and a one-hour book collaging workshop with one-hour collaging workshop with Hay Festival Illustrator in Residence Tom Etherington and Bethan Thomas, founder of Collage Crew workshops.

Other highlights include Jacqueline Wilson exploring Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree series and introducing the new Faraway Tree adventure she has written.

As well as paid events there are a number of freebies. Can’t or don’t want to attend in person? The Online Festival Pass gives you access to 76 events to watch from home, specially selected from the 11 days of Hay Festival, from the best new fiction to remarkable stories from the past, from policy makers to poets.

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.

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Writing prompt – defiance

Brown-lipped snail_Judy DarleyThis gravity-defying snail struck me as so beautiful that I had to investigate and discover that it is a brown-lipped snail commonly seen in Britain’s gardens and green spaces.

Imagine if we had time to notice every natural miracle and celebrate its wonder. What difference could that make to the way we live our lives? Imagine if we had as much attention to give the plants and creatures around as we do celebrities and shopping?

As a small step in this direction, can you write a poem, essay or short work of fiction celebrating the wild lives we share our surroundings with?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Enter The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting

Joseph Quinn and Erin Doherty in Wish List at the Royal Court. Photo by Jonathan Keenan

Joseph Quinn and Erin Doherty in Wish List by Katherine Soper

Eager to see your words performed on stage? The Bruntwood Prize invites playwrights of all levels of experience to submit original, previously unperformed and unproduced plays.

Entries can be submitted online at www.writeaplay.co.uk. The closing date is 6pm on 6th June 2022.

The winner will receive £16,000 and a full production of their play at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

There is also a Judges Award of £8000 and the Bruntwood Prize International Award of £8000, introduced in 2019 andiron to international playwrights who can apply through the Prize’s partners:

    • Atlantic Theatre (New York, USA)

    • Berkeley Rep (Berkley, California, USA)

    • Australian Plays Transform (Carlton, New South Wales, Australia)

    • Melbourne Theatre Company (Melbourne, Australia)

    • Canada Banff Playwrights Laboratory (Banff, Canada) 

This year, the Prize launches a new category: The North West Original New Voice Award and Residency. Winners in this category must be based in the north west of England and not have had a full-length play professionally produced for 12 performances or more in a professional venue.

As well as £8000, the winner will be given access to an additional £10,000 fund dedicated to their professional development at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester during a bespoke one-year residency.

The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting is open to anyone aged 16+ in the UK, Ireland and the British Territories with a story to tell. The biennial prize is a partnership between property company Bruntwood, a major supporter of the arts, and world-class producing theatre, the Royal Exchange Theatre, in Manchester.

“The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting is a genuine endeavour to discover new stories and help playwrights develop their craft, providing everybody and anybody with the opportunity to write a play,” they say. “It offers a fantastic opportunity to hone your writing skills, whether or not you have written for the stage before. In addition to a high proportion of winning and shortlisted plays being produced professionally, each of the top 100 plays receives individual feedback from the Royal Exchange Theatre’s creative team.”

This year’s Judging panel comprises Nihal Arthanayake, television and BBC Radio 5 Live presenter; Miranda Cromwell, Olivier Award winning Theatre Director; Julie Hesmondhalgh, award winning actor and supporter of the Royal Exchange Theatre; kimber lee, winner of the inaugural Bruntwood Prize International Award in 2019; Farai Matekenya Nhakaniso, Local Exchange Ambassador for the Leigh area for the Royal Exchange Theatre; Kate Vokes, Non-Executive Director at Bruntwood, and Roy Alexander Weise, Joint Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Erin Doherty as Tamsin Carmody in WISH LIST by Katherine Soper. Photo Jonathan Keenan

Erin Doherty as Tamsin Carmody in Wish List by Katherine Soper.

In 2015 Katherine Soper became the fifth overall winner of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. Her play Wish List premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 2016 before transferring to the Royal Court Upstairs from 10th January – Saturday 11th February 2017).

For full details of how to enter, visit www.writeaplay.co.uk.

All images in this post were taken by Jonathan Keenan and supplied by The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

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 – clue

Hidden Malago happy jumper by Judy Darley

This child-sized jumper was dropped at the entrance to a small section of nature within the city, and slung here to presumably make it easier to retrieve.

How did it end up here? What happened to the child who owned it?

Is the fact that the top is emblazoned with the word ‘Happy’ three times significant in any way?

Follow this story prompt down any dark path that your imagination latches onto.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Enter the Bridport Prize

Pebble man by Judy DarleyThe Bridport Prize, one of the UK’s most prestigious writing competitions, is currently seeking your short stories, flash fiction, poems and debut novels.

The deadline for all competition entries is 31st May 2022.

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.

Poems may be up to 42 lines in length (not including the title). There is no minimum line count. The entry fee is £12. The winning poet will receive £5,000.

Short stories may be up to 5,000 words long. The entry fee is £14. The winning short story writer will receive £5,000.

Flash fiction may be up to 250 words long. The entry fee is £11. The winning flash fiction writer will receive £1,000.

Novel extracts must be between 5,000 and 8,000 words long. You must also supply a 300-word synopsis, which should be the first page of your entry. The fee is £24.

First prize is £1,500 plus mentoring by The Literary Consultancy and consultations with literary agent AM Heath and publisher Tinder Press.

Bridport Prize judges

Inua Ellams will judge poetry entries. Born in Nigeria, Inua is a touring poet, playwright and performer. He is an ambassador for the Ministry of Stories and his books of poetry include Candy Coated Unicorns and The Half-God of Rainfall – an epic story in verse.

He recently completed his first full poetry collection The Actual. He lives and works from London, where he founded the Midnight Run, a nocturnal urban excursion.

Inua is seeking: “The distillation of human experience in language, and economical use of words, and transformation, where the sentiment of the poem is greater than the sum of its parts… when it leaps into the beyond.”

Tim Pears is the short story judge. Tim’s collection of short stories Chemistry and Other Stories was published in 2021 by Bloomsbury and chosen by the Sunday Times for their best new short story collections. Tim’s novel In a Land of Plenty was made into a BBC drama series. He was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Tim says: “I have developed an idea of the kind of short story I like to write, and to read, but what I look forward to judging the Bridport Prize is discovering new ways of writing, and fresh methods of telling, untold stories of this world we live in. What an exciting prospect!”

Kathy Fish is the flash fiction judge. Kathy has published five collections of short fiction including Wild Life: Collected Works 2003-2018. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Copper Nickel, Washington Square Review, and numerous other journals, textbooks and anthologies.

Kathy says: “Give me a story I’ve never read before. Or tell an oft-told tale in a wholly original way. I love stories that play with form or language. If you can do all that and also break my heart or make me laugh, so much the better!”

Monique Roffey is judging novel award entries. An award winning Trinidadian born British writer of novels, essays, literary journalism and a memoir, Roffey’s most recent novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch (Peepal Tree Press) won the Costa Book of the Year Award 2020 and was nominated for seven major awards.

Monique advises: “Write exactly what you like and never mind what the market seems to want. Be independent-minded at all times. You are the dog . You be creative and wag your tail. Do not ever worry what seems to be popular.”

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

Key dates for your diary

Key dates in 2022

Save these dates to keep you ahead of the competition.

31 May

Competition deadline!

20 July

Novel longlist announced here and on social media.

25 July

Novel longlisted writers to submit 15,000 words, including the synopsis and original submission.

26 August

Novel shortlist announced here and on social media.

2 September

Novel shortlisted novel writers to submit 30,000 words, including the synopsis and original submission.

Early to mid-September

Winners and shortlisted writers in poetry, short story and flash fiction contacted.

Late September

All other writers contacted.

Early October

Novel winner and runner up informed.

Late October

Awards celebration.

Find full details and enter your creative works at www.bridportprize.org.uk. And don’t forget to sign up for their newsletter full of useful tips and inspiration.

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 – Earth Day

Earth Day_Photo by Judy Darley

This Friday, 22nd April 2022, is Earth Day, and the perfect excuse to celebrate the nature that surrounds us, even in cities.

Rewilding Britain are aiming to raise £50,000 through The Big Give’s Green Match Fund to support the Rewilding Network. They say: “This decentralised, distributed network of rewilding projects across Britain is a hugely powerful tool in catalysing rewilding. Members range from landowners and farmers to businesses, NGOs and communities. If you make a donation between 22nd and 29th April your contribution will be doubled!”

Find out more.

Why not use this as a writing prompt?

You could create a tale about how getting involved with a rewilding project helps a troubled person, or give your characters some nature-friendly habits such as having them cycle instead of drive or borrow instead of buy to subtly raise awareness of how simple changes can make a positive difference.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.