Writing on Water workshop

Writing on Water. Photo of Bristol's Lightship.I’m excited to let you know that I’m teaming up with brilliant poet Helen Sheppard to teach a workshop on writing about water. Taking place on Bristol’s Lightship from 10am to 3pm on Saturday 22nd October, the Writing on Water workshop will include writing prompts, generative exercises and an inspiration-gathering stroll on Bristol harbourside.

Tea, coffee and snacks will be provided. There will be time for lunch, and chat!

Why write about water?

I’ve been drawn to this mercurial, enigmatic element throughout my writing career, opening my debut short story collection Remember Me To The Bees with a story titled ‘Never seen the Sea’.

Fiction, non-fiction and poetry can all swim into watery themes, whether that’s to add atmosphere, provide a setting or build an evocative metaphor.

How do you write about water? Does it trickle? Surge? Roar?

Is it hungry? Foreboding? Volatile? Reflective? Tranquil?

Whether you write about a raindrop or an ocean, you can harness water as a powerful writing muse.

As a taster, here’s a splash from ‘Never seen the Sea’:

A triangle of blue sharper and brighter than the sky – that was the first of it. Then a tang in her throat like the savoury suck of a chip dipped in salt and vinegar. As she got closer, other sensations rang through her: a crack and crash like a glass falling and rolling and splintering again and again in a bathroom washbasin; a deep breath in, gasp out shuddering through the shore; the freshness of rain in the air, bursting against her skin from every direction possible.
And the triangle soared, spread out, transforming into a strip that hurtled all the way to the horizon, meeting the sky with a dazzle that forced her to glance away; a size too vast to comprehend; bigger than the confines of her mind could contain. But more than that was the endless movement, less like one vast thing than a mass of smaller things, heaving, jostling, vying for the surface yet never quite breaking through.

Who will be teaching you?

Judy Darley photo credit Jo Mary Bulter Photography_cropJudy Darley is a fiction writer, journalist and occasional poet from Bristol. Her fiction has been described as ‘shimmeringly strange’, possibly because she can’t stop writing about the infinite fallibilities of the human mind. Judy’s words have been published and performed on BBC radio and harbour walls, as well as in bookshops, museums, cafés, caves, pubs, a disused church and an artist’s studio. Judy is the author of three fiction collections: The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain (Reflex Press), Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me To The Bees (Tangent Books). Find Judy at SkyLightRain.com and on Twitter as @JudyDarley.

Helen Sheppard_cropHelen Sheppard is a Bristol-based writer and worked as a midwife. Her poetry explores themes of birth, health loss, and those whose voices are often unheard. Helen has performed her poetry at Milk Poetry, RTB, Torriano Meeting House and Harvard Medical School. Helen’s work has been published widely, including These are the Hands and Under the Radar magazine. Her debut poetry collection Fontanelle was published in 2021 by Burning Eye Books. Helen interviews extraordinary poets for her podcast Health Beat Poets. Find Helen on Twitter as HelenSheppard7 and on Instagram as helensheppard58.

Tickets for Writing on Water are available here.

Writing prompt – mirror

Chew Magna Lake_By Judy Darley. Blue sky, white clouds and reflections in lake water.The beauty of Chew Magna Lake in Somerset is enhanced by the clouds in the sky above and reflected rather gloriously on the reservoir’s lightly rippled surface.

It’s common to see curious shapes such as cats, elephants and dragons in clouds. Imagine if that was taken a step further, and the reflections showed something more or other than what’s seen above.

Can you turn this into a diptych of a tale that tells both what there is and what could be or has been? What could this perceived view reveal about the characters who see it?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

 

The Commonwealth Foundation seeks tales of healthy communities

Crowd on Welsh Back Bristol. Photo by Judy Darley

adda, the online magazine of the Commonwealth Foundation. is inviting writers to submit creative works of non-fiction, short fiction, short graphic fiction and poetry on the theme of healthy communities.

They ask: “What does health mean to us as individuals and as societies? How does the climate crisis impact our health? What is the relationship between health access for all and justice? How do we imagine a world with health and care at its centre? What if we never got ill? Or if we were all doctors?”

This is a fantastic writing prompt. What issues can you highlight or invent through your words?

They are interested in works that speak creatively to questions around the idea of healthy communities, which might include creative reflections on physical and mental well-being, disability justice, sexual and reproductive rights, LGBTQIA+ healthcare, the art and practice of indigenous medicine, among others.

The deadline for submissions is 4th October 2022 at 23:59 in your time zone. 

To have your work considered, you must be a Commonwealth citizen aged 18 or over.  

Submission guidelines 

Entries should follow the following guidelines:

. Creative non-fiction: 2000-5000 words 

. Short fiction: 2000-5000 words

. Short graphic fiction: finished work of 15-20 pages or potential panels of illustrations (and a rationale) which can be fully developed within a month 

. Poetry: up to 2 poems (50 lines in total).  

Entries must be original and submitted in English, although other languages can form part of the work for context.

Only one submission per writer will be considered. If you plan to submit a fiction piece to the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, you can send the same work, provided you inform them in the form.  

Previously published work, whether in print or online, in whole or in part, will not be considered. 

Up to 30 pieces will be selected by a team of readers and editors and will be published on  adda  between February and May 2023. Writers whose work is accepted for publications will be paid a  fee.

Find full details of how to submit your work here. 

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

Writing prompt – beneath

Giant fish Bristol Harbouside_By Judy DarleyOn a sunny day strolling around Bristol Harbour, I spotted a school of vast fish shoaling and feasting on some water foliage. The gull bobbing on the surface seems to have no concerns about what could brush against their feet at any moment, or even try a nibble.

It made me think about how little we’re aware of what happens beneath our feet, or of the threats that lurk, occasionally in plain sight. Often we underestimate the things that could cause harm. Imagine if one fish in the photo above were to choose to sample ‘gull surprise’, and the carnage that could trigger! Would the gull flap into action and flee to safety? What if they realised too slowly what was happening and found themselves unable to escape?

Can you turn this idea into a tale with a feisty, defiant protagonist at its heart?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Brooklyn Book Festival celebrates literature city-wide

Brooklyn. Photo by Miltiadis Fragkidis on UnsplashBrooklyn Book Festival (BKBF) returns with a hybrid offering in 2022, with online and real world events to choose between from 25th September to 3rd October.

The Brooklyn Book Festival was launched in 2006 as a one-day event to address the need for a free, major literary event that embraced the diverse constituencies of New York City. It has since grown to include city-wide Bookend events, its flagship Festival Day with 300 authors and a Literary Marketplace with 250 independent and major publishers, and the BKBF Children’s Day that celebrates childhood reading. The Festival’s credo is “hip, smart and diverse”.

There are three elements to the festival. Throughout the Festival week, literary-themed Bookend events bring poetry, film, performances and more to all five New York City boroughs – the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

On 25th September, Virtual Festival Day welcomes authors and audiences from around the world to enjoy compelling author conversations.

On 1st October, Children’s Day celebrates childhood reading with workshops, performances, readings from popular and emerging authors, and more.

They say: “The mission of the Brooklyn Book Festival is to celebrate published literature and nurture a literary cultural community through programming that cultivates and connects readers of diverse ages and backgrounds with local, national and international authors, publishers and booksellers.”

They add: “The Brooklyn Book Festival is New York City’s largest free literary festival and connects readers with local, national and international authors and publishers.”

Authors taking part include Elif Batuman, Angeline Boulley, Joyce Carol Oates, Paisley Currah, Hernan Diaz, David Duchovny, Jennifer Egan, Kate Gavino, Keith Gessen, Ayana Gray, Mohsin Hamid, Heather Havrilesky, Sheila Heti, Marlon James, Margo Jefferson, Mariame Kaba, Meiko Kawakami, Ryan La Sala, Yiyun Lee, E. Lockart, Casey McQuiston, Ottessa Moshfegh, Meghan O’Rourke, Jess Ruliffson, Salman Rushdie, Esmeralda Santiago, Namwali Serpell, Nadia Shammus, Warsan Shire, Vladimir Sorokin, James Spooner, Ryann Stevenson, Emma Straub, Gengoroh Tagame, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, Linda Villarosa and Jacqueline Woodson. Find the full line up here.

Sign up for their newsletter to discover information on highlights as it becomes available.

Find full details here: brooklynbookfestival.org.

Photo of Brooklyn Bridge by Miltiadis Fragkidis on Unsplash.

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

Writing prompt – unseasonal

Winter hat_Victoria Park_August_by Judy Darley

On a sunny August day as I strolled in shorts and vest, I saw this winter’s hat propped on a fallen tree in the park.

It boggled my imagination. Who was so cold in our heatwave that they walked out wearing a woolly hat? I’ve heard of snow in July, but this seems extreme!

With our weather patterns growing more erratic, might we need to start carrying not only umbrellas and sunglasses on every outing, but also thermals and ski-boots?

Was it someone’s equivalent of a beloved blanky?

Or is this festive bobble-hat dropped by someone missing a place where Christmas lasts all year?

Let your imagination run free!

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Review and interview – The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain

Stretching Out_JudyDarley

I’m delighted by Sarah Tinsley’s lovely review of my Reflex Press collection The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain and thought-provoking accompanying interview. Thanks Sarah!

Sarah, who is a brilliant author herself, writes:

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be welcoming Judy Darley back to the blog. Last year I featured her collection Sky, Light, Rain, a themed collection that contained beautiful stories and gorgeous writing. This time, we’re talking about The Stairs Are A Snowcapped Mountain, a collection of stories that similarly revolves around the natural world and relationships, but feels a little darker at the edges.

One thing I love about Darley’s writing is the style. There are the odd turns of phrase that just lift the whole story off the page, like ‘mushroom-hued water’ from Tidal Suck and ‘Crumbs drop between us like pollen. Like rain.’ from Wild Times. (…) The way she captures the essence of these lives in sometimes very short pieces is truly astounding. Do take the time to read it, you won’t regret it.”

Sarah asked me some really interesting questions, which gave me the chance to mention some favourite characters and stories, including Hera in Self-Defence Against Yesterday, Pippa in Tunnelled, Zel in Stealing from Windowsills, and the River in Why Rivers Run to the Sea. We also talked about Stretching Out, about a grandfather’s influence on his granddaughter’s love of nature, and one of my favourite stories to read aloud.

Read the full review and interview here.

Find out more about The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain and purchase here.

Dive into Bath Children’s Literature Festival

Child reading cr Julian Foxon Photography

© Julian Foxon Photography

Hungry for writing inspiration or simply got young book-worms to entertain? Bath Children’s Literature Festival returns this autumn with ten days of fantastic, imagination-stirring events.

The festival runs from Friday 23rd September – Sunday 2nd October 2022, with events for all ages.

Don’t miss History and Mystery with Lindsay Galvin and A. M. Howell on Tuesday 27th September 2022.

There’s a focus on happiness, diversity and nature, with storytelling, draw-alongs and events from poet Rachel Piercey, Jenny Pearson, Benjamin Dean, Tessa Yates, Sarah Surgey, Maudie Smith, Rachel Morrisroe, Emma Carroll, Hannah Gold and Simon James Green, plus a great workshop for grown ups on finding the heart of your story with Tanya Byrne.

Plus there are the usual assortment of events with comedians turned children’s authors including David Baddiel, Rosie Jones and Richard Ayoade.

Not able to travel to Bath? In 2020 and 2021, Bath Festival hosted the online Reading is Magic Festival instead. with writers, illustrators and poets from across the globe taking part. You can watch online events recorded during both festivals for a small one-off fee of £5.

Image supplied by Bath Festivals. Photo by Julian-Foxon-Photography.

Find details at bathfestivals.org.uk/childrens-literature.

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

Writing prompt – splotch

Arnos Vale character_Photo by Judy DarleyI often feel anxious when I see trees emblazoned with coloured splotches in a local woodland. It generally indicates a tree set to be felled or trimmed.

Some helpful person has decided to make this ash tree’s foreboding embellishment a little cheerier, however, by adding eyes and a vibrant head of hot-pink hair.

Will it be enough to save the tree from execution? Will the tree surgeons smile and take their chainsaw elsewhere?

Or is this comical character an unlikely guardian (I’m thinking along the lines of Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life), protecting the ash tree from harm?

What direction could you take this story in?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Enter Mslexia Fiction Competitions 2022

Mum's eye view cr Judy DarleyThe Mslexia Fiction Competitions are open for entries.

There are three categories this year: Novel for Children/YA, Short Story, and Flash Fiction. The deadline for each is 19th September 2022.

Prizes include manuscript feedback and agent introductions, plus publication.

Mslexia Novel for Children or YA competition – everything you need to know

  • Judged by Cressida Cowell, Chloe Seager and Imogen Russell Williams, this competition is open to unpublished novels of at least 20,000 words in any genre for children and/or young adults.
  • Submit first 5,000 words only in the first instance. Longlisted entrants will be asked to submit finished manuscripts later in the judging process
  • Entry fee: £26
  • 1st prize £5,000.
  • The winner and three finalists will also receive manuscript feedback from leading editorial and mentoring agency The Literary Consultancy,

Plus

  • Pitch training at a day-long professional workshop in Newcastle upon Tyne, where participants will learn to summarise and present their book in an effective way.Plus
  • Personal introductions to agents and editors at a Talent Party in central London. Both the workshop and Talent Party are arranged in partnership with New Writing North. 
  • Mslexia will contribute a total of £100 towards each finalists’ travel expenses.

Mslexia Short Story competition 2022 – everything you need to know

  • Judged by Diana Evans, this competition is for unpublished complete short fiction of up to 3,000 words in any genre and on any theme.
  • The entry fee is £12.
  • 1st prize £3,000.
  • Three additional finalists will each receive £100
  • The winning entry and three finalists will be published in the December 2022 edition of Mslexia.
  • The winning entry, three finalists and eight further shortlisted stories will be published   in Mslexia’s ebook anthology, Best Women’s Short Fiction 2022, due out in December 2022.

Mslexia Flash Fiction Competition 2022 – everything you need to know

  • Judged by Audrey Niven, this competition is for unpublished complete short fiction of up to 300 words in any genre and on any theme
  • Entry fee: £6
  • 1st prize £500
  • Three additional finalists each receive £50
  • All four winning entries are published in the December 2022 issue of Mslexia
  • Winning entries plus eight more shortlisted entries will be published in Mslexia’s inaugural ebook anthology Best Women’s Short Fiction 2022.

Visit Mslexia’s entry instructions for a more comprehensive guide on how to enter, and be sure to read the full rules before submitting.

Find full details at www.mslexia.co.uk. Good luck!

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