Writing prompt – mechanism

Mechanism by Judy DarleyThis piece of metal is part of a disused mechanism that stands on the cliff edge of Dorset’s Jurassic coast. The shore here is littered with relics from history, and pre-history, rife with potential plot lines.

What could this machine have been used for, and by whom? What might that have to do with the many dinosaur fossils found in this locale? And what chance encounter could occur here? Write a story with this strange object at its centre or providing a scene-setting backdrop.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Poetry review – Kierkegaard’s Cupboard by Marianne Burton

Kierkegaard's Cupboard book coverBiography as poetry is an enticing literary choice. Rather than asking us to ingest and retain the cumulative details of a life, we’re instead invited to mull over scattered and strung selections of moments which offer a suggestion of the sum of the whole.In

While the majority of poetry shares roots with autobiography, for the poet to focus on a historic figure is a more unusual, but when done skilfully, the results are hugely pleasing. Think magician’s act blended with both anthropology and archaeology, and thoroughly interlaced with respect.

In Kierkegaard’s Cupboard, poet Marianne Burton has unearthed and thoughtfully restored a scant horde of treasures from the archives of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Throughout she has provided contextual signposts to help us understand the contemplations laid out before us, which support those of us new to Kierkegaard’s meandering preoccupations without intruding on the elegance of the poems themselves.

Continue reading

Hidden River Arts invites submissions

Hidden River by Judy DarleyHidden River Arts, an independent literary, visual and performing arts organisation based in Philadelphia, US, is inviting submissions in a range of categories, including anthology, numerous contests, and the possibility of publication in the Hidden River Review.

The organisation is named after the Schuylkill (Dutch for “Hidden River”), which winds its way through the region, and is committed to nurturing the artistic community by providing varied and supportive services to writers and artists of all genres.

They say: “We will search for the writers who are finishing their novels while working as Emergency Room nurses, sculptors working as steam-fitters, song-writing dairy farmers or choreographer cowboys. We want the creative talent that is grown, nurtured, and matured in the kiln of real life experience. It is our belief that many, many talented people go unheard because they labor in obscurity or isolation, working with little or no support for the practice of their art.”

This support includes writing workshops and classes, writing awards, outreach and live arts events, and the Hidden River independent small press.

Find details of all opportunities here, but note that submission fees apply in most cases.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? I’m always happy to receive your news, as well as reviews of books, art, theatre and film.Send me an email at judydarley(at)ICloud(dot)com.

Language Shift – an exhibition of endangered words

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library, Envy by Mary Kuper

Language Shift at Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library. Envy by Mary Kuper

This summer, Southbank Centre, London, is showcasing Language Shift, an exhibition of work by artist Mary Kuper created response to the National Poetry Library’s collection of poems in European languages.

In many ways, poetry is the written form that most celebrates and utilises the power and nuance of language. The Endangered Poetry Project has been launched by  in a bid to preserve poems written as launched its Endangered Poetry Project with the aim of collecting poems in at-risk languages, and acknowledging the disturbing fact that languages die out at the rate of one every two weeks.

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library_works by Mary Kuper; photograph by Pete Woodhead3

“For the Language Shift exhibition, Kuper has created visual works which exist as equivalent worlds to the poems they respond to and collectively create a visual map,” says Chris McCabe, Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Librarian. “These new works respond to languages that feature on UNESCO’s world map of endangered languages including Breton, Alsatian, Sardinian and Shetlandic.”

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library_works by Mary Kuper; photograph by Pete Woodhead3

If you’ve ever listened to poetry read aloud in a language you’re unfamiliar with, you’ll be aware how immediately relatable cadence and delivery can render words in verse, making connections at unexpected emotional and cerebral levels. Kuper’s work is supported by a display of poetry films and poems in translation from the Talking Transformations project, curated by Ricarda Vidal and Manuela Perteghella, which offers a chance to sample this first hand. The poems shared inTalking Transformations focus on the idea of ‘home’ and ‘migration’ and reveal part of the poems’ journey through  the UK, Romania, Poland, France and Spain.

The perfect chance to take in the resonance of Europe’s diverse languages and shared human experiences.

Language Shift at Southbank Centre's National Poetry Library; works by Mary Kuper_photograph by Pete Woodhead2

Image credit: works by Mary Kuper; photographs by Pete Woodhead.

Language Shift is on at National Poetry Library (Level 5, Blue side, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX) until 23rd September 2018, and is free to visit.




Writing prompt – signpost

Too Far_photo credit Judy DarleyIf you’ve visited Bristol, you may be aware that certain sign-posts have been added too with helpful advice. This one seems like it could be a warning against heading to Temple Meads Station and actually leaving the city. On the other hand, there’s something enticing about following a sign that invites you to go too far!

Bristol is wonderfully blessed with a population that loves to contribute a hint of weirdness and magic to the urban landscape. To me it speaks volumes about the local culture and personality.

Where could this sign lead? What would you put up in its place to reflect your own neighbourhood’s character?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.


The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

MShed cr Judy DarleyThe Aesthetica Creative Writing Award celebrates outstanding short fiction and poetry from around the world. The deadline for entering the award is 31st August 2018.

Prizes include publication within Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology and £1,000 for each category winner. Winner of the short fiction competition will receive a consultation with literary agency Redhammer Management, while the Poetry winner will have a Full Membership to The Poetry Society. To whet your appetite for creating more literary works, the winners will also receive, a subscription to Granta and books courtesy of Bloodaxe Books and Vintage Books.

There’s no theme – just submit your finest story or poem offering your own unique window on a slice of the world!

Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words each and poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines each. Both short fiction and poetry entries should be written in English. It costs £12 to enter the Poetry category and £18 to enter the Short Fiction category.


  • Now until – 31 August 2018: Entries open
  • September 2018: Judging begins
  • December 2018: Winners and finalists are announced
  • December 2018: Publication of winners and finalists in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual

For full details, visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/creative-writing-award







Writing prompt – farm

Toy farm animals cr Judy DarleyI encountered this herd of cows, chickens and other beasts on a random table-top recently, and was briefly dazzled by a wave of nostalgia. Did you play with these as a child? Did you watch someone smaller play with these? Did you imagine being really small and strolling among them?

Write a piece that plays with time, memory and scale inspired by these farm animals.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.



Flash novella review – In the Debris Field

in-the-debris-fieldA novella in flash in a canny concept. Flash, by nature and when done well, can contain within a few hundred words the resonance of an entire novel. By layering one on top of another to build up to the length of a novella (or at least, a meaty short story), you get a cumulative effect. Each individual piece, ranging from a single paragraph to a page or two, has the strength to standalone, but by adding more attuned pieces to the slew, you end up with a distinctly explosive novella form. Quite simply, you get more bang for your buck.

This is never truer than with Luke Whisnant’s In the Debris Field, the title novella of Bath Flash Fiction Award’s trio of novellas in flash. Whisnant tells the story of Dennis (referred to throughout almost solely as ‘You’), his twin sister Denise and brother Donnie as they skid through childhood to middle-age. Contained in such small parcels, each tale’s narrative is heightened, summoning the raw emotions of adolescence with soaring skill. Continue reading

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 currently preparing one of my favourite cultural events – the RWA Annual Open Exhibition.

Submissions are open until 5pm on Tuesday 21st August, so if you get a wriggle on you still have a chance of being part of it!

The 166th Annual Open Exhibition will be open to the public from 7th October to 25th November 2010. Artists of all ages and experience are invited to submit.

They say: “A selection panel assesses every entry and last year 624 works by 421 artists made it into the final exhibition. All work is for sale, and the exhibition attracts art-lovers and art-buyers from far and wide. Submissions are welcome from unknown, emerging and established artists, including RWA Academicians.”


All applicants must apply online, submitting images using the Online Exhibition Submission System (OESS).

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



Writing prompt – proposal

Marry Me street art, Stokes Croft. Photo by Judy DarleyWhat better way to declare your undying love than with a gigantic bit of street art that spells out your honourable intentions for all to see?

Get inside the head of the person who went to all this effort, or of the person this grand gesture was intended for. Do you think the outcome was a happy one?

In case you were wondering, the real life version of this scenario had a happy ending, but it’s entirely up to you whether your characters fare likewise…

Marry Me response_StokesCroft. Photo ju Judy Darley

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.