Writing prompt – suspense

Aeroplane wing by Judy Darley

As awful as I know the emissions are for our planet, I’ve always loved the magic of flight – something about the suspension between home and destination, land and air, and in this case day and night, hold me in their thrall.

Can you write a work of fiction prompted by that sense of between-ness? How can you make it central to your plot or character? How could it inform the tension and outcome of your tale?

You could even choose to focus on the suspension between safety and calamity. What might drive someone to leave a place? What hopes and fears might they carry with them?

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.

Book review – Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash by Michael Loveday

Unlocking-the-Novella-in-Flash-webWith the sub-title “from blank page to finished manuscript”, this is very much the printed equivalent of taking a focused MA on the topic of the novella. It’s laid out beautifully clearly into modules, with delicious, restorative snacks in the form of exemplary flash fiction nuggets to nibble on along the way.

Author, editor and creative coach Michael Loveday explains that his book is an assortment of suggestions to help you find out what works for you in the area of novella-in-flash. In this way, it seems intended to be used less as a map than a tourist guide of hotspots you can choose to visit and enjoy.

Even if you would usually bypass the Prologue, you ought not to this once, as in Loveday’s hands it becomes almost like a ‘meet and greet’ at the start of a tour. “This craft guide isn’t seeking to set out fixed rules for how every novella-in-flash should be written,” he writes. “So much remarkable writing deliberately breaks the boundaries of common practice. Instead, (it) is intended as a springboard, a source of ideas and options.”

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Enter Winchester Poetry Prize 2022

Sunshine snail cr Judy Darley

Winchester Poetry Prize 2022 invites you to submit poetry “with a good emotional thwack.” The closing date for entries is 31st July 2022.

Entries cost £5 for first poem, £4 for subsequent poems.

The organisers have introduced a ‘Pay it Forward’ scheme, which allows you can 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 free entries will be available on a first-come first-served basis (one per person). Availability of free entries will be highlighted via our social media platforms as they become available.

The judge is Jo Bell, prize-winning poet, occasional broadcaster and former director of the UK’s National Poetry Day. She advises: “Don’t second-guess the judge. Trust me to recognise and honour the worth of the poems sent in, not matter what their form or subject, and no matter whether your style is anything like mine (…) Send me your best.”

Prizes

  • First Prize: £1,000
  • Second Prize: £500
  • Third Prize: £250

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

There will be a prize-giving event on 8th October 2022. The best poem by a poet living in Hampshire will receive a prize kindly donated by Warren & Son. 

Find full details here: https://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 – folklore

Giant's Causeway by Judy Darley

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Northern Ireland and took a trip to the Giant’s Causeway. This beautiful, natural basalt sculpture is steeped in folklore about a giant named Finn MacCool, who wanted to conquer Scotland, so built a route across, only to flee home when he discovered the giants there were far bigger than himself.

When the Scottish giant came to confront Finn MacCool, Finn was taking a nap, luckily for him. His quick-thinking wife covered him with a blanket and told the Scots giant it was Finn’s baby snoozing there. The Scots giant took one look, imagined the man who could sire such a vast baby, and ran home (presumably to Staffa Rock), destroying the causeway as he scarpered.

My home city of Bristol in southwest England has a gorge apparently scooped out by a left-handed giant. I love the thought that our land is riddled with tales of giants.

Can you write a myth of your own to explain an exceptional local feature or landmark? If you need to, invent the landmark too!

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.

Pure Slush invites marriage-inspired poems and prose

Heart leaf by Judy Darley
Indie publisher Pure Slush is currently inviting submissions for Marriage Lifespan Vol. 6.

Submissions close on 31st July 2022.

Established in 2010, Pure Slush publishes print anthologies of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

When asked what Pure Slush is ‘about’, founding editor Matt Potter said: “Fun, humour, attention, absurdity, humanity, love, sex, more fun and more humour and more absurd humanity.”

But what do the folks at Pure Slush like?

Here are just a few pointers (and some editing tips): “Send a story about knitting that’s funny … and we’ll probably like it.

Send a story with arty, complex imagery … and we probably won’t like it.

Send an honest story about love or a funny story about sex … and we’ll probably like it.

Send a story that’s stylish but empty … and we’ll probably ask you to rewrite it.

Send a story about human foibles that’s real but has no feeling … and we’ll probably ask you to give it more emotion.

Send a story about war and the battlefield and we’ll probably yawn our way through it (sorry, but true!) … but send a story about the homefront or the army stores or the munitions factories, and we’ll look at it with renewed interest.

Send a story about desperation and we’ll probably like it, especially if it makes us weep … but send a story that’s cynical and jaded and comes not from the voice of experience but from the voice of hip and arrogance and well, it’s not going to do much for us.

Send us a ‘battle of the sexes’ story (he said / she said; he did / she did; how stupid are the opposite sex, hey?) … and we’ll have a hard time with it.

Send a story that’s 1000 words long but only in one or two paragraphs … and we’ll ask you to divide it further.

Or send us a story that is all reported (or indirect) speech – She said (that) she couldn’t keep her breakfast down – and we’ll ask you to make it direct (or quoted) speech – She said, “I couldn’t keep my breakfast down.” (What is this fashion for stories entirely made of reported speech? Direct speech is always more immediate and takes you there now!)

Send a story where you want us to love every single word and space … and not suggest changes … and, um, you will probably be disappointed and / or angry with the response. We enjoy working with writers who want to make their story better: writers married to every word can be tiresome.”

Got that?

marriage-website-cover
Your Marriage submission must be:

    • original, so previously unpublished online or in print (so that includes authors’ websites and blogs)
    • 150-word minimum limit for fiction and non-fiction, stories and essays / maximum 1000 words. (That’s for each story / essay: maximum number of prose pieces you can submit is 3.)
    • 80-word minimum limit for poetry / maximum 1000 words. (That’s for each poem: maximum number of poems you can submit is 5.)
    • must include something about marriage or long-term intimate relationships.

    You must be minimum 18 years of age to submit.

Find full details of how to submit your Marriage-themed works here: https://pureslush.com.

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 – envoy

Little Amal_The Man Inside_Judy Darley

Last week, Bristol enjoyed a visit from Little Amal, the 3.5 metre tall puppet of a Syrian refugee child who is walking across Europe as an envoy raising awareness of the refugee crisis.

Since July 2021 the moving sculpture made by Handspring Puppet Company has travelled over 8,000km, crossing Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands, Poland and Ukraine to focus attention on the urgent needs of young refugees.

In typical Bristol fashion, Little Amal’s visit gained the buzz of a party, with drummers, dancers and horde of hundreds joining Little Amal on her journey from Bristol Old Vic to the harbour where she boarded a boat.

There are so many directions you could take this writing prompt in, from the story of an actual refugee child, to a tale of the puppeteer inside Little Amal. With one of countless mobile phones in shot, you could even focus on the role social media has to play in spreading the word.

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.

Foraging for Inspiration at the Flash Fiction Festival

Owl carving and baby shoe by Judy Darley
The Flash Fiction Festival takes place from Friday 8th until Sunday 10th July, with real world events happening at Trinity College, Bristol, and six hybrid workshops (online as well as face-to-face) workshops occurring over the weekend.

There are some amazing flash fiction writers teaching over the weekend, including Kathy Fish, Nancy Stohlman, Vanessa Gebbie, Eltra Rhodes, K.M. Elkes and Susmita Bhattacharya.

I’m delighted to be leading a workshop on ‘Foraging for Inspiration’ at 8.45am on Sunday 10th July. Expect random word prompts and other stimuli to get your imagination whirring!

One of the questions I’m asked most is where I get ideas from. The truth is that inspiration can come from anywhere, if you’re open and ready to gather the ideas as they come.

As someone who is, in all honesty, easily bored, I’m constantly on the lookout for entertaining distractions that can convert into story fuel, from overheard conversations to momentarily misunderstood glimpses (the weirder the better), to objects that could be important to a character in a tale.

I publish weekly writing prompts on my SkyLightRain blog,and collect small found objects and images that lead to piece of narrative prose. In this workshop you will be provided with a variety of writing prompts and investigate ways you can combine different sources with your own unique experiences to build up an original story.

Suitable for beginners and up. I intend to take participants on a short stroll of the grounds to forage for inspiration, returning to the workshop room for half an hour or so for the writing exercises.

I’ll also be reading my story ‘How to Hook a Heart’ from the Freedom-themed National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2022 on the Friday evening. Find the full festival programme here.

I hope to see you there!

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 – holidays

Holidays by Judy Darley. Shows a mannequin sitting in a charity shop dressed for the beach.I love the surrealism of this mannequin sitting in a charity shop as though it’s an airport, and like they’ve been waiting for hours to board a flight. They look ready for their holidays!

Can you write a story inspired by this? What other unlikely objects might want to head overseas and lie by a pool? What might be craving adventure or escape?

What does ‘holiday’ or ‘vacation’ mean to you? What could the best experience of this be, or the worst?

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.

Submit stories on a ‘clean vs green’ theme

Leaf & raindrops by Judy Darley
The Green Stories crew are inviting short stories on the theme of ‘clean vs green’ for their latest competition, closing to entries on 21st July.

First prize is £500. Entering is free.

The competition has been devised as a way of myth-busting: “Often when promoting waste reduction and reduction of high-energy activities, such as running hot water, we come up against health and safety issues. Some of these are valid, but many are misinformed.”

The judges are seeking engaging fictional stories that help readers understand how over-cleaning can mean that we kill our bodies’ ‘good’ bacteria through over-use of harsh cleaning products.

“Your challenge is to write a short story (between 1000 and 3000 words) that helps to raise awareness and shift attitudes, especially for those people who assume that the more detergent the better.”

You’ll also need to provide around 200 words on the thinking around your story and how it meets the criteria.

The Green Stories website has story briefs and suggestions to inspire you, as well as plenty of information to make sure you get the details rights.

Find full details here: www.greenstories.org.uk/upcoming-competitions/short-story-clean-vs-green/ 

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 – tree tunnel

Arnos Vale tree tunnel by Judy DarleyI have a special place in my heart for ‘tree tunnels’ – those spaces where trees flourish with such vigour that they seem to curve their branches right over the path.

At this time of year the new green leaves and hopeful sunlight makes them particularly beautiful, and this Celtic cross seems like a road marker to a different era.

If you were to walk or ride through this ‘tree tunnel’, where might you emerge?

Can you answer that question with a story?

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.