Published stories

View between two trees showing other trees
I relish writing and editing short stories and flash fiction, and have a self-imposed rule of submitting every month. If you write, I highly recommend this trick. It ensures that for every rejection, there are still a handful of tales out in the world that may yet be published, plus a gentle flurry of successes to bolster your writing mojo!

Here are some of my recent and upcoming publications.

Forthcoming publications

Why We Dance on the Pier – Gooseberry Pie Lit Magazine

February 2024

Blue-naped Parrots See More Than They SayNew Flash Fiction Review Issue 32 Family Life.

January 2024

A Bright Day – winner of the New Writers UK Winter Story competition.

October 2023

Mycorrhiza – Flash Frontier GARDEN / MĀRA issue

A Still, Golden Light – The Simple Things Magazine issue 136

What Was Lost & How Insects Signal Their Love – Flash Boulevard

June 2023

Windowledge Archives – National Flash Fiction Day Flash Flood UK 2023

The Long Way Home – National Flash Fiction Day NZ Micro Madness

April 2023

This is Not a Story About Chickens – The Hooghly Review issue 1

February 2023

How Many is 80? Paragraph Planet (scroll to Feb 23rd)

January 2023

Life Hacks – 12 Fragile Things Not to Use as a Doorstop – Wensum Literary Magazine issue 1/Winter 2023

December 2022

Natural Miracles – Flash Frontier Wonder issue

October 2022

The Art of Pivot and Flit – Dually Noted, Brink Literacy Project

September 2022

The Bee Man’s Secret – Flash Fiction Festival Volume Five

August 2022

The Green-Gold of Wet Kelp – Fairlight Books

June 2022

The egret and I don’t belong here – The Phare Literary Magazine Summer 2022 issue

Tricks to uproot a guest who has outstayed their welcome – Tiny Molecules issue 13

After Dad Goes into Care – National Flash Fiction Day FlashFlood 2022

Bees Breathe Without Lungs – Honeyguide Magazine

How to Hook a Heart – And We Live Happily Ever After, National Flash Fiction Day anthology 2022

The Tempest Inside – Micro Madness

April 2022

Milk Tooth – Wyldblood Press

March 2022

Awkward Liaisons – Flash Fiction Festival Volume Four

Falling in a Forest Mslexia magazine issue 93

Oxblood – Flash Frontier

Fishing for Green and Blue – Retreat West 10th Birthday Anthology

December 2021

Reasons Your Kefir Might Sour – Litro Magazine Flash Friday

The Only Language He knows Now is Touch – Blink-Ink, Moonlight #46

The Finch in My Sister’s Hair – The Birdseed

The Sea Lives in Her Mum’s Head – Ellipsis Zine

November 2021

The Salt Sting of Learning When To Say No – Flash Frontier

September 2021

My Choice – Six Sentence Stories

Three Shades of Summer – Flash Fiction Magazine

Storm Beckoner – Bandit Fiction

June 2021

Leaf After Leaf – National Flash Fiction Day Write-In

The Hare I Miss – Thimble Literary Magazine

What’s That? – Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis

May 2021

Reaching (collaborate work – I wrote the first stanza) – 100 Words of Solitude

April 2021

Stretching Out – Hencroft

The Sideways House – Twin Pies Volume IV

March 2021

Unstill Life With Plums – The Pomegranate

Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition

Kalamazoo railway tracks by Judy DarleyWriters’ & Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition invites stories on the theme of ‘risk.’

Your entry must be no more than 2,000 words long.

The deadline for entries is midnight on 12th February 2024.

The winner of the competition – along with two runners-up – will be announced on the W&A blog pages in March 2023.

Entry is free, but don’t forget to register (also free) with the website www.writersandartists.co.uk before submitting your story.

This year’s judge is Kirsty Logan, the author of three novels, three story collections, a memoir, two chapbooks, a 10-hour audio play for Audible, and several collaborative projects with musicians and visual artists. Her books have won the Lambda, Polari, Saboteur, Scott and Gavin Wallace awards. Her work has been optioned for TV, adapted for stage, recorded for radio and podcasts, exhibited in galleries and distributed from a vintage Wurlitzer cigarette machine. She lives in Glasgow with her wife, baby and rescue dog.

Prizes of this writing contest

Find full details and competition rules at www.writersandartists.co.uk

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

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Writing prompt – blush

Pink hat and flowers_Photo by Judy Darley

This pink hat hanging from a flowering bush caught my eye partly because of the vivid colour and partly because this fluffy hat and the blush-pink blooms really oughtn’t be seen at the same time. Surely these flowers shouldn’t appear until springtime, and certainly not when it’s cold enough to warrant wearing a woolly hat.

Can you write a story that makes sense of this odd pairing and what it tells us about climate breakdown? What happened to the person who wore that hat? What could they, and your readers, do to help slow or even reverse climate breakdown?

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 Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize 2023

Bud. Photo by Judy DarleyThe Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize 2024 invites entries from women over the age of 18 who have written a novel “that marries literary merit with unputdownability.”

Founded in 2010, by Professor Janet Todd OBE, the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize has seen many shortlisted and winning authors attaining literary success including securing publishing deals.

Sarah Harman won the 2023 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize with ‘All The Other Mothers Hate Me‘.

The 2022 winner of the Fiction Prize was Hannah Stapleton with her novel ‘Blue Tears’.

  • The deadline to submit as a low-income writer is 12 noon on Wednesday 7th February 2024
  • Deadline to submit a paid entry is 12 noon on Friday 9th February 2024.

The judges say they’re open to literary fiction and genre fiction, as well as to young adult fiction and children, providing they are primarily word-based.

Your submission must be previously unpublished, and you must not have had other full-length novels published. However, having short stories, poetry, non-fiction or picture books published previously does not exclude you.

To be considered, you need to submit the first 40 to 50 pages of the novel via the online form and a three to five-page synopsis of the remainder. You must not have agent representation at the time of submission.

If you accept agent representation after your submission and before the judging is complete, you will no longer be eligible to take part in the competition and your entry will be discounted.

The entry fee is £12. Sponsored entries for low income writers are available – simply tick the appropriate box on the entry form. You will need to provide proof of financial eligibility such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Disability Benefit, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, proof of being a full-time student, Housing Benefit or proof of being a full-time carer.

This year’s winner bags £1,500.00.

All shortlisted entrants will receive one-to-one consultation with an agent at Peter Fraser + Dunlop (subject to them not having an existing agent) who will offer editorial feedback as well as valuable publishing advice.

For full details, visit www.lucy.cam.ac.uk/fictionprizewww.fictionprize.co.uk, and make sure you follow the competition Terms and Conditions.

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

Writing prompt – branch

Door and Tree_ZigZagPath Clevedon. Photo by Judy Darley1

This gorgeous door has been barred to entry by a tree that has had its branches lopped. So many questions arise from this sight, and so many potential fairytales.

How was this seed planted, and how did no one notice the sapling growing until it was so tall? Who decided to cut off its limbs and with what aims. Is this door ever used, and who by? Could the tree have been planted in a fit of jealousy or annoyance? Could the occupant have failed to spot it due to some ailment, or illusion?

The possibilities branch off in all kinds of directions!

What story will you choose to write?

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 Fiction Desk seeks ghost stories

Arnoa Vale Cemetery cr Judy DarleyGot a spooky tale to share? In these early days of the year with so many hours to each dark night, The Fiction Desk invites you to seek a home for your spooky scribblings by submitting an entry to their annual call for ghost stories of 1,000 to 10,000 words.

The deadline for entries is 31st January 2024.

The editors encourage you to have a play to discover your own definition of ‘ghost story.’

They say: “It can mean a lot of different things, from an encounter with an actual phantom in the style of classic ghost stories, to more unusual supernatural phenomena and unexplained events. All types of story are welcome, so feel free to experiment: if you stray too far from the supernatural, we’ll still read it as a general submission. Keep in mind that our readership (and by extension our editor) may be more likely to respond well to psychological chills and unexplained mysteries than in-your-face gore.”

They pay £25 per thousand words for stories they publish (eg £100 for a 4,000 word story, or £150 for a 6,000 word story). Contributors also receive two complimentary paperback copies. The stories they publish are also eligible to enter the Writer’s Award, a cash prize of £100 for the best story in each volume, as judged by the contributors.

Rules of this call for submissions

Entries should be between 1,000 and 10,000 words in length. Most of the stories they publish are between about 2,000 and 7,000 words.

To cover admin costs, submission fees are £4 per story. Stories should be submitted online.

You might find it helpful to take a look at their previous ghost story anthologies.

Find full details of how to submit your ghost stories here.

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

Writing prompt – cave

Ladye Bay cave. Photo by Judy Darley

This small cave provides a surprising amount of shelter during rain storms that blow in over a local beach. Stepping into it just a foot of two, I heard all sounds recede and felt the peace of this shallow space.

The sides and internal roof are sandstone, and you can see the foundations of a walkway above, a reminder that this place straddles both the tame and wild.

Who or what might seek refuge here, and why? What other kinds of shelters come to mind that could form the setting for a tale?

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 Fractured Lit Ghost, Fable and Fractured Fairy Tales prize

The Fractured Lit team urges you to dig into the darkest recesses of your imagination to write stories of ghosts, fables, and fractured fairy tales in 1,000 words or fewer.

The deadline is 4th February 2024.

Guest Judge Aimee Bender will choose three prize winners from a shortlist. The winner of this prize will receive $3,000 and publication, while the 2nd and 3rd place winners will receive publication plus $300 and $200, respectively. All entries will be considered for publication.

They say: Whichever tradition you choose, make sure you find a new way to approach it, to twist and discombobulate it, so it pushes us away from the mundane and into the strange or uncanny. Transport us from the here and now to a new land of discovery, a fresh way of being entertained that embraces all of the ways we show our humanness.”

A $20 reading fee allows you up to two stories of 1,000 words or fewer each per entry.

Aimee Bender is the author of six books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998), which was an NY Times Notable Book; An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000), which was an LA Times pick of the year; Willful Creatures (2005), which was nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of the year; The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010), which won the SCIBA award for best fiction, and an Alex Award; The Color Master (2013), a NY Times Notable Book for the year; and her latest novel, The Butterfly Lampshade (July 2020), which was longlisted for the PEN/Jean Stein Award. Her books have been translated into sixteen languages. Her short fiction has been published in Granta, GQ, Harper’s, Tin House, McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, and more, as well as heard on PRI’s “This American Life” and “Selected Shorts.”

Find full details of how to enter here: https://fracturedlit.com/fractured-lit-ghost-fable-and-fractured-fairy-tales-prize/ 

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 – rig

Oil rig at Clevedon Marine Lake. Photo by Judy Darley. Taken on New Year's Day 2024. Stormy skies above and swimmer just visible in foreground.As countless swimmers and spectators gathered at Clevedon Marine Lake on New Year’s Dave for the annual Big Dip, a vast structure drifted by. Like an industrial version of a child’s sandcastle, an oil rig floated past the morning’s revelries like a sea creature roused to curiosity by the shrieks. You can just see an uncommonly serene swimmer inside the pool’s perimeter.

These structures drill the seabed for the petroleum and gas that fuel our modern lives, and once decommissioned need to be dismantled, or become an art installation like Weston Super Mare’s See Monster.

What will be the fate of this one? Thousands of these edifices stand in seas around the globe. Can you devise a story or art work touching on the outcome for one? Could it be transformed into something beautiful that aids rather than harms marine life?

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.

Writerly resolutions for 2024

Spring crocus cr Judy DarleyI publish a version of this post almost every year, but I find it always fills me with hope and determination. As we edge into the greyest month of the year, this feels like the ideal time to take stock and see what’s working or not working in your creative life.

But this I mean not necessarily whether you’re creating and selling more, but, rather, whether the moments you can find to write, paint or whatever creative forms you choose continue to satisfy you, and whether you feel you’re making progress, whatever that may mean to you.

Before continuing, I must confess, I rarely make new year’s resolutions as such. To me, they seem at best like a form of procrastination (‘oh, I’ll start doing that in Jan’), at worst a way of setting yourself up to fail. But it is a good time to look at how your life is going and see if there’s anything you need to change to stay on or get back on track.

It’s also a fab way to lay the foundations for a new habit that will pay dividends in years to come. Here are five that have served me well in the past.

1. Write whenever you can find the time

In 2012 I set myself the challenge of writing at least one short story every month, which is something I did without fail every month until 2017, by which time the habit was well and truly entrenched. I found it a great way to keep those creative muscles taut and ready for action.

When times are busy and stress is high, adding something to your to-do list can feel counter-intuitive. But whenever I do focus on creating something, whether that’s a sentence, a full flash, or even editing an existing paragraph, I emerge feeling brighter and lighter and a little bit sunnier. My aim now is to maintain, respect and nurture writing as an ingrained part of my everyday life.

This fuel keeps me going even when I don’t have the chance to spend as much time dreaming up new characters and worlds as I like. Writing sustains me in a way I’ve only gradually come to understand.

2. Submit regularly

A few years before that I set about ensuring I submitted at least four works of creative writing somewhere each month, which I also continue. The challenge is flexible enough not to cause undue stress (some months I submit all four pieces in the same week then forget all about them for the rest of the month; other months I’ll find I’ve submitted eight by day 30), and also ensures that whenever I receive a rejection, part of me breathes a quiet sigh of relief – now I can send that piece off elsewhere to fulfil part of the current month’s quota.

It helps me stay positive, because for every rejection, there’s a healthy handful of tales still out there dreaming big. And when I get an acceptance, it’s a lovely surprise, because by continually sending out creative pieces I’m never quite clear what’s out there, and therefore not too focused on any one thing.

Which brings me to the third resolution.

3. Stay organised

Around the same time I started sending out four and more stories each month, I set up a simple spreadsheet to help me keep track of them all.

This helps my writing in two ways, firstly, by ensuring I know what I’ve sent where and whether they’ve responded, and secondly, by distancing me from the process emotionally.

By transforming all these acts of hope into columns and rows, I save myself from heartache. Each time a email or post out a piece of writing, I enter its name into the spreadsheet along with the details of where I’ve sent it and the date. Then, when it comes back, I colour that row according to the response – one colour for ‘no thanks’, one for ‘no, but positive feedback’ and one for ‘yes please!’

It all provides an immense sense of productivity, without too much effort at all, which in turn helps me stay motivated. And I’m happy to say that over the years the colour dedicated to ‘yes please’ is infiltrating the worksheets more and more.

4. and 5. Finally, pledge simply to celebrate even the smallest literary successes, and relish the pleasure of writing for its own sake. Lovely.

What works for you?