Writing prompt – decisions

Oh53 magazine cover by Jago SilverThe lovely folks at Oh Magazine have invited me to create the following writing prompt, using their atmospheric issue 53 cover by Jago Silver as a leaping-off point.

Issue 53 focuses on how one moment in time may result in a ripple effect that changes everything.

Your character has a decision to make. One choice will keep everything in their life exactly the same, or even make things slightly worse, but change the life of a stranger for the better. The other will improve everything in their own life, but make the stranger’s worse – in small or large ways.

What do they do? What are the outcomes?

Your characters are free to change their mind. What happens if they do?

You can subscribe to Oh magazine here.

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 may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

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.

The Royal West of England Academy in Bristol is inviting submissions for its 168th Annual Open Exhibition. The exhibition will be on from 14th November 2020 until 7th March 2021, and your art can be a part of it! 

The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 22nd September 2020.

Artists of all ages and experience are invited to submit.

This year’s Prize Fund offers £8,550 in cash awards, including the Academy Prize (1st prize: £5,000; 2nd prize: £1,000), a £1,000 prize for artwork by a BAME artist, an £800 prize for a work on paper, (sponsored by Yvonne Crossley RWA and The Drawing Gallery), the £500 People’s Choice Prize voted for by exhibition visitors, and the £250 painting prize sponsored by Derek Balmer PPRWA

Applicants must enter online, submitting images using the Online Exhibition Submission System (OESS).

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

Read my review of the RWA Open Exhibition 166.

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Sky Light Rain – Paper Flowers

11_Paper Flowers by Judy DarleyOver the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. The eleventh story in the collection is ‘Paper Flowers’.

As you may have noticed, I draw a lot of inspiration from my travels. This one sprang from a visit to Mount Isola, Lake Iseo, courtesy of Brescia Tourism. The traditional craft I describe in the tale, of making thousands of paper flowers for the Santa Croce festival that takes place every five years.

I wondered what it would be like to live there as an outsider, and dreamt up Julia, a woman who’d intended only to pass by on holiday, but fell in love with the setting and a man who later died. Now her daughters are almost grown, and she’s wondering what she can do to keep them with her in this place where time seems to hold its breath, or whether she even should.

An earlier version, published by The Island Review, I used the first person perspective, but at my Valley Press editor’s urging, I changed it to the third person.

The tale begins:

Julia hands the yellow felt-tip to Chiara, half watching as she adds a few dots of ochre-yellow to the heart of a paper lily: pollen that will never billow free.

“What’s wrong, ha?” Chiara asks, focused on her task. “You’ve been almost silent since you arrived.”

Julia shrugs, trying to smile, but Chiara re-caps the pen, flicks her eyes towards the younger woman, insistent.

“Bianca…” Julia admits, and she snorts.   

“Of course, Bianca. What’s her trouble now?” Chiara’s own daughters are grown up, married off, safe. Julia’s eldest is fifteen, that most lethal of ages, when everything wants to devour her, and she seems hellbent on devouring everything.

“There’s a boy…”

Chiara hoots. “When isn’t there?” She snips the petals of a tulip a little more roughly than intended, tsks, and tidies the ragged crepe edges. “Who this time?”

“Not local,” Julia admits. This is what perturbs her most.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.

Writing prompt – peril at sea

Oh52 magazine cover by Jago SilverThe lovely folks at Oh Magazine have commissioned me to create the following writing prompt, using their dramatic issue 52 cover by Jago Silver as a leaping-off point.

Issue 52 explores possible cures for endless comparison, rituals to lighten darker days and ways to live life to the bittersweet brim.

Imagine two siblings, friends or lovers take a trip to the sea and end up in peril. As they seek safety, old rivalries bubble up and spill over.

You can subscribe to Oh magazine here.

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 may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Book review – This Alone Could Save Us by Santino Prinzi

This Alone Could Save Us coverDespite the saying that a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, inevitably, we all do it to some extent. In the case of This Alone Could Save Us, though no doubt completed long before we were up to our necks in global calamities, the cover image by artist Stuart Buck paired with that title feels prescient, and, reader, it delivers.

Story after story, some barely half a page long (one only a sentence), feed our darting minds, offer distraction and comfort.

And, yes, there are flashes of sorrow and regret, but there are also stories here of quiet, quivering joy. One of my favourites is Costume: “I taste salt and camaraderie on my tongue. The wind whips past our skin and the sand flicks behind us as we run towards the waves.”

Exhilaration and triumph rise outwards with those flicks of sand.

Continue reading

The New Deal on Migration invites input from artists

Train station cr Judy DarleyThe Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has put out a call for submissions from visual artists working in all disciplines to contribute to a campaign to safeguard the safety of undocumented migrants.

Find out more about the campaign and how art can help bring about a fairer future at a special event on Wed 2nd September.

  • Deadline for submissions: 9am Monday 7 September
    Notice of successful commission: 5pm Friday 11 September
    Deadline for completed work: 9am Monday 28 September (or later, as agreed)

If you have queries, please contact Ruth at membership@jcwi.org.uk

The JCWI says: “Undocumented migrants have been on the frontline of this crisis. Working in hospitals, as delivery drivers, in takeaways or care homes – the work they have done has been essential, but invisible.

The lack of papers makes their lives vulnerable. Cut off from basic rights – the right to healthcare, the right to housing, the right to income support – and incentivised or forced to keep working even when it would be safer to shield. The hostile environment has cost some people their lives – afraid to seek help in case they get deported – and put countless more lives at risk.

As a new normal begins to take shape, we are launching a radical new campaign that centres the voices of undocumented migrants,and calls for all our lives and work to be equally valued and protected, no matter what papers we hold.

Our major new campaign (working name: “a new deal on migration”) will call for a radical re-think of the way that the lives, and the work, of undocumented migrants is portrayed and valued. Detailed policy asks will sit alongside a communications campaign, designed to mobilise those who are already passionate about migrants’ rights and start new conversations with some of those who are not.

We are demanding radical change. We need your help to share the ideas within this campaign, inspire people in our belief that a fairer future is possible, and motivate our audiences to take action.”

Objectives

The team are seeking illustrators, graphic designers, photographers and other visual artists to commission for three briefs.

The aim will be to:

  • Generate engagement on social media. That means content that grabs attention and encourages audiences to stop scrolling.
  • Inspire and motivate – to spread the word that change is possible. “We have been inspired by creative campaigners from around the world and what we are looking to do is celebrate those who share their stories and inspire readers/viewers to get involved.”

    View the inspiration board.

    Download the creative briefs and guidelines.

Sky Light Rain – A Blackbird’s Heart

A Blackbird Heart

Over the coming weeks, I’ll share insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. The tenth story in my collection is ‘A Blackbird’s Heart’.

Those of you who loved the multiple viewpoints of ‘Knotted Rope’ may be attracted to this story for similar reasons. It follows two entwined narratives, one by Bron, a young Welsh warrior whose culture include the use of animal hearts to communicate coded messages, and the other by Bronwyn, a foster child who is reading and obsessing over Bron’s dramatic tale.

Real life and fiction blur together for Bronwyn, until she’s driven to take drastic action.

I wrote Bron’s story first, but then Bronwyn popped into my head, poring over Bron’s story and avidly daydreaming herself into the adventure. It reminded me of how I yearned to find a world hidden at the back of my wardrobe, or battle the pirates of Neverland.

I drew parallels between Bron’s situation and Bronwyn’s, overlapping their lives as much as possible, but using Bronwyn’s imagination to make up any shortfalls. Through Bronwyn’s eyes, it’s easy for a tabby cat to become a monkey and for the young offenders institution where her brother Craig lives to mirror the castle dungeon where Bron’s brother Caio is imprisoned. Then I only had to decide how far Bronwyn’s fantasy might sweep her…

The tale begins:

Bron watches as Nan grasps her knife and slits the deer from throat to groin, easing the flesh apart until the glistening innards slide free.

She senses the monkey’s anxiety as it climbs from one of her shoulders to the other. “Hush, Caru, you’re safe.”

The smell of blood is sharp in her throat, not just the deer’s but that of her brother’s wife, Derlyn. The birth was difficult.

After his first caterwauls the baby has gone quiet, exhausted by his battle to enter the world. Eyeing the infant’s pink mottled flesh, Bron thinks he seems little different to the piglet that will represent him in the deer’s carcass.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.

Writing prompt – distraction

Oh Mag 51 cover by Jago Silver

The lovely folks at Oh Magazine have commissioned me to create the following writing prompt using their beautiful issue 51 cover by Jago Silver as a leaping-off point.

This issue is all about satisfying, mood-brightening pastimes.

Begin by selecting an absorbing activity, such as knitting, baking bread, making the perfect cup of tea, putting up shelves, or kayaking, to put at the forefront of your tale. Now focus on the person (your protagonist) performing the activity. Give them an underlying absorption – have they lost or gained something or someone? How has this troubled or excited them? How do the task and the preoccupation impact each other? What will your protagonist do when they finally complete their activity?

You can subscribe to Oh magazine here.

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 may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Submit your words to the Moth Nature Writing Prize

Moth by Judy Darley

The Moth Magazine has launched the inaugural Moth Nature Writing Prize. The deadline for entries of nature-inspired short stories, non-fiction and poems is 15th September 2020.

Richard Mabey, one of the UK’s foremost nature writers, will judge submissions.

The Prize will be awarded to the writer of the short fiction, non-fiction or poem that the judges deems to best combine exceptional literary merit with an exploration of the writer’s relationship with the natural world.

The prize is open to anyone over the age of sixteen, as long as the work is original and previously unpublished. Your submitted work must be no longer than 4,000 words.

Prizes

The winning piece will be published in the winter issue of The Moth.

The winner will receive €1,000 and a week-long stay at The Moth Retreat in rural Ireland.

There is a fee of €15 per entry.

Visit www.themothmagazine.com full details.

The Moth Magazine is also running its annual Poetry Prize, with a deadline of 31st December 2020.

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.

Sky Light Rain – Fascinate

9_Fascinate by Judy Darley

Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My ninth story in the collection is ‘Fascinate’.

‘Fascinate’ aired on Adam Crowther‘s BBC Upload radio show on Thursday 7th December at around eleven past seven. Adam describes it as being about “an unusual use for animals.”

It’s definitely is one of the shorter, stranger tales in the collection, despite being fully rooted in realism.

For me, fiction writing stems from just about everything my consciousness bumps against. Often these ideas combine and coalesce in barely recognisable forms. In this case, a childhood memory of seeing a hanging basket full of ducklings merged with a magazine feature I’d written about craftidermy.

I used these initial seeds to explore ideas of boundaries. Where do you draw the line? While many people are now vegetarian or vegan, countless others eat meat daily, but even those who do might baulk at eating animals that form part of the normal diet in other countries. If you’ll eat cow, why not horse? If you’ll eat chicken, why not cat…?

The story also explores ideas of different kinds of dominance, and how little we can know about the thoughts bubbling in another person’s head…

The story was originally published in the National Flash Fiction Day UK 2017 anthology Sleep Is A Beautiful Colour, and was later nominated for the Best Small Fictions award 2018.

The tale begins:

I still remember the April when we were small and found a nest of ducklings in a hanging basket. We climbed up on the kitchen roof and scooched close to stare at them.

“Ducklings are magic, Helen,” you told me. “They’re so fluffy they can survive a fall from any height.”

You reached out and scooped one into your palm before I could stop you. It sat there, the breeze weaving through its downy feathers. Then, grinning, you launched it with force into the air.

It splatted against the flagstones below with a squelch that rang through my head. You blinked at me, and giggled.

“Oops. Don’t tell, or I’ll blame it on you.” You slithered off the roof, kicking the tiny corpse beneath the rhododendron leaves where no one would see.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.