Book review – Random Observations

Random Observations cover. Shows sepia photo of woman and boy.One afternoon in September, a slim envelope was pushed through my door. It contained a book with a title but no indication of the authors, and 32 pages of text interspersed with curious images.

Random Observations begins with a foreword that encompasses in two pages a rescue from a crevasse and a devastating marital rift, plus an introduction to Nevil Short, the apparent author of this work. What follows are snippets of klutz – a spaceship gone awry, a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, and her child, Short, looking on. Our narrators vary from Short himself at various points in his life to Xyllophital, aka Colin, the extraterrestrial who accidentally kidnaps a human. Oh, and then there’s Inky the dog, who gets a chapter all of his own.

Often the people stepping into the spotlight seem incidental to Short’s central tale, but as he explains in his introduction: “The notes below have been painstakingly compiled through my lifetime’s association with persons of a perplexed disposition.”

Continue reading

Writing prompt – moped

Moped in Arnos Vale. by Judy DarleyThis poor moped was abandoned in a local Victorian Cemetery, looking utterly at odds with the gravestones and lush greenery.

There are plenty of questions you could explore to create a story inspired by the sight.

Who might the culprit be, and why did they leave it there? Could this be a statement about fossil fuels and our fragile grasp on life, or might a bunch of squirrels, badgers or buzzards have gotten up to no good in the gloaming? Is the Learner plate significant to the tale?

Why not make a play on the word ‘moped’, meaning small-engined two-wheeled vehicle, and ‘moped’, meaning behaviour revealing a melancholic mood?

Given the setting and the season, you also have the option to take a spookier route and write of ghouls taking nostalgic joyrides. I saw it at 7.15am and when I returned a few hours later, the bike had disappeared…

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

Enter a Halloween podcast Flash Fiction competition

Pumpkin eating person. Photo by Judy Darley

The Failing Writers Podcast Halloween Flash Fiction Writing Competition is eager to hear your words.

Entry is free. The prize is £100 plus the chance to hear your story performed in full by professional voice actors.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 22nd October 2021.

They invite you to send them a Halloween-themed flash fiction story of no more than 666 words. It can be any style, any genre, anything you like, as long as it’s themed around Halloween.

To enter, you need to listen to Episode 24 of the Failing Writers Podcast (available here) for a specific word or phrase that you MUST include in the story. They also recommend you subscribe to the podcast and sign up to their newsletter.

Once it’s ready, email your eerie masterpiece to by Friday 22nd October.

Find full terms, conditions and entry requirements here.

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.

Writing prompt – pork

Bramble Farm pig by Judy DarleyAt local urban farmstead Bramble Farm open day. a friend and I enjoyed sausage baps before strolling over to meet this meat, ahem, pork, ahem, pig

As someone who rarely eats meat and loves wildlife, it shocks me how much is consumed daily, and how that impacts our planet.

This pig trotted over to have its ears scratched before toppling onto one side, I assume in hope of a belly-rub, but it made me think of the cow-like creature in Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe that’s been bred to want to be eaten.

I’ve been reading recently about scientific advances in lab-grown meat, whereby a single cell from a pig can be nurtured into a batch of sausages or mince. As sci-fi as this sounds, it’s happening right now, with the target audience being uneasy meat-eaters who want to limit their contribution to deforestation and questionable animal husbandry practices.

Can you turn these strange truths into a fantastical work of fiction?

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

Affordable Art Fairs Autumn 2021

Full Harbour by Michael Praed

Full Harbour by Michael Praed

The Affordable Art Fair (AAF) returns to Nacka Strandsmässan, Stockholm, from 14th to 17th October 2021, with works on sale from 40 local and international galleries.

If that’s a little too far to travel  in the current climate, why not head to Battersea Park, London, from 20th-24th October?

The Battersea edition of the fair launches with a private view on Wednesday 20th October. Though there will be few galleries and timed visitor slots this year to allow for social distancing, there will be more than 100 galleries displaying fantastic artworks. These include the marvellous Eleven and a Half, who will be showing works by Cornish artists Michael Praed, Iona Sanders, Ben Catt, John Piper, and, for the first time, landscape artist Jill Eisele.

Other hotly anticipated highlights are the Recent Graduates showcase, curated by designer and artist Pascal Anson – a chance to buy innovative work before artists hit the big time. You’ll also find a new immersive installation, Fluid Form.

From 27th to 31st of October you can catch the AAF at de Kromhouthal, Amsterdam.

For me the best part of any Affordable Art Fair is simply the opportunity to traverse corridors of exceptional art and letting it set my imagination alight.

Find booking details here.

Writing prompt – time

Forever 3pm by Judy Darley. Shows an old carriage clock on a garden wall.

I don’t know about you, but as summer wanes into autumn and the greens begin to turn rust-red, I grow increasingly aware of the passage of time. While other people may feel this at New Year, for me it’s now that I start to look at what I’ve done with the past nine months of 2021, and what I need to cram into the next three.

This mantel clock left on a wall for any stranger to claim is a great representation of that. Who might happen across this spare time, and what might they choose to do with it?

The other option is to imagine a world set at 3pm. I know a few school pupils who would love that idea! What wonders would tie in with being eternally at that time of day, and what monotony or danger might creep in.

Plus there’s always the chance that occasionally the protagonist could stir from the lethargy of an endless afternoon and realise that somehow 3pm has morphed into 3am – a very different prospect!

What creative works could you muster from these ideas?

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

London Literature Festival 2021

Candice Carty-Williams - credit Ekua King

Candice Carty-Williams – credit Ekua King

Following a year’s hiatus, London Literature Festival hosted by the South Bank Centre is returning from 21st to 31st October 2021, with literary events exploring what friendship truly means in our current times.

“In response to the isolation we’ve all endured, London Literature Festival creates space for a timely conversation about contemporary friendship, while our autumn season offers unmissable encounters with the writers and artists shaping our cultural life,” says Ted Hodgkinson, the Southbank Centre’s Head of Literature and Spoken Word. “Truly an exceptional programme for exceptional times.”

Exclusive events include Caleb Azumah Nelson, Vanessa Onwuemezi and Naomi Ishiguro on 21st October, reflecting on the complexities of contemporary friendships forged in London. Also on 21st October, catch a London exclusive appearance from neuroscientist Anil Seth. Candice Carty-Williams (pictured top), author of Queenie, will talk to Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff about her debut YA novel and the value of true friends on 23rd October, while on 24th October novelist Tahmima Anam and essayist Roisin Kiberd will scrutinise friendship and disconnection in the age of social media, in an event chaired by Jenny Kleeman.

On Sat 30th October, novelist Kate Mosse will chair An Extra Pair of Hands, an event focusing on experiences of the NHS and the friendships formed between carer and patient, with children’s author and poet Michael Rosen, award-winning poet and specialist nurse practitioner Romalyn Ante and writer and former nurse Christie Watson.

Don’t miss bestselling picture book maker Oliver Jeffers discussing his new picture book, There’s a Ghost in This House, on 31st October in a family friendly free event.

alchemymay23. Credit Belinda Lawley

Credit Belinda Lawley

In short, have your imagination thoroughly stirred.

For the full programme, visit

All images supplied by the South Bank Centre.

Writing prompts – classifieds

Northern Slopes stream and woodland by Judy DarleyNeighbourhood Facebook groups often serve as modern-day classifieds pages. A recent post on one in my area offered a wealth of story ideas.

A local helpful person wrote: “Just retrieved a rucksack from the bushes. It doesn’t look that old and was completely empty apart from a photo that may have sentimental value. Please contact me if you think this may be yours.”

She then adds: “Photo is dated 1978 and has a hand written message on the back if that helps.”

This actually gave me shivers! What might the photo show? Who could the backpack belong to? How do you think it ended up in the bushes? If it was stolen, was anything taken from it? Or is this all a red herring?

Soooo many questions! Now, your task is to write the story that answers at least some of these.

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

Celebrate writing at Manchester Literature Festival


This year’s Manchester Literature Festival promises a mixture of digital and real-world events celebrating writing in all its forms.

With #MLF LIVE from 9th-17th October and #MLF DIGITAL from 1st-14th November, there will be plenty to ignite imaginations, inspiration and an appreciation of how we can make sense of our world through reading, writing and experiencing literature.

Live highlights include:

Jeanette Winterson and Mark O’Connell in Conversation with Kate Feld.

Saturday 9th October 2021, (Central Library)

An Evening with Bernardine Evaristo
Monday 11 October 2021, (HOME Theatre)

An Evening with Colm Tóibín,

Thursday 14 October 2021 (Central Library)

Tenement Kid: Bobby Gillespie in Conversation
Saturday 16 October 2021, 8pm, HOME (Theatre)

Malika Booker, Vahni Capildeo & Jason Allen-Paisant

Sunday 17 October 2021 (Central Library)

Look out for exclusive commissions by exciting contemporary poets responding to our current times.

Celebrated poet and musician Roger Robinson was commissioned by Manchester Literature Festival to write a new series of poems exploring the idea of Black Lives Matter and how it pertains to the Black British experience.

A rising poetry star Caleb Femi was commissioned by Manchester Literature Festival to write new poems exploring the impact of solitude during the pandemic, touching on themes of the inner and physical self, friendship, joy and imagination as a coping tool.

California-born poet and the Director at the Centre for Imagination in the Borderlands at Arizona State University Natalie Diaz was commissioned by Manchester Literature Festival to write a series of poetic sensualities exploring the words ‘origin’, ‘migration’, ‘freedom’ and ‘love.’ The Festival say: “A deeply lyrical poet, she created linguistic maps of these words in English and Mojave, diving deep into their roots and the ways in which they echo in physical connection.

Find out more about these commissions and all the Manchester Literature Festival events:

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 – site

Realm by Judy DarleySome of the most unlikely places have a kind of beauty about them that’s hard to explain. This strange slice is an example of that for me. Photographed between strips of metal, with tangles of weeds and rubble, it has a grandeur that you yourself may not see.

Imagine a spot that one person views as a wasteland, and another regards as a realm of untold possibilities. What informs their different responses? How does their state of mind impact their viewpoint? What transforms a site into a sight?

Can you build this into a story where one character captures the other’s intrigue and changes their mind about the beauty, or ugliness, of the space?

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