A short story – What We Talk About When We Talk About Owls

Egg by Judy DarleyI’m so pleased to have my story ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Owls‘ published in Retreat West‘s Charity Anthology 2019, titled No Good Deed. It’s raising funds to support Indigo Volunteers. This brilliant charity matches willing volunteers with humanitarian projects across the globe.

The photo above is a clue to a pivotal incident in the tale. And no, that’s not the moon.

No Good DeedMy story was inspired by the way discussions can skirt around the real issues within a family, so that the crucial point can be ignored in favour of chewing over less relevant or, frankly, more surreal topics.

It began in my mind as an image very like the one above, being gawped at by two sisters. As I allowed the characters to chat, I realised how little we know of what happens in other people’s relationships, even those where we’re closely related to one of the parties.

In this case the key subject is not really owls at all, although one particular species does feature, as you’ll see in the taster lines below.

“That’s a tawny owl egg,” Sammy declares, holding up the egg identification chart I gave her at Easter. “Did you know tawny owls are ferociously defensive of their young? If it’s just been laid it’ll hatch in 30 days.
Can I have it?”

“No!” My sister’s voice is so loud that my niece and I both jump. “Sammy, go and play, will you? I need to speak to your aunt.”

Buy your copy of the No Good Deed anthology here.

A short story – Knotted Rope

Hair grip, Arnos Vale Cemetery by Judy Darley

My publisher Jamie at Valley Press has shared one of the stories from my new collection Sky Light Rain. Knotted Rope is a tale in three voices exploring what happens when a small child goes missing.

I always think the bigger moments in our life belong to more than just us. Ripples of
grief, or relief, can spread through a community. The story was a challenge to write – I initially wrote it in three voices, and then tried letting Meg’s voice rise to the surface, but the three-voice model won out in getting the tale to make sense.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the tale.

We march the pre-schoolers along leafy paths, avoiding the worst of the mud and pointing out buds on branches, robins and magpies. Occasionally, one will forget themselves and skitter off, drunk on the possibilities. But they’re tiny enough that we’re able to speed over and scoop them up. For most, the threat of missing storytime keeps them gripping onto their knot.

A new one started last week – Andrew. Just moved to the area with his jagged-edged mum. He’s walked with us each morning, clutching onto the blue rope with the others. He doesn’t join in with the songs. In the cemetery I watch as he gawks at the woodland. There’s a light in his eyes that makes me wary. He’s meek, or rather, quiet. Easy to confuse those two. Does as he’s told, silent mouth pursed, but I can see that his mind is swooping away.

It was partly inspired by the marvellous overgrown Victorian cemetery in Bristol, Arnos Vale, and the pre-school little-uns I see being taken for outings there.

Read the story in full here.

Sky Light Rain is available to buy here.

A 100-word story – Minotaur

Beach. Photo by Khurt Williams on UnsplashIf you subscribe to Mslexia magazine, you may be aware that in addition to the print magazine, subscribers receive a regular e-newsletter titled Little Ms. This includes news, inspirations, story prompts and opportunities to submit ideas and fiction.

My favourite bit is always the Flash Card, which offers up an often fairly strange image for you to interpret in 100 words of less.

The inspiration for submissions to the October Little Ms showed a man with his head down a hole in a beach.I’m happy to say that my response, below, was selected for publication in the October newsletter.

He had to admit it was a short-term solution at best. But there was something lovely about the dark, cool quiet of the hole he’d stuck his head down. It calmed his urge to snort and paw his feet against the sand. The aim of the holiday had been to escape work stress. It was an unfortunate coincidence that Jan from accounting had booked the same Cretan resort. Off-duty, his natural minotaur head reasserted its dominance. That the hole his daughter had dug into the beach kept this from view could be his saving grace.

Subscribe to mslexia.

Sky Light Rain book launch & literary night

Sky Light Rain by Judy DarleyMy short story collection Sky Light Rain is now out, and I’m celebrating with an atmospheric evening of readings and music on the themes of sky, light, and rain. Drawing on my enduring fascination with the fallibility of the human mind, Sky Light Rain examines aspects of human existence, including our relationship to nature and to each other.

The event will take place at Waterstones Bristol Galleries, from 7pm on Saturday 2nd November 2019, and you’re invited!

Alongside me, participants include writers Paul Deaton, Kevlin Henney and Grace Palmer, and indie art-pop musician Hidden Tide.

You can book your free tickets here.

Buy your copy of Sky Light Rain from Valley Press here.

Here are our bios:

Judy Darley’s short stories, flash fiction and poems have been widely published, and read by the author on BBC radio, in pubs, caves, and a disused church, as well as at literary festivals and charity events. She was co-judge of the National Flash Fiction Micro Competition 2019. Sky Light Rain is her second short story collection. Her debut collection Remember Me to the Bees was published in 2013. @JudyDarley

Kevlin HenneyKevlin Henney has been involved in the organisation of National Flash Fiction Day events, the Bristol Festival of Literature and the Flash in Hand open mic night at Alchemy 198 in Bristol. His stories have won, placed, and been shortlisted and longlisted in competitions. His stories appear on air, online and in print, included in over twenty anthologies. @KevlinHenney

 

Grace Palmer headshotGrace Palmer’s writing can be found in Flashback Fiction, Riggwelter Press, Magma, Flash Fiction One & Two and online at National Flash Fiction Day. She founded and runs Novel Nights and Flash in Hand, and teaches writing at Bristol Folk House. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa Uni. @wordpoppy and @novelnightsuk

 

Paul Deaton headshotPaul Deaton’s Seren collection A Watchful Astronomy was a Poetry Book Society Winter Recommended Book and was a National Poetry Day Book Group selected title. Work is included in the Forward Prize Anthology 2019. He is co-editor of smith / doorstop’s forthcoming Running Anthology, a freelance commissioning art editor and a counsellor in addictions in Bristol. @pauldeaton28

 

Hidden Tide HeadshotHidden Tide uses distorted guitar, programmed loops and thought-provoking lyrics to create ‘sweeping dark electronica’. Performing her own material, she is a regular on the Bristol music scene with gigs including sets at Mr Wolf’s and the Louisiana. @HiddenTideMusic

 

Writing prompt – elemental

Elemental by Judy Darley

My short story collection Sky Light Rain is out in just over a week, and I’m really excited. So I thought that this week I would offer some insights into the inspirations behind the 36 works of fiction it contains.

My publisher has described the collection as ‘elemental,’ which I really like. The tales touch on nature, and human nature, and all the fragmented darkness and lightness that coalesce to form the people we become. It’s about the actions we take to try to make our lives better, and how, at times, these actions can make things worse. How good intentions can be twisted, misunderstood or cast adrift, so that we flounder as we struggle to remember what we’d hoped to achieve or attain.

My starting point for each was a questions: ‘What if…?’

So for this week’s writing prompt I invite you to think about the things that niggle at you, that really pique your curiosity, and then dig deeper by asking yourself why, and what might happen if…?

My book launch is also a wider literary night featuring three additional exceptionally talented writers, Grace Palmer, Paul Deaton and Kevlin Henney, and amazing musician Hidden Tide, who will all share their work. The launch is at 7pm on 2nd November 2019 in Waterstones Bristol. Get your free tickets here.

Sky Light Rain is available to pre-order 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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Readings in the Crypt

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

On Tuesday 22nd October as part of Bristol Festival of Literature, I’m reading a short story in the crypt of St John on The Wall. Along with members of Bristol Writers’ Group, including, Gavin Watkins, Sarah Rowles, Piers Marter and Corinne Robinson, I’ll share a short original folktale of redemption and forgiveness, titled The Ties That Bind.

I’ve read with the group previously in Bristol’s Redcliffe Caves, and the event is always excellent. This year, the theme was ‘Thing’, and the ‘thing’ I chose was a ribbon.

Book your tickets here

Hope to see you there!

Find out what else is on during Bristol Festival of Literature.

A prose poem – Sunlit

Sunlit tree by Judy DarleyEarlier this year a series of my Care Home Vignettes was published in the Summer 2019 issue of Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing.

These works of creative non-fiction capture my experiences of gradually losing my father to Alzheimer’s Disease.

One of these pieces, titled Sunlit, caught the attention of another contributor to the edition. Poet Carol Barrett, Ph.D. got in touch to let me know she was applying to carry out a workshop for Oregon Poetry Association. The topic would be The Prose Poem As Memoir, the workshop would take place in September, and Carol wanted permission to include one of my pieces as an example.

I was happy to say yes, and even happier when Carol let me know the workshop had gone ahead, with 33 participants.

Carol wrote: “This community is largely composed of folks over 60, so many have experienced care homes with relatives, or are concerned about whether they will need to take up residence in such facilities. The poignancy of the details came through, as well as the two characters of the speaker and the father. After this discussion, they wrote their own prose poems/vignettes, and some wonderful things were produced.

Writing has always been a means of making connections for me, and I love the idea of this workshop in Oregon including my thoughts and emotions on a topic that will touch so many of us.

Carol plans to repeat the workshop at Deschutes Public Library in Oregon on 8th December.

Here’s the piece that went on this journey:

Sunlit

He’s on a mission, striding there and back again. Just woken, his steps are slow at first. He lists slightly to one side, one hip shored up for balance.

I shadow him, spilling memories of holidays we shared. He nods politely, then hurries past. So much ground to cover before nightfall. At a locked door he halts, pressing his fingers against metal screws in different configurations. Puzzling it out.

He seems tall today. A silver birch with crooked branches. We turn, walk on, passing beneath an open skylight.

Rain falls through sunlit silver. Droplets catch in his snow-white hair. He pauses, blinking. Connected for just a moment with the world outside.

A short story – Shifting Sands

Shifting Sands by Judy DarleyI’m proud to have my ecological fable ‘Shifting Sands’ included in the Mechanics’ Institute Review 16: The Climate Issue. Such an important topic to think, write and take action about.

The MIR team have been lovely to work with, and I can’t wait to see my story in print. It will be my longest published work to date, rocking in at just over 5,000 words.

The sands, when we get to them, show evidence of those who’ve attempted to cross before – an abandoned sleigh here, a dropped backpack there. No footprints though. No bones. The winds erase or cover those each day.

The story began life in a climate fiction workshop run by Deborah Tomkins, and was inspired by a visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. It takes the form of a journey for the characters, as they explore themes of human frailty and resilience in the aftermath of the climate change crisis and plastics polluting the planet. I’d like to think it’s threaded through with hope too.

I’ve excited to meet the other authors, and the editors who’ve worked so hard to polish our words, as well as come face-to-cover with the anthology itself!

The image at the top is by Lionello DelPiccolo, who did a fabulous job of imbuing the whole anthology with stunning visual beauty. Buy your copy here.

Mechanics' Institute Review 16

A short story – How To Milk An Alpaca

Milk by Judy Darley

I’m so pleased my small, strange, hopeful story How To Milk An Alpaca (a step-by-step guide), has taken up residence with Lunate Fiction.

This gorgeous publication has been publishing some stunning fiction recently, so it’s lovely to know my alpaca-milker has found a home with plenty of lovely neighbours!

You can read the story here.

Sky Light Rain – collection launch and literary night

Sky Liight Rain launch picI’m excited to share the news that my short story collection Sky Light Rain will be published by Valley Press on 2nd November. To celebrate, I’m hosting an atmospheric evening of readings and music on the themes of sky, light, and rain.

The collection draws on my enduring fascination with the fallibility of the human mind, and examines aspects of human existence, including our relationship to nature and to each other.

The event will take place at Waterstones Bristol Galleries, from 7pm on Saturday 2nd November 2019. I’ll be joined by writers Paul Deaton, Kevlin Henney and Grace Palmer, and indie art-pop musician Hidden Tide.

This is a Bristol Festival of Literature 2019 fringe event.

Tickets are free but limited, so don’t forget to book yours.

Date And Time: Saturday 2nd November 2019, 7pm-9pm.

Location: Waterstones, 11A, Union Galleries, Broadmead, Bristol BS1 3XD

Book your free tickets here.