Inside ‘The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain’

Bristol writer Judy Darley

Ahead of my book launch and literary night for my new short story collection The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain, I wanted to share some of the press I’ve received.

First up is a write-up by Sarski Anderson, Culture Editor at Bristol 247. The feature offers lots of insights into how I used fiction-writing as a sanity-saver during lockdown.

For Darley, walking and writing became a vital tool through which to process her emotions about what was happening in the wider world at the time, and to channel the people that she saw on her daily strolls: “from the woman howling beneath a tree in Victoria Park, who features in Leaf after Leaf, to the child whose mum is a key worker in The Rules of Contagion, which includes a hopscotch grid drawn on a path in Perrett Park”.

Why Rivers Run to the Sea gives voice to rivers, a physical representation of the urge to escape that Darley occasionally felt during the early days of the lockdowns.

She notes that curiously, as a writer, the narrowing of her personal horizons actually served to add new depths and greater complexity to her work. It was a powerful means of escape, into an inner world. “Writing gave me a chance to zigzag through memories and daydreams, and allowed me to recast my anxieties in a form that I could adapt and control in the shape of fantasies that became short stories.

The feature also includes a complete flash fiction from the collection.

You can read the full feature here.

Review

Alison Woodhouse, author of The House on the Corner, has reviewed The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain. She writes:
This new collection of short fiction, the third from Judy Darley, is ambitious. Stories explore the pandemic and possible consequences on our mental and material wellbeing, our relationship with the natural world and the accelerating impact of climate change, alongside both the struggles and joys that arise between siblings, parent/child and lovers. They range from a few thousand words (The Daughters) to just one line (Elegy), traveling across genre and form. Sci-fi, cli-fi, dystopias, utopias, realism, magic realism, surrealism, absurdism, all mixed up to offer a breathtaking range of astute social commentary and emotional complexity.

Interview with Bristol Life magazine

I was interviewed by Deri Robins of Bristol Life magazine about my writing and reading loves for their prestigious back page spot. Deri asked some brilliant questions about my writing background, from growing up in a house full of books to learning to be concise and avoid cliches through my work as a travel writer. As a journalist myself, it was fun to be on the other end of the scrutiny for once!  You can read the feature here or online here.
She writes: “Judy Darley has an eclectic CV. Not only has she worked as a journalist and a communications manager, but as a shepherdess – the latter conjuring up an irresistible (though undoubtedly inaccurate) Arcadian vision of Judy depicted in Meissen porcelain.” Now, doesn’t that sound like a perfect writing prompt?

Get in touch!

If you want to know more about my writing, about The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain book launch & literary night or would like a review copy of The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com. Thanks!

The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain book launch & lit night

TheStairsAreASnowcapped Mountain_fullcoverwebTo celebrate the launch of my new short story collection, The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain, I’m hosting a launch party and literary night at Waterstones in Bristol’s Galleries, from 7-9.30pm on Saturday 26th March. It’s open to the public and I’d love you to come along!
There will be live music plus readings from local writers on the themes of things being more than they first appear or different to how they seem at first glance.
There will be heart-stirring live music from singer songwriter Eve Appleton, poetry from former midwife Helen Sheppard and atmospheric readings from local fiction writers, including myself. With hints of fairytales and myths rippling through everyday scenarios, you may emerge seeing the world with fresh eyes.
Here’s the important info:
The Stairs Are A Snowcapped Mountain launch & literary night at Waterstones, Bristol Galleries
  • Date and time: Saturday 26th March 2022, 7-9.30pm
  • Locations: Waterstones, 11a Union Galleries, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3XD (street entrance)

    Here’s the line up:

    Judy Darley photo credit Jo Mary Bulter Photography_cropJudy Darley is a British author who can’t stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind. Her words have been published in the UK, Canada, US, New Zealand and India, including Cypress, The Mechanics’ Institute Review and The Pomegranate. Judy is the author of short fiction collections Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me to the Bees (Tangent Books). The Stairs are a Snowcapped Mountain is her third collection. She is Flash Fiction Editor at Reflex Press and has co-judged competitions for National Flash Fiction Day and Oxford Flash Fiction Prize. You can find Judy on Twitter at @JudyDarley

  • Photo credit: Jo Mary Butler Photography

    Eve Appleton_Photo credit- Beth Butcher Photography @bethbutcherphotography_cropEve Appleton is a singer songwriter performing in the folk tradition but bringing a fresh, contemporary voice to the genre. Her writing is informed by her own experiences of growing up in a British seaside town, observations of adolescence, and the music and poetry she has discovered, or has been introduced to, over the years.

    You can find Eve on Instagram as @eveappletonmusic

    Photo credit: Beth Butcher Photography

    Jo Mary Butler_cropJo Mary Butler is a poet, singer/songwriter, actress and theatre director. As a founding member of Misplaced Theatre, she recently directed Steven Berkoff’s ‘Decadence’ for the company at the Alma Tavern Theatre, Bristol.

    Her debut poetry and short fiction collection Hybrid, with original drawings by Harry Simmonds, will be available in Summer 2022.

    Photo credit: Jo Mary Butler Photography

     

  • Harriet Kline_cropHarriet Kline works part time registering births, deaths and marriages and writes for the rest of the week.  Her story Ghost won The Hissac Short Story Competition 2012 and Chest of Drawers won the London Magazine Short Story Competition 2013. She has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, has a story at Litro online and at shortstorysunday.com. This Shining Life, published by Penguin, is her first novel and she’s slowly working on the next one, to be published in 2024.

    You can find Hartiet on Twitter as @HareandHarriet and on Instagram as harriet_kline.

    Photo by Jeni Nott Photography.

    Helen Sheppard_crop
    Helen Sheppard
    is a Bristol-based writer and worked as a midwife. Her poetry explores themes of birth, health loss, and those whose voices are often unheard. Events Helen has performed at include Milk Poetry, RTB, Torriano Meeting House and Harvard Medical School. Helen’s work has been Published widely, including These are the Hands and Under the Radar magazine. Her debut poetry collection Fontanelle was published in 2021 by Burning Eye Books. Helen interviews extraordinary poets for her podcast Health Beat Poets, their ‘take’ on Poetry, Health and Community. You can find Helen on Twitter as HelenSheppard7 and on Instagram as helensheppard58 

    Photo credit: Tom Shot Photography

    Get in touch!

    If you want to know more about my writing, about The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain book launch & literary night or would like a review copy of The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com. Thanks!

    Judy

Retreat West online flash fest –5th-6th March

Three editors in a boat. Photo by Ivan Lapyrin on UnsplashI’m excited to be taking part in Retreat West’s online flash fest that’s happening on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th March.

Ten_Ways-anthology book coverThere are inspiring events unfurling all weekend, including the launch of ‘Ten Ways Animals Will Save Us‘, Retreat West’s tenth birthday anthology, which contains one of my climate fiction flashes, ‘Fishing for Green and Blue’. The anthology is crammed with amazing stories from spectacular authors, on the theme of ‘ten’.

The anthology launch is at 10am, when the festival begins. Writers who will be sharing their anthology stories at the festival include Sara Hills, Martha Lane, Amy Barnes and Edward Barnfield.

Unfortunately I’m not able to attend the launch, but I will be there for a panel discussion on Sunday:

15.15 – 16.15 – LITERARY JOURNAL EDITOR’S Q&A

I’ll be answering questions and sharing insights from the perspective of my flash fiction editor role at Reflex Press, along with Christopher Allen of Smokelong Quarterly and J. Archer Avary of Sledgehammer Lit.

Find full details of this energising literary weekend here.

I hope to see you there!

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

The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain book launch and literary night

TheStairsAreASnowcapped Mountain_fullcoverweb

I’m delighted to share the news that my new short story collection, The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain, is available to pre-order from Reflex Press here: https://www.reflex.press/product/the-stairs-are-a-snowcapped-mountain/

The image shown above is the full wrap-around book cover created from one of my paintings.

To celebrate, I’m hosting a launch party and literary night at Waterstones in Bristol’s Galleries (11a Union Galleries, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3XD), from 7-9.30pm on Saturday 26th March. It’s open to the public and I’d love you to come along!

The evening will include live music from singer songwriter Eve Appleton, poetry from former midwife Helen Sheppard and atmospheric readings from local fiction writers, including myself. With hints of fairytales and myths rippling through everyday scenarios, you may emerge seeing the world with fresh eyes.

Free tickets are available herehttps://www.waterstones.com/events/book-launch-with-judy-darley-the-stairs-are-a-snowcapped-mountain/bristol-galleries

I hope to see you there!

Judy

Recent publications

Judy all at seaI 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 publications.

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

A conversation about keeping it short

The Stairs snippetI’m so looking forward to heading to the latest instalment of the Flash Fiction Festival on Saturday 27th November 2021. It’s going to be an amazing, energising and inspiring day crammed with workshops and talks from some of the world’s finest flash fiction writers!

My touch-typey fingers are already twitching in anticipation of the workshop on prose poetry, hermit crab flash, ekphrastic writing and more, plus a Great Pottery Throwdown-esque competition, from amazing authors including Kathy Fish, Jude Higgins, Lorette C. Luzajic, Ingrid Jendrzejewski and Sara Hills.

I’m especially thrilled to be joining Sharon Telfer to chat about our Reflex Press collections. We’ll be talking about our books’ themes, how we put them together, reading an exclusive flash fiction from each of our collections and answering any questions you might have.

My short fiction collection The Stairs Are A Snowcapped Mountain will be out in March 2022. I’m hoping to do a cover reveal live at the festival, but for now you can feast your eyes on the shard above.

Get your ticket here: www.flashfictionfestival.com/booking/

Hope to see you there.

Sky Light Rain reviews – the kindness of strangers

Sky Light Rain coverweb
Whether you are a reader or a writer and a reader, it can be easy to underestimate the power of a good review. For many of us, discovering that the words we write have the vitality to touch other people is deeply moving, and energising. On a fundamental level, we have attained our goal!

It’s one of the reasons I love to review literature and art – not only does it help me dig into the experience of that particular creation more deeply, but from my own personal experiences, I know how affirming the kindness of strangers can be in this context.

With this in mind I’ve opted to share snippets of some Sky Light Rain reviews that made an impact on me.

Author Amanda Huggins (https://troutiemcfishtales.blogspot.com/2020/05/my-review-of-sky-light-rain-by-judy.html) wrote: Judy Darley’s short story collection, Sky Light Rain (Valley Press), looks up to the sky while digging deep down into the heart of what it means to be human. Darley has a distinctive voice, and her characters inhabit a place which is out of step with the world, in tales steeped in folklore, anchored by a deep connection to the natural world, embroidered with misunderstandings and mistakes. The writing is haunting and multi-layered, the imagery deft and original. And although these are stories exploring the fragility and fallibility of the human condition, we witness transformations and glimpses of new beginnings, making this richly textured collection resonate with hope. 

Matt of Runalong The Shelves (https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/blog/2020/1/11/sky-light-rain-by-judy-darley) wrote:

I do love both story collections and anthologies and I think the ones that really work are those that can tell a cohesive narrative around the themes illustrating the variety of stories any subject can trigger. The short story is very hard to get right but when it does it offers so many possibilities to explore and they’re a delight to read. In Judy Darley’s fantastic collection of short stories tales, they evolve around themes of the natural world in sections relating to the Sky, Light or Rain I found it a wonderfully immersive and often surprising set of tales.

The collection includes well over thirty tales some just a few pages; while some a little longer but they’re all well-judged and varied. I liked that I never knew what type of tale would follow next and quite a few tales had a little surprise in store while I read them and had my expectations inverted. They’re not always part of fantasy and sometimes just purely human nature or the impact of the natural world on us but they’re all always with their own sense of magic to them. Darley has a beautiful sense of lyrical description and tailors the tale’s language to suit the characters; all very well-constructed and help bring the reader in.

Writer and writing coach Sarah Tinsley published a mini review and in-depth interview here: https://www.sarahtinsley.com/post/sky-light-rain-with-judy-darley

Judy Darley‘s Sky Light Rain is special. The character in ‘Fin’ really stayed with me – I was haunted by the splashing of water while I lay in bed at night. I also loved the way so many of the stories felt as though they were right on the edge of our reality. Caught up in it, but touching their fingers at something outside of what we can see.

As you can tell from the title, the collection is separated into three sections that are linked thematically. Within that, the stories are truly varied. Different ages, worlds and perspectives are explored, all with a deft touch and with language that is beautifully unique.

Each review, email and tweet about Sky Light Rain lifted my heart and spurred me on to the next creative work. If you have a happy thought or response to anything you read, do the author a kindness and let them know. You might be surprised by the difference it makes!

Discover the inspirations behind the stories in Sky Light Rain.

If you’d like to request a review copy of Sky Light Rain or interview me about my writing, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com.

National Flash Fiction Day flash flood

River mud and debrisNational Flash Fiction Day UK is celebrating its 10th Anniversary on Saturday 26th June 2021. I’m delighted to have a micro flash selected for the FlashFlood.

My tale The Sideways House will appear on the FlashFlood journal at around 10:20 a.m. BST. In case you weren’t aware, the FlashFlood is an annually occurring tsunami-sized outpouring of mini masterpieces. The tireless team at Nat Flash Fiction towers will publish a flash at every five to ten minutes for 24 hours straight, from 00:01 until 23:59 BST.

I can’t wait to see what other wonders are in the stream. As an added treat, I’ll share a film of myself reading The Sideways House at around the same time as it sails out on the flood.

In other news, my wry eco-poem ‘What’s That’, featuring water voles and Rats, has been published by Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, which describes itself as “a website dedicated to the serious art of writing humorous poetry.”

Publications in April

Mushrooms by Judy DarleyMy flash fiction Stretching Out found a home in Hencroft’s Issue One, a spectacular debut entirely focused around the theme of Fungus. It’s about the relationship between Agnes and her Grandfah, who encourages her to be more that society dictates.

Here’s a paragraph from the tale:

It was Grandfah who encouraged her thirst for knowledge about the natural world. When she knelt to admire the gills of clouded agaric fungi clustered in leaflitter, he told of their strands stretching and intertwining far underground.  He suggested Agnes sketch the honey fungus clinging to rotted boughs, nodding in response to her observations as though her words had weight. He even had a special name for her interest: mycology, and said that one day she’d be a great mycologist.

My small strange micro tale The Sideways House, inspired by the so-called ‘new normal’, appeared in Issue 4 of Twin Pies Literary.

At just 92 words, it explores the challenges of living within previously unforeseen constraints.

Here’s a line from the centre:

All our pictures hung askew, books domino-ed, and the showerhead swung like a perturbed cat’s tail whenever we dared turn it on. 

You can read the rest here www.twinpiesliterary.com/volume-four/thesidewayshouse

In other news, I was nominated for a Sabotage Reviews Award in the Best Reviewer of Literature category. You can vote in all the categories here by 5th May. If you enjoy my reviews, please consider voting for me. Thank you!

Sky Light Rain – Carry the Sky

Severn River reed beds cr Judy DarleyI can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s why I launched this series of posts offering insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The thirty-sixth and final story is ‘Carry the Sky’. The story sprang from a variety of sources, including me visiting a town in Italy built to re-home a community after their streets were intentionally flooded to create a leisure lake. The idea of that money-driven cruelty scandalised me! It provided a side-note in a story about a man caring for his eleven-year-old granddaughter in the aftermath of a family tragedy. I wanted to find a way for the pair to bond on the riverside, when the granddaughter would rather be “just about  anywhere else when he’s charged with keeping an eye on her.”

‘Carry the Sky’ also reflects elements of ‘Untrue Blue’, the first story in my Sky Light Rain collection, creating a hint of symmetry, if not quite resolution.

‘Carry the Sky’ begins:

Not many folks are out this afternoon. All it takes is a fine dousing drizzle to keep the dog walkers, cyclists and joggers away, John thinks, half-pitying them, half-glad for the peace their absence affords. In front of him, the river dapples like a thing alive, reflecting fractured pieces of sky. Following the storms, large branches still drift through, faking at being creatures worth pointing out to Amy before sinking out of sight.

They’d seen an eel the afternoon before, dead and sliding with the current like an old piece of tubing. Amy had recoiled, face screwed up. John isn’t buying that though. He remembers when she was small, nudging frogspawn with curious fingers. That inquisitive child still has to be in there somewhere.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lamp Black’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Blue Suitcase’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breathing Water’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Merrow Cave‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Milk and Other Lies‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Edge of the Sand‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘What Rises’.

If you’d like to request a review copy of Sky Light Rain or interview me about my writing, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com.