Imaginative city

Waterstones Bristol. Photo by Judy DarleyBristol Festival of Literature begins on Friday 19th October and runs until Sunday 28th October, with a variety of imagination-stirring events taking place across the city. I’ve written about it for The Bristol Magazine, and can’t wait to dig into the riches promising to well up.

You can read my feature in the October print edition, or online here: https://thebristolmag.co.uk/word-on-the-street-bristol-festival-of-literature/

Jari Moate. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Jari Moate. Photo by Paul Bullivant

I’ve already got my tickets for two of the highlights I mention in the piece The first of these is Festival founder Jari Moate’s launch of his novel Dragonfly, taking place on Saturday 20th October at Waterstones, the Galleries. It starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are free but need to be booked here: www.bristolliteraturefestival.org

The second is the very last event of the festival – Finding the Positive –Dystopias and Utopias in a Changing Climate.

This CliFi (aka Climate Fiction) workshop is from 2-5pm on Sunday 28th October at Bristol’s YHA, and promises to offer insights into how we can share stories of our changing climate and inspire action in a positive way. I’m looking forward to soaking up plenty of inspiration!

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Lots of other intriguing happenings are unfolding throughout the days of the festival, including Dark Confessions with Bristol Writers Group and friends. I’m one of the friends and looking forward to sharing my story Tunnelled in the setting that prompted it – Redcliffe Caves. Find out more and book tickets here.

And if you make it to anything on the Festival calendar, let me know how you get on!

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

Writing prompt – myth

Arnos Vale woodland grave cr Judy DarleyFairytales feed into our consciousness from our earliest days. From myths to the whispers that emerge on shadowy evenings, to the fear of that creature that may lurk under beds or inside cupboards, they rattle through our blood and shape our understanding of narrative, as well as of the world.

I recently read Amy Wilson‘s excellent debut A Girl Called Owl, which draws on old mythology concerning Jack Frost, his brethren and the fay. And I often dip into an ancient copy of Tor Åge Bringsvaerd‘s entrancing book Phantoms And Fairies From Norwegian Folklore.

When I saw this woodland grave in a rustic cemetery, my intrigue was piqued. I imagined the people who might have laid someone to rest here, amid the trees and insects. I couldn’t help thinking of Hansel and Gretel, and the trauma they’d had to overcome.

My resulting story, Invertebrates, has been published in Issue 8 of Door Is A Jar Magazine, which is available to buy here.

Here are the first lines, to set the scene for you:

We dug her up each solstice, and each time she was a little lighter, her joints a little more unhinged. I worried she might come apart entirely, sinew and bones giving way as we propped her in the place of honor.

Why not turn an unexpected glimpse into a story of your own, shouldering it in fairytales or fables for added resonance?

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.

A short story – Wriggler

Laugharne Castle by Judy DarleyMy bittersweet story Wriggler has been published in the October 2018 issue of the intriguingly named Ghost Parachute. It captures the moment when a mother recognises the hazards of the age her son has reached.

The picture above shows Laugharne Castle, a destination for my duo.

Here are the first couple paragraphs to give you a taste:

The suspension bridge tries to catch us in its wires as we drive from Bristol to Wales, chasing storm clouds as we go. “It’s like a spider with a gazillion legs,” Sam says, staring up through the sun roof.

I can’t help but smile at him. In those words I hear the little boy he used to be, just last year or the year before. Not that 12 is so very close to fully grown, but the perils he faces now seem disturbingly adult.

To read the story in full and see what other fab fictions this literary ezine has to offer, visit ghostparachute.com.

A short story – Safe Arbor

Apples by Judy Darley

My surreal story Safe Arbor has been published by the excellent fairytale magazine Enchanted Conversation as their Saturday Tale.

It’s an exploration of old age and sibling loyalty, and includes the line: My sister nods her branches with the breeze and murmurs…

…which gives you a clue to the direction I’ve taken it in 🙂

You can read the story in full here.

A short story – Not Every Wound Can Heal

Old Town Square, Prague by Judy DarleyI’m delighted to have my short story with a not so short title published by the excellent Spelk Fiction. Not Every Wound Can Heal went live on the stellar flash fiction site this morning. Prompted by a mis-remembered tale of a holy relic glimpsed in Prague church, it rings in at just over 330 words and begins:

A dark artefact hangs from the ceiling of the Baroque church. It resembles a bit of branch, or a stick covered in rags. Our tour guide tells us it’s a mummified arm.

Afterwards Tim and I each remember the story differently. He’s convinced it’s the relic of a saint. I’m sure it’s the limb of a thief who tried to steal jewels from a statue of the Virgin Mary, and that she came to life and twisted his arm entirely off.

Perhaps it’s not an arm at all.

I can’t get it out of my head. 

Read the full story Not Every Wound Can Heal here.

Mirror-themed fiction at Salon Soirées

Bloom and Curll interior cr Judy DarleyI’m excited to be sharing one of my stories at Salon Soirées’ mirror-themed evening on Tuesday 11th September. This cosy literary event takes place at the gorgeous Bloom & Curll Bookshop, 74 Colston Street, Bristol.

I’ll be reading my story Farewell Gifts, which was inspired by artist Gilly Mound’s painting Little House, pictured below. I wrote the story just after moving to a new home, and with love and loss on my mind. If you come along and listen to the story, I think you’ll understand what I mean.

Little House by Gilly Mound

Little House by Gilly Mound

Tickets are free, but limited, so book yours here. Doors open to the audience from 6:30pm for a 7pm start. Organiser Julia says: “Listenings will take roughly 2 hours, with a short interval between, and a chance thereafter to mingle, indulge in a delectable tipple, and find yourself a book treasure – please bring cash!”

As summer edges into autumn, I find that literary events become ever more enticing. Find out more about the Salon Soirées series here:

Facebook | www.facebook.com/salonsoirees
Instagram | www.instagram.com/salonsoirees
Eventbrite | https://salonsoirees.eventbrite.com

Tunnelled – a short story

Redcliffe Caves. Photography by Paul BullivantI’m thrilled to have my short story Tunnelled published as part of dear damsels Youth theme, as their #FridayRead in their Back to School week.

The story took seed while playing my own version of the Tunnel Game with my nephew. It provided a fun way to get from A to B, him with his eyes closed and me murmuring descriptions of the tunnel we were supposedly walking through into his ear.

“She knows he likes it best when she tells him they’re in terrible danger, like when a grizzly bear rushes by, its breath hot and sudden on his neck. Other times the path threads alongside a crevasse so deep and sheer that she has to pull him suddenly one way or another to prevent him falling. His body in her arms feels small and trusting, and she vows that whatever happens, she’ll keep him safe.”

But what if someone else had joined in with the game? And what if the story had become a little too real for comfort?

Sent shivers down my own spine with this one…

Read Tunnelled on the dear damsels website.

This is my second story published by dear damsels. Read my story Two Pools of Water. And yes, in case you were wondering, Redcliffe Caves are real.

Writing prompt – missing

Hair grip, Arnos Vale Cemetery by Judy DarleyOne of the early inspirations for my story Knotted Rope (published on the Seren website) was a small pink hair clip I saw lying beside a grave in Arnos Vale Cemetery. It made me wonder about the child who had lost it, and then wonder what would happen if the child want missing instead of the clip.

Could this inconsequential item serve as a clue? In the end my story about a missing child took a different route, and that initial thought was reduced to the following:

       I overhear one police officer mutter to another: “Shame it’s not a girl.”

       “Excuse me?” My voice rattles through the air. “What difference would that make?”

       “Oh, none, nothing. Just, little girls tend to carry things, hair slides…” He flounders, pointing to a broken clip on the side of the path. The pink paint is peeling away; it’s spotted with rust. “They’re more likely to leave a trail.”

       I glare at him. “If you’re any good at your job you won’t need a trail, will you?”

What ephemera you spotted by the side of a path or road? What directions could it carry you in your writing?

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.

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Writing prompt – travel

Twin Blue and Green Lakes, Sete Cidades cr Judy DarleyI often find myself moved to write strange and dreamy fictions while travelling. For instance, my story Two Pools of Water, inspired by a trip to the Azores, and published this week by dear damsels.

My story draws on local myths, and the yearning of youth.

My sister Bia leads me to a balcony. The twin lakes show beyond, half-shrouded in cloud. With the sky overcast, the green and blue are harder to see. She tells me the fairytale I’ve heard a thousand times before, of the shepherd and the princess, embracing on the bridge and weeping through their farewells. ‘Her green eyes made the emerald lake, and his blue eyes made the sapphire one,’ she says. ‘He cried more, which is why the blue lake is so much bigger.’

Think of a place you’ve visited far from and as unalike home as possible, and use that as the setting for a story. If you can weave in a bit of local legend, so much the better!

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.

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Green Island

Logoa do Fogo, Sao Miguel by Judy Darley

Logoa do Fogo, Sao Miguel

My travel feature on the tranquility of Sao Miguel, one of the Azores islands, was recently published by In The Moment magazine. It provided a wonderful chance for me to re-live the beauty of that Portuguese isle.

You can buy back issues of In The Moment here. My feature appeared in issue 10.

This is my third feature published about that trip, the previous ones being published in Wedding ideas magazine and A Year In Portugal journal.

I’ve also had a piece published about a somewhat chillier visit to Iceland in Balance magazine. Love getting out to see the world and sharing my discoveries!

Icelandic Thrills feature by Judy Darley