Join Writers & Artists’ ‘Writing Your Children’s Book’ course

Climbing by Judy Darley

Do you have a passion for writing for children? The folks at Writers & Artists are hosting an online Writing Your Children’s Book course, taking place from 8th May 2024 6:30pm to 12th June 2024, with sessions lasting from 6.30pm to 8pm

The course costs £350, and will be taught by Lesley Parr, the author of three novels for children. Her debut, The Valley of Lost Secrets, was published in 2021 and was both a Waterstones Book of the Month and longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal. It won the Tir na n-Og Award, the King’s School Chester Book Award and the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award, as well as being shortlisted for many others.

Where the River Takes Us is described by Waterstones as “an engrossing, character-driven tale of urban legends and personal discovery set during the era of the three-day week of 1974.”

They say: “The stories we read when we are young shape us. This May, join us for a six-week online course (including a reading week) to help develop your craft and work towards the publication of your children’s book.”

The course will explore creating memorable characters, world-building and structure, as well as offering insights into the children’s book market and how to improve your chances of getting your work published.

The course will suit children’s fiction, middle-grade and YA authors* at all stages of their writing journey, whether you have an initial idea and want to know where to start, or have a full draft and need help with revising and making it the best it can possibly be.

Sessions will run online via video conferencing software, with homework assignment deadlines for the following week.

All attendees will receive a complimentary copy of the latest edition of the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook as well as Lesley’s latest book.


Week One: The Children’s Book World

Wednesday 8th May

  • What it is and how your writing fits in
  • Age ranges
  • Word counts and content
  • Themes, trends and genres

Week Two: Getting Started and Keeping Going

Wednesday 15th May

  • To plan or not to plan
  • Stimulating ideas
  • Ways to get unstuck
  • Building confidence
  • Finding a community of writers

Week Three: Character Development

Wednesday 22nd May

  • Creating memorable and believable characters
  • Viewpoints
  • Authorial and character voice
  • Dialogue
  • Character motivation

Week Four: Reading Week

Wednesday 29th May

This will not be a teaching week. Instead, students will have an opportunity to read a short children’s book set by Lesley, and encouraged to work on their writing, prompted by this.

Week Five: The Story

Wednesday 5th June

  • The messy first draft
  • Plot and structure
  • Settings/ worldbuilding
  • Pace

Week Six: Shaping up for Publication

Wednesday 12th June

  • Editing
  • Query package
  • Improving your chances
  • Synopsis

Book your spot here:

Got an event, challenge, competition, opportunity or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) iCloud (dot) com.

Guernsey Literary Festival 2024

Guernsey Literary FestivalFancy flitting over to the Channel islands for a long weekend? The Guernsey Literary Festival, which takes place from 23rd April until 5th May 2024, offers the perfect excuse for a retreat. There’ll be more than creative talks, workshops, music, food, family story sessions and more.

The line-up includes an array of expert speakers and writers, including best-selling novelists Louis de Bernières and John Boyne, celebrated chef Michel Roux and journalist Bryony Gordon, media personalities Louise Minchin and Sarah Beeny, plus sports stars and commentators Mike Brearley and Pat Nevin.

Each will talk about their recent books during the Festival, among a host of writers and speakers, mostly from the UK and Channel Islands, taking part in the 2024 Festival, which will be based at a number of local venues including St James, Les Cotils, the Guille Allès Library, The Old Government House Hotel and St Pierre Park Hotel.

On 5th May, Anna Mazzola will teach: Bringing the Past to Life – How to Write Historical Fiction and Paul Muldoon leads the workshop: How To Let the Poem Write Itself.

There will also be a Winnie the Pooh Tea Party.

Festival Director Claire Allen says “This year’s programme includes some of the most inspirational and creative thinkers from the worlds of literature, poetry, business, politics, stage and screen, food and drink, sport and history, amongst many others.”

Event tickets are bookable at where you can also find the growing diary of events.

Enter the Bath Short Story Award 2024

Roman Baths pigeons by Judy DarleyThe annual Bath Short Story Award is open for entries from aspiring and established writers worldwide.

The competition closes to entries on Monday, 15th April at midnight BST. You’re invited to submit stories up to a maximum of 2,200 words on any theme or subject.

The year’s judge is award-winning novelist and short story champion, Sophie Haydock. Read an interview with her.

Each submission costs £9.

The Bath Short Story Award prizes

First prize: £1200
Second prize £300
Third prize £100
Acorn Award for an unpublished witer £100
Local writer prize £50 in book vouchers donated by Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath.

Final Results will be out by July/August 2024.

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

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

A poem a day…

NaPoWriMo urges you to write a poem a day for the month of April. Any length, any form, any topic, as long as you end up with something vaguely resembling a poem.

Seashell interiorFounded by Maureen Thorson, National/Global Poetry Writing Month (Na/GloPoWriMo) is now more than 20 years old!

The team will offer daily prompts to help your writing along, and urge you to mix-and-match poetry prompts.

They say: “How does it work? Simple — just write a poem every day from April 1 to April 30. If you’ll be posting your efforts to a blog or other internet space this year, you can submit the link using our “Submit Your Site” form, and your website will show up in our “Participants’ Sites” list. And if you’re not planning to post your work online? No worries! Na/GloPoWriMo doesn’t require that at all. All you have to day is write a poem a day for April.”

You can also find prompts by Robert Lee Brewer at his April Poem-a-Day challenge. Alternatively, take a look at my weekly writing prompts, published every Wednesday – could any of them sow the seeds of a poem?

In January 2021 I made a choice to read at least one poem a day, and I’ve kept that up. I have a huge admiration for the mastery poets have over words, and some of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read have been by poets. It’s something to do with the linguistic agility and originality required to take a commonplace sentence or sentiment and imbue it with a rhythm that makes it really shine in the reader’s mind long after they’ve read it.

Whether you’re a poet yourself, or simply tempted by the form, Na/GloPoWriMo seems like an opportunity to hone your writing muscles. My aim, as always, is to discover how to take my flash fiction writing and elevate the brevity of that skill to a new, glittering level that more efficiently and resonantly expresses what I’m trying to say.

Think of it as an intensive month-long poetry masterclass, inspired by some of the best poets in the business. If nothing else, you’ll end up with 30 first-draft poems!

Find out more at

Got an event, challenge, competition, opportunity or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) ICloud (dot) com.

Submit tiny flashes to Paragraph Planet

Hot Water by Judy DarleyI’m growing increasingly addicted to Paragraph Planet. This fabulous website publishes a single 75-word flash fiction every day (word count includes title). The stories selected are brilliantly varied and thought-provoking. Visiting each day feels like pond dipping – you never quite know what wonders will appear.

They’re also a great place to submit to. Their online submission form is easy, and free, to use, and while there isn’t payment for writers, there is notoriety up for grabs. Each story is shared via Twitter to more than 3,600 followers.

The picture above is the one I created for my story Leavings, which is available to read in the Paragraph Planet archive section – just scroll to December 30th.

Have you ever been published on Paragraph Planet? Excitingly, there are now #author pages with a clickable link for every author published since 2008. Find them here! 

There’s something intensely satisfying about crafting a piece that exactly hits 75 words, including title, and ensuring it’s still meaningful. If you write, I urge you to give it a try, and if you read, swing by to read today’s tiny yet powerful offering.

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

Enter a comic poetry contest

Possible wergleflomp spied at Art in Action

While I’m a fan of sensitive, thought-provoking poetry, there’s definitely something to be said for an intelligent comical poem. Just writing one can lift your spirits.

The Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, sponsored by Winning Writers, seeks to celebrate the art of writing poems that make others smile. The creature at the top of is, I believe, a possible Wergle Flomp, spied in the wilds of Art in Action’s final year.


  • First Prize: $2,000 plus a two-year gift certificate from the competition’s co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $100 value)
  • Second Prize: $500
  • Third Prize: $250
  • Honorable Mentions: 10 awards of $100 each
  • Top 13 entries published online

Read 2023’s winners and the winners from 2022, to get some inspiration, and then let your imagination run riot.

Submit a single poem of no more than 250 lines long. There’s no restriction on the age of the author. Both unpublished and previously published work is acceptable. Inspired gibberish is also accepted (read an example by Wergle’s creator, poet David Taub).

This year’s judge is Jendi Reiter, assisted by Lauren Singer.

There’s no fee to enter the writing competition, so what have you got to lose?

Make sure you upload your masterpiece to before the submission deadline of 1st April 2024 (April Fools’ Day – how apt is that?).

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) iCloud (dot) com.

See you at ‘Stories for Grown Ups’ at The Festival of Stories, 9th March

Festival of Stories artwork showing drawings of people sitting on books with the words Festival of Stories in white serif font on a black starry background.I’m excited to be running a segment at Bristol’s Festival of Stories on Saturday 9th March. This fabulous one-day event is celebrating storytelling in all its forms, with a book swap, new and second-hand books for sale, writing workshops, kid-friendly stories with children’s authors, and *trigger warning* there might even be a clown or two… The section I’ve been invited to curate is titled Stories for Grown Ups and is from 2pm-3pm..

The word-revelling event takes over Sparks, the old M&S in Broadmead, from 11am-6pm on Saturday 9th March.

I’m a firm believer that adults benefit from being read to just as much as children do, and have invited some fabulous local writers to join me in sharing their words at Stories For Grown Ups from 2-3pm.

Helen Sheppard is a Bristol-based writer and former midwife whose poetry explores themes of birth, health loss, and those whose voices are often unheard. Helen co-runs Satellite of Love Poetry events. Her debut poetry collection Fontanelle was published by Burning Eye Books.

Emma Phillips’ fiction has been placed in the Bath Flash Award, Free Flash Fiction Competition and Best Microfiction 2022 and appear in various other places in print and online. Her flash collection Not Visiting the SS Great Britain is out now from Alien Buddha Press.

Jude Higgins founded Bath Flash Fiction Award in 2015, has co-run The Bath Short Story Award since 2013 and directs the short-short fiction press, Ad Hoc fiction and Flash Fiction Festivals, UK. Her flash fiction chapbook The Chemist’s House was published in 2017 by V. Press. Another flash fiction collection will be out in 2024.

John Wheway’s publications include The Green Table of Infinity, from Anvil Press; Poborden, from Faber; A Bluebottle in Late October, V Press; writings in New Measure, Stand, Magma, Warwick Review, Poetry Review, Yellow Nib, Poetry Quarterly, Compass, South Word, Agenda, High Window. He won the 2023 Wigtown International Poetry Prize.

Chrissey Harrison writes supernatural thrillers and other spec genre fiction. Books about monsters, magic, action and adventure, and fragile human characters trying to muddle through as best they can. Her debut novel, Mime, released in July 2020, is the first in her Weird News Series. Her short stories have featured in several anthologies, most recently Forgotten Sidekicks (Grimbold Books) and Fire (North Bristol Writers).

I’ll wrap up the session. I’m the author of short fiction collections The Stairs are a Snowcapped Mountain (Reflex Press), Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me to the Bees (Tangent Books). My words have been published and performed on BBC radio and aboard boats, in museums, caves, a disused church and artists’ studios.

It will be an inspiring, emotionally enriching day of events, so why not pop in? With Mothering Sunday just the day after, it’s also a great, unusual way to celebrate any literature-loving mums.

Book review – The Naming of Moths by Tracy Fells

The Naming of Moths book coverWith such an evocative title and cover, you know you’re in for a world of wonder with this collection of short fiction. The tagline ‘Short stories of myths, monsters and mothers’ adds a flicker of curiosity before you enter the pages’ worlds.

The gorgeous title story won author Tracy Fells the Canada and Europe regional award for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. This tender tale of loss and solace weaves in the displacement of war with ancient mythologies about the longing for a child. In it, we’re invited to consider ideas of responsibility and ritual, in which the naming of moths has both an emotional and empowering purpose.

Fells has the skill to pepper potentially sad scenes with quirky, images that make you smile: “The woman with the moustache is refreshing her lipstick in the only mirror left uncovered.” In other tales, “computers squatted like fat hens” while in another a cake falls “in jammy clumps” onto a pair of “ballet pumps.”

‘Twisted’ is an exquisitely told, achingly dark tale of birthdays and family, balanced by luscious lines like the ones above.

Fells’ lyrical mastery over word choices gives every passage a special sort of glow, illuminated. A theme of metamorphosis runs throughout, as characters take back some element of control, changing lives for the better or simply shaking off the past in favour of a hopeful future. Vulnerable characters find their strength, often aided by more bolshy, beloved allies, such as Auntie Ruth in ‘Twisted’, who “said exactly what she was thinking, even if it was a bit rude.”

Other stories run along more overtly surreal tracks. ‘The Weight They Left Behind’ is a haunting piece full of colour with a hint of Black Mirror satire.

In ‘Household Gods’, Fells reminds us how little we know of other peoples’ struggles, and of the wells of compassion that run deep. Drawn into a hospital’s Special Care Unit for premature babies, we meet a couple who barely know each other, and are challenged to judge or withhold judgement from Mo, the protagonist, and his fumbling attempts to look after his ageing mother, his new wife and baby Nadira. Even here, the possibilities include the uncanny.

Fly on the Wall Press is a publishing house with a passion for great storytelling that does far more than entertain. The four-times British Book Awards’ Small Press of the Year finalists describe themselves as publishing “unparalleled political fiction, evocative poetry, and genre-defying anthologies addressing urgent global concerns.” These preoccupations are seeded subtly through their carefully selected and beautifully produced books, lodging in your consciousness and prompting you to re-examine a world where nothing should be taken for granted.

The realism in Fells’ collection forms firm foundations elevated by imaginative flights that serve to highlight aspects of human nature. These stories made me marvel at our capacity for love in all its forms, and to forge our own paths despite obstacles. Each story nudges you to remember how much happens unseen in the lives of every stranger we encounter. Sometimes it takes the surreal to help us truly glimpse the realities we live among.

The Naming of Moths by Tracy Fells is published by Fly on the Wall Press and available to buy here.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at)

Writing prompt – peril

Unstable cliff. Photo by Judy Darley

Few things rev up a story like a hint of peril. A warning sign like this one announcing an unstable cliff can lead a tale in a multitude of waves. Add in those colourful swimming goggles and you’ve got a full treacherous narrative at your fingertips, or even a twist on the famous “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” attributed to Hemingway, though that’s now said to be untrue (there’s a tale in itself!).

How did these goggles happen to be hanging here? What happened to the person who owned them? What storm cast them here? What drama was left in their wake?

In a terrible twist on this prompt, there was a landslide here just last week, plunging tons of rock and mud over this coastal path, only hours after I strolled here. The area is currently off-limits for safety’s sake. Sometimes real life is more dramatic than any fiction.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

The Forward Prizes for Poetry invites entries

Arnos Vale trees cr Judy Darley

More than thirty years after its launch, the Forward Prizes for Poetry welcome submissions from editors and publishers of books, magazines, online journals and competitions, published in the UK or Republic of Ireland, including works from the British Isles.

The submission deadline for all online entries is 4th March 2024.

There are four prize categories:

The Forward Prize for Best Collection

A prize of £10,000 will be given to the author of the best collection of poetry published in the UK or Republic of Ireland between 19th September 2023 and 18th September 2024.

The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection

A prize of £5,000 will be given to the author of the best debut collection of poetry published in the UK or Republic of Ireland between 19th September 2023 and 18th September 2024.

The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem – Written
A prize of £1,000 will be given to the author of the best written single poem that has been published in a newspaper, periodical or magazine in the UK or Republic of Ireland between 5th March 2023 and 4th March 2024, or has been the winner of a poetry competition with a prize awarded between the same dates.

The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem – Performed

A prize of £1,000 will be given to the author of the best new performance or a new poem to camera filmed between 5th March 2023 and 4th March 2024.

This prize category views “performance” as the act of a poet inhabiting a poem using their voice and the body. Though the poem may also be published in written form, this category is not simply for a poet reading their poem, but for the delivery of a poem that is crafted and shaped with an eye to engaging a viewing audience, whether it be down a lens or sitting in a venue. The performance should make the poem come alive in a new and exciting way and be an authentic experience of a single live moment rather than a tailored, edited film. They say: “We invite submissions that push the boundaries beyond the written form and give a different experience to simply reading a poem.”

The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem – Performed, is the only Forward Prizes category that allows for self-submission. Only one submission, which must not exceed five minutes in length, may be entered per poet.

Note this is not a poetry film competition; the poem must be filmed in a single take without a professional filmmaker/filtering or editing the final submission. The only tools to be used are the poet’s voice and body, no other instruments, music, or technology should be included (though poets can use their voice in any manner they choose, including singing, rapping, beat boxing).

Find the full entry guidance here.

Got an event, challenge, competition, opportunity or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) ICloud (dot) com.