Apply to be Bristol’s City Poet

Clifton Suspension Bridge cr JDarley

Poets are invited to apply to become Bristol’s new City Poet.

Miles Chambers was appointed the first City Poet following his rendition of his specially composed work ‘Bristol, Bristol’ at the official swearing-in ceremony for Mayor Rees in May 2016.

If you live in and love Bristol, this could be the chance to rhapsodise about our hilly, creative, quirky metropolis. The winner will be required to compose 10 poems for specific events or projects and will take part in public performances and community engagement activities during Mayor Marvin Rees’ second term in office between May 2018 and May 2020.

The prestigious role of the City Poet is managed by Bristol Cultural Development Partnership as part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas in association with the Mayor’s Office. The City Poet is given an annual fee of £5,000 for the core poems.

Events that current City Poet Miles Chambers has performed at include the Mayor’s Annual State of the City Address in 2016 and 2017, the council’s Annual General Meeting and at a city twinning celebration, as well as appearing in a video for Bristol Energy.

It’s fantastic that we can continue the post of City Poet, which has been filled by Miles Chambers over the past year,” says Martin Rees. “Miles’ gift with words has enriched several important events in the city and I’m thankful to him for sharing his distinctive voice with us. I’m looking forward to being involved in the process of appointing a new City Poet and would encourage all poets who love this city to apply. Being the next City Poet is a huge opportunity and I can’t wait to read your submissions.”

Applicants should be experienced poets living in Bristol who already have work published in print and/or online. In addition to filling in an application form, you need to submit two poems (new works or ones already published) of up to 65 lines, one of which should have Bristol as its subject matter. You also need to include a personal statement of around 300 words expressing what you feel you would bring to the role.

The application deadline is Friday 1 December 2017. 

The decision will be made in January 2018 with a handover from the present City Poet Miles Chambers to the new city poet in May 2018.

Find out more and apply here.

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

Hay Festival Winter Weekend

Hay Festival Winter Weekend montage1The folks at Hay Festival Winter Weekend have announced the line-up for their largest winter festival to date, giving you plenty to rev up your writing this frosty season. It all takes place in Hay-on-Wye from 23rd till 26th November 2017.

See how many participating writers and speakers you can spot in the montage above. Inspiring participants include novelists, storytellers, illustrators, journalists, comedians, chefs, sports tars, composers, musicians, poets, actors, broadcasters and more. Look out for Robert Macfarlane, Jeanette Winterson, Shazia Mirza, Matt Haig, Nikesh Shukla, Patrick Barkham; Matt Lucas, Catrin Stewart, Jeremy Vine, Monty Don, Jackie Morris, Gillian Clarke, Owen Sheers, Ed Vere, Catherine Barr, James Campbell, Anna Jones and Hay Community Choir, among others.

“Hay Festival Winter Weekend is now in its 18th year, blending literary conversation, immersive performances and interactive workshops, with the best of the town’s seasonal shopping and a chance to explore the famed natural surroundings in all their autumnal splendour,” says Peter Florence, Director of Hay Festival.

A new venue will double the festival’s seated capacity, while events begin a day earlier than in previous years, with programmed talks and performances from Thursday 23 November.

“Come and join us in Hay for fireside storytelling and feasting,” Peter says. “The town is decked in Christmas lights and glistening with winter cheer for a celebration of scrumptious food, glorious vintage clothing and high times. Bring a story, bring a new idea, bring a friend. Everyone is welcome.”

Tickets are on sale now. Book online at hayfestival.org or call 01497 822 629.

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

A fairytale-themed arts trail

Totterdown Front Room Art Trail 2017Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail erupts on 18th and 19th 2017 November with a Fairytales, Myths and Legends theme – perfect for stirring imaginations.

“This doesn’t mean to say the art needs to reflect the theme, but expect to see some folklore related ‘goings-on,’” says Trail organiser Gail Orr. “This year we hope to attract 200 local artists across 90 different venues, with thousands of visitors coming from across the city and beyond. It’s a fantastic opportunity for local artists to display their work to the public, and it’s also a great opportunity for the public to visit, view, discuss and buy original works of arts and crafts directly from the artist.”

Never been to an art trail? This is a great one to dip your toe (or jump head first) into. The first to appear in Bristol 17 years ago, it offers a chance for artists to showcase their work within their own homes, and for us public to a) enjoy said art, and b) get away with being nosy about other people’s décor to our heart’s content.

There’s also potential for lots of inspiration gleaning, not to mention a golden opportunity to start the Christmas shopping with some one-off originals.

Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail is on from 18-19th November 2017. Find full details at frontroom.org.uk.

Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail_cr Judy Darley

Submit your poetry or prose pamphlet to The Emma Press

MerryGoRound cr Judy Darley

If you haven’t yet discovered The Emma Press, you’re in for a rare treat. This fabulous little publishing house has a keen eye for talent, especially when it comes to poetry.

They’re currently inviting submissions of prose and poetry pamphlets, and this time around you’re encouraged to send your work to the editor you would most like to read it. To help you choose, they’ve published profiles of all four editors, offering a valuable insight into the writing that makes their blood sing and their hair stand on end.

The editors are Rachel Piercy, Yen-Yen Lu, Richard O’Brien and Emma Wright.

“This doesn’t mean that you have to have this editor if your book is chosen, and nor does it guarantee that your chosen editor will be the one who reads your manuscript in the first round, but we will try our best,” says founder and publisher Emma Wright.

She adds: “We do recommend that you read all four profiles and give them some thought, but don’t agonise over your decision – if the editor reading your manuscript thinks it’s good but might appeal to another editor more, they will pass it on to them.”

Please note that you need to have purchased a book or e-book from the Emma Press to take up this chance.

It’s a tantalising opportunity. For guidelines, visit the Emma Press website for guidelines, and submit your words before 10th December 2017. 

On your marks… NaNoWriMo!

Glastonbury Tor cr Judy DarleyJust two days until the start of NaNoWriMo 2017. Are you taking part? I love the concept of this word-packed month, of wannabe writers across the world hunched over laptops desperately scrabbling for inspiration.

I know plenty of writers this enforced period of productivity really suits. For some folks it seems to be the ideal way to stoke up ideas and get them to catch alight on the page.

For me, the beginning stages of novel-writing are all about thinking ahead, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do some speedy planning even as you begin to write. After all, what else are you going to do when waiting for buses, in post office queues and doing the washing up?

Here are my top four preparation tips to ensure you make the most of this exceptional month.

1. Form a vision of the story you’ll be aiming to tell, with the beginning already shaped in your mind. If possible, do the same for the ending. Having an idea of the finale you’re working towards will mean you’re far less likely to veer off track!

2. Spend some time considering your characters – working out who and why they are, what their goals are, how they might help or hinder each other.

3. Know your setting. This is one of my favourites, particularly if it offers a valid excuse to meander in a much loved wilderness or similar.

4. Pick out a few dramatic moments your plot will cover and brainstorm them, then set them aside. Whenever your enthusiasm wanes over the intensive NaNoWriMo period, treat yourself by delving into one of those to reinvigorate your writing energy.

If you’re taking part, I’ll raise a glass (or rather, a mug of coffee) to you. Good luck!

All aboard the Spooky Ship

Dorothy Collins as Emily Lancaster, The Spooky Ship 2017. Photo by Jon Rowley

The ss Great Britain, moored at Great Western Dockyard in Bristol, is a wonderfully intriguing vessel. Populated with impressively realistic models of people and animals, it also has a hint of the uncanny about it.

Each year in collaboration with Bristol Old Vic Theatre, these characters are brought to life in an eerie succession of performances that share stories inspired by real lives lost and lingering.

Scott Bayliss as a Crimean soldier aboard The Spooky Ship - 2016 - Photos by Jon Rowley

Scott Bayliss as a Crimean soldier aboard The Spooky Ship 2016. Photo by Jon Rowley

Last year I had the chance to go along, bringing a friend with me to hide behind if necessary. We were expecting something along the lines of a haunted house, but what we got was so much more, as our guide led us through the impressive architecture of the ship to witness vignettes from a pitiful bride, a broken soldier from the Crimean war (Scott Bayliss), a vengeful nun (Kirsty Asher) and a ship’s butcher (Hal Kelly) who happened to enjoy his work just a little too much.

The ship's butcher played by Hal Kelly, The Spooky Ship 2016. Photo by Jon Rowley

The ship’s butcher played by Hal Kelly, The Spooky Ship 2016. Photo by Jon Rowley

We paused in the first class dining saloon where a 19th couple (Julia Head and Matt Landau) were feasting and gossiping – all good and fine until one confessed to chowing down on a plague-ridden rat and the other commented on the deliciousness of the ship’s pudding-faced cat, then turned their eyes hungrily on us.

The atmosphere was heightened by overhearing fragments from early set scenes – while Sister Benedict talked of the fallen women she despised, shrieks from the distressed soldier rose through the floor. Our guide fed us titbits of the histories that gave the performances their foundations, while cabins fitted out as they would have been in previous centuries, complete with realistic figures in the midst of their own frozen adventures, added to the creepiness.

Sister Benedict played by Kirsty Asher, The Spooky Ship 2016. Photo by Jon Rowley

Sister Benedict played by Kirsty Asher, The Spooky Ship 2016. Photo by Jon Rowley

Many of the tales pulled at the heart strings, such as that of Mrs Gray (played by Stephanie Kempson), who arrived at docks to welcome her husband Captain John Gray home only to discover he’d mysteriously disappeared a month earlier when the ship was still at sea. Her wailing grief sent shivers through the crowd.

The story of Emily Lancaster (Dorothy Collins – shown top of post) was particularly disturbing. Crouching on a flight of steps beneath the dry dock, she told us how she’d succumbed to the pox and been flung overboard before she was dead. Her anger and sorrow was palpable, enhanced by the wonderful setting.

The mix of frights, facts, horrors, dark humour and laments, all staged in and around the ship, made this a fabulously immersive Halloween voyage.

Look out for the Spooky Ship when it returns to Bristol Harbour this weekend. Who knows what or who you’ll encounter!

All photo by Jon Rowley. Buy tickets at www.bristololdvic.org.uk/the-spooky-ship.html.

London Literature Festival 2017

Philip Pullman photographed by Michael Leckie

Philip Pullman © Michael Leckie

This year’s London Literature Festival hosted by the South Bank Centre asks, how literature is being shaped by contemporary life?

The festival takes place from 13th October until 1st November 2017 and is crammed with enticing options.

Meet YA authors and take part in practical writing workshops at the Young Adult Literature weekender. Experience poetry, film and spoken word at the Poetry International founded by Ted Hughes at Southbank Centre in 1967. Listen to author Naomi Klein discuss Donald Trump, neoliberalism and her latest book ‘No is Not Enough.’ Meet the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction shortlist. And, tantalisingly, discover why and how Philip Pullman has returned to the realm of His Dark Materials and his character Lyra In the exclusive London launch of the highly anticipated La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One.

In short, have your imagination thoroughly stirred and your mind inspired.

Tom Hanks - 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc All Rights Reserved Austin Hargrave

Tom Hanks © Austin Hargrave

You’ll also have the chance to see Tom Hanks at the Royal Festival Hall discussing and reading from his first short story collection on Wednesday 1 November 2017. Uncommon Type explores the human condition and all its foibles, with each story connected by the recurring motif of a typewriter.

For the full programme, visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk.

All images supplied by the South Bank Centre.

Enter The Bare Fiction Prize 2017

Almunecar cr Judy Darley

The excellent folks at Bare Fiction are inviting submission to their creative writing awards. This year Wayne Holloway-Smith judges the Poetry category (max 40 lines), Naomi Booth judges the Flash Fiction category (max 500 words), and Adam O’Riordan judges the Short Story category (max 3,000 words).

First, second and third prize winners in each category will receive £500, £200 and £100 respectively, plus two highly commended entrants will receive £25 each.

Fee per entry is £5 for poetry, £6 for flash fiction, and £8 for fiction, with a £2 entry discount for magazine subscribers.

There’s no theme, but bear in mind that the British periodical aims to “offer a platform for new creative writing across poetry, fiction and plays to encourage writers who are testing their boundaries to stretch themselves creatively.”

The deadline for all entries is 31 October 2017. Find full competition details here.

Submit to Novel Nights

Novel-Nights-Literary-Events-Bristol4-photo credit Sophie Carefull

Novel Nights © Sophie Carefull

Having an audience for your prose, whether it’s a short story or a novel extract, is a great way to build up a loyal following as well as get a sense of the story you’re telling.

The session of Novel Nights on 25th October is part of Bristol Festival of Literature 2017, making it a really prestigious event on Bristol’s lit scene. There are three slots of five-minutes for writers, and I’m helping to select the stories, so why not submit?

Closing date for submissions is 1st October 2017.

Grace Palmer, the organiser, says: “We want to hear prose which delights, tells a story with skill, hooks a room of people and won’t make them fidget. If you are chosen to read you get free entry to Novel Nights, your name on the programme and publicised on Twitter, Facebook and on this Novel Nights website.”

The audience are a group of friendly writers and readers, so you’re bound to come away with a buzz.

Submission guidelines  

Please submit the following:

  • An 800-word extract of your writing; no more than 5-minutes reading time
  • Choose a scene from your novel or a short story that will work as a piece to listen to – not too much dialogue but something self-contained that shows off the story and your writing style. Don’t choose a scene with lots of characters in it
  • A photos of yourself  – please label with your name 
  • A cover photo of your book or books, if you are published
  • Your name (or writing pseudonym), and twitter handle
  • Writer Bio – a 30 word version for our programme, a longer version for our information about you, your writing etc

How to send 
Send your work and bio in the body of an email to submit@novelnights.co.uk  
Photos can be sent as an attachment

How we choose

We look for strong, well-crafted writing that will delight and excite an audience.

We choose extracts that fit in with the theme of the night or that fit with each other. If you are not chosen it doesn’t mean we think you are not good enough! These things are subjective.

Good luck!

Find out more at www.novelnights.co.uk/submissions-for-novel-nights.

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

Manchester Poetry and Fiction Prizes

The Royal Exchange, Manchester cr Judy Darley

Manchester Writing Competition 2017 is open to online and postal entries, with categories for Poetry and Fiction. Both prizes offer a £10,000 first prize, so why not enter?

The competitions were instigated in 2008 by by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy in 2008. The aim was designed to attract the best new writing from around the world, and to establish Manchester as a literary focal point. These are the UK’s biggest literary awards for unpublished writing.

The deadline for entries is Friday 29th September 2017.

The chair of poetry judges is Adam O’Riordan, with Mona Arshi and Pascale Petit. The entry fee is £17.50. The £10,000 prize will be awarded for the best portfolio of three to five poems (maximum combined length is 120 lines).

Find full details and enter on the Poetry Prize page.

The chair of fiction judges is Nicholas Royle, with author Bonnie Greer and short story, poet and author ‌Angela Readman also judging. You may enter short stories on any theme amounting to up to 2,500 words. The entry fee is £17.50.

Find full details and enter on the Fiction Prize page.

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