Head to the ‘Reading Is Magic’ online literature festival

Child reading cr Julian Foxon Photography

© Julian Foxon Photography

Hungry for writing inspiration, or simply got young book-worms to entertain? With Bath Children’s Literature Festival off limits this year, the Reading is Magic Festival is stepping into the void this autumn with six days of free, fantastic, imagination-stirring digital events.

The festival runs from 27th September until 2nd October 2020, with events for all ages. Look out for inspiring and entertaining conversations, workshops and adventures in the company of Cressida Cowell, Karim Zeroual, Chris Riddell, Dapo Adeola, Nathan Bryon, Jason Reynolds, Sue Hendra, Paul Linnet, Jasbinder Bilan, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Sophy Henn, Steven Lenton, Steven Butler, Joseph Coelho, Pamela Butchart, Alex Wheatle, Robin Stevens, Elle McNicoll, Anthony McGowan, Serena Patel, Sharna Jackson, Anna Wilson, Dara McAnulty, Adam Murphy, Andy Stewart, Bookshop Band, Steven Camden, Phil Earle, Kristina Stephenson, Jessica Love, Eunice Olumide, Malizah, David A. Robertson, Eloise Williams Ardo Omar, Caitlyn Bannatyne, Katie Yamaski, Mya-Rose Craig, Katherine Woodfine, Rakaya Fetuga, Letters to the Earth and Kay Michael.

The name for the festival comes from Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2019-2022 Cressida Cowell’s comment that “reading is magic, and magic is for everyone.’ The award-winning children’s author and creator of How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once book will play a key role in the festival.

Image supplied by Bath Festivals. Photo by Julian-Foxon-Photography.

Find details at www.readingismagicfestival.com.

Litro literary courses

Pendine Sands, brittle star. Photo by Judy DarleyDid you know the marvellous folks at Litro Magazine have launched an assortment of online writing classes designed to boost your confidence and ensure it’s backed up by core writing skills?

From weekly one-hour online flash fiction workshops with Litro’s Flash Friday Editor Catherine McNamara to a ‘work in progress’ course for those who have a first draft of a novel or story, are stuck halfway through, or are beginners looking to shape or develop their next piece with Gabriel Gbadamosi, there are plenty of topics and writing disciplines to choose between.

The array of writing tutors is pretty impressive – look out for courses from Inés Gregori Labarta, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald and Maria Thomas, among others.

Find full details on the Litro Masterclasses website. You can also sign up for free writing tips.

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

Enter Mslexia Fiction & Memoir Competition 2020

Mum's eye view cr Judy DarleyThis year, Mslexia Fiction Awards include their Short StoryChildren’s & YA Novel, Flash Fiction and Memoir & Life-Writing competitions. The deadline for each is 21st September 2020.

Entry fees are £10 per short story, £25 per novel extract and memoir entry and £5 per flash fiction entry.

The winner of the Short Story competition will receive £3,000, plus the opportunity to spend a week on an Arvon retreat, and receive a mentoring session with an editor at Virago – an experience that money can’t buy.

Three other finalists will each receive £100. All four winning stories will be published in the December 2020 issue of Mslexia.

Shortlisted entries will be judged by award-winning short story author and novelist Sarah Hall.

The winner of the Children’s and YA competition will receive £5,000. Judges are novelist Kiran Millwood Hargrave, novelist and children’s fiction critic Amanda Craig, and literary agent Joanna Moult.

As well as the top prize of £5,000, the winner and three finalists will receive manuscript feedback, and introductions to agents and editors at a special event held in London. The winner and finalists will be announced in the June 2021 edition of Mslexia magazine.

This year Mslexia is offering a number of sponsored entries for their Children’s & YA Novel Competition for low-income women writers. To apply for a sponsored entry, see the FAQs. You can donate a competition entry here.

First prize in the Mslexia Flash Fiction competition is £500.

The winner will be picked by Ingrid Jendrzejewski, editor of Flash Back Fiction and Flash Flood, Co-director of National Flash Fiction Day.

Three other flash fiction finalists will each receive £50. All four winning stories will be published in the December 2020 issue of Mslexia.

If you’re looking to submit your poems or full length poetry collection, don’t worry, You can submit your work to the Mslexia Poetry and Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2020 (deadline 7th December).

The winner of the Memoirand Life-Writing competition will receive £5,000. Judges are novelist Kate Clanchy, Caroline Sanderson if The Bookseller; and literary agent Isobel Dixon.

As well as the top prize of £5,000, the winner and three finalists will receive manuscript feedback, and introductions to agents and editors at a special event held in London. The winner and finalists will be announced in the June 2021 edition of Mslexia magazine.

Find full details at www.mslexia.co.uk. Good luck!

Show your art at the RWA Annual Open Exhibition

RWA Open Exhibition 163

RWA © Alice Hendy

The Royal West of England Academy in Bristol is currently preparing one of my favourite cultural events – the RWA Annual Open Exhibition.

The Royal West of England Academy in Bristol is inviting submissions for its 168th Annual Open Exhibition. The exhibition will be on from 14th November 2020 until 7th March 2021, and your art can be a part of it! 

The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 22nd September 2020.

Artists of all ages and experience are invited to submit.

This year’s Prize Fund offers £8,550 in cash awards, including the Academy Prize (1st prize: £5,000; 2nd prize: £1,000), a £1,000 prize for artwork by a BAME artist, an £800 prize for a work on paper, (sponsored by Yvonne Crossley RWA and The Drawing Gallery), the £500 People’s Choice Prize voted for by exhibition visitors, and the £250 painting prize sponsored by Derek Balmer PPRWA

Applicants must enter online, submitting images using the Online Exhibition Submission System (OESS).

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

Read my review of the RWA Open Exhibition 166.



The New Deal on Migration invites input from artists

Train station cr Judy DarleyThe Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has put out a call for submissions from visual artists working in all disciplines to contribute to a campaign to safeguard the safety of undocumented migrants.

Find out more about the campaign and how art can help bring about a fairer future at a special event on Wed 2nd September.

  • Deadline for submissions: 9am Monday 7 September
    Notice of successful commission: 5pm Friday 11 September
    Deadline for completed work: 9am Monday 28 September (or later, as agreed)

If you have queries, please contact Ruth at membership@jcwi.org.uk

The JCWI says: “Undocumented migrants have been on the frontline of this crisis. Working in hospitals, as delivery drivers, in takeaways or care homes – the work they have done has been essential, but invisible.

The lack of papers makes their lives vulnerable. Cut off from basic rights – the right to healthcare, the right to housing, the right to income support – and incentivised or forced to keep working even when it would be safer to shield. The hostile environment has cost some people their lives – afraid to seek help in case they get deported – and put countless more lives at risk.

As a new normal begins to take shape, we are launching a radical new campaign that centres the voices of undocumented migrants,and calls for all our lives and work to be equally valued and protected, no matter what papers we hold.

Our major new campaign (working name: “a new deal on migration”) will call for a radical re-think of the way that the lives, and the work, of undocumented migrants is portrayed and valued. Detailed policy asks will sit alongside a communications campaign, designed to mobilise those who are already passionate about migrants’ rights and start new conversations with some of those who are not.

We are demanding radical change. We need your help to share the ideas within this campaign, inspire people in our belief that a fairer future is possible, and motivate our audiences to take action.”


The team are seeking illustrators, graphic designers, photographers and other visual artists to commission for three briefs.

The aim will be to:

  • Generate engagement on social media. That means content that grabs attention and encourages audiences to stop scrolling.
  • Inspire and motivate – to spread the word that change is possible. “We have been inspired by creative campaigners from around the world and what we are looking to do is celebrate those who share their stories and inspire readers/viewers to get involved.”

    View the inspiration board.

    Download the creative briefs and guidelines.

Submit your words to the Moth Nature Writing Prize

Moth by Judy Darley

The Moth Magazine has launched the inaugural Moth Nature Writing Prize. The deadline for entries of nature-inspired short stories, non-fiction and poems is 15th September 2020.

Richard Mabey, one of the UK’s foremost nature writers, will judge submissions.

The Prize will be awarded to the writer of the short fiction, non-fiction or poem that the judges deems to best combine exceptional literary merit with an exploration of the writer’s relationship with the natural world.

The prize is open to anyone over the age of sixteen, as long as the work is original and previously unpublished. Your submitted work must be no longer than 4,000 words.


The winning piece will be published in the winter issue of The Moth.

The winner will receive €1,000 and a week-long stay at The Moth Retreat in rural Ireland.

There is a fee of €15 per entry.

Visit www.themothmagazine.com full details.

The Moth Magazine is also running its annual Poetry Prize, with a deadline of 31st December 2020.

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

Manchester Poetry and Fiction Prizes

The-Royal-Exchange-Manchester-cr-Judy-DarleyManchester Writing Competition 2020 is open to online and postal entries of poetry and fiction. Each category offers a £10,000 first prize.

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.

The deadline for all entries is 5pm GMT on 18th September 2020. The entry fee for both contests is £18, with a limited number of reduced price entries  available to writers who might not otherwise be able to take part

The chair of poetry judges is Malika Booker. The £10,000 prize will go to the writer of the best portfolio of three to five poems (maximum combined length: 120 lines). Find full details and enter on the Poetry Prize page.

The chair of fiction judges is Nicholas Royle. The writer of the winning short story of up to 2,500 words will be awarded £10,000. 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 JudyDarley(@)ICloud(dot)com.

Enter The Masters Review Award for New Writers

Lake Michigan beach.Photo by Judy DarleyThe Masters Review is inviting entries for its Summer Short Story Award for New Writers.

The deadline for submissions is 30th August 2020.

The winning story will be awarded $3000 and publication online. Second and third place stories will be awarded publication and $300 and $200 respectively.

All winners and honorable mentions will receive an agency review by: Nat Sobel from Sobel Weber, Victoria Cappello from The Bent Agency, Andrea Morrison from Writers House, Sarah Fuentes from Fletcher & Company, Heather Schroder from Compass Talent, and Siohban McBride from Carnicelli Literary Management.

Crucial details

  • $20 entry fee
  • $3000 prize
  • Stories must be under 6,000 words in length
  • Previously unpublished stories only
  • Simultaneous and multiple submissions allowed
  • Emerging writers only (Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a low circulation are welcome to submit.)
  • International English submissions allowed
  • Deadline: 30th August, 2020
  • No identifying information on your story

Find full details here.

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

Edinburgh Book Festival welcomes word-lovers online

Edinburgh book festival gardensThis year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival is on from 15th-31st August, with more than 100 free online events bringing writers and thinkers to an avid lit-loving audience. Topics will include everything from the climate crisis and race to the best fresh poetry from across the globe.

They say: “Take a journey of discovery through fact, fiction, poetry, personal stories and world affairs.”

The festival attracts 900 authors from over 60 countries, including novelists, poets, scientists, philosophers, sportsmen, illustrators, comic creators, historians, musicians, biographers, environmentalists, economists, Nobel and Booker prize-winners and more.  Continue reading

The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

MShed cr Judy DarleyThe Aesthetica Creative Writing Award celebrates outstanding short fiction and poetry from around the world. The deadline for entering the award is 31st August 2020, making this the perfect time to get polishing your poetry and prose.

Prizes include publication within Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology and £1,000 for each category winner. Winner of the short fiction competition will receive a consultation with literary agency Redhammer Management, while the Poetry winner will have a Full Membership to The Poetry Society. To whet your appetite for creating more literary works, the winners will also receive a one-year print subscription to Granta and books courtesy of Bloodaxe Books and Vintage Books.

  • Poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines
  • Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words

There’s no theme – just submit your finest story or poem offering your own unique window on a slice of the world!

Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words each and poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines each. Both short fiction and poetry entries should be written in English.

Entry fees are £18 for short fiction and £12 for poetry.

Works published elsewhere are accepted.

For full details, visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/creative-writing-award

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