A literary winter solstice

Dusk by Judy DarleyThis year’s Solstice Shorts Festival hosted by micro publisher Arachne Press takes us from the 2017 theme of Dusk into the apex of the fleeting hours of sunlight with Noon.

For 2018, the Winter Solstice is on Friday 21st December in the UK. While it may not have the latest sunrise or earliest sunset, in terms of daylight, there are eight hours, 49 minutes fewer than on the Summer Solstice.

Marking this special date, Solstice Shorts Festival unfolds in Greenwich and across the UK with prose, poetry and music all centred on the day’s centre.

Everyone who submitted and had their creative works selected should have been informed by now. Congratulations!

Organiser Cheryl says: “This year the festival celebrates the highest the sun gets, which in December, isn’t very far, depending on where you are. In Greenwich, home to Solstice Shorts and the accurate measurement of time, noon on 21st December will be at 11.58. So I guess we’ll be starting a bit before twelve to make sure we mark it appropriately, although of course, in Aberdeen noon isn’t until 12:06, and Cork 12.31!”

Find full details of what’s happening where and how you can get involved at arachnepress.comAnd while you’re at it, why not save yourself some precious time and buy one or more of their 2018 anthologies as festive gifts for your loved ones?

Solstice Shorts Logo

Win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat 2019

Gullfoss Falls Iceland photo by Judy DarleyThe good folks of the Iceland Writers Retreat have partnered with Iceland Travel to offer one person a free spot at their retreat scheduled for April 2019. The winner will receive  a free hotel stay, tours, most meals, and all workshops for the duration of the event, from 3rd to 7th April 2019.
To be in with a chance you need to write an essay, story or poem on the theme of equality, preferably including a mention of Iceland. Your entry must be no more than 500 words long.
The submission deadline is 23:59 (GMT) Monday 17th December 2018. There is no fee to enter. Click here to enter.
If you win and have already paid to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat, your payment will be refunded. Entries will be judged anonymously.
Find the full details and conditions here. but note that the prize does NOT include airfare to Iceland or airport transfers.
About the Iceland Writers Retreat
Held for the first time in April 2014, the Iceland Writers Retreat is an event comprised of a series of small-group writing workshops and cultural tours designed to introduce participants to Iceland’s rich literary heritage. Faculty in 2019 include Louis de Bernieres, Tessa Hadley, Ivan Coyote, Chigozie Obioma, and Lina Meruane. The Iceland Writers Retreat was named one of the world’s best writers’ retreats by the Sydney Morning Herald, and one of the top 10 “Events to travel for in 2014” by Four Seasons Magazine.

The Island Review invites submissions

Desertas Islands, Maderia

Got a story inspired by islands, or ‘which explores ideas of islandness’? The Island Review is currently open for submissions.

It’s a literary website I drop by often, simply to relish their short stories, poems, photography, and Flotsam. I highly recommend it. Submission periods are intermittent, but they’ve recently put out a call for “fiction, non-fiction, interviews, poetry, photo-essays, illustration, graphic stories, cartography, music, short films – or a combination of these, just as long they’re inspired by islands, wherever they lie (even if they’re just in your head).”

So very enticing!

To find out exactly what they’re seeking, drop by www.theislandreview.com/submissions/.

If you have anything that might fit the bill, make sure you get in touch. Who knows where your words, images or thoughts might wash up?

A nautical-themed arts trail

Totterdown Front Room Arts trail artwork by Lisa Ravenscroft of LongmooseTotterdown Front Room Arts Trail erupts from 23rd till 25th November 2018 with a nautical theme – perfect for stirring imaginations in the harbourside city of Bristol!

The theme, Arts Trail organiser Gaily Orr admits, was inspired by last year’s torrential rain.

“We thought we should roll with the tide!” She exclaims. In addition, it’s a nod to Bristol’s history. “Bristol’s fortunes have been won and lost at sea and we wanted to celebrate our city’s connection with the great blue in the overriding theme of the Arts Trail.”

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 almost two decades ago, it offers a chance for artists to showcase their work within their own homes as well as shared spaces, 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.

Each year the Arts Trail attracts 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.”

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 23rd-25th November 2018. Find full details at frontroom.org.uk. The gorgeous artwork at the top of this post is the official Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail artwork by Lisa Ravenscroft of Longmoose.

Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail_cr Judy Darley

Submit a bookshop ghost story

The Petersfield Bookshop interior_sketchThe Petersfield Bookshop in Petersfield, Hampshire, is celebrating its 100th birthday with an eerily themed short story competition. ‘Ghosts in the Bookshop’ invites you to summon up your creepiest imaginings to write a ghost story set in a bookshop.

“We want it to thrill us, and chill us, and move us.Your story can be traditional or modern, in any style and with any kinds of characters, just make sure that most of the action takes place in, or centres around, a bookshop,” says John Westwood, managing partner.

There is no specific word limit, as such, but the story should be written with an energy and at a length which makes it suitable to read aloud in less than 20 minutes.

All entries must be received by midnight on 30th November 2018.

The Petersfield Bookshop will announce the winner in mid-December and hopes to host a pre-Christmas event “when the winner and runner up stories will be read aloud in the atmospheric aisles and rooms of our after hours bookshop.”

Michelle Magorian, friend of the shop and award-winning author of Goodnight Mister TomJust Henry, A Spoonful of Jam, and others, will guest-judge entries. The author of the winning story will receive £100, and three runners-up will each be invited to choose bundles of books from the enticing bookshop shelves.

Find full submission guidelines here and take a roam around the site for inspiration.

Image supplied by the Petersfield Bookshop.

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.

The Emma Press craves your gothic poetry

Taf Estuary and mist cr Judy DarleyThe Emma Press are seeking poems inspired by the theme of gothic, for an anthology edited by Nisha Bhakoo and Charlotte Geater. Consider the things that make your skin creep – the uncanny, eerie and deeply dubious – and consider how you can give it a fresh and unexpected twist. Write it modern and unsettling, lace it with light, lust and loathing, or simply make your readers thrill to their core.

They say: “We are looking for uncanny poems that make us think about the gothic in a new way. We want to see dark poems that spook us to our core, as well as lighter poems that engage with gothic themes or motifs.”

Gothic stories are full of hidden urges and unutterable acts, but equally, it can be about the way light and shade fall on a scene and evoke a mood. They say: “It’s a big genre and it encompasses so much – think of Jane Eyre and Dracula, but also think of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and Nick Joaquin’s Tropical Gothic.”

I’d also recommend a look at Poppy Z. Brite’s splendidly sultry gothic fiction.

You’re invited to send a maximum of three poems by 9th November 2018, but make sure you follow these guidelines:

  1. You must be a member of the Emma Press Club, which means you must have bought a book or ebook from the Emma Press website in this calendar year (i.e. since 1st January 2018), or already have been accepted into an Emma Press book. Read more about the Emma Press Club.
  2. Place a maximum of three poems, each no longer than 65 lines, into a single Word/PDF/ODF document. Please only include text in the document, and no images.
  3. Make sure your submission is anonymous. Make sure you haven’t put your name or any biographical notes in the document, and be aware that you will be asked to rename your document at a certain stage within the Google form.
  4. Fill in the Google form, which is accessible from here. It will tell you everything else you need to know.

Find full details and lots of tips here.

The deadline for submissions is midnight  on at the end of 9th November 2018. 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(at)iCloud(dot)com.

On your marks… NaNoWriMo!

Painted desert, Colorado cr Judy DarleyIt’s less than a day until the start of NaNoWriMo 2018 on 1st November. Are you taking part? I love the concept of this word-packed month, with ardent writers across the world hunched over laptops sweating out every last drop of 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 five 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 they are, how they think, 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.

5. Finally, make sure you have plenty of sustenance to hand. For me, the essentials are coffee and chocolate. What are yours?

In 2017 more than 26,000 people took part in National Novel Writing Month. If you’re signing up, I raise a glass (or rather, a mug of coffee) to you. Good luck!

London Literature Festival 2017

Chibundu Onuzo_credit_Blake Images

Chibundu Onuzo. Photo by Blake Images

This year’s London Literature Festival hosted by the South Bank Centre invites us to “explore the world in which we live and celebrate the power of literature to reflect on the burning issues of our times”

The festival takes place from 18th-28th October 2018 and is crammed with enticing options.

Mary Beard credit Caterina Turroni

Mary Beard. Photo by Caterina Turroni

Look out for freshly commissioned works receiving their world premieres, live readings, book launches, exclusive in-conversation events with the likes of Salman Rushdie and Marilynne Robinson, family-friendly fun, free encounters and thought-prosing literary debates. Highlights include new releases from Sally Field, Olafur Eliasson and Sue Perkins. And don’t miss a cast of high calibre actors performing a specially commissioned live reading of Homer’s The Odyssey, followed by panel discussions featuring Mary Beard, Madeline Miller, Sharlene Teo, Simon Goldhill and more.

Roger Daltrey credit Fabrice Demessence

Roger Paltry. Photo by Fabrice Demessence

Plus Carol Ann Duffy will present her last collection as Poet Laureate, Roger Paltry launches his new memoir Thanks a lot, Mr Kibblewhite: My Life, and there’ll be a world premiere performance of Chibundu Onuzo’s 1991, a new commission from Southbank Centre. Not to mention insights into writing practises of established authors and a chance to discover rising talents.

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

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

All images supplied by the South Bank Centre.

Write to evoke memories

Severn River shadows cr Judy DarleyNational Memory Day is a partnership between Literature Works and the Poetry Archive, supported by the Alzheimer’s Society. The project is interested in the creative power of poetry to enhance the lives of people living with memory loss and their loved ones or carers.

In Memory Cafes around the UK, conversations and emotional connections are forged with the help of well-loved poems and the generation of new creative works. Quite simply, they bring light to the lives of people afflicted with dementia and other memory-diminishing illnesses and those who care for them.

To raise funds for this excellent resource, The National Memory Day Poetry Competitions invite you to submit poems which evoke the theme of MEMORIES.

This year, they’re accepting submissions to two prize categories:

The National Memory Day Poetry Prize, sponsored by Literature Works, and the Primary Carer Voice Prize, sponsored by The Alzheimer’s Society. The latter category is open to those who have direct experience of caring for someone with memory loss. In each category there are three awards:

  • 1st prize of £700
  • 2nd prize of £200
  • 3rd prize of £100

Poems should be no longer than 40 lines and can be submitted either by post or online.

Submissions are charged at £3 for a single poem and £2 for each additional poem.

The closing date for entries is 5pm on Friday 5th October 2018. This year’s judge is poet and nature writer Miriam Darlington.

Find full details of how to enter.

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.

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Mslexia’s 2018 Women’s Fiction Awards

Mum's eye view cr Judy DarleyThis year marks the launch of the Mslexia Women’s Fiction Awards, a quartet of writing competitions covering a short stories, children’s novels, their second-ever flash fiction competition and the all-new Mslexia Novella competition in association with Galley Beggar Press. The deadline is 1st October 2018.

Entry fees are £10 per short story, £25 per novel extract, £5 per flash fiction and £15 per novella extract.

Top prizes are £500 for the winning flash fiction, £1,000 for the winning novella and £5,000 apiece for the winning novel and short story.

‘Optional extras’ include optional extras a week’s writing retreat at Gladstone Library, introductions to agents and editors, and publication in Mslexia.

Find full details at www.mslexia.co.uk. It’s worth dropping by Mslexia’s winners gallery for some inspiration too. Good luck!