A engineering-themed arts trail

Clifton Suspension Bridge cr JDarleyThe 19th Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail erupts from 15th till 17th November 2019 with an engineering theme – perfect for the city where Isambard Kingdom Brunel made his mark so exquisitely!

Arts Trail organiser Gaily Orr says: “Engineering is the art and science of nuts and bolts. So sign up now with wrench sets and sketch pads at the ready!”

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 15th-17th November 2019. Find full details at frontroom.org.uk.

Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail_cr Judy Darley

Liars’ League Hong Kong seeks entrance and exit stories

Azores pufferfish doorway by Judy Darley

Liars’ League Hong Kong is accepting submissions of short fiction between 800 and 1,200 words on the theme of Exits and Entrances. So if you wrote something for National Flash Fiction Day’s door-themed 2019 anthology, but found your story demanded more than 500-words to have its say, this could be the perfect potential home for your tale!

The deadline is 15th November 2019. 

They say. “Creative interpretations are most welcome. Writers can be anyone from anywhere. Liars’ League Hong Kong can be a platform for unsung local authors but we do also like diversity of fiction from all over the globe.”

However, they remind you that “Submitting your work to Liars’ League implies permission to upload the text and an audio and video recording of your story onto our website so that everyone can enjoy it. From time to time, we’re also booked for showcase performances, and your story may be read aloud in other venues and instances other than the regular Liars’ League events.”

A number of my stories have been performed and broadcast by Liars’ League Hong Kong, including Preservation and Geese Among The Trees (which features in my new short story collection Sky Light Rain), both read by the talented Susan Lavender.

Find full submission details.

On your marks… NaNoWriMo!

Painted desert, Colorado cr Judy DarleyTomorrow marks the start of NaNoWriMo 2019 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.

New to the concept? It’s pretty simple really. As they state on the NaNoWriMo website: “On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.”

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 2018,14, 527, 438 words were logged across the globe as part of National Novel Writing Month. If you’re signing up, I raise a glass (or rather, a mug of coffee) to you. Good luck!

Sky Light Rain book launch & literary night

Sky Light Rain by Judy DarleyMy short story collection Sky Light Rain is now out, and I’m celebrating with an atmospheric evening of readings and music on the themes of sky, light, and rain. Drawing on my enduring fascination with the fallibility of the human mind, Sky Light Rain examines aspects of human existence, including our relationship to nature and to each other.

The event will take place at Waterstones Bristol Galleries, from 7pm on Saturday 2nd November 2019, and you’re invited!

Alongside me, participants include writers Paul Deaton, Kevlin Henney and Grace Palmer, and indie art-pop musician Hidden Tide.

You can book your free tickets here.

Buy your copy of Sky Light Rain from Valley Press here.

Here are our bios:

Judy Darley’s short stories, flash fiction and poems have been widely published, and read by the author on BBC radio, in pubs, caves, and a disused church, as well as at literary festivals and charity events. She was co-judge of the National Flash Fiction Micro Competition 2019. Sky Light Rain is her second short story collection. Her debut collection Remember Me to the Bees was published in 2013. @JudyDarley

Kevlin HenneyKevlin Henney has been involved in the organisation of National Flash Fiction Day events, the Bristol Festival of Literature and the Flash in Hand open mic night at Alchemy 198 in Bristol. His stories have won, placed, and been shortlisted and longlisted in competitions. His stories appear on air, online and in print, included in over twenty anthologies. @KevlinHenney

 

Grace Palmer headshotGrace Palmer’s writing can be found in Flashback Fiction, Riggwelter Press, Magma, Flash Fiction One & Two and online at National Flash Fiction Day. She founded and runs Novel Nights and Flash in Hand, and teaches writing at Bristol Folk House. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa Uni. @wordpoppy and @novelnightsuk

 

Paul Deaton headshotPaul Deaton’s Seren collection A Watchful Astronomy was a Poetry Book Society Winter Recommended Book and was a National Poetry Day Book Group selected title. Work is included in the Forward Prize Anthology 2019. He is co-editor of smith / doorstop’s forthcoming Running Anthology, a freelance commissioning art editor and a counsellor in addictions in Bristol. @pauldeaton28

 

Hidden Tide HeadshotHidden Tide uses distorted guitar, programmed loops and thought-provoking lyrics to create ‘sweeping dark electronica’. Performing her own material, she is a regular on the Bristol music scene with gigs including sets at Mr Wolf’s and the Louisiana. @HiddenTideMusic

 

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 immersive performances that share stories inspired by real lives lost and lingering, drawn from the depths of the ship’s history…This year The Spooky Ship: Shipwrecked focuses on the night in 1846 when the ss Great Britain ran aground.

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

Previously, 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.

The Spooky Ship: Shipwrecked is on from 31 October until 2nd November 2019.

All photo by Jon Rowley. Find out more and book tickets at https://bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/spooky-ship-shipwrecked.

Enter the Bath Children’s Novel Award

Roman Baths by Judy DarleyThe Bath Children’s Novel Award has opened its doors to submission from unpublished and independently published authors worldwide.

Previous winners include include Lucy Van Smit for The Hurting (Chicken House, Sept 2018) and Struan Murray for Orphans of the Tide (Puffin, 2020).

The 2019 Judge is Lauren Gardner, literary agent for children’s authors at Bell Lomax Moreton. She will pick the winning novel from a shortlist chosen by a team of Junior Judges aged from 7 to 17 years. Read Lauren’s submission tips.

Deadline: 17th November 2019
Submission: First 5,000 words plus one-page synopsis
Entry fee: £25 with sponsored places available for writers on low income

Find full details and submit here: https://bathnovelaward.co.uk/childrens-novel-award/ 

London Literature Festival 2019

RWD15_I Believe in Unicorns_a show based on Michael Morpurgo tale

London Literature Festival hosted by the South Bank Centre invites us to consider whether we’re sitting comfortably (or, conversely, too comfortably), with an unfurling array of fairy tales “for our times with today’s leading writers, thinkers and cultural observers.”

Returning for its 13th year, the festival takes place from 17th-27th October 2019.

The festival opens with opens with Poetry International, founded by Ted Hughes in 1967, which this year embraces the theme of disruption.

Lemn Sissay © Hamish Brown, Elizabeth Day © Jenny Smith, Sharlene Teo © fatiimaa, Brett Anderson © Brett Anderson

Look forward to eerie, magical, unsettling and though-provoking moments from Lemn Sissay, Daisy Johnson, Bernadine Evaristo, Jay Bernard, Elizabeth Day, Armistead Maupin, Brett Anderson, Heather Morris, Louise Doughty, Neil Gaiman, Jung Chang and many more.

Jung Chang author

Author Jung Chang

They say: “The theme Once Upon Our Times runs throughout the festival, with a series of events looking at contemporary retellings of folk and fairy tales, spanning from Harry Potter and Game of Thrones to The Handmaid’s Tale and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.  The series explores and celebrates the global and democratic nature of this storytelling tradition through live readings, new commissions and discussions. The latter strand includes Charlene Teo, Daisy Johnson and Rebecca Tamas on the contemporary relevance an democratic value of fairytales, and nordic authors Linda Bostrom Knausgard, Vigdis Hjorth and Mazen Maarouf discussing the thin line between fiction and reality.”

On Saturday 26th October, London Literature Festival presents its inaugural Writers’ Day. Established in partnership with Creative Future, the day welcomes aspiring writers to attend free short talks from authors, editors and publishers, as well as special 1:1 Agent Advice sessions and a day-long writers’ exhibition space. The festival also hosts more masterclasses and workshops than ever before.

alchemymay23. Credit Belinda Lawley

Credit Belinda Lawley

There are also an abundance of family-friendly literary treats, including free events, exploring fairy tales and folklore from a variety of cultures, and Young Adult Literature Day, featuring authors of YA fiction, including Louise O’Neill, Dean Atta, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Muhammad Khan and Laura Bates.

WTC_Baba Yaga_Christine Johnston_Credit_Sia Duff

Christine Johnston stars in Baba Yaga. Credit Sia Duff

Look out for a special one-off dramatic live reading of contemporary retellings of tales from around the world, including works by Salman Rushdie, Marlon James and Angela Carter and newly commissioned works by Daisy Johnson and Charlene Teo,performed by actors and musicians, plus a brand new take on an old Russian folktale Baba Yaga by Windmill Theatre Company and a show based on Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns (pictured top).

In short, have your imagination thoroughly stirred.

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

All images supplied by the South Bank Centre.

Mslexia’s 2019 Fiction Awards

Mum's eye view cr Judy DarleyThis year, Mslexia Fiction Awards include their Short StoryAdult Novel and Flash Fiction competitions. The deadline for each is 30th September 2019.

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

The winner of the Short Story competition will receive £3,000, plus the optional extras of a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor, and mentoring by an editor at Virago Press.

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

Shortlisted entries will be judged by award-winning short story author, novelist and performer Irenosen Okojie.

The winner of the Adult Novel competition will receive £5,000 and the option of representatlon by agent Charlotte Robertson. Judges are novelist Louise Doughty, Nicola Holloway from BBC Radio 4, and Literary agent Charlotte Robertson.

The winner and four finalists will receive manuscript feedback and introductions to agents and editors at a special event held in London.

The first prize in the Flash Fiction competition is £500. The winner will be picked by Katy Fish.

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

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

A new inclusive nature-writing prize

Tiny snail cr Judy DarleyThe Nan Shepherd Prize is accepting submissions until 10th September 2019. This new competition launched by Canongate aims to find the next major voice in nature writing. It intends not only to celebrate nature writing but provide an inclusive platform for new and emerging nature writers from underrepresented backgrounds.

The competition has been established in memory of Nan Shepherd. The organisers say:  “While her classic of nature writing The Living Mountain took three decades to first find a publisher, today the book is recognised as a masterpiece and Nan is inspiring a new generation of writers. We felt that a prize named after her was a fitting way to honour her legacy.”

The winner of The Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing will receive a book deal with Canongate, including editorial mentoring and an advance of £10,000, as well as the option of literary representation with Jenny Brown Associates.

During the submissions period, the Canongate team will publish resources intended to demystify the publishing process.

The competition judges are Amy Liptrot, Chitra Ramaswamy, Jenny Brown and Nick Barley.

Applications are open to previously unpublished writers based in the UK and Ireland, who consider themselves underrepresented in nature writing, whether through ethnicity, disability, class, sex, gender, sexuality or any other circumstances. This means that entrants must not have published full-length books of fiction or non-fiction (including children’s books) with a trade publisher. Full details of eligibility and how to submit can be found here.

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.

Plymouth seeks young writing talent

Plymouth. Photo by Frederica Diamanta on Unsplash

Plymouth City Council, in partnership with the South West literature development agency Literature Works, has launched a search to find aspiring new writers in the city aged between 14 and 19 to apply for the Mayflower 400 Plymouth Young City Laureate post.

The successful applicant will be asked to create work to celebrate special events or occasions in the city as well as being expected to perform at events in libraries, schools and at festivals.

The current holder of the Mayflower 400 Plymouth Young City Laureate title, Olivia Templeton, says: “My time as the Laureate has been a better opportunity than I could have hoped for. Meeting new people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise and celebrating such important events have made the past year so incredible.”

There is a cash prize of £100 as well as city-wide recognition for the post-holder’s writing and performance skills, making this an ideal stepping stone for any young person hoping to launch a successful career in the arts.

To enter you must:

  • To be aged between 14 and 19
  • Live, work or go to school or college in Plymouth
  • Submit two samples of your creative writing. One should be inspired by the theme of ‘Plymouth’, and the other should be inspired by the theme of ‘finding your identity’
  • At least one of your two samples should be in the form of poetry
  • Prose should be no more than 2000 words, poetry no more than one page of A4.

The deadline for entries is Friday 27th September 2019.

The winning entry will be chosen by a panel of judges from Plymouth City Council, Plymouth University, Literature Works and a well-known (as yet unnamed) author.

The Young City Laureate will be announced at a celebration event in October.

Find full details of how to enter here.