Enter The Masters Review chapbook contest

Autumn gourd by Judy Darley

The Masters Review is inviting submissions to their inaugural chapbook contest.

The deadline for entries is 15th November 2020.

The winning writer receive $3,000, manuscript publication, a subscription to Journal of the Month, and 50 contributor copies.

Steve Almond, the author of eleven books of fiction and non-fiction including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football, will judge five to ten shortlisted chapbooks chosen byThe Masters Review and select the winning manuscript. Steve will also provide a brief foreword for the winning manuscript on publication.

The Masters Review say: “We’re seeking to celebrate bold, original voices within a single, cohesive manuscript of 25 to 40 pages. We’re interested in collections of short fiction, essays, flash fiction, novellas/novelettes, long-form fiction or essays, and any combination thereof, provided the manuscripts are complete (no excerpts, chapters, works-in-progress, or other incomplete work), and function cohesively.”

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.

Sky Light Rain – Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire

Ever wondered how a short story takes its first breath and finds life? We’re now well over a third of the way through my series of posts offering insights into my writing process and sharing the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The fifteenth story is ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire.’ This longer than average title leads you into a drabble – a 100-word micro fiction – about a couple carrying out a ritual to mark the end of their relationship. It was originally published by the aptly named The Drabble.

If you have any 100-word tales knocking around, I highly recommend you send it their way. One of my writing passions is compressing whole lives, relationships and break-ups into less than half a page.

My drabble popped into my head when my man and I (still vey much together) decided to hide a pair of small stone gargoyles in a local woodland. One disappeared pretty promptly, but the other lurked in a mass of ivy for months.

The tale begins:

They dressed in the dark, fumbling over bootlaces and coal-black buttons. Lucinda picked up the ceramic gargoyle Crispin had given her early in their romance. He chose the straw doll Lucinda wove for their first anniversary.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Writing prompt – change

OH56.cover by Jago Silver
The lovely folks at Oh Magazine have invited me to create the following writing prompt, using their autumnal issue 56 cover by Jago Silver as a starting point.

As the seasons change, dream up a character who is dreaming of a new adventure. But first they must bid farewell to the past. For every leaf that falls from this tree, imagine the message they would write to someone they used to know – an apology, a promise or a declaration.

How have each of these people influenced the individual your character is now? What will sending those messages free them up to become?

You can subscribe to Oh magazine here.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Book review – Families and Other Natural Disasters by Anita Goveas

Families and Other Natural Disasters by Anita Goveas coverAt first glance, the five sections of Anita Goveas’ collection appear elemental. A closer look rewards with the dawning understanding that the categories are types of natural disaster, with the final two a little more tongue in cheek. Fire, Water, Wind, Love and Families each warn of the emotions contained within, or, more, likely, poised to spill over.

The opening sentence of a collection is crucial in setting the tone for what’s to come. Goveas does this fearlessly, dropping into our laps the unflinching line: “There’s an ancient prophesy that you’ll die by volcano.” What Really Gets You Is the Rising Heat is a story that speaks of the expectations we fight against to forge our own path, even if that does turn out to be directly to the same volcano’s mouth our parents marked for us.

The titles form a poetry of their own, with the second tale warning us from the off that A Pilgrimage Can Be One Way, before enfolding us in ‘packing’ and ‘to do’ lists that contain humour, love and heartache within deftly rendered brevity. It’s the kind of hermit crab flash that hints at tireless hours of crafting.

Continue reading

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.

Sky Light Rain – Far From the Farm

14_Far From The Farm by Judy DarleyWe’re now well over a third of the way through my series of posts offering insights into my writing process and sharing the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The fourteenth story  is ‘Far From The Farm,’ examines what roots us, and how displaced we can feel when removed from the scenery and people we associate with home. It invites us into the world of Eilidh, a young girl from Skye coping with a new life in urban England

‘Far From The Farm’ was originally published as ‘The Creak of Snow’ in a special Scottish-themed edition of Literary Orphans.

The tale begins:

If Eilidh leans close to the bedroom window and breathes out, she can make the world beyond grow cold and fog-filled. She dapples her fingertips against the glass, creating pools of light that shine sharp and ice-bright. The sky is yellow today, swollen with clouds heavy with something chillier than rain.

It won’t snow here. This southern city would grind to a halt if a few sparse flakes fell from the sky.

That’s what Franny says, anyways. It bothers Eilidh to think of her old gran managing the farm alone, without anyone to ride the tractor with. Who’ll bound out to drag the gate open, close it again once she’s through?

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Writing prompt – uninvited

OH55 magazine cover by Jago SilverThe lovely folks at Oh Magazine have asked me to create the following writing prompt, using their atmospheric issue 55 cover by Jago Silver as a leaping-off point.

This issue asks the question: What lights your fire and kindles your joy?

A group of friends gather to celebrate the anniversary of a success, but one person turns up who wasn’t invited. What reason do they have for attending? What ripples does this spread through the invited guests? Does someone have a revelation to share?

How can you pin this drama to a grain of burgeoning joy? 

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.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.

Sky Light Rain – The Moth Room

Moth wings cr Judy DarleyOver the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. The thirteenth story in the collection and also the first in ‘Part Two – Light’ is ‘The Moth Room’.

I wrote this flash fiction in response to a visit to the studio of artist Rose McLay, interwoven with strands of Cinderella together with a touch of moonlit iridescence. The story embraces ideas of the scant lines separating beauty and brutality.

‘The  Moth Room’ was originally published in issue 21 of Gone Lawn, which describes itself as “a web journal of artistic and progressive literature.”

The tale only spans half a page and begins:

He follows her home from the ball, trailing in the pitch of her laughter. She’s taken off her shoes for dancing and runs barefoot through the ragged streets, giggles glinting in her wake. 

The warehouse she leads him to is shuttered into rooms, each with its own door to unlock. Hers is labelled The Moth Room.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Writing prompt – overcoming

OH54.cover_1cm_ERV2.inddThe lovely folks at Oh Magazine have invited me to create the following writing prompt, using their leafy issue 54 cover by Jago Silver as a leaping-off point.

Issue 54 is all about togetherness, solitude, and how caring for others may help us through the most challenging circumstances.

Your character glimpses a person they want to connect or reconnect with – an old friend, a person they believe could help them, someone they believe they could help, or perhaps all three.

But a secret fear or guilt is holding them back. How do they overcome that negative emotion? What does their courage lead them towards?

What do they do? What are the outcomes?

You can subscribe to Oh magazine here.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.