Poetry review – Take This One To Bed by Antony Dunn

Take This One to Bed by Antony DunnIn an homage to rural and suburban living, and the creatures that live among (and, in one case, within) us, poet Antony Dunn examines human nature by setting it alongside, well, nature.

We meet spiders, newts, frogs, slugs, sheep, mice, bats and crows startled to “beating black”; unborn children, born ones, and, most evocatively, lovers, all sensuously laid out in deceptively simple verses that summon up the world.

For me, Leaving: vi Two Mohitos in Bratislava, feels plucked from my own memory; causing my mouth to flood with a craving for the zing of citrus and mint. The word choices are crisp and visceral – happiness is sucked, a quartered lime fished, an ice-cube shunted. It’s deeply, satisfyingly, envy-inducing.

Even in a poem about a solo journey, Dunn conjures flavour and texture by mentioning “the woman with her honey in mis-matched jars” and  “sunlight quickening/ the dust and tar/ and rosemary”.

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Enter the Bridport Prize

Port cr Judy DarleyOne of the UK’s most prestigious writing competitions, the Bridport Prize is currently seeking submissions of short stories, flash fiction, poems and debut novels.

The deadline for all competition entries is Wednesday 31st May 2017.

First things first, choose your writing species, novel, short story, flash fiction or poem.

Bridport Prize artwork cr Paul Blow

@copy; Paul Blow

Poems may be up to 42 lines in length. The entry fee is £9.  The winning poet will receive £5,000.

Short stories may be up to 5,000 words long. The entry fee is £10. The winning short story writer will receive £5,000.

Flash fiction may be up to 250 words long. The entry fee is £8. The winning flash fiction writer will receive £1,000.

Novel extracts may be up to 8,000 words long, and must be from the opening chapters. You must also supply a 300-word synopsis. The fee is £20. Entries will be judged by Nathan Filer in conjunction with The Literary Consultancy and literary agency A.M.Heath. First prize prize is £1,000 plus mentoring through The Literary Consultancy’s Chapter & Verse scheme, and possible publication.

Find full details and enter your creative works at www.bridportprize.org.uk.

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.

Hauntings in Manchester

Hello Hollow by Julian HetzelHave you visited Manchester recently? If so, you may have encountered an unsettling figure or two. Made from black plastic bags, the Hello Hollow sculptures by artist Julian Hetzel descended on the city in March.

Shifting subtly in the wind and eerily anthropomorphic, the figures are designed to be “short-lived and changeable.”

Hetzel describes the sculptures as interference. “People get confused because they don’t know what they are seeing.”

Hello Hollow and Julian Hetzel

One of the Hello Hollow sculptures with artist Julian Hetzel

He comments that in Manchester, more than anywhere else he’s taken them, including locations in Austria, the Netherlands and Germany, the reaction they’ve provoked is fear. It’s a detail he attributes to the city’s high incidences of homelessness. With their fragile ephemeral qualities, they raise questions about vulnerability, threat, and the perceived value of human life.

The installation is part of SICK! Festival, which aims to challenge the physical, mental and social challenges of life through art.

Watch Julian Hetzel discussing Hello Hollow at Manchester Metropolitan.

Writing prompt – promises

Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram photo1 by Judy DarleyHave you ever been made a completely implausible promise? Did you end up disappointed or resigned when it failed to come to fruition, or did you have a moment of wonder when your promiser delivered?

Artist Luke Jerram is currently touring his Museum of the Moon, offering us the chance to promise to take someone to the moon, and actually mean it. Imagine if that really was the moon, however. What havoc could it cause the seas and oceans, our gravitational pull and the night sky?

Write a tale based on an unfeasible promise, and the chaos it causes when it actually comes true.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Art review – Drawn 2017

Ghost Nets of Hallsands (iii) by Frances Gynn, ink, crayon and charcoal_£2000

Ghost Nets of Hallsands (iii) by Frances Gynn, ink, crayon and charcoal

The Royal West of England Academy‘s biannual exhibition Drawn has returned, with a wealth of works that reveal the powerful possibilities offered by ink, pencil, paint and thread and more.

“Drawing is a means of communication and interpretation; it is a building block of creativity and a fundamental part of the creative process,” says  Gemma Brace, Head of Exhibitions.

Eighteen Occasions by Rebecca Swindell, pen on cork_£350

Eighteen Occasions by Rebecca Swindell, pen on cork

The variety of mediums was exceptional, including a selection of atmospheric etchings by invited artist Norman Ackroyd RA. My favourites among the others include Rebecca Swindell’s ink drawings on corks (shown above), titled Eighteen Occasions, Yurim Gough’s Shopaholic on ceramic, and Belinda Durrant’s corset titled Gilded Cage.

Terrain by Dail Behennah, paper and graphite_£3000

Terrain by Dail Behennah, paper and graphite

Dail Behennah’s elegant executed Terrain is a three-dimensional geometric landscape that drew me to my knees for an almost immersive view. In other cases, a few swipes with a stick of charcoal conjure an arresting portrait, while skilled artists such as Kevin Line capture scenes of uncanny realism with the same humble medium.

Bowed to the Wheel by Kevin Line

Bowed to the Wheel (cropped) by Kevin Line

In the adjoining gallery, dim-lighting and a sense of seclusion offers the backdrop to Lines in a Landscape: Drawings from the Royal Collection, a selection of works lent by Her Majesty The Queen.

Guercino, Detail from A Landscape with a three-arched bridge over a river, c.1625, Pen and ink (RCIN 902717), Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Guercino, Detail from A Landscape with a three-arched bridge over a river, c.1625, Pen and ink (RCIN 902717), Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Next door you’ll see examples plucked from the RWA’s own extensive collection for Beyond The Sketchpad, before emerging into the Drawing Lab with the option to create your own work.

In the speeches at the preview, Peter Randall-Page RA RWA swept us away with a reminder of all the ways in which the term drawn can be used: how we can draw curtains; draw people together; draw water from a well; draw swords; be drawn and quartered,  among others.

Even in language, it’s clear that drawing opens up a multitude of possibilities, but in this case it’s the paintings, etchings, sculptures and otherwise realised works that stopped me in my tracks.

The Hounds by Abigail Reed, Charcoal on paper_£950

The Hounds by Abigail Reed, charcoal on paper

Drawn and its accompanying exhibitions are on at the RWA until 4th June 2017.

To submit or suggest an art review, please send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Call for fairytales inspired by Donkeyskin

Donkey cr Judy DarleyDo you know the French fairytale Donkeyskin? I hadn’t heard of it either, until Kate Wolford posted it as a theme for Enchanted Conversation’s May submissions slot.

It turns out to be a French fairytale by Charles Perrault published in 1695. In it, a grieving king is persuaded to remarry, but the only woman he’ll consider is his own daughter. Zut alors! After trying to save her skin by making impossible demands, the princess fled, disguising her beauty by dressing in a donkey skin.

Kate is accepting poems and short stories inspired by the original tale between 1st and 31st May 2017.

Stories should be no shorter than 700 words and no longer than 3,000. Poems may be of any length.

Payments will be issued in US dollars via PayPal at $30 per story and $10 per poem.

Find full guidelines and links to previous published work.

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 creative voyage

Clipper by Judy DarleyI’ve just come to the end of an art course at the RWA in Bristol, and am already missing it immensely. The course, Illustration for Picture Books with Sam Church, offered the rare treat of devoting three hours each week for five weeks to playing with ink, paint, pencil and words.

We were each invited to devise or find a story or poem to illustrate. As you might imagine, I went in fully equipped with that side of things, keen to bring one of my short stories to life in new, visual ways.

It was energising to be in a room full of people who have such artistic talent. While I enjoyed figuring out perspective and thrilling with the success of painting a scene that made sense to me, there was just as much pleasure to be had in wandering the room at the end and seeing what my fellow students had been working on throughout the morning. Some produced works of utter beauty!

Boy and merhag by Judy Darley

For me, the biggest challenge was drawing and painting the face of my protagonist, and I’m still not satisfied with that. I think I need to try cartooning to get the character from my head to the page. It was magical, however, to discover I’m able to recreate some of the villains and accomplices from my tale, as well as the setting of the sea, sky and isle.

Evil crab by Judy Darley

The best part, however, was the chance to devote substantial chunks of time to exploring the artistic possibilities of my fiction under the gentle guidance of course leader Sam. It’s focused my growing passion for making as well as writing about art, and given me a new expressive outlet that fills me with joy.

Find upcoming RWA courses.

Writing prompt – rural

Golden Teasels by Jane Betteridge

This painting, Golden Teasels by Jane Betteridge, seems loaded with potential to me. I have the sense of someone wandering along deep in their thoughts, then unexpectedly witnessing something private and possibly awful unfurl.

Or perhaps this is a scene of bucolic beauty and innocence.

What does it bring to mind for you?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Book review – Unthology 9

Unthank_Unthology9_Cover_The tales in Unthank Books’ Unthology 9 are awash with troubled souls grappling with twisted ideas about love. From paternal to oedipal, the sensuality is fringed with unease. Protective love, manipulative love, obsessive, idealistic and thwarted, it’s all here, laid out between the pages of Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones’ latest masterpiece.

The introduction is itself akin to a beautiful flash fiction, rich in atmosphere and mood. It’s the perfect introduction to this archipelago of outstanding fiction, where every story is an island and each reader an elective castaway.

And, like all shipwrecked souls, we’re soon immersed in the preoccupations that make up human existence, starting with the mortal coil, and the twin barbs of love and loneliness.

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Bristol Short Story Prize 2017 invites entries

Bristol hot air balloons cr Judy DarleyOne of my favourite writing competitions (and not just because it’s local), Bristol Short Story Prize 2017 is now open for entries. Flick through any of their anthologies and you’ll discover a wonderful breadth of theme, topic and style.

The closing date for entries is May 3rd 2017. Submissions can be up to a maximum length of 4,000 words.

The judging panel will be chaired by Tania Hershman. Tania is joined on the panel by acclaimed author Roshi Fernando and award winning bookseller, Simon Key.

BristolShortStoryPrize-vol-9-coverThe 2016 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Stefanie Seddon for her story, Kãka.

The 2015 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Canadian writer Brent van Staalduinen for his story A Week on the Water.

The 2014 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Mahsuda Snaith for her story The Art of Flood Survival.

The 2013 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by London-based writer, Paul McMichael, for his story, The House on St. John’s Avenue.

Stories can be entered online or by post. The closing date for entries is midnight (BST) on May 3rd 2017. Find the full competition rules here.

The writing competition prizes

First prize is £1,000. Second prize is £700, and third prize is £400.

Each of the 17 remaining shortlisted finalists will receive £100.

Entry fees are £8 each.

For full details or to enter, go to www.bristolprize.co.uk.

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.