Festive wishes

Tinsel tree 2018. Photo by Judy DarleyMerry Christmas Eve! As feared, our small Christmas tree didn’t make it through 2018 and when we moved to our new home in March, he didn’t come with us. I’m hoping his branches helped to nourish some other growing trees.

However, when I mentioned we might not have a tree this year, my mum immediately offered to loan us her 1960s tinsel tree. This slender silver beauty has pride of place in our cosy living room. We’re just taking care not to place any candles too close!

And yes, in case you were wondering, that is a fairy sheep on top, and a peeping snowman to the right. And no, I can’t (won’t) explain those two little festive oddities.

This year has been tumultuous in many ways, but speckled through with serene pockets of creativity and spangled with small but shining literary successes.

Wishing you a peaceful, joyful Christmas, however you choose to spend it.

Writing prompt – Mall Santa

Mall Santa. Photo by Judy DarleySantas in shopping malls are a familiar sight at this time of year. There’s something so urban and commercial about it, but though the glitter and snow may be plastic, in the eyes of many children this is a truly magical sight.

Imagine your protagonist staring down at this scene. What’s going through their mind? What action might it prompt or provoke in them?

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

BBC Upload wants your words

Pressed leaf1 by Judy DarleyIf you have a short story you’ve written that you’d like to hear on the radio and you’re based in the Bristol area, there’s an opportunity you shouldn’t miss.

DJ Adam Crowther invites writers, poets and spoken word performers from Bristol, Bath, North Somerset and South Gloucestershireto get in touch.

All you need to do is record yourself reading your piece, save it as an MP3 file, and upload it at BBC Upload.

If Adam selects your piece to share, he’ll give you a call to find out a few details, and you’ll be able to hear your poem or story on his evening show Upload with Adam Crowther.

Adam aired my short story ‘Pressed Leaves’ on 11th December 2018. ‘Pressed Leaves’ captures a moment in time in which a young girl, Anna, helps her mother clear out the artist’s studio of the grandfather she’s never met.

Listen to me read ‘Pressed Leaves’ here. It’s at about 1 hr 13 min in. #fictionontheair

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

Apollo’s Offspring – a short story

Rook waterwalking2 by Judy DarleyYou may recall my #WritingPrompt from October, suggesting you draw on myths for inspiration.

Rathalla Review Fall 2018Another of my stories inspired by myths appears in the Fall 2018 issue of Rathalla Review. It involves an au pair, who happens to be a raven, and a mother who’s ex happens to be the Greek God Apollo.

I’m so pleased to see my work in this beautiful publication, and to find a home for this uncanny tale.

Click here and leaf through the issue to read it.

Writing prompt – Christmas past

Escaping Christmas tree close up. Photo by Judy DarleyI mentioned to my mum that we weren’t planning to buy a Christmas tree this year, and she immediately offered to lend us her vintage silver tree. She and my dad bought it in the sixties, and I remember it glittering throughout my childhood (when it was already over a decade old!), but it’s spent the last few years in the damp and shadows of a cellar.

When Mum dropped it off, some silvery tentacles were already emerging. I thought I might leave the room and return to find a tinsel octopus creeping across the ceiling!

What magic and mayhem could unwind from your own Christmas past? Or what shimmering weirdness could you unravel from the scene above?

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

A short story – Milk and Other Lies

Bristol, Avon Gorge by Judy DarleyI’m thrilled to have had my very short story Milk and Other Lies published by SmokeLong Quarterly. I’ve had my eye on this excellent publication for a while, and I’m really pleased that this is the story they’ve chosen to publish.

I submitted my piece during a submission when students in the Amsterdam Creative Writing course got to have a say, and received the exciting news that they had chosen my story as their favourite during their week of guest editing for SmokeLong!

Also very happy that my story featured in SmokeLong’s weekly mail out, which means that if you subscribe to their newsletter, my words will have arrived in your inbox this morning 🙂

You can read my story here: http://www.smokelong.com/milk-and-other-lies/ 

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.

Theatre review – A Christmas Carol

Ensemble and Felix Hayes as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint LewisOver the years, Bristol Old Vic has set expectations high with its inventive, ingenious takes on classic Christmas shows. The production of A Christmas Carol met those hopes head on with a bundle of exceptional touches:

  • A multi-talented cast
  • Infectious music
  • Light audience participation
  • Magical lighting
  • Creative sets
  • Impressive puppetry
  • Gender swapping

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick and tick.

Full Company in A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint Lewis

Adapted by Bristol Old Vic’s Artistic Director Tom Morris, Dicken’s spooky, marginally gloomy tale of redemption is revved up into an exultant spectacle. Scrooge is misanthropic and menacing (helped by actor Felix Hayes’ height and undeniable stage presence), but delightfully droll. Wry asides ensure that at times we’re almost on his side for eschewing the glitz and kitsch of Christmas in favour of a bit of peace and quiet…

Felix Hayes, Saikat Ahamed and Nadia Nadarajah in A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint Lewis

Nadia Nadarajah’s Bob Crotchet, shown far right above, converses entirely in British Sign Language, which serves both to enhance the physical exuberance of her performance, and to keep Scrooge at one remove as he struggles with and largely turns from what he refers to as “wavy hand language”, at least initially.

Saikat Ahamed and ensemble in A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint Lewis

The majority of the cast members play multiple roles, with the audience invited into the theatrical mischief – snow is delivered in handfuls from the top of a rolling staircase, and when stepping from his nephew Freddie’s home to that of the Cratchit family, Scrooge passes Freddie the bonnet belonging to Mrs Cratchit, commenting, “You’ll be needing this”, and reminding us of actor Saikat Ahamed’s dual role.

Felix Hayes as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint Lewis

More doubling up occurs with several of the ensemble also providing the original musical score, right up to musical director and composer Gwyneth Herbert, who also plays the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Full Company of A Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic, credit Geraint Lewis

Designer Tom Roger’s set is equally adaptable and dynamic – as well as the staircase mentioned above, there are doorways on casters and Scrooge’s four-poster bed, with Anna Watson’s skilful lighting adding atmosphere in spades. Humour is woven throughout, but never more so than in the scenes of revelry, including the Fezziwigs Christmas party where dance moves include flossing. The British Sign Language for ‘dance’ is incorporated as another enthusiastic move.

Audience participation  includes a brief singalong near the end, which, while fully optional, gives the audience a chance to release some of the giddy joy that has inevitably been building up throughout.

In many senses, Dicken’s story is a moral coming of age tale. With the Bristol Old Vic treatment, this production ramps up this theme, as Scrooge is reminded of the power of the imagination he’s set aside since his school days, as well as the love he let slip by and the value of human connection.

A gorgeously rambunctious and imaginative production.

Production photography by Geraint Lewis.

A Christmas Carol is on at Bristol Old Vic until 13th January 2019. Find out more and book tickets.

Seen or read anything interesting recently? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – Advent

Arnos Vale Cemetery in the snow cr Judy DarleyToday’s writing prompt offers 25 for the price of one, courtesy the good folks of National Flash Fiction Day’s Flash Flood! On Saturday they launched their Advent Calendar with a writerly twist – this one offers a writing prompt every day.

They says: “To celebrate the holiday season, Flash Flood would like to gift the flash fiction community with an Advent Calendar full of flashy prompts.”

The snowy cemetery scene above is my own, separate contribution to their flurry. To see what they’ve suggested to inspire you already, head to flashfloodjournal.blogspot.com.

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.