Writing prompt – blooming…

Totterdown springtime. Photo by Judy Darley. Shows coloured houses, one of which has a windowsill full of blooming daffodils.There are few sights more heartening than proof of spring, and all the new life, sweet budding aromas and birdsong that accompanies it.

In the vibrant corner of Bristol where I live, daffodils bob on windowsills, as well as gardens and parks. I love to imagine the people who go to such efforts to make the most any small outdoor space. Surely they’re as sunny as the flowers they tend!

But I also like the concept of opposites. Perhaps the person who plants these daffodils bulbs and places them on windowsills does so to disguise an inner darkness. It’s a thought that can seed the foundations for brilliantly flawed and complex characters.

Can you use to this as inspiration to create a protagonist whose exterior is utterly at odds with their interior? What might they be trying to hide, and why? Who might discover the truth of their sweet or sour centre? What outcome could ensue as a result?

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.

Join Writers & Artists’ fiction submission masterclass

Notebook and pen cr Judy Darley

Got a novel almost ready to submit? Now’s the time to polish your submission package. The canny folks at the Writers & Artists are hosting an online Manuscript Submission Masterclass for fiction writers.

The class takes place on 7th April 2021 from 6pm to 8pm.

They say: “This masterclass isn’t about writing craft, it’s about how to give you and your book the best possible chance when it comes to approaching literary agents.”

Participants will join two leading literary agents for a two-hour online masterclass packed with advice on how to produce a covering letter, guidance on producing an attention-grabbing pitch, tips on writing a synopsis, and general insights into the role literary agents play for their authors.

Thirty minutes will be made available for a Q&A.

All attendees have the opportunity to submit their covering letter to receive feedback from one of the participating agents.

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Book review – The Yet Unknowing World by Fiona J Mackintosh

The Yet Unknowing WorldLayered like skeins of vivid ribbons, the stories in Fiona J. Mackintosh’s flash fiction collection The Yet Unknowing World strew colours through their readers’ minds.

Each tethers a moment in time, offering a sense of eavesdropping on stranger’s secrets. Many are portraits of love, others a sidewise glance at grief or betrayal. Woven by Mackintosh’s deft fingers, even the deepest losses are shared as exquisite parcels to be marvelled over. In ‘Hindsight’, the author opens with an image of cartwheels and trailing silk, before revealing that it’s these slippery fabrics that led to our narrator waking with his “heart fractured.”

There’s poetry whirled into these tales, and imagery rich enough to leave your senses tingling. Though most of the stories are only a paragraph or so long, they’re packed with details that evoke more than the sum of their words, and yet lie lightly on the page.

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Sky Light Rain – What Rises

Dinefwr water meadows. Lake. Photo by Judy Darley
I can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s why I launched this series of posts offering insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The thirty-fifth story is ‘What Rises’. The story was inspired by the Welsh myth of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach. In the original myth, she has three sons who became great healers. I began to wonder about the fact these children weren’t one thing or the other, not land dwellers, nor water. In my mind, one sibling, Eillian, changed shape in ways that explored the restrictions of gender too.

I was also intrigued by the aspect of the myth that the lady of the lake left her children after her husband struck her for the third time. I questioned why he hit the woman he worshipped, and examined the violence in love through Eillian’s experiences, which in my tale echo their mother’s.

‘What Rises’ was published as ‘The People of the Soil’ by Enchanted Conversation magazine.

The story begins:

I stirred as I heard the river move beneath the crops, its murmurs rejoicing. My brothers lay intertwined beside me.

“Fam’s leaving,” I whispered, and their eyes snapped open. We crept outside, leaving Dad asleep. We’d known this day would come, even before he struck her for the third time.

What rises from water can’t live on land forever.

Outside, our mother was already a distant glimmer, her milkwhite cattle streaming behind. We rushed after her, silenced by the dawn and the river and the intentness with which she strode.

At the lake’s edge she turned, her fist-blackened eyes like shadows.

“Fam!” cried the youngest of us, Brychan, unable to keep his fear inside. “Fam, take me too.”

He ran to her and we saw her place her water-cold fingers on his half-human cheeks.

“You stay here, son, you and your brothers. You stay here and tend to the people of the soil.”

My elder brother Mab and I took our sobbing sibling between us, each with an arm over his shoulder. We thought comfort into him, and strength, performing our first act of healing.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Merrow Cave‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Milk and Other Lies‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Edge of the Sand‘.

Writing prompt – green

Arnos Vale leavesAs we approach the spring or vernal equinox, this is the perfect time to celebrate lighter mornings, longer days and the sweet fragrance of young leaves.

I invite you to take a stroll where you can see at least a tree or two. Take time to notice the creatures rustling amid the trees – the finches, wrens, blue tits and robins. Perhaps beetles creak here, and spiders teasing out the silken threads of their webs. Maybe a squirrel flurries past or a tiny shrew. What else might lurk, unseen?

Why not make this flourishing wild environment the focus of a poem, painting or other creative act? Could the unfurling leaves represent a fresh beginning or renewed hope? Could there be a threat – human or otherwise – hidden among the new abundance?

Bear in mind the colour green as you create, with all its connotations of nature, luck, health and tranquillity, but feel free to add a ribbon of danger too!

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.

Novel Nights’ Indie Publisher Series

Novel-Nights-Literary-Events-Bristol4-photo credit Sophie Carefull

Novel Nights © Sophie Carefull

Novel Night’s next edition of its popular Indie Publisher Series invites you to spend an evening with Myriad Editions, from the comfort of your own home. On 17th March from 7.30pm till 8.30pm, join Novel Night’s Grace Palmer along with Myriad’s Publishing Director Candida Lacey and Publicity Director Emma Dowson as they discuss their experiences of the publishing industry, opportunities for emerging writers, and how you can break through.

Myriad publishes award-winning literary fiction, graphic novels and political nonfiction, including ground-breaking infographic atlases. The indie publishing house  supports new and emerging authors via two work-in-progress competitions. These launch in Spring 2022 with the First Drafts competition for unpublished writers and the First Graphic Novel Competition. Both competitions have a track record of uncovering and launching authors who go on to achieve creative and commercial success.

In 2017, Myriad merged with New Internationalist as part of a joint plan to expand, reach wider audiences and publish books that push boundaries and embrace diversity.

There will plenty of time for Q&A.

Tickets cost £5 plus a booking fee.

Find out more and book tickets here: www.novelnights.co.uk

Got an event, challenge, competition, opportunity or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send me an email at JudyDarley (@) ICloud (dot) com.

Writing prompt – heritage

Toppled tree cr James HainsworthThis grand old tree fell down in some winter storms and took out half the footpath, plus a chunk of riverbank with it.

It makes me ponder how we live so intertwined with nature, yet many of us barely register its importance in our lives. As spring bubbles into wakefulness around us, maybe it’s time to think of how much we need every little plant, insect and bird.

Today I challenge you to write or otherwise create a piece of climate fiction or art from the point of view of a speck of wilderness and the humans it encounters. What fresh twist can you bring to turn this into a positive work?

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.

The clues in a character’s handwriting

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Every wondered what you can read into a person’s handwriting? In today’s guestpost, Hana Rehman examines the loops and curves of graphology and shares her findings on assorted renowned artists. Can you use the insights to invent your own believably brilliant but flawed creative character?

The act of putting pen to paper is something special for most writers—we untangle thoughts, pour out memories, and make art out of words. But do these etchings on paper reveal more about ourselves than we might think?

Leonardo da Vinci

It has been debated whether or not the analysis of handwriting, or graphology, can be considered an actual science. But there might be something to it if we can uncover unique and unexpected traits by examining the characteristics of our letters.

Below are some emotions and personality traits that graphology claims our handwriting can reveal about us. Whether or not it’s entirely true is for us to decide, but it can always make for a fun, and perhaps insightful, exercise, to analyse handwritten pages.

Confidence

Supposedly, we can gauge one’s level of confidence by the size of their letters. Large letters indicate an upbeat, larger-than-life personality. Medium-sized letters show modesty and a good self-image. Small letters display focus and introspection.

Miro

Generosity and Openness

In graphology, letter spacing indicates a person’s openness and level of generosity. For example, large spaces between letters supposedly mean one is happy and generous, and when there are no spaces between letters, it is indicative of intelligence. No spacing can also mean one is closed off from others.

Emotions

The angle of one’s handwriting is believed to show off their inner feelings. For example, straight letters apparently show feelings of stability, calm, and even pride. According to graphologists, right-slanting letters show affection and tendency to opposition, while left-slanting letters demonstrate frustration, and that someone may be having a hard time with decision-making.

Frida Kahlo

Pen pressure is also thought to exhibit emotions. Heavy pen pressure, indicated by dark letters, shows determination and strong-mindedness. Mixed pressure, where the handwriting alternates between dark and light letters, shows the writer is sensitive, and may have trouble concentrating. Finally, very light letters show that the writer may be feeling ungrounded.

Graphology goes far deeper and gets very detailed, all the way down to the millimeter of letter width. However, using the general principles above, this method of analysis might be able to reveal something interesting about your mindset when you’re writing.

For more interesting handwriting analysis, take a look at this historical infographic created by the editors at 1stDibs. They analysed the signatures of twelve famous artists from history to see what they could uncover.

Enter the Bath Short Story Award

Roman Baths pigeons by Judy DarleyThe annual Bath Short Story Award is open now for entries from aspiring and established writers worldwide. Why not use this time of event cancellations and self-isolation to dream up a prize-worthy work of fiction?

The competition closes to entries at midnight GMT on 19th April 2021. You’re invited to submit stories up to a maximum of 2200 words on any theme or subject.

This year, the judge is Norah Perkins, literary agent from from Curtis Brown. You can read an interview with Norah on how to make the most of your 2,200 words here.

Each submission costs £9.

The Bath Short Story Award prizes

  • First Prize – £1200
  • Second Prize – £300
  • Third prize -£100
  • Acorn Award for an unpublished writer of fiction £100
  • Local Prize – £50 in book vouchers from Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath.

In addition, the top 20 entries will feature in the Bath Short Award anthology 2021, to be published by Ad Hoc Fiction.

Find full details of how to enter here. Good luck!

Sky Light Rain – Edge of the Sand

Cornish shore cr Judy DarleyI can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s why I launched this series of posts offering insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The thirty-fourth story is ‘Edge of the Sand’. The story began to take shape when I visited a millinery shop in Bristol and learnt how feathers are used to create extraordinary hats. An image popped into my mind of a woman walking along the edge where sea meets sand and collecting seagull feathers. I wondered who she wanted to make a hat for, and why.

The answer took shape early as I imagined her brother preparing to get married, and what it would take for her agoraphobic mother to attend. The seagull feathers felt like the perfect representation of taking a leap into freedom, even if that feels like trusting your weight to be carried by the wind buffeting a cliff edge.

The story begins:

The tide has just begun to turn. Arianne walks along the edge of the sand, collecting seagull feathers one by one.

They’re white, the feathers, and dappled with grey, mirroring the clouds overhead.

Her meandering route carries her to the narrow stairs that lead to her childhood home. Deepening shadows cast a chill over clumps of delicate purple flowers that sprout from the cracks between rocks. Her dad would have known what they were named. He always knew details like that – it was he who first got her interested in insects and other invertebrates when she was barely more than a dot herself.

The back door is sticky, its wood swollen by spring rain. She forces it open and steps into the stillness and stands motionless for a moment, feeling the thrum of her heart.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Merrow Cave‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Milk and Other Lies‘.