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.

Writing prompt – elemental

Elemental by Judy Darley

My short story collection Sky Light Rain is out in just over a week, and I’m really excited. So I thought that this week I would offer some insights into the inspirations behind the 36 works of fiction it contains.

My publisher has described the collection as ‘elemental,’ which I really like. The tales touch on nature, and human nature, and all the fragmented darkness and lightness that coalesce to form the people we become. It’s about the actions we take to try to make our lives better, and how, at times, these actions can make things worse. How good intentions can be twisted, misunderstood or cast adrift, so that we flounder as we struggle to remember what we’d hoped to achieve or attain.

My starting point for each was a questions: ‘What if…?’

So for this week’s writing prompt I invite you to think about the things that niggle at you, that really pique your curiosity, and then dig deeper by asking yourself why, and what might happen if…?

My book launch is also a wider literary night featuring three additional exceptionally talented writers, Grace Palmer, Paul Deaton and Kevlin Henney, and amazing musician Hidden Tide, who will all share their work. The launch is at 7pm on 2nd November 2019 in Waterstones Bristol. Get your free tickets here.

Sky Light Rain is available to pre-order 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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Readings in the Crypt

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

On Tuesday 22nd October as part of Bristol Festival of Literature, I’m reading a short story in the crypt of St John on The Wall. Along with members of Bristol Writers’ Group, including, Gavin Watkins, Sarah Rowles, Piers Marter and Corinne Robinson, I’ll share a short original folktale of redemption and forgiveness, titled The Ties That Bind.

I’ve read with the group previously in Bristol’s Redcliffe Caves, and the event is always excellent. This year, the theme was ‘Thing’, and the ‘thing’ I chose was a ribbon.

Book your tickets here

Hope to see you there!

Find out what else is on during Bristol Festival of Literature.

Writing prompt – backdrop

Wonder by Judy DarleyWhile travelling in Thailand, I became increasingly intrigued by the large number of tourists only interested in snapping selfies or seeing their surroundings through the screen of smart devices. Rather than breathing in the moment, they seem intent on how they will look on social media, with that particular backdrop.

In this case, a young girl would rather flick through her phone than take notice of the natural wonder of the Haew Suwat waterfall.

Use this as a starting point for a story. What might happen if one day this girl actually looks up from her phone? What might have changed while her attention was elsewhere?

Alternatively, consider what it could take to remind her that the world can be more than a backdrop to her Instagram photos.

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.

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/ 

A prose poem – Sunlit

Sunlit tree by Judy DarleyEarlier this year a series of my Care Home Vignettes was published in the Summer 2019 issue of Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing.

These works of creative non-fiction capture my experiences of gradually losing my father to Alzheimer’s Disease.

One of these pieces, titled Sunlit, caught the attention of another contributor to the edition. Poet Carol Barrett, Ph.D. got in touch to let me know she was applying to carry out a workshop for Oregon Poetry Association. The topic would be The Prose Poem As Memoir, the workshop would take place in September, and Carol wanted permission to include one of my pieces as an example.

I was happy to say yes, and even happier when Carol let me know the workshop had gone ahead, with 33 participants.

Carol wrote: “This community is largely composed of folks over 60, so many have experienced care homes with relatives, or are concerned about whether they will need to take up residence in such facilities. The poignancy of the details came through, as well as the two characters of the speaker and the father. After this discussion, they wrote their own prose poems/vignettes, and some wonderful things were produced.

Writing has always been a means of making connections for me, and I love the idea of this workshop in Oregon including my thoughts and emotions on a topic that will touch so many of us.

Carol plans to repeat the workshop at Deschutes Public Library in Oregon on 8th December.

Here’s the piece that went on this journey:

Sunlit

He’s on a mission, striding there and back again. Just woken, his steps are slow at first. He lists slightly to one side, one hip shored up for balance.

I shadow him, spilling memories of holidays we shared. He nods politely, then hurries past. So much ground to cover before nightfall. At a locked door he halts, pressing his fingers against metal screws in different configurations. Puzzling it out.

He seems tall today. A silver birch with crooked branches. We turn, walk on, passing beneath an open skylight.

Rain falls through sunlit silver. Droplets catch in his snow-white hair. He pauses, blinking. Connected for just a moment with the world outside.

The art of pyrography with Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Inlet_Oil, pyrography and gold leaf on wood_by Michelle Loa Kum CheungSometimes an artist’s power lies in their prowess with certain techniques and materials. With accomplished pyrographer Michelle Loa Kum Cheung, that’s certainly partly true, as she commonly works with heat on wood. However, it’s her rarity of vision that elevates Michelle’s art to the status of truly covetable. By recreating rural and coastal scenes in her own precise way, she converts our familiar world into something otherworldly, revealing the precious and fragile beauty of our planet.

Michelle takes her unique viewpoint almost for granted. “As with most young people, I was a creative child who liked to make things out of paper and draw,” she says. “This fascination with analogue, tactile techniques endured throughout university, where I completed Honours in Fine Arts in Australia at the University of New South Wales. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I travelled for the first time to Europe to France, Italy and England and was so drawn to the art and culture that I have now been based in Europe for the past five years.”

Pont_Acrylic and pyrography on wood by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Pont. Acrylic and pyrography on wood by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Michelle’s intricate use of pyrography – using heat as a drawing medium – is particularly impressive.

“I am so fascinated by pyrography as a way to make a mark, and find it very different from the conventional two-dimensional mediums of pencil and paint,” she says. “I first started the technique shortly after finishing university, where my focus had been on trees in the environment as an exploration of phenomenology where I was interested in the science of conscious attention to the surrounding environment.”

Untitled, pyrography on wood by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Following that period, which she describes as “fairly experimental”, Michelle began investigating wood instead of canvas, and developing her understanding of its potential “as a naturally burning material.”

The proves captivated Michelle. “Pyrography requires a lot of attention, focus and delicacy, which I love,” she says. “There is also an irreversible element as you cannot undo a mark once it is made with the pyrography pen, but I believe that all the marks made add to the finished product.”

Against The Current by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Against The Current by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

She finds herself returning to the same questions time and again through her artwork. “What peaks my interest and forms a lot of the ideas in my art practice is the angst of not knowing and desire, memories and nostalgia, particularly memories which aren’t my own and fabricated nostalgia for places that I’ve never been,” she explains. “Moving from Australia and interacting more with old family photos as a result led to me exploring the concept of displaced heritage.”

Penglai_Oil, pyrography, liquid leaf and conte pencil on wood, by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Penglai_Oil, pyrography, liquid leaf and conte pencil on wood, by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Michelle is also exploring the Chinese concept of shan shui. “My understanding of shan shui is that a realistic depiction of the landscape is not as pertinent as how the artist perceives it, emotionally and mentally,” she says. “Focal points and perspective function differently in traditional Chinese landscape painting than in Western art. Looking into Chinese mythology has also introduced me to Chinese utopia and mythological mountains and landforms which represent an idyllic world which could exist concurrently to ours but which is, as yet, unmarred by human interaction.”

Archipel_Acrylic and pyrography on wood_30x30cm_2017

Archipel by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

As a very visual person, Michelle says “Each new piece is generally inspired by something I have seen personally or a memory which I have ingested second hand through someone else, whether their own recent memory or an old family memory, before I was even born. I try to walk every day and even moving through my environment in a casual manner not only brings new visual inspiration but also clears my mind for imagining.”

Danxia No. 1_oil and pyrography on wood by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Danxia No. 1 by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Michelle says her personal favourite artwork is Danxia No. 1. “It was one of the first circular paintings I have done, and in fact one of the first paintings since permanently relocating to London,” she says. “Dana refers to the naturally occurring red landforms in the Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, which for me hold resonance with the Chamarel Coloured Earth in Mauritius, where my parents were born.”

Once she has an idea for a fresh piece of work in mind, Michelle’s creative process is precise. “There are certain works where the mark making is very planned, usually if I am combining paint and gold leaf, because the preparation of the wood and intentional empty spaces dictate it,” she says. “In this way mistakes can be particularly unforgiving. My art book is a combination of rough sketches, finished sketches and measured grids. For these artworks, it is important for me to pre-visualise the structure.”

However, the colour is usually applied instinctively, while many pieces are almost entirely intuitive. “It surprises most people that the most intricate pyrographic works on wood and paper which are usually monochrome have the least planning – close to none. There are no mistakes in these works, just the continuation of form.”

Sierra, Oil, pyrography and liquid leaf on wood by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Sierra by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

The beginning phase of the artwork spans from the design process right up until Michelle has filled in the first layers, “whether that be of pyrography or paint. Generally I will do most of the pyrography first as the foundation and switch to the paint. Once these areas have been blocked in, contemplation starts because I tend to not plan the colouring as much as the initial structure.”

The next stage requires a little more space from the actual work. “I’II sit back and stare at the painting for almost as long as I actually work on it,” she says. “I usually need to leave an artwork for a few days and come back to it before realising it is complete. As artists work in such close quarters to their art, separation is definitely needed so we can contemplate what we have done and regard it from a distance.”

Furl by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Furl by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Michelle will be exhibiting her work as part of the Counter Balance Artcan Group Show from 30 October – 10 November, Trinity Art Gallery, London. You can also see Michelle’s work at Cultural Diaries, a group show with Milenna Saraiva, KV Duong and Tom Cox, from 25 November – 1 December at Old Brompton Gallery, London.

Find out more about Michelle and her work at www.michellelkc.com, on Instagram @michelle_lkc and on Twitter @michelle_lkc

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – tithe

Tithe Barn at Bradford on Avon by Judy DarleyThis impressive Tithe Barn is situated in Bradford on Avon. The beautiful structure dates back to the 1330s, and has had a number of uses attributed to it, though the name suggests this may have been where people were expected to bring the wares that made up their taxes – basically ten per cent of every crop or animal yield paid to the local church establishment.

I love that this photo catches two modern-day visitors treading in the ancient space, almost as though they are the ghosts in this scenario. What produce might they be expected to submit ten per cent of to this building’s holy masters?

What aspects of history, religion, society and community could you explore with this as your starting point?

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 – Shifting Sands

Shifting Sands by Judy DarleyI’m proud to have my ecological fable ‘Shifting Sands’ included in the Mechanics’ Institute Review 16: The Climate Issue. Such an important topic to think, write and take action about.

The MIR team have been lovely to work with, and I can’t wait to see my story in print. It will be my longest published work to date, rocking in at just over 5,000 words.

The sands, when we get to them, show evidence of those who’ve attempted to cross before – an abandoned sleigh here, a dropped backpack there. No footprints though. No bones. The winds erase or cover those each day.

The story began life in a climate fiction workshop run by Deborah Tomkins, and was inspired by a visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. It takes the form of a journey for the characters, as they explore themes of human frailty and resilience in the aftermath of the climate change crisis and plastics polluting the planet. I’d like to think it’s threaded through with hope too.

I’ve excited to meet the other authors, and the editors who’ve worked so hard to polish our words, as well as come face-to-cover with the anthology itself!

The image at the top is by Lionello DelPiccolo, who did a fabulous job of imbuing the whole anthology with stunning visual beauty. Buy your copy here.

Mechanics' Institute Review 16