Pandemic prompt – thank you

NHS thanks by Judy DarleyThroughout the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the most heart-warming, spirit-lifting, tear-jerking responses has been the weekly applause for our wonderful NHS and other key workers.

The overflow of gratitude has been criticised by some, however, including key workers themselves, who’ve pointed out that it shouldn’t take a crisis of this magnitude for their hard work to be valued.

Can you spin this into an impactful tale?

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 – Stillicide by Cynan Jones

Originally written as a commission for BBC Radio 4, this spare, vivid book conjures a time when drinking water has become a rare and precious commodity.

Cynan Jones describes Stillicide as a collection of interlinked short stories. Each provides additional viewpoints and textures to the overarching examination of a future in which water is commodified.

As with all of Cynan’s writing, individual sentences have been honed into missiles, designed to carry and deliver information and emotion in the most efficient way possible, with the spaces on the page designed to make their impact all the more resonant.

Far from being bleak, the chapters or stories are a comfort to climb into, as each is understood from inside a single character’s mind. There’s an unexpected but welcome sense of being sheltered by their grey matter, and of gazing outwards at the strange, thirsty world they inhabit. A meditative quality seeps from the pages, even as the themes themselves ripple with injustice and quiet rage.

The space Cynan has created is far enough removed to give him the freedom to invent at will, yet close enough to remain dauntingly recognisable.

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Enter Frome Festival Short Story Competition

Frome rooftopsFrome Festival Short Story Competition welcomes submissions, with a deadline of 31st May 2020.

This small Somerset town of layered roofs is set roughly between Bath and Taunton has become a hive for writers, with the  annual festival featuring writing residencies throughout the small, characterful shops, and street performances seemingly on every corner.

This year’s judge is author, Daily Mail journalist and broadcaster Bel Mooney.

The competition costs £8 to enter. You can purchase a detailed critique of your work for an additional payment of £47 per story.

Stories may be on any theme, but must be between 1,000 and 2,200 words in length, not including the title.

First prize is £400, second prize £200 and third prize £100.

There will also be special awards for writers living within a 25-mile radius of Frome Library, in a bid to support and encourage local writers.

The Frome Festival is well worth visiting for its own charms, especially the incredible busking that takes place throughout the narrow streets.

For full details visit the competition website.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCould(dot)com.

Need some words?

Frisbee dog by Wolfgang Hasselmann on UnsplashWhen I’m not playing Frisbee with fictional characters, I’m working as a contract communications manager and freelance features writer.

I produce and manage execution of content strategies, populate websites, advise on branding, and launch and revitalise social media channels.

This includes producing engaging targeted features for consumer magazines and B2B titles as well as digital content, newsletters, brochures, press releases and social media copy, primarily aimed at boosting brand loyalty and inspiring readers to try something new.

If that sounds like something that could help you or your business, drop a line to judydarley@icloud.com

Pandemic prompt – empty

Help Us Keep Your Psrks_by Judy DarleyIn horror films there are few things creepier than an empty playground, or one where the chains of a single swing squeak in the wind, sans child.

The only life I’ve seen in this local play area has been the presence of two men mowing the grass. It struck me as infinitely hopeful, this act to maintain the area in hope children will soon play here again.

Can you weave a story from this scene?

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.

Enter the Bridport Prize

Laugharne mossy treeThe Bridport Prize, one of the UK’s most prestigious writing competitions, is currently seeking submissions of short stories, flash fiction, poems and debut novels.

The deadline for all competition entries is 31st May 2020.

Bridport Prize artwork cr Paul Blow

Image by Paul Blow

Poems may be up to 42 lines in length. The entry fee is £10. The winning poet will receive £5,000.

Short stories may be up to 5,000 words long. The entry fee is £12. The winning short story writer will receive £5,000.

Flash fiction may be up to 250 words long. The entry fee is £9. The winning flash fiction writer will receive £1,000.

Novel extracts may be up to 8,000 words long. You must also supply a 300-word synopsis, which should be the first page of your entry. The fee is £20.

First prize is £1,500 plus mentoring by The Literary Consultancy and consultations with literary agent AM Heath and publisher Tinder Press.

Judges

Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth Is Missing, will judge novel submissions.

Mimi Khalvati, founder of The Poetry School, will judge poetry submissions.

Novelist and playwright Nell Leyshon will judge short story and flash fiction submissions.

Don’t forget to check out the resources section of the Bridport Prize website.

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 judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Hay Festival 18th to 31st May 2020

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

Hay Festival cr Finn Beales

While the wonderful Hay Festival isn’t taking place physically this year thanks to Covid-19, the #Imaginetheworld Hay Festival Digital runs 18–31 May 2020 and is free to attend!

Look out for free live broadcasts and interactive Q&As from more than 100 of the world’s most renowned writers and thinkers exploring topics ranging from our current global health crisis to climate change and our future on Earth.

Love by Roddy DoyleOn 
Simon Armitage, Margaret Atwood, and Monty Don will also have their say.
Other highlights include author Ali Smith and artist/filmmaker Sarah Wood’s meditation on continuance ‘The Beginning of the And‘ on 25th May, plus a festival special preview of Roddy Doyle’s new novelLove‘, on 27th May.

Find the full programme and register for the events that pique your curiosity here.

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Pandemic prompt – lens

Camera lens by Judy DarleyThese times we’re living through are strange and unsettling and stressful. I think we’re all becoming a little blinkered.

This week I challenge you to portray our current #lockdown circumstances through the lens of a pair of eyes other than your own. How is this for the old person separated from their grandchildren, from the homeless person’s point of view, through the eyes of a child too young to fully understand why everything has changed?

What’s happening in that street just beyond sight of your own? What’s occurring behind those doors, inside that home with the curtains closed all day?

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 – Scratched Enamel Heart by Amanda Huggins

Scratched Enamel Heart cover_Amanda_HugginsThere’s a conciseness to Amanda Huggins’ writing that makes me think of a stitch being drawn taut – her words pull the core of you to the core of a story until you gasp for breath.

Her Costa Short Story Award shortlisted tale ‘Red’ uses crimson dust to create a vivid, slightly melancholy landscape where a lone stray dog provides the hope, and a memory of better times provide the drive to reach like a scrawny sapling for light. Like Rowe, the protagonist of the preceding story “Where The Sky Starts’, Mollie needs to leave the place she’s supposed to call home or risk being trapped in a life that could suck her beyond sight of all hope, drive and light.

Huggins has a vivid mastery of words that whips up a setting you can virtually walk into, and uses that mastery to construct scenery that weaves the story’s mood around you: “Mollie hated the dark, brooding weight of the house, the trees so dense they held a part of the night’s heart within them even when the sun shone.”

It’s poetically precise and powerful.

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Live online – Culture Unconfined Festival

Red Fox Theatre

Seeking some drama, music, poetry and film to see you through the week ahead? Culture Unconfined festival launches online on 11th May.

Masterminded by the University of Liverpool, Culture Unconfined offers five days of drama, documentary, poetry, film and music to help people engage and stave off isolation during these lockdown times.

The online festival opens on Monday May 11th with A Museum for Me!, a chance to imagine and create your own perfect museum, tell your own stories and curate your own exhibition. There is even a special lockdown version to experiment with.

This is followed by renowned Irish composer, Gerald Barry’s dispatch from Los Angeles, where he is composing an opera based on Oscar Wilde’s Salome for the Los Angeles Opera, before former Royal Liverpool Philharmonic violinist Roisin Walters delivers a 30-minute concert connecting Irish songs and Bach dance movements from the Partitas.

The first day concludes with an exclusive radio documentary from Red Fox Theatre, around the making of their Dingle based performance piece, Catch of the Day.

Professor Peter Shirlow is Director of the University’s Institute of Irish Studies and co-organiser of Culture Unconfined. “One of the first casualties of Covid-19 was culture with the closure of venues, rehearsals and programming,” he says. “However, one of the first responses to the lockdown were performances on balconies and people using their creative talents to deal with the trauma of crisis. As much as crisis defined culture, it was clear culture was going to define crisis.”

Shirlow adds: “Culture Unconfined is the University of Liverpool’s response.’ “Culture Unconfined is the University of Liverpool’s response. It drives creative ambition with digital and live performances, it galvanizes hope and history and plays upon mirth and more thoughtful moments.”

Deidre,Ni,Chonghail

Deidre,Ni,Chonghail

Look out for musician, broadcaster, and writer Dr Deirdre Ní Chonghaile mapping the music of the Irish diaspora. This live talk is one of only two you need to rebook for.

Other highlights in the line-up include Alternative Bedtime Stories – definitely not one for the kids – by the Makey-Uppers, and poetry from Rita Ann Higgins.

Each day of the festival follows a schedule, with specific timings for each event. You can access each performance – and view the entire programme – through the Culture Unconfined website.

Festival Director and the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Cultural Engagement, Professor Dinah Birch says: “As the novelty of working from home begins to settle into a routine, it’s important that our online lives should continue to be refreshing and rewarding. Engaging with a variety of cultural resources is one of the best ways of staying connected, and expanding our sense of the new experiences that a virtual world makes possible.”

To access the performances, see the full schedule and find out more about Culture Unconfined, visit www.liverpool.ac.uk/culture-unconfined