Writing prompt – flash

Footprint. Photo by Judy DarleyJune is a joyful month for all things flash fiction-related, with National Flash Fiction Day UK happening on Saturday 15th June, with events happening nationwide and the Flash Flood journal publishing flashes throughout the day. My story Clatter will appear on the journal at around 11.10 a.m. BST.

Flash Fiction Festival is celebrating the mastery of the shortest literary prose form, from Friday 28th until Sunday 30th June.

Over in New Zealand, Micro Madness has begun, publishing a 100-word tale every day between now and 22nd June, which is Flash Fiction Day in New Zealand. My shortlisted tale Aftermath went live on 4th June.

Happily, each of these mini word-hits also serves as a fantastic creative prompt, firing up synapses with possibilities. Why not drop by to see what journey the published stories can set you off on?

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.

The arrival of immersive cinema

Sanctuaries of Silence_ecologist Gordon HemptonLimina is the UK’s first immersive cinema VR Arts venue, and just happens to have cropped up on Bristol’s harbourside. Outside, it looks like just another building, but inside, you’ll discover oceans, rainforests, architectural marvels, and wild places that are on the brink of disappearing from the real world.

On entering you’re invited to relinquish bags and coats: “It’s best to be as unencumbered as possible.”

When the time for the screening begins, we and our fellow travellers (each screening allows a maximum of 12 people), were led into a room where swivel chairs with plump cushions awaited. So far, so low-tech. Our hosts handed out headsets, warned about possible dizziness and advised us to close our eyes briefly to regain our balance if necessary.

Limina Immersive exterior

The first scene that appeared was an illustration of Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension bridge, with a few static hot air balloons for good measure. Even this doodled scene was entire, so that if you turned in your chair the view continued, with the river stretching onwards. A calming female voice explained what was about to happen, and that Limina means ‘between things.’ I actually googled the word afterwards, and discovered it also means: “The threshold of a physiological or psychological response” and “an entrance’, which seems very apt.

We’d chosen to attend Cathedrals and Rainforest, a double-bill exploring the power of natural and man-made sanctuaries.

Our first short screening was The Man Behind Notre Dame, by TARGO. In the company of Rector-Archpriest Patrick Chauvet, we explored the cathedral’s most imposing and private spaces, pre-fire, joining him in his preparations and attending part of a mass where I found myself taking a gulp of air, expecting inhale incense. For me, the vertiginous views from among the gargoyles atop one of the towers offered a moment of breathtaking awe.

Sanctuaries of Silence_accoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton

Our second journey, Sanctuaries of Silence by Adam Loften, Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee and Go Project, acoustic ecologist Gordon Hampton invited us to enter the Hoh Rain Forest on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. It’s actually a place I’ve visited, and again I was aware of how much I understand the world through smell, as I sought the aroma of the trees dripping with moss. Our guide led us into the forest of immense Sitka spruce and onto Ruby Beach, surrounding us in layers of natural sounds as well as the calming beauty of these places. It was a highlight of the virtual reality experience, resetting my mind from the hubbub of Bristol’s city centre.

There’s something extraordinary about these films that capture a location so completely. Since the fire that occurred in Notre Dame, this particular viewing offers a gateway to a location now drastically changed. While in the screening, you can gaze in every direction and take in the true grandeur of architecture now lost in the real world.

The same was true in the second film of our double bill. The demands of modern life mean many of us spend little time deep in the countryside, and this was a much needed pause in pace.

I emerged feeling I’d been away on a walking holiday or to a spa, refreshed and rejuvenated. It seemed strange that less than 30 minutes had passed. I catch myself already wondering which event to swim into next. Perhaps Ocean, Body, Mind?

In future, I suspect smell and texture will play a larger role in these immersive events. For now, these experiences offer brief pockets of respite I think would be beneficial on a regular basis – perhaps on prescription – to keep our brains in check and remind us of the world beyond our city streets. Wonderful.

Find out what’s on and book tickets.

How to write a themed short story collection

FJ Morris This is Not About David Bowie giveawayJPGToday’s guest post comes from FJ Morris, flash fiction writer extraordinaire and author of the short story collection This is (not about) David Bowie. Here she shares her seven top tips for putting together a successful themed short story collection.

I’m a big fan of restrictions. They force you to be more focused and more creative. That’s why I wanted a central idea or concept for a collection. It wasn’t until someone asked me to write a chapbook that the idea struck me like lightning from the heavens. Permission had been given. David Bowie had spoken.

My flash fiction collection ‘This is (not about) David Bowie’ isn’t about him, but it’s inspired by his music and art, and that title was one of the first things I came up with. The collection would never be about David Bowie, but about us. I was drawn to the same themes, the same topics, and had the same upward stare towards space that David Bowie had. I didn’t really see it at the time. My subconscious made those connections for me.

So with 20/20 hindsight, here are my tips on putting together a themed short story collection.

1 Get inspired

When you choose a theme or concept, it really needs to get you excited. It should be an ‘Aha’ moment. Angels should sing. Clouds will part. Ideas will begin to flood in. It should make you glad to be alive. Because it’s about the things that matter you, the song in your heart will sing and shout when the connection is made to the right idea. You may not fully see why at first, but you’ll see and feel its impact.

2 Live in it

Whether that’s through music, art, reading, rolling around or just stewing in thought, spend time dreaming. Let your dream state surround you so that it seeps into your subconscious. When you come to write, it’ll be there, bubbling away.

My best stories popped up when the theme was held in the peripheral of my vision. I’d start with an idea, a Bowie starting point, and then let it grow.

3 Have courage

Not everything you write will or should make the cut. But write it anyway. Every act of creation is an act of courage, of love. Leave fear and doubt at the door. Show up for yourself and only yourself. Embrace the mess that you’re about to create, because it should be wild. That’s what growing is all about.

If Bowie can teach us anything, then it’s to be bold with ourselves. Take those risks.

4 Think outside the book

Break outside of the box. It wasn’t until I had some distance and came at it again that I could look at the collection differently. I stopped looking at it as a book and started seeing it as an album. I needed to add more to it: rhythm, bass lines, movement, tempo, volume changes, signalling.

It was Bowie’s music and a booked called The Voyager Record: A Transmission by Anthony Michael Morena that helped me envision a different sort of collection; one that would mix short stories, Bowie quotes, flash fiction, plays and poems. Like an album, I wanted to give people a sense of journey, and a sense of order, mystery and growth on their way through the collection. Quotes from Bowie act as sign-posts of what was to come.

It was Bowie who gave me permission and inspiration to do more than what was expected – to go beyond the conventional.

5 Question everything…

It’s important to ask yourself some difficult questions: What is the point? Why does this matter? Why should it matter to anyone else? Why am I doing this?

Each time I went back to the drawing board, I went back with a critical eye and questions. Have I been true to Bowie, true to myself? What doesn’t feel right?

One thing I really noticed on the last round was that I had some missing voices, some missing stories, including one on friendship and one about fatherhood. So I went back in.

6 Let go

FJ Morris collection book trail

You will never know when to let it go. Someone else will make that decision for you because of time or opportunity. Recognise it. Embrace it. There’s more I could’ve done with my collection; more I could look at, rewrite, redo, reimagine. That’s the wonderful thing about creativity – it doesn’t finish, it evolves with you.

This collection will forever be a snapshot of a time in my life, and it should stay that way – flaws and all. Art is not about perfection. It’s about being human and being true to who you are.

7 Have fun and ignore what doesn’t serve you

FJ Morris This Is Not About David Bowie

Throw out any rules or advice or tips (even these here) if they don’t serve you. Give yourself permission. Give yourself time.

This is supposed to be fun. Enjoy every minute of creating it. Embrace who you are and how different you might be. What makes you different will make your writing different too, and that really is something to celebrate and get excited about. Follow what’s in your heart.

In the words of David Bowie: I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.

FJ MorrisAbout the author

FJ Morris is a proud Bristolian and award-winning author. Her collection This is (not about) David Bowie was published by Retreat West Books in November 2018 and received a special mention in the Saboteur Awards for Best Short Story Collection in 2019.

She’s been published in numerous publications in the UK and internationally, and shortlisted for a variety of awards. Recently, you can find her stories soaring the skies thanks to a short story vending machine in a Canadian airport, and gracing pillows in a hotel in Indonesia. You can also find her stories in Bare Fiction, Halo, The Fiction Desk, Popshot, National Flash Fiction Day anthologies, and many more.

All gifs via GIPHY.

Read my review of This is (not about) David Bowie by FJ Morris.

Got some writing insights to share? I’m always happy to receive feature pitches on writing genres and writing tools. Send an email to JudyDarley(at)iCloud.com.

Book review – This Is (Not About) David Bowie by FJ Morris

This Is (Not About) David Bowie by F. J. Morris coverFJ Morris has a unique way of viewing the world that feeds into every piece of fiction she writes. Loosely using the theme of David Bowie as a connecting point, the stories in her debut flash fiction collection examine the magic of our human contradictions in glittering, meteor showers of prose.

Morris’ vivid turns of phrase bring scenes into focus – puddles ‘pop’ with rain, bodies can become rubble, and confessions are preceded by “the deepest of breaths, for the deepest of dives.”

There’s a sense of unearthing ancient fables through her tales, as even the most unexpected imagery is presented with such innate confidence in us readers to digest it that it seems at once commonplace and utterly peculiar. That’s a skill many writers fail to master in a lifetime – akin to achieving the ability to harness a trick of the light.

Morris’ sideways glance at the world equips her to embrace huge themes in a way that helps you see them anew. She tackles grief via the motion of a freshly vacated swing, and explores on questions about gender, sexuality and more in a way that invites strange flavours onto your tongue and unfamiliar textures under your bare feet.

Continue reading

Writing prompt – deja vu

Kaunas, Lithuania, River2. By Judy DarleyThere’s something delicious about a fictional character riddled with uncertainty. Deja vu can be a great trick for introducing a bit of second-guessing that could lead in a multitude of directions.

Take the view above, for example. The moment your protagonist sees it, they know they’ve been here before. But when, and why? Or have they seen a photo of it, or even a painting? It’s a seemingly tranquil scene, so why has it unsettled them so thoroughly?

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.

Winchester Writers’ Festival 2019

Stripe Image provided by The WInchester Writers' ConferenceWinchester Writers’ Festival returns from 14th-16th June 2019, offering the opportunity to mingle with writers, hungry agents and lots of other interesting literary types.

This festival organisers are describing 2019 as a fallow year for their competitions, “with a view to re-launching them in 2020.”

Founded in 1980, the conference now encompasses a festival, book fair and in-depth workshop schedule, as well as masses of opportunities to network with other aspiring and established authors.

Promised highlights include the festival’s renowned One-to-One Appointments with literary agents, commissioning editors, authors, poets and industry experts. There will also be masterclasses, talks and open-mic readings, all devised to inspire and inform you so you can take the literary world by storm!!

The Winchester Writers’ Festival takes place from 14th-16th June 2019.

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

Welcome

Hi. I’m Judy Darley, a fiction writer and journalist specialising in writing about travel, the arts and anything that catches my eye and fires my imagination.

I originally launched SkyLightRain.com as a follow up to EssentialWriters.com. The name is inspired by the sound of rain falling on the skylight just outside my writing room as well as the look the sky takes on at certain times of day at certain times of year.

The aim of the blog is to provide inspiration, information, advice and a bit of company for writers, artists, daydreamers and innovators, like myself. It gives me the opportunity to flag up opportunities for and showcase the work of creatives who inspire me, as well as sharing news of my own literary adventures.

My second short story collection, Sky Light Rain, will be published in autumn 2019 by Valley Press.

My debut collection, Remember Me To The Bees, is available via the Tangent Books website.

Unless otherwise stated, all words and imagery on this website is copyrighted to me.

If you’d like to use a photo from SkyLightRain.com, please get in touch. It the photo belongs to me, that’s fine, but please let me know, and please link back directly to the page you found it on (not the homepage), and mention on your site that you sourced the image from SkyLightRain.com.

If you’ve made a resolution to have your writing read more widely this year, you might be interested to know that SkyLightRain.com welcomes input from other writers. I’m always happy to receive suggestions for reviews and features, as well as creative pieces produced in response to the midweek writing prompts.

Every piece published includes an author pic and bio, with links so that people can find out more about you.

Book, film, art or magazine reviews

Get in touch and let me know what you would like to review, and why. In the case of art reviews, images are a must, but in the other cases a few stills or the book cover will do. I can contact publishers on your behalf to request review copies to be sent to your home. The word-count should be between 300 and 600 words.

Writing genres or writing tools

This is a great opportunity to share your skills, and talk up recent projects such as novels. Contact me to let me know what you would like to write about, and why. The word-count should be between 600 and 1000 words. Previous examples have included author-in-progress Maithreyi Nandakumar exploring the question ‘When is your novel finished?’ and Nina Milton sharing her tips on thriller writing.

Creative writing

I’m always happy to receive short pieces of prose or poetry inspired by the midweek writing prompts. These are posted each Wednesday and provide story ideas, hints and potential plot lines. No need to send a query first – just email me your creative work as soon as you feel it is ready to be seen by the world!

I also accept ideas for this slot, so please get in touch if you’re happy to share your own prompts for firing up a new creative work. What inspires your writing?

Feel free to spread the word about these opportunities.

To get in touch about any of these slots, just email me at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

If you want to get in touch, you can find me on Twitter @JudyDarley, or send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Preservation resurfaces at Liars’ League Hong Kong

Mussel shells cr Judy DarleyWay back in 2017, I was happy to announce that my short story Preservation had been picked to feature at a Liars’ League Hong Kong night of literary performances.

I’m pleased to say that this story has now resurfaced for a special ‘Best & Brightest’ event, to take place on Thursday 30th May. The evening is part of the Hong Kong Spoken Word Festival, and will showcase “a selection of some of the best pieces performed at Liars’ League HK.”

How lovely! My story is one of eight pieces selected for the evening.

In case you weren’t aware, Liars League is an event that matches short fiction to actors, celebrating the spoken word while giving it some thespian panache! Their tagline is Writers Write. Actors Read. Audience Listens. Everybody Wins.

Susan LavenderPreservation will again be performed by actor Susan Lavender (pictured left)The story was inspired by the fact various words about nature have been excised from children’s dictionaries to make room for more about technology. Sad but true. Mussel was just one of the words removed.

I can’t attend, but hope to catch up on the podcast or videos afterwards. It starts at 8pm at The Jockey Club Studio Theatre, Hong Kong on 30th May 2019.

Find details and book your tickets here.

Writing prompt – afterwards

Azores post religious festival. Photo by Judy DarleyI took this photo the day after Festas do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres on São Miguel Island, the Azores. 

Just hours earlier, the streets were carpeted with pristine flowers and evergreen fronds. Now it resembles crushed confetti.

What else might have been altered almost beyond recognition during the mayhem of those religious revelries?

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 Bridport Prize

Bladderwrack by Judy Darley
The 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 2019.

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.

The winning and highly commended flash fiction, short stories and poems will be published in the Bridport Prize anthology 2019.

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 £1,000 plus a year’s mentoring through The Literary Consultancy’s Chapter & Verse mentoring scheme, and possible publication. T

Second prize is £500 plus a full manuscript assessment from The Literary Consultancy

There are runners-up awards of £100, plus a 50-page manuscript assessment (redeemable against a full appraisal if desired), which will be made to three shortlisted writers.

The opening chapters of the first prize and runner-up novel will be published on 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.