Submit your writing to Zoetic Press

Arnos Vale sunken grave cr Judy DarleyGot a few moments to spare between Christmas and New Year? Zoetic Press invite submissions of fiction and non-fiction eulogising the fallen icons who have touched your lives. The chosen works will be published in an anthology titled Dear Beloved.

The deadline for submissions is 13th January 2017.

They say: “2016 has been a year of the significant loss of cultural icons, from music and recording artists to literary titans and sports heroes. Social media has made grief and loss a shared experience for the people influenced by these celebrities. And while the internet guarantees that there will never be agreement in the legacy left behind, it has also created a new norm in how we grieve, publicly and privately. Artists, musicians, writers, directors, sports heroes, politicians, and actors reveal us to ourselves through their work.”

Written a piece to help you mourn Prince, David Bowie or Victoria Wood? This could be your chance to publically mark their impact on your life. While Zoetic Press are particularly interested pieces which memorialise public figures who’ve died this year, all in memoriams submitted will be given equal attention. “However, please make sure the icon you’re writing about is actually dead – we suggest double-checking the Dead or Alive Info website just to be certain.”

They add: “We regret that we cannot consider In Memoriam pieces for Dearly Beloved which are not about public figures. We cannot consider pieces about family members, pets, friends, or figures that are not public for Dearly Beloved – this anthology is a memorial for the artists and public personalities that shape each of us differently.”

For this anthology, Zoetic Press seek fiction and creative non-fiction of up to 5,000 words in length, and flash fiction up to 1,000 words in length.

Find full guidelines here zoetic-press.myshopify.com/pages/submissions

Flying Ant Day – a short story

Ant by Judy Darley

Disclaimer: This is not a flying ant.

Happy to say that my flash fiction tale Flying Ant Day has been published in A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed: 2016 National Flash-Fiction Day Anthology. Wonderful!

A Box of Stars Beneath the BedEven better, my tale is one of just 50 chosen from 500 entries. Woohoo! There are so many excellent writers on the list of those included. Definitely looking forward to reading the contributions from Jude Higgins, Diane Simmons, Jonathan Pinnock, KM Elkes and Jane Roberts.

I’ll be reading my tale as part of the National Flash Fiction Day celebrations in Bristol on Saturday, at At The Well on Cheltenham Road.

To get your copy, go to the Amazon page or visit the NFFD website, where you can also discover all kinds of events happening this National Flash Fiction Day (June 25th, in case you were wondering!).

Submit a lengthy tale to Strand

Riverside strand Buda cr Judy DarleyStrand Publishing invites submissions of tales for inclusion in the Strand Book of International Short Stories.

This is not a competition but the rules for admission to the anthology of short stories must be followed.

All submissions must be written in English.

Any subject matter is acceptable, and your story must be between 3,000 and 5,000 words.

Go easy on the sex scenes, as references of a sexual or obscene nature that do not display literary merit or interest are unlikely to be accepted for inclusion in the book.

All submissions must include the name of the writer and email address, and the story submitted must be the original work of the person submitting (got that?).

In the case of an agent or similar third party submitting the agent must give the details of the person they are representing.

Authors are strongly advised to retain copies of their submissions.

The author retains copyright in every instance.

How to submit your story

Save the document in Microsoft Word or similar format and send it as an email attachment to the editor at info(at)strandpublishing(dot)co(dot)uk with the subject line labeled The Strand Book Of International Short Stories.

One final point – don’t attempt to contact the publisher by telephone, as only email submissions will be accepted.

For further information please visit www.strandpublishing.co.uk.

Book review – Scraps anthology

Scraps book coverThe Scraps anthology was brought out to celebrate National Flash Fiction Day 2013, so is aptly named. Each oh-so-brief tale draws inspiration from art, film, TV, or other creative world, yet presents the pieces without note of these initial prompts, as, according to the editors, “they are no longer the point.”

What remains is an incredibly diverse and intriguing body of work, including pieces from renowned writers such as Tania Hershman, Vanessa Gebbie and Sarah Hilary alongside fictions from emerging writers I hope to see more from in future.

For me, the best works of flash fiction contain the depths of a novel in a drop small enough to sit comfortably in the bowl of a teaspoon, and use skills shared by poets to evoke rather than say. It’s a writing discipline that demands the reader pay attention as much to the space between the lines as to the lines themselves. Each of the tales in this anthology achieve that, and some do it exceedingly well, including Feed A Fever by Freya Morris, which exhales a story of frailty and trust in such a way as to encapsulate large parts of the human experience. Continue reading

Stories of social media

FriendFollowText coverEarlier this year I had an idea for a story that was prompted by something I saw on Pinterest. Like most writers I know, I spend an inordinate amount of time dabbling on social media sites, giving my brain a rest while trying to untangle that next thorny sentence, plotline or conundrum.

What I saw was a photograph of an owl. Except it wasn’t an owl. It was a cup of milky coffee that someone had dropped two Hula Hoops into. The salt in the crisps and the crisp potato rings created the illusion of an owl’s face.

I loved it, and thought about who I should share it with.

Weirdly enough, a fictional, half-formed character I’d been carrying around for a while, came to mind as the person who would be most glad to see this.

And so the character consolidated, and the story began.

Shortly afterwards I saw a call for submissions from a anthology seeking tales inspired by social media. Editor and writer Shawn Syms was inviting submissions of stories inspired and about all kinds of social media channels for Friend. Follow. Text. #StoriesFromLivingOnline. It seemed too good a chance to miss.

I sent over my tale, called Coffee Owl, and it was selected for inclusion. Very exciting, but even more pleasing, it was being published by prestigious Canadian literary imprint Enfield & Wizenty. My story was only one of two by British writers published in the anthology, and only one of three by none Canadians.

Proud? Me? Just a little. #understatement!

So now Friend. Follow. Text. #StoriesFromLivingOnline is finally out, and is a thing of beauty. You can buy it on Amazon and find out more on the FriendFollowText website.

How to build an anthology

Unchained book and birdsGail Swann of Bristol Women Writers shares details of how the group decided to create an anthology of short stories and poems, from initial idea to launch.

Four novels and a poetry book either published or in the process of, within roughly two years. As a writers’ group, we were thrilled for those authors and proud that the role we all play within the group had helped them to succeed.

Whilst it came in a spate, such accomplishment had been a long time in the making, not without low points, self-doubt and disappointments along the way. We reflected, before we took our summer break in 2012, that our writing group had ‘earned its stripes’. Yet we had done it so quietly. Bristol Women Writers is over 25 years old, but who in Bristol knew about us?

Of course, with published work comes the hard graft of promotion. We watched our authors invest much time and creative energy into PR, marketing, web and social media. Bristol Women Writers itself had never done any of those things. We had no voice.

Find the theme for your anthology

So, fresh with new term enthusiasm, September 2012 saw us debating the idea of a collaborative project for the first time in the group’s history. There were ten of us in the mix, so generating content shouldn’t be a problem but we needed a ‘hook’ for the collection – both to inspire us and to make the book more widely appealing than a writing group anthology might expect to be.

‘Anniversaries in 2013’, someone suggested, ‘what are they?’ The one that stood out was the 400th anniversary of Bristol’s original chained library. Unanimously, we agreed on our theme and Unchained was born.

Use your contacts

Some of us had contacts within Bristol Central Library, so were quickly referred to the lovely Reading Manager, Andrew Cox, who invited us on a guided tour of the building in October ’12. The library building is imposing and atmospheric. Its architecture, history and tales of the people that have used it and worked in it over the years, provided plenty of fodder for our collective imaginations on that memorable evening.

Fodder of a different kind (soup and cake) at Jane’s followed, over which we avidly discussed our fledgling project. Suddenly it was real, it was going to happen, but how would we manage all of the bits outside of the writing? What useful skills did we each have? Quite a few, it transpired.

Delegate according to skill

With business experience, I was happy to project-manage and made a checklist of considerations. We held an all-day workshop that brought everyone together for discussion and to give some indication of what we planned to write. We didn’t want 10 short stories set in the library archives, for example. Not that we needed to worry; in typical BWW fashion, each person had very different ideas about how to interpret the theme.

We asked acclaimed local writer Tania Hershman if she would read and endorse the collection for us (assuming she liked it!). Tania had been a guest author at one of our meetings and is a great advocate of the short story. She was heartily supportive and her willingness to associate herself with Unchained was a great boost.

Although we had planned to self-publish the book, I started to wonder if we could interest a local publisher. Tania’s book, My Mother Was An Upright Piano, is published by Tangent Books, specialist in local history and popular culture, both fact and fiction. It was an obvious ‘home’ for Unchained. Happily, Richard Jones, Tangent’s chief, thought so too. We sorted out the business end and agreed critical dates. BWW and its authors’ credentials seemed to be enough for Tangent to trust our ability to deliver the book, edited and ready to publish. It was up to us now to do just that…

Find your cover artist

Attention turned then to cover design. A captivating cover makes a big difference to how a book is perceived and very likely to how many are bought. Tangent has some good book covers in its portfolio, so we got in touch with the designer responsible, Joe Burt of Wild Spark Design. I met Joe in a bar (one of those I’ll be wearing a white carnation moments) and talked him through the Unchained project.

From just this one conversation, Joe sent over a stunning design concept a few days later and all ten Unchained contributors loved it from the outset. The uplifting image of the paper birds flying from the open book, with the Bristol Central Library building in the background has become iconic, both to the Unchained book and to the ‘writers unchained’ public image that BWW now has.

Unchained cover multiple books

Whilst the graphic was an instant hit, we put poor Joe through the mill as we ummed and ahhhed about our own wording on the cover, which went through a series of iterations. Joe also designed the inner layout of the book including the ‘in-between the stories’ pages where we have a tonal image of the library, fascinating historical facts about it, and a Haiku poem.

Consider your funding

There was, of course, some financial consideration in birthing this book-baby of ours. Gone are the days when small publishers can fund everything up-front and of course, good design costs money. The members of BWW were serious about creating a quality product and so we each contributed a calculated sum to fund it. Our motivation is to be read, recognised and respected, both as individual writers and as the BWW group, not to make money, so although we hope to recoup our contributions once book sales break even, anything over and above will go to a charity.

We chose the National Literacy Trust, whose aim is to increase literacy levels in the UK – ‘transforming lives through literacy’. All of us in BWW are fortunate enough that books and libraries were a part of the fabric of childhood, so we can’t applaud this charity enough for the work it does for children (and adults) for whom this is not the case.

Get writing!

By early spring we had all written at least one story. We held another workshop day and embarked on the most stringent and intense critiquing session BWW has ever facilitated! We also decided that appointing a team of three expert editors was the best way to approach the enormous editing task that lay ahead.

Gamely, Jane, Sally and Shirley sacrificed themselves (and a lot of time over the following months) to the cause. Their proficiency and attention to detail was outstanding. I was quite bewildered at the extent I was constructively coerced to tweak and hone my short story, but as a result I am happy with every single word, and that’s a good feeling.

So, finally, we hit ‘send’ and off went the manuscript, via Joe, to a printer in Scandinavia.

Spread the word

So, what next? A website, of course, and Facebook, Twitter, spreading the word, organising the launch event… there was still a whole lot left to do!

Ali did a brilliant job of building us a WordPress site. We launched writersunchained.wordpress.com and the associated social media, in summer ’13, with just a few months to publicise the book before its official launch. The online side of things is time consuming, and has been a steep learning curve for some of us. We’ve taken turns to write blogs for the site, and continue to try and keep lots of fresh content feeding in.

Bristol Central Library Reading Room lecternHold a launch

The final ‘biggie’ in our collective journey was the launch event at Bristol Central Library on October 23rd 2013. We were thrilled that Bristol Festival of Literature had included our launch as an event in the festival programme and promoted it widely. We drew on Jenni’s PR experience to write our own press release and circulate it as widely as possible. The event took place in the grand Reading Room at the library and, as it was open to the public, we had no idea how many people would attend. Jane had worked out the order of proceedings: who would talk when, how long readings would take, etc. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we were all quaking with nervous anticipation!

Following lively warm-up contributions from Andrew, Richard and Tania, we spoke about the background to Unchained and the library connection, and read from the book to an audience of circa one hundred people. It was a magical evening and a fitting end to a year of planning and hard work. We were even invited to do a couple of radio interviews soon afterwards. We are very proud of our achievement and the positive feedback we have so far received on Unchained. It’s gratifying to see our book being bought by libraries, on sale in various Bristol book stories, and available to buy online.

So now BWW has put itself firmly on the Bristol writing map, has an online presence, and in a way, its own unique brand, ‘writers unchained’. So what next? Well, we do have some emerging ideas about that, but for now we all need a good run at our own writing projects (got a bit of catching up to do!). So keep an eye on us, and in the meantime we hope that many of you will get to read and enjoy our book.

Read a review of Bristol Women Writers’ Unchained anthology. 

Unchained books spine

 

Gail SwannAbout the author 

Gail Swann is an owner/director of a Bath based graphic design company and mum to two teenage girls. She completed a novel, One Of The Few, landing herself an agent and some flattering rejections before conceding to the demands of babies and business for a few years. This ‘midnight oil’ period produced an assortment of shorter work but she lacked the time to try and do anything with it! Gail is now full steam ahead on a brand new novel and is also co-ordinating the Unchained project and the BWW group’s emergence (and hopefully her own!) into a more public light.

 

Book review – Unchained by Bristol Women Writers

Unchained coverNamed for the fact that books were once so precious they were chained to prevent theft, the Unchained anthology celebrates libraries and everything they contain, from the people who visit them, to the myths that lurk behind the scenes, to the tomes themselves.

The book marks Bristol Central Library’s 400th anniversary, and presents tales and poems stemming from within its ancient walls, as well as a variety of libraries as diverse as a prison’s book room, a library on wheels, a chateau’s “stash of rare books”, and a sitting room in a stately home. The variety of voices captured on these pages is just as broad, but each one reveals a shared love of books that holds the collection together.

This love is equally evident in the foreword from Tania Hershman, who says of her own visits to Bristol’s Central Library “when I walk in through the doors I breathe out. This is where I am home.” Continue reading

Travellers’ tales

Foreign and Far Away coverOne of my short stories has been published in the Writers Abroad anthology Foreign & Far Away.

The book comprises short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction pieces and poetry, all on the theme of foreign places.

My story, Longhouse, was inspired by time spent in Sabah, Borneo, and includes the following line:

I look up. Tourists. They always target me, because I’m fair-skinned, tall, so obviously not local. To them I must look like a life-ring in a dark and unfamiliar sea.

Continue reading

Quench

Tea cr Judy DarleyThis piece of flash fiction by Judy Darley was originally published in Scrapsan anthology of flash-fictions released to coincide with National Flash Fiction Day 2013. It is posted here with the editor’s permission.

Dressed in her winter coat and winter boots, Amma feels over-warm in the art gallery, so much so that she considers peeling off a layer, leaving some woollen aspect of her clothing pushed beneath a bench to retrieve before she leaves. The heat is making her contact lenses feel dry and her tongue is quietly, uncomfortably, cleaving to the roof of her mouth.

If she is quick, speeds through the exhibition fast, she’ll be able to escape into the fresh air outside, maybe go somewhere for a quick cuppa before heading home. The thought makes her smile to herself as she strides past most of the displays, giving them only the most cursory of looks.

The central piece of the exhibition is a gigantic block of tea, made from countless leaves pressed together – a full ton, according to the literature pinned to one wall. The block is as high as her breasts; its corners are as sharp as teacups are round.

Amma holds her face close to it to see if she can inhale the fragrance of tea, believes she may have caught the faintest whiff of tannin, but then realises her receptors are most likely simply telling her what she hopes to smell. The life has been squeezed right out of this tea, she thinks. For all its glossy solidity, it may well be as dry and flavourless as dirt.

Amma glances round quickly, checks that the security guard is absorbed in watching a gaggle of art students in the far corner. She leans in towards the block of tea, sticking her tongue out as far as she can, for one sly, secretive, inquiring lick.

Red Squirrel Press seeks poetry submissions

Squirrel cr Judy DarleyRed Squirrel Press are inviting submissions for a forthcoming poetry anthology, *Double Bill: poems inspired by popular culture*.

It’s a great premise, with all poems required to draw on advertising for inspiration. Specifically, they must be written about a particular product or advert, from this list: Guinness, Fairy Liquid, Ferrero Rocher, Domestos, Hovis, Go Compare, PG Tips.

Intriguing, right? I have a sudden urge to pour a slug of whisky and channel the ‘Mad Men’ vibe. And apologies, I know the pic above is of a grey squirrel, not a red one – no red squirrels live in my part of the UK :/ But this one is a rather cute little fella, don’t you think?

Your poems can be up to 10 lines long, and must be must be submitted by 1 August 2013 to a.z.jackson@dundee.ac.uk

RedSquirrellogoThe best poem submitted for each product/theme, as judged by the editors at Red Squirrel Press, will appear in the anthology. You may send as many poems as you like, but one per person can be used.

There is no payment aside from a copy of the anthology, which will contain over 100 poets, including John Hegley, George Szirtes, Adam Horovitz, Luke Wright, Simon Barraclough, Sheenagh Pugh – not bad company to be in!

The anthology is due out in 2014.