Writing prompt – Tree Week

St Johns Burial Ground tree by Judy DarleyAs we reach the midway point of National Tree Week, this feels like the perfect excuse to revel in the sheer magic of our lofty companions. As a child, I spent a lot of time exploring the wonder of their leafy worlds. I loved how you could be enclosed by their branches and hidden from view, and how they were home to so many creatures too.

The dramatically twisty tree above stands on the slopes of Bristol’s St John’s Burial Ground.

It seems natural to me that trees crop up in so many imaginative tales, from Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree Adventures to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicles (well, how to you think that wardrobe came to be?), not to mention J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth Ents.

Do you have a favourite tree or one you notice daily? Can you write it into a tale of epic proportions or emotive depths? It could be where your protagonist shelters while eavesdropping on a conversation that changes their opinion about a key topic. Or could you feature a tale of tree planting that changes our future for the better?

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.

Writing prompt – sheep

Sheep on a truck_Wells Rd, Totterdown by Judy Darley

Occasionally, a truck passes my neighbourhood crowded with animals like these sheep.

It makes me think of the way we humans treat the planet and its inhabitants, including other humans, as resources to be plundered. Often we act just like sheep, following our leaders in whatever they tell us is for the best, or for the greater good.

Are there other ways to keep our population fed and secure? What alternatives can you dream up or uncover through research?

Turn this into a hopeful story of a future where we live in tune with our neighbours, from other humans to flora and fauna. Keep plenty of suspense in place by including hints of true atrocities, as Margaret Atwood did in writing The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments.

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.

Writing prompt – insulin

Insulin by Judy DarleyAs a type 1 diabetic diagnosed at the age of eight, I was startled to learn that last Sunday, 14th November 2021, was the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin as a treatment. Prior to that, there wasn’t much doctors could do for diabetics other than put them on a strict low-carb diet, which gave them at best a few extra years.

It shocked me how recently this discovery was made. If my sister and I were born 100 years earlier, my mum would have lost one daughter at around the age of eight and the other not much later.

I suspect people living with conditions such as asthma and epilepsy have similar stories.

Being born in the right time and place really does have the biggest impact on how long you’ll live and how well you’ll thrive.

Can you use this as fuel for a short story about life-enhancing medical discoveries?

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 return of the arts trail

Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail_cr Judy DarleyAfter a hiatus in 2020, Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail returns on 20th and 21st November, offering the perfect opportunity to see what local artists have been up to during lockdown and get a few early, unique Christmas gifts!

The joyful theme is ‘Into the light.’

Now managed by artists Cai Burton and Luci Bearman, the trail has introduced some special measures to keep participants and visitors safe, which you can read about here.

The key detail for me is that although this has long been known as the Front Room art trail, this year there is a greater emphasis on outdoor and larger spaces as well as community venues. Can and Luci say: “Gone are the days of this only being a front room trail – perhaps you’ll put art in your windows? Your front garden? Your roof? Get creative with how you show your work!”

Most venues are open from 12-5pm.

Never been to an art trail? This is a great one to dip your toe (or jump head first) into. It offers a chance to meet the people dreaming up and making the works that capture your imagination and your heart, buy original creations directly from the artists and maybe come away with ideas for an ekphrastic short story or two as well!

Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail is on from 20th-21st November 2021. Find full details at frontroom.org.uk.

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.

Writing prompt – extra

Mini snail and marigold by Judy DarleyAs the Northern Hemisphere turns a little colder and greyer, the vivid orange of this free-growing marigold caught my eye.

It was only as I admired the petals that I discovered I wasn’t its only fan and that a teeny snail had arrived to offer its respects (and perhaps have a small snack).

Have you ever been drawn to something beautiful, only to discover it comes with something you didn’t bargain for? Can you turn this into a satirical tale about expectations surpassed or thwarted in the name of love, greed, politics (or all three) due to some clause or enforced extra your protagonist didn’t anticipate?

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.

Writing prompt – golden

Arnos Vale turns gold by Judy Darley. Shows trees painted gold by the morning sun.The most glorious thing about this time of year is walking early in the morning and watching the rising sun paint the trees. The leaves in this photo have yet to lose their chlorophyll (and yes, I did nearly type chloroform then, which would make this a very different story prompt!), but the sun is sharing its clairvoyance of the weeks’ to come.

I love how the sunlight is visible here like a sentient creature in the form of a mist. It looks like it’s exploring the woodland with curious breath that gilds every item it touches. A Midas mist, perhaps, but with a far happier outcome.

Can you take this scene and build it into a tale celebrating our natural spaces and shifting seasons?

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.

Writing prompt – haunt

Haunted tree by Judy Darley

This lime tree appears to be haunted by a flock of unhappy ghosts, which makes it the ideal #writingprompt as we slide closer to Halloween.

Imagine the spirits who jostle within this tree. What terrible things have they witnessed and heard? What are they trying to warn us to avoid?

Now take this prompt slightly sideways – perhaps the deeds that haunt them are needless deaths of wild fauna and flora. Perhaps each small species made extinct keeps this tree’s spirits trapped and lamenting.

How could you spin and resolve this tale? What could set these spirits free?

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.

Writing prompt – guardian

Arnos Vale grave cat by Judy Darley

I love the spookiness of this time of year and the excuse to indulge my passion for ghost stories.

One of my favourite places in my neighbourhood is the sprawling Victorian cemetery Arnos Vale, where nature thrives amidst centuries of history.

Around this time in 2020, I was strolling through when I spotted this glorious ginger cat. It may well be keeping an eye out for mice to chase, but I like to think it was either acting as the guardian of this grave, or is perhaps a human spirit returned in feline form.

What directions could your imagination carry you? Could you conjure a satisfyingly eerie tale 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.

Writing prompt – moped

Moped in Arnos Vale. by Judy DarleyThis poor moped was abandoned in a local Victorian Cemetery, looking utterly at odds with the gravestones and lush greenery.

There are plenty of questions you could explore to create a story inspired by the sight.

Who might the culprit be, and why did they leave it there? Could this be a statement about fossil fuels and our fragile grasp on life, or might a bunch of squirrels, badgers or buzzards have gotten up to no good in the gloaming? Is the Learner plate significant to the tale?

Why not make a play on the word ‘moped’, meaning small-engined two-wheeled vehicle, and ‘moped’, meaning behaviour revealing a melancholic mood?

Given the setting and the season, you also have the option to take a spookier route and write of ghouls taking nostalgic joyrides. I saw it at 7.15am and when I returned a few hours later, the bike had disappeared…

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.

Writing prompt – pork

Bramble Farm pig by Judy DarleyAt local urban farmstead Bramble Farm open day. a friend and I enjoyed sausage baps before strolling over to meet this meat, ahem, pork, ahem, pig

As someone who rarely eats meat and loves wildlife, it shocks me how much is consumed daily, and how that impacts our planet.

This pig trotted over to have its ears scratched before toppling onto one side, I assume in hope of a belly-rub, but it made me think of the cow-like creature in Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe that’s been bred to want to be eaten.

I’ve been reading recently about scientific advances in lab-grown meat, whereby a single cell from a pig can be nurtured into a batch of sausages or mince. As sci-fi as this sounds, it’s happening right now, with the target audience being uneasy meat-eaters who want to limit their contribution to deforestation and questionable animal husbandry practices.

Can you turn these strange truths into a fantastical work of fiction?

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.