Recent publications

Judy all at seaI relish writing and editing short stories and flash fiction, and have a self-imposed rule of submitting every month. If you write, I highly recommend this trick. It ensures that for every rejection, there are still a handful of tales out in the world that may yet be published, plus a gentle flurry of successes to bolster your writing mojo!

Here are some of my recent publications.

December 2021

Reasons Your Kefir Might Sour – Litro Magazine Flash Friday

The Only Language He knows Now is Touch – Blink-Ink, Moonlight #46

The Finch in My Sister’s Hair – The Birdseed

The Sea Lives in Her Mum’s Head – Ellipsis Zine

November 2021

The Salt Sting of Learning When To Say No – Flash Frontier

September 2021

My Choice – Six Sentence Stories

Three Shades of Summer – Flash Fiction Magazine

Storm Beckoner – Bandit Fiction

June 2021

Leaf After Leaf – National Flash Fiction Day Write-In

The Hare I Miss – Thimble Literary Magazine

What’s That? – Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis

May 2021

Reaching (collaborate work – I wrote the first stanza) – 100 Words of Solitude

April 2021

Stretching Out – Hencroft

The Sideways House – Twin Pies Volume IV

March 2021

Unstill Life With Plums – The Pomegranate

Enter The Masters Review chapbook contest

Bible_St John On The Wall. Photo by Judy DarleyThe Masters Review is inviting submissions to their chapbook contest for emerging writers. The type of submission is up to you (they actually mention flash collections, mini novellas, 40-page short stories, braided essays, eclectic brainchildren and experiments…), providing it is original, between 25 and 40 double-spaced pages, and is not poetry.

The deadline for entries is 31st December 2021.

The winning writer will receive $3,000, digital and print manuscript publication, and 50 contributor copies.

Matt Bell will choose this year’s winner.

The Masters Review say: “We’re seeking to celebrate bold, original voices within a single, cohesive manuscript of 25 to 40 pages. We’re interested in collections of short fiction, essays, flash fiction, novellas/novelettes, longform fiction or essays, and any combination thereof, provided the manuscripts are complete (no excerpts, chapters, works-in-progress, or other incomplete work). We are NOT interested in poetry. (We’re sure your poetry is fantastic, but we’re not qualified to judge its merit!).”

Find full details here: mastersreview.com/chapbook-contest/

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

Anthology review – The Weight of Feathers

The Weight of Feathers cover. Shows purple book cover with pink, yellow and orange dots loosely shaped into a feather.The Weight of Feathers anthology comprises the winning, short-listed and highly commended fictions plucked from the riches submitted for the Retreat West Prize 2020. It opens with The Stonecutter’s Masterpiece by Jennifer Falkner, a bitter-sweet short story with a vivid sense of place, opening as it does with a paragraph that includes an expertly crafted line on the valley setting: “His workshop was the only thing in it, curled at the bottom like a sleeping cat.”

As short story judge Peter Jordan writes in his report: “It won because the writing on an individual sentence level was superb.”

In fact, there are outstanding sentences throughout this anthology. The book brims with intriguing short stories and flash fictions, each of which shimmers and hums with sensory details: a butterfly fluttering inside a double-glazed window; a woman turning to stone; a mouthful of damson jam. The delights are myriad, offsetting the sadness at the heart of many of these tales.

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Enter a Halloween podcast Flash Fiction competition

Pumpkin eating person. Photo by Judy Darley

The Failing Writers Podcast Halloween Flash Fiction Writing Competition is eager to hear your words.

Entry is free. The prize is £100 plus the chance to hear your story performed in full by professional voice actors.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 22nd October 2021.

They invite you to send them a Halloween-themed flash fiction story of no more than 666 words. It can be any style, any genre, anything you like, as long as it’s themed around Halloween.

To enter, you need to listen to Episode 24 of the Failing Writers Podcast (available here) for a specific word or phrase that you MUST include in the story. They also recommend you subscribe to the podcast and sign up to their newsletter.

Once it’s ready, email your eerie masterpiece to failingwriterspodcast@gmail.com by Friday 22nd October.

Find full terms, conditions and entry requirements here.

Good luck!

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.

Enter Mslexia Fiction Competitions 2021

Mum's eye view cr Judy DarleyThe Mslexia Fiction Competitions are open for entries.

The judges are Hilary Mantel, A L Kennedy, Marianne Tatepo, Jo Unwin and Jude Higgins. There are three categories this year: Novel for Adults, Short Story, and Flash Fiction. The deadline for each is 20th September 2021.

Prizes include manuscript feedback and agent introductions, plus publication in Mslexia and the inaugural ebook anthology Best Women’s Short Fiction 2021.

Mslexia Novel for Adults competition – everything you need to know

  • For novels of at least 50,000 words in any genre
  • Submit first 5,000 words only in the first instance. Longlisted entrants will be asked to submit finished manuscripts later in the judging process
  • Entry fee: £25
  • 1st prize £5,000
  • Finalists receive manuscript feedback from The Literary Consultancy and personal introductions to literary agents arranged in partnership with New Writing North
  • Longlisted entrants will be notified by 1 March 2022.

Mslexia Short Story competition 2021 – everything you need to know

  • For unpublished complete short fiction of up to 3,000 words, in any genre, for adult and/or young adult readers. Entry fee: £12
  • 1st prize £3,000, plus mentoring by a specialist literary agent.
  • Three additional finalists will each receive £100
  • All four winning entries are published in Mslexia.
  • Winning entries plus eight more shortlisted entries will be published in Mslexia’s inaugural ebook anthology Best Women’s Short Fiction 2021
  • Entrants will be notified of the outcome of their entry in November 2021.

Mslexia Flash Fiction Competition 2021 – everything you need to know

  • For unpublished complete short fiction of up to 300 words, in any genre, for adult and/or young adult readers
  • Entry fee: £6
  • 1st prize £500
  • Three additional finalists each receive £50
  • All four winning entries are published in Mslexia
  • Winning entries plus eight more shortlisted entries will be published in Mslexia’s inaugural ebook anthology Best Women’s Short Fiction 2021
  • Entrants will be notified of the outcome of their entry in November 2021.

Visit Mslexia’s entry instructions for a more comprehensive guide on how to enter, and be sure to read the full rules before submitting.

Find full details at www.mslexia.co.uk. Good luck!

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.

Novelette review – The Impossibility of Wings by Donna K. Greenwood

Homemade Weather book coverThe final novelette of Homemade Weather: An Anthology of Novelettes in Flash from Retreat West Books is an emotionally-charged story of a girl picking her way through a childhood where parents may present the biggest dangers. The Impossibility of Wings by Donna K. Greenwood was awarded third place in Retreat West’s novelette-in-flash contest, judged by Damhnait Monaghan.

Greenwood paints scenes that layer the unreal over the real, so that we almost need to hold them up to the light to recognise the truths bleeding through. Opening with ‘In the Night They Will Come For Me’, our protagonist talks of the hyenas that gobbled her mother’s eyes, and of how “On Mum’s good days, we watched her fly above the earth”, while on bad days “she would lie at the bottom of the ocean (…) she let us drown a thousand times.”

In ‘Lost Jesus’, we learn that “Dad wants her to be normal” and that “Dad drinks a lot”, a fact that the protagonist blames initially on herself and her sisters. Humour jolts through this story, but panic whispers at the edges of the family’s laughter.

Comedy lifts passages of fear: that the wardrobe the girls take refuge in is known as the War Dog, “because Nessy couldn’t say wardrobe when we first discovered the sanctity of its walls.”

A playfulness with form also delivers otherwise potentially bleak tales with a weft of whimsy. ‘How to Make a Cup of Tea at 3am In The Morning’ is a stunning example of this, with Ingredients including “Sugar, the last hardened clumps at the bottom of the bag are best” and Method including “2. Wake in the midst of a dream (nightmares are best)”, “4. Check all siblings are still sleeping”, “12. Ring your grandma. Tell her your mother has run away.”

I urge you to read the whole hermit crab flash for the full impact of this particular compact masterpiece.

Greenwood has a magic touch when it comes to these topics, lacing sorrows with beauty and darkness with innocence that elevates her novelette to a poignant and entrancing read. In the world she crafts, mental illness is elemental, with the suffocating sting of salt-water and the “mad glare of the moon.” A drunk father may be a bear, even as “its great paws scoop” you out of bed to go and watch fireworks. A mother’s eyes are “two dark holes” and the line between love and hate is perilously sheer.

In “Things I Can’t Pack Into My Suitcase” we’re treated to another hermit crab flash, in which love and fear is spelled out through a litany of “sleepy giggles”, “belly laughs” and “unnameable bangs and slaps.” It’s a list that builds to a heart-fracturing crescendo that explains the presence of the suitcase and the desire to leave, stronger than the need to stay.

In the title flash, ‘The Impossibility Of Wings’, the experience of a farewell is only brought into focus in retrospect, when love finally unfolds and shows us its wings. It’s a whisper to the child hiding in the wardrobe and making tea at 3am that through all the darkness, tenderness curls, seeking the strength and courage to emerge.

An intense and deeply moving portrayal of a child growing up mired in both parents’ mental frailties.

Read my review of Homemade Weather by Tom O’Brien and my review of What The Fox Brings In Its Jaw by Ian O’Brien, the first and second award-winning novelettes in Retreat West’s anthology.

Homemade Weather: An Anthology of Novelettes in Flash is published by Retreat West and is available to buy from www.retreatwest.co.uk/homemade-weather.

This book was given to me in exchange for a fair review.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Novelette review – What The Fox Brings In Its Jaw by Ian O’Brien

Homemade Weather book coverThe second novelette of Homemade Weather: An Anthology of Novelettes in Flash from Retreat West Books draws you into the life of a man who has gone awry. What The Fox Brings In Its Jaw by Ian O’Brien was awarded second place in Retreat West’s novelette-in-flash contest, judged by Damhnait Monaghan.

It begins with a scene of such contemplative observation that it would be easy to miss the significance of the word craving: “Another craving has brought him to the window and he is standing there with a cigarette when he sees it.”

The ‘it’ is a fox passing by with something in its jaws. This vivid visual serves as a metaphor for the entire novelette, where our protagonist drifts from being the fox to, more naturally it seems, being the helpless creature between the predator’s teeth.

None of the characters are named in this exquisitely melancholic novelette, hinting that in one unthinking moment we could find ourselves in such an existence. Snow, blood on snow, and leafless trees, are recurring images, emphasising the perilous wilderness at the edges of our everyday lives. At times, reading this, I felt physically cold.

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Novelette review – Homemade Weather by Tom O’Brien

Homemade Weather book coverThe title novelette of this anthology from Retreat West Books, Homemade Weather by Tom O’Brien was the winning entry in the publisher’s new novelette-in-flash contest, judged by Damhnait Monaghan, and deserves its star position whole-heartedly.

The author immerses us in his protagonist’s world, keeping the focus tight and intimate. Celia Finn lives within view of a mountain that frames her childhood. Rather than bickering like other families in the area, her parents have periods of tense unspoken exchanges that Celia imagines as she sits on the stairs within earshot of what’s unsaid.

Celia is a faithful believer in rituals, and the novelette opens with her writing her name three times, an act that serves both to introduce her to us and to offer a sense of protection as her dog Ollie whistles his last breaths “to the mountain across the valley, with its band of shadowed woods.”

There’s a striking control to O’Brien’s writing – each word chosen with care and each statement neatly balanced to underplay emotions in a way that ensures they seep under our skin. Each sensation felt by Celia is delivered to us with considered care. At the doctor’s, “I felt his peppermint breath turn from me when he sent a look to my mother”, while her parents fail to argue out loud, she wants ‘to go back to my room, to close the door and hear only clean quiet.”

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National Flash Fiction Day flash flood

River mud and debrisNational Flash Fiction Day UK is celebrating its 10th Anniversary on Saturday 26th June 2021. I’m delighted to have a micro flash selected for the FlashFlood.

My tale The Sideways House will appear on the FlashFlood journal at around 10:20 a.m. BST. In case you weren’t aware, the FlashFlood is an annually occurring tsunami-sized outpouring of mini masterpieces. The tireless team at Nat Flash Fiction towers will publish a flash at every five to ten minutes for 24 hours straight, from 00:01 until 23:59 BST.

I can’t wait to see what other wonders are in the stream. As an added treat, I’ll share a film of myself reading The Sideways House at around the same time as it sails out on the flood.

In other news, my wry eco-poem ‘What’s That’, featuring water voles and Rats, has been published by Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, which describes itself as “a website dedicated to the serious art of writing humorous poetry.”

Enter the Bridport Prize

Burton Bradstock, Bridport. Shows figures on a pebbly Devon beach. Photo by Ben Collins on Unsplash

Photo by Ben Collins on Unsplash

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

The deadline for all competition entries is 31st May 2021.

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

Victoria Hislop, author of The Island, One August Night and other novels, will judge novel submissions. She says: “I am really excited to be judging the Bridport Prize! I will be looking for readability and originality, for writing that engages both my imagination and my curiosity! I am really looking forward to reading the entries.”

Raymond Antrobus, author of author of Shapes & Disfigurements, To Sweeten Bitter and The Perseverance, plus the first ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre (In 2019), will judge poetry submissions. He says: “I’m looking for poems that are written with both eye and ear…poems that unfold, surprise, delight, haunt its readers all at once. Don’t be afraid to take risks, be bold and show us something singular that only you are able to do or say.”

Former Literary Editor of the Observer and author of Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption, Robert McCrum will judge short story and flash fiction submissions. He says; “I’m on the look-out for the only thing that really matters in new fiction: an original voice. At 5000 words or so, the short-story is the ideal arena in which to pitch that new note. Flash fiction is like 20/20 cricket, an exciting new genre battling on a venerable pitch. I can’t wait to see what exciting novelties and reverse sweeps, the Bridport Prize will come up with. But it must be flash!”

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. And don’t forget to sign up for their newsletter full of useful tips and inspiration.

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.