Submit your words to the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards

Azorean views over the Atlantic by Judy DarleyIreland Writing Retreat and Wild Atlantic Writers invite you to submit flash fiction and creative non-fiction inspired by nature. The closing date is 10th December.

The Flash Fiction Award is open to all genres from sci-fi to crime, and romance to horror, providing nature features as a key element, “It could even be that a tree, plant, stone or other being or Nature in its multitude of expressions plays a key role in your story. ”

The maximum length is 500 words, not including the title.

The Creative Nonfiction Award offers a similar challenge, only instead of a fiction story it should take the form of memoir, personal essay, travelogue (even one about your hometown) or anything other true tale, providing nature plays significant role in your submission.

It must be no more than 500 words, not including the title.

For both competitions, the prize is 500 euros in cash.

A fee of 10 euro is required for each entry.

The closing date is 10th December.

Find the full rules and link to enter here.

Published stories – October 2020

Photo by MIKHAIL VASILYEV on Unsplash

This photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash illustrates my story ‘Kitten Heeled.’

While the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, including within my own home, October has seen a generous number of my short fictions published, which has offered some light in the fog.

Last week, two tales inspired by real life moments found homes. The second, ‘Calamities of Varied Weights‘, is now live at The Daily Drunk. It covers a real day out with my teenage niece and nephew back in February 2020, rainfall, grumpiness and all.

The first, ‘Kitten Heeled‘, has been published by The Art of Everyone. It captures a moment from my childhood. Adam at The Art used a royalty-free photo I supplied, shown at the top of this post.

Uh-Oh Books published their beautiful Wild and Green kids’ magazine featuring my children’s story ‘Grace Under Lockdown‘, about a grey seal coping with noisy, messy humans! Marine Conservation Society helped with insights.
On 5th October, Dream Journal published a teeny tiny pandemic flash fiction inspired by my middle nephew – ‘Ezra Can Stand on One Foot Forever.’
So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library

Earlier in October, wonderful book post arrived from Indianapolis – the ninth edition of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, containing my hopeful story ‘Reaching Branches‘, which is about a newcomer to a suburb seeking a way to forge a sense of community.

The folks at the journal say: “The journal has become well recognized in the writing and artistic community. This year, we received 267 entries for 65 slots, so the selection process was challenging. Here are a few stats: Of those selected: 41 men, 24 women, and 12 veterans. Fourteen of our contributors are from Indiana; 42 are from out of state; and 9 are international. The journal features 38 poems, 17 prose pieces, 10 photographs, and 9 works of art.”

Extraordinary to have my work selected out of 267 submissions, and as one of only 24 by women and nine from overseas!

To top it all off, today is the book birthday of my short story and flash fiction collection, Sky Light Rain. Happy first birthday, Book 2!

Sky Light Rain by Judy Darley

Enter The Masters Review chapbook contest

Autumn gourd by Judy Darley

The Masters Review is inviting submissions to their inaugural chapbook contest.

The deadline for entries is 15th November 2020.

The winning writer receive $3,000, manuscript publication, a subscription to Journal of the Month, and 50 contributor copies.

Steve Almond, the author of eleven books of fiction and non-fiction including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football, will judge five to ten shortlisted chapbooks chosen byThe Masters Review and select the winning manuscript. Steve will also provide a brief foreword for the winning manuscript on publication.

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, long-form fiction or essays, and any combination thereof, provided the manuscripts are complete (no excerpts, chapters, works-in-progress, or other incomplete work), and function cohesively.”

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.

Book review – Families and Other Natural Disasters by Anita Goveas

Families and Other Natural Disasters by Anita Goveas coverAt first glance, the five sections of Anita Goveas’ collection appear elemental. A closer look rewards with the dawning understanding that the categories are types of natural disaster, with the final two a little more tongue in cheek. Fire, Water, Wind, Love and Families each warn of the emotions contained within, or, more, likely, poised to spill over.

The opening sentence of a collection is crucial in setting the tone for what’s to come. Goveas does this fearlessly, dropping into our laps the unflinching line: “There’s an ancient prophesy that you’ll die by volcano.” What Really Gets You Is the Rising Heat is a story that speaks of the expectations we fight against to forge our own path, even if that does turn out to be directly to the same volcano’s mouth our parents marked for us.

The titles form a poetry of their own, with the second tale warning us from the off that A Pilgrimage Can Be One Way, before enfolding us in ‘packing’ and ‘to do’ lists that contain humour, love and heartache within deftly rendered brevity. It’s the kind of hermit crab flash that hints at tireless hours of crafting.

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Enter Mslexia Fiction & Memoir Competition 2020

Mum's eye view cr Judy DarleyThis year, Mslexia Fiction Awards include their Short StoryChildren’s & YA Novel, Flash Fiction and Memoir & Life-Writing competitions. The deadline for each is 21st September 2020.

Entry fees are £10 per short story, £25 per novel extract and memoir entry and £5 per flash fiction entry.

The winner of the Short Story competition will receive £3,000, plus the opportunity to spend a week on an Arvon retreat, and receive a mentoring session with an editor at Virago – an experience that money can’t buy.

Three other finalists will each receive £100. All four winning stories will be published in the December 2020 issue of Mslexia.

Shortlisted entries will be judged by award-winning short story author and novelist Sarah Hall.

The winner of the Children’s and YA competition will receive £5,000. Judges are novelist Kiran Millwood Hargrave, novelist and children’s fiction critic Amanda Craig, and literary agent Joanna Moult.

As well as the top prize of £5,000, the winner and three finalists will receive manuscript feedback, and introductions to agents and editors at a special event held in London. The winner and finalists will be announced in the June 2021 edition of Mslexia magazine.

This year Mslexia is offering a number of sponsored entries for their Children’s & YA Novel Competition for low-income women writers. To apply for a sponsored entry, see the FAQs. You can donate a competition entry here.

First prize in the Mslexia Flash Fiction competition is £500.

The winner will be picked by Ingrid Jendrzejewski, editor of Flash Back Fiction and Flash Flood, Co-director of National Flash Fiction Day.

Three other flash fiction finalists will each receive £50. All four winning stories will be published in the December 2020 issue of Mslexia.

If you’re looking to submit your poems or full length poetry collection, don’t worry, You can submit your work to the Mslexia Poetry and Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2020 (deadline 7th December).

The winner of the Memoirand Life-Writing competition will receive £5,000. Judges are novelist Kate Clanchy, Caroline Sanderson if The Bookseller; and literary agent Isobel Dixon.

As well as the top prize of £5,000, the winner and three finalists will receive manuscript feedback, and introductions to agents and editors at a special event held in London. The winner and finalists will be announced in the June 2021 edition of Mslexia magazine.

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

Book review – This Alone Could Save Us by Santino Prinzi

This Alone Could Save Us coverDespite the saying that a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, inevitably, we all do it to some extent. In the case of This Alone Could Save Us, though no doubt completed long before we were up to our necks in global calamities, the cover image by artist Stuart Buck paired with that title feels prescient, and, reader, it delivers.

Story after story, some barely half a page long (one only a sentence), feed our darting minds, offer distraction and comfort.

And, yes, there are flashes of sorrow and regret, but there are also stories here of quiet, quivering joy. One of my favourites is Costume: “I taste salt and camaraderie on my tongue. The wind whips past our skin and the sand flicks behind us as we run towards the waves.”

Exhilaration and triumph rise outwards with those flicks of sand.

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Book review – Seventy Percent Water by Jeanette Sheppard

SeventyPercentWater coverJeanette Sheppard’s debut flash fiction collection brims with sensitively perceived, reflective stories that creep beneath our surfaces, reminding us how drops of water can change a landscape, physically, aesthetically and psychologically.

These compact stories embrace big topics. The shifting boundaries of awareness linked to ageing and dementia recur throughout, like ripples spreading outwards, inexorably.

‘Rattle and Spin’ is a beautiful story of a woman who is growing unrooted from her sense of self, yet retains her dignity. The tale flows with steady momentum from line to line, guiding ‘you’ to treat this woman with the respect she has earnt and discover how much more she is than what you take in at first glance.

“Go on, sit in her chair. She will pull up a seat, make you laugh until your mouth swells ready to burst.”

The last sentence is heartachingly tender.

‘How to Enter Another Galaxy’ is another instructional piece. This time, the subject in for exaltation are those annoyingly futile calls to corporations, while you, the caller, have one hand gripping the phone and the other juggling a cat. Naturally, the intergalactic being you need to speak to is never the one on the end of the line.

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A Flash Flood of Fiction

Weaving Wings by Judy DarleyTomorrow, Saturday 6th June 2020, marks National Flash Fiction Day UK, and I’m thrilled to have one of my stories take part. All day long, flash fiction stories will be published in the Flash Flood, and my tale Weaving Wings, a favourite of mine from my collection Sky Light Rain, will appear at around 8.40am BST.

I’m particularly thrilled as this year, thanks to lockdown, the hard-working team at NFFD headquarters received an unprecedented number of high quality submissions – 1,650 in total!

You can pop in at any time from 00:01 BST on 6th June to dip a toe in the torrent. From the chatter on Twitter it looks like there will be some shining examples of the flash fiction form to sweep you along.

You’re also invited to take part in the The Write-In this year. Throughout Saturday 6th June, the team will publish 24 flash prompts — one every hour from 00:01 to 23:59 BST.

“Submit your responses by 23:59 BST on Sunday 7th June for a chance to be published at The Write-In.  Writers of all levels of experience welcome!”

A short story – Shadows and Shine

The BeautifullestI’m thrilled that my flash fiction story ‘Shadows and Shine’ has been published in The Beautifullest: Pure Slush Vol. 17. It’s a slightly twisted tale of sibling rivalry between two brothers.

Here’s a line from my story:

‘A spare key to the woman’s house hangs in their hallway. He wants to see what happens if he enters while she’s out.’

The publication features flash fiction, poetry and essays by 89.
Various other eBook formats will follow in the coming weeks.

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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