Foraging for Inspiration at the Flash Fiction Festival

Owl carving and baby shoe by Judy Darley
The Flash Fiction Festival takes place from Friday 8th until Sunday 10th July, with real world events happening at Trinity College, Bristol, and six hybrid workshops (online as well as face-to-face) workshops occurring over the weekend.

There are some amazing flash fiction writers teaching over the weekend, including Kathy Fish, Nancy Stohlman, Vanessa Gebbie, Eltra Rhodes, K.M. Elkes and Susmita Bhattacharya.

I’m delighted to be leading a workshop on ‘Foraging for Inspiration’ at 8.45am on Sunday 10th July. Expect random word prompts and other stimuli to get your imagination whirring!

One of the questions I’m asked most is where I get ideas from. The truth is that inspiration can come from anywhere, if you’re open and ready to gather the ideas as they come.

As someone who is, in all honesty, easily bored, I’m constantly on the lookout for entertaining distractions that can convert into story fuel, from overheard conversations to momentarily misunderstood glimpses (the weirder the better), to objects that could be important to a character in a tale.

I publish weekly writing prompts on my SkyLightRain blog,and collect small found objects and images that lead to piece of narrative prose. In this workshop you will be provided with a variety of writing prompts and investigate ways you can combine different sources with your own unique experiences to build up an original story.

Suitable for beginners and up. I intend to take participants on a short stroll of the grounds to forage for inspiration, returning to the workshop room for half an hour or so for the writing exercises.

I’ll also be reading my story ‘How to Hook a Heart’ from the Freedom-themed National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2022 on the Friday evening. Find the full festival programme here.

I hope to see you there!

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.

Enter the Bridport Prize

Pebble man by Judy DarleyThe 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 2022.

All entries are judged anonymously. To avoid disqualification, make sure you do not include your name, address, phone number, email, website, twitter handle etc on the document or in the file name.

Poems may be up to 42 lines in length (not including the title). There is no minimum line count. The entry fee is £12. The winning poet will receive £5,000.

Short stories may be up to 5,000 words long. The entry fee is £14. The winning short story writer will receive £5,000.

Flash fiction may be up to 250 words long. The entry fee is £11. The winning flash fiction writer will receive £1,000.

Novel extracts must be between 5,000 and 8,000 words long. You must also supply a 300-word synopsis, which should be the first page of your entry. The fee is £24.

First prize is £1,500 plus mentoring by The Literary Consultancy and consultations with literary agent AM Heath and publisher Tinder Press.

Bridport Prize judges

Inua Ellams will judge poetry entries. Born in Nigeria, Inua is a touring poet, playwright and performer. He is an ambassador for the Ministry of Stories and his books of poetry include Candy Coated Unicorns and The Half-God of Rainfall – an epic story in verse.

He recently completed his first full poetry collection The Actual. He lives and works from London, where he founded the Midnight Run, a nocturnal urban excursion.

Inua is seeking: “The distillation of human experience in language, and economical use of words, and transformation, where the sentiment of the poem is greater than the sum of its parts… when it leaps into the beyond.”

Tim Pears is the short story judge. Tim’s collection of short stories Chemistry and Other Stories was published in 2021 by Bloomsbury and chosen by the Sunday Times for their best new short story collections. Tim’s novel In a Land of Plenty was made into a BBC drama series. He was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Tim says: “I have developed an idea of the kind of short story I like to write, and to read, but what I look forward to judging the Bridport Prize is discovering new ways of writing, and fresh methods of telling, untold stories of this world we live in. What an exciting prospect!”

Kathy Fish is the flash fiction judge. Kathy has published five collections of short fiction including Wild Life: Collected Works 2003-2018. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Copper Nickel, Washington Square Review, and numerous other journals, textbooks and anthologies.

Kathy says: “Give me a story I’ve never read before. Or tell an oft-told tale in a wholly original way. I love stories that play with form or language. If you can do all that and also break my heart or make me laugh, so much the better!”

Monique Roffey is judging novel award entries. An award winning Trinidadian born British writer of novels, essays, literary journalism and a memoir, Roffey’s most recent novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch (Peepal Tree Press) won the Costa Book of the Year Award 2020 and was nominated for seven major awards.

Monique advises: “Write exactly what you like and never mind what the market seems to want. Be independent-minded at all times. You are the dog . You be creative and wag your tail. Do not ever worry what seems to be popular.”

Don’t forget to check out the Writers’ Room on the Bridport Prize website for resources and inspiration.

Key dates for your diary

Key dates in 2022

Save these dates to keep you ahead of the competition.

31 May

Competition deadline!

20 July

Novel longlist announced here and on social media.

25 July

Novel longlisted writers to submit 15,000 words, including the synopsis and original submission.

26 August

Novel shortlist announced here and on social media.

2 September

Novel shortlisted novel writers to submit 30,000 words, including the synopsis and original submission.

Early to mid-September

Winners and shortlisted writers in poetry, short story and flash fiction contacted.

Late September

All other writers contacted.

Early October

Novel winner and runner up informed.

Late October

Awards celebration.

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.

Retreat West online flash fest –5th-6th March

Three editors in a boat. Photo by Ivan Lapyrin on UnsplashI’m excited to be taking part in Retreat West’s online flash fest that’s happening on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th March.

Ten_Ways-anthology book coverThere are inspiring events unfurling all weekend, including the launch of ‘Ten Ways Animals Will Save Us‘, Retreat West’s tenth birthday anthology, which contains one of my climate fiction flashes, ‘Fishing for Green and Blue’. The anthology is crammed with amazing stories from spectacular authors, on the theme of ‘ten’.

The anthology launch is at 10am, when the festival begins. Writers who will be sharing their anthology stories at the festival include Sara Hills, Martha Lane, Amy Barnes and Edward Barnfield.

Unfortunately I’m not able to attend the launch, but I will be there for a panel discussion on Sunday:

15.15 – 16.15 – LITERARY JOURNAL EDITOR’S Q&A

I’ll be answering questions and sharing insights from the perspective of my flash fiction editor role at Reflex Press, along with Christopher Allen of Smokelong Quarterly and J. Archer Avary of Sledgehammer Lit.

Find full details of this energising literary weekend here.

I hope to see you there!

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

Flash Frontier entreats your stormy words

Tintagel storm cr Judy Darley

The lovely folks at New Zealand’s Flash Frontier magazine are currently inviting submissions of short tales from across the world on the theme of ‘thunder’.

The deadline is 28th February 2022. Submissions must be only 250 words in length. Stories of 251 words won’t be accepted.

They say: “We are looking for variety and originality. Tickle us, haunt us, gobsmack us. Choose your words carefully and leave our readers wanting more. And do it in a small space. (…) We love original art in all forms – colourful and daring, muted and understated. We’ll choose art each month that reflects the theme.”

Send only previously unpublished stories, and make sure you follow their style guide to the letter!

For a taste of what the editors like and to be inspired, read Flash Frontier’s recent issue on the theme of Salt, which includes my flash fiction story The Salt Sting of Learning When To Say No.

Find full details of how to submit your work here: www.flash-frontier.com/submissions/ 

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

Enter National Flash Fiction Day’s microfiction competition

Sweets by Judy DarleyNational Flash Fiction Day’s 100-word microfiction competition 2022 invites your submissions. Send something funny, something that resonates, is fresh and exciting, and leaves the judges lost for words.

The deadline is 15th February 2022. You’re invited to submit up to three flash fictions on any theme at no more than 100 words each. Titles aren’t included in the word count.

This year’s judges are Christopher Allen, Joanna Campbell, Tracy Fells and Damhnait Monaghan.

The microfiction competition prizes are:

  • £150 for first place
  • £100 for second place
  • £50 for third place
  • seven awards of £20 for highly commended pieces.

The winning and shortlisted authors will be published in the National Flash Fiction Day 2022 anthology. Winning and shortlisted authors will also receive a free print copy of this anthology.

Please only submit work that is not and will not be under consideration elsewhere before 15 March 2022.  By submitting work to the NFFD Microfiction Competition, you are agreeing to publication online and in the 2022 NFFD Anthology if your work is selected as a prizewinner or highly commended flash.

Find full details here.

This year, National Flash Fiction Day is on Saturday 18th June. How will you be celebrating?

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

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.

Continue reading

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.