Share your work at a live literary event

Squat pen by Judy Darley

If you live in the UK’s South West you may be interested to learn of a literary event in Swindon seeking writers. Taking place from 7.30pm till late on Friday 26th January 2018, it offers the chance to share 1,500-2,000 words of your finest fiction.

“We are looking for six (or more) fabulous writer/performers to come along to The Squat Pen, our very first live reading event at ‘The Place’ in the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon,” says the event’s organiser and competition judge Stephen Tuffin. “Write between 1500-2000 words on the subject of your choice, or you can use the prompt ‘new beginnings, then send us your stories for the chance to be selected to read your story on stage and maybe, just maybe, be crowned the very first ever Squat Pen Rests Writing Competition Champion of the World.”

The shortlisted entrants will be invited to come along to perform their piece in front of a friendly audience of short story fans. The outright winner, as voted for by the audience, will be presented with a £50.00 cash prize.

Every finalist will be awarded a limited edition, Squat Pen Rests Writing Competition Finalist mug, as well as having their stories posted on the competition website.

The serious stuff

It costs £3 per story to enter. You can enter up to three stories per event.

Before entering, please ensure you are available to come along and read on Friday 26th January 2018

Each of the entrants will receive free entry, plus one complementary ticket.

Closing date: 19th January 2018. Successful entrants will be notified no later than 22nd January.

Find full details here.

Hay Festival Winter Weekend

Hay Festival Winter Weekend montage1The folks at Hay Festival Winter Weekend have announced the line-up for their largest winter festival to date, giving you plenty to rev up your writing this frosty season. It all takes place in Hay-on-Wye from 23rd till 26th November 2017.

See how many participating writers and speakers you can spot in the montage above. Inspiring participants include novelists, storytellers, illustrators, journalists, comedians, chefs, sports tars, composers, musicians, poets, actors, broadcasters and more. Look out for Robert Macfarlane, Jeanette Winterson, Shazia Mirza, Matt Haig, Nikesh Shukla, Patrick Barkham; Matt Lucas, Catrin Stewart, Jeremy Vine, Monty Don, Jackie Morris, Gillian Clarke, Owen Sheers, Ed Vere, Catherine Barr, James Campbell, Anna Jones and Hay Community Choir, among others.

“Hay Festival Winter Weekend is now in its 18th year, blending literary conversation, immersive performances and interactive workshops, with the best of the town’s seasonal shopping and a chance to explore the famed natural surroundings in all their autumnal splendour,” says Peter Florence, Director of Hay Festival.

A new venue will double the festival’s seated capacity, while events begin a day earlier than in previous years, with programmed talks and performances from Thursday 23 November.

“Come and join us in Hay for fireside storytelling and feasting,” Peter says. “The town is decked in Christmas lights and glistening with winter cheer for a celebration of scrumptious food, glorious vintage clothing and high times. Bring a story, bring a new idea, bring a friend. Everyone is welcome.”

Tickets are on sale now. Book online at hayfestival.org or call 01497 822 629.

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

A literary outing in Hong Kong

Mussel shells cr Judy Darley

I’m happy to announce that my short story Preservation has been selected for the Liars’ League Hong Kong night of literary performances on 29th May.

In case you weren’t aware, Liars League is an event that matches short fiction to actors, celebrating the spoken word while giving it some thespian panache! Their tagline is Writers Write. Actors Read. Audience Listens. Everybody Wins.

The evening my story has been chosen for focuses on the themes Prophecy & History. Splendid!

Susan Lavender will be reading my story, which is great news as she previously read my tales Geese Among The Trees and Night Flights in Hong Kong.

The story was inspired by the fact various words about nature really have been excised from children’s dictionary to make room for more about technology. Sad but true. Mussel was just one of the words removed.

I can’t attend, but hope to catch up on the podcast or videos afterwards. It starts at 8pm on 29th of May at Social Room, a loft style multi functional Hong Kong event venue “ideally located next to the Central Escalator.” If by some chance you happen to be in that part of the world that night, do swing by. It should be a fabulous evening!

An insight into Indie Publishing

Novel nights at The Square ClubI’m a big fan of independent presses. Often small but perfectly formed, they often have the courage to publish authors without a proven track record, and discover exceptional writing talent.

Richard Jones, Tangent BooksThis month, Bristol’s premier literary salon Novel Nights welcomes Richard Jones from Tangent Books, to offer an overview of the Indie Publishing world.

Topics Richard will touch on include

  • Current trends in publishing
  • Opportunities for authors
  • Empowering writers

Sounds promising, doesn’t it? I’m happy to say I’ll be co-hosting for the evening, along with Novel Nights founder Grace Palmer.

As always, the night will open with quality readings from local up and coming authors. It takes place on Wednesday 26th April 2017 from 8pm till 10pm at The Square Club, 15 Berkeley Square, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1HB.

Find full details and book your tickets.

Find out how to submit your writing for upcoming Novel Nights.

Reading at Novel Nights

Green Glass by Judy DarleyThis Wednesday from 8pm I’ll be reading my short story Green Glass as part of Novel Night’s romance themed evening. My tale is a bit less hearts and flowers than wavering principles and recycled glass, but at the core of it is a protagonist with a desire to be a better person, and that has to count for something.

Along with our gracious Grace-ious host Grace Palmer, I’ll be accompanied by local writers Amy Morse, Chloe Turner and Kate Dunn, with Rosemary Dun, author of The Trouble with Love, headlining. Can’t wait to discover their interpretations of love!

It takes place at The Square Club, 15 Berkeley Square, BS8 1HB Bristol, United Kingdom. You can buy tickets here: http://buytickets.at/novelnights/78222. Hope to see you there!

Stories shared on the #FlashWalk

Cormorant cr Judy DarleyDuring the #FlashWalk on National Flash Fiction Day, ten fantastic flash fictions were shared, all inspired by Bristol Harbour and the surrounding area.

Several have already been published elsewhere, but here is an exclusive opportunity to read four thought-provoking and wonderful tales.

Harbouring Friendship by Diane Tatlock 

I walk with Mother along the harbour side. Calm. Quiet. Galleons stand tall above us.

I see him then. The boy. Men standing round him. Holding him.

I walk with Mother. Slowly. Her skirts swish the cobbles. Her bonnet nods. Her parasol shields us from the bright sun.

I watch. Sloshing water slops over him. Showers his dark skin. He stands. Still. They plunge the bucket again. And again. Chuck the water. Hard. He stands. Still.

Mother clutches my hand and I walk on. She still nods to friends. Smiling. I look back.

They drag his dripping body across the wooden deck. Towards that gaping square. They tip him. Trip him. Let him go. His wet, brown body disappears into the black hole.

Mother pulls me on. Shows me a shiny penny for a bun.

I wonder who he is. What he has done. Where he will go. If he will be raised from that darkness in another harbour. If he will see the sun again.

He could have been my friend.

Johnny Pencloud by Juliet Hagan, read by Jo Butler

Johnny Pencloud by Juliet Hagan, read by Jo Butler

Johnny Pencloud by Juliet Hagan

You, young man! You look strong, and capable enough of hauling a rope or scrubbing a deck. Best keep an eye on who’s behind you, or you may not see home again. The ‘press men are about, you understand. To beat the tyrant Bonaparte, they have the power to seize any man, any man at all, and press him on to the King’s ships.

They took my husband, Johnny Pencloud, fifteen years ago. A fine man he was, eyes as blue as a summer evening, broad shouldered, and hair as black as the coal he used to mine. Mind you, it’s prob’ly grey now.

The morning after our wedding, it were. We lay in our warm bed as the sun shone through the window, and listened to the sounds of the people in the street below.

‘Hot coffee! Fresh rolls!’ shouted a hawker. Johnny’s stomach rumbled. ‘I need some of that,’ he said, grinning. ‘Stay there and don’t move ‘til I gets back.’ He kissed me, put on his trousers and shirt, grabbed a pewter jug, and left. I waited till noon, and sunset, and all through the night, but he never came back. The press men were out on the street, you see.

How could I go back home without him? So I stayed, doing what I could to pay my way, and I comes down here whenever I can, asking for news about him. I come even on the day our babe was born. And on the day she died, too. So, have you heard of Johnny Pencloud?

Your Name is Pero Jones by Ingrid Jendrzejewski, read by Tom Parker

Your Name is Pero Jones by Ingrid Jendrzejewski, read by Tom Parker

Your Name is Pero Jones by Ingrid Jendrzejewski

Nothing is known of you until your twelfth year, when you were purchased by a sugar merchant. You worked on John Pinney’s plantation in the West Indies for 19 years, then accompanied him to Bristol as his personal servant. You had two sisters. You were trained as a barber. You knew how to pull teeth. You visited the West Indies twice after settling in England; after the second visit, it is said you took to drink. You served the Pinney family for 32 years in all, then died around age 45.

Then, you slept.  Nothing is known of you for the next 201 years.  We don’t know where you went, what you dreamt, what has wakened you, but we do know that when you came back to Bristol, something had changed.

Now, you are larger than life. You span the floating harbour. You are raised and lowered by a hydraulic piston. You have grown horns.

And we wonder: for what have you returned? How long will you suffer the footfall of living men? Are you still bound by the grasp of the River Frome, or will you someday free yourself from the line of the river still known today as St Augustine’s reach?

Jo Butler reading A Thousand Words by Gemma Govier

Jo Butler reading A Thousand Words by Gemma Govier

A Thousand Words by Gemma Govier

With her stiletto jammed in the cobbles, she tried to perfect the laidback office worker look, munching on her panini whilst leaning against the stone pillar.  Nobody had warned her about the cobbles and she was wishing she had trusted her instinct to wear flats on her first day.

At the business park, lunch used to be powdery soup in the corner of the canteen, trying to look interested in a magazine while avoiding eye contact with everyone, especially the creepy Mr Summers. Now she had fresh air, seagulls, cheerful crowds and pavement artists. Polishing off her lunch she gave one final twist of the heel and her shoe was freed. Dignity intact, she moved from the shadows into the sunlight and looked over the shoulder of the guy chalking.

It looked just like her hometown. It was her hometown. It was unmistakable with the castle in the background and the church spire just in front. She was about to ask him if he was from there too when she noticed he was working from a small photo.

It was of herself walking through the high street. Not herself now but herself ten years before, holding hands with her old flame, Matthew. It was next to another photo. She was at her local park on a swing as a child, laughing as her sister pushed. In the next, she was at her graduation.

The bass beat from the waterfront bar seemed to be pumping right through her body as she moved round to get a better look at the artist, frantically searching for some kind of familiarity. She must have gone to school with him, lived near him or something, she thought. He was at least twenty years older than herself with small dark eyes, unshaven and had receding hair. She had never seen him before.

As she tried to form the right words he turned to look directly at her and placed a finger on her lips. “A picture’s worth a thousand of them don’t you think?” he said.

A day of flash fiction

Bristol Unicorn cr Judy DarleyLast Saturday, writers, readers and interested passersby got involved into the celebrations for National Flash Fiction Day 2016. I was part of the team organising events (led by Kevlin Henney and along with Freya Morris and Tino Prinzi) in my home city of Bristol, and had a blast!

The day kicked off at 10.30am outside Bristol Central Library for the first ever Bristol #FlashWalk. Writers from across the UK had submitted tales inspired by our harbour area, and some wonderful stories had been selected for actors Jo Butler and Tom Parker to perform.

We began with the spine-tingling The Harbour Festival by AA Abbott, read by Jo Butler under an ornate archway leading down to the waterfront. Tom followed this with Diane Tatlock’s Harbouring Friendship, and then we made our way to Millennium Square, where Jo performed Juliet Hagan’s Johnny Pencloud, a thought-provoking tale of the women left behind in the days of press-ganging.

Jo Butler reading Johnny Pencloud by Juliet Hagan pic cr Judy Darley

Jo Butler reading Johnny Pencloud by Juliet Hagan

My story Altitude followed, with both Tom and Jo taking a role to share the dizzying story of a lad encouraged to climb a crane by an adventurous and reckless lass, and then regretting his lust-driven choice!

Jo Butler and Tom Parker reading Altitude by Judy Darley

Jo Butler and Tom Parker reading Altitude by Judy Darley

On Pero’s Bridge by Holly Atkinson could take place nowhere other than actually on Pero’s Bridge, followed aptly by Ingrid Jendrzejewski’s emotive Your Name is Pero, telling the tale of the little slave boy the bridge is named for.

Jo Butler and Tom Parker performing On Pero's Bridge by Holly Atkinson

Jo Butler and Tom Parker performing On Pero’s Bridge by Holly Atkinson

On the corner by the statue of John Cabot, Dolphins by Lucho Payne gave us a moment of light and hope.

Jo Butler reading A Thousand Words by Gemma Govier

Jo Butler reading A Thousand Words by Gemma Govier

Then came Gemma Govier’s intriguing A Thousand Words, followed by Lynn Love’s gorgeous Will There Be Pirates.

Tom Parker reading Will There Be Pirates by Lynn Love

Tom Parker reading Will There Be Pirates by Lynn Love

The morning wrapped up outside St Nick’s Market, with Mark Rutterford’s Singing Out Loud, leaving us with the satisfaction of a potential happy ending.

The sun shone throughout, the actors and writers were wonderful, and the audience well behaved – we even picked up a few more folks along the way!

Next came a free flash fiction writing workshop back at Bristol Central Library, where KM Elkes made us regard strawberries in a whole new light, and Alison Powell armed us to create extraordinary similes.

A Box of Stars Beneath the BedAt 7pm, events moved to At The Well for an evening of flash tales with the father of NFFD, Callum Kerr, and the launch of this year’s beautiful NFFD anthology, A Box of Stars Beneath The Bed.

Thirteen readers, masses of stories, and countless emotions! The orangutan story by KM Elkes still haunts me. A fabulously inspiring night to finish a truly splendid day.

Ooh, and throughout the day there was the #FlashFlood to enjoy. You can still drop by to read the tales at flashfloodjournal.blogspot.co.uk.

 

Penzance Literary Festival 2016

Penzance views cr Judy DarleyPenzance Literary Festival runs from 6th-9th July 2016. It’s the perfect excuse to enjoy Cornish views and sea air while revelling in the written and spoken word!

Look forward to a guest appearance by best-selling author Gavin Knight, whose new book, The Swordfish and the Star, a gritty portrayal of life in the fishing communities of Newlyn and The Lizard.

I love how inclusive and friendly this festival is – in 2013 I had the chance to read my short story The Scent of Summer at a Telltales literary event in the Admiral Benbow and loved the experience.

Headliners for this year’s festival include Rachel Joyce, author of best-selling The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, and writer of BBC Radio’s dramatised version of Jane Eyre, part of this year’s 200th anniversary celebration of Charlotte Brontë’s birth.

Other folks set to tingle your literary tastebuds include Costa award-winning novelist Andrew Miller, Guardian journalist Patrick Barkham, whose book Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore celebrates many of Cornwall’s coastal National Trust properties, and poets Bert Biscoe, Pol Hodge, Gray Lightfoot and Colin Stringer. And don’t miss the Bookshop Band, with a brand new selection of bookish songs!

There will also be writing workshops, theatre, and literary tours of Penzance run by local tour guide Anna McClary. It’s a great way to get to know the heritage of this Cornish town, and be inspired! Find full details at www.pzlitfest.co.uk.

For details of where to stay in Penzance, go to www.visitcornwall.com.

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

Reading at Novel Nights

Mussel shells cr Judy DarleyOn Thursday 16th June, Novel Nights is on at Bristol’s Belgian beer bar (got that?) Strawberry Thief. I’ll be there, reading my short tale Preservation.

It looks set to be an excellent evening, with readings from a number of local writers in the first half, and then a discussion with author Babs Horton about the risks and riches of  mining your own life for your writing inspiration.

Do come along if you can. Tickets are £5 on the door, and there will be opportunities to ask questions and find out things to further your own writing. Plus, the night’s talented organisers Grace and Helen will let you know how to submit your own writing for the chance to read at future Novel Nights’ events.

Seeking shelter

St John in the Wall by Judy DarleyOn Thursday 9th June from 7pm I am hosting a literary event at St John on the Wall, an ancient church filled with atmosphere and forgotten histories.

The evening will involve poetry, tales and music inspired by the themes love, life and mortality. Just the big human topics, then. Tickets cost £4 on the door, and all proceeds will be split between The Churches Conservation Trust, who look after this magnificent space, and St Mungo’s, a charity dedicated to helping homeless people back into a life of security and self-worth.

The latter is a cause close to my heart. I believe, as St Mungo’s do, that everyone has the right to a home where they feel safe.

Homelessness is increasing in Bristol. St Mungo’s aim is sustainable recovery – supporting people via hostels and supportive housing projects, advice, physical health and mental health services.

“Outreach workers go out in the early morning and late at night to check on people sleeping rough,” says Jo Lenny at St Mungo’s. “It takes time to build up trust and a relationship. Once people agree to engage, they’re assessed so their individual needs can be supported, such as housing, or more complex needs around mental health, addiction or both.”

Aside from providing beds, St Mungo’s run a recovery college, where people can learn a new skill, or share a skill, and so be helped to feel part of the community and to engage. “A horticultural project called ‘Putting Down Roots’, supports clients to work in public parks, hostel gardens, and in the Recovery College garden, developing gardening skills, growing wildflowers and carrying out hard landscaping and building projects,” says Jo. “Current projects are in Castle Park and at New Street Centre, with plans for more. Through this, people gain skills, qualifications, paid and voluntary work.”

The number of people sleeping rough doubled between 2011 and 2013, and doubled again between 2013 and 2015.

You can help by going to www.mungos.org.uk where you can sign an open letter to David Cameron to Stop the Scandal.

If you’re concerned about a person sleeping rough, you can make a street referral by visiting www.streetlink.org.uk.

Find out more about the Love, Life and Mortality literary event and buy tickets at www.visitchurches.org.uk/lifeloveandmortality.