Literary Bristol

Judy Darley in Redcliffe CavesBristol Festival of Literature returns from 19th-28th October 2017, with curious, intriguing, inspiring events popping up all over the city. I wrote a feature about it for The Bristol Magazine, titled Bookish Bristol, and was wowed by the options on offer. Events are already selling out, so get your tickets fast!

You can pick up copies of The Bristol Magazine all over the city, in cafes, hairdressers, estate agents and other businesses.

I’m taking part in a least two events. The first is Bristol Writers Group and Friends Go Into The Dark, taking place in Redcliffe Caves from 7-9pm on Tuesday 24th Oct. Tickets have already sold out! I’m one of the friends, and very excited to be invited back. Reading in the caves is a really magical event – it’s a wonderfully spooky environment. I’ll be sharing my tale Merrow Cave. The pic at the top of this post (photo taken by Sally Hare) shows me at a previous year’s event.

Tickets cost £5.50 each.

Novel Nights Oct 2017 readers

Novel Nights Oct 2017 readers

The second is Novel Nights, which I’ll be co-hosting with founder Grace Palmer from on Wednesday 25th October. Three local writing talents, Alison Brown, Kate Simants and Deborah Tomkins, will share novel extracts before Cornerstones literary editor Dionne McCulloch offers her insights on novel-writing and answers questions from the audience. It’s happening at The Square Club, 15 Berkeley Square, Bristol. Get tickets for £8 here.

There are so many other fabulous literary happenings to choose from too. Find the full programme and ticketing details at unputdownable.org. Hope to see you at an event or few!

Submit to Novel Nights

Novel-Nights-Literary-Events-Bristol4-photo credit Sophie Carefull

Novel Nights © Sophie Carefull

Having an audience for your prose, whether it’s a short story or a novel extract, is a great way to build up a loyal following as well as get a sense of the story you’re telling.

The session of Novel Nights on 25th October is part of Bristol Festival of Literature 2017, making it a really prestigious event on Bristol’s lit scene. There are three slots of five-minutes for writers, and I’m helping to select the stories, so why not submit?

Closing date for submissions is 1st October 2017.

Grace Palmer, the organiser, says: “We want to hear prose which delights, tells a story with skill, hooks a room of people and won’t make them fidget. If you are chosen to read you get free entry to Novel Nights, your name on the programme and publicised on Twitter, Facebook and on this Novel Nights website.”

The audience are a group of friendly writers and readers, so you’re bound to come away with a buzz.

Submission guidelines  

Please submit the following:

  • An 800-word extract of your writing; no more than 5-minutes reading time
  • Choose a scene from your novel or a short story that will work as a piece to listen to – not too much dialogue but something self-contained that shows off the story and your writing style. Don’t choose a scene with lots of characters in it
  • A photos of yourself  – please label with your name 
  • A cover photo of your book or books, if you are published
  • Your name (or writing pseudonym), and twitter handle
  • Writer Bio – a 30 word version for our programme, a longer version for our information about you, your writing etc

How to send 
Send your work and bio in the body of an email to submit@novelnights.co.uk  
Photos can be sent as an attachment

How we choose

We look for strong, well-crafted writing that will delight and excite an audience.

We choose extracts that fit in with the theme of the night or that fit with each other. If you are not chosen it doesn’t mean we think you are not good enough! These things are subjective.

Good luck!

Find out more at www.novelnights.co.uk/submissions-for-novel-nights.

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.

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!

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.

Novel Nights this Thursday

Budapest tree with heart cr Judy DarleyOn Thursday 21st April I’m co-hosting Novel Nights, a monthly literary event in Bristol, along with founder Grace Palmer. Taking place at Strawberry Thief, it should be a really lovely evening.

Five local writers, Mel Ciavucco, Kevlin Henney, Angela Brooks, Paul Deaton and Mark Rutterford, will be sharing short stories and novel extracts inspired by the theme of romance – taking some unexpected, moving, humorous and thought-provoking tangents through the genre.

In the second half (after a break for mingling and buying drinks), bestselling author Lucy Robinson will share her experiences of getting published, staying motivated and the submission process. Think of it as a mini-literary masterclass!

The evening begins at 8pm. Find full details at www.novelnights.co.uk

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

Stories at Strawberry Thief

Strawberry ThiefThis week marks the first Novel Nights of 2016, taking place on Thursday 21st January, from 8pm. Excitingly, the literary night has a brand new venue – The Strawberry Thief, a rather delightful Belgian beer bar on Bristol’s Broad Street.

The night’s co-founder and organiser Grace Palmer has kindly invited me to read at the event, and I’ll be sharing a story inspired by the new venue, or rather, by the William Morris wallpaper that inspired the bar’s name. Got that?

I’m one of four writers filling the first half of the evening with stories, then for the second half author Mimi Thebo will be discussing the importance of voice in fiction.

Do come along if you’re in the area.

Reading at Novel Nights

Novel Nights March 2015Very excited to announce that I’ll be reading from my novel Ghosts in the Eaves at Novel Nights on Thursday 25th June.

I’m part of the first half, along with authors Christie Cluett, JNick Edwards, Susie Nott-Blower and Steph Minns.

In the second half, literary agent Kate Johnson from Wolf Literary Services (based in New York and Bristol!) will be present to answer questions about submissions, pitching or anything else you want to find out about gaining representation in the literary field.

The literary night takes place from 8-10pm at The Lansdown, Clifton. Hope to see you there!

How to run a literary salon

Novel Nights cr Grace PalmerThis week’s guest post comes from Grace Palmer, co-founder of Bristol literary evening Novel Nights, and answers the question, what does it take to organise and launch a successful literary event?

I’ve been running monthly Novel Nights in Bristol since 2013, and I think you need qualities of courage, energy and commitment to run a literary event.

At the start you need courage and self-belief to launch a new event, and this is almost more important than having a good idea.

Like a lot of people I’m full of good ideas; mine was to create an event where guest speakers share their writing knowledge or expertise and where writers’ work could be showcased. The idea lay dormant for a long time – organising a public event was too daunting. I decided to ‘trial’ out the event, with no expectation of success, just to see if I could. The beauty of this approach is that you can see what works and what can be improved. The first one was great fun; people loved it and I made brilliant writing contacts. It’s now a well-established Bristol literary event.

Courage, energy and organisation skills

Courage will help you continue with the event in the early days when you don’t know if you’ll even cover the cost of the speakers or venue hire, whether your audience will like it, or turn up.

You need energy, or a group of trusted friends to help you, to sustain you and the event. Running events is hard work. You need to be well organised, look after your audience, create publicity, promote the event, chat on twitter and facebook, maintain a website, book speakers and so on. Phew! It helped that I’ve got a marketing background, but I’ve also made loads of mistakes along the way.

For me, Novel Nights  is a hobby I fit in around a full-time day job and my own writing, and it can be stressful. I think you have to love what you’re doing – even if you’re running an event as a business – as your integrity will shine through. I am keener on the end result than organising but you need to do both to be successful.

Ken Elkes reading at Novel Nights in March 2015

Ken Elkes reading at Novel Nights in March 2015

Commitment to your audience

Many times I’ve thought of giving up and this is where commitment comes in, to carry on going. You also need to keep the audience at the heart of what you do, and my philosophy is to keep improving everything. Having a good venue which supports you is key, and I’d recommend that you connect on-line with your audience – if they can tweet or blog about your event they will help to build excitement and a sense of community. Eventually the event becomes bigger than the organisers.

At Novel Nights we’ve had some fantastic nights with Jane Shemilt, Alan Snow, Sarah Hilary, Anna Freeman, Nathan Filer, Cally Taylor, Sanjida O’Connell, literary agent, Juliet Pickering and, most recently, a wonderful Short Story Evening with some superb writers.

Getting good quality writers who are good in front of an audience is key to any literary event I think. Likewise with readings, it’s good to keep things tight and the quality high, to create a buzz in the room.

Good luck. Hope to see you at Novel Nights.

The next Novel Nights is Comic Writing and Social Media for writers with Nikesh Shukla, and will be at the Lansdown, Bristol, on April 16th 2015.

Grace PalmerAbout the author

Grace Palmer recently sent her first novel, The Wish Bone, off to literary agents. Meanwhile the day-job as a press officer continues; writing stories about scientific research which have been published in national media. Grace studied journalism and has a BA in literature and creative writing. She organises Novel Nights in Bristol, which supports emerging writers and showcases the work of experienced novelists.