The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

MShed cr Judy DarleyThe Aesthetica Creative Writing Award celebrates outstanding short fiction and poetry from around the world. The deadline for entering the award is 31st August 2021, making this the perfect time to get polishing your poetry and prose.

Prizes include publication within Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology plus £2,500 for the Poetry Winner, £2,500 for the Short Fiction Winner. Winner of the short fiction competition will receive a consultation with literary agency Redhammer Management, while the Poetry winner will have a Full Membership to The Poetry Society. To whet your appetite for creating more literary works, the winners will also receive a one-year print subscription to Granta and books courtesy of Bloodaxe Books and Vintage Books.

  • Poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines
  • Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words

There’s no theme – just submit your finest story or poem offering your own unique window on a slice of the world!

Entry fees are £18 for short fiction and £12 for poetry.

For full details, visit aestheticamagazine.com/creative-writing-award/how-to-enter/

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.

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Submit your manuscript to Soft Skull Press

Sad Ghost Cereal cr Judy Darley

Soft Skull Press invites un-agented authors to submit complete manuscripts until 21st July 2021.

They describe themselves as “a home for projects that dissolve categories and hierarchies, provide an alternative to dominant narratives, and make room for new and unexpected ideas and feelings. We aim to create lasting and transformative relationships with writers, and to continually reimagine how a book can be written, published, and sold.”

They publish adult literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid projects. At this time they are especially seeking and encouraging submissions from BIPOC writers and underrepresented voices of any race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, class, and physical or mental ability.

Authors of accepted submissions retain full copyright license to their work.

For your chance to be published by Soft Skull Press, upload your full manuscript and a statement of intent to their Submittable queue.

There is no submission fee.

In the ‘cover letter’ field, include:

  • A one-paragraph summary of your project
  • The total word count
  • A brief author bio
  • Your contact information

Please submit only one manuscript.

They welcome simultaneous submissions, but ask that if your work is accepted elsewhere, you withdraw your submission promptly.

They also advise: “Please send your work only if you feel it is ready to be read; we will not be accepting updated versions of the same work once submitted.”

Find full submission details here.

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.

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 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize

Terra Nostra Tropical plants cr Judy DarleyWasafari magazine invites submissions of Poetry, Fiction and Life Writing for The Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize.

The prize closes on 31st May 2021 at 5pm BST.

The winners of each category receive a £1,000 cash prize and will be published by Wasafiri in print. Shortlisted writers will have their work published on the Wasafiri website. All 15 shortlistees and winners will be offered the Chapter and Verse or Free Reads mentoring scheme in partnership with The Literary Consultancy (dependent on eligibility), and a conversation with Nikesh Shukla of The Good Literary Agency to discuss their career progression.  

The prizes include the chance to take part in the Chapter and Verse or Free Reads mentoring scheme in partnership with The Literary Consultancy (dependent on eligibility).

The fee is £10 for a single entry and £16 for a double entry. No entry may be more than 3,000 words long.  

Shortlisted entrants will be notified by email after 4th September 2021All shortlisted writers will be invited to the prizegiving event on 14th October 2021. 

Acceptance of a place on the shortlist indicates your agreement to your work being published in Wasafiriin print or online, and included in a possible anthology. 

Find full details of how to enter at www.wasafiri.org.

This year, poetry entries will be judged by renowned poet Tishani Doshi, fiction entries will be judged by prizewinning author Hirsh Sawhney, and life writing entries will be judged by bestselling novelist and memoirist Christie Watson. The Chair of the judging panel is writer and Professor of Creative Writing Andrew Cowan. 

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.

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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.

A poem a day…

The challenge for April is to write a poem every day. Did you know that?  ‘A poem a day through April till May’. Any length, any form, any topic, as long as you end up with something vaguely resembling a poem.

Seashell interiorNaPoWriMo will be offering daily prompts to help your writing along, and urge you to mix-and-match poetry prompts. They also remind us that you can find prompts by Robert Lee Brewer at his April Poem-a-Day challenge. Look out for the #promptaday hashtag on Twitter.

This year I made a choice in January to read at least one poem a day. I have a huge admiration for the mastery poets have over words, and some of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read have been by poets. It’s something to do with the linguistic agility and originality required to take a commonplace sentence or sentiment and imbue it with a rhythm that makes it really shine in the reader’s mind long after they’ve read it.

For a long time I’ve thought about trying to develop my rudimentary poetry writing skills, so this seems like too good an opportunity to pass up. My aim is to discover how to take my flash fiction writing and elevate the brevity of that skill to a new, glittering level that more efficiently and resonantly expresses what I’m trying to say.

Perhaps this challenge is my opportunity to achieve this – a sort of intensive month-long poetry masterclass, inspired by some of the best poets in the business.

Find out more at www.napowrimo.net.

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

A coppice of poetry

Three Seren poetry titlesI recently experienced the joy of arriving home to a package full of poetry collections from the inestimable Seren Books. It got me wondering what a collective noun for poetry collections should be. A library seems too literal, so I began thinking about what poetry offers – how it provides the space to pause and reflect before carrying on with the busy act of living. So, a poetry collection is a coppice, in the forest of everyday life.

Each of the collections on my doorstop hummed with its own resonance.

Footnotes to Water cover

Footnotes to Water by Zoë Skoulding immediately rose to the surface, in part thanks to the quirky duck feet displayed on the cover as though glimpsed through ice. This quiet collection shines with Skoulding’s finesse – she plays with shape, form, punctuation and alliteration to paint an impression of rivers’ movements against your skull. Throughout, we’re invited to view water in its relation to human feats of engineering, and to compare our own dances and dalliances to that of a river, as in Observation Chamber, “where no light falls surface/ except * in pin-pricks on red water*” Gorgeous.

Skoulding writes of our attempts to confine and control rivers, and of the floods that follow rainfall: “wicking up cracks in plaster/ where the houses drink it in.”

Her rivers mirror our bodies; each striving to speak and make themselves heard, and each craving to explore beyond their outer edges. There’s something ancient in the descriptions surfacing here, even as Skoulding’s sculpted lines tether modernity: “There are/ three days of gathering clouds/ and the cheapest is free.”

The collection is divided into three parts too, with Adda, focused on Bangor’s covered river, followed by Heft, a word meaning, Skoulding explains in Notes & Acknowledgements, “localised knowledge passed on through generations of sheep” or “habitat”. At once, we’re redirected from webbed feet to hooves, celebrating the “twitching flanks”, “wild primrose eyes” and “the silences between.”

Part three is Teint, dreamt up during a Paris residency where the theme of habitat and hidden rivers is continued with the idea of movement, of sound and repetition carrying us back and forth and forth again, so that progress towards our conclusion is barely discernible yet inevitable. Each of these begins with what Skoulding is not describing: “Not flooded marsh but ice/ with skaters engraving/ continuous serifs/ on the halted waters.”

Skoulding examines how we sit against the world around us, as well as how we strive to make it fit around us.

A Second Whisper cover

A Second Whisper by Lynne Hjelmgaard takes us on a different sort of journey: “It opens with the sweet lapping/ of water on a rock/ and closes gently where the tide/ has nowhere to run.”

A deep tenderness ripples through evocations of quiet intimacy. Examinations of time, memory and seasons thread stanzas with subtle fragrances – the smell of yellow autumn leans and the scent of old paper anchor hints of a richly sensuous life. There is humour in the fondness captured here: a baby magpie described as a “little trollop”, daffodils are “still hibernating”, and rats leave teethmarks “on apples and soap.”

Simultaneously, seemingly light lines shiver with feeling: “whenever it rains/ now or anywhere the rain/ stops everything/ to think of you.”

In Once, Hjelmgaard remembers a long friendship: “Now we write careful letters/ as if they are to lost versions/ of ourselves.” To me this describes the entire collection of thoughtful, inward-reaching poems, and we are privileged to be privy to them.

The Black Place, titled after Georgia O’Keefe’s name for a beloved yet desolate strip of land, is Tamar Yoseloff’s unflinching look at the subjects we shy from. Beginning with The C Word, “Not to be confused with the other c word/ that cuts at both ends”, the poet lets us know at once that the contents may challenge and delight in equal measure.

Touching on fairytales and mythology, Yoseloff treads a line where glib and godly rest side by side: “There is a God,/ at least a guy who’d buy a round/ for the lads outside The Pineapple.”

Elsewhere, in Darklight, Yoseloff harnesses words like the shooting stars she describes as making “a sound like a scratch in vinyl”. “Our lives are brief”, she reminds us, “like the bank of candles in cathedrals, each a flame for someone loved.”

It’s a comfort to cling to those stanzas as Yoseloff draws us onwards towards Cuts, and has us consider the bleakest of prophesies: “I’m an open book/ I want to close.”

There’s beauty in this collection, trussed to hope and a hunger for life. Perfect for days when dusk insists on arriving early.

All three titles are available to buy from Seren.

Seen or read anything interesting recently? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com. Likewise, if you’ve published or produced something you’d like me to review, get in touch.

Poetry review – Afternoons Go Nowhere by Sheenagh Pugh

Afternoons Go NowhereTime, in Sheenagh Pugh’s hands, has a tendency to turn gleefully slippery. In Afternoons Go Nowhere, her tenth collection, Pugh turns her poetic sorcery to humanity, history, geology, nature, and the spaces between all those magical things.

Silken strings of words offer up glorious catches: bewildered kings, harangued statues, a lord’s horse, a  bored husband building cairns, and monks speculating about saints exhale alongside bus passengers “postponing goodbyes”, not to mention glacial water scooping “a hollow in limestone.” In Pugh’s eyes, it seems, each of these has equal gravitas.

Lit by Pugh’s keen gaze, every plant, stone, animal or person has the potential to grow playful or impatient, coy, attention-seeking, or ashamed. Unexpected characters emerge humming tunes that seem familiar, but which curl with their own original lilt.

Continue reading

Join an apocalyptic poetry podcast 

Blurry trees_Glasgow to Oban_by Judy DarleyBedtime Stories For The End Of The World is a podcast series examining the power of myth in a time of political crisis.

As they near the launch of their second series in autumn 2019, they’re seeking 12 emerging poets to join the project.

The chosen rising stars will feature alongside leading poets Malika Booker, Andrew McMillan, Sabrina Mahfouz, Kei Miller, Helen Mort and Jack Underwood.

If selected, you will receive a £300 fee for the commission and for your time on the project.

You’ll be expected to write a five- to seven-minute poem or poem sequence based on a traditional story of your choosing.

As part of this opportunity, you’ll get to take part in a one-day workshop and one-day of recording with the lead artists.

There will also be the opportunity to write for the website, and to participate in readings to promote the project.

The workshops will take place on 1st and 2nd June 2019, and the recording on 27th and 28th July 2019. You will need to be free for at least one workshop date and one recording date.

The Bedtime Stories For The End Of The World team are based in London, but travel costs for writers outside of London are available. “We especially encourage applications from under-represented groups, including women, BAME people and LGBTQ+ writers.”

Applications close at 5pm on Wednesday 1st May 2019.

Find full details of how to apply here.

Review – Quartet: The Four Seasons

Quartet coverEdited by Deborah Gaye of Avalanche books, Quartet is a celebration of the moods that make up each season. The anthology of poetry and short prose doubles up as an almanac reminding us of the best that every quarter of the year has to offer.

Two of my pieces, a poem and a flash fiction (More Water Than Land and The Moth Room), lodge in these pages, among with many, many others. We begin in winter with a murmuration, glimpses of lapwings, an “upturned umbrella” on Pendine Sands, and the generosity of a dawn sky “layered in gold.”

In DecemberJohn Mole welcomes nostalgia in the form of “our ghosts/ as they come out of hiding/ to warm their hands/ at the fire we have made”, while in Foula, Auls Yule, Katrina Porteous invites us to “drink to the days/ the sun makes ripe”.

In Precious, Gaia Holmes evokes the magic of ice working “its dark magic,/ gliding and glazing/ the grid of dull roads,/ laminating grass/ and slug tracks,/ making rotten fence posts/ precious”. It’s such a vivid, recognisable scene of the ordinary rendered spectacular. Continue reading