A short story – What We Talk About When We Talk About Owls

Egg by Judy DarleyI’m so pleased to have my story ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Owls‘ published in Retreat West‘s Charity Anthology 2019, titled No Good Deed. It’s raising funds to support Indigo Volunteers. This brilliant charity matches willing volunteers with humanitarian projects across the globe.

The photo above is a clue to a pivotal incident in the tale. And no, that’s not the moon.

No Good DeedMy story was inspired by the way discussions can skirt around the real issues within a family, so that the crucial point can be ignored in favour of chewing over less relevant or, frankly, more surreal topics.

It began in my mind as an image very like the one above, being gawped at by two sisters. As I allowed the characters to chat, I realised how little we know of what happens in other people’s relationships, even those where we’re closely related to one of the parties.

In this case the key subject is not really owls at all, although one particular species does feature, as you’ll see in the taster lines below.

“That’s a tawny owl egg,” Sammy declares, holding up the egg identification chart I gave her at Easter. “Did you know tawny owls are ferociously defensive of their young? If it’s just been laid it’ll hatch in 30 days.
Can I have it?”

“No!” My sister’s voice is so loud that my niece and I both jump. “Sammy, go and play, will you? I need to speak to your aunt.”

Buy your copy of the No Good Deed anthology here.

Liars’ League Hong Kong seeks entrance and exit stories

Azores pufferfish doorway by Judy Darley

Liars’ League Hong Kong is accepting submissions of short fiction between 800 and 1,200 words on the theme of Exits and Entrances. So if you wrote something for National Flash Fiction Day’s door-themed 2019 anthology, but found your story demanded more than 500-words to have its say, this could be the perfect potential home for your tale!

The deadline is 15th November 2019. 

They say. “Creative interpretations are most welcome. Writers can be anyone from anywhere. Liars’ League Hong Kong can be a platform for unsung local authors but we do also like diversity of fiction from all over the globe.”

However, they remind you that “Submitting your work to Liars’ League implies permission to upload the text and an audio and video recording of your story onto our website so that everyone can enjoy it. From time to time, we’re also booked for showcase performances, and your story may be read aloud in other venues and instances other than the regular Liars’ League events.”

A number of my stories have been performed and broadcast by Liars’ League Hong Kong, including Preservation and Geese Among The Trees (which features in my new short story collection Sky Light Rain), both read by the talented Susan Lavender.

Find full submission details.

A short story – Knotted Rope

Hair grip, Arnos Vale Cemetery by Judy Darley

My publisher Jamie at Valley Press has shared one of the stories from my new collection Sky Light Rain. Knotted Rope is a tale in three voices exploring what happens when a small child goes missing.

I always think the bigger moments in our life belong to more than just us. Ripples of
grief, or relief, can spread through a community. The story was a challenge to write – I initially wrote it in three voices, and then tried letting Meg’s voice rise to the surface, but the three-voice model won out in getting the tale to make sense.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the tale.

We march the pre-schoolers along leafy paths, avoiding the worst of the mud and pointing out buds on branches, robins and magpies. Occasionally, one will forget themselves and skitter off, drunk on the possibilities. But they’re tiny enough that we’re able to speed over and scoop them up. For most, the threat of missing storytime keeps them gripping onto their knot.

A new one started last week – Andrew. Just moved to the area with his jagged-edged mum. He’s walked with us each morning, clutching onto the blue rope with the others. He doesn’t join in with the songs. In the cemetery I watch as he gawks at the woodland. There’s a light in his eyes that makes me wary. He’s meek, or rather, quiet. Easy to confuse those two. Does as he’s told, silent mouth pursed, but I can see that his mind is swooping away.

It was partly inspired by the marvellous overgrown Victorian cemetery in Bristol, Arnos Vale, and the pre-school little-uns I see being taken for outings there.

Read the story in full here.

Sky Light Rain is available to buy here.

Writing prompt – elemental

Elemental by Judy Darley

My short story collection Sky Light Rain is out in just over a week, and I’m really excited. So I thought that this week I would offer some insights into the inspirations behind the 36 works of fiction it contains.

My publisher has described the collection as ‘elemental,’ which I really like. The tales touch on nature, and human nature, and all the fragmented darkness and lightness that coalesce to form the people we become. It’s about the actions we take to try to make our lives better, and how, at times, these actions can make things worse. How good intentions can be twisted, misunderstood or cast adrift, so that we flounder as we struggle to remember what we’d hoped to achieve or attain.

My starting point for each was a questions: ‘What if…?’

So for this week’s writing prompt I invite you to think about the things that niggle at you, that really pique your curiosity, and then dig deeper by asking yourself why, and what might happen if…?

My book launch is also a wider literary night featuring three additional exceptionally talented writers, Grace Palmer, Paul Deaton and Kevlin Henney, and amazing musician Hidden Tide, who will all share their work. The launch is at 7pm on 2nd November 2019 in Waterstones Bristol. Get your free tickets here.

Sky Light Rain is available to pre-order here.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

A short story – How To Milk An Alpaca

Milk by Judy Darley

I’m so pleased my small, strange, hopeful story How To Milk An Alpaca (a step-by-step guide), has taken up residence with Lunate Fiction.

This gorgeous publication has been publishing some stunning fiction recently, so it’s lovely to know my alpaca-milker has found a home with plenty of lovely neighbours!

You can read the story here.

Sky Light Rain – collection launch and literary night

Sky Liight Rain launch picI’m excited to share the news that my short story collection Sky Light Rain will be published by Valley Press on 2nd November. To celebrate, I’m hosting an atmospheric evening of readings and music on the themes of sky, light, and rain.

The collection draws on my enduring fascination with the fallibility of the human mind, and examines aspects of human existence, including our relationship to nature and to each other.

The event will take place at Waterstones Bristol Galleries, from 7pm on Saturday 2nd November 2019. I’ll be joined by writers Paul Deaton, Kevlin Henney and Grace Palmer, and indie art-pop musician Hidden Tide.

This is a Bristol Festival of Literature 2019 fringe event.

Tickets are free but limited, so don’t forget to book yours.

Date And Time: Saturday 2nd November 2019, 7pm-9pm.

Location: Waterstones, 11A, Union Galleries, Broadmead, Bristol BS1 3XD

Book your free tickets here.

Mslexia’s 2019 Fiction Awards

Mum's eye view cr Judy DarleyThis year, Mslexia Fiction Awards include their Short StoryAdult Novel and Flash Fiction competitions. The deadline for each is 30th September 2019.

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

The winner of the Short Story competition will receive £3,000, plus the optional extras of a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor, and mentoring by an editor at Virago Press.

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

Shortlisted entries will be judged by award-winning short story author, novelist and performer Irenosen Okojie.

The winner of the Adult Novel competition will receive £5,000 and the option of representatlon by agent Charlotte Robertson. Judges are novelist Louise Doughty, Nicola Holloway from BBC Radio 4, and Literary agent Charlotte Robertson.

The winner and four finalists will receive manuscript feedback and introductions to agents and editors at a special event held in London.

The first prize in the Flash Fiction competition is £500. The winner will be picked by Katy Fish.

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

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

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 2019, making this the perfect time to get polishing your poetry and prose.

Prizes include publication within Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology and £1,000 for each category 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 subscription to Granta and books courtesy of Bloodaxe Books and Vintage Books.

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

Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words each and poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines each. Both short fiction and poetry entries should be written in English.

Remarkably, entry fees have actually dropped for 2019.

Short Fiction: NOW £13.50 WAS £18  |  Poetry: NOW £9 WAS £12

Works published elsewhere are accepted.

For full details, visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/creative-writing-award

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Short story – The People of The Soil

Dinefwr water meadows. Lake. Photo by Judy DarleyI’m delighted to see my story The People of The Soil published by Enchanted Conversation magazine.

The story is inspired by the Welsh myth of the Lady of the Lake, and has found a home is Enchanted Conversation’s June 2019 Issue: A Drop of Water, A Flood of Dreams.

ThePeopleOfTheSoil-DARLEY-CoverABergloffThe story begins:

I stirred as I heard the river move beneath the crops, its murmurs rejoicing. My brothers lay intertwined beside me. “Fam’s leaving,” I whispered, and their eyes snapped open. We crept outside, leaving Dad asleep. We’d known this day would come, even before he struck her for the third time.

What rises from water can’t live on land forever…

To read the full story, click here.

Loving the gorgeous artwork by Enchanted Conversation Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Amanda Bergloff too!

Preservation resurfaces at Liars’ League Hong Kong

Mussel shells cr Judy DarleyWay back in 2017, I was happy to announce that my short story Preservation had been picked to feature at a Liars’ League Hong Kong night of literary performances.

I’m pleased to say that this story has now resurfaced for a special ‘Best & Brightest’ event, to take place on Thursday 30th May. The evening is part of the Hong Kong Spoken Word Festival, and will showcase “a selection of some of the best pieces performed at Liars’ League HK.”

How lovely! My story is one of eight pieces selected for the evening.

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.

Susan LavenderPreservation will again be performed by actor Susan Lavender (pictured left)The story was inspired by the fact various words about nature have been excised from children’s dictionaries 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 at The Jockey Club Studio Theatre, Hong Kong on 30th May 2019.

Find details and book your tickets here.