Book review – Soul Etchings by Sandra Arnold

SOUL ETCHINGS, SANDRA ARNOLDIn a book of trees, dragonflies and birds, stories flit and alight on wings crafted from printed paper. Each page contains a world of sunlight and shade, many trailing heartbreak, maltreatment or the bruises of being misunderstood,

Author Sandra Arnold’s heroes are strong-willed, sensitive souls who are often spirited away by the end of the page and a half that comprises their world.

As I read, I could visualise each setting vividly, and my head filled with branches of sun-dappled leaves. It reminded me of my own childhood in trees, and of living more inside imaginary worlds than the so-called real world.  Flash fiction is a form that requires immense discipline, and Arnold paints carefully selected words into exquisite scenes: “spider webs shivered like torn lace” and “the sea was polished glass,” and dawn’s many beauties, aglow in Blood of the Stone, include “the first pale notes of birds.’

In The Girl Who Wanted to Fly, our heroine is “breath in the newborn calf.”

Yet running beneath the poetic imagery is a great deal of anger and grief for damaged childhoods. This is a book of lost children, and the people who abuse, bully and drive them away, or who simply lack the power to save them. A yearning to flee flutters throughout, alongside a deep passion for the natural world over the urban.

Continue reading

Short story – Enduring Night

Iceland by Judy DarleyI’m utterly delighted that my short story Enduring Night, inspired by a visit to Iceland, is feeding the wonderful, eternally ravenous The Cabinet of Heed. It has taken up residence in Issue Twenty-Nine, out now.

Enduring Night is a love story that may not be a love story, set against the elemental beauty of Iceland in the snow.

It begins with a moment of anticipation, which I wrote before I actually visited Iceland, and long before the rest of the tale took shape.

I haven’t been here yet, but this is what I imagine it will be like. Dark as ink from waking till sleeping, with an occasional reprieve when the sun lifts its lead-heavy head. Fissures of aurora borealis dancing above bare-branched trees as ice crystallises in the air. Eyeballs rolling in the fight not to freeze; skin tightening; breath blooming like fog.

Read Enduring Night in full.

Enduring Night

Liars’ League NYC seeks stories to perform

Kalamazoo railway tracks by Judy Darley

The folks at Liars’ League NYC have announced a new set of submissions themes and deadlines for 2020. they say: “In a nutshell, we’re looking for fresh, character-driven fiction up to 3,000 words, except in the case of our Flash Fiction event in May, where the word limit is 1000.”

Liars’ League offers creative opportunities across the globe, with regular literary nights in London, Hong Kong and New York, matching up writers’ tales with actors and audiences.

Submission themes

Success & Failure – Deadline: Wednesday, 4th March 2020

Short & Sweet Flash Fiction – Deadline: Wednesday, 6th May 2020

Before & After – Deadline: Wednesday, 9th September 2020

Weird & Wonderful – Deadline: Wednesday, 4th November 2020

Simply send your story by email to info@liarsleaguenyc.com by midnight PST of the deadline day in either doc., docx., or rtf. format. Not sure what to send? It’s worth taking a look at the stories in their Archive to get a sense of the type of work they love.

Find full details of how and what to submit here.

Meanwhile, Liars’ League London are currently inviting submissions on the theme of Young & Old, with a submission deadline of Sunday March 1st 2020. Find full details on their website. 

Liars’ League Hong Kong are seeking submissions on the theme Terms & Conditions, with a submission deadline of Friday 24th April 2020. Find full details on their website. 

 

Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2020 Short Story Competition

Beautiful skies, Victoria Park cr Judy DarleyThis annual competition is one of my favourites on the literary calendar. There’s no theme for you to base your story on – all you have to do is make sure you’re registered with the website www.writersandartists.co.uk, that the subject line of your email reads ‘W&A Short Story Competition 2020‘ and that you send it to waybcompetitions@bloomsbury.com.

Your story must be no more than 2,000 words long. The closing date for entries is midnight on 13th February 2019.

The winner of the competition – along with two runners-up – will be announced on the W&A blog pages in March 2020.

Entry is free, but don’t forget to register before submitting your story. Continue reading

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.