Enter the Bridport Prize

Pebble man by Judy DarleyThe 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 2022.

All entries are judged anonymously. To avoid disqualification, make sure you do not include your name, address, phone number, email, website, twitter handle etc on the document or in the file name.

Poems may be up to 42 lines in length (not including the title). There is no minimum line count. The entry fee is £12. The winning poet will receive £5,000.

Short stories may be up to 5,000 words long. The entry fee is £14. The winning short story writer will receive £5,000.

Flash fiction may be up to 250 words long. The entry fee is £11. The winning flash fiction writer will receive £1,000.

Novel extracts must be between 5,000 and 8,000 words long. You must also supply a 300-word synopsis, which should be the first page of your entry. The fee is £24.

First prize is £1,500 plus mentoring by The Literary Consultancy and consultations with literary agent AM Heath and publisher Tinder Press.

Bridport Prize judges

Inua Ellams will judge poetry entries. Born in Nigeria, Inua is a touring poet, playwright and performer. He is an ambassador for the Ministry of Stories and his books of poetry include Candy Coated Unicorns and The Half-God of Rainfall – an epic story in verse.

He recently completed his first full poetry collection The Actual. He lives and works from London, where he founded the Midnight Run, a nocturnal urban excursion.

Inua is seeking: “The distillation of human experience in language, and economical use of words, and transformation, where the sentiment of the poem is greater than the sum of its parts… when it leaps into the beyond.”

Tim Pears is the short story judge. Tim’s collection of short stories Chemistry and Other Stories was published in 2021 by Bloomsbury and chosen by the Sunday Times for their best new short story collections. Tim’s novel In a Land of Plenty was made into a BBC drama series. He was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Tim says: “I have developed an idea of the kind of short story I like to write, and to read, but what I look forward to judging the Bridport Prize is discovering new ways of writing, and fresh methods of telling, untold stories of this world we live in. What an exciting prospect!”

Kathy Fish is the flash fiction judge. Kathy has published five collections of short fiction including Wild Life: Collected Works 2003-2018. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Copper Nickel, Washington Square Review, and numerous other journals, textbooks and anthologies.

Kathy says: “Give me a story I’ve never read before. Or tell an oft-told tale in a wholly original way. I love stories that play with form or language. If you can do all that and also break my heart or make me laugh, so much the better!”

Monique Roffey is judging novel award entries. An award winning Trinidadian born British writer of novels, essays, literary journalism and a memoir, Roffey’s most recent novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch (Peepal Tree Press) won the Costa Book of the Year Award 2020 and was nominated for seven major awards.

Monique advises: “Write exactly what you like and never mind what the market seems to want. Be independent-minded at all times. You are the dog . You be creative and wag your tail. Do not ever worry what seems to be popular.”

Don’t forget to check out the Writers’ Room on the Bridport Prize website for resources and inspiration.

Key dates for your diary

Key dates in 2022

Save these dates to keep you ahead of the competition.

31 May

Competition deadline!

20 July

Novel longlist announced here and on social media.

25 July

Novel longlisted writers to submit 15,000 words, including the synopsis and original submission.

26 August

Novel shortlist announced here and on social media.

2 September

Novel shortlisted novel writers to submit 30,000 words, including the synopsis and original submission.

Early to mid-September

Winners and shortlisted writers in poetry, short story and flash fiction contacted.

Late September

All other writers contacted.

Early October

Novel winner and runner up informed.

Late October

Awards celebration.

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.

Exeter Publishing seeks reimagined fairytales

Mossy tree cr Judy Darley

Exeter Publishing is inviting submissions for issue 3 of their anthology series. They are seeking original reinventions of classic fairytales.

The deadline for submissions is 26th March 2022.

They say: “Will your take be contemporary or classic? Will the stories end differently? Will the characters present differently? It’s all up to you. We can’t wait to see your reimagined fairytales!”

You need to pick a fairytale from the following choices:

Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, The Fisherman & His Wife, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, Pinocchio, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Thumbelina and The Golden Goose.

You may submit up to TWO stories and/or up to TWO pieces of artwork for consideration.

Previously published works are welcome.

  • Story Format: 1001,500 words in a Google or Word doc in size 12, Times New Roman, single spaced. Please include the title at the top of the document. Please do not include your name in the document of your submission.

  • Art Format: All we ask is that your piece is 300 ppi or above. Feel free to get creative! Digital, traditional, full color, black & white – we’re looking for your interpretation of these fairytales!

  • Email Format: In the body of your email, please include:

Name
Pen Name (if applicable)
Your chosen fairytale
A synopsis of your story or art
50 word (third person) biography

Please send all submissions to ExeterAnthology@gmail.com with the subject: Fairytale Submission.

Find full details here. Good luck!

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

Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2022 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.

Your story must be no more than 2,000 words long. There is no theme this year, so let your imagination run free! The deadline for entries is midnight BST on 11th February 2022.

The winner of the competition – along with two runners-up – will be announced on the W&A blog pages in March 2022.

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

This year’s judge is Alysoun Owen, Editor of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.

Prizes of this writing contest

Find full details and competition rules at www.writersandartists.co.uk/competitions/writers-artists-short-story-competition-2022 

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

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Anthology review – The Weight of Feathers

The Weight of Feathers cover. Shows purple book cover with pink, yellow and orange dots loosely shaped into a feather.The Weight of Feathers anthology comprises the winning, short-listed and highly commended fictions plucked from the riches submitted for the Retreat West Prize 2020. It opens with The Stonecutter’s Masterpiece by Jennifer Falkner, a bitter-sweet short story with a vivid sense of place, opening as it does with a paragraph that includes an expertly crafted line on the valley setting: “His workshop was the only thing in it, curled at the bottom like a sleeping cat.”

As short story judge Peter Jordan writes in his report: “It won because the writing on an individual sentence level was superb.”

In fact, there are outstanding sentences throughout this anthology. The book brims with intriguing short stories and flash fictions, each of which shimmers and hums with sensory details: a butterfly fluttering inside a double-glazed window; a woman turning to stone; a mouthful of damson jam. The delights are myriad, offsetting the sadness at the heart of many of these tales.

Continue reading

Enter Mslexia Fiction Competitions 2021

Mum's eye view cr Judy DarleyThe Mslexia Fiction Competitions are open for entries.

The judges are Hilary Mantel, A L Kennedy, Marianne Tatepo, Jo Unwin and Jude Higgins. There are three categories this year: Novel for Adults, Short Story, and Flash Fiction. The deadline for each is 20th September 2021.

Prizes include manuscript feedback and agent introductions, plus publication in Mslexia and the inaugural ebook anthology Best Women’s Short Fiction 2021.

Mslexia Novel for Adults competition – everything you need to know

  • For novels of at least 50,000 words in any genre
  • Submit first 5,000 words only in the first instance. Longlisted entrants will be asked to submit finished manuscripts later in the judging process
  • Entry fee: £25
  • 1st prize £5,000
  • Finalists receive manuscript feedback from The Literary Consultancy and personal introductions to literary agents arranged in partnership with New Writing North
  • Longlisted entrants will be notified by 1 March 2022.

Mslexia Short Story competition 2021 – everything you need to know

  • For unpublished complete short fiction of up to 3,000 words, in any genre, for adult and/or young adult readers. Entry fee: £12
  • 1st prize £3,000, plus mentoring by a specialist literary agent.
  • Three additional finalists will each receive £100
  • All four winning entries are published in Mslexia.
  • Winning entries plus eight more shortlisted entries will be published in Mslexia’s inaugural ebook anthology Best Women’s Short Fiction 2021
  • Entrants will be notified of the outcome of their entry in November 2021.

Mslexia Flash Fiction Competition 2021 – everything you need to know

  • For unpublished complete short fiction of up to 300 words, in any genre, for adult and/or young adult readers
  • Entry fee: £6
  • 1st prize £500
  • Three additional finalists each receive £50
  • All four winning entries are published in Mslexia
  • Winning entries plus eight more shortlisted entries will be published in Mslexia’s inaugural ebook anthology Best Women’s Short Fiction 2021
  • Entrants will be notified of the outcome of their entry in November 2021.

Visit Mslexia’s entry instructions for a more comprehensive guide on how to enter, and be sure to read the full rules before submitting.

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

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.

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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Sky Light Rain reviews – the kindness of strangers

Sky Light Rain coverweb
Whether you are a reader or a writer and a reader, it can be easy to underestimate the power of a good review. For many of us, discovering that the words we write have the vitality to touch other people is deeply moving, and energising. On a fundamental level, we have attained our goal!

It’s one of the reasons I love to review literature and art – not only does it help me dig into the experience of that particular creation more deeply, but from my own personal experiences, I know how affirming the kindness of strangers can be in this context.

With this in mind I’ve opted to share snippets of some Sky Light Rain reviews that made an impact on me.

Author Amanda Huggins (https://troutiemcfishtales.blogspot.com/2020/05/my-review-of-sky-light-rain-by-judy.html) wrote: Judy Darley’s short story collection, Sky Light Rain (Valley Press), looks up to the sky while digging deep down into the heart of what it means to be human. Darley has a distinctive voice, and her characters inhabit a place which is out of step with the world, in tales steeped in folklore, anchored by a deep connection to the natural world, embroidered with misunderstandings and mistakes. The writing is haunting and multi-layered, the imagery deft and original. And although these are stories exploring the fragility and fallibility of the human condition, we witness transformations and glimpses of new beginnings, making this richly textured collection resonate with hope. 

Matt of Runalong The Shelves (https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/blog/2020/1/11/sky-light-rain-by-judy-darley) wrote:

I do love both story collections and anthologies and I think the ones that really work are those that can tell a cohesive narrative around the themes illustrating the variety of stories any subject can trigger. The short story is very hard to get right but when it does it offers so many possibilities to explore and they’re a delight to read. In Judy Darley’s fantastic collection of short stories tales, they evolve around themes of the natural world in sections relating to the Sky, Light or Rain I found it a wonderfully immersive and often surprising set of tales.

The collection includes well over thirty tales some just a few pages; while some a little longer but they’re all well-judged and varied. I liked that I never knew what type of tale would follow next and quite a few tales had a little surprise in store while I read them and had my expectations inverted. They’re not always part of fantasy and sometimes just purely human nature or the impact of the natural world on us but they’re all always with their own sense of magic to them. Darley has a beautiful sense of lyrical description and tailors the tale’s language to suit the characters; all very well-constructed and help bring the reader in.

Writer and writing coach Sarah Tinsley published a mini review and in-depth interview here: https://www.sarahtinsley.com/post/sky-light-rain-with-judy-darley

Judy Darley‘s Sky Light Rain is special. The character in ‘Fin’ really stayed with me – I was haunted by the splashing of water while I lay in bed at night. I also loved the way so many of the stories felt as though they were right on the edge of our reality. Caught up in it, but touching their fingers at something outside of what we can see.

As you can tell from the title, the collection is separated into three sections that are linked thematically. Within that, the stories are truly varied. Different ages, worlds and perspectives are explored, all with a deft touch and with language that is beautifully unique.

Each review, email and tweet about Sky Light Rain lifted my heart and spurred me on to the next creative work. If you have a happy thought or response to anything you read, do the author a kindness and let them know. You might be surprised by the difference it makes!

Discover the inspirations behind the stories in Sky Light Rain.

If you’d like to request a review copy of Sky Light Rain or interview me about my writing, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com.

Recent publications

Judy all at seaI relish writing and editing short stories and flash fiction, and have a self-imposed rule of submitting every month. If you write, I highly recommend this trick. It ensures that for every rejection, there are still a handful of tales out in the world that may yet be published, plus a gentle flurry of successes to bolster your writing mojo!

Here are some of my recent publications.

June 2022

The egret and I don’t belong here – The Phare Literary Magazine Summer 2022 issue

Tricks to uproot a guest who has outstayed their welcome – Tiny Molecules issue 13

After Dad Goes into Care – National Flash Fiction Day FlashFlood 2022

Bees Breathe Without Lungs – Honeyguide Magazine

How to Hook a Heart – And We Live Happily Ever After, National Flash Fiction Day anthology 2022

The Tempest Inside – Micro Madness

April 2022

Milk Tooth – Wyldblood Press

March 2022

Awkward Liaisons – Flash Fiction Festival Volume Four

Falling in a Forest Mslexia magazine issue 93

Oxblood – Flash Frontier

Fishing for Green and Blue – Retreat West 10th Birthday Anthology

December 2021

Reasons Your Kefir Might Sour – Litro Magazine Flash Friday

The Only Language He knows Now is Touch – Blink-Ink, Moonlight #46

The Finch in My Sister’s Hair – The Birdseed

The Sea Lives in Her Mum’s Head – Ellipsis Zine

November 2021

The Salt Sting of Learning When To Say No – Flash Frontier

September 2021

My Choice – Six Sentence Stories

Three Shades of Summer – Flash Fiction Magazine

Storm Beckoner – Bandit Fiction

June 2021

Leaf After Leaf – National Flash Fiction Day Write-In

The Hare I Miss – Thimble Literary Magazine

What’s That? – Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis

May 2021

Reaching (collaborate work – I wrote the first stanza) – 100 Words of Solitude

April 2021

Stretching Out – Hencroft

The Sideways House – Twin Pies Volume IV

March 2021

Unstill Life With Plums – The Pomegranate

Sky Light Rain – Carry the Sky

Severn River reed beds cr Judy DarleyI can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s why I launched this series of posts offering insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The thirty-sixth and final story is ‘Carry the Sky’. The story sprang from a variety of sources, including me visiting a town in Italy built to re-home a community after their streets were intentionally flooded to create a leisure lake. The idea of that money-driven cruelty scandalised me! It provided a side-note in a story about a man caring for his eleven-year-old granddaughter in the aftermath of a family tragedy. I wanted to find a way for the pair to bond on the riverside, when the granddaughter would rather be “just about  anywhere else when he’s charged with keeping an eye on her.”

‘Carry the Sky’ also reflects elements of ‘Untrue Blue’, the first story in my Sky Light Rain collection, creating a hint of symmetry, if not quite resolution.

‘Carry the Sky’ begins:

Not many folks are out this afternoon. All it takes is a fine dousing drizzle to keep the dog walkers, cyclists and joggers away, John thinks, half-pitying them, half-glad for the peace their absence affords. In front of him, the river dapples like a thing alive, reflecting fractured pieces of sky. Following the storms, large branches still drift through, faking at being creatures worth pointing out to Amy before sinking out of sight.

They’d seen an eel the afternoon before, dead and sliding with the current like an old piece of tubing. Amy had recoiled, face screwed up. John isn’t buying that though. He remembers when she was small, nudging frogspawn with curious fingers. That inquisitive child still has to be in there somewhere.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lamp Black’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Blue Suitcase’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breathing Water’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Merrow Cave‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Milk and Other Lies‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Edge of the Sand‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘What Rises’.

If you’d like to request a review copy of Sky Light Rain or interview me about my writing, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com.

Sky Light Rain – What Rises

Dinefwr water meadows. Lake. Photo by Judy Darley
I can never resist a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s why I launched this series of posts offering insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The thirty-fifth story is ‘What Rises’. The story was inspired by the Welsh myth of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach. In the original myth, she has three sons who became great healers. I began to wonder about the fact these children weren’t one thing or the other, not land dwellers, nor water. In my mind, one sibling, Eillian, changed shape in ways that explored the restrictions of gender too.

I was also intrigued by the aspect of the myth that the lady of the lake left her children after her husband struck her for the third time. I questioned why he hit the woman he worshipped, and examined the violence in love through Eillian’s experiences, which in my tale echo their mother’s.

‘What Rises’ was published as ‘The People of the Soil’ by Enchanted Conversation magazine.

The 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.

Outside, our mother was already a distant glimmer, her milkwhite cattle streaming behind. We rushed after her, silenced by the dawn and the river and the intentness with which she strode.

At the lake’s edge she turned, her fist-blackened eyes like shadows.

“Fam!” cried the youngest of us, Brychan, unable to keep his fear inside. “Fam, take me too.”

He ran to her and we saw her place her water-cold fingers on his half-human cheeks.

“You stay here, son, you and your brothers. You stay here and tend to the people of the soil.”

My elder brother Mab and I took our sobbing sibling between us, each with an arm over his shoulder. We thought comfort into him, and strength, performing our first act of healing.

Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.

Discover the inspiration behind my other Sky Light Rain stories by clicking on the story titles below.

Discover the inspiration behind ‘Untrue Blue‘. 
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Weaving Wings’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Woman and Birds’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Shaped from Clay’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Knotted Rope’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Two Pools of Water’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Apollo’s Offspring’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fascinate’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘A Blackbird’s Heart’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Paper Flowers’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Strawberry Thief’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Moth Room’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Far From the Farm’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Flamingos and Ham’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lamp Black’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Elevated Truths’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Little Blessings’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Lodged’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Invertebrates’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Geese Among the Trees’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Blue Suitcase’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Distant Storms‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘The Sculptor‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Underwire’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Breathing Water’.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Reeds and Curlews.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Fin‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Blossoming Almond Tree‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Merrow Cave‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Milk and Other Lies‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Edge of the Sand‘.
Discover the inspiration behind ‘Carry the Sky’.

If you’d like to request a review copy of Sky Light Rain or interview me about my writing, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com.