Sky Light Rain – Woman and Birds

3_Woman and BirdsOver the coming weeks, I’ll share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My third story in the collection is ‘Woman and Birds’.

This story was inspired by two journeys – one to Barcelona, where the story is set, and an overnight train ride from Sacramento to Portland. In the latter, I sat next to a woman travelling to retrieve her child from her ex-partner who’d had the child in their custody for the summer, and now refused to give them up. The challenges of that scenario stuck with me for more than a decade before surfacing in this tale.

‘Woman and Birds’ takes the form of a treasure hunt through Barcelona as my protagonist follows clues to track down her ex, Eulàlia, and their daughter Ocell. The title is an homage to Catalan artist Joan Miro and his sculptures, most of which seemed to be titled something along the lines of Woman and Bird.

The story begins:

Eulàlia doesn’t meet me at Barcelona Airport as promised. I tell myself that she must be busy with our daughter Ocell, and catch a taxi into the city instead. The driver has a kind face; I tip him more generously than I normally would and feel a stab of something like self-righteousness. See, I’m being good even when Eulàlia is not.

Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.

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

Sky Light Rain – Weaving Wings

Weaving Wings by Judy DarleyOver the coming weeks, I will share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book. My second story in the collection is ‘Weaving Wings’.

This flash fiction story is only half a page long, but it was inspired by a huge true tale. I’d read articles about Mexican migrant children separated from their parents by the US government, and the idea haunted me. It seemed so barbaric. Two details about this really got to me – the fact that some of the children were writing letters they weren’t even sure would be sent to their parents, and the heaps of yarn brought out to keep them occupied during leisure time.

According to this news story published in October 2019, 5,460 children were separated from their parents due to the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy.

In my flash fiction I try to examine this ludicrous behaviour from the point of view of a child trying to make the best of an appalling situation.

My version of this story begins:

The best time is when we have an hour outside and can run and race like we’re still on our way. I pretend that I’m running to my mama and that this is all a game.

I’ve recorded myself reading ‘Weaving Wings’, which you can watch here. It also featured in National Flash Fiction Day’s #FlashFlood on 6th June 2020.

Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.

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

Sky Light Rain – Untrue Blue

1_Untrue Blue by Judy Darley
Over the next few weeks, I will share a few insights into the stories that make up my collection Sky Light Rain. I’ll explore them in the order in which they appear in the book, so will begin with the tale ‘Untrue Blue’.

This story examines a relationship between a brother and sister, from the point of view of the sister Tia. Themes include trust and betrayal, and when the truth can be the greatest cruelty of all.

You might notice if you’ve read my stories that sibling relationships and rivalries are recurring topics. A brother or sister might be the first person you come to know on an equal footing – your earliest memories are likely entwined with theirs, and there’s a high possibility that they know all the versions of you. It gives them a rare power. If anyone can derail you, I bet it’s them!

Bristol’s Cabot Tower, which I can see in the distance from my home and spent many childhood days climbing, is a key location for the pair in ‘Untrue Blue’.

The story begins:

As children we would go flying at night. You were always the instigator, shaking me awake then unlatching the window to let the night creep cool and bright beneath our pyjamas, under our skin. I’d edge out first, blinking in the sweep of orange-tarnished sky, beneath the faint stinging stars.

The story contains hints of fairytales and a touch of magic realism. For me, there’s a bit of wish fulfilment too – as a child I believed there was no more enviable superpower than the ability to fly!

I started writing it with the image the tale opens with, and then wanted to know why Tia seemed so wary of her brother. A lot of my fiction unfurls that way – with a scene I glimpse in my head like something from a film, and a question that leads me to what happens next. In fact, a lot of my writing is a journey of discovery.

Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspirations behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.

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

Writing prompt – rain

Rain by Judy Darley. ColourThis is the third in a trio of writing prompts instigated by my new short story collection, Sky Light Rain. You can find a black and white version of the artwork in the book.

Part three of the collection is Rain, drawing together a selection of water-inspired tales prompted by explorations of pain, beauty, and resilience.

How might your character reveal their heartache without discussing it? How could you portray their resilience through showing, rather than telling?

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.

Fiction on the radio – Fascinate

Slimbridge by Judy DarleyMy story ‘Fascinate’ aired on Adam Crowther‘s BBC Upload radio show on Thursday 7th December at around eleven past seven. It’s one of the shorter, stranger tales in my new short story collection Sky Light Rain.

Adam describes it as being about “an unusual use for animals.”

This image above hints at the story’s last line…

It’s available to listen to for 23 more days. Listen in here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07r0g2b 

Writing prompt – light

Light by Judy Darley. ColourThis is the second in a trio of writing prompts instigated by my new short story collection, Sky Light Rain. You can find a black and white version of this artwork in the book.

Part two of the collection is Light. It explores the darkness within ourselves, and how we can come through it to find our own light. These tales take the form of a series of journeys, escapes and reunions.

Imagine a character who is hiding a disturbing secret. How might they overcome it to find happiness?

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.

Writing prompt – sky

Sky by Judy Darley_colourThis is the first in a trio of writing prompts instigated by my new short story collection, Sky Light Rain. You can find a black and white version of this artwork in the book.

Part one of the collection is Sky, touching on what binds us together while simultaneously giving us the courage, or the push, to overcome our fears.

Think of a situation that demands a difficult decision from your protagonist. How do they respond? What conflicts and resolutions could this lead to?

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 – 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.

Sky Light Rain book launch & literary night

Sky Light Rain by Judy DarleyMy short story collection Sky Light Rain is now out, and I’m celebrating with an atmospheric evening of readings and music on the themes of sky, light, and rain. Drawing on my enduring fascination with the fallibility of the human mind, Sky Light Rain 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, and you’re invited!

Alongside me, participants include writers Paul Deaton, Kevlin Henney and Grace Palmer, and indie art-pop musician Hidden Tide.

You can book your free tickets here.

Buy your copy of Sky Light Rain from Valley Press here.

Here are our bios:

Judy Darley’s short stories, flash fiction and poems have been widely published, and read by the author on BBC radio, in pubs, caves, and a disused church, as well as at literary festivals and charity events. She was co-judge of the National Flash Fiction Micro Competition 2019. Sky Light Rain is her second short story collection. Her debut collection Remember Me to the Bees was published in 2013. @JudyDarley

Kevlin HenneyKevlin Henney has been involved in the organisation of National Flash Fiction Day events, the Bristol Festival of Literature and the Flash in Hand open mic night at Alchemy 198 in Bristol. His stories have won, placed, and been shortlisted and longlisted in competitions. His stories appear on air, online and in print, included in over twenty anthologies. @KevlinHenney

 

Grace Palmer headshotGrace Palmer’s writing can be found in Flashback Fiction, Riggwelter Press, Magma, Flash Fiction One & Two and online at National Flash Fiction Day. She founded and runs Novel Nights and Flash in Hand, and teaches writing at Bristol Folk House. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa Uni. @wordpoppy and @novelnightsuk

 

Paul Deaton headshotPaul Deaton’s Seren collection A Watchful Astronomy was a Poetry Book Society Winter Recommended Book and was a National Poetry Day Book Group selected title. Work is included in the Forward Prize Anthology 2019. He is co-editor of smith / doorstop’s forthcoming Running Anthology, a freelance commissioning art editor and a counsellor in addictions in Bristol. @pauldeaton28

 

Hidden Tide HeadshotHidden Tide uses distorted guitar, programmed loops and thought-provoking lyrics to create ‘sweeping dark electronica’. Performing her own material, she is a regular on the Bristol music scene with gigs including sets at Mr Wolf’s and the Louisiana. @HiddenTideMusic

 

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.