Sky Light Rain – The Sculptor

The Sculptor by Judy Darley. Photo of an ice sculpture against a sunset.I can never resist the opportunity to catch a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the workings of a creative endeavour. It’s part of the reason 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 twenty-sixth story is ‘The Sculptor’.

When my father was diagnosed with semantic dementia, it was difficult, ironically, to find the words to express that cruel incremental loss. Fiction gave me a way to express what I was experiencing and communicate it to others.

Semantic dementia is the gradual erosion of language and meaning, and watching my father battling to recall the words he needed was both heart-aching and alarming. I’ve always written, and my working life has been centred around words as a journalist and fiction writer, but finding the form to talk about this particular situation was a challenge. I needed to create some distance, and fiction provided the means to do that.

I grew increasingly aware that other people around me were suffering shockingly familiar drawn-out plummets into grief. It seemed every other stranger I fell into conversation with was struggling to survive a similar tragedy. In this way, fiction became a way not only to understand my own emotions around my loss of a man who still lived, but as a means to reach out to and connect with others.

My first successful short story on this subject became The Sculptor. I made my protagonist, Isha, an ice sculptor and had her fall in love with a glassblower, using these elemental artisan-ships to create a fictional landscape in which to place the ‘dad’ character. Nothing was true to my life apart from the situation, Isha’s grief, and the words stumbled over by the man representing my own dad.

The photo shows an ice sculpture at my cousin’s Thailand wedding in 2019. Remember when travel was a thing? *sigh*

An earlier version of ‘The Sculptor’ was published in Unthology 8 by Unthank Books.

The story begins:

She has to pause every hour – that’s what the orthopaedist advised – to take a break from the frozen quiet and ease warmth back into her body. Standing in the studio, Isha cradles a steaming mug close to her throat so that the licking fingers of vapour lap at her chin. She feels the quietness inside her soften and begin to melt.

Even the juddering growl of the chainsaw can’t disperse the peace that takes hold while she’s working. She feels it grip her interior like the shy fingers of ghosts. Isha wonders how much time she has left before the orthopaedist’s caution makes itself known.

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 ‘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 ‘Distant Storms‘.

The Sculptor – a short story

Unthology 8 coverI’ve been impressed by Unthank Books and their beautifully discerning and disconcerting Unthologies for many years. The tales they select and the books they produce inevitably stop me in my tracks. Right from the start, I yearned to see one of my pieces included among their number, and it’s taken a few attempts, some careful edits and just the right mix of narrative and imagery, but it seems I finally cracked it.

Quite simply, I’m thrilled that my short story The Sculptor is among the offerings of Unthology 8, due out on 28th January 2016. What a great start to the year! The Sculptor tells the tale of an ice sculptor coming to terms with her father’s semantic dementia.

I’ve already received my contributor copy  – an elegant black-sheathed volume crammed with fiction by Victoria Briggs, Kit Caless, Armel Dagorn, Sarah Dobbs, Clare Fisher, David Frankel, Rodge Glass, FC Malby, Amanda Mason, and other amazing authors.

Unlike many anthols, with Unthanks offerings it really is best to read the stories in the order in which they’re presented as editors Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones take care to curate the selection in a way that builds up and enhances the reading experience in the most exquisite manner. The book is now ready to pre-order from Book Depository, so if you want to treat yourself, just hop over to www.bookdepository.com.

If you sign up to the Unthank Mailing List (from Unthank’s website or Facebook page) you can get discounted copies and a discount on all other Unthank titles.

Here’s the write up from the publishers:

Live on a grand scale. Make deathless art. Scream paint. Sculpt ice. Let it melt and become a dynasty. Tarry with prophets and dreamers. Find joy in danger zones. Quit the stage of history. Tread the boards instead. Take a safari. Take a boat ride to the south of France. Work in the music biz, a chicken shack or cliff-top café. Fall in love, then out of love. Complete the jigsaw puzzle in a tiny room. Find yourself in a pris- on cell. Become a machine, loveable and servile. Realise that all the time, wherever you have been, whoever you’ve inhabited, you have been in a relationship with everyone there ever was or is yet to come and you can’t do one damn thing about it. Find fellow travellers here. Make friends with Unthology 8.”

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a part of this.

Unthology 8, published by Unthank Books, is available from wordery.com and bookdepository.com.