Sky Light Rain – Invertebrates

Arnos Vale woodland grave cr Judy DarleyI don’t know about you, but I adore catching a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into stories, music and theatrical productions. 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-second story is ‘Invertebrates’. It bubbled up in my mind when I was strolling in Arnos Vale Cemetery, a grand Victorian amphitheatre cemetery which recent provided an area for woodland graves.

When I saw this rustic place of mourning, my intrigue and imagination were piqued. The profusion of flowers scattered on the bare earth made this seem an ultimately tender gesture. I pictured the people who might have laid someone to rest here, amid the trees and insects, I couldn’t help thinking of the brutality and beauty of many fairytales.

The resulting story, ‘Invertebrates’, serves as a sequel to a familiar fairytale.

It was originally published in Door Is A Jar Magazine.

The story begins:

We dug her up each solstice; each time she was a little lighter, her joints a little more unhinged. I worried she might come apart entirely, sinew and bones giving way as we propped her in the place of honour.

My brother and I allowed the invertebrates that had made her their home to attend our celebrations too. Sometimes centipedes fell from her eye-sockets and throat cavity to roam among the feast. I watched beetles nestle into her breastbone, and recalled how comfortably my head once rested there.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Little Blessings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lodged‘.

Sky Light Rain – Little Blessings

Bench, Victoria Park by Judy DarleyEver wondered how a short story sparks into life? This series of posts offers insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The twentieth story is ‘Little Blessings’. One scene in this story was plucked in its entirety from a moment when a man rushing to reach a train almost shoved me in front of it in his haste – I actually fell against the side of the train as it halted, but as I lost balance I had a strange instant when I was aware I was right in its path. The righteous anger that issued towards him by other commuters on my behalf was even more surreal. It was as though everyone had unknowingly been seeking an excuse to release some bile, and this hapless man ended up the recipient.

The story also features a box of mice that have been sitting in my subconscious since I glimpsed them on a bus while visiting my sister in France around twenty years ago, and a park bench where an abandonment occurs.

I wanted to use this tale to explore our weaknesses and the small, unexpected things that bring us solace.

It was originally published by a Canadian magazine called The Germ.

It begins:

My counsellor once told me to count my blessings, so I do.

I have my work. That’s a blessing. When the alarm clock shocks me out of sleep to the bleakest, rainiest mornings, it gives me a reason to uncurl myself, step outside, present my best side to the world.

I have my health. That’s a blessing. It equips me for the long, tedious walk to the train station. When my umbrella crumples, defeated, I stride onwards, strong.

And in its own way, the commute is a blessing too – a chance to travel faster than I can run without any discernible effort, an opportunity to people-watch, nose into the exterior layer of lives that are none of my business. A blessing of sorts even on a particularly frantic morning, when the trains are delayed and everyone is single-minded with one intent: get to work, and a man shoves me out of his way with such unexpected force I topple against the train that’s waiting. At least it wasn’t the moment before the locomotive arrived, at least I didn’t plummet down the chasm of the tracks, get gulped down by the train as it arrived. And to add to the celebratory sense of survival, success, at boarding the train in one complete piece, I have that odd, self-righteous enjoyment of being the wronged, of hearing other commuters berate my reckless shover. Of imagining his shame, quietly revelling in it till I almost feel I ought to apologise to him.

Almost, but not quite.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Elevated Truths‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal’.

Sky Light Rain – Not Every Wound Can Heal

Kostel Sv. Jakuba Vetsiho by james Hainsworth_crop

Kostel Sv. Jakuba Vetsiho by James Hainsworth

Ever wondered how a short story sparks into life? This series of posts offers insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The nineteenth story is ‘Not Every Wound Can Heal’, which is particularly well suited to Halloween week. It was prompted by a misremembered tale of a holy relic glimpsed in Prague’s Kostel Sv. Jakuba Vetsiho. I wanted to examine how we’re occasionally driven to tell ourselves myths to make horrible situations tolerable, and how we find the strength to break free.

The tale was rings in at just over 330 words and was originally published by Spelk.

It begins:

A dark artefact hangs from the ceiling of the Baroque church. It resembles a bit of branch, or a stick covered in rags. Our tour guide tells us it’s a mummified arm.

Afterwards Tim and I each remember the story differently. He’s convinced it’s the relic of a saint. I’m sure it’s the limb of a thief who tried to steal jewels from a statue of the Virgin Mary, and that she came to life and twisted his arm entirely off.

Perhaps it’s not an arm at all.

I can’t get it out of my head.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Elevated Truths‘.

Sky Light Rain – Elevated Truths

Lift at ABode by Judy DarleyEver wondered how a short story sparks into life? This series of posts offers insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The eighteenth story is ‘Elevated Truths’, a story that has its ups and downs. It began to form in my mind after I went down a rabbit hole researching the invention of the lift, I discovered an innovator called Elisha Graves Otis. My first thought was that this remarkable woman had saved us all from trudging up endless stairs. The second was that she sported an impressive beard in her photo.

I love a good misunderstanding for presenting curious juxtapositions. This one gave me the impetus to explore the balance of truths and lies in a girl’s relationship with her father, and how a ‘smile-lie’ can serve as a form of protection.

‘Elevated Truths’ was originally published by Fictive Dream magazine.

The tale begins:

2000 <> 1852

“The elevator was invented by a woman in 1852,” I tell my father when he looks up from the article he’s writing and asks me what I’ve learnt today. “Her name was Elisha Graves Otis, and she founded the Otis Elevator Company. See, women can do anything men can.”

He looks at me over his laptop screen, his eyebrows doing that weird pinch in, thrust out move that means he’s not sure what to correct you on first.

“That’s not quite right,” he says, and I scowl.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Sky Light Rain – Lamp Black

Train station cr Judy DarleyEver wondered how a short story sparks into life? This series of posts offers insights into the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The seventeenth story is ‘Lamp Black.’ This unsettling tale took root when I was waiting at Bath Spa Train Station. On the platform opposite I saw two children playing. One was giving the other a piggyback and they were wobbling close to the edge, just a stumble away from toppling onto the tracks. My pulse was beginning to race when the train roared up and they ran on board, thoughtless of the danger they’d been in moments before.

I got to wondering where their parents were and why no one had been keeping them safe. A story began to unfold in my mind of a woman sending her two daughters out searching for the dad they’ll never find, just to get a but of time to herself. But then one day they come home and tell her they’ve found him…

The tale’s beginning faithfully reports what I saw and felt:

Two children on the other side of the station are playing close to the platform edge. One is giving the other a piggyback ride, stepping along the yellow warning line like it’s a tightrope. None of the adults within reach intervenes.

I think about shouting out, but don’t want to startle her. As I watch, she wobbles and staggers towards the train tracks. My hands clench and unclench at my waist.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Elevated Truths‘.

Sky Light Rain – Flamingos and Ham

Flamingos and Ham by Judy DarleyEver wondered how a short story sparks into life? We’re now well over a third of the way through my series of posts offering insights into my writing process and sharing the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The sixteenth story is ‘Flamingos and Ham.’ This dystopian flash fiction tale could be a metaphor for 2020, but seeded in my mind when I interviewed the instigators of the Pussyhats that appeared in photos of the 2017 Women’s Marches – Krista Suh, Jayna Zweiman and Kat Coyle – for a crochet magazine. Do you recall the sea of hot pink cat-eared hats in those visuals? That was thanks to these three women.

I was inspired by how they’d taken a colour associated with women and weakness, and reclaimed it as something powerfully striking and unifying.

Imagine if the colour pink was outlawed. What infringements might come next?The story looks at how our freedoms can be eroded almost without us noticing. It was originally published in Ellipsis Zine Two.

The tale begins:

I was twelve when the ruling came in, banning certain words, colours, and clothing. It seemed farcical at first. My mum and dad laughed in disbelief as they watched the news.

“How can they outlaw pink?” Dad hooted. “What about flamingos and… and, ham?!”

Mum grimaced, clutching her crochet hook. “Why forbid hats, and yarn? What are they afraid of?”

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

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Sky Light Rain – Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire

Ever wondered how a short story takes its first breath and finds life? We’re now well over a third of the way through my series of posts offering insights into my writing process and sharing the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The fifteenth story is ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire.’ This longer than average title leads you into a drabble – a 100-word micro fiction – about a couple carrying out a ritual to mark the end of their relationship. It was originally published by the aptly named The Drabble.

If you have any 100-word tales knocking around, I highly recommend you send it their way. One of my writing passions is compressing whole lives, relationships and break-ups into less than half a page.

My drabble popped into my head when my man and I (still vey much together) decided to hide a pair of small stone gargoyles in a local woodland. One disappeared pretty promptly, but the other lurked in a mass of ivy for months.

The tale begins:

They dressed in the dark, fumbling over bootlaces and coal-black buttons. Lucinda picked up the ceramic gargoyle Crispin had given her early in their romance. He chose the straw doll Lucinda wove for their first anniversary.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Sky Light Rain – Far From the Farm

14_Far From The Farm by Judy DarleyWe’re now well over a third of the way through my series of posts offering insights into my writing process and sharing the inspiration behind the flash fiction and short stories that make up my Valley Press collection Sky Light Rain.

The fourteenth story  is ‘Far From The Farm,’ examines what roots us, and how displaced we can feel when removed from the scenery and people we associate with home. It invites us into the world of Eilidh, a young girl from Skye coping with a new life in urban England

‘Far From The Farm’ was originally published as ‘The Creak of Snow’ in a special Scottish-themed edition of Literary Orphans.

The tale begins:

If Eilidh leans close to the bedroom window and breathes out, she can make the world beyond grow cold and fog-filled. She dapples her fingertips against the glass, creating pools of light that shine sharp and ice-bright. The sky is yellow today, swollen with clouds heavy with something chillier than rain.

It won’t snow here. This southern city would grind to a halt if a few sparse flakes fell from the sky.

That’s what Franny says, anyways. It bothers Eilidh to think of her old gran managing the farm alone, without anyone to ride the tractor with. Who’ll bound out to drag the gate open, close it again once she’s through?

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

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Moth Room‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Sky Light Rain – The Moth Room

Moth wings cr Judy DarleyOver 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. The thirteenth story in the collection and also the first in ‘Part Two – Light’ is ‘The Moth Room’.

I wrote this flash fiction in response to a visit to the studio of artist Rose McLay, interwoven with strands of Cinderella together with a touch of moonlit iridescence. The story embraces ideas of the scant lines separating beauty and brutality.

‘The  Moth Room’ was originally published in issue 21 of Gone Lawn, which describes itself as “a web journal of artistic and progressive literature.”

The tale only spans half a page and begins:

He follows her home from the ball, trailing in the pitch of her laughter. She’s taken off her shoes for dancing and runs barefoot through the ragged streets, giggles glinting in her wake. 

The warehouse she leads him to is shuttered into rooms, each with its own door to unlock. Hers is labelled The Moth Room.

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

Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Untrue Blue‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Weaving Wings‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Woman and Birds.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Shaped from Clay‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Knotted Rope‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Two Pools of Water‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Apollo’s Offspring‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘The Puppeteer’.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Fascinate‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘A Blackbird’s Heart‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Paper Flowers‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Strawberry Thief‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Far From the Farm‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Breaking Up With You Burns Like Fire‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Flamingos and Ham‘.
Discover the inspiration behind my story ‘Lamp Black‘.

Your indie Christmas list

Christmas gifts by Judy DarleyI’ve been reading and rereading books from numerous independent presses recently. Here’s my pick of the titles I believe warrant a place on your festive wishlist.

Nia coverNia by Robert Minhinnick

Published by Seren

Written in a style that verges on stream of consciousness, this dream book follows protagonist Nia around her home down fringed by sand dunes, underground and through her memories. With no speech marks in place, it’s occasionally uncertain what is spoken and what’s thought, while some conversations drop all attempts at signposting who speaking. It’s akin to eavesdropping in a place where voices are murmurs blanketed by a sea breeze – curiously soothing. Minhinnick is probably best known for his poetry, and his innate lyricism glows throughout. “Dad down on his knees pulling away the ivy. The ivy leaving scars, that’s how close it clung. I can still see the nettle blisters on the backs of his hands. All these white bumps. Like the ivy scars on the stone.” There is threat here, at times, but the painterly scenes make this a far gentler read than the hint of plot supposes. Ideal for early mornings in bed while the central heating clanks into life.THE COLOUR OF THINGS UNSEEN cover

The Colour of Things Unseen by Annee Lawrence

Published by Aurora Metro Books

An unerring respect for the spaces required for cultural differences underlines Annee Lawrence’s novel. From Java to Sydney, she paints a young artist’s blossoming understanding of the world as he travels from his rural village to art college in Australia. Yet, the real journey is far more internal, as Adi grasps at his own expectations, particularly with regards to women, and learns that there’s more than one route to follow for a relationship to thrive.

Adi is a character who is difficult to know, as Lawrence keeps him at arms’ length. His emotions always take on an abstract sense that not only reflects his own artwork, but illustrates how he feels as he navigates Australian values, so at odds with the ones he has grown up with.

Lawrence’s descriptions of Adi’s painting process, as well as of the locations in Java and Australia, make this an evocative novel that will inspire the urge to travel and discover the richness of cultural diversity for yourself.

Read Annee Lawrence’s guest post for SkyLightRain on how writing connects us across cultures and borders.

The False River coverThe False River by Nick Holdstock

Published by Unthank Books

“It had ben a year of four funerals and a poisoned cat,” writes Nick Holdstock in his story ‘New Traffic Patterns May Emerge’. “His flat had been burgled; his car stolen; he’d been punched in face by a stranger. His perfect girlfriend Rachel had tried to stab him, then broken up with him by text.”

Don’t you want to read on?

This story trembles with the narratives that ripple beyond its confines, sometimes overtly with lines such as “Fifty years later, as he walks through an airport, one of the huge lights will drop from the ceiling and miss him by only a foot.” Holdstock has harnessed the omniscient viewpoint with an enviable aplomb, walking a tightrope between characters that keeps your focus taut. It’s a skill evident throughout his debut collection.

She Was A Hairy Bear, She Was A Scary Bear coverShe Was A Hairy Bear, She Was A Scary Bear by Louisa Bermingham

Published by Valley Press

For something entirely different, Valley Press’ most experimental title to date should tick a few boxes. Not quite poetry, and not quite prose, the story of a fuzzy, passionate bear succeeds in covering issues around depression, self-doubt and the power of embracing our inner bear. Every page features author and artist Louisa Bermingham’s quirky mixed media artwork, with line drawings and paintings brought to life with bundles of her own hair trimmings, not to mention elastic bands and other household scraps.

Don’t let the hair put you off! Our Hairy Scary Bear is a fierce, vulnerable and entirely lovable heroine who will remind you that it’s healthy to have the occasional emotional outburst, but that you might do better to fight fire with water in tricky situations. Plus it’s beautifully printed, so there’s no risk at all of bear hair ending up in your tea.

the everumblethe everrumble by Michelle Elvy

Published by Ad Hoc Fiction

Without a doubt, this is my favourite book of 2019, if not the decade. Just thinking about it, my head fills with its colours and textures.

Described as a small novel in small forms, this book is far larger than the sum of its parts. I know people who devoured it in a single indulgent sitting, but for me it was so quenching that I drip-fed it to myself – page after page, moment by moment. It offered me a place to return to for peace, quietude and stillness, and now that I’ve read it from cover to cover, I know I’ll return again.

Delivered in a series of flashes, served up with plenty of space to hold the words and ideas safe, this is a book of contemplative joy.

Author Michelle Elvy has somehow conjured a multi-sensory experience through her writing, and, even more powerfully, compressed sensations onto the page that will eke into your everyday life.

Weaving in dreamscapes with glimpses into a long life, set against geography and literary musings in the form of notes on books that have captured Zettie’s attention, the everrumble is a glorious odyssey of one woman’s exploration of connectivity.

Read my full review of the everrumble by Michelle Elvy.