In conversation with Judy Darley

Our readers would like to know your inspiration (or story, if any) behind This is Not a Story About Chickens.

This is Not a Story About Chickens is a story about love, compassion and giving people the space they need for their emotions, even if their emotions take the form of live, clucking chickens.

In 2022, my dad died from dementia. It’s a long, slow death which requires years of grief. As he was reaching the end of his diminishing life, I did some writing work for an amazing artist called Susan Hitching. One of Susan’s paintings shows a woman holding four chickens in her arms and on her head. It somehow merged with the idea of therapy animals and how we process grief in ways that may seem strange to other people. This planted the seeds of my strange story. It was wonderful to find a roost for this tale at The Hooghly Review!

Tell us more about your creative process in general.

Ideally, I wake early, brew a coffee and go back to bed with my laptop. It’s the cosiest office in the world. Sometimes ideas are already rising inside me, but I also actively seek prompts, which I share on my blog

I walk for around six miles daily, which gives me plenty of sightings and daydream time when creative ideas can take root. 

On a practical level, I also set aside time for putting together submissions to send out for individual story submissions and full collections. I have three short fiction collections published to date, The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain (Reflex Press), Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me To The Bees (Tangent Books). Each of these collections weave together my passion for the natural world and fascination for the complexities of the human mind.

I love to take part in literary events, including open mic literary nights – they challenge me to be brave! A room full of shared creative energy is a powerful thing. Because of this, I also teach creative writing workshops, often about how to use water or fairytales to enrich themes in writing. I learn at least as much from the students as they learn from me.

Do you have any creative influences? What do you like the most about their work? Does it have a discernible effect on your writing?

I love wandering in art galleries such as the RWA and Arnolfini in Bristol, and Fizz in Clevedon. I read a lot, as other writers inspire me, especially poets. Beautiful poetry and prose fuels me to seek the resonance and colours in every sentence. I have a form of synaesthesia which gives words specific colours, so for me sentence construction is partly about creating the most harmonious palette possible. 

I surround myself with books by authors and poets I love, including Kirsty Logan, A. L. Kennedy, Maggie Good, Angela Cleland and Alice Oswald. They remind me of the magic in words.

My favourite place to read is at the end of a restored Victorian pier in my new home town of Clevedon. It has exquisite filigreed shelters that protect me from the wind! After spending time there, my head is full of waves, light and all the wilderness of the North Somerset coastline.

Are there any creative genres, forms, themes, techniques etc. you wish you could employ in your writing which you haven’t yet?

I love to collaborate with visual artists, but haven’t yet tried working with playwrights or filmmakers to challenge my work in new directions – that would be exciting!

What are you looking forward to in your creative career?

Always the next project! There are so many stories to tell…

As I get to know my new home town, I’m embracing the mood and hues around me, learning the rhythm of my surroundings, gathering inspiration, and looking forward to discovering what these ingredients transform into.

Judy Darley is a fiction writer, journalist and occasional poet from Bristol, UK. Her fiction has been described as ‘shimmeringly strange’, possibly because she can’t stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind. Judy is the author of three fiction collections: The Stairs are a Snowcapped Mountain (Reflex Press), Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me to the Bees (Tangent Books). Find Judy at 

X (formerly Twitter): @JudyDarley