Willesden Short Story Competition 2022

I am reading for this competition, with closing date 31 August. If you enter a short story early, yours might get to be the best so far and then fend off quite a few or maybe lead all the way. In other words, send in! I love reading brand new fiction.

New Short Stories

We’re back with a competition for inclusion in Willesden Herald: New Short Stories 12. Open to international entries. Closing date will be August 31, 2022. Entry fee £5. There are ten prizes, as follows:

  • 1st prize: £300 + one-off inscribed Willesden Herald mug
  • 2nd: £200
  • 3rd: £100
  • 7 x £50
  • Plus you get a copy of the anthology when it’s published.

We may invite a guest judge to select the winning entries from a shortlist. Please visit our submittable.com page for full details and to Submit.

EditorS.J. Moran

The Obscure Object of Desire


Photo: One-off Willesden Herald mug inscribed “Willesden Short Story Prize 20xx”

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Who do you think you are?

Mother Superior’s no paragon.
Francis is not the Pope’s real name.
The arch bishop with his dry wit
Doesn’t impress me one little bit.

Mother Theresa is not my mother.
Father Harney means nothing to me.
Brother Benildus is not my brother.
Believe it or not, I have a family.

Sketch for a cartoon, clerical figures “not my father/mother/sister/brother”

Postcard from Venice

On a vaporetto back from the island,
turbulent wake of Murano jade
splashes about us out in the stern.

The sun is chasing platinum facets
from the lagoon to molten confiserie.
We roll with the swell, then into dock.

Children awestruck, the engine reversing
churns the canal like a waterspout
and our vessel wallows by the wharf.

Where we go there’s not much shade
but water trickles always from a brass tap
to the flagstones, for us and for the birds.


Photo: Venice lagoon in bright sunlight with view of a small cargo boat, its boatman in the stern. In the background is the church of San Giorgio Maggiore. I took this photo while on the journey referred to in the above poem, returning from Murano to Venice. (2001)

Dunbotherin

Years fly by and you get to an age
when they give you a pension.
Then in no time at all, you get to an age
when they give you a funeral.

And they carry you out of the house
past your last joke, so typical,
a sign that says Dunbotherin.
I wonder who will say, ‘Well he is now.’


Photo: Union Station clock number 570, window of architectural salvage shop

On the Island of Me and You

On the island of me and you, there are no worries.
It’s only cold enough to make us keep warm.
I get up early, you have a lie-in, the dishes are done
When you appear and I go for a walk along the shore.

On the island of you and me, we’re always online.
Hundreds of friends in your mind, a few in mine,
So I listen to yours, playing ukes, reliving youths,
And never tire of your old friends, who loved you.

I can see the island of you from the island of me,
And I’m going to swim over.


Photo: With Tess on Inchydoney Beach, Cork, Ireland. Photo by Craig Moran.

My Year in Writing, Editing and Publishing, 2021

Since I self-published Day of the Flying Leaves (Selected Poems) in March, I have posted the following new poems online. I will eventually move them into a new collection, working title “A Hot Sup From the Teapot”.

I updated this on December 26, 2021 and as yet Day of the Flying Leaves has had no reviews. To be fair, I only sent out one copy for review, to someone a friend recommended as a potential reviewer. Zip! Sales were two or three in the first month, and none since. My poems have only been recognised online by one or two kind friends and a few far-flung WordPress bloggers I don’t know at all.

This year as editor, I published brilliant new short stories by Jack R Johnson, Jessica Fogal and James Roderick Burns in Stories of the Month. I continue to work on some unpublished short stories and two or three projects that have the potential to blossom into novels or novellas. There are also more poems in the works. Ever onwards!


Picture: One of the cover concepts for Day of the Flying Leaves

Maid of Light

Maid of Light by S.J. Moran

I washed my face in the mud of faith
that turned into a holy spring
ever effervescing from pebbles
made of light made of light

and I saw the Maid of Light
who was made of light,
heard a voice tell
secrets from the secret well

and her secrets fell into me,
into the secret well within,
into the water made of light
and one of her secrets this:

there are no secrets in me
and the well is all there is,
the silvery water made of light
made of light.


Photo: Sunburst over St. Bernadette’s grotto, Lourdes. Foreground: the river Gave du Pau with a footbridge in the distance. Background: the Basilica. Visitors and crowds can just about be discerned, silhouetted.

Honey, I Shrunk Myself

In bed, alone, hand to forehead
shrunken by weariness, fingers
spread but little, like on a pear
and smaller, till I am a mouse
perhaps. Tiny nostrils flare.
Settling jaw onto paw, nestling
the fragile, ever lighter skull,
an empty shell in the open air.

If ever you see one you know
shrink inexplicably, in want
of something, on the edge of need,
like a baby about to cry, go –
turn into children, run away,
invent new words and paint the sky.


Photo: SJ Moran outside the Guinness Storehouse, St James’s Gate, Dublin

Tim Berners-Lee Cried

The DotCom’s connected to the WordPress
The WordPress ’s connected to the Facebook
The Facebook’s connected to the MySpace
Now fear the bulletin board

The MySpace ’s connected to the WayBack
The WayBack’s connected to the NewsGroups
The NewsGroups connected to the Archive
Now fear the bulletin board

Dem zones, dem zones, dem wry zones
Dem moans, dem moans, them shy moans
Dem groans, dem groans, dem sly groans
Now fear the bulletin board

The Archive’s connected to the Lib-’ry
The Lib-’ry’s connected to the Psal-ters
The Psalters connected to the Bi-ble
Now fear the bulletin board

The Bible’s connected to the proph-ets
The prophets connected to Ezekiel
Ezekiel’s connected to the toe bone
Now fear the bulletin board

Dem bones, dem zones, dem shy moans
Dem knowns, dem pomes, dem high tones
Dem’s flown, dem’s gone, dem’s by-gones
Now fear the bulletin board
Now surf the web of the lord


Cartoon: Frankie Pedantic at the Apollo (Zoz/Smoran)

If you like parodies, I have a dozen or so more on the Willesden Herald blog

Some Lines of Late

Don’t do anything

Don’t do anything, don’t go anywhere,
don’t say anything, the water whispered,
and nothing will happen, you’ll be safe,
don’t rock the boat. The water in spate
then roared, keep still, you’re too small,
lie down and surrender to the waterfall.


People are like atoms

People are like atoms in molecules
bound tightly with other atomic people
as elements or compounds, stable/unstable,
in tension with the heat of passion,
volatile reagents, heavy waves of opinion,
wicked catalysts in the rolling news.
I’d go to mass only I haven’t got the energy.


The fearless old lady of Wood End Road

It’s raining but she walks with a stick,
its ferrule worn to thirty-three degrees.
Her feet are tiny but aright, her smile ready
to reply a morning to my good morning.
White hair under beret. Not tall.
I saw her walk with ski poles when it snowed,
the fearless old lady of Wood End Road.


I am a time traveller

I am a time traveller, same as you.
I travelled here from the nineteen-fifties
and I hope soon to visit twenty-twenty-two
and further into the future as well.
It’s always lovely, entrancing to see
old ones when they’re young, to meet
other time travellers in their home places
but heartsore to hear them wail.


Baby blue sky

Baby blue sky of November,
a touch of jaundice around your nape.
Nibs full of microscopic people
are drawing white lines on your face.


There are people walking behind me

There are people walking behind me,
I hear their steps and distant voices.
Will they see me looking here and there
At a willow or a birch, elm or linden,
A tree fern in a pretty garden? I wish
They would turn away somewhere
Because they make me feel uneasy,
Yet I laugh to imagine them saying
There’s a man who knows his trees.
I know nothing. Leave me in peace.


Photo: The Thames at Deptford, 25 Nov 2021

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