Jimmy goes to Bloomsbury

“This was the best Festival I`ve ever been involved in. There was a refreshing urgency about it, a point to it that Festivals often lack. Well done everyone!” William Trevor

From the Asham Award website account of the recent Small Wonder short story festival:

“Saturday evening featured the Short Story Slam, with Simon Fanshawe hosting. Fifteen stories were read, the title Just Good Friends stretching to encompass a weird variety of subject matter – Siamese twins, a diary that erased itself, a tale in the form of a game of consequences, a woman who finds an alter ego, as well as the more predictably a one night stand and an unfaithful wife. Of the eight finalists the audience chose a clear winner in Sean Lusk, with his story Baby. We hope to put this on the website soon…Read Stephen Moran’s slam story Jimmy.”

I died on my arse in Studio 95

As first of the workshop readers, I should have warmed up the audience for the subsequent authors. Instead I cooled them down. The other readers from Willesden and Harrow workshops were of a high standard, I thought. We were introduced by Dale Arndell, editor of Newspeak, a literary magazine linked to the workshops.

Preethi Nair told us about the marvellous adventure she went on for two and a half years to self-publish her first book, risking destitution, humiliation, and faced with unforeseen nightmares at every stage. Her book Gypsy Masala is about “following your dreams” and sure enough, she ended up with a bestseller and a book deal. Everything about Preethi was impressive, not least her faultless reading of the very interesting first chapter of her book “A Hundred Shades of White.”

Siobhan Curham is another literary star to boast for North West London. Terrific character evocation in her readings from her new book, The Scene Stealers. She introduced four very different characters and how they begin to interact, in a setting based around a fictional grubby video shop in Ruislip Manor. She has a wonderful turn of phrase, for example in her description of a broken gate on only one hinge hanging like a child’s loose tooth, a small tug away from the tooth fairy.

Wonders have ceased

After the last day of the Small Wonder short story festival, I can now:

a) Tell you what the facts are behind the Helsinki Roccamatios.*

b) Confirm the legendary arrogance of our greatest (British) short story writer”.** I think he thought I was an idiot to choose ‘Sleep With Me’ as the book to get signed, but I didn’t get a chance to tell him it was the only one I didn’t already have. I still like the bastard, and his kids seem normal enough. They were helping at the book signing table.

After the accompanied reading, which was superb, one of them (about 5) asked a question from the front row of the audience, and the presenter brought him up onto the stage. The question was, ‘Was that about me?’ It was very sweet, and beautiful I thought. The other two kids asked questions as well, the youngest was last. The story was about him.

c) Tell you all about sex and death in women’s short story writing. Apparently it’s either all vicariously ranting at some unnamed ex while pretending only to be watching slasher movies for research purposes, or writing commercial serial-killer crap and trying to pass it off as serious writing by quoting your university degree.

The biggest “hit” was William Trevor on Saturday. More people bought his books, a huge line of people.

Yann Martel seemed a bit of a cold fish. Very controlled, terribly intelligent and intellectual. Dropping philosophers’ names. He tried to tell us why he liked the short story, and I’m not sure if he realised it or not but he ended up telling us why he didn’t like at all really. I don’t think he’d know a real short story if it bit him on the arse. I didn’t notice any rush to buy his books afterwards.

*In “The facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios”*** by Yann Martel, the narrator urges the idea of co-writing a book on a friend who is dying of AIDS, and to further bore him and us, decides that a good way of doing this is to choose one fact from every year of the twentieth century, a mythical family and a location. Within that framework, they are to write something worthwhile. It’s not enough to die of AIDS, without being tortured in this way, apparently. His next book is going to be about “The Holocaust”. Perhaps he will take 1 fact from every month of the war, a fictitious family and location, and take it from there.

**Hanif Kureishi.

***He wrote hundreds of short stories, he says – mastering the art, y’know – but this book only contains four, longish short stories. The creme de la creme – rich and thick.****

****Samuel Beckett lectured at Trinity College Dublin for a year, and described its intake as “the cream of Irish society. Rich and thick.” [Apocryphal. Ed.]

Small wonder

I read something at the Small Wonder short story “slam” tonight in Charleston, a stately home with literary (Bloomsbury set) connections near Lewes. I got on a shortlist of five, and according a good old clapometer reading of the audience, the winner was Sean Lusk, whom I know from the West Cork Literary festival, where he was also a prizewinner. His was the best story tonight. I ran into Sean and Clem Cairns from Fish Publishing and we tried the specially brewed Small Wonder beer. My round-buying is now in the red again.

Earlier I had the great privilege and edification of listening to William Trevor read, followed by the great merriment and joy of Alexei Sayle. Tomorrow I’m going to hear Hanif Kureishi with cello accompaniment, Yann Martel and some others. Looking forward to it.

Google: Japanese women for sale on eBay

I was searching for a poetry site to repair a dead link on my website. The site was called “Japanese Women Poets”. When I searched for it on Google, I got the following, listed alongside the results:

Discount Japanese Women
New & used selection. Japanese Women for sale.

Women For Sale
Low Priced Women. Big Selection!

Japanese Women Need Love
We want Nice guy to Love and go for date together.

Here, try it for yourself and let me know if they’re any good.*

*Well they’ve gone and fixed it, but not before I got this screenshot.

The Wholly Officious (2004)*

After J. Joyce

Myself unto myself will give
This name, Lord Justice Purgative.
I, who was hired to overlook
The quisling and elected crook,
Bringing to website and to telly
The mind of witty Machiavelli,
Lest Beeb in the attempt should err
Must here be my interpreter:
Wherefore receive now from my court
This most miraculous new report.
To enter Whitehall, sup with Blair,
Get sinecure or peerage there,
One positively needs by rights
To dress in wig and matching tights.
For every true-born British jurist
Advised by three wise monkeys is,
Who’ll savage any Junior Counsel
Who dares disturb his Privy Council,
Like him who costive makes a scene
Expending on the world his spleen.
Ruling the land by nod and wink
Of course deserves a decent drink.
But I must not accounted be
One of that woolly company–
With him who drinks just to forget
The penny that we’ll never get.
While they console him when he whinges
With yellow ties and Cornish fringes–
Or him who rises from his coffin
To vampirise our Bambi often —
Or she who thought that giving birth
In manacles was prisoners’ worth —
Or him who tramps his Texas ranch
And thinks he’s smarter than the French
But privately his pants would crap
If asked for Paris on the map —
Or him who rode on Roland Rat
And in the face of Justice spat
Though loved by all his employees
Refusing to kow tow on his knees–
Or him who thought that mushy peas
Were guacamole, and ‘Oh please,
Oh please,” cried, ‘lend me money
To buy a pad for me and Ronnie.’
Or him whose name is so immaculate
T’would make a saint himself ejaculate
That any sinner dared besmirch
A name as blessed as the church,
Although it’s known to dullest junkie
He’s only ever been a flunkie.
But all these gents and dames decreed
That I absolve their every deed,
So while they scheme their seamy schemes
I carry off their filthy streams.

* This is a bit of fun about the Hutton inquiry, and that was not funny at all. It was published in the Dublin ezine Electric Acorn, which no longer exists. They also published a short story, or what probably would be called flash fiction now, of mine called The Visitor. I’d almost forgotten.

Events on falling asleep

The other night just before I fell asleep something terrifying happened. I was awake and had just turned over onto my left side. It was like an epileptic fit or something, but I saw tiger pattern stripes and heard noise like a jet engine. In the throes of it I thought I was a goner, then it turned from all stripes to just two bands in the dark. There was a sensation as fearful as being swept away by a torrent, and trying to haul oneself out, then it stopped. An instant nightmare? Now that I describe it I’m thinking maybe it was like being attacked by a tiger and rolled over before something made it run away. I didn’t think that at the time.

Another time while lying on my right side, I felt my mind filled with an image of just snakeskin with marvellous scales writhing and glinting muted indescribable colours. It was only the body of a snake, or the sides of one. There might have been more than one snake, or it could have been something like a lizard or a what you might call a dragon. It was a vision I suppose, though really a dream while on the boundary of sleep. It was wasn’t frightening, just fascinating.

I mean I saw them with my eyes closed – they filled my field of vision. Just before I sleep most nights, I am jolted awake for another moment by the sound of someone calling my name, usually a close relative – my mother, father or one of my sisters. The sound is very real in my ears. On other occasions it will be a violent thought, that disturbs the impending slumber – an amputation or something like that. I wonder if anybody else has similar experiences? I’m almost sure they do.

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