top of page

Finalists In Our WAWA Writing Contest Span The Globe 

From South Africa to Australia’s sunny Gold Coast, from Ireland’s capital city to the home of Hollywood - finalists in our ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ (WAWA) competition on the theme of ‘Beauty’ certainly spanned the globe.

Moira Smart

Now in her early 70s, Moira, a finalist in our creative non-fiction category with her evocative travel story, ‘Stark Beauty,’ says she is looking forward to retirement later this year and more travel and writing.

“My book-keeping job has kept me office bound but I’m looking forward to enjoying the outdoors and our beautiful sunshine weather,” said Moira, 72, who was born and bred in South Africa. “I only started venturing out on solo overseas travels about eight years ago and fell in love with Argentina and Chile. When I returned, I was excited to share my experiences and found expression in writing.”

Moira’s story was sparked by the phrase ‘Beautiful things don't ask for attention,’ a line from ‘The Secret life of Walter Mitty.’

“On my PC screensaver I have hundreds of beautiful nature scenes of mountains, lush forests and glaciers, which inspire me and keep me sane but that line made me think of finding the beauty that is not so obvious,” she said. “My story came to life with the memory of the dry and dusty land of the Namib Desert.”

Moira’s initial story titles were ‘Beauty in the eyes of the beholder’ and ‘See the world in a grain of sand,’ both of which she considered too clichéd, before she eventually settled for ‘Stark Beauty.’

Writing only on weekends, Moira, said she didn’t notice the time passing so entranced was she in what she was doing. “Of course it's never good enough time, so my editing went on until the closing date neared. The challenge for me was to keep the theme of beauty alive throughout the story.”

Moira described her delight at receiving the news she was a competition finalist. “This was such a super surprise that dropped into the middle of my muddle, which is my life at this point in time. I enrolled on a travel writing course at S.A.Writing College and spotted your competition there. So it was try, try and try again. This is indeed a privilege for me to be in the top ten.”

Stark Beauty

by Moira Smart

No blinding lights. Only the luminescence of the stars resting in the indigo sky. No synthetic sounds. Only the clicks of the elusive barking gecko. As I retire to my tent, even his mating calls cease on the success of his quest. Exquisite silence in the Namib Desert.

In pre-dawn darkness I head to the Sossusvlei dunes. The sand dunes within this protected Namib-Naukluft National Park are amongst the tallest in the world.

My sunrise stop is ‘Dune 45,’ forty-five kilometres from the camp gate. Surely the most photographed dune, I am still not prepared for the sensation of standing at the base of this neatly stacked pile of ancient sand. This is an elegantly shaped ‘star’ dune, sculpted by winds shaping it from all directions.

In the pause before daylight a subtle, thoughtful pink lights the sand, but gradually the rising sun reveals its rusty orange colour in sharp contrast to the shaded west slope. Collapsing in a heap at the top of the dune, I gaze across this vast dune sea stretching to the horizon and marvel at the varying patterns and array of colours.

In the quiet desert breeze at ground level, the sand whispers of its hidden treasures. Tiny tracks give the game away of the little creatures such as beetles, geckos, spiders, and scorpions conducting their lives coolly below the surface.

I tread lightly so as not to desecrate the fragile life of rare desert mosses, algae, and lichen – the mysterious life of cryptobiotic soil that plays such a vital ecological role. Even the lone tree tells a story: it survives because of its extraordinary taproot system which can penetrate the ground for up to ten times its height.

Mammals remain active in the chilly morning air. A brown hyena ambles near the road; ostrich, black-backed jackal, and springbok roam in the distance; a herd of stately oryx march in single file. This distinctive patterned antelope can survive for weeks without water due to metabolic water created within its body. The resilience and unique adaptation of life in this extreme environment is intriguing.

Another realm opens as I approach Deadvlei. Before me lies the bleached white, cracked surface of a salt and clay pan that was a desert oasis hundreds of years ago. Now cut off by towering sun-baked dunes, water no longer reaches it except on the rare occasion when the ephemeral Tsauchab River flows. The scattered camel-thorn trees are now black skeletons, still standing because of the intense sun, dry atmosphere, and no decomposition. Silhouetted against the sky are black specks, people who have energetically tackled the mammoth ‘Big Daddy’ dune bordering the pan.

No longer do I see the desert as a vast, desolate, arid expanse. My senses have been riveted by life, splendour and mystery. An allure to be further explored.

In the words of naturalist Rachel Carson, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

Kate Kelsen

A professional hula hoop dancer from Brisbane who was a finalist in flash fiction category with her story ‘Reflections,’ Kate, 33, is no newcomer to the world of writing.

Having discovered a love of storytelling early in life, her debut book, ‘The Wilted Rose,’ was published when she was 21, inspired by the true story of a Brisbane family’s experience with mental illness during the 1960s. Kate has published three more books and multiple short stories across various genres, with recognition from writing awards and competitions around Australia, including the Reader’s Digest 100 Word Short Story Competition.

In her writing, Kate takes a particular interest in exploring various human experiences and perspectives. She predominantly writes crime and psychological suspense, often with a sprinkling of the supernatural. Kate is currently working on an Irish Noir novel series set in Galway, with two trips to Ireland for book research. Living beachside on the sunny Gold Coast, she works in retail and volunteers as President of the Gold Coast Writers Association.

Kate said she wrote the original version of her story in her late teens. “I believe it was influenced by the movie '50 First Dates' with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. I had the idea to angle the story around a former supermodel, now aged and suffering from dementia who is devastated to look in the mirror and see her former self, her looks that had brought her so much success, gone.”

Revised numerous times over the years, Kate’s story had two previous titles, ‘The Temporary Body’ and ‘Body and Mind.’

As for being selected as a finalist, “I was absolutely delighted. This is my first international recognition for my writing, which makes it extra exciting!”


by Kate Kelsen

Staring at the mirror, a scream stifled in Penelope’s throat. The face that looked back at her was hollow and gaunt, her skin melting off her cheekbones. Had she been in an accident? Was this a nightmare?

The bedroom door opened, and Penelope looked up at the man standing before her.

"Are you alright, love?"

"Ben?" she gasped.

She barely recognised him. He was not as she remembered. His chiselled, golden body was hunched and withered, and his jet black hair was gone. His eyes had not changed, though, and that was how she knew it was him.

"It’s all right, love." Ben placed a photo album in front of her on the dressing table. "Look at this. Then it will all make sense.’"

Penelope opened the album. The pictures on the first page were of her at sixteen years old, at the graduation ceremony of her deportment class. That night, the talent agency had offered her a modelling job once she had finished school. Soon after her catwalk debut, she had been hired for several high profile advertising campaigns. She was a whirlwind success with a rapidly unfolding career. Top brands and designers had sought after her. She had appeared on the covers of fashion magazines in America, France, Britain, China, Russia, Italy, and Japan. Clothing labels and perfumes aligned with her prolific image, and distinguished photographers from all over the world had lined up to take her picture. She had had it all: the high-flying career, the money, the lifestyle, and the man of her dreams.

As the pages went on, Penelope’s appearance changed. Her long dark hair turned silver, and her youthful looks were swallowed up by age. The young woman morphed into the old one that looked back at her in the mirror. She reached the end of the album.

"How could I not remember?"

"It’s a cruel disease, love." Ben sighed. "Sometimes you wake up and you don’t remember. Then you look at the photos. It’s just something we have to do sometimes before we get on with our day."

Penelope looked back at her reflection in the mirror, the fine lines and wrinkles that ran around her face like rivers on a map.

It was no disease or scar that had made her look this way. Only time. The looks that had made her rich had only been fleeting, and the woman looking back at her was just a reflection of the inevitable.

"It seems like only yesterday," said Penelope, "But so much time has passed."

Ben placed his knobbly hand over hers, his skin so wafer thin she could see the blue veins beneath it.

"We’ve done some wonderful things together, darling. You’ve had a full life. You achieved your dreams. You might not remember much these days, but every morning that you wake up and remember me, I am grateful." He smiled. "And you are still beautiful to me. Come on, I’ll make you a cup of tea."

Shannon Clair

Actress and outdoorswoman, Shannon, a finalist in WAWA’s non-fiction category with her poignant story ‘Father’s Day,’ only started writing short stories a few months ago.

After earlier years in New York City, she has spent most of her life in Los Angeles where she combines her acting skills with copywriting and tutoring.

While new to short stories, Shannon made the Top 50 Finalists List for the Nicholl Screenwriting Competition at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organisation that presents the Academy Awards.

Shannon received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Princeton University and studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She spent much of her 20s sailing tall ships and holds a Merchant Marine license as an Able Seaman. But for now, she’s on solid land and writing a novel set during WWI because, she says, “I enjoy excuses to do research but I imagine the sea will figure prominently in my future writing.”

As for her WAWA entry, she explains, “The day that my piece describes occurred last summer while I was on a writing research trip to England. The whole trip was magical in many ways, but that day was a particularly unexpected gift, both for myself and the man who showed me around.”

In terms of writing, the toughest task facing Shannon was WAWA’s 500-word limit. “I had to whittle the experience down to its core, which took about four drafts over the course of a week with time to let each version sit for a day or two.”

Thrilled to be a finalist, Shannon was even more, upon learning our competition was associated with Ireland. “My ancestors are from Tipperary, Cork, Clare and somewhere in the north. I have visited many times and am currently helping my mother apply for her Irish citizenship.”

Father’s Day

by Shannon Clair

The words that mattered most that day I cannot place. But that’s the way with things sometimes, some things that shape a day, a year, a life.

The rest lives clear, sequential in my mind.

It starts with church.

Hours in archives had left me longing for living people. So, I set aside my inner heretic and went to church. Good place to meet locals. By nine, hymns sung, prayers prayed, I sipped coffee on the west side of the Norman nave and explained to inquiring strangers why the rail strike had upended my day-trip to Canterbury.

“It’s only half an hour’s drive,” objected the man across from me. He spoke just audibly. His timbre and demeanor walked a line: the traits of one who does not want to take up space, but not a voice to be ignored. “I’ll drive you if you want. I have nothing planned. It’s beautiful.”


On the road, classical music from the radio brightened the grey countryside views. We discussed lockdown times, his recent English lessons for Ukrainian refugees, the research for my fledgling novel.

He pointed: “Canterbury. The Romans built those city walls.”

It might have been in Dane John Gardens, amongst the flowerbeds, under the mound, beneath the old lime trees. It might have been during the drive, after the petrol stop. It still surprises me that, in the sequence of the day, the way he told me now escapes the stamp of time and place.

Somewhere, sometime between the Norman nave and the cathedral steps, in answer to an unsuspecting query, he shared what had defined the day and every day for him for months.

In early 2021, he’d buried his son.


Nearly a thousand years it’s been since men laid down the oldest stones of Canterbury Cathedral. For centuries, fed by the hopes of pilgrims rich and poor, it grew. Expanding over years and acres, shared by the living and the dead.

I found myself touring this edifice beside a man who’d raised his only child on his own. The son wrote music, worked as a ski instructor in the Alps. And on a sunny mountain day, he’d told his friends “stay back” while he skied out to check the snow.

His father shared things plainly, never lingered, always focused back on the cathedral. “See how they’ve added this support because of weakness there.” A retired architect, he understood how structures work. And how they last. When we stopped in the Chapter House, he sang a line of Latin verse so I could hear the space’s resonance. He sang in many choirs now. He structured his time.

The sun came out to light our walk through town. We ate and wandered back for evensong. There, at the close of day, we joined with others all around, from everywhere, till all our voices rang against the ancient stone, sounding and bouncing back through space and time.

Sunday, June 19th, I realized… Father’s Day.

“I have nothing planned,” he’d said.

Donal Flynn

Born and raised in Dublin, Donal was a finalist in the flash fiction category with his story ‘Not Just Skin Deep.’

“I was struggling to think of a story relating to beauty and then this idea popped into my head while watching a film,” he said, explaining the origins of his story. “I did one or two major revisions followed by minor tweaks over a month. The most difficult challenge was keeping the ending a surprise to the reader.”

He said his story “had the placeholder title of ‘Beauty’ until the last day of submission when I gave it the final title.”

As to his response upon learning the good news, “I was ecstatic upon hearing I was one of the finalists in the competition. Excited and thankful.”

Not Just Skin Deep

by Donal Flynn

She was a beauty. The men from the barracks jostled me towards her to introduce us. Rumour has it that she had just dumped some poor schmuck and was gandering for some fresh meat. Surrounded by men fawning over her, I strutted over confidently and we instantly connected. She had a great body and my friend Thomas, who sidelined as an artist, agreed to ink us both with matching tattoos. She even let me nickname her twins; Laurel and Hardy.

At first we stayed near home, but our taste for adventure found us traversing Europe. She knew how to rattle me and I knew how to push all her buttons. No matter how many times we fought, no matter how much flack she gave me, and no matter how much stick I gave her, we always managed to come out of our scuffles unscathed and closer than ever. We had each other’s backs. I prayed that we could overcome all our struggles as I witnessed couples who had been together for years, friends and colleagues, breaking up around us one by one. Sometimes with horrific consequences.

Some saw us as angels, some, as demons. Whatever we were, we were inseparable. That was until Paris, and the summer of 1944, when we broke up. Our final fight caught me off guard. It eludes me what was said or what happened as it all became a blurry nightmare in my memory. We parted ways at the end of our pyrrhic fight. I wanted to scream out to her, to make amends, but instead watched helplessly as she slipped away into the distance and was gone.

We had not lasted. We had joined the list of those who had not made it. I was free falling without a parachute and she was no longer there to lift me up. The months that followed were agonising; I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I was kept endlessly busy by mindless work and thoughts of, ‘if only.’ It was months before friends rallied to free me from my torment. Afterwards, I married and had five wonderful children, although I never forgot her and what she had done for me.

It was nearly fifty years to the day since our parting in France when I spotted her at a museum in Paris. There she was, sitting in the centre of the atrium, still looking as beautiful as the day I had first laid eyes upon her. She hadn’t changed one bit and, of course, the men were still fawning all over her. As I approached her, I hoped that she would still remember this old man that I had become; the one she had saved all those years ago. I walked towards her confident, with my heart in my mouth, and with my chest out and a breast pinned with medals. I reached out my now frail hand to touch her and the fawning men stopped, stood, and stared.

She’s my beauty, I told them.

My Spitfire.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page