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Creative Nonfiction WAWA Winner and Finalists are…

With some writers inspired by vivid memories, sad, happy and bittersweet, and others exciting travels to exotic places, ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’s’ recent ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ (WAWA) for creative nonfiction attracted a kaleidoscope of life experiences and insights.

And it reached writers far and wide across the globe, with entries from countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, Turkey, Denmark, Ireland, the UK, Canada and the US.

Here is a brief analysis of the competition under specific headings, with the Top Ten finalists and the ultimate Winner named below. Many congratulations to everyone who entered. Enjoy the sheer satisfaction of completing a challenging writing assignment under deadline and a strict word limit.

Several points worth considering: a number of entries read more as fiction than nonfiction; some writers focused on issues that were too broad to tackle within the 500-word limit; a key ingredient in good writing, ‘show don’t tell,’ was lacking in some stories; and in some cases, the all-important opening and closing paragraphs were not effective enough, indeed this failure lost some writers a place in the Top Ten list.

Such subjects will be tackled in a special workshop during Weekend One in March.

Also, as many stories were in the form memoir, participants may be interested in this workshop during Weekend Two.

As an international travel writer, with my own travel blog, I will show participants at the upcoming Virtual Ireland Writing Retreat how best to integrate color, drama and sense of place to create competition-winning stories. Lessons from my workshop, including critiques of participants’ actual work, apply to both flash fiction and nonfiction.


With Nature designated as a ‘must-have’ theme in the 500-word-limit WAWA competition, a plethora of flora and fauna emerged as key elements in stories including moths, bats, foxes, greyhounds, wood pigeons, mussels, collies, trembling aspens, bears, a species of Irish robin called a spideóg, a 65-year-old scots pine called Scottie, the dusty sweet scent of snow peas; whooper swans flying 36 hours from Iceland to meet in Lough Foyle, northern Ireland; and bluebells symbolising gratitude, humility and everlasting love.


Creative choice of setting was also an impressive hallmark of entries to the ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ (WAWA).

Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Argentina; Massai Mara, a savannah wilderness in Kenya and the tiny village of Cong in Ireland where the classic movie, ‘The Quiet Man,’ was filmed – such diverse places reflect the lively imaginations of participants.

Consider also nudist backpackers on a remote Australian beach; the frozen wilderness of northern Canada; dawn breaking over the Galician hills; twilight in the Rockies; the foothills of the Pyrenees; a solstice walk along a coast smelling of mussels and seaweed, an Azerbaijani village near the Matchavera River; a derelict, 18th century ivy-clad church and graveyard; dense forests filled with wild animals in Uganda; a remote monastery on Inishkiel island in Donegal; and the Blackmore Vale region in Dorset, England, made famous by author, Thomas Hardy, in his novel ‘Tess of the d'Urbervilles.’


Innovative themes were also a highlight of WAWA, ranging from the amorous advances of a horny pheasant; attacks by shrieking Arctic terns on the Farne Islands in the North Sea to defend their young; the symbolism of mackerel caught on a fishing trip; the exciting arrival of day-old chicks; a cow protecting its calf against an angry bullock; and a frightening encounter with an inquisitive polar bear.

Stories also focused on such diverse subjects as the abandoned village of Comes, an hour-long trek up a mountainside from Eus in Languedoc; a cold-water swim to ward off grief over the loss of a loved one; the dramatic release of bears, tigers, cougars, wolves and baboons near the small town of Zanesville in Ohio; a Davis, California bike club trip to the limestone region of the Burren in Clare, western Ireland; and an eventful train journey in a howling storm to Tomar, Portugal, former headquarters of the secretive Knights Templar made famous in Dan Brown's thriller, ‘The Da Vinci Code.’

And now, the finalists and ultimate winner of Ireland Writing Retreat’s Autumn 2020 ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ for creative nonfiction.

Heartiest congratulations and 500 euro in prize money go to the competition winner, Annmarie Lally, for her evocative story ‘Salt And Endings.

Our congratulations also go to the other excellent writers among the Top Ten finalists, all of whom receive special certificates of recognition from ‘Ireland Writing Retreat.’

They include (in alphabetical order): Steve Ashton for ‘Three Cliffs,’ Abby McNab Crain for ‘Frost On A Fence Post,’ Katie Lally for ‘Washing Away The Grief – How The Sea Saved Me,’ Eric Liddick for ‘The Man In The Moon,’ Nick Lyon for ‘The Bear,’ Kate McMeekin for ‘Rupture,’ Georgia Park for ‘Akin,’ Jennifer Redmond for ‘Winter Nocturne’ and Hannah Ricke for ‘Thoughts While Hiking.’

With authors’ permission, the Top Ten stories will be published on the ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ website over the coming months.

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