One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a judge for ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’s ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ (WAWA) is basking in the fascinating worlds that participants paint through words.
I am constantly surprised by the utter diversity of angles writers generate on a particular theme and the unique way they approach their subject.
With the only condition (aside from a 500-word limit) being that Nature should play a role in the story, writers for the flash fiction category in the latest edition of WAWA, unleashed their imaginations in a mighty way.
With judging complete and finalists and winner announced below, I wanted to salute everyone who participated and to reflect generally upon the entries. For those interested, I also wanted to mention that I will host a special practical workshop on helping you improve your ‘Flash Fiction’ writing to win awards as part of a Virtual Ireland Writing Retreat.
Firstly, I was very impressed by the breadth of internationalism WAWA attracted. Aside from those countries where entries are normally expected such as Ireland, the UK, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia, I was delighted to see entries from other countries such as Indonesia, India, Iceland, Nigeria, Qatar, South Africa and Romania, each with its own individual cultural stamp.
Almost every conceivable time period - past, present and future - was adopted by participants for their stories, including the 1700s in the midst of the American War of Independence, a modern-day police speed radar check-point; and a world ruled by all animals, except humans.
They also differed widely in terms of geography, from the exotic countryside of southern India to the stunning ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ along the western seaboard of Ireland.
Geographical settings also included the scenic 300-kilometer coastal road in South Africa known as the ‘Garden Route’; the Bay of Ierano on the Mediterranean Sea where legendary sirens, mythical women-bird creatures, lured sailors to their doom with enchanting music; the Bass Strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland; the ancient pilgrimage site of Lough Derg in northern Ireland; and the giant redwood forests of the Pacific northwest.
Within these distinct geographic regions and time periods, stories were set in a plethora of specific settings ranging from sailing boats on the High Seas to sweltering deserts; from colorful, scent-filled botanical gardens to dirty, foul-smelling rivers.
As for themes incorporated into the various stories, here are some examples to give you a sense of their diversity: schizophrenia, reincarnation, intergalactic love, elves inside oak trees, perfumes that smell of cats’ piss, isolation due to covid 19, thunderstorms and Holy Water, a hunt for survival, and what could best be described as ‘letting go.’
It is worth mentioning here that many stories, excellent in style and content, unfortunately read more like creative nonfiction than flash fiction, a key distinction that I will also discuss during the Virtual Ireland Writing Retreat.
Nature in all its aspects was well and truly represented in the array of stories, with a vast world of flora and fauna featured, including magpies, golden retrievers, polar bears, robins, nymphs known as dryads, swans, crows, elephants (some trunkless), faeries, boars, selkies, chickadees, sea turtles (laying their eggs on the beach), Mandarin ducks, sheepdogs, not to mention trees such as bodhi, oak and willow and a wide variety of herbs and flowers, from rosemary and thyme to daffodils.
Considering this element to be important, I was intrigued to read what titles participants created for their stories. After all, just as they are on book covers, titles can make the difference between someone being enticed to read on, or shift their attention elsewhere (tips for choosing titles will also be discussed during the workshops in March.
To those who entered the recent WAWA competition, my deepest thanks for hours of contented reading and for making life under strict Covid 19 lockdown so much easier to bear. We will publish finalist stories over the coming weeks so you too can bask in the enjoyment of reading them.
And now, the finalists and ultimate winner of Ireland Writing Retreat’s Autumn 2020 ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ for flash fiction.
Heartiest congratulations and 500 euro in prize money go to the competition winner, Abbs Pepper (pseudonym for Arabella McIntyre-Brown), for her dramatic story set amidst ancient ruins in Greece entitled, ‘Wild Weapon.’
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): Paul Chiswick for 'Scrap the Caddy,' Kevin Dyer for 'Falco Eleonarae,' Hannah K. Edgerly for 'Seafood,' Martina Foreman for ‘Brambles,’ Ramesh Matham for ‘The Click,’ Grace Moran for ‘And to dust I shall return,’ Mark Perfect for 'The Invite,' Grainne Quinlan for 'If the sky had eyes' and Jim Tennermann for 'It Can (Cannot) Happen.'