Our four wonderful writing finalists featured here share at least one thing in common - they show that age is nothing but a number and shouldn’t limit what we can achieve.
And their achievements include rich and colorful professional lives ranging from radio news producer, teacher, psychologist and newspaper reporter and in a wide range of countries too.
We wish them much success in their future writing.
Adele Evershed - The Taste Of Longing
Born in South Wales but later moving to Hong Kong, Singapore and then Connecticut, Adele Evershed - a top ten flash fiction finalist in the WAWA competition on the theme of ‘time’ - is a model for the saying ‘It’s never too late to start something new.’
A teacher by profession, Adele only started writing three years ago at the tender age of fifty-five.
Starting with what she modestly describes as “corny rhyming couplets and scripts for a British expat theatre group’s annual panto,” she has since had her poetry and prose published in online journals and print anthologies including Every Day Fiction, Ab Terra Flash Fiction Magazine, The Fib Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, Prose Online and Shot Glass Journal.
Adele has recently been nominated for The Pushcart Prize for poetry and short-listed for the Staunch Prize for flash fiction.
Adele said she wrote her story, ‘The Taste Of Longing,’ over a weekend, then “left it alone for a week before editing it the following weekend, then final editing a few days later.”
Her initial title was 'The Taste Of Sorrow', but she changed it. “Once I'd written the story I felt the title gave too much away. A reader would already be expecting a sad story. I wanted something more ambiguous so that the reader enters the story wondering what it was a character was longing for.”
Reacting to the news of being a WAWA finalist, she said, “I was thrilled and a bit stunned to learn there were hundreds of entries. It is always a leap in the dark when you enter any competition, there are always so many unknowns, from how many other stories you will be competing against to a judge’s personal taste, so it is always exciting to find out something you have written has battled the odds and been recognised. It also gives you confidence to keep writing and keep submitting.”
The Taste Of Longing
by Adele Evershed
Nia made a cup of tea and looked at her gold tote bag, it bulged, and the zip strained as if it contained something too big for its space. She had retrieved it from the attic with all her abandoned projects, yoga mat from her fitness phase, the complete works of Anne Patchett from her book club phase, and the knitting needles from her recent Tom Daly phase.
After the last time, Nia knew she had to be careful. Tom had said he understood, said he'd get her help, and he made her promise she would never do anything like that again. Of course, Nia had promised, and she had meant it, but when she heard 'Watermelon Sugar' on the radio, she saw Angharad twirling in the kitchen, and her resolve had melted like her cheese on toast. One little peek couldn't possibly hurt, she reasoned, and so she'd wrestled the bag down. Inside was the smell of their first home on Bethlehem View, the petrol pump high of the puddles and another tang - the musty smell of memories tucked in a metal box. Nia took out her other life, splaying the photos like a fan. The first one showed Angharad as a newborn. Others chronicled days of firsts: the first day of school, the first lost tooth, the first school dance. Her favorite was of her and a five-year-old Angharad running along a beach swinging a bucket of shells. She remembered them clattering like bones as she tipped them out. Nia took out her phone and scrolled to the photos of that last Christmas when the clock's ticking seemed to be counting everything they'd lost in the silence. Angharad blurred at the edges as if she had already started to leave.
She plopped a sugar cube into her cup. It took a while to dissolve and left a film of oil-bled colors on the surface. She tasted grit and that hard-to-describe taste of longing. It was all too hard, so Nia took her little silver knife from the bag and added a rung to the ladder on her thigh to climb back in time. Her pale skin flushed, and the blood bubbled up like the sea between the rocks. And she was back there. The air like salty butter on a piece of toast, Angharad still a little girl building sandcastles.
When Tom got back, Nia had safely stashed her time capsule back in the attic, but he tasted a trace of it on her breath when he kissed her. "Oh Nia love, have you been crying?" he asked. Nia shook her head and gestured at the fish she had cooked for dinner. "It's just the taste of the sea," she told him. She licked her lips and ran her fingers over the precious dust on the windowsill, letting the flakes of her daughter dance in the kitchen again.
Charlene Cason - Lindy’s Last Stand
At age 75, Charlene Cason - a finalist in our ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ flash fiction ‘Three-Word Headline’ competition - says proudly she has “three degrees in Words:” a BA in English and journalism at 40; a PhD-equivalent Masters in creative writing at 50; and an international certificate for teaching English as a second language.
With a father in the US Navy, Charlene grew up as a ‘military brat,’ living in different states, went to high school in Norfolk, dropped out of university, then began working as a military reporter for a leading regional newspaper before teaching creative writing and literature for another decade at university.
“My experience in journalism was excellent training,” she said. “Normally, I had the entire story in my head after an interview. This has continued to be my writing style: get an idea, formulate it in my head, type it out as though on a tight deadline.”
Reading about the WAWA competition on the ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ newsletter just two days before deadline, she said, “I just kept hearing in my head, ‘Give me twelve pithy inches by 2 pm!’ ”
Now living in Florida, Charlene was once owner of a stone cottage in Kerry, southwest Ireland, until the death of her second husband. She returns every year to Ireland to visit friends in Kerry, Galway, Clare and Meath.
Her flash fiction story, ‘Lindy’s Last Stand,’ is loosely based on her grandparents’ marriage.
Lindy’s Last Stand
by Charlene Cason
It was 1919, and Lindy’s hair had never been cut. As long as she was tall, it rippled in tawny waves past her five-foot frame and rested on the floor.
First her Presbyterian preacher father had forbid its cutting. And for the thirteen years of her marriage to Lemuel, the coal miner-preacher, he had forbidden it, too. Both had told Lindy, “The Scripture says a women’s hair is her crown and glory.”
They knew she had no time to read the Bible.
Milk cows, bake bread, churn butter, piece quilts, clean house, rear four surviving children. And brush your hair by the fire, where I can watch, each night before bed.
Lindy saved the silky threads that settled in her hair brush, gently taking them out and winding them in soft rats to use some Sunday mornings. But her hair was hard to wash in the basin, and she sometimes thought of bobbing it. Pearl, Ruby and Crystal had all bobbed their hair.
She was a small, quiet woman. Obedient. Cheerful. Seemingly never tired. First her father’s pride then her husband’s.
They had all lived through the Spanish Flu last year. The children were healthy, loved to roam the country fields and weren’t under foot so much lately. So, Lindy took to reading her Bible a little more. She searched and searched for that verse that kept her from cutting her hair.
She even asked Papa, and Lemuel, too, where it was. Both told her it wasn’t her place to doubt them.
Lindy was thrifty, saving a few pennies from her egg money, making all their clothes and even labelling an old shoe box, “Yarn too short to use.”
Suddenly, her strong husband got sick with a raging fever. The doctor came round, reminded her that she and the children had survived the Flu, and now he reckoned Lem would, too.
Thirty-six hours later he was dead.
Lindy wore a thick green wool coat she had made to the funeral that windy winter day.
She waited till her mother had taken the children home and all the church members and friends had left, too.
Then Lindy reached inside the coat’s deep pocket and pulled out the big shears she’d used to cut the thick wool for that coat.
She let down her hair, cut it off just below her ears and threw it in the hole, on top of Lem’s casket. She pulled her hat down over her head, lifted her chin and walked home.
Sumi Watters - A Good Life
Raised in a bicultural family (Japanese and Danish-American) in Seattle, Sumi Watters, 53 - a finalist in the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards flash fiction competition on the theme of ‘time’ - has traipsed around the globe, from Tokyo, Japan to Pretoria, South Africa and Hertfordshire, England.
During that time, she has been a radio news writer, producer, and presenter, as well as a translator and interpreter for the Japanese Embassy and the automotive industry.
Sumi now creates English educational materials for Japanese and international students. “Most days, you can find me thumbing through science or history reference books or surfing the web in search of stories/ideas/topics that will spark the interest and imaginations of the many young students who rely on my textbooks to further their English education,” she said.
After learning about WAWA in the March issue of Writing Magazine, she decided to submit the story she’d completed for a writing group prompt as it fit the theme, adding “I’d set a goal at the start of the year to write twelve short stories, and to step out of my comfort zone and enter at least one writing competition a month to get those stories ‘out there.’ “
As to the origin of her story. “In a nutshell, the start of the war in Ukraine,” she said. “Watching the news and hearing stories about desperate parents putting their young children on trains to ensure their safety, sparked something in me. I’m a parent myself, so I know what parents want more than anything is our children to have a happy, fulfilling life—A Good Life—even if it sometimes means you, the parent, don’t get to be there every step of the way.”
Hearing she was a finalist, she said: “Writing has always been a passion of mine, but I’ve never felt comfortable calling myself a writer. Being named a finalist is not only a great honour, it was also the encouragement I needed to feel more confident about my writing. Thank you for the invaluable gift of believing in myself.”
Greatest challenge for Sumi was the competition’s 500-word limit. “I must’ve written and discarded close to 2,000 words before I settled on the 500. There was so much more story I wanted to include! In the end, I left a lot open for interpretation. One of the most significant tasks was how much detail to reveal in the opening narrative.”
A Good Life
by Sumi Watters My name is Archie Newbourne. I disappeared without a trace on 22 February 2022. This is my story.
The day started like any ordinary Tuesday. My alarm sounded at 6, and I was out the door by 6:10. Mr Singh stood in front of his shop, newspapers stacked and ready to be delivered.
‘G’morning!’ he said. ‘Some fog, eh? Be careful out there, Archie.’
He was the last person in my previous life to see me.
I pushed my bicycle up Avery Hill, past the Quaker Hall, towards Common Road—my regular round. What happened next is inexplicable. I remember seeing an ominous purple cloud hurtling towards me from across the common.
Everything went black after that.
Lily Newbourne paced, her eyes fixed on the open front door.
‘Anything?’ she asked her husband upon his return.
He shook his head.
‘Archie wouldn’t abandon his bicycle and leave his phone. Something’s terribly wrong, Martin.’
‘It hasn’t been three hours, Lily. Let’s not panic yet. He’s fourteen. Kids do stupid things.’
A man holding a large wooden box appeared at the door. ‘Mr Newbourne?’ he said. ‘Hello. My name is Thom, and I’ve come from the Quaker Hall up the hill. A distant relative of yours entrusted us with this in 1952,’ he continued, handing the box to Martin. ‘We were instructed to deliver it to Clementine Cottage on this date. No sooner.’
Martin examined the box and tugged on the combination padlock that held it shut. ‘Is there a key?’
‘The engraving on the lid—DoBAN. What does it mean?’
‘We were hoping you would know, sir.’
‘Could it be …’ Lily ruminated, ‘Date of Birth, Archie Newbourne?’ She snatched the box from Martin then fiddled with the padlock’s dials until the mechanism released. She lifted the lid.
‘What is it?’ Martin asked.
‘Old photos … several journals … a letter …,’ Lily stammered. Her eyes welled up. ‘They’re from Archie.’
Dear Mum & Dad,
What I’m about to tell you will come as a shock, but please don’t despair. For reasons I can neither fathom nor explain, I was transported back to 1882 on the morning of 22 February 2022. I was desperate to return to you and the life I had, but seeing no way home, I resolved to accept my fate and make the most of my unusual predicament.
A generous family took me in and raised me as their own. They sent me to Cambridge to study engineering, Mum. Wasn’t that your dream for me? I met Clementine, my dear wife of sixty years, shortly after I began working for the Underground. Together, we built Clementine Cottage—just as I remembered it. The wonderful home I grew up in was also our family home for many happy, memorable years. It is filled with the joy and laughter of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
While I may no longer live in your world, please take comfort in knowing I lived a long and very fulfilling life.
Your loving son,
Katherine Muir - COVID And The Time Of My Life
“Being a finalist in your competition provides validation that talent and persistence can yield rewards.”
Those were the uplifting words to ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ by Katherine Muir after hearing she was selected among the top ten finalists in the ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ competition focusing on the theme of ‘time.’
A psychologist by profession, Katherine, 69, was born in Texas, grew up in Michigan and now lives and works in Florida, where she says, “I thankfully no longer have to shovel snow.”
Interestingly, she said, “in my profession and in my writing, I strive to understand the complexity and interplay of human emotion and behavior,” adding that the topic of ‘time’ in the WAWA competition intrigued her, “mainly due to its broadness.”
“Initially, I was confounded as to a way of focusing on a single aspect of time,” she said. “The challenge of this reeled me in and I began to think of different times in my life. I realised that COVID had changed the ways in which I responded to time. I also liked the idea of juxtaposing the ideas of illness with life and finding the positive within a crisis.”
On her approach to writing, she said, “I tend to be compulsive, revising repeatedly until I am merely exchanging synonyms for minor words. At that point, I tell myself I have done my best, and further revision will accomplish nothing.”
COVID And The Time Of My Life
by Katherine Muir
The moment I opened my eyes, I felt a sense of panic. I knew immediately that something was not right. The clock said 6:00 a.m. but the customary blaring was absent. Temporarily out of work because of COVID, I had not set my alarm clock for the first time since high school. That did not stop me, though, from following my early bird routine. A perpetual morning person, I dressed hurriedly while the coffee percolated. I caught up on the overnight news on TV with my bagel in one hand and my phone in the other. Fifteen minutes after arising, I was ready to go before realizing there was no place I needed to be. According to the news, many places were closed, and germs lurked in the ones that were open.
Long addicted to reading, I binged through at least one novel a day. I sorted through old boxes of miscellaneous records and receipts like a demon, alternating between the waste basket and the paper shredder. I tried new recipes while the washer hummed in the background. Hobbies that I was saving for retirement came to the forefront. Each endeavour was a festival of multi-tasking.
Whoa! My entire life had been a sprint toward accomplishment. The precious gift of time meant that I felt wasteful if I did not do at least two things at once while simultaneously anticipating my next activity. Although some of my hobbies were relaxing, idleness for its own sake seemed almost sinful. Free time was a gift squeezed between the necessities of life, a resource to be valued, not squandered.
With free time inflicted on me, I learned to pace myself. What was wrong with actually watching TV without also reading a book? Why couldn’t I reassess in the middle of the day and think about what I really wanted to do rather than what was on the schedule I had made for myself the night before?
COVID justifiably does not have the best reputation, given the death and disruption it has wrought on people’s lives. Nonetheless, it has been responsible for bringing families back under a single roof and spurring a sense of gratitude for what we used to take for granted. For me, it was a revelation that life does not have to be a constant frenzy of productivity. It’s all right to have a more laid-back approach. The choice is mine.