Ahead of next month’s announcement of winners and finalists in the third edition of the ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ (WAWA) on the theme of LOVE, we wanted to share with you stories from some of the finalists in our previous competitions.
And with Covid restrictions easing and many countries opening for travel again, we also wanted to remind you there is still time to sign up for one of our week-long creative writing retreats taking place in Donegal on the beautiful north-west coast of Ireland, in a rustic Romanian village on the intriguing Black Sea coast and in Paris, the City of Lights. Participation is limited, see full details HERE.
by Jennifer Redmond
An insipid winter sun slips under the horizon. The air is chilled into stillness. A few sea birds are calling, their cries desolate in the murk. Such quietness befits a winter's evening. The headlands are great dark stacks rising from the ocean. Not friendly forms, but ominous lumpen shapes that menace and lurk.
Walking alone on such a night, there is the relief of isolation. There is peace, no human sounds disturb the tranquillity. I am an animal of the planet, subordinate to its forces, hesitant in the darkness. My footsteps crunching on the sand, broadcast my presence to the legions of sea creatures who slither and dive in the mess of seaweed and plastic flotsam. Accustomed to the junk, I hardly notice my legacy to the world. My footsteps leave heavy imprints — the jackboots of a thug in the spawn.
A kindly moon rises — almost full, a waxing gibbous. It silver-gilds the rooftops of the houses along the shore. As it climbs in the sky I gain the company of a moon-shadow. The spectral twin of one that I could be, that chases me through the decades crying,
“if only you had been less voracious!”
A heavy wave crashes in, soaking my feet and I jump, aware at last, of the white foam and the silver shards tinkling on the ocean. The quietness is shattered utterly and the night becomes hectic. The clouds scud across the moon, as it makes its steady ascendance. The waves break onto the sands creeping up the shoreline to a lunar beckoning. My way is lit and my steps are sure.
I am clambering over the rocks, wet jagged edges sparkle treacherous and challenging. A mussel shell glistens iridescent in a moonlight pool. Some slithering thing moves about industrious, in a world that I cannot fathom. Languid fronds, fan out from the extremities, of this mysterious nether world. Here is an excess of living — a pure jouissance. To think that such a pool nurtured humanity. Civilization. The notion brings sadness and with melancholy comes speculative contemplation.
I wish that I was an octopus, a cephalopod. Oh to be spineless! and to ooze into miniscule spaces. To be a master of disguise. To change the colour and texture of my skin — to blend with alien terrain. An octopus has an opulent five hundred million neurons in every arm. Oh to see, to smell and think without the tyranny of the brain. As an octopus I would cavort and make mischief with the ebb and flow of the ocean currents. There would be underwater ballet and great escapes. Time would be a drift. Not a prison.
Some car lights pick out my form, framed in the spotlight I am roused from my reverie. The moon is eclipsed by heavy clouds, and no longer guides. Chilled to the bone, I rise stiffly from my perch, and dig my hands into my pockets. In truth, I am more of a crab. Furtive, and anxious in the black night.
Jennifer Redmond, an Irish visual artist and writer, said she entered her story in WAWA Creative Non Fiction category, “spontaneously and because I like to write experimental non-fiction.” After seeing details on the Irish Writers Centre (Competitions & Submissions) website, she said, “I went for a walk at night time in the moonlight and recorded my stream of consciousness (and unconsciousness), allowing the feeling of the drift to become part of the language of the piece.” In terms of editing, Jennifer said, "I was pressed for time so there were only about two revisions. The most difficult challenge was to control the voice or the auto narrative.” A delighted Jennifer said, “It is wonderful to be considered as a finalist in the competition — a really lovely surprise.”
It Can (Cannot) Happen
by Jim Tennerman
A crevasse opened in my backyard one day. The molten core of the earth was exposed. I threw my TV into the crevasse and it closed immediately. Later that same day thousands of birds of a species I’m not familiar with landed in my small village. They picked up many objects with their beaks and feet and departed en masse. They had cleaned the village of its trash! The next day a dark storm bore down on our village and the crevasse opened again. Without thinking, I pushed my rusty old car into the crevasse. It closed and the skies cleared. Colorful butterflies swarmed around my home, delighting my children and my dog.
I had to think about this, so I went for a walk. On my way through a neighbor’s pasture I found a fawn tangled in the fence wire. It licked my face as I unbound it. In the forest I found mushrooms that I knew to be delicious, so I gathered as many as I could and dropped some off at a friend’s bungalow as I passed by. When I arrived home I saw that my oldest boy was cuddling a koala. Now this was strange, because we don’t live in Australia and there are no marsupials in our country. But the boy and the koala looked happy. Blissful even.
A pattern was emerging, so I lined up some junk in my backyard where the crevasse had opened up. It reopened and I pushed my lawnmower in as well as some old video games. I tried to push a bicycle in but it became very heavy; so heavy that I couldn’t even move it. The crevasse closed. It didn’t want the bicycle, which had become light again. Later that day there were ripe tomatoes hanging in my vegetable garden. I found this odd, because I had never planted tomatoes.
Salmon and trout became plentiful in our river. Fruits and nuts were falling from the trees. Pastures grew verdant. Sheep and goats showed up out of nowhere and tended to themselves. The cows were producing cream, and chocolate milk if children milked them. Ears of corn were two feet long and succulent. People who didn’t know how to sing were singing. Bears pretending to be people danced with them at night and left gifts of honey. We didn’t need cars so much anymore. We rode bicycles or took trains to the nearest city when we needed city things, and we often found gold coins on the road along the way.
I awoke from this dream, snug in my small cottage. I heard a thud, so I went outside and saw that a bird had flown into my window, knocking itself out. I picked it up and held it in my cupped hands until it awakened and flew away.
Jim Tennermann, 62, enjoys early retirement in Boston after a varied working life, including being a sailor, an anthropologist, an engineer and a business development manager for a technology company.
After learning about the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards from an Irish friend in Boston “who provided strong encouragement,” Jim said, “I was motivated by the challenge and the format of 500 words,” describing it as “a great way to tell a little story or share an anecdote, removing complicated plot issues yet forcing me to be spare with words.”
Jim said his story idea emerged from a false ‘life event’ he posted on Facebook as a joke for friends that a crevasse had opened in his backyard. “That became the seed,” he said. “The rest of the story just emerged. It practically wrote itself in four hours, though I did some polishing over the next two days.” Describing his reaction at being a competition finalist in flash fiction he said, “I’m really thrilled. This is the first recognition I have ever received for writing fiction. Thank you very much.”
Scrap The Caddy
by Paul Chiswick
‘Hey, Tan, look at this,’ Benny slides the National Geographic across the rough-hewn table.
MONKEYS 'DISPLAY SELF-DOUBT' LIKE HUMANS
Monkeys trained to play computer games have helped to show that it is not just humans that feel self-doubt and uncertainty, a study says.
Tanya scans the headline. Scratches her armpit.
‘What’s with these humans? Ever since they stopped that tea ad on the TV, we’ve been getting more and more attention. Beats me why they find us so fascinating.’
‘We’re of interest because they believe they developed from us. It gives them an opportunity to prove how far they have advanced, how backward we remain.’
Tanya lifts an eyebrow. ‘Uh huh.’
Benny’s mouth twists into a sneer. ‘Seems to me the only thing they’re better at is bending the truth. They believe they developed from us? The cheek of it! They’re the ones who have no beautiful warm coat, choose to live inside a stone box and crowd so close they can hardly breathe. Pass me the bananas, would you?’
Tanya jabs a leathery finger. ‘This “self-doubt and uncertainty” nonsense? What’s that all about? We grew out of that generations ago.’
Benny stretches out his arm, parts a tuft on Tanya’s shoulder. Crushes a tick between his fingers. ‘They may have a point there. Remember Clyde?’
‘The orangutan. The one who got picked for that Clint Eastwood movie.’
‘Oh, that Clyde.’
‘A classic example of self-doubt. Those orangutans, man, they’ve got some serious muscle. When Eastwood rocked up and picked Clyde for this film about a tough guy who brawls for a living, Clyde couldn’t contain his excitement; he’d always wanted to be on celluloid.’
Tanya nods. ‘I remember he was always preening himself and swinging from tree to tree using one arm only.’
‘Well, it began well enough. Clive living the life: his own trailer, personal groomer, mangoes by the bucketful. Then they got to shoot that scene.’
‘The Cadillac. Can you imagine what was going through Clyde’s mind when Eastwood ordered him to “scrap the Caddy”? Have you seen how big those things are? It’s one thing to snap a palm tree in half, quite another to rip a car apart. Clyde got cold turkey. What if he hadn’t enough strength? What if Eastwood replaced him with an elephant? The shame of it.’
‘And such a moral dilemma.’
‘Right, that too. The car was beautiful. It isn’t in our nature to destroy things without reason. We grew out of that years ago. But these humans, they never seem to learn. Clyde was torn, very torn. He did the job, but he was never the same again. Acting career over.’
‘Maybe they’ll change one day. As Darwin said, it’s a matter of evolution.’
‘Darwin the human?’
‘Don’t be stupid. Darwin the gibbon. His theory was that―’
‘Shush! Humans on the horizon. Talk monkey.’
‘Oo, oo . . . oo,oo,oo.’
‘Oo, oo, oo.’
Paul Chiswick, 69, a retiree, said he learned about the ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ from the website of Almond Press and that his story idea was triggered by a quote from an online article he “stumbled across.” While Paul made two revisions to his story before he was satisfied, he said the most difficult challenge was deciding on the title. His selection, he said, “came once I had fixed on Clint Eastwood’s order to the orangutan, Clyde, in the movie, Any Which Way You Can.”
Paul's reaction to being a competition finalist in flash fiction: “I’m delighted, as being shortlisted depends on so many factors, among which are the particular likes/genre affinities of the judge/judges. I have been lucky to have been shortlisted many times and to have won once or twice.”
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