We’re delighted to highlight the work of two finalists in our previous ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ including one participant, Abby McNab Crain, who claimed such a coveted position in not one but three separate creative nonfiction competitions.
From being a teacher of English, dance and yoga, Abby, a multi-talented 41-year-old woman from Hamilton, Ohio now finds herself in Pamplona, Spain studying interior design at La Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Elle Education, as well as copy editing.
Abby’s first finalist position was with her story, ‘Frost on a Fence Post,’ for the WAWA Nature competition, then with her story ’Rent Whole,’ (see below) in the creative nonfiction category of our WAWA competition on the theme of ‘Love,’ and recently became a finalist again with her story ‘Good Title Lifestyle’ (also below) in our ‘Three-Word-Title’ competition.
Describing the origins of her story ‘Good Title Lifestyle,’ Abby said, “The idea for my story emerged on vacation. I actually just started taking notes down on my phone while at the beach and then set it down when I came home.”
She added, “My normal process is to get a first draft out, make sure it’s clear, and then check word limits and such. Then I play with phrasing or specific words. This story had several versions before I was satisfied. The most difficult part of this story was finding the topic. Once I decided to write about writing while on vacation, it came fairly easily.”
Abby said she first heard about WAWA from a friend, adding, “now I’m on your list and never miss a chance to enter. I enjoyed previous contests when we were given a specific topic and this one was a challenge to find an idea.”
Speaking about challenges, Abby said “If my answers here are evidence of the fact, I always start by using more words than I need. Trimming the fat is the biggest challenge, but it’s also half the fun. Only 500 words?! Game on and good fun!”
Abby warmly welcomed the good news about being a finalist, “It really is an honor to be chosen. Having one’s working recognized is an important aspect of life, whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not. It helps us keep up hope for our creative selves. So, thank you. Truly.”
Good Title Lifestyle
by Abby McNab
“AquaGym is about to start… we should open a beer,” I say with an impish smile.
“You know that won’t work as a title. It has to be exactly three words,” he teases.
“No, it won’t, but it’s a great first sentence.”
Living in the mountains, those frozen waves reaching for the clouds, coming down to sea level to hear, feel, and taste the relentless motion of the Mediterranean waves always seems magical. Our campsite is always right off the beach, tucked under a tree. The rush of the waves creates a constant soundtrack, accompanying that type of aimless activity and introspection that vacations were made for.
“Discussing writing, chopping onions, singing along to ‘The Best of the 60s,’ it’s easy to see the rest of our lives. We live the lyrics of ‘Stand by Me,’ ” he says. I roll my eyes and smile. “That’s not cheesy; that’s classic,” he defends with a wink.
This is the rhythm of life in the campground, healthy and hedonistic in equal measure. Our days take on a new routine that completely revolves around the sun. Like the peoples of old, we worship or avoid its penetrating intensity. We eat our weight in seafood and drink the local ‘cavas’ and doze in the shade at midday. We build sandcastles and play cards. More than anything, we revel in the easy conversation and creativity that the slow life allows.
“So, what are some good story ideas and titles? ‘Celebrating Chick-Pees’, the secret power of women going to the bathroom together,” I suggest.
“ ‘Cock-Tales Over Cocktails’, the hilarious truth of girls’ night out,” he counters.
“Something deeper, perhaps? The title is the story after all. Maybe ‘Health and Hedonism’?” I offer, eyes fixed on the shade curtains flapping in the breeze.
We bounce from depth to dirty jokes and back again, laughing until tears appear.
“I love coming here with you,” I say. “It gives us two weeks a year to just be ourselves and have life all figured out. It makes everything seem possible.”
“It does,” he replies and then pauses. With a mischievous twitching of an eyebrow, “Does ‘everything’ include a romp in the tent before our son returns from football?”
“Why not? We weren’t really going to that exercise class anyway, were we?” I reply with a laugh, pulling him toward the tent. “But don’t let this cloud your mind. I still need a good title. ‘Stand By Me’ is taken.”
“You’ll think of something. Why don’t you just write about trying to write a story while on vacation? It’s always the simplest things that get to the heart of life. Just start there. Write with gratitude that we’re here. Now, that’s enough. It’s time for you and me,” he whispers in my ear.
“Maybe I should just write about parents finding time alone on vacation and call it ‘God Bless Soccer’,” I chuckle, forgetting all of it.
by Abby McNab
"Holy shit, did I just pee myself?" My eyes pop open. 7:43am. I look down, but that's useless because my swollen abdomen makes it impossible to see below my navel.
I gracelessly slither out of bed and shuffle to the bathroom. Liquid is running down my legs, but it's not pee. It dawns on me, "My water broke!" And then I realize it isn't clear and that means stress on the baby. I run through my birthing class in my head. "Go to the hospital, now."
I wake my husband, change my pants, pry my rings off puffy fingers. By 8:15, we are in the cab. That's all pretty fast, considering I waddle instead of walk.
I pray that nothing is wrong. My pride prays that my maternity pad keeps the leaking ‘water’ from flooding the cab.
We arrive, go through the initial tests, get fitted with monitors, sign papers. "If contractions don't start in an hour, we will have to induce. But, so far, so good."
After a moment of relief, I swear under my breath, "Induce my ass, let's go, baby."
You know how they say be careful what you wish for? Yeah, it's true. They start suddenly and move fast. I'm walking, I'm on a ball, I'm gripping the bed. I hit four centimeters in no time. Walk, ball, grip. Walk, ball, grip. They intensify into one seamless, never-ending contraction. I feel possessed, writhing and twisting like a snake shedding a burning skin. Half-mad, I collapse on my side, moaning in exhaustion, one leg in the air like a dog on a hydrant because his head has dropped and I can't move my hips.
"How elegant. OK, changed my mind, drugs, drugs, drugs," I pant.
"Oops, no can do, you're already pushing without knowing it. You went from four to ten centimeters in an hour. It's time for delivery."
While being wheeled through the corridors to the delivery room, leg still doglike, amidst the onslaught of profanity that my husband swears I never stopped screaming, something unexpected occurs. The split happens. The inner me jumps ship to hover above.
I see myself being moved, being instructed, following orders, but just splitting. A vast chasm appearing in previously solid earth. A ripping, a tearing, a rending of Biblical proportions. For how long, I don't know. Eons. The hovering me stays safe, serene, calm. The body animal me is roaring.
And then suddenly it is over. I hear the cry. The split stops and the hovering me jumps back into my animal body.
And there he is, covered in goo, a head full of blackest hair, laid in my arms by a nurse. I begin to sob in joy and no small amount of relief.
"Hello, baby boy. Welcome."
He opens his eyes at the sound of my voice. We begin to speak only to each other; his cry, my coo.
My husband and I lock eyes and smile together. Now I understand what it means.
New WAWA competition on the theme of Beauty
Our second finalist featured here is Wendy Ennis, 50, who lives in Chattanooga Tennessee and is mother of seven children. Self-employed as a licensed massage therapist, Wendy grew up in the Napa Valley in northern California. Her story, ‘She Had Me,’ the first ever story she has written for a competition, won her a place among the top finalists in our creative nonfiction ‘Three-Word-Title’ competition.
In her story, Wendy bravely tackled the heart-breaking experience of death.
“I decided to submit something as part of the healing process of the loss of my firstborn Alec from suicide,” she told ‘Ireland Writing Retreat,’ adding, “It emerged from a first line list I'd been compiling for some time.”
She added, “Perhaps the most difficult challenge was processing the emotions that came with pushing the send button. Entering this competition was a decision to begin to live again as I work through grief. I was later caught off guard, quite surprised when I opened the email and found out I was a finalist. To be named finalist in this competition out of hundreds of entries, has rekindled excitement to pick up the pieces where I left off and write.”
Wendy learned about the ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ through her ‘Word Weavers’ critique group and hand-wrote her first draft over twenty minutes, then made three revisions.
She Had Me
by Wendy Ennis
I visited the facility often, almost every Saturday afternoon. She was alone every time I was there. Nondescript room, last door on the left. One word on the door - Ruby. A frail, tiny body. Her translucent skin wrapped around fragile bones. Her skin splotched purple with age.
I would sing to her, talk about my week, and pray for her. Then hug her and step out of the room. Her eyes followed me out the door. In a week, her eyes lit up when I entered her room again. Bright grey eyes watching me. Staring, like a meadow bunny. Delicate, wild, scrawny, beautiful, and perfectly still except for a pink nose twitching. With Ruby, it was her pink tongue. If she opened her mouth, her pink tongue pulsed in and out. No ivory held it back.
This day, hers was the last room in my rounds. I stepped inside and immediately her bunny eyes lit up and her tongue thrusts became more rapid. The only thing covering her was flimsy skin. The old lady’s nakedness caught me by surprise. I quickly found a sheet on the floor and covered her. Nothing smelled good. Only a sickly combination of urine, hand cleaner and dense perfume.
As usual I sat on the end of her bed and began to sing, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know…’ Her eyes smiled. Her tongue increased velocity. She began to lean towards me, trying to say something.
She’s never spoken before, I thought. I leaned in closer. She tried again.
“What Ruby?” I asked, holding her hands in mine.
She became louder and grabbed both my arms tightly. I leaned in a little more to hear her better.
“What’s wrong Ruby?”
Suddenly, she pulled me down close to her face. I stared horrified at those grey eyes, trying desperately not to look at her pink tongue. I tried not to notice her stomach gut breath either. Louder, more agitated, desperate to get it out.
Her breathing was more labored, and I became locked in a superhuman embrace.
Ruby tried again, “Iiiii, loove UUU!”
She smiled past her tongue, let me go, and dropped helplessly on the bed. For a moment I was utterly speechless. Tears filled my eyes. I tenderly tucked her in the sheet, softly whispered in her ear, “I love you too Ruby, I love you too.”
The next Saturday, the room had a new resident.
“Where’s Ruby?” I asked a tech. She shrugged absently, not even looking at me. “Been dead a week now. Too bad. She had no family, no friends…” The tech entered another room, and I was left standing in the doorway.
“Yes she did.” I said after her. “She had me.”