Due to multiple disabilities including gastroparesis or partial paralysis of the stomach - Mark Perfect lives on only four hours sleep a night.
But that doesn’t prevent the resilient 35-year-old Englishman from pursuing his love of writing.
That’s why he entered the ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ (WAWA). Not just entering but being chosen as a finalist in the flash fiction category, among hundreds of entries worldwide.
Mark proudly displays his 'Wild Atlantic Writing Awards' finalist certificate.
“For me, it is important to feel like I am contributing something useful to the world,” Mark explained from his home near Exeter in Devon, England. “As a disabled person, the easy option is to consume and spectate, it takes guts to use the little energy or functionality you have to create something.”
For Mark, writing is a form of relief from the pain and frustration suffering from conditions such as Type 1 diabetes and autonomic and peripheral neuropathy, a disorder in which nerves are damaged throughout the body.
“I do find that it provides a form of escapism for me,“ he told ‘Ireland Writing Retreat.’ “The reader may be disabled too, so there's escapism for everyone! Plus, I think my sense of humour would be wasted, without a vent for it.”
And what an imaginative sense of humour Mark has, all the more admirable considering the physical difficulties he faces every single day. Entering his story, entitled ‘The Invite,’ in the previous WAWA competition with its theme of Nature, every character in Mark’s story is a snail. Auburn snails with personality. And names like Sultry Steve and Salsa Steve and Smelly Steve from the compost heap, as well as Jim who sells motorhomes for a living. All headed to a housewarming party. (Read his complete story below.)
“I like writing original escapist pieces which combine adventure, fantasy and, most importantly, humour,” he said. "I also have a love of gardens and wanted to see where a snail theme would take me.”
In terms of story revision, Mark said, “I'm a perfectionist, and with multiple disabilities I only have very short periods to write each day. I have 30-45 minutes most days to do something creative. Any longer eats into an already short, four hours sleep. The frustrating thing is being excited to write, then being so tired that I fall asleep for that little time slot I have. Also, if anything unplanned happens during the day, the precious time slot vanishes. This tiny story probably took about four months, which I suppose is both sad and empowering for other people.”
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Mark also said he had six working titles for his story, but he’s keeping the other five secret in case he needs to use them for future stories.
Proud to be named a finalist in the ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards, Mark said, “When it takes so long to write a story, it's very rewarding to gain acknowledgement for it.”
If all this isn’t impressive enough, Mark also donates every penny of prize money he wins for his stories to his favourite charity - the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
by Mark Perfect
The silver banner rippled above the open, yellow patio door. 'ALL SNAILS THIS WAY.'
Hundreds of auburn snails approached the door. Frilled bellies lathering trails across the cream paving.
They scaled the sagged wood ramp on the doorstep and edged into the kitchen.
Jim, the lime eyed, plump snail, crept onto the white floor tile. A blue-chrome-shelled snail overtook him. ‘Gosh this one’s rapid. It must be using premium slime, or something.’ He turned to look.
“Oh, hiya Barry. Haven’t seen you for yonks. What are you up to now?”
“Great to see you, Jim. I sell motorhomes. Been doing it for a few weeks. I love it.”
“You always were the smart one. Love your dazzling shell.”
“Thanks, Buddy. I said I’d treat myself to a chrome wrap, once I’d sold my hundredth motorhome. Definitely recommend it. Anything’s better than a dull shell, isn’t it? What do you do now, Jim?”
“I re-home weeds.”
“Where? To your tummy!”
“Exactly. It’s really fulfilling.”
“I bet it is. Especially the last two syllables.”
“What do you think of this kitchen?” said Jim.
“Not enough soil for me. Can’t make up my mind about the white tiles. They hide the slime, but show up other dirt.”
Snail traffic intensified. Some took to the pearl white kitchen units—one slid off the cupboard door. Clack. “Poor Sam. His suction’s never been the same since that snail pellet. Shouldn’t have gone into next-door’s garden,” said Jim.
Jim and Barry climbed the black oven.
They reached the summit. Jim listed onto his shell, devouring air.
Queues radiated from the large black pan on the ceramic hob. Semi-singed snails climbed the pan, then flopped in. Plunk plunk plunk plunk.
“Whose housewarming party is this? I didn’t see the invite. Just overheard a couple talking about it on the lawn,” said Jim.
“The poster on the oak tree said,
STEVE THE SNAIL’S HOUSEWARMING PARTY
ALL SNAILS INVITED
IN THE BIG BLACK PAN ON THE KITCHEN HOB.”
“There’s loads of Steves. Sultry Steve, Svelte Steve, Smelly Steve from the compost heap. What did the snail photo look like?”
“His shell teemed with glitter and sequins.”
“Ahhh. That’s Salsa Steve. But a magpie plucked him from the lawn, months ago. I was there, taking his dance class. I smell a rat.”
FLAPFLAP-FLAPFLAP FLAPFLAP-FLAPFLAP. The hirsute, emerald fly hovered over them. “Yeh. The rat in the oven, is the main. You’re the starter.”