Scotland-born, Christine Colliar whose story Time Runs Out was a finalist in the flash fiction category of our ‘Three Word Headline’ Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA) has lived away from her native country for over 30 years, in Switzerland, France and the US.
Having worked in systems analysis at the United Nations, she then taught English as a foreign language to Swiss bankers and perfumers, before stopping work when her children were born and later home-schooled her son for six years so he could pursue musical studies.
With a life-long desire to study literature, she joined a writing group in New York, then recently completed a Master’s degree in creative writing online with the Open University in the UK.
“I’ve had a wonderful time these past two years, meeting a great group of students in online forums where we exchanged work and ideas,” she said, adding that some colleagues mentioned to her the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards.
“I wasn’t as confident as they were about entering and waited a while before trying,” she added.
As for the origins of her flash fiction story, she said, “One of my course exercises was playing with time in an experimental way, guiding examples being Martin Amis’s novel, Time’s Arrow, and Sarah Waters’ The Night Watch. Each mini-scene in my story begins by stating the date and time it takes place to show chronology. I handwrite everything and typing my story into the computer was a first edit. I revised it once more for the competition.”
Toughest challenge: “Keeping secret what is happening until the final paragraph, which is actually the beginning of my story in normal chronology.”
As for the title: “It’s a play on words to do with the event taking place.”
Christine said her response to being a finalist was to wake her husband “with some incoherent babbling about being chosen.”
“Ireland Writing Retreat competitions give such a boost to writers, and especially those just starting out,” she added. “It’s a wonderful gift, thank you so much!”
Time Runs Out
by Christine Colliar
September 20th, 11.50am
She climbs the stairs, smiling now. The crowd, the reporters - nothing matters. He is here. He came because he loves her and that is all that ever mattered. Everything is ready when she reaches the top step and turns to face them.
September 20th, 11.45am
The platform is raised higher than she expected, so she will be seen clearly even from the back. She likes that the crowd will get a good view of her, get their money’s worth of her swan song. She glances right and left; so many people! She is glad that the performance is to be in front of strangers, she can play her part more assuredly. She walks on, such a walk that she will never again have the chance to take. Reaching that platform is the culmination of everything she has ever done. The dress is slightly too long and she stumbles. Someone reaches out to steady her and their eyes meet. This one isn’t a stranger. You, her eyes say. Yes, she reads in his reply. You came. - Yes, I came, of course, I love you.
September 20th, 11.10am
The girl helps her change clothes and pin her hair in tight braids on her head. The dress is plain, cut straight across her shoulders. It shows her neckline and collarbone beautifully. With the back of her hand she follows the curve of her neck and out along her shoulder, watching herself in the mirror all the time. You’re like a queen, he had said. She catches the girl looking at her and turns away from the mirror.
September 20th, 11am
The room where she has to prepare is basic but adequate. A dress is hanging on the wall beside a mirror. There are hair-brushes and hair-pins on a table, all she will need, and she’s glad they have thought of these things. There’s a small meal - bread, cheese, milk - but she isn’t hungry. She looks at the girl whom they’ve sent to help her. The girl holds her gaze a moment too long so that she is the one to turn away. The girl steps forward and reaches up to help her remove her shawl.
The verdict isn’t a surprise. She stands passively in the defendant’s box where she has stood every day for three weeks, watching her life riffled through and dismantled. She has heard testimony to her victim’s good character, his worth in the community, the alms houses he supported. A worthy gentleman indeed. Then she listened to the testimony to her worthlessness - her lack of position, her lack of connections, her lack of money. She, a married woman who doesn’t live with her husband, tried to seduce a pillar of society. The good man rejected her advances and she reacted as you might expect from a woman like her. Though, the prosecuting counsel did remark that she was decidedly pretty for such a woman, and that her murderous act could hardly be believed.
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Former columnist for her local newspaper, Aideen Glynn (49), a finalist in the creative nonfiction category of our ‘Three Word Headline’ Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA) with her story, Untying the Bracelets, works for a pharmaceutical company in Waterford, in Ireland’s sunny south-east.
Dublin-born and mother of three, Aideen is a lover of flash fiction and creative non-fiction, relishing the challenge of telling a story within a tight word count. It was after joining Writers Ink, which she said “renewed my love of writing” that she learned about WAWA.
Her story was inspired by her daughter, a nursing student.
“She has been through the most horrendous time doing hospital placements in the midst of a global pandemic and she talks constantly about getting on a plane and traveling the world as soon as she is qualified. She is such an integral part of my life that letting her go seems unthinkable to me. But as I said in my story, ‘Is it not the job of every mother to prepare her child for the world so that they can leave and survive on their own?’
Aideen said she wrote her story in one sitting, “but over the period of a week I tweaked it a little here and there until I finally pressed send.”
Her biggest challenge was the title, “capturing the essence of the piece in three words was tough. My original choice was ‘Letting you Go’ but it seemed too cliched and predictable so I incorporated imagery of bracelets into it.”
"Complete disbelief" was Aideen’s first reaction upon learning she was a competition finalist.
“I had to keep reading the announcement again and again to be sure,” she said happily. “It's a great honour to be among the top entries, and also a tribute to the work of my daughter and how she inspires me every day. Sometimes dabbling in creative writing makes you feel like you are working in a vacuum so getting an accolade like this makes it all worthwhile and leaves me determined to keep plugging away. It has finally given me the confidence to call myself a writer. Someday I hope to be the winner.”
Untying the Bracelets
by Aideen Glynn
It’s time to let go of your hand. You know it. I know it.
And yet…my bracelets remain entangled in yours. I can’t let go. Not yet. Not when there’s so much still left unsaid, not when there’s still so much you need to know. For how can I just let you walk away, tossing your hair, swinging your hips, glad to be free? How can I just let you walk away when you take such a big piece of me with you? What happens to the rest of me left behind? For who am I without you?
It’s time to let go of your hand. There’s a set of car keys dangling from your fingers. A credit card and passport peeking out from your bag. In your head you have already left. You have one foot out the door, another step closer to much longed for independence and autonomy. Another step to navigating your way through life without me. Another step to me navigating life without you.
It’s time to let go of your hand. I remember doing this before when you first disappeared through the school gates. So tiny but so determined to be brave. My own hand empty and cold until the bell rang and you returned to me. Both so happy to be reunited, content in each other’s company, taking strength from each other.
But now, it’s time to let go of your hand. Only this time it’s different. This time many miles will separate us, many seas will stretch out between us and I, for one, am no sailor. I have to commit you to memory, your beautiful smile, your sparkling eyes, your sharp wit and infectious laugh. My own smile will be forced now, my laugh will be hollow without you. But is it not the job of every mother to prepare her child for the world so that they can leave and survive on their own? If that is the case then I have succeeded. My job here is done. But oh what a hollow victory it is. What a bittersweet success.
I am letting go of your hand, untying the bracelets. I catch the last scent of your shampoo, the last flash of gold from your earrings and hear the last note of excitement as you step away from me, away from our life together. So tall, so straight and elegant, so full of hope and confidence. I want to reach out and take you in my arms once last time, one more embrace, one more deep breath so I can inhale your presence back into my lungs. Please turn around. Please.
At the car, she stops and turns. And runs back to my open arms. “It’s not for long,” she whispers. “I love you Mum.” And just like that she’s gone. My beautiful girl. For it’s time. Time to let go of her hand. Time to remember who I am without her. It’s time.