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WAWA Winners: Worlds Apart, United in Writing

One aged 21 from Florida, now living in Nashville and the other in her 60s from Tyrone, Northern Ireland now living in Berkshire, winners of our recent ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ competition on the theme of ‘change’ may be world’s apart but they’re united in writing.

Mary Fraser

Formerly in the human resources field and now working with children in emotional literacy, Mary Fraser is proud winner in the WAWA flash fiction category with her amusing dialogue-based story, ‘Restyling An Icon.

Originally from Tyrone in Northern Ireland now living in Berkshire, England, Mary said the idea for her story emerged after watching a television programme called ‘The Repair Shop’ about a team who restore old pictures, clocks and toys that have fallen into disrepair.

“Each item comes with a story and often an emotional attachment and as I watched, I wondered what stories they might tell if they had a voice,” she said. “I’ve always been fascinated by puppets and indeed use them in my work with children as they can help give children a voice, particularly when their own voice is not being heard. And so my story evolved.”  

She added, “It’s fair to say that once the idea came to me, my pen took over. Yes, I usually write in old fashioned pen and ink before transferring to the keyboard. Doing so helps me in the writing process. I usually draft a story, leave it for a day or two, then come back later and edit. I’m a keen walker and sometimes I find myself mentally editing whilst out walking.”  

Mary said staying within the required word count is usually her greatest difficulty, particularly in flash fiction, but she appreciates the challenge. “Having limits helps me utilise words more effectively and focus on the story. She added that the other challenge she faced was “keeping the reader guessing whom my story was about.”

An alumni of ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ that she said she loved and where she made great friends, Mary has entered several competitions over the years but described this as “a wonderful surprise and an unexpected win.”

“I’m thrilled to bits,” she said.

Restyling An Icon

by Mary Fraser

No way! … there’s absolutely no way I’m going!

But it’s for a good cause.

I don’t care what the cause is, I am not going.

But you promised … said you’d play along.

I said I’d help but that didn’t mean I’d agree to being re-strung!  Just imagine, the pain, the humiliation, the shame of it.

But you won’t feel a thing.

How do you know? You ever had all your wires pulled out and re-strung?  I’m not a guitar you know.

Guitars need to be re-strung regularly, don’t they? Improves the music. Enhances the melody.

Anyway, these strings work well and have done for years.  What’s the urgency now?

Ah, come on.  It’s a great programme.  Think about all the publicity … the fame …the fortune.

Fame?  Fortune, my ass!  People already know me.  I am famous.  I’ve got fans going back years and years.

Ah and that’s the problem.  Your fans are old.  You need to modernise your image…your profile.  We need to BIG you up … get you up to speed with social media … you know, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok.

Why? … why should I bother?  I’ve managed all these years without all this social media stuff.

Think about it as a ‘come back’, a re-launch, an introduction to a whole new audience.  Everyone loves a good story on ‘The Repair Shop.’

Ahhh …I dunno.

What’s to lose?  It would be wonderful to see if you’re still in vogue ...I mean …remembered.  Wonder if folk still recognise you?

Of course, they still recognise me!  I’m famous … maybe a bit older … a little jaded …in need of …

 … a good clean up?

No!  I was going to say, a little TLC!

I’ll say.

But what about … you know ...?

Oh that. Had almost forgotten about that. I’m so used to seeing you without it … I’d almost forgotten about ... that.

Getting re-strung … could be painful, I imagine.

See, that’s just it, you’re fearing the worst. It will be fine. Trust them. They’re all competent craftsmen at ‘The Repair Shop.’ You’ll be in safe hands.

And you do think they’ll be able to fix it … you know?  Without it looking too obvious.

Sure. They’ve probably done hundreds of nose jobs over the years.

Shhhh … I don’t want everyone to know!

Oops, sorry. I’ll call and confirm we’ll be there next Friday … a nose job and strings?

Suppose so.

By the way, is Pinocchio spelt with one or two ns?

Taylor Hitson

Winner in the creative non fiction category with her love story ‘Eterna Primavera,’ Taylor said she “grew up on Florida beaches wondering what was on the other side of the ocean.”

“With a Chase travel card in tow, I’m now determined to find out,” she added.

Now living in Nashville, Tennessee, Taylor is a business co-ordinator for Tony Robbins, an American author, self-help coach and motivational speaker.

Describing her story she said, “I was in Medellin, Colombia and had the love affair of a lifetime, one that blew me away. The novelty and electricity of new love in a foreign land changes you.”

In preparing her story, Taylor said she wrote down in her notes app everything she and her lover did, then “during the revision process, I cut away facts, creating a sense of continuity through repetitive themes such as the idea of falling, the life intrinsic to the color green and the rain having a divine influence on our relationship. I revisited my story over two weeks or so.”

In selecting her title, Taylor said, “I decided at the last minute to play on the tagline of Medellin, the ‘City of Eternal Spring.’ 

As for the greatest challenge facing her in the writing process, “It was almost impossible for me to decide what to keep. Novels have been written about such romances.” 

Taylor cried when she heard she’d won, especially as it was the first writing competition she’d ever entered. “Oh my God. Beyond honored and grateful. You have no idea how validating and blown away I am by this. Your team has given me such a sense of confidence and gusto to share my writing.”

Eterna Primavera

by Taylor Hitson

The leaves never fall in Medellin.

A city known for transcending seasons. The eternal glowing green held in the cool of a mountain's palm.

I don't fall for much anymore either. I don't answer phone numbers I don't recognize. I don't expect men to keep their promises.

A transcendentalist walks into a perfume store to avoid misty Medellin rain and meets a Venezuelan with a jawline. To him, I smell like Valentino. It's his favorite, he says. Perhaps I can fall for sales tactics.

It started with promises fulfilled. He offered to teach me Spanish. With him, I stuttered and then started to sing. Then more, he would massage out the knot in my back. And then more, he would keep me safe. I take out my phone to write these words in the night.

He learns I love Colombian avocados. He goes to five markets to find the perfect one. I watch him cook, and we take turns sending the chill of new love down each other's spine. The rain tells me to stay. I hesitate.

He calls me a magnet and kisses me softly. But maybe I'm really a black hole. A void of doubt he can't fill, but he's too close to turn away now. He won't let me push him away. I won't let him pull away. Do I want this?

I hear his heart and unbutton his shirt with my teeth. A feeling goes spoken through glances and fingertips and the pace of our breath. Paper-thin walls that roommates can hear us speaking through. It's our language.

He is, no - he has a hunger for me. The kind that makes his brow furrow.

I'm full of him. Our eyes connected. He reaches behind his neck and unclasps the smaller of his two chains. Necklace is "collar" in Spanish for a reason.

For him, I'm his exception. He is mine. We're far from the shallow now. Previously, limerence was my prerogative. Now, I practice love that grows like an oak tree. Rings we collect through the years. Branches can break, but the trunk will be stable. Yet, he doesn't know that leaves fall. I do. He doesn't know gorgeous tones of red and yellow. I do.

But I don't know passion like he does. He knows salsa. The force of the Magdalena River. He knows the Amazon. He knows snake bites and scorpion stings. He knows how tigers smell - the reek of death. I don't understand inhibition the way he does.

When the leaves fall, no one knows where they will land. But it doesn't matter, does it? The leaves fall anyway. His kisses land anyway.

A tear falls when we say goodbye. Maybe I could exert my will over this, but I don't want to anymore. The leaves crunch under my feet in Nashville now. But I feel his promise around my neck and in the green of Whatsapp chats. The rain falls and tells me to go back. This time, I listen.

An old saying states 'Time waits for no-one.'

With this mind and as our writing retreats are filling up fast - the Summer session is fully booked - we'd like to offer this poignant poem by Pablo Neruda as a gentle reminder of carpe diem. Not just to enjoy our writing retreats. But anything you wish to do in Life.

'You Start Dying Slowly.'

You start dying slowly

If you do not travel,

If you do not read,

If you do not listen to the sounds of life,

If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly

When you kill your self-esteem;

When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly

If you become a slave of your habits,

Walking everyday on the same paths…

If you do not change your routine,

If you do not wear different colours

Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly

If you avoid to feel passion

And their turbulent emotions;

Those which make your eyes glisten

And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly

If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,

If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,

If you do not go after a dream,

If you do not allow yourself,

At least once in your lifetime,

To run away from sensible advice…

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