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Creative Writing Retreats

Up your word count and learn with great authors on residential writing retreats.

 

Online Creative Writing Courses

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Competitions

Get your work read by top literary agents, win cash prizes and get published in the creative writing competitions.

Books

Discover great new authors and read great stories with Retreat West Books.

Fire Themed Flash Winners

May 29, 2019
Fire Themed Flash Competition Results This has been a tough decision as all the stories on the shortlist have so much that’s great about them. I’ve been dithering but know that I can dither no longer! So, the following stories have been chosen as the winners and this month we also have a couple of highly commended mentions too. Congratulations to our winners and well done to all 10 shortlisted writers. Winner: Yia Yia Burns Olive Leaves To Ward Off The Evil Eye by Michelle Christophorou Why I chose it: The imagery, atmosphere, setting and use of the senses is fantastic. I was transported to that hot and dusty island. I loved how it surprised me as the ending wasn’t as I expected and the tension didn’t lead where I thought it would. Really great take on the theme.     Runner-up: A Fire In Drimnagh by Joe Bedford Why I chose it: This just kept surprising me. It never went where I thought it was going and the love and regret woven through it were palpable. Despite what he’d done, I was firmly on the narrator’s side and this was a whole world depicted in a very small space.     Runner-up: The Future Will Wait by Emily Harrison Why I chose it: Such a clever mix of lust, sensuality and future regret woven together to tell a tale of a relationship with a now, a past, and a future all without leaving the bed where the characters lay.     Highly commended: In The Backyard by Nancy Ludmerer and Warm Hands by Stephanie Percival     Congratulations again to all. The next theme is WIND and the deadline is 30th June 2019. Winners get cash prizes and published on the website. Get all the info here.    

Yia Yia Burns Olive Leaves To Ward Off The Evil Eye by Michelle Christophorou

May 29, 2019
Yia Yia Burns Olive Leaves To Ward Off The Evil Eye Michelle Christophorou This year, as every year, Hope spends the long summer in Cyprus. Flip-flops slap on sun-bleached lanes as she walks to her grandparents’ house. By the prickly pear cacti she once fell into, a car stops for directions. She voices her linguistic limitations – den milo Ellinika – hears the words that curve from others’ mouths grow spiky in her own. The passengers laugh, her unbelonging a joke, because, already, the sea has turned her native, smooth and brown as Uncle Savva’s donkey. Yesterday, her father told her – eyes dancing with ironic pride – that Cyprus may be small, but they’ve the world’s biggest donkeys. In 1985, Uncle Savva’s is the last of its kind in the village. It looms, sleek and serious, nothing like the woolly Eeyores of home. Hope misses her dog. And her best friend Lucy, the dew on lush lawns, puddings unspoiled by rose water. At the house at the top of the hill, Yia Yia and Papu greet her with wet kisses, shiny cheeks, encouraging smiles. She sits, bare toes just touching stone floor. The scratch of straw seat on bare thigh, the bruise of wooden slats through cotton vest. The trickle of sweat between shoulder blades. Papu offers her all his English – windy – always an appropriate word in this coastal place, even in high summer – and the contents of the fridge. She assents to the watermelon she watched him cut yesterday, vermillion flesh turned rubbery now at the edges. Shakes her head to glyko; last year, she’d gagged at the lump of candied rind. He pours himself a shot of chilled cognac. Hope offers them her morning at the sea. Thalassa, she says, unable to share the wonder of the octopus curled around a rock, a kingfisher that flashed by her shoulder. She doesn’t correct them when they call her Elpida: Yia Yia’s name, and the Greek translation of her own. Hope: an Anglicized name born of her parents’ pity, a name her friends can pronounce. Yia Yia moves her chair to the courtyard, grabs a rabbit by the ears as it lollops by, invites Hope to pet its skewbald fur. Now its nostrils pulsate, breath thrums its body back and forth; but she knows this is a favourite, easily caught. Soon, Yia Yia will slit its throat and fry it with eggs. Hope closes her heart. But can’t suppress a smile when Yia Yia removes her knotted headscarf, unspools two plaits from her head, and lets down her fairy-tale hair, still surprisingly chestnut. Papu smiles with his eyes, refills his glass. Before Hope leaves, Yia Yia reaches for a steel briki, fills the pot with mysterious things, sets it to light on the stove. Smoke comes, earthy and other, smelling of the East. Now high priestess, she wafts the billows towards Hope, incants in whispers. Hope does not know what this is. But she knows it means love. *** About the author: Michelle Christophorou writes flash fiction and short stories. Her stories have appeared (or are forthcoming) in anthologies and online, including in Ellipsis Zine and Funny Pearls. In an earlier life, she

A Fire In Drimnagh by Joe Bedford

May 29, 2019
A Fire In Drimnagh Joe Bedford   The house is wrapped in police tape. The attic where the fire started is burnt out and exposed, still faintly smoking. The doorway hangs wide open like a dead mouth. I follow the smears of sooty black running across the brickwork. The same ran up the edges of Finn’s face where the nurses were yet to clean. He looked so much like a child tonight I cried in front of everybody. He looked empty, as if the life had already vacated his body. I wanted to touch him but the nurses told me not to. It was the closest I’d been to him in a year. * When his mother left, I taught him to blame me. I encouraged him to hate me, and as soon as he turned sixteen he ran from me as I knew he would. I assumed his friends would kick him out eventually. He must have proved tougher than I’d given him credit for. They never understood why I kept coming, even after they first surrounded me on the front porch and showed me the knives. Some were nearer my age than his – some had sons of their own. But they’d already become his family. Whatever they did together was between themselves. The police told me they were building a case. I couldn’t picture it. When I saw Finn with his friends, on the front steps of the house or sat in one of their cars on the main road, he looked away. His clothes, his walk, the expression on his face – everything about him changed. He became unreachable, unrecognisable. I tried my best to watch him from a distance but it was impossible. He became another person – a grown man I’d never met. When I finally got him alone behind the off-licence I couldn’t help but beg. He looked skinny and tired. He spat in my face. He ran from me again, desperately this time, fighting back the tears. I called his name but he didn’t turn. That was the last time I saw him until tonight. * In the doorway I can see the broken teeth of the stairs. Above, the windows are black and empty. People stop to take photos and then move on. It feels wrong, but I’m proud to see it like this, knowing that my son will never go back inside. I hated this house and every part of it. There are houses like this all over Drimnagh. Young, scared boys walk into them and bitter men walk out. But now there is one less house. A crowd has gathered. Someone asks me if I know what happened. I tell them no. Any of these kids could’ve done it, or know whose fault it was. I breathe deeply. My son could’ve died. But truthfully, without guilt, I’m glad to see it smouldering. * When Finn opened his eyes, I was the first thing he saw. In a few days,