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Creative Writing Retreats

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

 

Online Creative Writing Courses

Get writing with the online courses.

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.

Flash writing tips from Kathy Fish

July 10, 2018
Flash fiction writing tips from Kathy Fish Delighted to welcome Kathy Fish to the blog for the first time today. Kathy is judging the 2018 RW Flash Fiction Prize and I got to ask her all about what she loves about flashing. Kathy, thanks for coming. As an award-winning flash fiction writer yourself, what’s the best advice you can give to writers looking to master the form? Read a lot of flash fiction. There’s a wealth of excellent flash fiction online. Read such journals as Wigleaf, Pidgeonholes, Jellyfish Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, Whiskey Paper, and more. Read Best Small Fictions. I also think my Fast Flash Workshop is a great, fun, supportive place for flash experts and beginners alike. What kinds of stories do you hope to see when reading the shortlist for the RW Flash Fiction Prize? I am most drawn to stories that move me without being maudlin. I’m a sucker for a mix of sad and funny. I love innovation and experimentation, but the story must also have a strong emotional core to really win me over. What makes a story stand out for you when you receive the shortlist to read? Freshness of language and approach. A powerful, emotionally resonant ending. What flash fiction story do you wish you’d written and why? Most recently, “Dear David” by Yael van der Wouden in Longleaf Review. I love it so much. That flash is to me, everything I mentioned above. It’s so strange and unexpectedly tender. And it’s completely new. I’m still thinking about it. Which flash fiction writers writing today do you admire and why? I’m asked that question so often. And there are so many! I’d say right now it’s the newer writers of flash that are really impressing me. The new work is more daring, more hybrid, more unexpected in the best possible ways. *** Thanks so much, Kathy. I just read Dear David and it really is fantastic. So, flash writers get writing and submitting your stories for Kathy to read. The deadline is 28th october and there is £755 in cash prizes available, plus all winning and shortlisted writers get published in the anthology by Retreat West Books. If you’d like to hone your flash skills alongside other writers we’re running 3 online flash workshops this Autumn where you’ll get to create up 42 new stories in two intensive weeks. Or there’s 1 space left to join us at the Flash Fiction Retreat we’re running in November.

Creating Complex Characters: Cassie in As Far As You Can Go

July 5, 2018
The third in this blog series, which is looking at memorable narrators and how we as writers can create them, is Cassie in As Far As You Can Go by Lesley Glaister. Everything about this novel is memorable even though how the plot would eventually play out was quite predictable. The oppressive and claustrophobic atmosphere and how the Australian landscape is portrayed is stunning. The creeping sense of menace and paranoia, and the not being quite sure what exactly is going on even when you think you do. There are four main characters, Cassie, an organic gardener wanting more out of life than she’s  got – mainly an adventure, a family, a commitment from her adulterous boyfriend, Graham. In trying to get all of these things she signs them both up for a year-long job as housekeepers/companions on a remote sheep ranch in Australia. Here they meet obese Mara who they are to care for – she’s got some serious mental health issues, lives in a shed, and takes a lot of meds. Then there’s Larry, Mara’s partner and the person Cassie met in London to get the job. And that’s it. Just these four people stuck a very long way from anybody else, apart from next door neighbour Fred who lives miles away and a man in an old bus in the middle of the outback several hours walk away. As soon as they arrive it becomes clear that things are not quite how they were led to believe. There’s no phone, no computer but there is a lot of sexual tension. Larry makes it clear he wants Cassie and Graham suddenly believes in monogamy. Mara likes to wander around nude and lure Graham into her shed at every opportunity. Cassie has convinced Graham they should try for a baby. And it’s very very hot. The clever thing about how Cassie has been written is that initially she doesn’t appear complex at all. She seems, if anything, rather dim and gullible. As if there’s not much beneath the surface at all. She’s self-absorbed to a startling degree and all of the things that should be setting alarm bells ringing in her head, don’t. As she’s too busy worrying about what Cassie wants. But at other times, she’s nurturing and caring, sympathetic and insightful, trying to see the good in things no matter how bad they might be. Glimmers of a different Cassie hiding beneath the narcissistic surface. My feelings about her veered from complete frustration to sympathy to disbelief to wanting to give her a hug and back and round and back and around again. For a writer to play with your emotions repeatedly like that, they have definitely created a complex character. Writing exercise Create a character that is completely self-absorbed and put them in a dangerous situation that they can’t recognise because of their self-absorption. What makes them see the danger and finally take them out of their own head into the real world? How do they

The Word For Freedom Anthology Contributors

July 3, 2018
The Word For Freedom Anthology Contributors   We have now made a decision on the stories that came through the open submissions process for The Word For Freedom charity anthology, which is raising funds for Hestia; and are also delighted to reveal the fantastic cover donated by Jennie Rawlings at Serafim Design. Out thanks go to Isabel Costello for donating her story, The Word For Freedom, which was chosen as the title of the collection as it sums up the ethos of it so perfectly. I want to thank all of the writers who sent in an story for consideration. We really appreciate your generosity in being willing to donate your words to this anthology. Sadly we can’t include them all, and many of the stories that have not been selected are great and we’re sure they will find a home elsewhere. The decision about what to include has not just been guided by the quality of the story but also by the feel of the anthology as a whole. We have included a wide range of stories with different premises and themes to ensure that the collection has a good balance in content, tone, style, word count, etc. We are delighted to include the following writers and stories in this collection: Brick by Rachel Rivett Cover Their Bright Faces by Abigail Rowe Counting For England by Christine Powell Enid Is Going On A Journey by David Cook My Mother Left Me For A Tree by Rosaleen Lynch The Servitude Of The Sudaarp by Taria Karillion Not Our Kind Of Girl by Anne Hamilton One Woman, One Vote by Sallie Anderson Out Of Office by Emily Kerr Relevant by Anna Orridge Sayyida by Katherine Blessan The Colour Of Sunflowers by Kate Vine The Mermaiden by Dane Divine Those Who Trespass Against Us by Julie Bull Women Don’t Kill Animals by Carolyn Sanderson These stories join donated ones donated from several authors: Tiny Valentines by Angela Readman Below the Line by Victoria Richards The Second Brain by Cath Bore Myopia by Sophie Duffy We have more stories to come from Angela Clarke, Anna Mazzola, Helen Irene Young and Karen Hamilton. Delighted too (actually hugely overexcited!) that the amazing author, Marian Keyes, has also agreed to read an advance copy and provide an endorsement for us. We’re very excited about these stories and the wonderful collection we’re putting together to support Hestia. Keep an eye out for more details of the anthology itself and bookish events we’ll be doing with Hestia both live and on podcast.    

8 Flash Fiction Writing Tips

June 28, 2018
8 Flash Fiction Writing Tips I’ve been writing flash fictions for about six years now and reading tons of them, both for fun and for the entries into the competitions we run at Retreat West. Through the reading that I do for the competitions, I’ve come to understand a lot about what makes a flash work, and to recognise why it doesn’t. So many of the stories that don’t make it through the first judging round are trying to fit too much in, which leads me to my first piece of advice.   Flash Fiction Writing Tip #1 Identify the point of the story and really think about what needs to be in there to, subtly, get that point across.   Flash Fiction Writing Tip #2 Keep your cast small. Too many characters spoil the flow.   Flash Fiction Writing Tip #3 Think about what you leave unsaid. This is often where the impact of a story really lies.   Flash Fiction Writing Tip #5 Play with language. Such a small word count means you must choose the right ones to convey what you mean. Often the first word you choose won’t be the right one.   Flash Fiction Writing Tip #6 Read a lot of flash fictions. Consume them daily.   Flash Fiction Writing Tip #7 Use prompts to hone your skills and try writing to different word counts.   Flash Fiction Writing Tip #8 Leave them to sit. Just because they’re short doesn’t mean they are ready straight away. Go back and edit. Leave to sit for a while then edit again. *** Just like a flash, these tips are short and sweet but if you use them to develop your flash fiction writing they will have an impact. Join us to read and create lots more flash fictions on our Fantastic Flashing course. There’s a competition running to win places on the one starting in September 2018 (closing date is 14th July 2018). All you have to do to be in with a chance is write a flash. Get the info here.