Creative writing retreats, workshops, critiques and competitions

We Are

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.


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


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

Running Away Themed Flash Results

March 1, 2019
Thanks to everyone on the shortlist for your patience while I read your stories again. It’s been a tough decision but I now have the results…   Winner: The Names Of Stars by Rosie Garland Why I chose it: The unexpectedness of what happens when the narrator hides in the loft during a family Christmas gathering is excellent. Love how the star signifies the distance the narrator really wants to run from her situation. And that the ending poses as many questions as it answers. Beautiful use of language too, a really light touch on a dark subject. Great stuff.   Runner-Up: How Not To Feel by Mary Thompson Why I chose it: Love the disjointed sentences that show how disconnected the narrator is from what she’s doing as she’s all consumed with the emotions she’s feeling about something else. It perfectly captures the human desire to numb pain in ways that end up causing more.   Runner-Up: The Hanging Tree by Lucinda Hart Why I chose it: Beautiful, atmospheric writing that makes the situation timeless. It could have been set in any era and it is only the final line that reveals that we knew who it was all along.     Well done to all the writers who made the shortlist too. I really enjoyed all your stories: Resolution by Jac Harmon The Book Group by Nancy Ludmerer The Bunker by Claire Whatley Unfinished by David Osgood *** If you love writing flash fiction then we have lots of great flashing things coming up: 23rd March – Fantastic Flashing Live A 3-hour workshop in London Bridge based on the online course where you’ll be experimenting with voice and style to create new stories. Info here. 31st March – Fire Themed Flash Comp Deadline Send your stories to win cash and get published on the website. Info here. 1st April – Fantastic Flashing Online The original 2-week online course where you’ll learn lots of new skills, create loads of new stories and make new writing friends. Info here. 12th April – Flash SOS A weekend course where you’ll get the insights and tools needed to revive an old story that’s been gathering dust in a drawer. Info here.    

The Names Of Stars by Rosie Garland

March 1, 2019
The Names Of Stars Rosie Garland   I tell him I’m fetching the decorations. The attic is one of the few places he won’t follow. He hates the fold-down ladder, hates spiders even more. I sit in the dust and nurse my jaw. He’s always sorry, although never enough to stop. The children have been here half an hour and are already wondering why they do this to themselves every Christmas. One of the grandchildren – Charlotte, I think – squeezes out an experimental wail. There are fewer decorations to store each year: glass angels stamped underfoot, hurled against a wall. I flip open a box at random and incandescence sends me sprawling backwards. I’d forgotten about the star. The family clubbed together for his birthday, back when we still believed he could change. Just think, Dad! Your name in lights, for real! The cardboard is ragged with scraps of wrapping paper from where he didn’t bother to open it properly before shoving it aside. ‘You poor thing,’ I say. The star hoists itself on spindly filaments, blinking feebly, and flicks out a small yellow tongue. My knuckles blister. I’m surprised when there’s no pain. The gift certificate is still attached to the lid. Singed around the edges, but I can read the name: Andrew Michael Walford. ‘Well, now, Andrew.’ It flashes me an irritated look. I rub my eyes until the dazzle fades. No reason why a star should relish a name foisted onto it by carbon-based lifeforms of the sort that spark and extinguish in less than a blink of its eye. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say. ‘Of course that’s not what you’re called.’ It nods forgiveness. I wonder what its true name is, and how impossible to pronounce. ‘Marian!’ screams Andrew, from the foot of the ladder. ‘What in hell are you doing?’ ‘Mum?’ calls John, hopefully. ‘Dad’s ever so sorry. It was a silly mistake.’ That boy always was a fool. The star glances at the skylight, with an encouraging expression. I open the window wide enough for escape, grab hold of the box.‘ It won’t be dark for a couple of hours.’ The star vibrates gently, and I realise it’s giggling. A bizarre sensation, holding a happy star in your arms. It was a daft thing to say. The stars are always there. It’s only us who can’t see them in daylight. It clambers out, creaking from its imprisonment. When it turns and looks back, I think it’s to say thank you; but this is a long way from gratitude. Downstairs, the thunder of raised voices and squalling infants. In a while, there’ll be a slammed door, a car gunning its engine. I reach up, grasp a fiery hand. ‘Only five minutes,’ I gasp. ‘Then I’ll have to get back.’ We are past Jupiter before I remember what counts for five minutes in the mind of a star.   Author Rosie Garland’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in Under the Radar, Casket of Fictional Delights,

How Not To Feel by Mary Thompson

March 1, 2019
How Not To Feel Mary Thompson   Observe the tall Argentinian as he approaches you in the bar. Admire his thick curls and glint of a crucifix. Feel foolishly flattered when he stops and says, ‘You are beautiful.’ Savour his intoxicating smell as he places both hands on your shoulders and leans in. Momentarily believe that things will be fine. Hear the music fade as you pad down the beach together towards the sea. Catch laughter and words from surrounding clusters. Lie back and imagine you’re in a planetarium (there are no stars in London). Then think, no. This Is Real. Slip the smiley pill he proffers into your mouth and swill it around with your beer. Wait. Feel the weight of him as he obliterates the stars. Smile as he runs his hands down your thighs. Absorb the lap-lapping of the water. Giggle as it tickles your toes and wets your jeans. Stagger to your feet and feel your head huge and echoey as if in an astronaut’s helmet. Search for your bag, the burnished orange one, the one your dad bought you as he knew how much you wanted it. How much he yearned for you to be happy. Despite everything. Dwell on this as you search more. Not just your patch now but everywhere. Ask more clusters and more clusters. ‘Sorry,’ they say and glance up for a second. Wander back to the whirring music. Place your hands on your ears to block it out. But hear Pablo asking, ‘ella ha perdido su bolso lo has visto?’ Reach the bar and the thumping beats. Push through the juddering crowd to find Cathy dancing alone at the back. ‘My bag is gone.’ See her worried face, but hear Pablo. ‘You want to come with me?’ ‘Okay.’ Follow Pablo away from the beach and down the main street. Hear screeching motorbikes, then stumble down dusty path into silent darkness. Feel his warm hand. Hear the flip flop of feet. Enter cold stairwell and his apartment with glimmer of light in corner. Observe clothes strewn all over. Half-made bed. Condoms. ‘Drink this quickly, you forget.’ Throw back the drink. Vodka. ‘Another?’ Stare at the blurry wall, feel him behind you. Same smell but wall is ice cold. Spot a small heart in the gloom, scrawled at the bottom in biro. Feel the tears run. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘My dad is dying.’ Hear loud tick of watch. ‘I will stop.’ ‘No. Keep going.’ Watch sunrise seeping under balcony door, illuminating beer cans, crisp bags, life.   Author Mary Thompson lives in London, where she works as a freelance teacher. Her work has recently featured in various journals and competitions including Flash 500, Fish Short Memoir, Ink in Thirds, Retreat West, Reflex Fiction, Flashflood, Ellipsis Zine, the Cabinet of Heed, Memoir Mixtapes, Atticus Review, Spelk, Firewords, Fictive Dream, Funicular Magazine, Ghost Parachute, Vamp Cat Magazine, LISP and Cafe Irreal. She is a first reader for Craft Literary Journal.   Please let the author know if you’ve enjoyed her story in the comments below.

The Hanging Tree by Lucinda Hart

March 1, 2019
The Hanging Tree Lucinda Hart   He knows where he is going. He’s seen it before many times – a jagged dark mark on the cliff edge – never guessing that one day he would be striding, running, towards it. The ground is dry and dusty, a path formed by countless feet over the years. He pauses a moment, and turns to look back the way he has come. The city’s pale roofs sting his eyes, whitened by the sun. He inclines his head to that sun, a hard coin in the sky. There are no clouds; the air is blue. He does not look beyond the city, not yet. Instead he veers off the track and starts climbing the rugged stony incline. A lizard scuttles for shelter under a rock. His legs brush against grey-green herbs; their scent rises and tears smart in his eyes. He stumbles on a loose rock. Grit and sand skitter down the bluff behind him. He can hear the discordant buzz of noise from the city. Shouting, a sudden cry. A mob. They are not coming for him. They do not know where he is, probably do not even know who he is. Yet. He catches his breath and stares back at the relentless sun. It seems to move a fraction in the blue, a shimmer of light, then stillness. He reaches for a jutting slab of rock and hauls himself up the last slope. The tree stands alone on the edge of the chasm, blackened and twisted as though once struck by lightning. A long sturdy branch reaches its fingers out into the void. The roaring from the city is louder. He stands, one hand on the tree’s rough bark and, this time, he looks beyond the city walls. Three shapes silhouetted against the sky. That bright flat aching sky. He uncoils the rope, spools it out through his hands, throws it over the branch. Fingers fumble with the rough hemp. His feet slip on the dry ground and he grabs at the tree to save himself falling from the edge. If anyone were looking at this rugged cliff, they would see a tree and a man and, perhaps, the thin trace of a rope. But no-one is looking this way. Their eyes face another direction. Another man. The noose around his neck, he stands on the edge once more; this time his feet are firm. Below him, the gritty path he walked, the scented herbs, the city walls, the three dying men on the hill. They will be remembered, the thinks. So too might he. As he jumps into air, the first darkness rushes towards the sun, and his hand loses its grip on the cloth pouch he’s been holding all this time. It tumbles beneath his jerking legs; the loose cord opens, and the contents spill out onto the rocks, the dusty baked clay, the thirsty herbs. Thirty pieces of silver.   Author Lucinda Hart is novelist and short story writer

Running Away Themed Flash Shortlist

February 19, 2019
Thanks to all the longlisted writers for your patience while we re-read the stories. The shortlist is now shown below. Readings are still anonymous until I have made my decision so only story titles shown here. Well done to these writers, and to all that made the longlist too. Running Away Themed Flash Shortlist How Not To Feel Resolution The Book Group The Bunker The Names of Stars The Hanging Tree Unfinished   I will now read all of these again and announce final results soon. The deadline for the next themed flash competition is 31st March and the theme is fire. There’s £400 in cash prizes available and winners get published on the website. Get all the info on how to enter here; and you can read previous winning stories here. If you’ve got some flash stories that have been gathering dust in a drawer, then we’ve just launched a new weekend course – Flash SOS – which will help you revive old stories and get them out in the world. Get all the info on the course here.