Retreat West is all about reading and writing fiction.

Retreat West was founded by novelist and short story writer, Amanda Saint, in 2012. So far some of the people that have worked with us include Man-Booker Prize shortlisted author, Alison Moore; multi-award-winning short story writer, Vanessa Gebbie; Polari Prize winning-novelist and founder of the London Short Story Festival, Paul McVeigh; and the head of the Faber Academy’s fiction programme, novelist and poet, Richard Skinner.

We’ve also worked with top literary agents for the First Chapter competitions, including Jo Unwin in association with Rogers, Coleridge & Wright; Susan Armstrong, at Conville & Walsh; Jenny Savill, at Andrew Nurnberg Associates; Laura Williams at Peters, Fraser and Dunlop; Diana Beaumont at Marjacq; and Sarah Hornsley at The Bent Agency.

In 2017 what we do was expanded and Retreat West Books independent press was launched. We’re publishing anthologies of the winning stories in the annual Retreat West Competitions, as well as commissioning short story collections, novels and memoirs from emerging authors and having open submissions for various charity anthologies. See all the titles we’ve published so far, and the ones we have coming soon, here.

The Retreat West Team

Amanda Saint

Amanda is the author of two novels, As If I Were A River (2016), and Remember Tomorrow (2019). Her short stories have been long and shortlisted for, or won, various prizes, and been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. She started Retreat West in 2012 and expanded to include Retreat West Books in 2017. Amanda also works closely with Jericho Writers and designed and delivers the Ultimate Novel Writing Course in conjunction with them.

She is a member of the Society of Authors, a mentor on the WoMentoring Project and can often be found teaching and judging competitions at literary festivals. Before it was all about the words she worked as a waitress, on a call centre, in a wheelchair factory and as a pie heater. Proper jobs included a stint working for Microsoft, and the Labour Government in Westminster, but she didn’t really like having a proper job. Amanda is also a freelance journalist writing about environmental sustainability.


Mary-Jane Holmes

Mary-Jane Holmes works with Retreat West as a co-tutor on courses and workshops with Amanda Saint, and also delivers her own individual courses too. As well as working with Retreat West she is also chief editor at Fish Publishing, Ireland; consulting editor at The Well Review poetry journal based in Cork; a guest editor at V. Press; and creative director at the Casa Ana Writing Retreat in Granada, Spain.

In recent years she has won the 2018 Mslexia Flash Fiction Competition, 2017 Bridport Poetry Prize, the Martin Starkie Poetry Prize, the Bedford International Poetry Prize and the Dromineer Flash Fiction Prize. Her poetry collection Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass, was published in 2018 by Pindrop Press to wide acclaim.

Mary-Jane’s work has been published in The Best Small Fictions Anthology 2016 and 2018, Mslexia, Reflex Fiction, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Prole, The Tishman Review, The Lonely Crowd and Firewords Quarterly. She holds a first class honours Masters of Studies in Creative Writing from Kellogg College, Oxford, and is embarking on a PhD in poetry and translation at Newcastle university.



Louise Walters

Louise Walters works with Retreat West as a reader for the competitions helping to choose the long lists first and then the shortlisted stories that will go onto the judges to read in the final round. She’s also part of the editorial team providing manuscript assessments and helping writers to develop their work.

Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband and five children. She is the author of three novels, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase (2014), A Life Between Us (2017) and The Road to California (2018). She is also an independent publisher at Louise Walters Books.


Rose McGinty

Rose works with Retreat West running courses, co-editing anthologies, providing editorial reports, and reading for competitions. She is the author of Electric Souk, published in 2017 and also available as an audible book by Spokenword Audio. Electric Souk charted in WHSmith, and was a Hodges Figgis bestseller in Ireland. It was listed for the Not the Booker prize, featured in @TheQuietKnitter’s top reads of 2017; and guest reviewed by Isabel Costello’s Literary Sofa, by Angela Clarke on her YouTube channel and Rose was invited to open the 2018 Waverton Good Reads competition.

Rose has won a number of writing competitions, had short stories published, spoken at festivals and taught creative writing workshops for charities. You can find her short stories in: Stories for Homes, Volume 2, in aid of Shelter; Nothing Is As It Was, in aid of Earth Day Network, published by Retreat West Books; and Inky Lemons, an anthology by the Hounslow Young Women Writers project, published by Vanguard Editions.

Rose lives in Kent and for over twenty years worked for the NHS, and has lived overseas, including the Middle East. She also paints. She is an alumni of the Trinity College, Dublin and the Faber Academy.

Follow Rose on Twitter @rosemcginty and rosemcginty.wordpress.com


Phil Sobell

Phil manages the Twitter and YouTube pages and runs various flash writing challenges, as well as helping proofread the Retreat West Books titles and put them forward for prizes. He has been writing short stories (mostly science fiction with a bit of horror and fantasy) for several years and found Retreat West through the competitions while seeking to progress with his creative writing.

His short story, Portal, was published in the cli-fi anthology, Nothing Is As It Was.



Emma Finlayson-Palmer

Emma is an intern at Retreat West, managing the Facebook group and member group, and as a reader for competitions. She has been writing for most of her life, with her first publication at the age of 8 on the now ancient artefact known as CeeFax. She is represented by Laura West at the David Higham Agency, and mainly writes for children, but also writes short stories and flash fiction, with numerous pieces online, in magazines and anthologies.

An active member of multiple writing groups and organisations, including SCBWI and NAWG, Emma is also the creator and organiser of the fortnightly writing chat called #ukteenchat on Twitter. An active member of the online writing community, she can usually be found loitering on Twitter when she should be writing.

Emma lives in the West Midlands with her husband, a multitude of children, cats and chickens and hundred of notebooks!

Follow Emma on Twitter: @FinlaysonPalmer and Instagram: finlayson_palmer


Gaynor Jones

Gaynor works with Retreat West helping to promote the books we publish, and providing editorial and web support. She is an award winning writer known for her strange and surreal takes on life. In 2018 Gaynor won the Mairtín Crawford Short Story Award at the Belfast Book Festival and was named Northern Writer of the Year at the Northern Soul Awards. In 2019 her flash fiction collection, Business As Usual, received a special mention in the Saboteur Awards for Best Short Story Collection. Her work has been widely published, including in The Forge, Barrelhouse, Ellipsis Zine and the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology. She has won or been placed in several competitions and won first prize in the 12th round of the prestigious Bath Flash Fiction Award. She lives in Greater Manchester with her husband, dog, small child and a headful of weird ideas.


What People Say

I found your comments incisive and helpful. My story is much better now.

Michelle Scorziello
Michelle Scorziello, Used Critiquing Services

Amanda is a natural at hosting retreats. From inspiring venues to top-calibre tutors, from delicious home cooking to warm hospitality, she has thought of everything and really cares about getting it right.

Isabel Costello
Isabel Costello, Came to the Beach House retreat

Your queries about word choice really helped me crystallise the characters. Definitely the most effective feedback I’ve had.

Amanda Murphy
Amanda Murphy, Used Critiquing Services

Sharp and insightful critique of my first two chapters, at very reasonable cost.

Matt Lewis
Matt Lewis, Used critiquing services