April 2020 Micro Fiction Longlist


Many thanks to everyone who sent in stories for this month’s micro fiction comp, and to Cath Barton for the inspiring prompt that generated the most entries we’ve had so far. Which means the winner will receive a cash prize of £278 as well as free entry to the annual Flash Fiction Prize.

Of the 139 entries we received we’ve got a longlist of 40 stories. All readings are anonymous until the final judging is completed so only the story titles are show here. If your story is listed please don’t let anyone know what it is called! Congrats to the 40 writers who made it through.

April 2020 Micro Fiction Longlist

  • Ancient Indonesian Tattoos, East of Java
  • A Ghost is Here
  • A Nice Cup of Tea
  • Big Brother
  • Carefully Crafted
  • Changes of Fortune
  • Dinosaurs and the Weary
  • Dormant Power
  • Elsie – The Love of my Life
  • Everything Left Behind
  • Garden Party Guidelines
  • Homecoming
  • How to Climb a Mountain
  • Item One Hundred and Twenty-Five: To Climb a Mountain
  • In the House of the Devil
  • Life and Death
  • Lost in Translation
  • Maesta
  • Nadia’s Mission
  • On Preparing to Climb a Mountain for the First Time: I Will Not Let You Stop Me
  • Paralysis
  • Possibility
  • Sacrificial Lamb
  • Search Continues for Missing Botanist in Roen
  • Strider
  • Ten Seconds Before the End of the World
  • The Ache
  • The Distance
  • The Grey Monolith
  • The Mountain
  • The Other Mountain was on Fire
  • Time to Sow
  • Torn Sky
  • Tristão
  • Up, Up and Away
  • Utopia
  • Walking on Chocolate
  • Working from the Top
  • When a Man is not a Mountain
  • When Coffee is in your DNA


We’re busy reading again and the shortlist of 10 stories will be online for public voting on Monday 20th April. Good luck everyone!

2020 First Chapter Competition Shortlist

Thanks again to everyone that sent us in their novel opening for this year’s First Chapter Competition. We received 308 submissions, which we had a longlist of 36 from and now we have the final shortlist of 10 chapters that are going to judge, Carrie Plitt, to read and make the final decision on.

Congratulations to everyone who entered and was longlisted and especially to these 10 shortlisted authors.

2020 First Chapter Competition Shortlist

  • Brantwood by Victoria MacKenzie
  • Down Came a Blackbird by Julie Holden
  • Girls Like Us by Julie Bull
  • Love by Kate Tregaskis
  • Life After The End Of The World by Sydnye White
  • Passing Through Fire by Diane Miller
  • Swimming Lesson by Rebecca Garnett Haris
  • The Katie Experiment by Rosie Smith
  • We Make Dreams by Angela Wipperman
  • Words We Should’ve Said by Allison Secker

We’ll have the final results soon and then we will announce the details of the 2021 competition, which will be judged by an indie publisher this time as that’s what most people said they wanted when we did a survey with our followers! We have got a great judge lined up and we’re looking forward to reading more novel openings soon.

2020 First Chapter Competition Longlist


Many thanks to everyone that entered the 2020 First Chapter Competition. Louise Walters and I have read a lot of novel openings to make the longlist decision. We received 308 entries and have a longlist of 36, which we’ll now be choosing a shortlist of 10 from to go to our final judge, Carrie Plitt, literary agent with Felicity Bryan Associates.

Congratulations to all the writers who stories are listed below. We’re still reading anonymously at this stage so please don’t let anymore know what your story is called if you’ve made it through!


2020 First Chapter Competition Longlist

  1. A Charm To Mend Lost Causes
  2. A Whisper In The Woods
  3. Boy Nightingale
  4. Brantwood
  5. Down Came A Blackbird
  6. Flatfoot In Fleece
  7. Girls Like Us
  8. Hush
  9. In Our Father’s House
  10. Iris Vine Remembers
  11. Jack
  12. Level 44
  13. Life After The End Of The World
  14. Love
  15. Love The Dark Days
  16. Motor City Resolve
  17. No Woman Is An Island
  18. Passing Through Fire
  19. Static
  20. Summers With My Father
  21. Swimming Lesson
  22. The Book Of Gates
  23. The Candidate’s Husband
  24. The Circle
  25. The Cuckoo Clock
  26. The History And Remarkable Life Of Octavia Swallow
  27. The Inquisitor’s Papers
  28. The Katie Experiment
  29. The Orchid Child
  30. The Pearls, The Lake, And Yoshio
  31. The Slighting Of Livia Rathbone
  32. The Slow Knife
  33. The Sunday Painters
  34. We Make Dreams
  35. Words We Shoud’ve Said
  36. Your Sorrows Rise


We’ll be re-reading these chapters now and will have the shortlist in the first week of April.

We asked our members and followers about who they would like to see judging the 2021 competition and the unanimous decision was for it to be an indie publisher. So we’ve got a very exciting one lined up, which we’ll be announcing when the new competition details go live later this year.

We’re also very excited to have partnered with Casa Ana Retreats for the 2021 competition. Find out more about Casa Ana here. I’m lucky enough to be their guest mentor for a 2-week retreat later this year, so if you fancy some writing time in the mountains in southern Spain with 1-1 support to develop your novel, short/flash fiction or memoir, then come join me!


Earth Themed Flash Competition Winners

Earth Themed Flash Competition Winners

Many thanks to all of the writers who entered the final themed flash competition of 2019; and to all of the shortlisted writers for their patience while I read and re-read the stories to make my decision. It was a tough one as there was so much to recommend about all of the stories on the shortlist. I’m really glad that we have guest judges for this year’s competition so that I don’t have to make these hard decisions for a while!

Huge congratulations to our winning writer and 2 runners-up. Your stories really stuck with me long after reading.


Winner: The Five Stages of Hopelessness by Louise Mangos

Why I chose it: I loved how the last line of this story completely changed it into something else, without it seeming like a punchline or an unnatural ending. That line gave me the chills then it made me laugh out loud. The use of language is gorgeous and the whole tone of it made it seem that this tale of the five stages of a relationship was heading into a familiar theme seen in flash. So I was really surprised by the last line, in a very good way.

Read it here


Runner-up: Ten Things I Have Learned From Being a Troglodyte by Ruth Brandt

Why I chose it: There are so many questions left unanswered in this story yet it has a feeling of completeness. There’s a real sense of mystery about who the narrator really is and what they’re doing in the cave. But despite the fact that they start and end the story alone there’s a sense that they are at peace with this life they have chosen. It does what great flash does and hints at a much bigger story.

Read it here


Runner-up: Terra by JC McKinley

Why I chose it: Gorgeous imagery and I felt swept and swirled away into the desert girl’s world and passion for all the things that make up the earth. There’s an epic feeling to this, making it seem much larger than it is, and as our planet falters under the weight of all that we take from it, this story had the feeling of a being a love song to our beleaguered home. One that left me filled with a feeling of hope.

Read it here



Our next themed flash competition closes on 29th March 2020 and is being judged by Gaynor Jones, who chose the theme of ABANDONED. So get writing and send us your stories to be in with a chance of seeing your work published on the website and winning cash prizes up to £400.

If you regularly enter our competitions, then check out out membership options which include multiple entries as part of the subscription fee.


Terra by JC McKinley


JC McKinley

She fancied herself a desert girl. Born in America’s Sonora wilderness, surrounded by saguaro cactus. She fell in love with earth, not the planet with a capital E, but the rocks, minerals and, clays from which life springs forth. She did not feel the least bit surprised when she discovered her name, Terra, meant “Earth goddess” in an ancient language.
I met her later in life.
“What do you do?” I ask.
“I’m a Geologist,” she says.
“What does a Geologist do?”
Her golden eyes widen. Inside hollow pupils, a dust storm swirls. I see orange, yellow and lime-green vehicles, large as dinosaurs, clawing, tearing, and removing earth. With each acre stripped bare, the hollow inside her deepens. Leech fields miles long, leave chalky streaks down her soft, fleshy cheeks. Men with sly smiles demand Terra reveal the next vein, lode, and vug. I see she’s felt unhappy and used for a long time.
“They don’t love the earth,” she says through bitter tears.
“What if I told you, you could love the earth again?”
“I’d ask you to show me,” she replies.
I take her north. Past the temperamental Rockies. Beyond the gloom of the Pacific-Northwest to the last bastion of wilderness I know: Prince William Sound, Alaska. Not untouched by man, this place endures the elimination of its glaciers at the hand of climate change. Despite this, the land and sea have preserved their pristine nature. It is here I will show Terra how to love the earth again.
We travel in a small aluminum hull boat with an outboard motor into inlets, fjords and bays so calm, the movement of jellyfish underwater can be heard. We eat wild salmonberries, boil the rice from Chocolate Lilies, pull silver salmon from the water and feed their heads to bald eagles, tossing the severed parts high into the air. We watch Orcas hunt sea lions and spend half a day spying a baby humpback whale learning to jump with its mother. We examine granite beaches and shale outcroppings so intensely we almost miss giant brown bear prints in the soft mud.
On Knight Island, I show her remnants of a 30-year-old oil spill: crude oil resting black and thick and calm under gray granite rocks. A stain on the wild. We spend days upturning beach, revealing tar, taking samples, hands dirtied with foul-smelling soil until something inside her snaps. She stands, calm and firm.
“I’m ready to go home,” she says one cloudy, drizzling day.
I met her later in life.
“What do you do?” I ask.
“I’m a Conservationist,” she says.
“What does a Conservationist do?”
Her golden eyes widen. Inside flows the wisdom of a goddess. I see men with sly smiles, jailed, their strip-mining operations shut down, and government funding set aside for protection programs. Outside, her platinum cheeks pull ruby lips into a beaming quartz smile.
“They show you how to love all the earth.”




About the author: JC Mckinley lives in Colorado with his wife and 17-month-old daughter. He grew up in Alaska and loves how nature’s beauty enhances all our lives. His short stories have appeared on reflexfiction.com and are forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine.

Ten Things I Have Learned From Being a Troglodyte by Ruth Brandt

Ten Things I Have Learned From Being a Troglodyte

Ruth Brandt


  1. It’s dark when the sun goes down. Occasionally it’s dark when the sun is up, but when it’s down it’s impermeably black. The dark doesn’t stop me moving or humming.
  2. You can’t dry out a cave. The tail end of rain from a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand years ago swooshes subterranean slashes through the ground, and tra laa, a cave is formed. Water dribbles, stripes the defeated earth down the walls, constructs mineral pillars. Maybe you know all that, but this is my list of things I have learned – caves are wet.
  3. People are intrigued and frightened of the dark and damp where they can’t see the end, if indeed an end exists. They are intrigued and frightened of the tail-off of wet stone into a tiny stream. They are intrigued and frightened of bats, of invisible insects, of caves. 
  4. When I sit near the mouth of my cave and light a fire and sing, people join me, facing the landscape to watch swallows flit across treetops. They point out the new building to the left, the fishing lake on the right, the pub, the hospital. Only when they think I’m not looking do they steal a glance behind. 
  5. There is confusion about troglodytes. Are we creatures crawling from the modern-day primordial swamp? From heaven, here to show others the purposelessness of their worries? A holy halo? Shit on a boot? A marvel? This uncertainty engenders oodles of respect, it engenders repugnance. 
  6. The ground in a cave is hard. My back has bent to fit the crevasses in rocks. My collar bone curves round to my throat. My head hunches. I sleep well on the uneven floor. Give me a mattress and I would toss and turn.
  7. One man wanted me enough to come to me. He brought a sleeping bag and a bin liner to lay it on. He brought orange waterproof bags for his clothes. He brought a phone power bank and a wind-up torch, a warm chest and a gentle kiss. And the lust. Dear God, the lust! He brought it all.
  8. Now, here’s this thing – however much you love someone, however much you are prepared to live to their routines, rise to the clock instead of the light, eat regularly, drink boiled liquids, the cave dwelling thing is a show stopper. Full stop.
  9. When his back cricked out of shape he walked away, leaving his torch – not something he needed – a half-finished KitKat and a tin of tomato soup. He left his ‘I love you’ words drawn into the sediment.
  10. But he couldn’t remove the formative trickle at the back of the cave, or the way it shapes my body so I can embrace myself with my own shoulders. This last thing I have learned from being a troglodyte, no one can stop me humming in the dark.



About the author: Ruth Brandt’s short fiction has appeared in publications including Litro, the Bridport Prize Anthology 2018 and Neon. She won the Kingston University MFA Creative Writing Prize 2016 and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions. She lives in Surrey with her husband and has two sons.