June Monthly Micro Winners

Congratulations again to all of the shortlisted authors. Here are the winners!


In the Aftermath of a Supernova by Eleanor Luke

Why we chose it: This has such beautiful imagery whilst looking at a dark and complex theme, and ends with such a startling sentence.


Second Prize Winner: Words From a Time Traveller by Glyn Matthews

Why we chose it: There are some lovely sensory elements to the description that made us feel part of the story. We heard that whistle and feel like it took us on a journey.


People’s Prize Winner: Tinder Encounters of the Fully Disclosed Kind by Jeff Taylor


Shortlisted Stories

Diorama of a Better Little Life by Emily Macdonald – Read it here

Molly’s Memories of Her Shrinking Father by Sarah Barnett – Read it here

Tiny Hippos by Holly Flood – Read it here

Tiny Hands by Claire Sch̦n РRead it here

Wind-trackers by Jean Cooper Moran – Read it here

Miss Lacey by Caleb Bouchard – Read it here

What the Fisherman Knows About the Oceanographer by Sam Payne – Read it here


Eleanor and Glyn win the cash prizes, and Jeff wins a recording ticket to our September flash fiction festival .

Well done to everyone!

We’ll be back with the next Monthly Micro prompt on 4th July – the last one before our summer break!

Opening Lines Contest Winners

Congratulations again to all of the writers who were shortlisted and longlisted in the Opening Lines contest. We enjoyed reading the beginnings of all of these novels.

It’s been a hard choice indeed to pick the 5 winners from the shortlist and all of the shortlisted novels have got so much to recommend them. Our winners are the ones that connected us to a narrator, lingered in the mind the most and set up questions that just had to be answered. So well done to our five winning writers!

The Winners

  • Blue Is Not A Colour by Laura McNeil
  • Lifesaver by Natalie McMath
  • Scott/Shackleton by Rod Cookson
  • Split Fortune by Sharon Boyle
  • The Embrace by Stephen Gallagher

All five writers win a full manuscript review from Retreat West founder, Amanda Saint.

June Monthly Micro Shortlist

Well done to all who made the longlist and congrats to the writers of our shortlisted stories. Please honour the spirit of the competition and vote for the story which you think is the best – not the one you’re guessing your friend wrote! And if you’ve been shortlisted remember to celebrate anonymously 🙂 The prompt this month was “Shrink”.

Vote for your favourite from these 10 fab stories to win the surprise People’s Prize. Our judging team are busy re-reading to choose the winners of the cash prizes. Voting is open until 23.59 (UK time) on 27th June 2022. Results will be announced on Tuesday 28th. Good luck everyone!


Diorama of a Better Little Life

She silences the shouting, excludes the slamming fists, thrown bottles, and smashing glass. She shrinks her family to size and seats them around the laid table. Through the spy hole she sees them serving each other generous helpings—Mum sitting square and smiling; Dad asking with interest about her school day; her button-cute brother, bright and cheeky, making them laugh.

She used a mustard lid for a table and made chairs out of Dad’s beer tops, glued onto corks.

She covered the battered shoe box with magazine pictures of trees.

Inside she painted the sides—clean, pure, dazzling white.


In the Aftermath of a Supernova

I sit in the packed lecture hall, dizzy from crying, watching matter disintegrate till it’s just me and the professor. He says a neutron star is what’s left behind after a supernova. A shrunken, iron-filled heart of a once brilliant celestial body. A furious has-been, spinning violently in orbit around its partner star, stealing matter from it till it has the mass of three suns.

The professor pauses. He looks at the bruise on my forehead, an expanding universe of many shades of purple.

He says neutron stars become black holes eventually.

He says nobody gets out of that alive.


Miss Lacey

When I got out of the pool and toweled off, I noticed the tattoo on my bicep had shrunk. I have many tattoos, mostly of faded pinup girls, but this one is different: a brown and black heart branded with the name of my first dog, Miss Lacy. A beagle. We got her from the local dairy farm; I named her after my kindergarten teacher, who had a tender nature and soulful brown eyes.

I told myself it would grow back to its normal size over time, then warned my daughter not to dive so close to the shallow end.


Molly’s Memories of Her Shrinking Father

No more shoulder rides, you’re too big! Molly protesting, climbing up regardless, crushing Daddy’s tiny head, as he stumbled.

Daddy a thumbnail on a screen, in a desert, flinching at a gunshot, promising he’ll be home soon.

November 5th: Daddy back, altered, alien; his body curling, shrivelling on the sofa as fireworks crackled/pounded.

Dad leaving for his last Tour, receding up the street; Molly making a thumb-forefinger circle, peering through, capturing him as he shrunk to a dot.

The withered raisin in the casket, even smaller than she remembered. Molly wondering why, after seeing death, avoiding death, he chose death.


Tinder Encounters of the Fully Disclosed Kind

It’s our first date.

‘Show me yours and I’ll show you mine,’ she says.

I undress, unbuckle my artificial leg, expose the shrivelled stump. ‘Melanoma. Amputated,’ I explain. ‘Friends call me Stumpy.’

She whips off her top, then some well-adorned contraption, and proudly thrusts two shrunken moon craters at me. ‘Breast cancer,’ she says. ’My friends call me Lucky.’

For foreplay, I air-kiss her breast spaces while she strokes my missing leg, and we make love amid the buckles, stays and straps of our prosthetic detritus.

And just like that we become more than the sum of our missing parts.


Tiny Hands

You feel the swell,

life’s e x p l o s i o n.

You come

unstuck,

wade – in – seas – of – unproductiveness.

You wipe windows, wipe away, whitewash walls repeatedly, whitewash walls repeatedly, recycle paper, so much paper, paper in every shape and form, formless, full, flowing, overflowing…

You make space,

fight for peace.

#

You echo in the hollow, noise replaced by nothingness.

You stare at life outside, within walls void of anything.

You read newspapers every day then wish you never had.

You long for sticky fingerprints, for small creative hands.

You feel the passing, feel life shrink.


Tiny Hippos

Krishna was at the charity bazaar examining a tiny Limoges box adorned with grinning hippos, mildly annoyed at such infantilization of a dangerous predator, yet oddly aroused by smooth, sensuous porcelain against her skin, when she spied it. Her wedding dress, draped across a shopping basket shared by two teenage girls who were at that moment snickering at something on a cell phone screen. She’d had it cleaned, of course, before donating it, but the bloodstain across the bodice was indelible.

For a Halloween costume, she supposed. How perfect.

What the hell, she decided. She’d take the hippos.


What the Fisherman Knows About the Oceanographer

She has a blue whale tattooed on the pale skin of her thigh, a lionfish on her shoulder, two seahorses on her hip.

She cries over the melting ice, bleached coral reefs, and the orcas who are starving, their shrinking bellies lined only with toxins.

She hungers for cool, open water, the deep blue beneath her feet, the migratory life of a great white.

She is the waves, rolling, lifting, and frothing, a spring tide on a moonlit night. She is a rip current pulling him from the shore, a sunken wreck resting on the seabed, its treasure hiding within.


Wind-tracking

Once a baby tornado crossed our path, torn from its mother’s side. She was a beauty, funnelling her tower of humid air to the cumulous clouds, havoc in her wake. Ed and I burnt rubber in the chase, our instruments winking as she shrieked through Corona County. Her baby swirled beside us, a ten-foot, dancing dervish of air and mortal dust. Just a wind-devil spitting shreds of matter sucked from its mother’s maw. I watched it swell, then suddenly, it died. As if she sensed it, mother swayed. Her funnel lost its grip on ground and sky, her motion gone.


Words From a Time Traveller

I travelled back to a time of longhand, sealed with candlewax, then jumped forward to the penny post, waving as the mail coach thundered by. Another jump and the night-mail whistled in my excited ear on moonlit track, snatching bags of midnight mail.

Then I landed in a world of emails shouting ‘Hi’ and Facebook shrinking lives to minutes of banality and TikTok taking time and squeezing it to seconds of inanity.

Gradually, all books were skipped or burned, so I returned, clutching written evidence for future archaeologists, proving that, although quite mad, the human race was not totally insane


Please vote using the form below. If you have any problems with the form, you can also vote via this link: https://form.responster.com/mlL4UB

June Micro Longlist

Thanks so much to all who entered your “shrink” inspired stories. We had 88 entries so first prize is £132 and second prize is £88, with the people’s prize to be decided. The shortlist will be published on Monday

Thanks so much to everyone who sent us their words. We enjoyed reading them all. Well done to our longlist below. No telling which is yours though!

Longlisted Stories

  1. Diorama of a Better Little Life
  2. Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
  3. Ice Time
  4. In the Aftermath of a Supernova
  5. In the Field of My Mind
  6. In the Fineprint, a New Postscript
  7. Miss Lacy
  8. Mollie’s Memories of Her Shrinking Father
  9. No Longer Alone
  10. Safety First
  11. Searching
  12. The Big White Furry Fatalist
  13. The Day Before a Foreclosure
  14. The. Dollhouse
  15. The Human Geography of Depopulation in Spanish Inland Villages
  16. Tinder Encounters of the Fully Disclosed Kind
  17. Tiny Hands
  18. Tiny Hippos
  19. What the Fisherman Knows About the Oceaongrapher
  20. Wind-trackers
  21. Words From a Time Traveller

Good luck everyone! We’ll have the shortlist on Monday.

FOREST themed flash winners

Well done to all who were shortlisted in our themed flash contest and many congratulations to our winners, as chosen by Jeanette Sheppard.

Judge’s report

Thank you to everyone who entered and to the Retreat West readers for creating the shortlist. I read everyone’s work more than once and in a different order each time — I’m always mindful that mood can influence a reading. Around a third of the entries interpreted the theme through setting, where the magical, mysterious, or other-worldly featured in some way. A few entries focused on the magically real. Other flashes were rooted in the everyday, with a forest, or something associated with it, acting as a metaphor for emotional states or relationships. Some writers used language or images related to the theme to drive the narrative. In the end, I chose stories that made me feel something. Each one immersed me in their world through specific details and provided a satisfying ending.


First Place: Fern-seed by Sarah Royston

I loved everything about this flash. This coming-of-age story was a clear winner from the start, growing on me more and more. I was moved by the narrator’s attempts to create a path through a literal and metaphorical forest. I also admired the way the fern-seed of the title is dropped into a conversation between friends, then grows in significance. People, place, and relationships are all evoked through wonderful detailing, a highlight being the friends ‘Shouting for echoes in the mouths of old mines.’ The change in the central friendship is captured perfectly when the young narrator tells us her friend, Becca, has ‘brought actual boys’ to the forest. A fitting and beautifully pitched final paragraph sealed its winning position – past, present, and future coalesce as the narrator approaches the mine in a fern-seed hallucinogenic state. Congratulations to the writer. I enjoyed reading this over and over.


Runner-up: Disenchantment in Three Dishes by Emily Macdonald

The only flash that created a forest from Broccoli! I enjoyed the whimsy/dark humour blend here. What a visual feast this is: ‘brown rice forest floor — blended with eggs, mint, garlic, dill, and cheese — turned to sludge, and the broccoli canopy slid sideways and discoloured as if the dish was hit by a mudslide and felling at the same time.’ The switch to darker humour is neatly done as the narrator becomes a secretly malevolent force, reaping revenge on her pretentious Instagram foodie friends by duping them with her style-over-substance dinner parties. A terrific ending as the narrator attempts to escape a food forest nightmare, only to leave a breadcrumb trail behind. An inventive take on the theme.


Third Place: The Point of Disappearance by Stephanie Percival

A dramatic shift in tone from the previous flash, this is a moving, dark, and compelling modern day fairy tale. A forest glade offers peace despite what ‘they’ say about a witches’ meet and a spirited away girl. The subversion of expectations is handled nicely in this story, particularly the traditional wicked witch in the forest trope. When the narrator runs away at night into the forest to escape her brutalised life, only to be snatched away, we fear the worst. However, the woman with ‘arms scarred and pocked like bark’ turns out to be someone who reflects the narrator’s own experiences and offers a sense of hope. The ending is there all along but is well hidden.


Congratulations everyone! Sarah wins £200 and Emily and Stephanie win £100 each.

The next themed flash deadline is fast approaching! Get all the info here.

This is the final year of this contest and in 2023 we are launching a new online journal, WestWord, instead. Submissions will be open for the month of January for publication in April 2023. We have decided to make this edition a themed one and the theme is VISION.

We want short stories, flashes and micros on the theme and all writers selected will receive a share of submission fees. Get all the submission info here.

2022 Opening Lines Comp Shortlist

Well done again to all who made it to the longlist. It has been a hard decision to make at this stage as there is so much to recommend about all of the novel openings that were longlisted.

So huge congrats to the authors of our 10 shortlisted novels.

Shortlist

  • And Then She Fell
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry
  • Blue Is Not A Colour
  • Dog’s Cottage
  • Earth In The Sky
  • Lifesaver
  • Scott/Shackleton
  • Split Fortune
  • The Embrace
  • The Picasso Puzzle

We’ll be re-reading again and announcing the results as soon as we can! Good luck to all – no telling which is yours though as we’re still reading anonymously!