Oct 2021 Monthly Micro Longlist

Thanks to everyone who took part this month. I think that photo prompt had you all stumped as we only received 81 entries this time around. So that makes the cash prizes £121 for 1st place and £81 for second. People’s Prize announced along with the results as always.

Many congratulations to the writers of the following stories that have gone through to our longlist – no telling which is yours though!

Longlisted Stories

  • 90T2
  • All Living Things Will Adapt to Climate Change in Whatever Way They See Fit
  • Aran Wings
  • Away With the Fairies
  • Common Prayers
  • End of Term Report
  • Five Gods I Worship in a Tiny Shrine Hidden Right at the Top of My Secret Garden
  • Getting to Know You
  • Help comes in different guises
  • If you go down to the woods today
  • Into the Woods
  • Memento Mori
  • Plants Don’t Have Eyes. Or Do They?
  • Rescuing a Dryad
  • Return
  • She Couldn’t Make the Goblin Potion in Time
  • Snog, Marry, Curse
  • Sweet
  • The First Letter of Gnome is Silent
  • The Games We Play
  • The Hanging Tree
  • Trophy
  • Trying to Grow Old in Peace
  • What the Small Ones Know
  • Would You Believe It?

We’ll be back with the shortlist on Monday!

Sept 21 Monthly Micro Winners

Many thanks to everyone who read and voted in this month’s contest. We’ve made our decision at Retreat West HQ and our second prize winner is also the winner of the People’s Prize vote!

Well done to everyone who made the shortlist. It’s a tough decision for us at this stage and all of the stories have so much that is great about them.

Shortlist

  • Five Uses for Milk We Hadn’t Heard of Until Louise’s Wedding by Jo Withers
  • How To Grow and Care for Grapevines by Kinneson Lalor
  • Instinct by Josie Lane
  • Milking It by Georgia Cook
  • Mixing Milk Thistle Tea by Rae Cowie
  • Notes Left for My Sleeping Husband in the Final Six Months by Kristina Thornton
  • Pina Colada by Nancy Freund
  • Residue by Gail Warrick Cox
  • Till Death Do Us Part by Denise Bayes
  • The Winter of Relationship by Dettra Rose

We loved the darkness of this and the vivid use of the senses. We were completely transported to this room with these people and although it feels like a complete story, it also conjures up such a larger world and made us wonder about what came before, and next.

First Prize: Mixing Milk Thistle Tea by Rae Cowie


Second Prize & People’s Prize Winner: The Winter of Relationship by Dettra Rose

We loved this take on the theme and how it was used to show that the narrator’s loss of her cat was so much more devastating than the failure of her marriage.


Congratulations Rae and Dettra!

Rae wins £130 and Dettra wins £87. They both also get a free entry to the RW Flash Fiction Prize, which closes next month.

For winning the People’s Prize vote, Dettra gets access to the recordings of 2 sessions of her choice from our Online Flash Fest.

Next month’s prompt goes live on Monday so get ready to write!

Flash Fest Micro Comp Winners

Everyone who bought a ticket for our Flash Fest was able to submit a micro in advance to win secret prizes and the winners were revealed at the festival on Saturday.

The theme was CONNECTED and we loved reading all the entries and seeing the different ways this was interpreted.

You can read the winning stories on the links below. Many congratulations to our winners!


First place: My Velcro Baby by Rosaleen Lynch

Prize: Experiments in Flash Course – October 2021

We loved this breathless, sad yet hopeful tale of a mother and daughter that can’t connect until they have to. Brilliant one sentence micro packed full of emotion without being sentimental.


Second place: Conscious Connected Breathing: A Beginner’s Guide by Denise Bayes.

Prize: Fantastic Flashing Course – November 2021

Great hermit crab form with the steps for breathing more consciously leading us through the narrator’s journey from hopeless to hopeful.


Third place: All The Women in My World by Eleonora Balsano

Prize: Flash Fiction Fix Mentoring Session 

Brilliant take on the theme and loved the portrayal of connection we can feel with total strangers just because we’re all going through this human experience together.


Highly commended: (dis)Connected by Slawka G. Scarso

Feedback on 5 flash fiction stories (up to 600 words each)

Loved the title and how its meaning is revealed as the story progresses; and the emotional impact that comes from the sparseness and disconnectedness of the prose to tell such a horrific tale.

Sept 21 Monthly Micro Shortlist

It’s that time again when we have 10 brilliant micros on our shortlist that need your vote. The Retreat West Reading team decide the winners of the cash prizes but it’s over to you to decide who gets the surprise People’s Prize!

Well done to everyone who was longlisted and congrats to the writers of the 10 stories below – no telling which is yours though and voting must remain anonymous!

Voting is open until Monday 27th September and we’ll announce the winners on Tuesday 28th. Good luck everyone!


Five Uses for Milk We Hadn’t Heard of Until Louise’s Wedding

Skin softener (two to three cups added to hot bath) –

Lengthy soaks to soften anxious bridal skin,

Silver polisher (tablespoon applied on rag) –

Ninety place settings in fairy-tale marquee, rubbed until they sparkled perfect,

Secret messages (brushed on paper, left to dry) –

Or sent by text, or whispered breathless into pillows – ‘Don’t marry her, I still love you’.

Stain remover (soaked into affected garment) –

Wedding morning, lipstick on collar, ‘Frivolous Fuchsia’, the bridesmaid’s shade,

Teeth preserver (submerge in small glass, dash to dentist) –

Engagement ring flashing, she slammed her fist into his jaw, sending incisors scattering through the bridal bouquet.


How To Grow and Care for Grapevines

The neighbours aren’t collecting their milk.

We’re hello-how-are-you neighbours. Nods and smiles neighbours. They sign for packages then leave them on the doorstep. I hold theirs for days until they ring the doorbell. They never step inside.

When their grapevine grew over the fence, I pruned it. Winter then summer. The fruit ripened well, cones of fleshy globes. On their side, it grew wild into the gutters. They cut it down. Without asking. The grapes shrivelled and fell.

Their house is silent. They might be in Greece. They might be dead. The milk goes rust-yellow and sour as unripe grapes.


Instinct

The milk bottle cracks hard against the grey, flagstone flooring. Opaque white liquid haemorrhages over the splintered glass. I reach down to clear the detritus; a shard splices my skin and crimson blood spools into the lukewarm fluid.

I snatch my hand and am drawn to the rivulets of red plasma coursing through the lactose delta. A memory is stirred: strawberry sundaes and gingham tablecloths.

Something now pops in the distance. Not champagne corks this time but airborne gunfire. More soldiers will arrive, but I will tend to their wounds and cream their bruises, comforting them like my own sons.


Milking It

She selects a glass jar from the cabinet, opens it with practised care. The liquid inside swirls like viscous fog. Slowly, slowly, she unwinds the largest snake— a yellow-eyed cobra, twisting from the nape of her neck— and eases it over her shoulder. It hisses and wiggles, flashing needle-sharp fangs as she hooks it to the lid. Venom dribbles down the insides of the glass, milk-white, and Medusa breathes a sigh of relief.

It’s not the snakes that worry her; it’s their bite. Each belligerent little pinprick.

Curses, she thinks, bring a whole new meaning to the term Hair Care.


Mixing Milk Thistle Tea

Peat-smoke drifts from the fire, as she crushes tiny milk thistle seeds with a pestle.

He groans in the bunk; a sheet bunched by his pale feet. His complexion that of cream gone sour. No longer fit to roar that the neighbours call her a witch.

She adds boiled water and sets the cup to his lips.

‘For your liver,’ she says.

He gulps. A dribble trickles across his cheek. She wipes his greying stubble with a cloth.

‘Tastes foul,’ he manages, before slumping against the mattress.

Elderberries gleam, like beads of black jet scattered across the table.

She waits.


Notes Left for My Sleeping Husband in the Final Six Months

To Squidgy,

Last night was fun. I’ve missed our adventures!

Didn’t want to wake you.

I’ll be late from work tonight.

Love, C x

To J,

The milk is off. I’ll get more on my way home.

C x

Couldn’t find the back door key to put out the bins. Can you sort? Ta.

Milk was off again. You can sort. Buy one pint not two.

I’m stopping at Janice’s tonight. Don’t call. I won’t answer.

C

Dear J, Thanks for sorting the boxes for me. I’ll post my key through the letter box. My solicitor has your email.

X


Pina Colada

Pineapples and coconuts are pretty ornaments, but her blown-glass avocado-half gives guidance. Her husband yells, “Hey! How about some…” something she can’t hear.

“Bike ride?”

Her pit throbs, so she goes. Rides hard across the mangrove bridge, halts below the mansion, panting. Her gaze rises to the rainbow-painted balcony. Spindle colors come in waves.

Arms akimbo, naked yoga man takes in the breeze. She watches his vinyasa. Cobra. Tree. She ponders an exchange then settles on her banana seat and pedals home.

Her avocado whispers welcome. Pewter, silver, Bristol blue. A million milky moons pull at her like a tide.


Residue

I bathe in creamy liquid scented with rose and jasmine. I rub a dripping sea sponge about my body contours and wash myself free from the linger of you. Submerged in virgin white I rinse you clean away. And when I step from the tub opaque rivulets trickle down my limbs leaving tiny pearl droplets clinging to my skin. I pat them dry with soft Egyptian cotton.

Cleansed from the ache of you I slide between cool silken sheets and drift from consciousness. But inevitably you enter my dreams and once again the persistent residue of you curdles upon me.


Till Death Do Us Part

They had been dead for days.

As you and I began our married life together, their bodies had lain rotting on the other side of the wall.

Untouched milk bottles on the doorstep alerted us. Rancid yellow liquid spilling out of pecked silver foil tops.

An ebony bloom of bluebottles buzzed out when the police knocked the door down.

I can hear those insects now, persistent, tinnitus trapped inside my skull.

My palm against the wall vibrates as the couple’s suffering leaches through.

I pour tea, hold the milk jug towards you.

You flinch from the pervasive scent of decay.


The Winter of Relationship

A harsh white blanket spread across the sky and every grassy blade.

Penny’s fingers numbed sticking posters to lampposts.

Missing Cat. Freddy.

Later, her husband, Rob, said, ‘I never wanted that cat,’ and dumped Freddy’s dish in the bin. Penny fished it out.

A dead rat was on the doormat in the morning. Penny whispered, ‘Freddy?’ and hid a saucer of milk behind her bike. Rob turned the engine of his car, drove off in a snowstorm. Penny buckled in the silence. No goodbye, kiss or smile.

Three days later, Rob still wasn’t home. Penny didn’t put up any posters.


Vote for your favourite using the form below. If you have any problems using the form, you can also vote on this link: https://form.responster.com/hdvFIY

Sept 21 Micro Longlist

Many thanks to all who sent a story for this month’s MILK themed comp. We received 87 entries so the cash prize for first place is £130 and for second place £87. People’s Prize is of course a surprise!

Well done to the writers of the stories below. No telling which is yours though!

We’ll have the shortlist on Monday after the Online Flash Fest where you can come ask the Retreat West Reading Team all about how and why stories go through to the long and shortlists and the winner’s spots.

Longlist

  1. Carton
  2. Even The Milk Doesn’t Know
  3. Five Uses for Milk We Hadn’t Heard of Until Louise’s Wedding
  4. Grace
  5. Having Shed My Stripey Larval Pyjamas
  6. How to Grow and Care for Grapevines
  7. Instinct
  8. Milking It
  9. Missing
  10. Mixing Milk Thistle Tea
  11. My Southern Boyfriend’s Cure for Insomnia
  12. No Use Crying Over Spilled Milkshake
  13. Notes Left for My Sleeping Husband in the Final Six Months
  14. Pina Colada
  15. Residue
  16. Rosie-Nell
  17. The Winter of Relationship
  18. The Woman Consumed
  19. Till Death Do Us Part
  20. Too Late
  21. Traces of You
  22. You Can Tell a Lot About a Person’s Character From How They Take Their Tea

Good luck for the next round everyone! Our shortlist will be online for the public vote on Monday 20th Sept.

In the meantime, get writing to the ECHO theme for the quarterly themed flash that closes on 26th Sept! Win cash and online publication.

And polish up your micros, flashes and short stories for the 2021 RW Prize, which closes in October! Win cash and anthology publication.

Write, write, write!

Winners: Micro Mentoring Comp

Many thanks to all the writers who sent in their tiny stories to win one of our new one-off mentoring packages. The theme was partnerships and we enjoyed reading all the takes on this, of which there were many!

We’ve got a bit behind with things as summer holidays and lots of courses starting and getting everything ready for the Online Flash Fest, so we’re publishing our shortlist here as well as our winners!

Many congrats to all!

Shortlist

  • Joint and Several by Nancy Ludmerer
  • Perfect Harmony by Alex Ruby
  • Our First Touch by Sharon Boyle
  • Our Turn by Tracey Stewart
  • The Gift by Julia Abelsohn
  • The Natural Order of Things by Meg Anderson
  • The Sudden Emergence of a Rainbow by Laura Dobson
  • Things I May Or May Not Tell My Granddaughter When Leaving Her My Final Instructions by Philippa Bowe
  • Until Death Does Us Part by Jeff Taylor

Winners

Well done to our winners!

Our First Touch by Sharon Boyle

Sharon wins the Story & Structure Surgery with C.M. Taylor.

Why we chose it: Loved the narrative voice, the humour, the surreal turn this story took and how deftly what could have been quite a grim tale was handled!


The Gift by Julia Abelsohn

Julia wins the Character Clinic with Amanda Saint

Why we chose it: Such an epic feel to this tiny tale that covers a big span of these characters lives. Poignant and touching without being sentimental – great stuff!


The Sudden Emergence of a Rainbow by Laura Dobson

Laura wins the Flash Fiction Fix with Amanda Saint

Why we chose it: Fantastic details and layering of meaning in this story and the narrator’s shock, loss and grief are so wonderfully portrayed in so few words.


Until Death Do Us Part by Jeff Taylor

Jeff wins the Short Story Surgery with Peter Jordan

Why we chose it: Heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time and the final line packs a real punch. Loved the names and way the reality of the story came clear slowly.