2021 Novelette-in-Flash Prize Longlist

Thanks so much to all the writers who sent us their novelettes. We’ve enjoyed reading them all and are impressed with the innovation on show in these stories.

Well done to all for writing and submitting a novelette-in-flash and congratulations to our longlisted writers. We’re still reading anonymously so no telling which is yours!

Longlisted Novelettes-in-Flash

  • A Good Match
  • Ceiling
  • Homeless Camping Jump
  • How Love Feels
  • Life’s for the Taking
  • Little Bird and Wolf
  • Love, Sex, Death and all the rest of it
  • Melba Toast’s Copy Of The St. Albans Register & Seed Co. Almanac
  • Monsieur
  • Summer 1969
  • The Girl Who Survived

We’ll be back with the shortlist as soon as we can!

Jan 22 Monthly Micro Shortlist

We’re so excited to bring you the first shortlist of the year for this comp, which we all love so much! Well done to all who made the longlist and congrats to the writers of our shortlisted stories – no telling which is yours yet though!

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 Monday 17th January 2022. Results will be announced on Tuesday 18th. Good luck everyone!

Bottled Up

Here we put our feelings in bottles. It’s safer that way. No red hysteria exploding in the workplace. No blue paranoia sweating beneath the sheets. Our lives are as grey and still as midnight lakes.

No one knows where they keep the bottled feelings or how safely the feelings are stored. We whisper in the sanitised corners of our neat, efficient homes.

‘What if they decide to pop the corks?’

‘What if some radical smashes the bottles to prove a point?’

We don’t worry, of course, our feelings are bottled by experts, and we don’t know how to be afraid.


It was a shock to find membership of the club was not automatic: she’d put in the time, done the hard labour; it was natural, surely. She wore its livery nonetheless—the wrap-dresses, button-down shirts, its crossovers and flaps—in remembrance of the lightness of dreams, before life sank into its short, shallow grooves. Other mums draped themselves in milky muslin, like da Vinci Madonnas, as babies rested in the crooks of arms. But she had no words of explanation for the bottle in her hand, and nothing could conceal that red, scooped-out space beneath her ribs where failure thrived.


At thirteen Daniel was using telekinesis to lift bottles of beer, at sixteen he was making cars float in Donnelly’s scrapyard while squashing rats with a twitch of his eyebrows, blood scattered across the yard like a Jackson Pollock painting.

These days he mostly made spilt milk and bottles of formula float in mid-air, forming shapes and patterns like butterflies and unicorns to entertain Grace until she fell asleep.

When Grace was restless, he made her float around the nursery. He never forgot the gurgling sound of wonder and laughter she made when floating, like she was invisible and weightless.

Grandpa’s Legacy

He could make wine glasses sing with a fingertip and a bit of spit, the tone growing more melancholy as the drink went down.

He built tiny, perfect boats, using balsa and thread, slipping them magically into clear glass bottles.

Here’s the last ship-in-a-bottle he made. Inside it sits a minuscule old man, and a boy, and a bottle. And within that, is a speck of a ship.

This is my inheritance.

My face, my black suit, reflect in the glass, and I wish myself small enough to slide inside, board the ship and sail to wherever my grandpa is.

Manningtree, Essex 1645

Matthew Hopkins has uncovered evil in our midst ~ neighbours, once trusted, are now suspects. My milk has soured and the babe sickens, so I must save Eliza from their ill wishing. I take a small bottle, half fill it with pins, add a lock of Eliza’s downy hair, drops of her urine then stopper it with a cork. I stand by the open window to drip candle wax to seal it.

As I incant a powerful protection spell the Witchfinder General passes, retraces his steps, points his black gloved finger at me and his mouth forms the word ‘witch’.

One Bluebottle On A Windowsill

Funny how one dead bluebottle on a windowsill can change the very oxygen of a room. How it makes me light headed, heartsore and sick.

Just that one perfect imperfection on which to spin the story of a day.

It’s like a single footprint in freshly fallen snow. Like a chip in bone china. Or a smudge on the glass.

Like receipts in your pocket for a place we’ve never been. Like the shrill repetition of midnight calls. And dead phone lines. Like bumping, unexpectedly, into old friends.

Like lipstick on collars and unexpected delays.

And other reminders of you.

Open Day At The Bottle Factory – David Shows His Daughter The Place Where He Is God

David narrates the creation story. Sand, soda ash, limestone and cullet make liquid honey in a hell-hot furnace. He waves a proud arm at the end product, one made earlier, a multitude of milk bottles, ghosts of the terracotta army.

It is, he says, a triumph of man and machine, and he is the man who keeps it all going. Emma raises her sceptical eyebrows above her safety glasses. He shows her the stool where he sits. “Perhaps one day you’ll get a chair,” she says, watching him shrivel before her.

It will take her twenty years to be sorry.

Returning to Aleppo

Carim’s earliest memories of Aleppo were the bone-shaking cart ride, laughter-filled hours with Traders’ children, fathers haggling over bubbling narghiles with their writhing wisps of smoke.

His favourite memory, though, was the messages from Uri – hidden in a mousehole in a tiny, long-necked bottle.

But that was years ago, before sleeping with one eye open was normal. Surreal, to now stand in the abandoned rubble, daring to hope. The last message, never collected; the address of Uri’s Aunt to whom they’d fled.

Carim felt an unfamiliar stretch across his face. There, in the mousehole, was a tiny, long-necked bottle.

The Anatomist’s Bride

I am the fifth girl they have sent. The doctor cannot keep his servants. Or his wife, if the rumours are true.

Entry to his laboratory is forbidden, but as with Eve, my sin is curiosity. Locks, like pockets, are easily picked.

The stench of formalin. Strange instruments sharpened by lamplight, a workbench scrubbed bone-white, shelves of fat-bellied jars in shadow. I look closer and almost drop my lantern. A floating hand wears a gristle bracelet. Ink spill hair fanning out around a head. Lungs, liver, the plump pillow of a womb. Everything except a heart.

One jar stands empty.

Treading on Memory in the Bottles’ Graveyard

Blue glass is the rarest. She holds a cerulean piece, salt-pocked, sand-scoured. ‘A gem,’ she imagines her father say. Rainbow shards nestle in her bucket, collected on this bejewelled shore, this bottle graveyard below the abandoned pub. And out of the blue, she becomes that child — instructed to bring her father home — standing bathed in leaking light from the pub’s doorway, fug of smoke and stale air, while he sings, ‘I’ve Been a Wild Rover.’ She rattles the shards, tesserae in the mosaic of memory, and her father’s eyes sparkle across time, vivid as the blue glass in her hand.

Vote for your favourite in the form below. If you have any problems using the form you can also vote on this link: https://form.responster.com/jT9tPc

The 2021 Retreat West Prize Shortlists

Thanks to all for their patience while we re-read the longlisted stories over and over and had quite a few debates! There was so much to recommend about all the stories that were longlisted in each category that getting down to a final 10 for each is never easy. So well done to all the writers who were longlisted and congratulations to the writers who have now gone through to the shortlist.

The stories are now with our final judges to make the decision on who wins the top prizes. All shortlisted writers who don’t get a top cash prize will receive a small cash prize and all writers included in the anthology get a free paperback copy. Plus they are eligible for the annual Retreat West Awards. Good luck everyone!

Short Story Prize Shortlist

  1. A Trip to the Island, One Last Time
  2. An Open Garden
  3. Grit
  4. Self-archaeology
  5. Stuck for Words
  6. The Jellyfish at the Traffic Lights
  7. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife
  8. The Leonids
  9. The Visitor
  10. Yet Another ‘Missing Children’ Poster Adorns the Lamppost of a North-East Fishing Village

Flash Fiction Prize Shortlist

  • A Cast of Crabs
  • Button Bus
  • Deep Secrets 
  • Hands
  • Paper
  • The Buttero
  • The Five Stages of Grief
  • The Turning Point
  • The Weathering
  • What My Therapist Calls Grounding To Calm My Triggered Body

Micro Fiction Prize Shortlist

  • America
  • Body of Christ
  • Cornfields
  • I Am Sailing Very Far Away
  • It’s a Beautiful Day for a Picnic
  • No Rain
  • Robert
  • Scratch Art for Grown-Ups
  • Tom’s Toy Gun
  • You Said You’d Always Wait for Me

Jan 22 Monthly Micro Longlist

It’s good to be back after our break in December and seems like everyone missed us as we’ve had the most entries in ages this month! 116 stories were submitted, meaning the cash prizes are £174 for 1st place and £116 for second, plus the People’s Prize which will be announced along with the results.

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. A Failure of Assumptions
  2. Bottle
  3. Bottle Fed
  4. Bottled Objects
  5. Bottled Up
  6. Bottling It Up
  7. Contained in a Bottle
  8. Don’t bottle it: a vacation from university and the real cost of pumpjack oil drilling in Alberta, August 16th 1988
  9. Formula
  10. Grace
  11. Grandpa’s Legacy
  12. I unwrap a bottle of Tuscan herb infused olive oil, untie the white bow
  13. Life in Shades: A Retrospective
  14. Manningtree, Essex 1645
  15. Not Even 19 bottles of Jamaican Rum Can Please Her
  16. One Bluebottle on a Windowsill
  17. One Hundred Words of Summer
  18. Open Day At The Bottle Factory – David Shows His Daughter The Place Where He Is God
  19. Preservation
  20. Returning to Aleppo
  21. Some inevitable consequences of hatred
  22. Splintering Hearts
  23. St. Catherine’s Orphans
  24. Still Standing
  25. Stop
  26. The Anatomist’s Bride
  27. The Perfumier’s Love Letter
  28. The Ruby Anniversary
  29. The Weight of Memory
  30. Treading on Memory in the Bottles’ Graveyard
  31. Upcycling Can Save Lives
  32. Wine-tasting for Beginners

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

The 2021 Retreat West Prize Longlists

We are excited to reveal the longlists for the 2021 Retreat West Prize. Many thanks to everyone who sent stories across the 3 categories this year. We received just under 400 stories in total. Congratulations to the writers whose stories have gone through to our longlists!

Reading remains anonymous so please no telling if your story appears here.

Short Story Prize Longlist

  • All Doors Will Open
  • An Open Garden
  • A Trip to the Island, One Last Time
  • Crosshairs
  • Five Across
  • Grit
  • How to Keen Them Away
  • How the Northern Light Gets In
  • Insert Row / Delete Row
  • Lockdown Differences
  • Lucky Lulu
  • Nine Storeys High
  • On Tuesdays I Clean the House
  • Peel
  • Reclamation
  • Rich at Last
  • Self Archaeology
  • Stuck for Words
  • The Critical Scrooge Syndrome
  • The Girl with Bees in Her Hair
  • The Jellyfish at the Traffic Lights
  • The Leonids
  • The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife
  • The Limits of Wings
  • The Lockdown Golem
  • The Mystery of the Martian Whale
  • The Seven Ages of Lone
  • The Visitor
  • Twenty-One Scars
  • Virus
  • Visiting Hours
  • Yet Another ‘Missing Children’ Poster Adorns the Lampposts of a North-East Fishing Village
  • Yours

Flash Fiction Prize Longlist

  • A Cast of Crabs
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • A Woodcarver’s Love
  • All That Remains
  • All The Times We Could Have Eaten Fish Together
  • Bring me the heart of Eduardo Armando Jimenez ‘El Chipolito’ Garcia! On a silver platter. With a green salad and water cress garnish (no capers)
  • Button Bus
  • Cold Snap Later, With Falling Iguanas
  • Cow Tree
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Dad Wrote My Name in Dog-Shit
  • Deep Secrets
  • Dog Days
  • Don’t Feed the Seagulls For They Will End Up Knowing Where You Live
  • Down by the River
  • Eat Your Heart Out
  • Epitaph
  • Everything You Have Loved is Here, When Are You Coming Home?
  • Falling Woman
  • First We Take Manhattan
  • Hands
  • Hands Across the Ages
  • No Wide-Eyes Birds
  • Lost in Time
  • Memories Bundled Tightly Listen as the Fugue Plays Out
  • Paper
  • Rewilding
  • Salt, Iron and Oxidation
  • Seven Shoes I Have Worn in My Life
  • Sprawl
  • Starter Home
  • Storm Debris
  • That Wasn’t My Intention, But Maybe It Was
  • The Art of Bibliomancy
  • The Buttero
  • The Boy
  • The Dead of Night
  • The Five Stages of Grief
  • The Invocation of Saint Florian
  • The Tell-Tale Chirp of an Olive Warbler
  • The Turning Point
  • The Weathering
  • Turtle Houses
  • What My Therapist Calls Grounding to Calm My Triggered Body
  • When You Come Home from Nashville
  • Where You Are Sleeping
  • Writing Backwards

Micro Fiction Prize Longlist

  • A Viable Career Path
  • America
  • An Education
  • Body of Christ
  • Charlie Has Gone
  • Cliched Love
  • Cornfields
  • Girls of Summer
  • Henry the Navigator and other Useful Prompts
  • I Am Sailing, Very Far Away
  • It’s a beautiful day for a picnic, but you’re not invited
  • In Memory of Lemon
  • Lycra Slaves
  • Moleskin Pad, Box of Biros
  • No Rain
  • One For Sorrow
  • On The Way To Comic Con, Superman Makes An Unsettling Discovery
  • Parkout in Andulucia
  • Robert
  • Sand
  • Scratch Art for Grown-ups
  • She Was Definitely Not a Dirne but the Dress Code Called for Dirndl
  • Signing on the Dotted Line
  • Summer of 1963
  • The Ocean is My Lover
  • There’s nothing so clean as my burger machine – you deserve a break today
  • Tom’s Toy Gun
  • Too Many Debts to Die
  • You Said You’d Always Wait for Me

Best of luck in the next round of judging! We’ll be back with the shortlists in late January and in the meantime – have a great festive season!

Winners – ECHO themed flash competition

We’re excited to reveal the winners from our ECHO themed flash competition as chosen by our judge, Vanessa Gebbie. Thanks so much for making the difficult decision Vanessa! Well done to all who made our shortlist, and longlist, and many congratulations to our winners!


  • Aircooled VW Baja by Emily Macdonald
  • Echoes of Pink and White by Taria Karillion
  • Embers by Dreena Collins
  • Grief Like the Apple Tree Grows Crooked Not Straight by E.E. Rhodes
  • If You Scream Long Enough Into Darkness by Cheryl Burman
  • Same-Same But Different by Marie Gethins
  • So You Wrote a Play About Me by Stephanie Grand
  • The Last Birthday Party by Hanne Larsson
  • Two Months Later by Jane Broughton
  • What’s Wrong with a Kebab, Anyway? by Katie Holloway

Winner: If You Scream Long Enough into Darkness by Cheryl Burman

Vanessa said: I loved this one. It is original, it is fresh, it bounces along. It interprets the theme in a very different way to all the others, and makes ‘Echo’ the plate of a rather glitzy car, seen by the narrator, a student on a Gap Year in the US. The car is all dazzle and shine in the dusty forecourt of the garage where he is waiting for his next ride. And the owner of the car – with her ‘cheekbones as sharp as the car’s tail fins’ is unforgettable — as dazzle and shine as the car. The voice is great, it is filmic, clipped and sharp — and the ending is super — as the piece pivots into the future and makes the flash itself echo. Clever and hugely enjoyable. Congratulations to the writer. 

Runner-Up: Grief Like the Apple Tree Grows Crooked Not Straight by E.E. Rhodes

Vanessa said: I suspected, with a theme like ‘Echo’, I’d get a lot of flashes about death and its aftermath, and I wasn’t wrong. This one is that, but it is so beautifully done, and the vision expands as you read. Told in ten tiny sections, all with intriguing titles – starting ‘Crumble’ that mostly build a positive, organic atmosphere, the flash builds an unforgettable  and surprisingly complex picture of a sibling relationship seen after loss. It is filled with echoes, this one, visually, atmospherically. It is beautifully done, and in such a short space, takes  the reader on a journey through coming to terms with the loss, and confronting its complexities. This line towards the end echoes still:

Over coffee, my boss asks what it’s like to lose a twin. I tell her to ask me again when I have. 


Runner-Up: Aircooled VW Baja by Emily Macdonald

Vanessa said: OK, so is there a car-theme going round?  I much enjoyed this one too, with its terrific structure, following the ten steps of taking a car to pieces and putting it back together again, echoing the short tale of a relationship, which ends unfortunately. I enjoyed the kaleidoscopic nature of the piece, the careful bare-boned prose. And it wasn’t until I got to the end that I appreciated the cleverness of the interpretation – as a scar is left in that last sentence which will echo long into the future. Well done indeed.

Well done to our winners! Cheryl wins £200 and E.E. and Emily both win £100. 

Our final themed flash competition of 2021 ends later this month (30th Dec) — the them is AFTER and the judge is Shaun Levin. Get all the info here.