Monthly Micro Winners Nov 2023

Many congratulations to the winners of our final Monthly Micro comp of 2023! And well done to all who were shortlisted, longlisted and who wrote and sent a story!

First Prize and People’s Prize: These are all the things I think when my sister tells me she’s pregnant by Fiona Dignan

Why we chose it: Great imagery and narrative voice as well as a lovely feeling of hope at the end despite the sadness of the story.

Second Prize: The Ages at Which Her Faith in Justice Will Transform into a Plaintive Wish for Good Luck by Liv Norman

Why we chose it: Excellent take on the theme and great whole life flash that has human emotion and social commentary.


Fiona and Liv win the cash prizes and Fiona also wins a ticket to the next Flash Fest!

We’ll be back in January with the next Monthly Micro comp! In the meantime, check out the 1000 Word Photo contest over at WestWord.

Flash In Five – November 2023 – Avitus B. Carle

This month our Flash In Five comes from Avitus B. Carle

How We Survive (click title to read)

Idea: “How We Survive” has gone through several revisions, which is why I struggled to remember the origins of the initial idea. I did some detective work and discovered that the story originated in Meg Pokrass’ microfiction masterclass workshop! The prompt was to write a story addressed to someone off the page with one of the examples being “You’ve Stopped” by Tommy Dean. I love repetition in flash and how the echoes of a word or phrase can portray so much of the character, whether that be an exploration of the truth, a signal of denial or a mind that’s been broken, or reflections on something that’s come to an end.

Development: I was deeply immersed in my apocalypse era of writing and wanted to explore the complexities of relationships, especially breakups. Since my character is addressing someone off the page, why not have them tell the story of their survival to the reader? My next question became, how to make this particular breakup stand out without relying on the apocalypse as the event or moment of conflict that makes this breakup interesting. In what way can I complicate this specific breakup that still makes my character unique and complicated enough to hold the readers’ attention without being predictable? I decided that my character and her love interest would be the last people on earth, she wanting a relationship while her love interest has already found love with someone who is unexpected, yet perfect, for a romance at the end of the world. I then wanted to focus on how my main character navigates an unrequited love and separation from the only other human left on earth.

Editing: Initially, this was supposed to be a micro. However, Lorraine is a force. The more I explored the lives of these three characters, the more I wrote until I exceeded the word count requirements expected for a micro. I posted a portion of the story for workshop, ending with Lorraine (a mannequin and lover of my main character’s love interest) leaning in the doorframe of my main character’s bedroom, and saved the flash-length draft to my computer. This workshop took place during the summer of 2021 and I didn’t return to the story until the fall of that same year. I still wasn’t sure what was missing until Tara Campbell suggested separating the repetition of “We Survive On…” statements to heighten the sense of isolation. I also added several more line breaks to allow the story to breathe, to create even more white space on the page, and italicize any dialogue between my characters so the moments in which the last people on earth connect really stand out amongst the chaos and conflict provided by Lorraine.

Submitting: I had two places in mind for this story. One I’d been receiving personal rejections from and thought, surely, this story would be the one to convince them! The other, Lost Balloon, I’ve been a huge fan of since I first started writing. Lost Balloon had also published one of my first flashes, “White Ribbons,” and I believed this story coincided with the inspiration behind the magazine’s name: “…those small and sad but whimsical moments in life.” Lost Balloon accepted the story and later nominated the piece for Best Small Fictions!

Reflections: Out of all my stories so far, I have the most fun reading, “How We Survive.” To quote a member from Meg Pokrass’ microfiction masterclass workshop, “To be dumped for a mannequin in an apocalyptic world…oof, that’s rough!” Watching the “oof” of realization show on the audiences faces keeps me coming back to this story, to Lorraine, and finding more ways to distort our ideas of relationships, even at the end of the world.

Avitus B. Carle (she/her) lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Formerly known as K.B. Carle, her flash has been published in a variety of places including the Fractured Lit, ASP Bulletin, Five South Lit., Lumiere Review, -ette review, and elsewhere. Avitus’s flash, “Black Bottom Swamp Bottle Woman,” was recently selected as one of Wigleaf’s 2023 Top 50 and nominated for the O. Henry Prize. Her story, “A Lethal Woman,” is included in the 2022 Best Small Fictions anthology. She can be found at or online everywhere @avitusbcarle.

November 2023 Monthly Micro Shortlist

Many congratulations to our shortlisted writers! Vote for your favourite below to win the People’s Prize and our reading team are busy choosing their winners. Voting is open until 23.59 GMT on Monday 27th November. The prompt was FAIR.

If your story is listed below, please don’t tell anyone which is yours as all reading and voting must remain anonymous!

Eve and Adam, 1955

There was a bonfire but instead of Guy, they torched an effigy of you. My mother’s hot dog lips fixed in a grimace as your straw goatee fizz crackled. The Waltzer churned my stomach; I vomited apologies into the grass.

When they ran you out of town, they thanked the Almighty for my release, as if God could ever take me Ferris wheel high.

You were the devil’s own, pinking my cheeks until I was spun to candy floss. They hollered good riddance to flames as you burned. I licked my lips, longing for that toffee crunch of the apple.

Fairground Distraction

Watching the passing plane, Sarah pondered whether the turbulence on their honeymoon flight had been an omen.

A passing unicorn, dipped in front of her, as if mocking the trajectory of her marriage. Had ‘I do’ become ‘I’m done’?

She waved as her children passed by, then looked over at her husband, back turned, engrossed in his mobile. Maybe his secret mobile, she’d discovered last week.

Looking back at the children, she smiled as their horse and racing car began slowing down on the carousel.

Was her marriage going round in circles as the attraction was coming to an end?

Fragile Night

Her skin is delicate like tissue paper: sinew and wrist bone, her insides wrapped tight like they’re
trying to be her outsides. She’s white but not like heavy cream, more like a hemophiliac — she
exudes translucence. I want to hug her.

Gentle, I remind myself, floating toward the doorway.

In my arms, she is sand, spilled across the floor, which is to say I feel myself losing time through
cracks in the hardwood. It’s so late the night suggests first light and I’m struck because I miss my
mother, my grandmother, my sister, the gnarled oak roots in Northeast Ohio.

My Sister’s Life Was Nothing Like A Rollercoaster

The sensation seeking life was not for Louise, the adrenaline adventure, the racing heart, the dizzying heights, the freefall plunge, anticipation, fear, the exhilaration of those moments left hanging upside down.

The dodgems, though, she could relate to. Day following day, zooming around the same small circle, going nowhere, fast, the bumps, the shunts, the occasional pile-up, the knowledge that someone else’s finger flicked the switch that controlled it all.

Hook a duck is more her thing now. Placidly paddling, you’d struggle to pick her out from the crowd. Sunshine yellow on the surface, only she knows the scars inside.

Not a fair deal

A lion would have been his preferred option. An ‘aslanic’ after-life would have reflected his majestic demeanour, and the many sacrifices accomplished for Helen. A falcon would have been acceptable. Spreading his powerful wings and scanning the earth with his laser eyes, hunting for tasty creatures, would have provided him with much pleasure. He would have agreed to be a dog. Not any dog, but a husky or a German shepherd, he would have embodied. So, when he found himself, hours after his heart stopped, croaking at Helen’s door, he felt that a blatant mismanagement of his demise had occurred.


They called him Em.

He was five, and knew only the crumbling walls in the facility. When a green van came for him early in
the morning, only six were left. He didn’t bother to wake the other kids sleeping in concrete cages.

Voices guided him in the van.

The new room was white, and his ‘parents’ were many.

“Em, come in”, the first voice welcoming him was a mix of metals clanging.

“Fair chance, Em. Survive”, another voice said, in a turbine whirr.

He grew up among them, M for man.

The others were terminated, he heard, tears frozen.

The Ages at Which Her Faith in Justice Will Transform into a Plaintive Wish for Good Luck

Watching her father’s shrug, his creeping smile, as he checkmates her again.
‘Fair win,’ he says. ‘Do better next time.’

Standing at the student bar with her boyfriend, his hand edging up her skirt as he drains pints.
‘Just my fair share,’ he winks. ‘Wear lace next time.’

Leaking breastmilk and tears in the meeting room, while her colleague announces his promotion.
‘Fair’s fair,’ he whispers. ‘Show up next time.’

Comforting her weeping teenage daughter, who should be safe at school, but wasn’t.
‘It’s not fair,’ she says.
Hoping that there won’t be a next time.

The Community Court of Justice and Reparation Believes Experiential Learning is the Key to Rehabilitation

Clouds gather as the thump of an aubergine calls court to order. A beaming Judge hands her gavel, Habanero chillies, garlic, tomatoes, and a recipe to the beanpole teenager convicted of stealing. His sentence to nourish his family with a delicious eggplant stew.

Defendant two: a cruel Home Secretary, charged with immorality is brought to the dock in daisy chains.

‘You’d criminalise rough sleepers for living in tents?’ The judge accuses, giving the defendant a cold, hard stare and bashing the bench with a tent peg gavel to show the gravity of the crime.

Rain lashes the courthouse. The Home Secretary trembles.

The Fair Witch

Though she doesn’t wear a black pointy hat and is fairer of face than most storybook hags, the boy suspects her a witch. To reach her he must suffer the glassy-eyed stare of monstrous gilded horses. A pipe-organ bellows out a manic tune, engines roar, the ground shakes. He crosses her palm with silver as she stands behind her thrumming cauldron. Gossamer ghosts are created from thin air and wrapped around her wooden wand. He watches, mesmerised, until she thrusts the magical rose-tinted cloud into his grubby fist. He thanks the witch of the funfair and devours his sugary marvel.

These are all the things I think when my sister tells me she’s pregnant

That she is Sunday’s child, and I am Wednesday’s. That she glides through life with the grace of a swan. That I am the swan’s feet desperately flapping beneath. That I despise the fullness of her, the flatness of me. That it’s my fault my womb is a burst balloon. That it was she who accompanied me to the clinic when I was barely sixteen. That it was she who held my hand as the doctor said complication, infection, scarring.

That she is offering me the chance to love the nearest thing I will ever have to my own child.

Vote for your favourite using the form below. If you have any problems with the form, you an also access it via this link:

November 2023 Monthly Micro Longlist

A very quiet month for this competition this month. Just 50 entries received so the cash prizes are £54 for first place and £36 for second. People’s Prize will be announced with the results.

Well done to the writers who made the longlist and many thanks to everyone who took part.

Longlisted Stories

  • All the Fun of the Fair
  • Eve and Adam, 1955
  • Fairground Distraction
  • Fragile Night
  • My Sister’s Life Was Nothing Like A Rollercoaster
  • Not a fair deal
  • Peace
  • Recall
  • Revolution
  • The Ages at Which Her Faith in Justice Will Transform into a Plaintive Wish for Good Luck
  • The Community Court of Justice and Reparation Believes Experiential Learning is the Key to Rehabilitation
  • The Fair Witch
  • The Ride of Her Life
  • These are all the things I think when my sister tells me she’s pregnant

Congrats to everyone who made it through. We’ll be back with the shortlist next week!

Do check out all the new submission opportunities we have over at WestWord now we have moved our journal to a swish new home on Substack!

Literary Agent Interview: Eli Keren

Eli Keren at United Agents is the judge for the 2024 First Chapter competition and the winner gets feedback from him on their submission package and a 1-hour Zoom meeting to talk about their novel and upcoming career as a writer.

Eli started his publishing career at Curtis Brown before joining United Agents as an assistant in 2016. In 2021 he became an associate literary agent, representing a growing list of clients across fiction and non-fiction, actively seeking books that are going to make a positive impact in the world in some way, big or small. Before working in books, Eli was a research scientist designing and synthesising novel drugs (white coat and everything), and science books remain a particular passion of his. He is also very interested in LGBT-themed books in both fiction and non-fiction. In 2023 he was elected treasurer of the Association of Authors’ Agents.

Ahead of the January deadline, we grilled him on how you can impress him with your entries!

Eli, thanks for coming on the blog and for judging the contest. When reading the shortlisted first chapters, what’s going to make a novel stand out for you?

The first and most obvious thing is really simple – when I get to the end of it, do I want to keep going? Do I want more? Am I hooked, is there a mystery I need unravelled, a crime I’m emotionally invested in seeing solved, a dramatic situation I want resolved? By the end of the first chapter I want to know what it is that’s going to propel me to the end of the book, where the driving force is. This applies to all fiction, literary and commercial. If it’s commercial fiction then the driving force is going to be rooted in plot but if it’s literary I still do need a driving force of some kind to be there, it’s just more likely to be rooted in an emotional investment. Other than that, I want to see originality, I want to know what your book is doing that’s fresh and new and not like any other book on the shelf at Waterstones.

When you receive a three chapter submission what gets you excited enough to ask for the full MS?

I’ve got a big thing about audience control. I want you, as a writer, to demonstrate that you can put me in the emotional state you want me to be in for your work to have the effect you want it to have. I want you to manipulate me! I want you to cause me to feel something, and I want you to demonstrate that you can have me right where you want me for your work to have maximum impact. I want to feel your confidence, I don’t want to have to work to figure out what I’m meant to feel or what I’m meant to follow, I want you to make it easy for me, effortless, more than effortless, I want it to be impossiblenot to feel exactly what you want me to be feeling. There are other boxes to tick – I need to feel confident a book has a place in the market and all the rest of it – but that audience control is really vital for me.

What types of novels and writers would you love to have on your list?

I love a novel that is both commercial in terms of plot and pacing, but that also achieves something over and above that plot. Books with something to say that will get people talking about it. It could be an important message, or it could be a novel use of form and structure, or it could be a high-concept plot that changes what I thought you could do with your chosen genre. There are a lot of books on the market, I want to be working with writers who are producing the work that we’ll all still be talking about decades down the line.

When reading for pleasure, which authors do you enjoy and why?

I don’t represent fantasy or sci-fi, so when I’m reading for pleasure, I love fantasy and sci-fi. Reading the genres I don’t work with lets me really switch of my editor’s brain, I can relax into a narrative without thinking about how I’d have edited it or which editors I’d have sent it to if I was submitting it. I mostly read for pleasure in audiobook format so I can’t even be looking out for typos. It can be very hard to stop myself from working, but that’s the danger of turning your hobby into your job! I recently binged Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, and am hugely enjoying John Gwynne’s Bloodsworn saga, as well as working my way through Sarah. J Maas’s and Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy worlds. I love the classics too, Arthur C Clarke and Tolkien. I’ve even read the Silmarillion in its entirety. I love books that can transport me somewhere, worlds built confidently with relatable human stories at their centres. Ultimately reading always comes down to the same things for me – I want to learn and I want to feel. The easier an author makes it for me to do both those things, the happier I am.

So there you have it! You now have a couple of months to get polishing those first chapters to submit and be in with a chance of winning the feedback and meeting with Eli. He’ll be reading the ten shortlisted chapters to choose the winner.

For an extra boost on creating a novel opening that readers can’t put down, you can buy the replay of Amanda Saint’s popular Fabulous First Chapters workshop.

*The link to watch the workshop is provided on the Stripe payment confirmation page.

October 2023 Monthly Micro Winners

Well done to everyone that made this month’s shortlist and huge congrats to our winners!

First Place: Eclipse by Polly Foster

Why we chose it: Loved the original take on the theme and the solar, lunar and cosmic imagery.

Second Place: The Burning Question by John Holmes

Why we chose it: Lovely uplifting story with a good question at its heart about the fluidity of both language and this human experience.

People’s Prize: Never Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger by Alison Wassell

Shortlisted Stories

Polly and John win the cash prizes, Alison wins a free ticket to our next Online Flash Fest, and everyone who was shortlisted wins a free entry into the next Monthly Micro.

Next month is the final Monthly Micro of 2023 as we have December off so let’s make it a good one! The prompt will go live on Monday 6th November but our community members will get it on Sunday 5th November in the Monthly Micro Workshop dedicated to helping you develop your micro craft! Join the community here.