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.

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.

October 2023 Monthly Micro Shortlist

Well done to everyone who wrote and submitted a story this month and to the writers who made the longlist. Congratulations to the 10 writers who have gone through to the shortlist! The prompt word this month was SUN.

Vote for your favourite from these 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 23rd October 2023. Results will be announced on 24th. Good luck everyone! 

A Chance Meeting on Moore Beach

Christine didn’t talk to strangers; so when, in the orange-hued haze of first light, an old woman
approached, her muscles stiffened.

“Would you like a shell?” An outstretched hand cupped a chipped clam. “It’s not perfect, but,”
the woman turned it over, “just look at that purple .”

Christine clasped the shell, holding it between them. They watched as the rising sun illuminated
an iridescent layer, previously hidden. The old woman nodded and continued down the beach.

A seagull soared overhead. Her phone pinged. Pls forgive me. Christine exhaled and pocketed
the shell as the tide stretched to touch her toes.


You lay the blanket across the sand. Moonlight rays shimmering with phosphorescent memories. Somewhere between dusk and dawn I feel your hand in mine, the warmth of your fingers, as I stretch my toes one last time to feel the tactility of grains against my skin. By morning I will be gone. You will fold me in the blanket, slip me back into the room from where you spirited me away, to be discovered as sun slips through slatted blinds. You’ll accept the call, already knowing the news of my passing and the mystery of the sand between my toes.


My mum’s an astronaut, studying solar flares. She’s somewhere so bright I can’t even look
without my eyes watering, but from down here I can blot her out with the tip of my thumb. That’s
called an eclipse.

People say I must be so proud of her. On Earth she glides through parties with her followers in
orbit, radiating a prickling heat that many mistake for warmth.

Personally I’ve always preferred the moon, although it can appear dusty and boring compared
to the sun. Pockmarked with scars, but well practiced in redirecting the sun’s excess light to
illuminate the darkness.

Lifting the Lid

The photographs were the hardest, the need to cull so many memories.

Her grief felt like that time in the playground, the eclipse, the disc of the moon covering the sun, the strange absence of light, of birdsong, the sense of unreality.

She pulled another box towards her, and there was her childhood in black and white, long-forgotten friends, Mrs Insley smiling in the 1961 class photo. She lifted it out, remembering how the kindly teacher had come to stand beside her as darkness had fallen – had sensed her distress. She reached for her bag and carefully placed it inside.

Never Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger

Gran reckoned anger, left to fester, turned your insides bad. Best to nip it in the bud before you went to bed.

The Summer Mum left, taking only the new curate and the bump under her baggy tops, the air at Gran’s Bible class was thick with flies and gossip. I sat at the back, peeling corpses off fly papers and pulling off the legs. Later, I’d bake the bodies into scones to serve to the church ladies, passing them off as currants. I was a credit to Gran, the ladies said.

Somehow, I didn’t feel so angry, after that.

Orbiting Sol

People used to call before visiting. Now they appear saying, ‘just wondered how you’re doing,’ ‘just found these baby clothes in the attic’, ‘just cooked extra for dinner’. They orbit the cot, waiting for Sol to wake. You rotate through an endless cycle of eat, sleep, cry, while drooping flowers shed pollen on the white kitchen worktop.

You escape one morning craving birdsong, the chill of autumn air, the sight of a golden leaf twisting in the wind. But it’s your gut that’s twisting, and there’s a heavy, inexplicable pull deep inside your chest. At the street corner, you hesitate.


“How does the sun roll across the sky?”, my brother asks as he hurls his ball against the yard wall. I tell him the Ancient Egyptians believed it was carried on the back of a scarab. We don’t mention the thunder in our stomachs or how Ma won’t rise until dusk or that if the big kids borrow his ball, he’ll be kicking bottles. We put our lips to the tap to ease the drought. “Later,” I tell him, “Ma might fry eggs.” I think of us dipping our forks in the orbs of their yolks to taste the summer.

The Burning Question

Gender identity freezes my heart, resulting in deep thinking and shallow, painful cuts. Confusion and uncertainty serve to magnify my desperation for answers. What am I?

Not knowing which way to turn, I look upwards shouting: “I love the sunshine.” The sun’s neutrality calms my anxieties.

Liberated, I chase my new, heavenly saviour around the beaches of Europe.

In France, Le Soleil is masculine. He heats up my body.
In Germany, Die Sonne is feminine. She wraps me in her rays.

If the sun isn’t clear about its identity, surely I can live a colourful life beneath its glorious rainbows.

The Complications of a Sunburst

Sometimes, I imagine them like a white-hot sun, mostly because at school, when Ms. Carruthers told us not to look at the sun directly, we did it anyway. See who could stand it the longest. We’d remove our Barbie sunglasses and squint until we had to blink, the aftermath glinting behind our lids in oil-spill rosettes.

Like stealing a bit of light, she used to say.

I imagine them like a sun, the headlights, because even though I wasn’t with her at the end, it makes me think she saw them and pretended. Closed her eyes.

Maybe, thought of me.

The dark side of the sun

There’s a lot of talk about how terrible the weather will be this summer, hot and windy, they say.

Hundreds of pictures of the last bad summer are still on your phone, saved in an album named ‘fires’ and sometimes you can’t help looking for that one picture of the crowd on the beach with the horse, the sky behind them and the sand around them and even the sea in front of them glowing some part of the spectrum of the colour orange. They were waiting for boats, for rescue.

As always, you wonder what happened to that horse.

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