Photo Flash Challenge

Photo Flash Challenge #1


Challenge: Write a short story based on the photo provided. It must be no more than 300 words (fewer is fine). You can write on any theme/genre but no children’s stories and nothing explicit please.

Send your entries to by midnight on Sunday, 25th March.  Include your story entry and a brief author bio in the body of the email.  A maximum of two entries will be accepted per person.

Finalists: Up to five finalists will be selected and made available for public vote on Tuesday, 3rd April.

Voting will be open for one week (the last vote to be counted must be posted by midnight on Sunday, 8th April).  Anyone signed up to Retreat West will be able to vote by leaving a comment with the title of their favourite story.

Prize:  The overall winner will be announced on Monday, 9th April and will receive one free entry into a Quarterly Themed Flash Competition, in addition to online publication on the Retreat West website.

Depending on the level of response, we hope to run further challenges and collect together the winning stories in a “Hall of Fame” section.

Welcome to the new social media interns!

I’m thrilled to welcome Kelly Rebecca and Phil Sobell to the Retreat West team as the new social media interns – they were both so full of great ideas that I couldn’t choose between them. They will be working with me this year to bring lots more great content, writing challenges and competitions to Retreat West and I will be helping them to develop their writing.

Kelly has been working with the Hastings Writers Group over the past year, which led to the publication of her first short story ‘Nancy Riot’ in the 2017 anthology ‘Strandline 11’. It has also encouraged her to write more regularly and her first novel, based on her own experiences with a neuro-functional disorder, is now fully drafted. She also has a YA fantasy/ thriller novel in conception, as well as a whole host of half planned tales eager to find their way onto the paper. She said: “I’m ‘looking forward to working with Retreat West to further the wonderful work it does equipping and encouraging writers across the country. I am also excited to see where the experience leads my own writing journey.”

Phil has been writing short stories (mostly science fiction with a bit of horror and fantasy) for several years and found Retreat
West while seeking to progress with his creative writing, he said: “It’s great to be involved with Retreat West in the new internship position, and I look forward to taking advantage of the novel writing course to progress with my planned SF novel.”

Over the coming months both Kelly and Phil will be providing new writing prompts, challenges and chances to win books, free entry to our competitions and more. Let them know in the comments below if there’s any area of fiction writing you’d like prompts and challenges for.

Already Retreat West has a new Instagram page, which you can follow here: to get exclusive offers and challenges.

White-themed flash comp results

Thanks again to all who entered the white-themed flash comp and congrats to all the writers who made the long and shortlists, which you can see here. It’s been a tough decision this time as all of the shortlisted stories had so much going for them.

Winner: Aut Dormi, Aut Lacte by Christina Dalcher

Beautiful imagery and such a great sense of melancholy running through it. I loved how what the archaeologist was uncovering wasn’t just revealing the past but her own life too; and how the volcano is tied into it all. Really great writing.

Read It


Runner-Up: The Black of the Words, and the White by Jason Jackson

Loved how the sight of the blank plaster cast covering her husband  inspired a wife to reflect on a marriage and revealed that bones were not the only things that were broken. I’m also unsure of her role in ‘the accident’ and I like how I’m left with questions in my mind.

Read It


Runner-Up: This Time See White by Mary Thompson

Perfectly captures the confusion of a dying mind and the regrets of a dying man who wishes he had done things differently. Love how the memories all seem so much a part of his current day.

Read It

White Flash Comp Long and Shortlists

White-Themed Flash Fiction Competition Long and Shortlists

Thanks go to everyone that entered the white-themed flash competition that closed at the end of 2017. There have been some really great takes on the theme but also a lot of white weddings and white Christmases. So the stories that have made it through to the long and shortlists are the ones that, as well as being well-written, whole stories, approached the white prompt in a different way.

The shortlisted stories, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Aut Dormi, Aut Lacte
  • Reputation
  • Refraction
  • The Black of the Words and the White
  • The Egret and the Ice Storm
  • This Time See White
  • White-Dublin, 1984
  • White is the Colour of Something
  • White Porcelain
  • White, Vanilla
  • You

The additional stories that were longlisted are:

  • 24 Hour Bride
  • A Fresh Start for Some
  • A Meditation on Precipitation
  • A Vacancy
  • Holy White
  • Little Miss White Socks
  • The Colour of Hope
  • Whiteout
  • White, is a New Page

Well done to everyone whose stories are listed here. If yours is then don’t let me know the name of it as readings are anonymous until the winners are chosen. The winner and two runners-up will be announced soon.

While you’re waiting you can get writing for the first 2018 competition on the theme of forgetting. Deadline is 25th March and the prizes have gone up this year – there’s now £400 in cash prizes to be won. Get the info and enter your stories here. 

And if you’re an experienced flash fiction writer then the Flash Fiction Retreat in November is your chance to spend Mon-Fri creating new flash fictions to a theme, along with the other retreating writers, that will be published in an anthology by Retreat West Books. Details here.

2017 Short Story and Flash Fiction Prize Results

Thanks so much to our judges, Alison Moore for the short stories and Tania Hershman for flash fictions, for taking part in the 2017 Short Story Prize and Flash Fiction Prize. They have now made their decisions and I’m delighted to announce the winners of the top three spots for each. Congratulations everyone.

2017 Short Story Prize Winners

First Prize: Calvo Marsh by Karen Featherstone

Alison said: I admired this clever, jocular and painful story about a nighttime journey into coastal marshland and the narrator’s disintegrating sense of identity.

Second Prize: Home Improvements by Joanna Campbell

Alison said: A child’s-eye view of a troubled marriage, with a well-constructed and deftly controlled narrative and a poignant ending.

Third Prize: The Distance by Keren Heenan

Alison said: A sensitive and touching exploration of the complex and shifting relationship between a daughter and her ageing mother.

Highly Commended: An Entry in the Yellow Book by Dianne Bown-Wilson

Alison said: The intrigue builds to an unexpected ending that is both satisfying and haunting.


2017 Flash Fiction Prize Winners

First Prize: While My Wife is Out of Town by Jude Brewer

Tania said: This story grabbed me right away from the title, it promises so much, it’s bursting with tension, and it tells you so much! Then comes that fantastic first line, the old horror story trope about having to go into the basement, but with the humour about carrying the cat.

This narrator’s voice was so strong and I was hooked, I was right there with him, enjoying myself enormously. I had complete confidence that the author had complete confidence and wouldn’t let me down. The story immediately surprises by not going anywhere near the basement and becomes a kind of list, of all the things he’s doing while she’s not there, odd, funny, wonderful things, and I am smitten. This is a story that takes risks in its structure, going off on tangents, not following a linear narrative, and the risks pay off. It is dark and funny and moving and strange. There is not a word too many or too few, and every word is precisely chosen, the character’s voice never strays. The ending: perfect. I could read this again and again and again.

Second Prize: Impermanent Facts by Lucie McKnight Hardy

Tania said: This is such a beautiful piece, which takes place over a few minutes and a whole lifetime. It is written with authority, no equivocating, straight into the action. It is very physical, with the vacuuming and the cupboard – and the smell, how often do writers make use of this sense? We should all do it more. The writer doesn’t spend time introducing our character, telling us anything, because there is no need. Everything we need is here. Such care is
also taken with the shape of it on the page, the three lines that begin with “She”, and then the two final lines beginning with the letter “A”, and this structure works for the story too, as it does for a poem.

The most important thing is that this story is almost unbearably moving precisely because it doesn’t look straight at the Terrible Thing at its heart, until that one line at the end. The bulk of this gorgeous short short story is about ladybirds. But of course it isn’t. Stunning.

Third Prize: The City of Stories by Tamar Hodes

Tania said: Great title, and from the opening line the writer sets the scene and sets the tone. We think we know what kind of story this is, a traditional village tale. But then a few lines in, all our expectations our overturned, narratively-speaking, and we find that this is metafiction, it’s a story about stories and about the danger of cliches, and it makes its point wonderfully, amusingly and in just as many words as needed and no more.


Congratulations again to all the writers on the long and shortlists.

The anthology of all winning and shortlisted stories will be published later this year so you’ll be able to read them soon. In the meantime, you can read last year’s winners in the What Was Left anthology. Get a copy here.

The details of the 2018 Short Story Prize and Flash Fiction Prize are now online and open for submissions. The prizes have gone up and the entry fees have gone down and I’m thrilled to have signed up two great new judges. We look forward to reading your stories. Get the info on the links below:


2017 RW Short Story and Flash Fiction Prize Shortlists

Delighted to announce that after much re-reading of the longlisted stories, which you can see here, we have the final 10 shortlisted stories for both the 2017 RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize. All of which have now been forwarded to the judges for the final round and will be published in the anthology later this year, through Retreat West Books.

There were some really fantastic stories on the longlist so well done to everyone whose stories appeared there and huge congratulations to all of the writers on these shortlists. I look forward to working with you to produce the anthology and hopefully celebrating with you at the launch party too.

2017 RW Short Story Prize Shortlist

  • An Entry in the Yellow Book by Diane Bown-Wilson
  • Boys Outside by Laurence Jones
  • Calvo Marsh by Karen Featherstone
  • Home Improvements by Joanna Campbell
  • Options for the Ridiculously Poor by Ian Tucker
  • Roast Potatoes by Rachael Dunlop
  • The Distance by Keren Heenan
  • The Land of Bondage by Bettina Daniel
  • The Martha Rhymes by Susan Breall
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill by Bettina Daniel

2017 RW Flash Fiction Prize Shortlist

  • Chronic by Sarah Baxter
  • Cinders After Midnight by Shirley Golden
  • Curl Up and Die by Alison Wassell
  • Impermanent Facts by Lucie McKnight Hardy
  • Inside Story by Sandra Arnold
  • Not My Fault by Melvyn Eldridge
  • The City of Stories by Tamar Hodes
  • Time, Difference, Japan by Jason Jackson
  • We Don’t Understand The Machines We Have Created by Olivia Fitzsimons
  • While My Wife is Out of Town by Jude Brewer

Best of luck for the final round! The results will be announced in February. Thanks again to everyone who has taken part.