June 2016 First Chapter Comp Longlist

Many thanks to everyone that entered the June 2016 First Chapter Competition. Over 100 chapters have been read and we now have a longlist. All stories are read anonymously until the shortlist is decided so if your story is listed below then please don’t let us know which one it is!

Well done to everyone on this list and good luck for the next round of judging. The shortlist will be announced later in August and the 10 stories that make it through will be passed to Jenny Savill to read.

If you didn’t make this time, then go edit and polish and you’ll have another chance to get agent feedback in the December First Chapter competition. The judge this time is Sam Copeland, Literary Agent at Rogers, Coleridge and White whose list includes many prize-winning authors.

The June 2016 First Chapter Competition Longlist (in alphabetical order)

  • A Policy on Kissing
  • Birdwatching the Erinyes
  • Broken Chord
  • Grave Girls
  • Jude
  • Kissing Him Goodbye
  • Love Refugee
  • Mum’s Mistakes
  • My Summer as Britannia
  • Once a Happy Boy
  • Refuge
  • Rubble
  • Secondhand
  • Start Wearing Purple for Me Now
  • Tear Gently
  • The Chanteuse from Cape Town
  • The Cold Benguela
  • The Distance Between You and Me
  • The Flesh
  • The Haunted Tide
  • The Lens You Look Through
  • The Rosedale Miracle
  • The Tin Sarcophagus
  • The Uganda Sails Wednesday
  • The Way Back
  • The Zac Scaramouche Fan Club

Win a place on the 8 Month Novel Course

The next 8 Month Novel Course starts on 22nd October 2016. It’s a mix of creative writing course through exercises and readings, 1-1 mentoring and by the end you’ll have a short first draft to go away and work with, along with an editorial report to help you develop it. The course is for a maximum of 5 writers to work together at a time. You can get the full info on it here.

You can win one of the places on the course by entering the competition – all you need to do is pay the competition entry fee and submit up to 500 words pitching you and your story idea and why you’d like to do the course. Full T&Cs below.

A winner will be chosen from all entries received by the closing date and will get to join the online, collaborative course in October.

Competition T&Cs

  • You can enter as many times as you like with different novel ideas but must submit them separately and pay the competition entry fee of £10 each time
  • All entries must be written in English and received by 23.59 on 28th August 2016
  • The prize is a free place on the 8 Month Novel Course starting 22nd October 2016 and it is not transferable and there is no cash alternative
  • By entering the competition you agree to take part in the course if you win and to having your details announced on the website
  • Enter using the button below


Results: Win a place at the self-edit retreat comp

Many thanks to everyone that entered the competition to win a place at the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat in November. I’ve enjoyed reading the entries and I’m delighted to announce that the winner is…Justine Kilkerr for her 500 word novel opening written to the prompt ‘A holiday at the beach’, entitled Sea Fret (read it below).

Congratulations Justine. A beautiful piece of writing that immediately drew me in and left me wanting more. Look forward to meeting you at the retreat.

Well done to all on the shortlist as well. Some great responses to the prompt and strong writing.

Sea Fret

It was a day muted by mist, unlike the sweltering days before, the morning she found the beached dolphin rolling in the surf and decided she would never go back.

Kittiwakes ghosted above her on the updrafts, patrolling the crumbling cliff face. She watched a gannet hurl itself, bullet-quick, arrow-sharp, into the waves. It few underwater for a while, zigzagging after fsh, then bobbed to the surface like a cork and launched itself into the sky.

She held the stone and traced its knuckled edges with a sandy thumb. It was the size of an apple and nestled, warming, in her balled fst. Her bare toes had found the ammonite in the sand as she had walked naked into the waves hours before, intent on never coming out.

She allowed herself a smile that felt like a gift. Strange, how high and happy the morning had felt when she decided to walk into the ocean and not come out again. How simple this day had seemed then. But she had hissed at the pain in her stubbed toes and somehow forgotten her long-planned march into the waves. She had bent instead to scrape at the sand. The fossil came up in her cold fingers, its stone curves cradling millennia, and something had changed.

She had put the stone to her lips, licked the salt and turned back to the beach, paddling herself through the water with her hands. Had struggled, shivering, into her shorts, damp T-shirt, jacket. Had walked towards the cliff along a high water line sketched out in black seaweed and broken shells, until she noticed the humped side of the dolphin, moving back and forth as the waves nudged it, gently, gently.

The dolphin was dead. The beach lay heavy beneath its grey body and she sat down cross-legged on the wet sand there and hugged herself. The taste of brine on her tongue. The whispering of the waves. The animal gone into itself. She sat a while, she didn’t know how long.

I will never go back.

The road out was flooded. It was a spring tide, after all, and the tarmac held its breath below the milk-pale water; she couldn’t go back if she wanted to. Which she didn’t. Which meant that they would be coming to look for her as soon as the waters receded.

She would not wait for them to come.

So she must go forward, and the only place accessible was across the expanse of boulders and rock pools that made up the tip of the peninsula. She squinted at the horizon. From this distance the lighthouse looked small, insignificant. A slim, pale tower squatting amongst the black rock and green weed and slow-surging sea.

She double-laced her boots, pushed the ammonite deep into her jacket pocket and stood, walking quickly to the edge of the rocks. She began to climb.

High above her, its noise spilling over the edge of the cliff, a telephone rang.


The shortlist (in alphabetical order by story title)

  • A Holiday at the Beach by Kate Beales
  • Drifter in the Sand by Margaret Duffy
  • Emigration by Vinita Joseph
  • Grand Pause by Anne Hamilton
  • Pay Friday by Gail Aldwin
  • Scrimshaw by Sophie Wellstood
  • Sea Fret by Justine Kilkerr
  • The Dive by V Lysaght
  • The Mistake by Julie Balloo
  • The Place We Go by Jessica Riches
  • The Search by Hannah Persaud

Comp results: May 16 Themed Flash

Sorry these are so late but June was a very busy month and July is proving to be the same!

Thanks to everyone that entered. The winning stories are…


Winner: Slime by Tamsin Macdonald

Loved the metaphor and imagery in this story and the brilliant use of language to really evoke the sliminess of the world.

The author: Tamsin Macdonald is a Manchester-based secondary school teacher by trade who is in the process of earning her writing stripes. Recently, she was a finalist in the Storgy short story competition and one of her short stories is published by World Weaver Press in an anthology of sirens-themed fiction. She writes at great length (novels) and short length (flash fiction, short stories, poetry) and enjoys performing at spoken word nights in Manchester.
Read It


Runner-Up: Milk Chocolate Bride by Christopher Stanley

Great descriptions and imagery and I could really picture everything the narrator was seeing and dreaming and also feel the cloying chocolate in my mouth.

The author: Christopher Stanley lives on a hill with three sons who share the same birthday but aren’t triplets. He writes to stay sane and has been mostly successful so far.

Read It

The Shortlist

  • Broken Pennies by Angela Dacre
  • Crown by Josie Turner
  • Dungeons by Andrew Wills
  • Easily Parted by Sally Davies
  • Milk Chocolate Bride by Christopher Stanley
  • My Tatelah by Annie Dawid
  • Slime by Tamsin Macdonald
  • Winter Sun by Clare Isla


The next Themed Flash Competition deadline is 31st July 2016 and the theme is Envy. Winner and runner-up stories get published on the website and there’s cash prizes too. Find out more here.

The annual RW Flash Fiction Prize has substantial cash prizes and the winning and shortlisted entries all get published in the annual anthology with innovative indie press, Urbane Publications.

This year’s judge is the esteemed flash writer, and novelist, David Gaffney. Read his tips on writing flash with an impact before you submit. The deadline for entries is 30th September 2016. Get more info here.

Win a place at the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat

In November, Debi Alper and I will be teaching at the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat. We’ll be back at the beach house in West Bay, Bridport.

Debi will be running 2 classes based on her hugely successful online course, which I did a few years ago and it changed my writing forever. The course is great and Debi recently wrote a blog about the success rate of people that have completed it and gone on to get book deals.

You can get all the info on the retreat here – it takes place from 4th to 8th November. There are 6 places to join us and I’m running a competition to win one of them.

Competition details

Deadline: 23.59 on 10th July 2016

Prize: 1 place at the 4 night Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat in your own room with all food, drink and classes included. Outside of the classes your time is yours to read, write, sleep, walk – whatever you want to do!

Entry fee: £10

How to enter: Write a 500 word novel opener on the theme of a holiday at the beach. Send it in through Submittable using the button below with a short covering note saying why you’d like to win the place at the retreat and a bit of info on what you are working on.

Good luck!

Competition T&Cs

  • £10 to enter
  • You can enter as many times as you like as long as you pay the fee each time
  • Do not put your name on your novel opening or your entry will be disqualified as judging is done anonymously
  • Stories must be written in English, your own original work and unpublished online and in print
  • Submit your stories through Submittable by 23.59 (BST) on 10th July 2016
  • Winner will be announced in July 2016
  • The judge’s decision is final
  • By entering the competition you agree to attend the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat and have your winning novel opening entry published on the Retreat West website
  • The writer of the winning novel opening gets a free place at the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat and the prize is not transferable


Comp results: April 16 Themed Flash

Many thanks to everyone that submitted stories on the theme of Danger. I’ve been spending a lot of time feeling tense recently while I’ve been reading them! Congratulations to the winners and all on the shortlist.

Winner: Out of Bounds by Jude Higgins

The creeping sense of dread here was so well done. Wondering what the next dare was going to be and knowing that the danger levels of each were going to keep escalating had me completely gripped. Really lovely imagery and great use of the senses. The use of second person narrative really drew me in as well and gave it such a sense of immediacy.
Read It

The author: Jude Higgins converted to flash fiction a few years ago after trying her hand at a novel on the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA. She’s had pieces published in the Fish Prize Anthology, 2014, Landmarks anthology for National Flash Fiction Day, Flash Frontier, Visual Verse and forthcoming in Halo Literary Magazine and Severine literary magazine. She organises the Bath Flash Fiction Award and blogs at judehiggins.com

Runner-Up: We’re Going to Pick Daddy Up by Jan Kaneen

The contrast of the child’s voice and the danger that I thought was coming is very effective. I loved that the danger didn’t turn out to be what I thought it was and that the ending is so open to interpretation.
Read It

The author: Jan Kaneen is a mum, wife, sister and pug servant who recently got a distinction on the OU’s course A215 in Creative Writing. She loves flash fiction and writing short stories and is learning as much as she can about teeny tales to get match fit as she writes her first novel.

The Shortlist

  • Debris by Diane Simmons
  • Fire Ants by Ali Forbes
  • Out of Bounds by Jude Higgins
  • Pear by Helen Young
  • Red Things by JC Winter
  • Rough Wine by Cath Barton
  • Synthflowers by Robert Grossmith
  • We’re Going to Pick Up Daddy by Jan Kaneen


The next Themed Flash Competition deadline is 31st May 2016 and the theme is Riches. Winner and runner-up stories get published on the website and there’s cash prizes too. Find out more here.

The annual RW Flash Fiction Prize has substantial cash prizes and the winning and shortlisted entries all get published in the annual anthology with innovative new indie press, Urbane Publications.

This year’s judge is the esteemed flash writer, and novelist, David Gaffney. Read his tips on writing flash with an impact before you submit. The deadline for entries is 30th September 2016. Get more info here.