Retreat West Community Writer-in-Residence Programme

We are excited to launch the new Writer-in-Residence Programme for the Retreat West Community!

What does the residency entail?

It’s a 6-month programme for writers of fiction who want to develop their teaching skills alongside their writing and be part of a friendly and welcoming online community. It’s open to all writers around the world as long as they are fluent speaking and writing in English. We welcome applications from all regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.

During the 6-month period you will:

  • Teach two 1-hour Zoom workshops for community members on topics to be agreed with Retreat West founder, Amanda Saint. These will take place at 7pm UK time on a weekday evening so if you are in a different timezone please ensure this is doable for you.
  • Host four 1-hour Zoom feedback sessions for community members to get feedback on their flash fictions. These will take place at 3pm UK time on a weekday afternoon so if you are in a different timezone please ensure this is doable for you.
  • Write 3 craft development blog posts for the community site on topics to be agreed.
  • Be an active member of the online community – starting conversations and responding to other members’ posts.

In return you will get a benefits package with a value of approx. £1275

  • A monthly stipend of £50, which will be paid once a month for the 6-month period. You will need to invoice for this. Value: £300 for the 6-month period
  • One year’s Community Collaborator membership to the Retreat West community. Value: £35
  • Tickets to all events we host, including the Flash Fiction Festival and our Saturday workshop series, during the year of membership. If you can’t attend live you can get the recordings for them all. Approx. value of package: £405 (based on us running 3 Zoom workshops a month and 2 Flash Fest a year)
  • Monthly Zoom mentoring chats with Amanda Saint to help you further develop your writing and teaching skills; and learn about running a creative venture if this is also of interest to you. Value: £450
  • The email courses of Experiments in FlashThe Five Elements of Fiction and The Mindful Fiction Course to work through in your own time, at your own pace. Value: £120

You will need:

  • A publication history in fiction – this can be novels, short stories, or flash/micro fictions – and have been published in the past 2 years. You will need to provide links to demonstrate this.
  • To have taught at least 1 creative writing workshop previously and be able to provide either a link to watch a snippet of you teaching, or a recommendation from someone who has taken a workshop with you.

When does it start?

It is a rolling programme starting every 6 months.

Next start date: 1st September 2023 – 29th February 2024

Application deadline: 23rd July 2023

Application processing fee: £10

How to apply

  • Applications are via Submittable only and must be submitted by 23.59 (UK time) on the deadline date.
  • Send a 1-page writer CV and a 1-page covering letter detailing why you’d like to be the Writer-in-Residence and give a brief summary of a workshop you’d deliver and a craft article you’d write. Please include these in one document.
  • Links to publication history in the past 2 years.
  • A link to a video of you teaching, or you can include a recommendation from someone who has taken a workshop with you.

Course Concept Test


Hello everyone, I am looking for 15 people to take part in a test course with me so that I can work out the concept of a new course with your feedback. The course is going to be 10 weeks long and focused on writing longer short stories (3,000 words plus) inspired by different chapters of the Tao Te Ching, which is a huge interest of mine!

Will be great for those of you who want to write longer stories and if you have any interest in finding out more about Daoism and how its philosophy can help us write stories with real depth and resonance that talk to some of the most important issues of our current times.

You’ll get detailed developmental feedback on 5 of the 10 stories you’ll create and short feedback on the course forum on the other 5. I’ll also ask you to take part in feedback surveys to help me develop the course further for the final version. You don’t need to write 3,000 words every week but there will be a writing prompt each week, which you can share your response to in the course forum, even if you’ve only written a couple of hundred words. The same goes for the stories you can send after the course, they can be any word count but the course is focused on ending up with longer short stories and the examples I’ll be using in the course will be longer.

As it is a test, the price is just £100. We will start on the first Monday in December (there will be a break for the festive season) and the course will run on our community platform within a private forum space (if you’re not already a member you’ll have full access to the wider community for the duration of the course too.

Content will be posted weekly, with a break for festive season, and it will be accessible 24/7 so you can work through it at any time that suits you best.

Really looking forward to it and I hope you’ll join me!

You can book on this link: and I will send more info.

Amanda x


We’re delighted to welcome Michael Loveday to the blog today.

This article is an adapted extract from his new novella-in-flash craft guide: Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash: from Blank Page to Finished Manuscript (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2022). Available for pre-order at 25% discount before 17th May from Ad Hoc Fiction.

What is a novella-in-flash?

The simplest answer is that a novella-in-flash is a short novel composed of individual but linked flash fictions – each section/chapter/story is fewer than 1,000 words long – in which the individual parts build towards a bigger whole. The 1,000-word limit is important because it’s generally agreed to be the maximum for an individual flash fiction, or short-short story. Many flash fictions are much shorter than that – under 500 words, or sometimes fewer than 250 words.

How is it different from a novella?

The story arc for a novella-in-flash tends to be composed of individual moments, presented with spaces and pauses in between, rather than using the unified and continuous narrative arc of a traditional novel or novella. The novella-in-flash is a marriage of opposites – its short, individual components typically add up to an expansive whole, and yet that whole is often full of gaps.

The modern meaning of ‘novella’ as ‘a short novel’ was settled upon in the 19th century. Most critics and writers suggest that somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 words, give or take a few thousand, is a fair guideline for a novella’s length.

However, this guideline doesn’t adhere in the case of the novella-in-flash.

The novella-in-flash, because it’s composed of a series of ‘flashes’ (usually miniature stories – but sometimes other kinds of prose fragment), can often deliver a satisfying, extended narrative within a frame of only a few thousand words.

The Bath Flash Fiction Award Novella-in-Flash Competition, for example, which was launched in 2017, sets its minimum word length at 6,000 words, and runs up to a maximum of 18,000. The inaugural competition from the UK’s National Flash Fiction Day team in 2021 set a word length limit of 6,000–12,000 words. As you can see, both of these are much shorter than the accepted length for a traditional novella. And in 2020, Retreat West launched a writing competition for the ‘novelette-in-flash’, a new label to describe manuscripts of between 3,000 and 8,000 words.

What about the ‘novel-in-flash’?

Other novella-in-flash-style texts run to many thousands of words and can be called ‘novels-in-flash’ (or ‘flash novels’). Books such as Graham Swift’s Last Orders (1996), Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum’s Madeleine is Sleeping (2004), Geoff Ryman’s 253 (1996/1998) and Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays (1970) are all between 200 and 350 pages in length, and belong to the novella-in-flash family as taller siblings.

So there is no reason why, if you are setting out to write a novella-in-flash, you shouldn’t keep going for several thousand words more and write a novel-in-flash/flash novel instead, if you prefer.

So is it all just about word count?

The novella-in-flash differs from a traditional novella by more than mere word count; it mimics the long-form aspirations of the novella yet is actually composed of individual flash fictions. It therefore combines two impulses at the same time: expanding and contracting. And it’s a form that often makes use of silence and the unsaid, letting the reader do some imaginative work to fill in other parts of the story that a more traditional, continuous novel would have included, because any overarching plotline is broken into the crucial scenes, moments or fragments.

Can a collection of flash fictions be a novella?

For a set of flash fictions to feel like a novella-in-flash, it must be more than a miscellany of diverse stories. Generally speaking, there ought to be some connecting thread. The thread could be:

  • a recurring character or characters
  • OR some plot events that are common to most of the flashes
  • OR some shared location or setting that ties the flashes together into a whole
  • OR, in rarer cases, some very focused theme or motif that has been ruthlessly applied across every flash, perhaps with some linking material or ‘scaffolding’ chapters in between, such that the parts still cohere into one whole.

Is this genre of writing new?

The novella-in-flash is definitely not new, despite its seemingly sudden emergence and recent popularity. Books using the novella-in-flash form were published as long ago as the 1950s. Two early examples are Maud Martha (1953), by Gwendolyn Brooks, and Mrs Bridge (1959), by Evan S. Connell. And really it’s a form rather than a genre. It’s a vessel into which any genre of writing can be poured – crime, fantasy, science fiction, horror, young adult, historical, romance, literary, etc.

Who exactly is publishing novellas-in-flash/Where can I find some novellas-in-flash to read?

Current publishers of novellas-in-flash and novels-in-flash can be divided into:

  • smaller, independent publishers (often flash fiction specialists), such as Ad Hoc Fiction , Ellipsis Zine, Rose Metal Press, V. Press, etc.
  • major publishers interested in innovative fiction, such as Faber & Faber, Granta, New York Review Books, Penguin Books, Picador, etc.

At the following link, you’ll find a list of publishers and competitions where you could submit a finished novella-in-flash: Where to Publish Novellas-/Novels-in-Flash

Over the decades, there have been hundreds of publications that could be categorised as novellas-in-flash, and dozens more are being published each year. One good place to start is with the small press publishers mentioned in the links above: their websites will direct you to relevant novella-in-flash publications. As of 2021, there is also a free Facebook Group open to everyone interested in the form: Novella-in-Flash Writers and Readers | Facebook

Author Bio:

Michael Loveday has been a writer, editor, and tutor of creative writing for more than a decade. He judged the 2019 and 2020 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Awards, and in 2018 began publishing a series of articles about the history and form of the novella-in-flash at SmokeLong Quarterly. Michael’s hybrid novella Three Men on the Edge (V. Press, 2018), which consists of three mini-novellas-in-flash, was shortlisted for the 2019 Saboteur Award for Best Novella. He has taught creative writing in Higher Education since 2017, and he coaches writers and edits novella-in-flash manuscripts through his online mentoring programme at

Author Website:


Literary agent tips: Nicola Barr at the Bent Agency

We’re delighted to welcome Nicola Barr to the blog today and as the next guest judge of our annual First Chapter competition, which closes in January 2022.

Nicola has been a literary agent for about ten years, and has been with The Bent Agency for four years now. She represents a range of writers across fiction and non-fiction. She has previously worked as an editor at Flamingo, the literary imprint of HarperCollins, a scout for European publishers and a book reviewer for the Guardian and the Observer.

We asked her some questions about what’s going to impress her both as judge of the competition and when submissions land on her desk.

When you read the submissions you receive at The Bent Agency, what is it about a story that gets you excited enough to request the full manuscript?

It’s more voice than story that makes me want to continue reading. But also an author who knows the genre they are writing within and has a set up that I haven’t come across before.  

After a full manuscript request, writers often then get their novel declined so can you give us some insights into what makes you take the next step with a novel and offer the writer representation?

It’s at this stage that the difference between good writing and a good novel becomes so important. That fresh voice that got me to request it has to be maintained but I also have to see that the author can structure a novel, create a satisfying arc that doesn’t become outlandish or — probably worse — dull.

When reading the shortlisted first chapters in this competition what are you going to be looking for and what will make it stand out for you?

I will be looking for natural flowing prose that is a pleasure to read and invites me to read more. Prose that isn’t trying too hard to get my attention but demands that I read on.

What types of novels are you looking for to build your list?

Upmarket thrillers, upmarket commercial women’s fiction, literary novels of any description. I like novels about families, about different generations, about big houses, siblings, secrets from the past having an impact on the present. I also love a good childhood narrator and haven’t fallen in love with one of those for a long time.  

When you’re reading for pleasure, who are your favourite writers and what is it you like about their work?

I love smart women who write about relationships, with other women, with their families, with the world around them. I love Anne Enright, Elizabeth Strout, Emma Straub, Bernardine Evaristo, Rachel Cusk, Katherine Heiny, Anne Tyler, Sue Miller, Anna Burns. Debuts I’ve loved recently – Snowflake, Shuggie Bain, Exciting Times.

Thank so much for your time and insights, Nicola.

So if you’ve got a novel that sounds like what Nicola is looking for, polish up up your opening chapter and send it in to be in with a chance of getting detailed editorial feedback on your submission package from Nicola. The deadline is 30th January 2022.

Volunteer role available – do you want to run our Twitter account?

After a brilliant year with us, sadly Emma can no longer run our Twitter account. We loved having her and will miss her and all her great ideas – she’s the brains behind the new Retreat West Awards and the Flashback Friday revisit of our older stories, among other things. Thanks for everything Emma – we’ll miss you!

So we now have a volunteer role available to take Emma’s place. As well as running the Twitter page, so you’ll need to Twitter savvy and love spending time there, you’ll also get to learn loads about writing through the great stuff we’ll give you in return!

You’ll need to:

  • Schedule and post Tweets to share our news and let people know about our community, our courses and our competitions.
  • Share other people’s Tweets from the writing community and our members’ news.
  • Start conversations and keep them going.
  • Respond to messages and replies.
  • Run the #retweetwest Wednesday hashtag to share positive news.
  • Choose stories to feature for #FlashbackFriday.

If you also want to suggest new ideas then we love hearing them!

In return for your help, you’ll get:

You’ll need to commit to doing the volunteer role for 12 months from when you start.

If this sounds good to you, then mail us at by 5pm on Friday 27th August 2021 letting us know why you’d like to do this and what you can bring to our team!

What on Earth is Memoir-in-Flash?

by Jan Kaneen

When Retreat West first revealed the cover of my memoir-in-flash on Twitter, someone asked what I’d been asked again and again since I finished writing The Naming of Bones. What is memoir-in-flash? 

Not wanting to define an emerging form in terms only of what I’d produced, this was my reply, ‘… speaking for myself … my memoir-in-flash is an aspect of my real life written in a series of flash fiction ‘chapters’, that are each standalone … but which, when read in sequence, tell another overarching story.’

The questioner then asked if it was complicated to write. My answer was no, because the truth is, I wrote most of it without knowing what I was writing. Which sounds weird, so let me explain. 

I came to creative writing at the age of fifty as a sort of mindfulness therapy, pouring out free-written stories without ever thinking some of them might be linked. I just knew that writing them made me feel better emotionally. 

My epiphany came in a workshop run by Michael Loveday at the Flash Fiction Festival. That weekend was stuffed full of flash: reading flash, writing flash, chatting flash. I was very nearly all flashed out when, on Sunday afternoon, Michael presented his workshop about sequencing flash. He had us thinking about how theme and imagery can link flashes, and how sometimes writers can write to themes subconsciously. This struck me as fascinating and on the drive home, I stopped for coffee and bunged some of my flashes into WordCounter – Count Words & Correct Writing searching for the words I’d used most to see if this revealed any hidden themes. (Just follow this link if you fancy doing the same – it’s free, though it’s best if you take out common words such as ‘like’ and ‘because’ first). I won’t give away what my key words were, but it was a revelation. 

Over months, I sequenced my, as it turned out, themed and connected flashes, freewriting new ones to fill narrative gaps. This process was very, VERY emotional, and life-changing too, because it allowed me to reconstruct and reclaim my past in a way that was both empowering and healing, which leads me to my final point.

In 2020, I beta-read several novellas-in-flash and was surprised to see that works which draw, sometimes quite heavily on lived experience, are termed novella by their authors. This got me thinking about what differentiates novella-in-flash, i.e. fictional works told ‘in-flash,’ and memoir-in-flash, i.e. works anchored in real events, told ‘in-flash.’ 

I didn’t really find an answer. Maybe it comes down to individual motivation in the writer. Certainly, for me, it was crucial that The Naming of Bones be defined as memoir, because its self-therapeutic potency lies in the form itself – because that immediately tells the reader these characters really lived in a story that actually happened.

So far as I know, The Naming of Bones is the first memoir-in-flash to be published that describes itself as such (and I did look long and hard when I was final editing, keen to find previous examples that might guide my hand). If it is the first, I hope it’s the first of many, because it’s a form stuffed full of creative non-fiction possibilities and so, so much potential. 

Check out The Naming of Bones for yourself: