Sept 21 Micro Longlist

Many thanks to all who sent a story for this month’s MILK themed comp. We received 87 entries so the cash prize for first place is £130 and for second place £87. People’s Prize is of course a surprise!

Well done to the writers of the stories below. No telling which is yours though!

We’ll have the shortlist on Monday after the Online Flash Fest where you can come ask the Retreat West Reading Team all about how and why stories go through to the long and shortlists and the winner’s spots.


  1. Carton
  2. Even The Milk Doesn’t Know
  3. Five Uses for Milk We Hadn’t Heard of Until Louise’s Wedding
  4. Grace
  5. Having Shed My Stripey Larval Pyjamas
  6. How to Grow and Care for Grapevines
  7. Instinct
  8. Milking It
  9. Missing
  10. Mixing Milk Thistle Tea
  11. My Southern Boyfriend’s Cure for Insomnia
  12. No Use Crying Over Spilled Milkshake
  13. Notes Left for My Sleeping Husband in the Final Six Months
  14. Pina Colada
  15. Residue
  16. Rosie-Nell
  17. The Winter of Relationship
  18. The Woman Consumed
  19. Till Death Do Us Part
  20. Too Late
  21. Traces of You
  22. You Can Tell a Lot About a Person’s Character From How They Take Their Tea

Good luck for the next round everyone! Our shortlist will be online for the public vote on Monday 20th Sept.

In the meantime, get writing to the ECHO theme for the quarterly themed flash that closes on 26th Sept! Win cash and online publication.

And polish up your micros, flashes and short stories for the 2021 RW Prize, which closes in October! Win cash and anthology publication.

Write, write, write!

UNCANNY themed flash winners!

Thanks so much to our judge, Ross Jeffery, for making the difficult decision this time around. The shortlisted stories are all fantastic and we were very glad to hand the decision over to someone else!

Many congrats to all who made the shortlist and the longlist for this comp, and everyone who sent a story.

Well done to our winners!

This is the second quarter where we have a professional audio recording of the stories as part of the prize and voice artist, Holly Joyce, and sound engineer, Jake Lewendon Nicholls, have done a brilliant job for us. Thank you!


  • Cravings by Sam Payne
  • Edging by Iona Rule
  • How I Learnt to Cook by Anne Howkins
  • How to Become a Wallflower by Shaun Laird
  • Lilith Comes to Me After I Pray for Wholeness by Kate Tooley
  • Nesting by Louisa King
  • Our Mary by Donna L Greenwood
  • Sister of the Jilted Bride by Jess Moody
  • The Outsiders by Jean Cooper Moran
  • The Search for Oretha Wells by Andrew Boulton
  • The Six by Katie Oliver

Ross Jeffery’s Comments

Firstly, I would like to thank Amanda Saint and Retreat West for allowing me the huge honour of judging this quarterly competition and for taking my theme suggestion of the uncanny on board.

I am a huge lover of the horror genre, I write it myself and I was lucky enough to have my debut novel ‘Tome’ nominated for the Bram Stoker Awards and the Splatterpunk Awards this year (so I like to think I know a little bit about what I’m judging) – it is a genre that I love and I personally feel it doesn’t get much love outside of the fans of that genre, even
publishing houses are scared of it most of the time, but luckily for me and you there is a huge horror community out there thirsty for new horrific offerings so keep them coming.

I’m thrilled that Amanda took my theme on board and I have been
dying to see what you have all come up with… and boy, I wasn’t disappointed. The stories that I received were all fabulous pieces of flash fiction, they delved into the strange, the uncanny, the horrific, the weird – and all were of such high quality, believe me when I say this, there was something to savour in each macabre offering, which made my judging a hard task, but one I was thrilled about doing.

Below are my choices of the winner and two runners-up plus a couple of honourable mentions.

Thank you!

Winner: Our Mary by Donna L Greenwood

When I set the brief of the uncanny for this competition I was hopeful that the stories would unsettle me, that there would be a great sense of foreboding, a huge slice of horror, a ladle here and there of unease and a whole lot of eeriness. ‘Our Mary’ delivers all of that and more. We get a delightfully eerie tale about a sleepwalking sister, but there are subtleties to
the story that grip the reader into a cold embrace that makes the marrow of your bones turn cold.

This is a deftly crafted piece of flash that gripped me from the first paragraph, the prose is delightfully constructed and the voice of the protagonist is spot on. To quote David Foster Wallace “Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” And I feel well and truly disturbed after reading ‘Our Mary’ – a stunning piece of flash that
has made the author someone that I will continue to read for years to come.

Runner-Up: Lilith Comes To Me After I Pray for Wholeness by Kate Tooley

This piece is a masterclass in weird fiction – think of Sarah Hall, Emily Harrison and Angela Readman (the comparisons are deserved), I do love me some weird fiction, and when that strange fiction contains elements of body horror… well, I just swoon in appreciation of it!

This story takes the reader on a journey of transformation, of the ridding of self to become the other; the depictions of this are put across in beautifully horrific imagery that plays on the readers mind long after the story has finished. But what I enjoyed most about this story are the things unsaid, the reasons behind what happens and the possible allegories that it brings to the surface of the readers thoughts. This is a powerful piece of fiction.

Runner-Up: Cravings by Sam Payne

This particular story had the oddity factor and I bloody loved it. I love stories that are told from a young protagonist’s point of view, how their minds might not be seeing things as they are, how they in turn become somewhat of an unreliable narrator. But there is always that niggling question lurking in the background… are they really unreliable or is this actually happening? The author deals with this deception / truth brilliantly and it made for a great story. I loved the voice of the characters and the unease at the observations the children make about their mother and her recent cravings. Chilling and odd, another cracking story.

Notable Mentions

The Search for Oretha Wells by Andrew Boulton – I really did enjoy this story, it was up there for me as being one of the finer stories in the bunch I read. But I felt that this story, the characters the location was just too big for the word count. It left me with too many questions, but that’s a great thing because I feel that if this would be expanded upon it would make quite a
unique novella or novel (the Cormac McCarthy vibes were strong with this piece).

The Six by Katie Oliver – I enjoyed the story telling tool of this piece. I thought that the clipped narration really worked to further cement the ideas that the author was trying to get across and with the characters all represented as numbers it makes them a faceless mob – but we also in a
strange way can picture each of them and their defining features and characteristics.

Many congratulations to Donna who wins £200 and Kate and Sam who win £100 each! We’re sure we’ll see Andrew and Katie’s stories published somewhere soon and all of the other stories on our shortlist.

The next theme is ECHO chosen by judge, Vanessa Gebbie, and the deadline to send your stories is 26th September.

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!

The Uncanny themed flash shortlist

We’re excited to reveal our shortlist in the latest themed flash competition. Lots of really great stories this time around so our usual shortlist of 10 has 1 extra on it! Well done to everyone who was longlisted and congratulations to the writers of our shortlisted stories. No telling which is yours yet though!

The stories are now with our judge, Ross Jeffrey, to make the final decision.


  • Cravings
  • Edging
  • How I Learnt to Cook
  • How to Become a Wallflower
  • Lillith Comes to Me After I Pray for Wholeness
  • Nesting
  • Our Mary
  • Sister of the Jilted Bride
  • The Outsiders
  • The Search for Oretha Wells
  • The Six

2020 Retreat West Awards – the shortlists!

We are so excited to reveal the shortlisted stories and writers in our first ever Retreat West Awards! We’ve re-read all the flash and micro stories we’ve published online and in our anthologies between August 2020 and July 2021 to choose our winners from.

We’ll be announcing the winners and runners-up in each category at our first Online Flash Fest in September. They’ll get a lovely prize too!

But in the meantime, well done to the writers who appear here! And good luck for the final round of judging.

Best Micro Fiction Title Shortlist

  • ‘If You’re Trying This Hard to Salvage Your Marriage Should You Call it a Crusade?’ By Fiona McKay
  • ‘Pieces of Our Boy’ by Kay Rae Chomic
  • ‘Sad Song of the Backwards Selkie’ by Becky Tipper
  • ‘The Only Way I Can Make Sense of the Word Recovery is to Smash It
    Into Pieces’ by James Montgomery
  • ‘The Significance of Horses in the Dreams of Young Girls’ by Rosie

Best Flash Fiction Title Shortlist

  • ‘Diadem Through the Eyes of the Bear’ by Donna L Greenwood in
    The Impossibility of Wings (Homemade Weather anthology)
  • ‘Drowning Hazards in the Traditional Irish Kitchen’ by Tom O’Brien
    in Homemade Weather (Homemade Weather anthology)
  • ‘Love is Many Things, None of Them Logical’ by Hannah Storm (How to Hold an Umbrella anthology)
  • ‘Manslaughter is Muddy Water You Cannot Wash Your Hands With’
    by Ian O’Brien in What The Fox Brings In Its Jaw (Homemade Weather anthology)
  • ‘My Year of Useless Miracles’ by Tom O’Brien in Homemade Weather (Homemade Weather anthology)
  • ‘On the Tideline, A Piano’ by Sam Payne
  • ‘Wormholes, Mushrooms, Silverfish’ by Timothy Boudreau (How to Hold an Umbrella anthology)

Best Micro Fiction Opening Line

  • ‘Marianne awoke to find she’d turned into a washing machine.’ Domestic Appliance by S.A. Greene
  • ‘Afterwards, all Matt could do was smash everything he and Sam had built together.’ The Boy Who Only Ever Wanted to Build Bridges by Anne Howkins
  • ‘Grit on Sonny’s hands conspires with sweat to create tiny diamonds,
    glittering under the prison lighting.’ Bird in Flight by A.Joseph Black
  • ‘A rich man hires me to prevent ghosts from haunting him.’ Ghost Blocker by Andrew Boulton
  • ‘She feels pretty in her sister’s dress, but her father’s look is ugly.’ The
    Weight of Blue by Karen Mitani
  • ‘While my neighbours are at work, I climb the fence and slash their artificial lawn into latticed piecrust.’ How to Sow a Wildflower Meadow March by Keely O’Shaughnessy
  • ‘A still small voice whispered “it’s time to feel wild again”, so I hiked to a
    secluded spot I knew.’ A Still Small Voice by Anna Grimmett
  • ‘Now Tiff won’t stop talking about that bit in Jurassic Park where they
    extract the dinosaur DNA from the insect trapped in amber and I think if
    mama was here she’d tut and say that girl’s got a gob on her.’ Last Week I
    Was Bitten by a Mosquito by Sam Payne
  • ‘At the zoo, my daughter informs me she knows why vampires are so mean, and returns to her ice cream without further comment.’ Without / Without by Nathan Sindelar
  • ‘The border stopping dreams from passing into reality is not as clear-cut as the Dover Lorry Border Patrol.’ Lest We Perish by Kathryn Aldridge-Morris

Best Flash Fiction Opening Line

  • ‘We go to the river, stand on the bank like true girls of summer, our bare legs exposed in bikinis as red as our mother’s lips, our long hair flowing like gypsies.’ Girls of Summer by Sara Hills
  • ‘She ask you if you want to make another baby, taking your left hand and pushing it down the front of her pyjama shorts.’ Buried by Emily Harrison, (How to Hold an Umbrella anthology)
  • ‘My father doesn’t shout, but his voice hurts my head.’ From Loud in
    Homemade Weather by Tom O’Brien (Homemade Weather anthology)
  • ‘He read somewhere that when trees prepare for the winter, they drain the leaves of their nutrients, store them in their roots.’ From The Places We Go When the Winds Blow Cold by Ian O’Brien in What the Fox Brings in its Jaw. (Homemade Weather anthology)
  • ‘The hyenas came for my mother when I was ten years old.’ From In the Night They Will Come For Me by Donna L Greenwood in The Impossibility of Wings. (Homemade Weather anthology)
  • ‘I can see music.’ The Shapes of Sound by Poppy Lyle
  • ‘In Venice I dreamt I was vomiting glass.’ Glass by Louise Watts.

Best Overall Micro Fiction

  • ‘In Which my Botanist Father Becomes a Tree’ by Jo Withers
  • ‘Martha Takes Her First Drive in Frank’s Car’ by Alison Wassell
  • ‘Otoch’ by Fannie Gray
  • ‘Rewilding’ by Alison Wassell
  • ‘Sanctuary’ by Annie Soilleux
  • ‘The Significance of Horses in the Dreams of Young Girls’ by Rosie

Best Overall Flash Fiction

  • ‘Buried’ by Emily Harrison (How to Hold an Umbrella anthology)
  • ‘Girls of Summer’ by Sara Hills
  • ‘Glass’ by Louise Watts
  • ‘Riverwater Cistern by Niamh MacCabe (How to Hold an Umbrella anthology)
  • ‘Python Parlari’ by Kathy Hoyle
  • ‘Shapes of Sound’ by Poppy Lyle
  • ‘The Quickening’ by Abi Henning
  • ‘Wormholes, Mushrooms, Silverfish’ by Timothy Boudreau (How to Hold an Umbrella anthology)

The Uncanny themed flash longlist

We have had such fun reading these Uncanny stories! Many weird, tense, and creepy hours have been spent getting our 120 entries down to this longlist of 27 stories.

Many thanks to everyone who entered and well done to the writers of the stories below. As always, no telling which is yours!


  • Along for Another Night Flight
  • Balm of Hurt Minds
  • Cracks in the Pavement
  • Cravings
  • Drawn by the Muralist
  • Edging
  • How I Learnt to Cook
  • How to Become a Wallflower
  • Lilith Comes to Me After I Pray for Wholeness
  • Morag, in her garden
  • Mr Piège’s Doll Emporium
  • My lopsided stepson
  • Nesting
  • Our Mary
  • Push/Pull
  • Reflections
  • Sister of the Jilted Bride
  • The Brians
  • The Carnival of Charms and Heidi’s House of Mirrors
  • The Cloakroom
  • The Nail Technician
  • The Outsiders
  • The Search for Oretha Wells
  • The Six
  • Totally Fit
  • Unholy Liberties
  • Vanishing Twin

Good luck everyone! We’ll have the shortlist in August!