We’re hiring: Freelance blogger wanted

Freelance blogger needed

Things at Retreat West have become rather busy of late so we’re looking to hire a freelance blogger to work with us on the Year of Indie Debuts blog series and other author interviews.

You’ll need to be able to:

  • Find and read two suitable books per month and interview the authors for the blog
  • Write up the blogs and upload them to the Retreat West WordPress site
  • Load them to the Retreat West social media management tool
  • Respond to comments relating to them
  • Share them on your own social media pages

Ideally you’ll already be reviewing and blogging about books and be completely obsessed with the literary world! If you can start soon enough to have the first interviews posted in mid-late September then that would be great.

Sound like you? Please email amandasaint@retreatwest.co.uk for more info and with details about why you’d like to be the new blogger.

Deadline for applications is Friday 12th August 2017.

Green Theme Flash Comp Shortlist

Many thanks to everyone that entered the June flash fiction competition with their green-themed stories.

The titles of the shortlisted stories are below in alphabetical order. Well done to all writers on the list. Readings are still anonymous at this stage so please don’t tell us what your story is called if you’re on the list!

June 2017 Flash Fiction Competition Shortlist

  • Cautionary Tale
  • Green
  • Green! Means! Go!
  • Guide Camp
  • Islands
  • New Teacher
  • Rescue Remedy
  • Summer 1976
  • The Tree of Forty Fruits
  • What is Left to Learn
  • Winter Green

The winner and two runners-up will be announced by the end of August. They’ll all get cash prizes and their stories will be published on the website. You can read previous winning stories here.

The next themed flash competition deadline is 1st October 2017 and the theme is black. Get all the info here.

We look forward to reading your stories!

What Was Left Launch Party

What Was Left Launch Party

The anthology of winning and shortlisted stories from the 2016 RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize is being launched at a party at Waterstones Reading on 7th September 2017 and all are welcome.

It’s free to attend but spaces are limited so please RSVP to news@retreatwest.co.uk by 2nd September if you are going to come along.

It’s a fantastic collection of stories from a diverse range of writers and we do hope you’ll come along to celebrate the publication. There will be wine, nibbles and readings from the two first prize winners, Judith Wilson and Jude Higgins, as well as copies of the anthology available to buy and be signed by the writers.

Event details

Venue: Waterstones, 89 Broad Street, Reading, RG1 2AP

Date: 7th September 2017

Time: 19.30 – 21.30

Tickets: email news@retreatwest.co.uk to be added to the guest list


Hope to see you there!


Results: 2017 First Chapter Competition

Thanks to our judge, Laura Williams, literary agent with PFD, for choosing a winner and two runners-up for the 2017 First Chapter Competition. Laura has asked to read the full MS from all three of the writers in her top spots; and has provided short feedback on each shortlisted chapter below too. Many congratulations to the winner and runners-up, and to all of the writers that made the shortlist. Hopefully Laura’s comments will help with your editing.

Winner: The Moonscape by Eirill Falck

I love the first paragraph. It sets the scene, introduces the key characters, teases the plot – it does absolutely everything you could ever hope a first paragraph would do. The set up works so well in this first chapter, and I’d be very interested in reading more.


Runner-Up: Bouzouki Nights by Emily Kerr

I was instantly on side with the protagonist from the very beginning here, she’s hugely likeable. The writing is very lively and reads so naturally in the way that the best commercial fiction does. It definitely made me want to find out what happens next.


Runner-Up: Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso

There’s a really good flow to the writing here and some absolutely devastatingly beautiful images. I did find the drama of the opening chapter to feel a little too quiet, almost underplayed, so I think there needs to be a focus on packing a punch in the narrative as well as in those really arresting descriptions. I’d very much like to see where the storyline goes.



Click. Bang. by Dave Wakely

A very intriguing premise, I love the dreamlike feel. Be careful to give the reader something solid to latch on to before too long though, otherwise the abstract style can become a little bit confusing.

The Virgins of Salem by Fiona Mackintosh

The opening certainly grabs the reader’s attention. The scene setting and vivid description of early 20th century India is very well done. I have absolutely no idea where the story will go from here, but it certainly is a memorable opening chapter!

Naked Gardening for the Over Fifties by Catherine Edmund

I admire the very lively writing style in this, but I did find the stream-of-consciousness style here a little bit too frenetic when the reader is settling into the story. Obviously you want to grab the reader with action, but in this case the pace of the main character’s racing thoughts can afford to be slowed down a little. Watch out for tenses too, as sometimes these were inconsistent.

The Uprising by Ahize Mbaeliachi

The premise is interesting and unusual, and I would have liked a little more description in these early pages considering the location and historical setting – I wanted the landscape to play a larger role so that the story could really draw me in.

A Minute’s Grace by Laura Tisdall

The little crumbs of exposition that are revealed as the chapter goes on are tantalising, and certainly makes the reader want to keep turning the page, although I still felt really in the dark at the end of the chapter about what was going on. The bombshell of the last line doesn’t really land with confidence in the mechanics of the world that’s been created by that point.

The Weight of Stones by Ruby Speechley

There’s a good gradual build up of tension here, but some of the dialogue for me towards the end is a little unnatural, and I’d be careful about introducing too many secondary characters too soon, at the cost of keeping the reader’s focus on the protagonist in these opening pages.

Soliciting in the City by Isabel Powles

The first day of a new job is a quite common inciting incident in the opening of a story, and it wasn’t clear enough to me from the off what was going to make this storyline stand out above other openings that could be similar, despite good writing and a really relatable protagonist. I sense there’s more here than is currently being let on!


Well done to everyone that made the long and shortlist for this year’s competition.

If you’d like to be in with a chance of getting feedback on your work from a top literary agent, then the 2018 First Chapter Competition is now open for entries.

The judge for 2018 is Diana Beaumont with Marjacq. You can find out about Diana and her list here. Deadline for the 2018 competition is 28th January and you can get all the info here.

2017 First Chapter Competition Shortlist

Drum roll! After multiple re-reads by myself and Louise Walters we now have a shortlist of 10 stories that are with judge, Laura Williams, literary agent with Peters, Fraser and Dunlop.

Thanks again to everyone that entered and well done to all the longlisted writers – and congratulations to everyone on our shortlist!

The 2017 First Chapter Competition Shortlist


  • A Minute’s Grace by Laura Tisdall
  • Bouzouki Nights by Emily Kerr
  • Click. Bang. by Dave Wakely
  • Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso
  • Naked Gardening for the Over-Fifties by Catherine Edmunds
  • Soliciting in the City by Isabel Powles
  • The Moonscape by Eirill Falck
  • The Uprising by Ahize Mbaeliachi
  • The Virgins of Salem by Fiona Mackintosh
  • The Weight of Stones by Ruby Speechley


Final results will be posted soon…good luck everyone!


2017 First Chapter Comp Longlists

Many thanks to all of the 133 writers who entered the 2017 First Chapter Competition – we enjoyed reading all of them. There are 29 on the longlist and of these 10 will go through to the shortlist and have their chapters read by the judge, literary agent Laura Williams at PFD. The shortlist will be published on 12th July 2017.

At this stage we are still reading the stories anonymously so just titles are shown now. If your story is listed here please do not announce on social media what it is called in case we see it!

Longlisted First Chapters

(in alphabetical order)
  • A Bundle of Bones
  • A Minute’s Grace
  • Bouzouki Nights
  • Bye Bye Baby
  • Click. Bang.
  • Don’t Tell Meg
  • Fallible Justice
  • Fly Girl
  • Haunted Pages
  • Hide in Plain Sight
  • Inhabited
  • Naked Gardening for the Over Fifties
  • Nasty, Brutal and Short
  • Obligations of Love
  • Of Vows and Bonds
  • Ornithophobia
  • Possession
  • Remembering the Future
  • Soliciting in the City
  • The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hurt a Fly
  • The Hungry Ghost
  • The Moonscape
  • The Poacher’s Code
  • The Rebel
  • The Uprising
  • The Virgins of Salem
  • The Weight of Stones
  • Thieves in Antwerp

Well done to all the writers on this list and good luck for the next round!