Pitch to Win 2022 Longlist

Many thanks to all the writers who sent their pitches to win a place on our Novel Creator Course. Second and third place winners receive a Start Your Novel Course (with mentoring session) and 2 Novel Mentoring Packages.

Congrats to the writers of the the following novels as their pitches have been longlisted! No telling which is yours though as we’re reading anonymously!

Longlisted Pitches

  • All Out For Love
  • All The King’s Horses
  • CRISPR/Cas9
  • Deadboy
  • Doris And The Dandelions
  • Duty of Care
  • Now And Before
  • Scar, The Lake And The Pearls
  • Take It From Me
  • The Death Of Doris Dainty
  • The Goddess Retreat
  • The Other Side Of Glass
  • The Time It Takes To Paint A Picture
  • When You Come For The King

We’ll have the shortlist soon – good luck everyone!

AFTER Themed Flash Winners

Thanks again to all who entered the final themed flash competition of 2021. We are delighted to reveal our winners as chosen by Shaun Levin, author and founder of the brilliant Writing Maps. Thanks for making the tough decision, Shaun!

Many congratulations to all who were shortlisted and well done to our winners!


Judge’s Report

There’s a lot of noise out there and maybe there’s always been. But especially now, particularly now, there seems to be so much noise in the world, a virus, wars, people shouting, out there and in my apartment, too, I’ve been living in noisy apartments for the past 4 years and it’s a lot, a lot to live with, but there are ways to reduce the news, because noise is noise whether it’s out there in the world on the news on facebooktwitterinstagram whether it’s in your flat in your head, all the spheres echoing and mirroring each other because the noise trickles down from the heavens and functions on every level, or something like that.

And we go looking for ways to quieten the noise, something that’ll make it all go away even while it’s still there. Music is one way, I would die without music or eat my own face, or something, I would die without nature, without my evening walks daytime walks, one that takes me to the woods and one that takes me to the olive trees and the part of the river where it gets really beautiful and actually looks like a river running through trees, rather than a stream winding through the city so streamy, streaming, ugh, enough Netflix enough Amazon Prime, just noise to quieten the noise.

The thing that quietens the noise the most, the thing that actually silences the noise is pure clear voices, a piece of writing, even a paragraph, even a line, that is crisp and clear and so open and alive that nothing can get at it, nothing can harm it. That’s what I look for when I sniff around my bookshelves looking for something to read next, when I browse the secondhand bookshops online and in the world, what can I read that will quieten the noise, that will show me how to transform my own noise into art. That’s how desperate and demanding we’ve become, that’s how deep our need is for quiet.

So when you come across writing that feels like that, that has a voice that is so clear, so honest, writing for its own pleasure and belief that writing can save us, you can see when a writer is saving themselves one line at a time, that nothing else matters but the writing itself, not audience, not shame, not accolades, not food or air or love, just the writing itself, in its pure and painful beauty. The winning stories are definitely that.

At the moment I’m carrying Arthur Miller’s words around with me, something about our finest work being done when that work is on the verge of embarrassing us. What is the one thing you would write that would embarrass you, even just a little. Write that and keep writing (is what I tell myself).


First Prize Winner: Things the Fortune Teller Didn’t Tell You When She Read Your Fortune by Iona Rule

Why I love it: An elegant and moving story that is true to the flow of the imagination. A summing up of a whole life, with a sense of hope that ripples outwards. The applause at the end is well deserved.


Runner-Up: Onset Winter Proposal That Ends in a Happy Acceptance by Sharon Boyle

Why I love it: A lyrical and unique piece. A glimpse into a singular imagination, a particular way of seeing and interpreting the world.


Runner-Up: Spanners by Letty Butler

Why I love it: A beautifully-structured tender piece, and a satisfying shift in perspective along the way.


Congrats Iona, Sharon and Letty!

The deadline for the next themed flash contest is fast approaching! You have until 27th March to send us your FOREST themed flashes for judge Jeanette Shepherd to choose her winners from. See all the info here.

If you’re writing a novel, or thinking about writing one, our Pitch to Win contest closes on 20th March and you could win a place on our year-long Novel Creator Course to write it with 1-1 mentoring all the way!

February 2022 monthly micro longlist.

Lots of you saw the light this month! We had 115 entries so first prize is £172 and second prize is £115, with the people’s prize to be decided!

The shortlist will be published on Monday

Thanks so much to everyone who sent us their words. We enjoyed reading them all. Well done to our longlist below. No telling which is yours though!

Longlisted Stories

  1. Blight
  2. Brightness, Long Ago
  3. Ephemera
  4. Everyday Eulogy
  5. For Light is Energy and Cannot Be Destroyed, Only Transformed
  6. Glitter ball
  7. Hattie Feels Light as a Feather
  8. I Need More Light Down Here!
  9. Lights Off
  10. Light on the Dark Side of the Station Motel
  11. Main Street Wishes
  12. Send in the Clowns
  13. Straight Lines
  14. Summer in November
  15. Sunrise on Inkpen Beacon
  16. There is a Light That Sometimes Goes On
  17. The Ballad of Oranmore (or When Your Grandmother Knew I was the One)
  18. The Burden of Every Soul
  19. The Candlemaker’s Widow
  20. The Doll at the Top of the Stairs
  21. Three Bottles of Château Grandpa
  22. We Follow the Wolf Moon
  23. Words I Sign to My Five-Year-Old When They Stop Our Power

Good luck everyone! We’ll have the shortlist on Monday.

January 22 Monthly Micro Winners

Congratulations again to the writers of our 10 shortlisted stories. We have had a wild ride in the People’s Prize voting this month with several stories moving in and out of the top spot in the early part of the week. Then a couple of stories started edging out in front and then those two constantly swapped places for the winning spot. The winner won by just 2 votes in the end!

Our judging team has gone against the grain this month and for the first time in ages, we haven’t picked the same story as the voters. But we really enjoyed them all and it’s always a tough decision to make.

Anyway, here are the results!


First Prize Winner: The Anatomist’s Bride by Anne Soilleux

Why we chose it: Fantastic dark and creepy take on the theme that uses all the senses and has a great narrative voice. That final line is so ominous and gave us all the shivers.


Second Prize Winner: Treading on Memory in the Bottles’ Graveyard by Brid McGinley

Why we chose it: Love how evocative it is and how well it captures the way memories work in such beautiful language that transported us to this beach.


People’s Prize Winner: Grandpa’s Legacy by Kathryn Clark


Shortlisted Stories

Bottled Up by Donna L. Greenwood – Read it here

Formula by Susan Wigmore – Read it here

Grace by Stephen Gallagher – Read it here

Manningtree, Essex 1645 by Clare Marsh – Read it here

One Bluebottle on a Windowsill by Rachel Canwell – Read it here

Open Day At The Bottle Factory – David Shows His Daughter The Place Where He Is God by Alison Wassell – Read it here

Returning to Aleppo by Taria Karillion – Read it here


Anne and Brid win the cash prizes and Kathryn wins a year’s membership to our online community!

Well done to everyone!

We’ll be back with the next Monthly Micro prompt on 7th Feb.

If Life Was a Circus, You Were My Clown

Julia Ruth Smith

Trampolining on seagrass, our performing dog dives and stinks. Silver hoops hold acrobatic seabirds. Rainbow-scaled, ready for the final act, I hear fate tip tapping. 

The pretty girls are painting your po-face; I find a swing of driftwood and soar, following the signposts, up and over the waves, a rocket pointing towards the sun. Golden surfers squint and wonder at the no going back of it all.

When I burn down in flames, I perform a backwards flip and land in the heart of your one-handed applause. As I take a low, magnificent bow, the ringmaster turns out the lights.


This story was shortlisted in the November 2021 Monthly Micro Competition.

About the author: Julia Ruth Smith is a teacher, mother and writer of small things who lives by the sea in Italy. You can find her poetry and prose in Full House Literary Magazine, Sledgehammer Lit, Glittery Literary and elsewhere; shortlisted for Retreat West Monthly Micro. Twitter @JuliaRuthSmith1

A Sign of the Times

Stephen Gallagher

Every breaking wave ushers in that great hush you hear right now, the half-remembered memories, childhood holidays, waves, sea, the blind woman with the dog, the old man selling periwinkles, the blowholes on the cliff tops gushing spray up into the sky remembering when they were Gods. The sea-side traders, yelling, selling their merchandise. All the signs of a previous life. 

Now, November, on the beach each hush carries a smile, a gesture, a snippet of a conversation, a burst of fragmented audio, light/dark, past/present, and those Derridean binaries returning from the past like static on a broken radio.


This story was shortlisted in the November 2021 Monthly Micro Competition.

About the author: Stephen is a writer from Ireland.