The Retreat West Novelette-in-Flash Prize

The words of Christopher Marlowe aptly sum up the genre of Flash Fiction: ‘Infinite riches in a little room’.

Compression and brevity make these small narratives sharp, intense snapshots of time that are as comfortable with the surreal and poetic as they are crossing genre boundaries and pushing out into experimental modes of writing. This flexibility has meant that the short-short has been able to embrace a variety of hybrid forms including the graphic, the lyric essay, and has also expanded to create larger formats like the novella-in-flash.

Here at Retreat West we are big fans of all these genres but we think that there is still room, a micro-gap, that could be filled – we are calling it the Novelette-in-Flash.

The novelette has not always had great press. In times gone by it was a term coined to mean a novel with trivial and sentimental themes, so we think it’s time to take it back…but with a twist. We believe the novelette-in-flash is the perfect medium to straddle the intensity of the short story and the emotional sustenance of the novella.

With this in mind, the maximum word count for this competition is 8000 words. The narrative arc should be made up of standalone flash fiction chapters of up to 500 words each.

We hope you find there is enough space to play, experiment and investigate character and themes and yet enough constraint to deliver on Marlowe’s vision.

After reading the entries for our first competition in 2020, we are very excited to see what wonderful stories come our way this year.

The winners of our 2020 competition will be published in an anthology in June 2021 and we’re very excited to bring you these wonderful stories:

  • Homemade Weather by Tom O’Brien
  • What The Fox Brings In Its Jaws by Ian O’Brien
  • The Impossibility Of Wings by Donna L Greenwood

2021 Judge

Mary-Jane Holmes

A Forward Prize nominee and Hawthornden Fellow, Mary-Jane has won the Live Canon Poetry Pamphlet Prize 2020, Bath Novella-in-Flash Prize 2020, the Bridport Poetry prize, Martin Starkie, Dromineer, Reflex Fiction and Mslexia Flash prize as well as the Bedford Poetry competition. In 2020 she was shortlisted for the Beverley International Prize for Literature and longlisted for the UK National Poetry Prize. Mary-Jane’s debut poetry collection Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass is published by Pindrop Press. Her award-winning pamphlet Dihedral is published by Live Canon Press and her novella Don’t Tell the Bees, is published by Ad Hoc Fiction. Her Lockdown poem ‘Letter from Baldersdale’ joins 20 other poems in the National Poetry Archive on their 20th anniversary.

Her work appears in a variety of publications including Magma, Modern Poetry in Translation, Mslexia, The Lonely CrowdProle The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Tishman Review, Barren, Spelk, Cabinet of Heed, Firewords, Flashback Fiction, Fictive Dream, and in anthologies including Best Small Fictions 2014/16/18/20  and Best Microfictions 2020.

She has an MA (Distinction) in Creative Writing from Kellogg College, Oxford and is currently studying for a PhD in poetry and translation at Newcastle University.


28th November 2021



All winning novelettes-in-flash will be published together in an anthology by Retreat West Books as ebook and paperback. Winners will receive a copy of each. Additionally, the following cash prizes will be paid:

  • First Prize: £150
  • Second Prize: £100
  • Third Prize: £50


Entry fee

£14 for entry only

£124 for entry plus detailed feedback on novelette submitted


Word count

3000 to 8000 words for Novelette-in-Flash

Up to 500 words for each flash within (no minimum)

Competition Rules

  • Submit novelettes written in English through Submittable by 23.59 GMT on the deadline date (sorry late entries will not be included). Creating a Submittable account to make entries is free.
  • Email entries are not accepted.
  • Please include a word count on the story document.
  • Please do not submit stories above or below the minimum and maximum word count for the whole novelette as they will be automatically disqualified. Sorry!
  • Do not include your name on the story or the submission title but provide a short bio in the body of the covering letter as we can’t see this until stories are shortlisted – sorry but stories where we can see the writer’s name on the document or in the title will automatically be disqualified as all entries are judged anonymously.
  • Novelettes must be your own original work and not have been published online or in print. Individual flash stories within the novelette can be published as long as you retain full rights to re-publish them.
  • If you enter the novelette elsewhere and it is accepted for publication before judging takes place then you will have to withdraw it and no entry fees will be refundable. If you withdraw before the deadline, we can refund your entry fee minus the admin fee that Submittable charge us for processing your entry.
  • Stories can be in any genre apart from children’s fiction. Please no racism, sexism, bigotry or hate of any kind.
  • You can enter multiple novelettes but the entry fee is payable each time and each novelette must be submitted separately.
  • The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • There are no alternative prizes available.