2016 RW Short Story and Flash Fiction Prize Shortlists

Many thanks again to everyone that entered their stories for the first RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize. After a lot of re-reading, we have decided on the shortlists and their stories are now going to the judges to read. The Short Story Prize is being judged by Vanessa Gebbie and the Flash Fiction Prize by David Gaffney.

Winners and all shortlisted writers will be presented with cash prizes and copies of the anthology at a launch event in the summer and details of the 2017 Prizes will be up on the website soon.

Congratulations to everyone that made the shortlist and longlist for these prizes. We thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your stories. The judges’ decisions and feedback will be announced in March.

RW Short Story Prize Shortlist

  • Black Dog by Julie Hayman
  • By the River Under the Banyan Tree by Alec Hutson
  • On Crosby Beach by Judith Wilson
  • Honeysuckle Happiness Hospice by Ian Tucker
  • Lobsterfest by Angelita Bradney
  • Robin (The Handle of a Child’s Bucket) by Diane Beeaff
  • Ten Things I Can Tell You About Abraham Lincoln by Veronica Bright
  • The Birth of Venus by Stephen Palmer
  • The Cottage on the Hill by Heather Walker
  • What Was Left by Joanna Campbell


RW Flash Fiction Prize Shortlist

  • Daisy 8112 by David John Griffin
  • Doolally Tap by Sarah Edghill
  • Eggshells by Oscar Lopez
  • Food of Love by Dan Brotzel
  • Front Cover Down by Shirley Golden
  • Giddy With It by Mandy Huggins
  • Gifted by Paul McDonald
  • In the Hospital by Jude Higgins
  • Keep Calm and Carry On by Emily Richards
  • Saturday Nights by Diane Simmons

2016 Short Story and Flash Fiction Prize Longlists

Many thanks to everyone that entered the inaugural RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize.

There were some really great entries but sadly also quite a number of stories that had to be disqualified as the writer put their name on the entry where we could see it. Please read the instructions properly and only put your name on the covering letter not on the story document or the submission title! We cannot allow stories in that are not read anonymously.

Readings are done anonymously until the shortlists are chosen so only the story titles are listed here.

Longlist RW Short Story Prize

  • By the Light of the Moon
  • By the River Under the Banyan Tree
  • Farne Islands
  • Honeysuckle Happiness Hospice
  • On Crosby Beach
  • Leicester, 1974
  • Lobsterfest
  • Misky Bee Free
  • Pandora’s Box
  • Robin (The Handle of a Child’s Bucket)
  • Rocking Bird
  • Stop-Gap Woman
  • Ten Things I Can Tell You About Abraham Lincoln
  • The Bear in the Cellar
  • The Birth of Venus
  • The Cottage on the Hill
  • The Night Picnic
  • The Poet
  • What Was Left
  • Black Dog

Longlist RW Flash Fiction Prize

  • Air
  • Daisy 8122
  • Doolally Tap
  • Eggshells
  • Food of Love
  • Front Cover Down
  • Giddy With It
  • Gifted
  • Gordon Bennett
  • In the Hospital
  • Keep Calm and Carry On
  • Kirianna
  • Last Concerto
  • Last of the First Season
  • Sacred Streams
  • Saturday Nights

Congratulations and good luck to all the writers whose stories are listed here.

We will be re-reading and announcing the shortlists in January 2017. The 10 shortlisted stories in each category will then go to the judges to read and the winners announced in February 2017. Vanessa Gebbie is judging the short story category and David Gaffney the flashes.

Prizes and anthologies, which are being published by Urbane Publications, will be presented to everyone on the shortlists at an event in the summer. Details of this will be available in the new year.

Once the winners have been announced for the 2016 Prizes details of the deadlines and judges for the 2017 Prizes will go live.


David Gaffney and writing flash

David Gaffney judged the inaugural RW Flash Fiction Prize in 2016. I had the chance to question him about his writing process and what he loves about flash fiction, or short-shorts.

Nicholas Royle said you’re one of the few British writers that’s mastered the very short form – what is it that attracts you to writing flash fiction?

I came to short-short fiction at a time when I was writing a novel and like most novel writers I was frustrated by the lack of a sense of completion at the end of every writing day. The first few short-shorts I wrote gave me that. I like the way it relates to poetry, the way every word is weighed, tested, interviewed and screened before it is allowed anywhere near a short-short fiction. But I also like the way, unlike poetry, it is restricted – you need a clear POV, a clear, usually linear structure, and you need things that happen one after the other, and an ending. A good short-short should be an infected, contagious thing that will insinuate itself into your metabolism and stop you in your tracks forever.

I think there can be a misconception that because they’re so short flash fictions can just be dashed off and sent out really quickly. Typically how long will you spend writing, editing and polishing a flash fiction?

Good short-short fiction cannot be dashed off quickly. Many of my short-shorts began as longer pieces, carefully edited, even at the long version stage, and then reduced down to essential components. Many short-shorts are thrown away all together, into the digital slush pile to fester and maybe one day find a life of their own by crawling out and living in the sewers. I spend a long time on short-shorts and often I leave them for months and years and then return to them, to see if, like a sickly but interesting firework, they might still be fizzing and worth resurrecting.

Which flash fiction writers work do you admire and why?

I like Tania Hershman – look at her short-short Plaits and you’ll see how a whole novel of ideas can be articulated in a few hundred words. I like Etgar Keret, and Richard Brautingham, and I like the prose poet Charles Simic. Joe Daly, of Bad Language fame, has written some of the best short-shorts you’ll hear performed anywhere, and another current practitioner, Simon Sylvester, has a lot to offer, as has Sarah-Clare Conlon. The literature organisations Flashtag and Bad Language, both based in Manchester, are well worth keeping an eye on for new short-short fiction.

What advice can you give to writers working on flash fiction that will help them make sure they produce compelling, whole stories that have an emotional impact?

For me the biggest mistake new writers of short-shorts make is working on a premise rather than on a story. Because you are working in such a short format and possibly need to use a hundred or so words to introduce the set-up, sometimes that set-up becomes the story with a punchline attached. I would always throw away the premise part – the set-up – and then come up with a story.

It might be enigmatic, and sometimes difficult to understand, but in the end it makes for a resonant piece that the reader will poke at and worry about for a long time. Sometimes a good short-short is like a brilliant third act; you’re never going to the see the first two sections, but those two acts exist somewhere, lurking in the writer’s mind or even on his laptop. A good flash is like the cast of the inside of a story – as if Rachael Whiteread has poured concrete into the interior and then thrown the outside away.


Many thanks, David. Excellent advice around the third act.


Urbane and the Winners

You may have noticed that I’ve been very excited about Urbane Publications since signing with them. And it’s not just because they’re publishing my book! I’ve read several of the novels that have been published by them so far, some of which you can find out more about in the Year of Indie Debuts blog series, and it’s great to discover so many new and diverse voices.

That Urbane genuinely want to collaborate with authors, combined with Matthew’s never ending enthusiasm and decades of experience in the publishing industry, made me want to partner with him for the new annual story prizes, which I’m hoping to establish as an important competition on the annual circuit that gives writers good cash prizes (these will grow as the number of entries do) and also gets them published professionally.

So these are the reasons why I chose to partner with Urbane for the publication of the annual anthologies that will come out of the competition. But it’s not just about me so I asked Matthew why he chose to get involved as well…

Matthew, why did you choose to partner with Retreat West to publish the anthology of winning stories in the RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize?

Well, many reasons but mainly because Retreat West is rapidly becoming one of the leading resources for new and experienced writers, providing support, information and advice to a growing community of authors. Partnering with you offers Urbane a unique opportunity to engage with this vibrant and energetic community of writing talent.

What excites you about collaborating on the winners anthology?

Urbane is driven by positive collaboration, so to have this opportunity to work in partnership with the most talented authors in flash and short story fiction is wonderful. There’s nothing better than to be part of the creative writing process. And a competition also means that authors that might not have heard of Urbane will find us, and likewise I’ll find authors that I might not have come across otherwise.

What can the authors included in the anthology can expect from being published through your innovative press?

The winning authors will not only be ‘traditionally’ published in a high quality volume, but they will all be involved in the development of that book. Urbane brings every author to the heart of the publication process – it will be a team effort!

What does the market for short story anthologies look like now that the short form has undergone a resurgence and is very popular again?

Interestingly, anthologies seem to fare better commercially than single author collections, particularly in bookshops. Though we are yet to see the excitement and popularity of flash and short story fiction on digital channels truly translate to print copy success. This will be the catalyst!


Thanks for coming along, Matthew. I’m really excited about this too!

If you’d like to appear in the anthology and get your work read by leading writers, Vanessa Gebbie and David Gaffney, then you have until 30th September 2016 to enter the competitions. We all look forward to reading your work!


Get more info on how to enter the RW Short Story Prize and how to enter the RW Flash Fiction Prize.



The New RW Annual Prizes

I’m really excited to announce the launch of the new annual short story and flash fiction prizes. After running the bi-monthly competitions for a couple of years it seemed like the time was right to take a step up to an annual competition with bigger and better prizes.

As well as getting significant cash prizes the winning and shortlisted stories in both the RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize will be published by Urbane Publications in the winners’ anthology.

Matthew Smith, founder and owner of this exciting independent publishers, said: ‘I’m thrilled and honoured that Urbane Publications will be in the very privileged position of publishing the winners from this year’s Retreat West Short Story and Flash Fiction prize in an exclusive anthology. Short and flash fiction continues to grow in popularity as a form for both readers and writers, and the sheer quality of many pieces means the competition will be fierce. I can’t wait to collaborate with Retreat West and the winners to create a wonderful book and ebook for readers.’

For me, I’m hoping that the prize will grow in popularity year on year so that the cash prizes for the winners can increase and more great writers can get their work published and read more widely. The quality of the work submitted in previous competitions has been very impressive and I know that the entries for these competitions will be of the same high standard.

Award winning short story and flash writers, Vanessa Gebbie and David Gaffney, are the judges for the 2016 prizes, which are open for submissions now. Find out more on the links below and we all look forward to reading your work! Let me know what you think of the new awards too in the comments below!