Winners of the October Fantastic Flashing Course

Sorry to be so late with this… life has been busy! But here now are the winners. Well done to all. Really looking forward to flashing with these talented writers. Our two winners get a free place and our two runners-up get a half price place on the October Fantastic Flashing Course. There are still a few places left if you would like to join us too…

Winner: Leaves, Witches and Wool by Jennifer Riddalls

Why I chose it: I loved the way the witch references were weaved through the story so naturally and how the autumn leave colours had been used. Deft little touches to give you an instant image of the people in the story. A sad story with a poignant yet hopeful ending.


We seven sat in a circle, like a coven of witches round a cauldron, staring at the basket of wool in the middle. The coiled yarn looked  stranded, heaped in shades of mustard yellow, burnt orange and maroon, like leaves ready for burning. We chatted, no one mentioning
Mary, or her empty chair, until her absence filled the room and she was all we could say.

Tears rolled down cheeks, fat droplets getting diverted by deep wrinkles and cutting through face powder. I wondered who would be next.

‘Remember Mary’s face when Katie suggested changing the name to Stitch ‘n’ Bitch?’ Sally said. Laughter briefly chased the sadness away.

While laughing the hall door opened and we turned, fully expecting Mary and her grey helmet-like hair, but instead her left-behind-husband came stooping in bearing half-finished knitting projects. He took Mary’s chair. I thought he’d come to give them away, but instead he said, ‘Can you teach me to finish these? They’re for the family, at Christmas.’

We ignored the crack in his voice and Sally handed him some needles. Finally, the spell was broken and we dipped into the wool.


Winner: Behind the Beauty by Jan Brown

Why I chose it: Because initially it just seemed like it was going to be a celebration of the wonder of nature and then the final lines gave it a real sting in the tale and emotional resonance.


Her drive to work was on autopilot. There were exceptions. May meant slowing down, the occasional swerve and the sheer delight at catching flashes of blue, swathes secreted in the woodland edging the route. Bluebells never failed to lift her spirits, as good as spotting the first

October was less hazardous because Nature brazenly flaunted its beauty. Every stretch was lined with falling leaves, naked tree trunks standing isolated in vast puddles of crisp gold, bronze and yellow leaves anyone would yearn to kick through. Invariably she’d recite the Ode, sometimes aloud, never getting further than ‘the vines that round the thatch-eaves run.’ The lines were lost but the lush, voluptuous Autumn of Wordsworth stayed with her.

Then came the canopy, a mile or more where the car seemed to plunge into a tunnel roofed with glorious colour, particularly if sunbeams penetrated the dense foliage. Surely there was no greater beauty than this gift of scarlet fire and copper? But her mind would go back: trapped in her car, her unborn child crushed by a fallen tree. Autumn signified dying and the inevitability of death, no
matter how spectacular its colour. With Autumn came her darkness.

Runner-Up: Second Childhood by Claire Jenkins

Why I chose it: Great image of children foraging like squirrels at the start to contrast with a story about aging and getting trapped in the way of life that adulthood brings, that then becomes something hopeful again at the end.


Leaves crunch under my feet, a beautiful carpet of gold and red and brown. All around me children are foraging like squirrels for prize-winning conkers. I smooth down my jacket, straighten my scarf. Avert my eyes.

A boy bumps into me as he rushes past. “Sorry, ma’am.”

I wince. Coffee has sloshed around the rim of my environmentally friendly, reusable travel mug. I wish I didn’t know how many calories were in hot chocolate. With marshmallows and whipped cream, of course.

A lifetime ago, we read a story at school where a man had transformed into a giant insect overnight. We’d laughed, my friends and I. Imagine waking up one day to find that you’re completely different! Ridiculous. My teacher had watched us with a strange look on her face. Here, amongst the excited children, I finally understand.

Ahead lies my sparse, clean office. Formal wear and leather suitcases. A life revolving around bills and taxes and mortgage repayments. A life where I’m a ‘ma’am’.

I turn back, take aim, strike. A shower of leaves fly through the air, their colours raining down on us. The conker hunters shriek in delight. I close my eyes and smile.

Runner-Up: Autumn Leaves by Malcolm Richardson

Why I chose it: I like how the title is used to signify the core of the story. How the story is set in the summer despite the autumn theme and how well it captures the excitement of a new affair that quickly fades.


Rachel’s boyfriends didn’t stay long; they came, they went, never seen again. Attractive, long-haired, she could maybe lose a pound or two, but who couldn’t?

She’d met him at the summer drinks party, a married man. A balmy July night, drinks flowed, they chatted freely. After a snog and a grope they exchanged numbers. He rang next day; arranged to meet for a drink. It ended at Rachel’s flat, a steamy session between the sheets. He left at two in the morning. Monday afternoon he rang, his wife didn’t understand him, needed to escape. On Wednesday he moved in, ‘just for a few days.’

August raced by, a stream of cosy meals out and all night encounters. By September things began to cool. The first flush of love and passion can be short-lived; extraordinary becomes familiar, routine. Differences develop into arguments.

His text read ‘might B L8.’ Midnight passed, darkness became dawn. She shuddered at the cooler chill of morning, mist hung from a dense, opaque sky. His side of the bed still cold, emptiness echoed through her mind. His heart had flown like a migrating bird to another woman’s bed.

Winners of the Fantastic Flashing comp

Winners of the Fantastic Flashing comp

Many thanks to everyone that entered the competition to win a free or discounted place on the Fantastic Flashing course that’s running in September. I really enjoyed reading all of the stories prompted by the F word. I look forward to working with the four winning writers detailed below during the course and congratulations to them and all of the writers whose stories made the shortlist.


Winner: It Starts Here by Dave Murray

Love the feeling of this and how even in such a tiny word count repetition has been used to great effect. Great capturing of the end of a love affair.

Read it here



Winner: The Dare by Helen Chambers

Such an unexpected twist that works really well. So hard to pull off in a flash fiction. Great use of F words flowing all the way through.

Read it here



Runner-up: She Called It ‘Mauve’ by Jeanette Everson

Beautiful imagery and so much emotion is imbued in every line without ever tipping over into sentimentality. Felt so much bigger than just 200 words.

Read it here



Runner-up: Friday in the Firelight by Sally Zigmond

A real feeling of joy in this tiny story despite it being about a marriage break up and dementia. I felt transported to this tiny world.

Read it here




  • Frog Love by Sherry Morris
  • Little Fawn by Heather Walker
  • Past The Image by Abigail Rowe
  • The Flea, The Frog and the Fish by Rosaleen Lynch
  • White Picket Fence by Claire Jenkins

Flash writing tips from Kathy Fish

Flash fiction writing tips from Kathy Fish

Delighted to welcome Kathy Fish to the blog for the first time today. Kathy is judging the 2018 RW Flash Fiction Prize and I got to ask her all about what she loves about flashing.

Kathy, thanks for coming. As an award-winning flash fiction writer yourself, what’s the best advice you can give to writers looking to master the form?

Read a lot of flash fiction. There’s a wealth of excellent flash fiction online. Read such journals as Wigleaf, Pidgeonholes, Jellyfish Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, Whiskey Paper, and more. Read Best Small Fictions. I also think my Fast Flash Workshop is a great, fun, supportive place for flash experts and beginners alike.

What kinds of stories do you hope to see when reading the shortlist for the RW Flash Fiction Prize?

I am most drawn to stories that move me without being maudlin. I’m a sucker for a mix of sad and funny. I love innovation and experimentation, but the story must also have a strong emotional core to really win me over.

What makes a story stand out for you when you receive the shortlist to read?

Freshness of language and approach. A powerful, emotionally resonant ending.

What flash fiction story do you wish you’d written and why?

Most recently, “Dear David” by Yael van der Wouden in Longleaf Review. I love it so much. That flash is to me, everything I mentioned above. It’s so strange and unexpectedly tender. And it’s completely new. I’m still thinking about it.

Which flash fiction writers writing today do you admire and why?

I’m asked that question so often. And there are so many! I’d say right now it’s the newer writers of flash that are really impressing me. The new work is more daring, more hybrid, more unexpected in the best possible ways.


Thanks so much, Kathy. I just read Dear David and it really is fantastic.

So, flash writers get writing and submitting your stories for Kathy to read. The deadline is 28th october and there is £755 in cash prizes available, plus all winning and shortlisted writers get published in the anthology by Retreat West Books.

If you’d like to hone your flash skills alongside other writers we’re running 3 online flash workshops this Autumn where you’ll get to create up 42 new stories in two intensive weeks. Or there’s 1 space left to join us at the Flash Fiction Retreat we’re running in November.