Meet the Writer – Dan Crawley

Today on our blog we have a Q & A with writer Dan Crawley, who will be leading a workshop at our upcoming FlashFest:


What made you choose this particular topic for your session?

I think both dialogue and action can work individually and in tandem to reveal characters successfully. Plus, they can move the narration forward in interesting ways. I tend to babble too much in the first drafts of my stories, so when I let characters do their thing, it opens up my writing to exciting new possibilities

What do you hope participants will get out of it?

I hope everyone will come away from this workshop with amazing dialogue/action moments to include into their own characters and stories. I love how the characters will surprise us by what they say or do. I’m looking forward to sharing stories, discussing these devices with everyone, and accomplishing some dialogue/action writing of our own!

Do you have a favourite piece of writing that reflects this topic? Either your own or someone else’s.

Raymond Carver is a master of using these two devices together to create indelible characters. “Night School” is one story that uses these tools very effectively. We will be reading his writing and other writers’ flash fictions that showcase amazing dialogue and action. 

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing new flash fictions and micros all the time. But I tend to write slowly these days, enjoying the process. Also, I’ve got a new novella-in-flash brewing. 

Where can we find out more about you and your writing?

Thanks for asking! I’m on twitter at and here is my website 

Dan Crawley is the author of Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019), The Wind, It Swirls (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2021) and Blur (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2023). His writing appears in numerous journals and anthologies, including JMWW, Lost Balloon, North American Review, SmokeLong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years 2003-2013, Wigleaf, Quarterly West, and Atticus Review. He is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts creative writing fellowship. Also, he has multiple nominations for Best Small FictionsBest of the NetBest Microfiction, and a Pushcart Prize. He has been teaching creative writing, composition, and literature courses for 27 years at a number of community colleges and universities throughout the Southwest. And for three years, he was a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Northern Arizona University, leading fiction workshops at all levels.

Winners April Photo Flash Comp

Many thanks to everyone that took part in the comp to win Fantastic Flashing courses and Writing Maps. We enjoyed reading the entries.

Congratulations to the following writers who have won the prizes!


First Place

Nancy Ludmerer wins a place on the June group online Fantastic Flashing course for her story, Wan Chai.


Second Place

Dreena Collins wins a work alone version of the online Fantastic Flashing course for her story, At Night She Came Alive.


Third Place

Malcolm Richardson wins two Writing Maps for his story, Written In The Cards.


The June group Fantastic Flashing course is the last one we’ll be running until 2020 and there are still some spaces available if you would like to create lots of new work alongside other writers and get great ideas for new ways to create work.

Writers that have previously done the course have said:

“Thank you so much for a brilliant two weeks of flashing! I loved the course, the process and all that I produced.”

“5 stars – gave me fabulous ideas for writing flash.”

“The course was excellent and motivated me to write again.”

“I really loved the flash course and it reignited my love of writing short fiction.”


So if you’d like to join us you still have a few weeks to sign up and nab one of those last places…you can do that here!



Resilient Thinking & Live Flashing

Retreat West held two workshops at London Bridge Hive on 23rd March. Today, I want to share my thoughts on attending the sessions.

Morning session: Resilient Thinking for Writers with Isabel Costello and Voula Tsoflias

When it comes to the subject of writerly self-care I tend to fall into the category of bottle it up inside until it all comes tumbling out at the worst possible moment. With this in mind I was a little hesitant for the first of two workshops at London Bridge. However, Voula Tsoflias’ psychology experience and being a fan of Isabel Costello’s excellent blog Literary Sofa was enough to grab my interest.

As was pointed out during the session, the ‘Resilient Thinking’ workshop could just as easily be called ‘Rational Thinking’, which is something else I can struggle with! Following a brief introduction, Voula Tsoflias provides a dissection of cognitive behavioural habits, which as well as being a fascinating subject, also provides a way into understanding our insecurities and bad practices. Knowing that there is a basis for our irrational thoughts allows us to take an objective view and apply the resilient thinking skills taught in the workshop to our own experience.

With a better understanding of what’s going on under the bonnet, Isabel Costello, then takes us through her experiences, how setbacks initially affected her, and how she was able to come through them, gaining a better perspective on her writing and even becoming a better writer on the other side.

It’s easy to minimise rejections and struggles as part of what a writer must go through but I came away from the session realising that rather than merely having to face such difficulties, you can learn to handle them better and even use them to fuel the writer’s life.


Afternoon session: Fantastic Flashing Live with Amanda Saint

I enjoyed Amanda’s online Fantastic Flashing course last year and so had a better idea of what to expect for the afternoon workshop. This is an intense three-hour session whereas the online course takes place over two weeks. Like the online course, the workshop provides plenty of flash fiction insights in a simple, easy to understand way, in between creating your own flash pieces to a range of prompts.

Writers are able to read their work to the group (if they wish). The focus is very much on drawing positives and there was no pressure to come up with a spontaneous masterpiece, although it was surprising how freeing the experience can be, the prompts and time limitation providing excellent motivation!



I enjoyed and benefited from both workshops, the relaxed atmosphere and structured sessions made the most from the time. Getting to share common experiences with other writers was an added pleasure. Thanks so much to all three tutors for a pleasurable day and excellent learning experience!

Resilient Thinking for Writers will run again at the Mslexicon Festival on 12th-14th July.
Amanda will be running the Fantastic Flashing Live workshop again in the autum and you can find out more about her Fantastic Flashing online course here.


Isabel Costello is a novelist and short story writer with a background in marketing and communications. Her debut novel Paris Mon Amour was first published in eBook by Canelo and later in paperback under a new Literary Sofa imprint named after her influential blog. Isabel’s candid posts on her challenging and unusual journey to publication have attracted a wide audience, inspiring her to become involved with the WoMentoring Project and to develop the Resilient Thinking for Writers workshop in partnership with Voula Tsoflias.

Voula Tsoflias is an author and corporate psychologist who specialises in helping business people to excel and succeed. She is an expert in the current hot topic in her field: the development of the skills of psychological resilience. Voula’s debut novel Honor’s Shadow was published by Karnac in 2011. She is a contributing author to The Psychology Book, published by DK in 2012 and winner of the British Psychology Society Book of the Year award.

Amanda Saint is a novelist, short writer and the founder of Retreat West. She is also the commissioning editor and publisher at Retreat West Books. Her debut novel, As If I Were A River, was a NetGalley Top 10 Book of the Month and a Book Magnet Blog Top 20 Book of 2016. Her new novel, Remember Tomorrow, is available now and her short story collection, Flashes of Colour, in 2020. Amanda designed and teaches several online creative writing courses and teaches live fiction writing workshops at literary festivals and writing retreats. Her short stories have been widely published and longlisted for the Fish Flash Fiction Prize and the Ink Tears Short Story Prize. She has been designing and judging flash fiction competitions for several years.

Adventures in Flashing

Retreat West’s first ‘Fantastic Flashing’ course ran in September. Today, I want to share some thoughts on flash fiction writing and my experience taking the new online course.

Readers of flash fiction will know there is something slightly magical about the format. The word constraint forces the writer to breathe life into every word. The slightest wrong turn and it can fall flat. However, get it right, and it can be a transformative experience for the reader. That’s how I feel about it anyway!

Despite being a fan of the genre, prior to the course, I had written only a few pieces less than one thousand words and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I began with the simple goal of writing as much as possible over the two-week period in which the course runs.

In terms of the course format, each day, a different topic of the genre is tackled, with a short piece of flash to read for inspiration and some prompts to get you writing. I found the daily email contained enough information to get me thinking but very manageable, so didn’t take up valuable writing time.

Over the first few days, I managed to write three or four pieces per day and was surprised at how freeing it was. I came up with plenty of new ideas but also managed to get down some old ones that I’d felt too changeling to grabble with in longer form… The beauty of the format is that very little time is required before you have a sense of whether a piece is working or not. If it’s not working, start over, move on, or try a different prompt.

Writers on the course have access to a private Facebook group to share their work. It was extremely valuable to see what others were coming up with using the same prompts. My fellow writers were very helpful and supportive too, providing encouragement and useful feedback. This gave me a little extra push to write something I was happy to share each day. Particularly on some of the more challenging days.

By the end of the two weeks, I’d written countless flash fictions and even come up with a few short story ideas to develop further. I would recommend this course especially to anyone interested in flash fiction or short story writing. It’s been invaluable in generating new ideas and learning quite a bit about structure and other writing techniques.

There are two more Fantastic Flashing courses scheduled to run in October and November. October’s starts next Monday (15th)! Find out more details here.

Win a place on September 2018 Fantastic Flashing online course

Flash Fiction Competition

We love comps at Retreat West and we love flash fiction! So our latest competition is to win a place on the September 2018 Fantastic Flashing online course. Designed and taught by me, it’ll get you creating oodles of new work, reading lots of flashes to learn about different styles, and I’ll give you feedback on a story at the end. Get more info on the course here.

To win a place on the course you have to write a flash story based on the prompt below and send by the deadline. Submit stories through Submittable using the button below.

Two writers will be chosen and they’ll both get a place on the course. Two second place writers will get a half price place on the course.


Competition Prompt

Write a list of things that begin with the letter F and then pick three of them to build a story around. Make sure you include your three F words in the story. As inspiration read my prize-winning flash story, Stained Red, which was built around a list of red things.

1st Prize (two available)

A place on the September Fantastic Flashing course.

2nd Prize (two available)

A 50% discount on the September 2018 Fantastic Flashing course (so course costs  just £87.50)

All writers that enter will also receive a free ebook edition of the What Was Left anthology of winning stories from the 2016 RW Short Story and RW Flash Fiction Prizes and a £20 discount if they book on the September course (Retreat West Author Members will get the £20 discount on top of their already discounted course fee).

Entry Fee: £5

Deadline: 15th July 2018



Competition Rules

  • Submit stories written in English through Submittable using the button below by 23.59 GMT on the deadline date (sorry late entries will not be included).
  • Do not include your name on the document or submission title but provide a short bio in the body of the email. All entries are read anonymously so any submissions showing the author’s name will be automatically disqualified.
  • Your story must not exceed 200 words. Entries that exceed the word count will be automatically disqualified.
  • The story must be based on the prompt and not have been published online or in print, or have won any other competitions.
  • By entering the competition you agree to take part in the September 2018 Fantastic Flashing online course if you win a free or discounted place.
  • Stories can be in any genre apart from children’s fiction and erotica. YA is allowed.
  • You can enter as many times as you like but all entries must be made separately and the entry fee paid each time.
  • The judge’s decision is final.
  • There are no alternative prizes.
  • Winners will be announced by the end of July 2018.