2019 Short Story and Flash Fiction Prize Winners

2019 Short Story and Flash Fiction Prize Winners

We’re very excited to announce the winners of the 2019 Short Story and Flash Fiction prizes. Many thanks to our judges for taking on the tough job of choosing the winners from the shortlisted stories. Angela Readman picked our winning short stories and Meg Pokrass our flash fictions.

Well done to all of the writers who made our long and shortlists and a HUGE congratulations to the winners of the top 3 spots.

2019 RW Short Story Prize Winners

I was delighted to judge this competition; of all the competitions I’ve worked on this was the closest. Any of the stories in the shortlist would have been worthy winners, the standard was exceptional. Each story varied in subject and style, but was impeccably structured. I read each story in the shortlist a few times, and my top five even more. I took my time, and ultimately chose the stories I couldn’t forget even after a few days had passed. I’d like to congratulate all the writers who made the shortlist and want them to know they all wrote stories I am certain will find a place in the world and be read for years. It was difficult to choose only three out of so many wonderful stories, but, in the end, I had to choose the ones I couldn’t stop thinking about.

First Prize: Sal by Emma Hutton

Reading Sal gave me goose bumps. The title is deceptively simple, yet the originality of the character took this coming of age story to a whole other level. The writing shone. The tension between men, women, and social expectations is palpable. I found that the more I read the story the more layers it revealed. This is a story that just keeps on giving. It deserves to be read more than once. Every word earned its place as the winner.

Second Prize: Whale Watching by Louise Farr

A delightful story of how we become who we are and the ways that we cope with loss. I was impressed with the use of childhood impressions that made the disappointments of daily life almost magical. The voice leapt off the page and continued to surprise me throughout. Funny, sad, strange and moving, it was impossible not to place this story. I know it will stick with me for a long time, the character is so compelling I felt I could hear her heartbeat.

Third Prize: Mess of Love by Jason Jackson

A fascinating exploration of the dynamics of a relationship and what strength really means. I was submerged in this story by the sensory opening and was impressed with how details are used to convey character. However flawed these people may be, the use of touch in this story made their relationship utterly convincing. The mess of their love seemed incredibly real.

2019 Flash Fiction Prize Winners

First Prize: Treating the Stains and Strains of Marriage by Sherry Morris

Treating the Stains and Strains of a Marriage is a story about the fading colours of a marriage. With brilliant sensory flourishes, startling use of metaphor and internal rhyme, this darkly funny story tackles the world of domestic drudgery and whips it into something deliciously unsettling and surreal.This story’s originality and jaunty confidence won me over! I have never read anything else like it.

Second Prize: Riverwater Cistern by Niamh MacCabe

Riverwater Cistern is an enchanting story about early love and friendship, and the magical world of childhood. Filled with gorgeous use of poetic language and finely tuned emotional detail—a visceral reading experience that made me remember (with longing) what it was like to be that young, and intensely alive.

Third Prize: Wormholes, Mushroom, Silverfish by Timothy Boudreau

Wormholes, Mushroom, Silverfish is a fresh and original coming-of-age story, shown through a sensory-rich lens. I admire the way this author trusts the reader, and the masterful way they express the gritty emotions of teenage isolation without being gloomy, or overtelling.
These stories and all of the shortlisted stories in both categories will be published in the winner’s anthology later this year so be sure to snap up a copy then!
Many thanks to all of the writers who submitted stories for the 2019 prizes, we enjoyed reading them all. We’ll be announcing the details of the 2020 judges and prizes next month…

2019 Flash Fiction and Short Story Prize Shortlists

2019 Flash Fiction and Short Story Prize Shortlists

Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who submitted stories in these competitions. With 190 flash fictions and 277 short stories received, Amanda, Mary-Jane Holmes and Emma Finlayson-Palmer have been kept (happily) busy reading your work! We’re finally down to the shortlist stage and can reveal the writers!

Next, it’s over to our judges, Meg Pokrass and Angela Readman, to make the final decision. Good luck!

2019 Flash Fiction Prize Shortlist

  1. Buried by Emily Harrison
  2. Cuba by Bruce Meyer
  3. How to Hold an Umbrella by Caroline Greene
  4. Love is Many Things, None of them Logical by Hannah Storm
  5. On the Death of a Friend by Jason Jackson
  6. Ticket by Sherri Turner
  7. The President Comes Home by Reshma Ruia
  8. Treating the Stains and Strains of Marriage by Sherry Morris
  9. Wormholes, Mushrooms, Silverfish by Timothy Boudreau
  10. Riverwater Cistern by Niamh MacCabe

2019 Short Story Prize Shortlist

  1. Load More Comments by Jan Barker
  2. Mess of Love by Jason Jackson
  3. My Kind by Emma Hutton
  4. National Order by Helen Eccles
  5. Prime Meridian by Geoffrey Graves
  6. Whale Watching by Louise Farr
  7. Sal by Emma Hutton
  8. Strawberries by Claire Zinkin
  9. The Black Hole of Westminster by Rhys Timson
  10. The Pendulum by James Northern

2019 Flash Fiction and Short Story Prize Longlists

2019 Flash Fiction and Short Story Prize Longlists

Many thanks to all the writers who sent us stories this year. We received 190 flash fictions and 277 short stories. We’ve had a mammoth reading task over the past 7 weeks and my thanks go to my fellow readers, Mary-Jane Holmes and Emma Finlayson-Palmer. We’ve whittled the stories down to the longlists shown below. Well done if your story is shown here. We received two flash fictions entitled Remembrance so they are numbered below.

Readings are still anonymous until we have chosen the shortlists so if your story is shown here, please don’t tell anyone what it’s called! We are going on a festive break from this week so will have the shortlist in January now and then the 10 stories in each category will go to our judges for the final decision. Good luck!

2019 Flash Fiction Prize Longlist

  1. A Rare Bottling
  2. Atrraversiamo
  3. Buried
  4. Caged Light
  5. Cuba
  6. Dancing On Broadway
  7. Die And See Paris
  8. Die Young, Stay Pretty
  9. Echoes
  10. Enormous Gigantic Titanic Love
  11. Flesh And Water
  12. Good Girls Really
  13. How To Hold An Umbrella
  14. Insta-Life
  15. Love Is Many Things, None Of Them Logical
  16. Mouse Racing
  17. Omne Vivum Ex Ovo
  18. On The Death Of A Friend
  19. Pink. Bright. Bold.
  20. Remembrance (1)
  21. Remembrance (2)
  22. Riverwater Cistern
  23. The Albatross
  24. The Arctophile
  25. The President Comes Home
  26. The Short-Term Mourner
  27. The Way She Looks At Me
  28. The Woodsman
  29. Thistles
  30. Ticket
  31. Treating The Stains And Strains Of Marriage
  32. We Don’t Kill Our Mothers
  33. What Lawrence Did
  34. Wormholes, Mushrooms, Silverfish

2019 Short Story Prize Longlist

  1. Angerland
  2. Breathing Backwards
  3. Contacting Caroline
  4. Dead Tissue
  5. Every Scar Has A Story
  6. Latecomers
  7. Load More Comments
  8. Mess Of Love
  9. My Kind
  10. National Order
  11. Prime Meridian
  12. Sal
  13. Strawberries
  14. The Black Hole Of Westminster
  15. The End Of The Pier
  16. The Eyeglasses
  17. The Forest Road
  18. The Language Of Flowers
  19. The Pendulum
  20. The Thing That Happened To Philip
  21. The Time Of Their Lives
  22. There Is A War
  23. To Daydream On Dewdrops
  24. Tonight’s The Night
  25. Trotter
  26. Whale Watching
  27. What Counts As Theft
  28. Wings On Her Feet

Interview with Meg Pokrass, judge of 2019 RW Flash Fiction Prize

Interview with Meg Pokrass, judge of 2019 RW Flash Fiction Prize

For today’s interview, we welcome Meg Pokrass. Meg’s fifth collection of flash, ‘Alligators At Night’, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction (2018). Her fiction has been internationally anthologized, most recently in Best Small Fictions, 2018, Wigleaf Top 50, 2018, and two Norton Anthologies; New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co., 2018) and Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015). Her stories have appeared in over 300 literary journals including Electric Literature, Tin House, Smokelong Quarterly and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. She currently serves as Series Co-Editor of the Best Microfiction, 2019, Managing Editor of New Flash Fiction Review, Festival Curator for Flash Fiction Festival, UK and Flash Fiction Challenge Editor, Mslexia Magazine. So we’re very lucky to have Meg judging for the 2019 RW Flash Fiction Prize which is currently open (!) for submissions.

Thanks for coming on the blog, Meg. What attracted you to writing flash fiction in the first place?

I wrote poetry through my 20s, 30s, and most of my 40s. My poems were quite narrative, and for this reason, I had trouble getting them published. At some point, I experimented with removing the line breaks from my poems, and writing what I now call “connective tissue”. Turning them into stories. That’s how it started for me. The many years of focusing on compression and use of language (in writing poetry) seems to have been helpful to me as a flash fiction writer.

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

Loaded Moment: Great flash fiction requires a feeling of dramatic urgency—something which we, the reader, sense in every word. Emotional potency is key.
Trust the Reader: The quickest way to lose a reader’s trust is to tell them what you mean. Anton Chekhov said it this way: “Don’t tell me that the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
The Senses: The five senses are our best tools! Sensory detail is the key to making flash come alive. Try to bring a great deal of unique sensory detail into each story.
Read Poetry and Flash: Flash fiction isn’t narrative, it isn’t a “shorter short story”, therefore it’s hard to learn how to write flash by reading traditional length short fiction. Reading poetry and great flash fiction is a terrific way to learn the importance of specific detail, poetic language, metaphor, compression.
Something Subtle Must Change: Here is the one clear thing flash has in common with short stories! In great flash there is often a subtle pivot, a surprising juxtaposition, and the end often leaves the reader breathless rather than ‘completely satisfied’.
Unusual Details: Make characters out of obscure traits, for example, how do they greet their cat? What is their favourite film…and why?
Make it Itch: Dismay your characters, provide a good deal of trouble. Don’t let them get there easily, if at all.
Uncomfortable Childhood Nickname: One way to approach character is to make up a nickname that your main character had as a child and didn’t like. Don’t tell the reader what it is, and keep it in mind while writing your story.
Using Earlier Obsessions: Use your own obsessions and worries when creating characters and situations. Using your much earlier obsessions (having distance) is usually more productive than using current ones. With many years’ distance, there is perspective.
Sexy Elf Logic: If there’s an elf in your story, go ahead and make them sexy, but give him some issues. I mean, if you are a sexy elf, you’re going to come with some psychological baggage. No matter how fantastical a character is, make them real.
Woe Is Me: Readers don’t like characters who sit around feeling hurt by the world and wallowing in it. Instead, they care about characters who are finding ways to cope. We like to know how people get through life’s hardest moments.
Crisis/Advantage: When something very hard has happened in your life, use it. Let something similar happen to your character. Disguise it. Dismantle it. Here we can finally make use of the stuff that hurts. This will help your fiction.
Sex in Flash: A character’s unique relationship to sex is far more interesting than writing about lusty characters having sex all over the place. If there is sex in a story, don’t hit us over the head with it.
Messy Love: Follow the trail of messy love wherever it takes your characters, even if the love is invisible to the eye, and especially if it makes no sense.
The Ridiculous: Cultivate a sense of the ridiculous and a sense of the absurd. Everything that really matters to your character is also somewhat ridiculous when looked at from a different perspective. Don’t take yourself (or your characters) too seriously when writing fiction. Even in the most dramatic, dire circumstances. The human brain creates levity in order to cope. That’s what makes us interesting. Show us the coping mechanisms. Make the stakes high, but let a ray of humour shine through.

What kind of stories are you hoping to see when reading the shortlisted entries in the RW Flash Fiction Prize?

I’m looking for quirky original stories, stories that move me. I read a ton of flash fiction for my literary magazine (New Flash Fiction Review) and for the Best Microfiction 2020 anthology series I co-edit with Gary Fincke. What happens when one does so much reading: the brain gets tired! In a way this makes my job as a contest judge easy! I’m looking for stories that wake me up.

What will make a story stand out for you?

Humour, originality, pathos, use of illuminating detail, interesting sensory information. A character (or characters) who make me care.

Which flash fiction stories do you wish you’d written and why?

If I had to chose a few stories, like my Desert Island Discs, I’d say “Starfish”, “Five Fat Men in a Hot Tub,” or “Zoo” by Jeff Landon. “Pacific Radio Fire” or “The Weather in San Francisco” by Richard Brautigan. “Sweethearts” by Jayne Anne Phillips.

Which writers working in flash today do you admire and why?

I always return to the work of Jeff Landon, because there is simply nobody else who masters the art of funny and sad in flash like he does. His work is online in various magazines, look him up. Google him!

Amy Hempel, that’s a given! Aimee Bender, though she writes very little “flash”. I think of her longer short stories as bursts, like flashes sewn together. I study every word she writes. Angela Readman’s work is stunning. Sherrie Flick and Aimee Parkison, both of them are American writers. These are writers I really can’t get enough of!


Thanks, Meg! You covered an impressive amount of ground there, I’m sure flashers will get a lot out of that, and certainly worth considering for writers hoping to impress in the 2019 RW Short Story Prize!

Find out more at megpokrass.com and follow Meg on Twitter:

Want to get free entry to this and other flash fiction comps? Check out our brand new Flash Fiction Memberships for benefits tailored to the flashing enthusiast.

2018 RW Short Story Prize and Flash Fiction Prize Longlists

Many thanks to everyone that sent their short stories and flash fictions for this year’s prizes. We received 200 short stories and 148 flash fictions, which is the most to date and the first time we have received enough money from the entry fees to cover the costs of running the competition! It’s great that the reputation of our annual prizes are growing and we hope to receive even more entries for the 2019 prizes.

Congratulations to all of the writers that have made the longlists below (readings are still anonymous until we’ve chosen the shortlist so please don’t reveal which story is yours if it’s listed here) and good luck for the next round.

2018 Short Story Prize Longlist

  1. A Beginner’s Guide To Stammering
  2. Between the Times
  3. Buon Appetito
  4. Change
  5. Cuckoo
  6. Divisional Board Minutes, Etc
  7. Exit Stage Right
  8. Fatal Mistakes
  9. Future Shock
  10. Hide, Barricade, Look For A Weapon, Prepare to Fight For Your Life
  11. I Visit My Dad Every Thursday
  12. Letting Go
  13. Like A Dog
  14. Minding Your Own
  15. Mojigangas
  16. Old School
  17. Satellite Presence
  18. She Lives
  19. Sleeping Beauty
  20. Snow Day
  21. Something Else
  22. Tears From Uncle Ray
  23. The Blank Page
  24. The Creature’s Grip
  25. The Gold Cheongsam
  26. The Great Escape
  27. The Lost Letter
  28. The Professional
  29. The Storm Singer
  30. The Stutter
  31. The Tailor’s Shears
  32. The Taken
  33. Will You Go Out Tonight


2018 Flash Fiction Prize Longlist

  1. Angel Hair
  2. A Beige Spot
  3. Beneath The Pond
  4. Broken Shackles At Her Feet
  5. Burger Raid
  6. Childish Things
  7. Connor And His Amazing Ejector Boots
  8. Going Undergound
  9. Gold Band
  10. How To Friend Your Shadow
  11. Ice Cream
  12. Last Bite Of The Kipper
  13. Let It Snow
  14. Mayim
  15. Momma
  16. Newling
  17. Old Woman Cooking Eggs, Diego Velasquez 1618
  18. Snakes And Snails
  19. Something In The Air
  20. Sticking Point
  21. The Boar
  22. The Last Encampment
  23. The Mountain
  24. The One Thing Hate Can Never Take Away
  25. The Pretender
  26. The Problem Is
  27. This Day, This Dawn
  28. You Needn’t Be A Bird To Fly
  29. Wilder’s Day In Court


Well done everyone. We’re going on a festive break now and will be re-reading these stories in January to choose a shortlist of 10 for each category that will go to the judges for the final decision. All shortlisted writers will receive a cash prize and be published in the annual anthology. The shortlist will be announced by the end of January 2019 and the winners in February. The 2019 Prizes will open in April.

Happy festive season!

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.