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 Angela Readman, judge of 2019 RW Short Story Prize

Interview with Angela Readman, judge of 2019 RW Short Story Prize

A big welcome to Angela Readman for today’s interview! Angela is a twice shortlisted winner of the Costa Short Story Award. Her stories have won the National Flash Fiction Day Competition, The Mslexia Short Story Prize, and The Fish Short Memoir Prize. They have also been shortlisted in the Manchester Fiction Prize. Her debut story collection Don’t Try This at Home won The Rubery Book Prize and was shortlisted in the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Angela’s debut novel, Something Like Breathing​, will be published by And Other Stories in 2019. Angela is our judge for the 2019 RW Short Story Prize which is open (!) for submissions.

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

I’ve always written stories, as soon as I could hold a pen. Silly things, funny stories, sad stories, strange little beasts. It’s something we’re all drawn to as children, I think, daydreaming, wondering what if…? If we’re lucky we never stop wondering. For me, short fiction is still that, it’s where the wonder is. That’s always been attractive to me, that wonder is what makes life wonderful.

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

Read, read stories like you’re starving. Reading is often seen as a passive activity, but as writers we’re wide awake. We’re not looking for what to write about but getting a feel for the shape of the short story. How can a story start, what can stories leave out, what keeps us intrigued? Writers will always be drawn to our own subjects and fascinations, but where to start can stump us if we’re new to the form. Reading can be such an eye opener, it’s like getting permission to follow our peculiar hearts. The first time I read Etgar Keret I was like, ‘Wow, it’s Ok to write my strange little ideas? Who knew?’ Before that, most of my stories were just daydreams.

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

It’s probably surprising, because my own stories tend to be strange, but I love all sorts of stories – realist, magical realist, funny stories, stories that feel like an ache. I read short stories almost every day and my favourites don’t share a genre. What they have in common is the ability to take me out of myself, look around, and when I come back, after the story is over, feel the world is a slightly different place. A place I understand a little more. A good story is like someone took a picture I thought I knew, coloured it different colours to and made everything much more vivid, like I’ve just woken up.

What will make a short story stand out for you?

I love fascinating characters, whether it’s Olive Kitteridge, or the couple in Murakami’s The Second Bakery Attack. These stories have little in common, but share an understanding that people are surprising. Olive Kitteridge seems like a dark character but has moments of unexpected vulnerability and kindness. The couple in The Second Bakery Attack seem like any ordinary couple, until we learn the wife has a ski mask, but has never been skiing. I think it was Lorrie Moore who said, ‘A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage.’ She’s right. When I read stories with characters that breathe, it’s like falling in love. A good story is glorious, but brief, affair that lingers for years.

Which short story do you wish you’d written and why?

There are so many it’s hard to pick just one! I love Flannery O’ Connor, Raymond Carver- Cathedral, Why Don’t you Dance? and his story Fat. Fat is a story I keep coming back to, it’s deceptively simple, but fascinating. On the one hand, the story centres around a man ordering a meal at a restaurant and never seeming full. Yet I keep reading this story. It stays with me because of what we’re not told. We learn very little about the waitress and her life, yet it’s impossible to read the story and not consider her. That’s astounding. The story works like a lesson in empathy- I can’t read it without engaging with that waitress, she is so much more than her work, our fleeting impression. That’s fantastic writing. I defy anyone to read that story, go into a restaurant and not think about who works there.

Which writers working in the short form today do you admire and why?

Oh, so many. Aimee Bender, Murakami, George Saunders, Miranda July, A M Holmes, Claire Wigfall, Daisy Johnson, Kirsty Logan, Sarah Hall, Ken Elkes, Nuala O’Connor… I like writers that lure me into their world and keep me there. I don’t care what a story is about, or what style it is written in, but I admire stories that feel like I must keep reading or I’ll be missing out on something.


Thanks, Angela! Excellent story and writer picks there, and great advice for short story writers and those entering the 2019 RW Short Story Prize!

Follow Angela on Twitter:

If you become a Retreat West Gold Author Member you can get entry to this competition included as part of your benefits package, as well as a whole host of other exciting stuff! Join here.

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!

Writing tips from Paul McVeigh

Writing tips from Paul McVeigh

Very happy to welcome Paul McVeigh to the blog today. Paul previously taught short story writing on a Retreat with Amanda and his debut novel The Good Son won the Polari Prize and the McCrea Literary Award. Paul is judging the 2018 RW Short Story Prize and Amanda got to ask him what he loves about the short story form.

What’s the best advice you can give to writers looking to master the short form?

Read. Read the authors they love. Read like a writer – how did they make me tense, sad, surprised? Read authors you don’t like – what am I not seeing that others do? What can I learn for this?

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

I like to feel something when I read. I like to laugh too. Neither of these reactions are easy to achieve. Too often attempts are cringe-making – too bald or inorganic. Get it right and they win prizes. Though a fab of raw hyper-realism, I also like unusual stories and unnerving mysteries and sci-fi.

What short story do you wish you’d written and why?

I don’t think like that but I’ll play along and choose one of my favourite short stories – Foster by Claire Keegan. So moving and yet not sentimental at all – in fact it’s often brutal. It gets me every time.

Which short story writers writing today do you admire and why?

Claire Keegan for her class and skill and Carmen Maria Machado for her imagination.


Thanks so much, Paul.

You can follow Paul on Twitter and find out more about him via his website.

Now… Short story writers get writing and submitting your stories for Paul to read. The deadline is 28th October 2018. There is £820 in cash prizes available, and all winning and shortlisted stories will be published in the annual anthology by Retreat West Books.

You can find the previous anthologies What Was Left and (forthcoming) Impermanent Facts on Amazon. They’ll give you a great idea what we’re looking for and perhaps a little inspiration!

Join our author community and get lots of great stuff, including free copies of Retreat West Books as they are published. Join here.