2017 Short Story and Flash Fiction Prize Results

Thanks so much to our judges, Alison Moore for the short stories and Tania Hershman for flash fictions, for taking part in the 2017 Short Story Prize and Flash Fiction Prize. They have now made their decisions and I’m delighted to announce the winners of the top three spots for each. Congratulations everyone.

2017 Short Story Prize Winners

First Prize: Calvo Marsh by Karen Featherstone

Alison said: I admired this clever, jocular and painful story about a nighttime journey into coastal marshland and the narrator’s disintegrating sense of identity.

Second Prize: Home Improvements by Joanna Campbell

Alison said: A child’s-eye view of a troubled marriage, with a well-constructed and deftly controlled narrative and a poignant ending.

Third Prize: The Distance by Keren Heenan

Alison said: A sensitive and touching exploration of the complex and shifting relationship between a daughter and her ageing mother.

Highly Commended: An Entry in the Yellow Book by Dianne Bown-Wilson

Alison said: The intrigue builds to an unexpected ending that is both satisfying and haunting.

 

2017 Flash Fiction Prize Winners

First Prize: While My Wife is Out of Town by Jude Brewer

Tania said: This story grabbed me right away from the title, it promises so much, it’s bursting with tension, and it tells you so much! Then comes that fantastic first line, the old horror story trope about having to go into the basement, but with the humour about carrying the cat.

This narrator’s voice was so strong and I was hooked, I was right there with him, enjoying myself enormously. I had complete confidence that the author had complete confidence and wouldn’t let me down. The story immediately surprises by not going anywhere near the basement and becomes a kind of list, of all the things he’s doing while she’s not there, odd, funny, wonderful things, and I am smitten. This is a story that takes risks in its structure, going off on tangents, not following a linear narrative, and the risks pay off. It is dark and funny and moving and strange. There is not a word too many or too few, and every word is precisely chosen, the character’s voice never strays. The ending: perfect. I could read this again and again and again.

Second Prize: Impermanent Facts by Lucie McKnight Hardy

Tania said: This is such a beautiful piece, which takes place over a few minutes and a whole lifetime. It is written with authority, no equivocating, straight into the action. It is very physical, with the vacuuming and the cupboard – and the smell, how often do writers make use of this sense? We should all do it more. The writer doesn’t spend time introducing our character, telling us anything, because there is no need. Everything we need is here. Such care is
also taken with the shape of it on the page, the three lines that begin with “She”, and then the two final lines beginning with the letter “A”, and this structure works for the story too, as it does for a poem.

The most important thing is that this story is almost unbearably moving precisely because it doesn’t look straight at the Terrible Thing at its heart, until that one line at the end. The bulk of this gorgeous short short story is about ladybirds. But of course it isn’t. Stunning.

Third Prize: The City of Stories by Tamar Hodes

Tania said: Great title, and from the opening line the writer sets the scene and sets the tone. We think we know what kind of story this is, a traditional village tale. But then a few lines in, all our expectations our overturned, narratively-speaking, and we find that this is metafiction, it’s a story about stories and about the danger of cliches, and it makes its point wonderfully, amusingly and in just as many words as needed and no more.

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Congratulations again to all the writers on the long and shortlists.

The anthology of all winning and shortlisted stories will be published later this year so you’ll be able to read them soon. In the meantime, you can read last year’s winners in the What Was Left anthology. Get a copy here.

The details of the 2018 Short Story Prize and Flash Fiction Prize are now online and open for submissions. The prizes have gone up and the entry fees have gone down and I’m thrilled to have signed up two great new judges. We look forward to reading your stories. Get the info on the links below:

 

2017 RW Short Story and Flash Fiction Prize Shortlists

Delighted to announce that after much re-reading of the longlisted stories, which you can see here, we have the final 10 shortlisted stories for both the 2017 RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize. All of which have now been forwarded to the judges for the final round and will be published in the anthology later this year, through Retreat West Books.

There were some really fantastic stories on the longlist so well done to everyone whose stories appeared there and huge congratulations to all of the writers on these shortlists. I look forward to working with you to produce the anthology and hopefully celebrating with you at the launch party too.

2017 RW Short Story Prize Shortlist

  • An Entry in the Yellow Book by Diane Bown-Wilson
  • Boys Outside by Laurence Jones
  • Calvo Marsh by Karen Featherstone
  • Home Improvements by Joanna Campbell
  • Options for the Ridiculously Poor by Ian Tucker
  • Roast Potatoes by Rachael Dunlop
  • The Distance by Keren Heenan
  • The Land of Bondage by Bettina Daniel
  • The Martha Rhymes by Susan Breall
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill by Bettina Daniel

2017 RW Flash Fiction Prize Shortlist

  • Chronic by Sarah Baxter
  • Cinders After Midnight by Shirley Golden
  • Curl Up and Die by Alison Wassell
  • Impermanent Facts by Lucie McKnight Hardy
  • Inside Story by Sandra Arnold
  • Not My Fault by Melvyn Eldridge
  • The City of Stories by Tamar Hodes
  • Time, Difference, Japan by Jason Jackson
  • We Don’t Understand The Machines We Have Created by Olivia Fitzsimons
  • While My Wife is Out of Town by Jude Brewer

Best of luck for the final round! The results will be announced in February. Thanks again to everyone who has taken part.

2017 Short Story Prize and Flash Fiction Prize Longlists

Many thanks to everyone that entered the 2017 RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize. There were double the amount of entries this year and we’ve been busy reading away.

Readings are done anonymously until the shortlists are chosen and only then do we discover who has written what, so only the story titles are listed here. Congratulations to all the writers who see their story titles here.

Longlist RW Short Story Prize

  • Alan and Barbara – A Life in Fives
  • An Entry in the Yellow Book
  • Boys Outside
  • Calvo Marsh
  • Dress Rehearsal
  • Home Improvements
  • Just a Storm
  • Magee’s Island
  • Making the Grades
  • Options for the Ridiculously Poor
  • Paleo
  • Requiem
  • Roast Potatoes
  • The Distance
  • The Good Brother
  • The Hazard
  • The Killing Moon
  • The Martha Rhymes
  • The Land of Bondage
  • The Riddle
  • The Wish
  • There Are Some Things You Can’t Say to the Person You Can Say Anything To
  • Thou Shalt Not Covet
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill
  • Welcoming Committee

Longlist RW Flash Fiction Prize

  • A Perfect Fit
  • Blind Insight
  • Butterfly Kisses
  • Chronic
  • Cinders After Midnight
  • Curl Up and Die
  • Digital Detox
  • Dirty Blonde
  • Impermanent Facts
  • Inside Story
  • Measles
  • Measured
  • Not My Fault
  • Note to Chinese Dad
  • On the Threshold
  • The City of Stories
  • The Heart of Winter
  • Time Difference, Japan
  • We Don’t Understand the Machines We Have Created
  • While My Wife is Out of Town

Well done and good luck for the next round to all the writers whose stories are listed here.

We will be re-reading and announcing the shortlists in January 2018. The 10 shortlisted stories in each category will then go to the judges to read and the winners  will be announced in February 2018. Alison Moore is judging the short story category and Tania Hershman the flashes.

Prizes and copies of the anthology, which is being published by Retreat West Books, will be presented to everyone on the shortlists at an event in September 2018. Details of this will be available in the new year.

Once the winners have been announced the details of the deadlines and judges for the 2018 Prizes will go live.

Alison Moore: Writing short stories

It’s great to have Alison Moore back on the blog today talking about short stories. Alison’s first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards (New Writer of the Year), winning the McKitterick Prize. Both The Lighthouse and her second novel, He Wants, were Observer Books of the Year. A third novel, Death and the Seaside, is out now. You can read our interview with her about this book here. Her short fiction has been included in Best British Short Stories and​ Best British Horror anthologies, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra and collected in The Pre-War House and Other Stories​. Her first book for children, Sunny and the Ghosts, will be published in 2018.

Alison is also the judge for the 2017 RW Short Story Prize.

Alison, one of the things that struck me when reading Pre-War House was how very different your characters, settings and POVs are in all of the stories. How does your short story writing process usually work – is it the situation, the premise or the character that arrives first; and how do you then develop it?

My stories have various origins although I would say that character and situation often arrive together, one informing the other, e.g. the woman in The Pre-War House, who is pregnant when she returns to her childhood home, and the elderly husband in Static who is mending a radio. Stories have been prompted by things heard or seen or experienced or by exploring my anxieties, or in one case by a title coming to mind, requiring me to find the story attached to it. I develop a story by feeling my way through it, trying to discover it. I love Michelangelo’s idea of chipping away at a lump of rock to find the sculpture within it.

What have been some of the most memorable characters that you’ve come across in short stories and why have they struck a chord with you?

Flannery O’Connor agonises me with her characters – the grandmother in A Good Man is Hard to Find, the men in The Geranium and The Barber. Although the nature and scale of their fall or loss differs greatly, each one haunts me.

When reading the shortlisted entries in the RW Short Story Prize, what will make a story really stand out for you?

I want to be immersed in the world of the story, to see it vividly, to feel that I’ve experienced something. The most effective stories resonate beyond the reading; you keep thinking about them.

What advice can you give to writers looking to improve their short story writing?

It’s a cliche for a reason: read. When people are interested in writing short stories but aren’t yet reading them, I recommend Salt’s Best British Short Stories. When you’ve written your story, read it through very carefully; put it away so that you can read it again with a fresh eye – poor grammar and typos jolt the reader out of the world of the story but they’re easy to fix.

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Many thanks, Alison, for your insights into reading and writing short stories.

The 2017 RW Short Story Prize closes for entries on 29th October. You can see the results of the 2016 prizes here and the anthology of winning stories will be published in September.

There are also Quarterly Themed Flash competitions running with cash prizes and online publication for the winner and two runners-up. Get the info on that here.

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.

 

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!