Results: Win a place at the self-edit retreat comp

Many thanks to everyone that entered the competition to win a place at the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat in November. I’ve enjoyed reading the entries and I’m delighted to announce that the winner is…Justine Kilkerr for her 500 word novel opening written to the prompt ‘A holiday at the beach’, entitled Sea Fret (read it below).

Congratulations Justine. A beautiful piece of writing that immediately drew me in and left me wanting more. Look forward to meeting you at the retreat.

Well done to all on the shortlist as well. Some great responses to the prompt and strong writing.

Sea Fret

It was a day muted by mist, unlike the sweltering days before, the morning she found the beached dolphin rolling in the surf and decided she would never go back.

Kittiwakes ghosted above her on the updrafts, patrolling the crumbling cliff face. She watched a gannet hurl itself, bullet-quick, arrow-sharp, into the waves. It few underwater for a while, zigzagging after fsh, then bobbed to the surface like a cork and launched itself into the sky.

She held the stone and traced its knuckled edges with a sandy thumb. It was the size of an apple and nestled, warming, in her balled fst. Her bare toes had found the ammonite in the sand as she had walked naked into the waves hours before, intent on never coming out.

She allowed herself a smile that felt like a gift. Strange, how high and happy the morning had felt when she decided to walk into the ocean and not come out again. How simple this day had seemed then. But she had hissed at the pain in her stubbed toes and somehow forgotten her long-planned march into the waves. She had bent instead to scrape at the sand. The fossil came up in her cold fingers, its stone curves cradling millennia, and something had changed.

She had put the stone to her lips, licked the salt and turned back to the beach, paddling herself through the water with her hands. Had struggled, shivering, into her shorts, damp T-shirt, jacket. Had walked towards the cliff along a high water line sketched out in black seaweed and broken shells, until she noticed the humped side of the dolphin, moving back and forth as the waves nudged it, gently, gently.

The dolphin was dead. The beach lay heavy beneath its grey body and she sat down cross-legged on the wet sand there and hugged herself. The taste of brine on her tongue. The whispering of the waves. The animal gone into itself. She sat a while, she didn’t know how long.

I will never go back.

The road out was flooded. It was a spring tide, after all, and the tarmac held its breath below the milk-pale water; she couldn’t go back if she wanted to. Which she didn’t. Which meant that they would be coming to look for her as soon as the waters receded.

She would not wait for them to come.

So she must go forward, and the only place accessible was across the expanse of boulders and rock pools that made up the tip of the peninsula. She squinted at the horizon. From this distance the lighthouse looked small, insignificant. A slim, pale tower squatting amongst the black rock and green weed and slow-surging sea.

She double-laced her boots, pushed the ammonite deep into her jacket pocket and stood, walking quickly to the edge of the rocks. She began to climb.

High above her, its noise spilling over the edge of the cliff, a telephone rang.


The shortlist (in alphabetical order by story title)

  • A Holiday at the Beach by Kate Beales
  • Drifter in the Sand by Margaret Duffy
  • Emigration by Vinita Joseph
  • Grand Pause by Anne Hamilton
  • Pay Friday by Gail Aldwin
  • Scrimshaw by Sophie Wellstood
  • Sea Fret by Justine Kilkerr
  • The Dive by V Lysaght
  • The Mistake by Julie Balloo
  • The Place We Go by Jessica Riches
  • The Search by Hannah Persaud

Win a place at the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat

In November, Debi Alper and I will be teaching at the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat. We’ll be back at the beach house in West Bay, Bridport.

Debi will be running 2 classes based on her hugely successful online course, which I did a few years ago and it changed my writing forever. The course is great and Debi recently wrote a blog about the success rate of people that have completed it and gone on to get book deals.

You can get all the info on the retreat here – it takes place from 4th to 8th November. There are 6 places to join us and I’m running a competition to win one of them.

Competition details

Deadline: 23.59 on 10th July 2016

Prize: 1 place at the 4 night Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat in your own room with all food, drink and classes included. Outside of the classes your time is yours to read, write, sleep, walk – whatever you want to do!

Entry fee: £10

How to enter: Write a 500 word novel opener on the theme of a holiday at the beach. Send it in through Submittable using the button below with a short covering note saying why you’d like to win the place at the retreat and a bit of info on what you are working on.

Good luck!

Competition T&Cs

  • £10 to enter
  • You can enter as many times as you like as long as you pay the fee each time
  • Do not put your name on your novel opening or your entry will be disqualified as judging is done anonymously
  • Stories must be written in English, your own original work and unpublished online and in print
  • Submit your stories through Submittable by 23.59 (BST) on 10th July 2016
  • Winner will be announced in July 2016
  • The judge’s decision is final
  • By entering the competition you agree to attend the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat and have your winning novel opening entry published on the Retreat West website
  • The writer of the winning novel opening gets a free place at the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat and the prize is not transferable


From novice to novelist by Christmas

Make 2016 year the year you go from being a novice writer to a novelist with the 8 Month Novel course. The first one starts next month so you could have a complete first draft of your novel by Christmas. You can get all the info on the course here and spaces are limited to just five writers.

It’s a creative writing course that also includes 1-1 mentoring, detailed feedback on your work all the way through, and a full editorial review of your draft and a plan to move forward with at the end.

Not only that, if you book on the April course now you’ll get a 20% discount on the four-night Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat, which is taking place in an amazing spot in Bridport right on the beach at the start of November; and coincides with the point the course moves on to self-editing your work.

During the retreat there will be 2 masterclasses with Debi Alper – author, editor and mentor who has helped many successful novelists improve their work. And one with me looking at a specific extract from your work. As well as time to read, write, walk and enjoy great food, conversation and wine. Get all the the info about the retreat here.

Book by 28th March and you’ll also get £100 off of the 8 Month Novel course fee! Email me to reserve your space.