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…

2018 RW Short Story and RW Flash Fiction Prize Winners

2018 RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Results

We are delighted to be able to reveal the winners of the 2018 RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize. Our thanks go to the judges, Paul McVeigh, for choosing the short story winners and Kathy Fish for choosing the flash fiction. Huge congratulations to our winners and to all of the shortlisted writers who made the top 10 in each category out of hundreds of entries. You’ll be able to read the winning stories in the annual anthology later this year.

2018 RW Short Story Prize Winners

1st Prize: Will You Go Out Tonight? by Joanna Campbell

Judge’s notes: Clearly an accomplished writer here; knows how to draw us in, how to create believable characters, how to tackle difficult subject matters, knowing what to hold back while still packing a punch. They also achieve that most difficult of tasks, emotionally engaging the reader. A writer we will not doubt hear much more from in the future.

2nd Prize: Between The Times by Richard Buxton

Judge’s notes: Beautifully written. Transports us to another time and place, which is a great achievement, and has that too often elusive of things, a great ending.

3rd Prize: Satellite Presence by A.C. Koch

Judge’s notes: Quirky and funny. I especially enjoyed the sci-fi-fantasy mystery of it which reminded me of The Twilight Zone shows I loved and learned so much from.


2018 Flash Fiction Prize Winners

1st Prize: A Beige Spot by Manisha Khemka

Judge’s notes: From the most deceptively simple title and opening image possible, unfolds a breathless and breathtaking paragraph wholly made up of a list of modified nouns. Here the form serves the content and the reader is given a felt experience not unlike that of a steady, pounding heartbeat.  What Manisha Khemka does with so few words (and not a single complete sentence) is both impressive and deeply affecting. The last two lines are devastating. This is daring, but more importantly, very emotionally compelling flash fiction. I am in awe of this work.

2nd Prize: Old Woman Cooking Eggs, Diego Velázquez 1618 by Fiona J. Mackintosh

Judge’s notes: Inspired by the famous painting by Velázquez, Fiona J Mackintosh’s beautifully imagined story is told from two points of view: the “old” woman’s (old for her time) and her grandson’s. With lush prose, cinematic imagery, and a narrative scope that belies its brevity, this is accomplished and deeply moving flash fiction writing.

3rd Prize: Sticking Point by Sherry Morris

Judge’s notes: I fell in love with this family and the young boy narrating this story, as they sit together watching their favorite TV show, Magnum P.I. The writing here is so full of precise, evocative details and I was drawn in by the storytelling voice: “We are all bound by sweat, blood, love and the crucified Christ who watches over us from the wall behind our heads.” Morris made my heart ache for this boy, and hope more than anything that his version of Heaven, both for himself and for his family, is realized.

Highly Commended: Connor and His Amazing Ejector Boots by James Ellis

Judge’s notes: A tender, deeply moving story with a gorgeous ending. Pow!



The 2019 Prizes are now open for submissions.

Get info on the 2019 Short Story Prize here

Get info on the 2018 Flash Fiction Prize here


2018 Short Story Prize and Flash Fiction Prize shortlist

Drum roll…finally we have the shortlist. Thanks to all the writers on the longlist for their patience while Louise and I re-read the stories many times. We agreed on most of the stories below straight away but there were a few where we had to debate. Our final decision is below, and the names of the authors can now be revealed too. Congratulations to all on the shortlist below and well done to everyone who made the longlist too.

All of the following writers will receive a cash prize and have their story published in paperback and ebook by Retreat West Books.

The stories have now gone to the judges to read. Paul McVeigh will be choosing the top three for the short stories and Kathy Fish for the flash fictions. Results in February. This year’s prize will open in March and we have some great new judges lined up already.

2018 RW Short Story Prize Shortlist

  • Between The Times by Richard Buxton
  • Future Shock by Lorri Nicholson
  • I Visit My Dad Every Thursday by Dave Murray
  • Like A Dog by Rhys Timson
  • Something Else by Sophie Kirkwood
  • The Lost Letter by Lucy Duggan
  • The Stutter by Alexis Wolfe
  • The Tailor’s Shears by David Butler
  • Will You Go Out Tonight by Joanna Campbell
  • Satellite Presence by A.C. Koch

2018 RW Flash Fiction Prize Shortlist

  • A Beige Spot by Manisha Khemka
  • Broken Shackles At Her Feet by Dean Gessie
  • Burger Raid by David McVey
  • Connor And His Amazing Ejector Boots by James Ellis
  • Gold Band by Niamh McCabe
  • How to Friend Your Shadow by Frances Gapper
  • Let It Snow by Gwenda Major
  • Old Woman Cooking Eggs, Diego Valesquez 1618 by Fiona Mackintosh
  • Sticking Point by Sherry Morris
  • The Problem Is by Xanthi Barker


Best of luck to all of these writers for the final judging round.


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!

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.


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:


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.


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.