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.


Words for the Wild

I’m delighted to host a guest blog today from writers, Amanda Oosthuizen and Louise Taylor, who have recently launched the Words for the Wild project. They want your words for the website and a print anthology and I invited them here to tell us more….


These days it’s difficult to shout about the importance of the wild spaces in our world without coming up against charges of NIMBYism or, perhaps worse, being embraced as anti-immigration Little Englanders, looking up to pickle our “green and pleasant land” in aspic. We like to think we are neither.

Louise Taylor

Rather, we are two writers – Amanda Oosthuizen and Louise Taylor – who love the countryside and value it for what it offers to all of us, wherever we live. Of course, we need houses, and decent ones at that. However, all of us, wherever we live, need wild places. Not only do the trees and other green things that grow there oxygenate our air, they give us somewhere to wander, walk our dogs, ride our bikes, build dens, fly kites, learn to identify a bird by its song, and any one of hundreds of other life-affirming pursuits.

All of this is under threat in the urban area of Eastleigh, in Hampshire. One of its few remaining greenspaces is set to be devastated by an enormous house-building project, supported by the local Council in face of significant opposition, including from many well-known environmental organisations.

The 5,000 or so houses planned will not include any social housing and only 30% are to be affordable housing; in the

Amanda Oosthuizen

main, they will be executive homes, located far from any public transport. Inhabitants will need to use a network of small country lanes to access nearby Winchester and Southampton. Meanwhile, the homes themselves and the large new road that is to be built to feed into those little country lanes will devastate meadows, ancient woodland and parts of the River Itchen. The effects on wildlife are almost unimaginable. So, too, are the effects on human health and happiness.

It is the threat to this beautiful and precious area that has prompted us to set up Words for the Wild. Although we support the campaign against this particular development and will direct any funds generated towards it, we see our website as a space for writers to celebrate and share the wild spaces that are important to them, no matter where they are in the world. With this in mind, we welcome contributions from writers across the world.

We’re looking for poetry, short stories and flash fiction to post on the website and for a forthcoming print anthology. With no particular genre, form or style in mind, we are open to submissions of all kinds. The subject matter does not need to be nature or wild places, although of course it can be; all we are looking for is some acknowledgment of the natural world. Beyond that, we want to be surprised, delighted and transported. We don’t mind if you make us laugh, smile, sigh or even cry as long as you make us feel what you are feeling.

Our website has only been live since the New Year but already we have been thrilled and overwhelmed by the generosity of so many talented writers. However, we would like more! As we say on our website, our plan is to make a stir. We’d love it if as many of you as possible joined us.


Thanks for sharing your story behind the project, Amanda and Louise, and I look forward to reading more of the stories and poems you’re publishing.

If you’d like to get involved you can find out more on the website: http://wordsforthewild.co.uk/

You can also keep up to date with what’s going on through social media: https://www.facebook.com/WordsfortheWild/ and on Twitter @WordsforWild


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.

2016 RW Short Story and Flash Fiction Prize Shortlists

Many thanks again to everyone that entered their stories for the first RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize. After a lot of re-reading, we have decided on the shortlists and their stories are now going to the judges to read. The Short Story Prize is being judged by Vanessa Gebbie and the Flash Fiction Prize by David Gaffney.

Winners and all shortlisted writers will be presented with cash prizes and copies of the anthology at a launch event in the summer and details of the 2017 Prizes will be up on the website soon.

Congratulations to everyone that made the shortlist and longlist for these prizes. We thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your stories. The judges’ decisions and feedback will be announced in March.

RW Short Story Prize Shortlist

  • Black Dog by Julie Hayman
  • By the River Under the Banyan Tree by Alec Hutson
  • On Crosby Beach by Judith Wilson
  • Honeysuckle Happiness Hospice by Ian Tucker
  • Lobsterfest by Angelita Bradney
  • Robin (The Handle of a Child’s Bucket) by Diane Beeaff
  • Ten Things I Can Tell You About Abraham Lincoln by Veronica Bright
  • The Birth of Venus by Stephen Palmer
  • The Cottage on the Hill by Heather Walker
  • What Was Left by Joanna Campbell


RW Flash Fiction Prize Shortlist

  • Daisy 8112 by David John Griffin
  • Doolally Tap by Sarah Edghill
  • Eggshells by Oscar Lopez
  • Food of Love by Dan Brotzel
  • Front Cover Down by Shirley Golden
  • Giddy With It by Mandy Huggins
  • Gifted by Paul McDonald
  • In the Hospital by Jude Higgins
  • Keep Calm and Carry On by Emily Richards
  • Saturday Nights by Diane Simmons

Competition: Win a place at the Short Story Retreat

From June 17th to 21st, Paul McVeigh and I will be teaching short story writing at this amazing location on Chesil Beach, also home to the stunning cliffs pictured above.

There are just 6 spaces to join us at the Short Story Retreat and you could win one of them by entering this competition.

What does the prize include?

You get your own room for four nights, all food and drink, and three masterclasses during the retreat. The rest of the time you get to write, read, chat with other writers, walk on the beach, sleep, whatever you want to do! Travel isn’t included and it’s up to you to sort that out. Get the full info on the Short Story Retreat here.

How can you win it?

By writing a short story of course! A very short one. Write a flash fiction story up to 500 words starting with the sentence: “It wasn’t really great weather for the beach…

I look forward to reading your stories and maybe to retreating with you to the beach…

Competition T&Cs

  • £10 to enter
  • Everyone that enters will also get a discount of £15.00 on the booking fee if their story doesn’t win the competition and they still want to come
  • Stories must be written in English, your own original work and unpublished online and in print
  • You can enter as many times as you like as long as you pay the fee each time
  • Submit your stories through Submittable by 10pm (BST) on 10th April 2016
  • Winner will be announced on 22nd April 2016
  • The judge’s decision is final
  • By entering the competition you agree to attend the Short Story Retreat and have your story published on the Retreat West website
  • The writer of the winning story gets a free place at the Short Story Retreat and the prize is not transferable


Urbane and the Winners

You may have noticed that I’ve been very excited about Urbane Publications since signing with them. And it’s not just because they’re publishing my book! I’ve read several of the novels that have been published by them so far, some of which you can find out more about in the Year of Indie Debuts blog series, and it’s great to discover so many new and diverse voices.

That Urbane genuinely want to collaborate with authors, combined with Matthew’s never ending enthusiasm and decades of experience in the publishing industry, made me want to partner with him for the new annual story prizes, which I’m hoping to establish as an important competition on the annual circuit that gives writers good cash prizes (these will grow as the number of entries do) and also gets them published professionally.

So these are the reasons why I chose to partner with Urbane for the publication of the annual anthologies that will come out of the competition. But it’s not just about me so I asked Matthew why he chose to get involved as well…

Matthew, why did you choose to partner with Retreat West to publish the anthology of winning stories in the RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize?

Well, many reasons but mainly because Retreat West is rapidly becoming one of the leading resources for new and experienced writers, providing support, information and advice to a growing community of authors. Partnering with you offers Urbane a unique opportunity to engage with this vibrant and energetic community of writing talent.

What excites you about collaborating on the winners anthology?

Urbane is driven by positive collaboration, so to have this opportunity to work in partnership with the most talented authors in flash and short story fiction is wonderful. There’s nothing better than to be part of the creative writing process. And a competition also means that authors that might not have heard of Urbane will find us, and likewise I’ll find authors that I might not have come across otherwise.

What can the authors included in the anthology can expect from being published through your innovative press?

The winning authors will not only be ‘traditionally’ published in a high quality volume, but they will all be involved in the development of that book. Urbane brings every author to the heart of the publication process – it will be a team effort!

What does the market for short story anthologies look like now that the short form has undergone a resurgence and is very popular again?

Interestingly, anthologies seem to fare better commercially than single author collections, particularly in bookshops. Though we are yet to see the excitement and popularity of flash and short story fiction on digital channels truly translate to print copy success. This will be the catalyst!


Thanks for coming along, Matthew. I’m really excited about this too!

If you’d like to appear in the anthology and get your work read by leading writers, Vanessa Gebbie and David Gaffney, then you have until 30th September 2016 to enter the competitions. We all look forward to reading your work!


Get more info on how to enter the RW Short Story Prize and how to enter the RW Flash Fiction Prize.