Earth Themed Flash Competition Winners

Earth Themed Flash Competition Winners

Many thanks to all of the writers who entered the final themed flash competition of 2019; and to all of the shortlisted writers for their patience while I read and re-read the stories to make my decision. It was a tough one as there was so much to recommend about all of the stories on the shortlist. I’m really glad that we have guest judges for this year’s competition so that I don’t have to make these hard decisions for a while!

Huge congratulations to our winning writer and 2 runners-up. Your stories really stuck with me long after reading.


Winner: The Five Stages of Hopelessness by Louise Mangos

Why I chose it: I loved how the last line of this story completely changed it into something else, without it seeming like a punchline or an unnatural ending. That line gave me the chills then it made me laugh out loud. The use of language is gorgeous and the whole tone of it made it seem that this tale of the five stages of a relationship was heading into a familiar theme seen in flash. So I was really surprised by the last line, in a very good way.

Read it here


Runner-up: Ten Things I Have Learned From Being a Troglodyte by Ruth Brandt

Why I chose it: There are so many questions left unanswered in this story yet it has a feeling of completeness. There’s a real sense of mystery about who the narrator really is and what they’re doing in the cave. But despite the fact that they start and end the story alone there’s a sense that they are at peace with this life they have chosen. It does what great flash does and hints at a much bigger story.

Read it here


Runner-up: Terra by JC McKinley

Why I chose it: Gorgeous imagery and I felt swept and swirled away into the desert girl’s world and passion for all the things that make up the earth. There’s an epic feeling to this, making it seem much larger than it is, and as our planet falters under the weight of all that we take from it, this story had the feeling of a being a love song to our beleaguered home. One that left me filled with a feeling of hope.

Read it here



Our next themed flash competition closes on 29th March 2020 and is being judged by Gaynor Jones, who chose the theme of ABANDONED. So get writing and send us your stories to be in with a chance of seeing your work published on the website and winning cash prizes up to £400.

If you regularly enter our competitions, then check out out membership options which include multiple entries as part of the subscription fee.


Water Themed Flash Longlist

Water Themed Flash Competition Longlist

Thank you to everyone that entered the Water themed flash competition. We received 97 entries and the quality of writing was particularly strong this time, so an extra big well done to you!

Congratulations to the writers of the stories listed below for making the longlist. Judging is still anonymous so please don’t let us know which is your story if you see it here!

  1. Ask And The Sea Shall Answer
  2. Baptism
  3. Bath Man
  4. Between the Main Course and the Pudding
  5. Boiling Point
  6. Chickens Crossing Roads
  7. Climate Change
  8. Collecting
  9. Holiday
  10. If only it had been the Great Salt Lake
  11. Last Piece of the Puzzle
  12. Last Week of July
  13. Listening to the Water
  14. Mermaid
  15. Rinse and Repeat
  16. Sink or Swim
  17. Ten minutes and counting
  18. The Absolution
  19. The Box
  20. The Fairy Tale Ending
  21. The Falling Dusk
  22. The Mistake in the Weave
  23. The Oxbow Parenthesis
  24. The Shadow of Stained Glass
  25. Today Is Not That Day
  26. Unspoiled
  27. Water
  28. Your Anger

The shortlist will be announced later in November.

The deadline for the next quarterly flash comp (EARTH) is 29th December 2019. Winners get cash prizes and published on the website. Get all the info here.


Wind Themed Flash Longlist

Wind Themed Flash Competition Longlist

Thank you to everyone that entered the Wind themed flash competition. We have enjoyed reading the 81 entries!

Congratulations to the writers of the stories listed below for making the longlist. Judging is still anonymous so please don’t let us know which is your story if you see it here!

  1. Blowing My Mind Clear
  2. Catching his Breath
  3. Curfew
  4. Driftwood
  5. Dust Devil
  6. Emmylou, Patron Saint of Dirt-Poor Folks
  7. False Dawn
  8. I am a feather for each wind that blows
  9. If The Wind Was Your Lover
  10. Kite
  11. Out of the Storm
  12. The Nest
  13. The Perfect Word
  14. The Textures of the Wind
  15. Wayra
  16. Wind
  17. Wind Chimes
  18. You Don’t Know You’re Born
  19. You May Ask Yourself
  20. Zephyr Zefferelli


The shortlist will be announced soon.

The next theme is Water and the deadline is 29th September 2019. Winners get cash prizes and published on the website. Get all the info here.


Fire Themed Flash Longlist

Fire Themed Flash Competition Longlist

Many thanks to everyone that entered the last themed flash competition. We received 81 entries this time around and have enjoyed reading them all.

Many congratulations to the writers of the stories listed below for making the longlist. Judging is still anonymous so please don’t let us know which is your story if you see it here!

  1. A Fire In Drimnagh
  2. A Woman Burned
  3. All That Remains
  4. Come On Baby, Light My Fire
  5. Diversity
  6. Each Visit Goes Like This
  7. Fire Hazard
  8. Home
  9. Hunger
  10. In the Backyard
  11. Joey’s Final Flight
  12. Kindling
  13. Lay Down Your Arms
  14. Love In The Flames
  15. Master Of The Inferno
  16. Searching
  17. Smoke-Long Story
  18. The Burning
  19. The Burning
  20. The Fire Triangle
  21. The Forest For The Trees
  22. The Future Will Wait
  23. The Love Sonnets of Rossetti
  24. We Lit Fires
  25. Warm Hands
  26. Where Once Were Giants
  27. Yia Yia Burns Olive Leaves To Ward Off The Evil Eye


The shortlist will be announced soon.

The next theme is Wind and the deadline is 30th June 2019. Winners get cash prizes and published on the website. Get all the info here.


Milk Chocolate. Grapes. Earthworm.

Michael Loveday

I told myself it wasn’t my fault. I visited him as often as I could, trekking almost weekly through London down to East Sussex. Things were different in those days, my friends now insist, but even then a faint, familiar pain gnawed at my conscience. I brought him library books – bedraggled poetry anthologies – and found myself repeatedly ferrying slabs of milk chocolate, though I felt shamed – my offerings were so inadequate.


He tells me his name is Pewee. “With three Es,” he explains – a little apologetically. I’m standing in Highgate Cemetery at my brother’s grave, the tramp sitting crosslegged beside it. I’m clutching a bunch of white daffodils. All about us, headstones lean and topple, suffocated by dark green ivy and ringed by ferns bursting out of the undergrowth.


In retrospect, we should have noticed – seen the tremors before the construction collapsed. But changes came on imperceptibly. Always the black sheep, mum would say. He’d pour salt in our tea, stare and laugh manically. Back then, no one understood his disease. We left him out of family games; conversations danced in loops around him in the third person. He’d disappear for days. When he came home late at night we locked him out. We pushed and pushed, not realising he’d break.


The tramp loiters by the darkened archway bolstered by four fluted pillars. He says he doesn’t come here often. I haven’t asked him if he does – he just volunteers the fact with a kind of conspiratorial glance. I think he must be waiting for someone. I can’t see what lies beyond the arch, but I get the feeling it isn’t a velvet chaise longue with someone hand-feeding me grapes.


Each time we met, though my brother smiled in recognition, something within him seemed absent. The small room bore the atmosphere of a sealed confessional. I wished both of us would confess. My brother, his hurt; and me, my regret. Instead, the minutes ticked onward. Sometimes he drifted towards sleep. He looked peaceful then. I passed these moments gazing out of the window. Rows of vegetable boxes lined the hospital’s small garden, tended in hope of future reaping.


He keeps poking a nail file into his black candy-floss hair while scrutinizing his face in a mirror glued onto the reverse of an Oddbins loyalty card. An earthworm crawls in and out of the top pocket of his overcoat. He gathers it squirming in his hand and offers it to me – as if to eat. For one moment the ghost of my brother’s face wails in his features. He reaches out his other hand for mine, and – slowly, wordlessly – we waltz.

About the author: Michael Loveday’s flash fiction novella ‘Three Men on the Edge‘ is published by V. Press (2018) and his stories have appeared in journals such as Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine, Funny Bone: Flashing for Comic Relief, and the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2017. He helps to organise the UK Flash Fiction Festival, and is judging the 2019 Bath Novella-in-Flash Award.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, please leave a comment below letting the author know.


Winners of the Reunion themed flash competition

Themed Flash Competition: Reunion Winners

I’ve been reading the shortlist over and over again on different days, at different times, when I’m in different moods, seeing so much in all of them that made me dither over the runners-up repeatedly. But my top spot was never in any doubt from the very first reading. To all writers on the shortlist, well done. I hope to read more of your work soon.

Winner: Milk Chocolate. Grapes. Earthworm. by Michael Loveday

Why I chose it: This is stunning writing in a story that is both surreal and strange. It feels like a whole lifetime has been captured in these short, disjointed scenes yet it never feels like it is trying to do too much, which is so hard to pull off in flash. And the last line was so unexpected yet ends the story perfectly.

Read it here


Runner Up: Do You Remember Me? by Nancy Ludmerer

Why I chose it: I loved how the theme was played with here to reveal that the narrator no longer knew who she was after meeting up with an old college friend many years later. Words used skilfully to draw stark contrasts between who they had been and who they were now without it seeming like that’s what was happening. Clever stuff.

Read it here


Runner Up: Agape by Fiona Mackintosh

Why I chose it: Again, loved how the theme was used here to reflect a relationship gone awry. I was left questioning how long things had been like it and the atmosphere and descriptive writing is beautiful, cleverly foreshadowing what is to come.

Read it here



Congratulations to our winners.

You can see the shortlist for this competition here; and the longlist here. The blogs have now been updated with the author’s names.


There’s still almost a month to get your flash stories in for the next themed flash comp and be in with a chance of winning up to £400 and getting your story published on the website. The theme is Protest and the deadline is 30th September.

Our Retreat West Author Members get entry to the comps included as part of their benefits package, as well as a lots of other great stuff.

We hope to read your work soon!