The 2016 RW Short Story Prize & RW Flash Fiction Prize Winners

Many thanks to Vanessa Gebbie and David Gaffney for judging the 2016 Prizes. Congratulations again to all writers that made the long and shortlists. The final decisions have been made and the winners are detailed below.

All shortlisted and winning stories will be published in the anthology and presented with their copy and cash prize at a celebratory launch event later this year. Retreat West is launching its own small press, Alerion Books, which will publish the anthology and we also hope to open to fiction submissions in 2018 too. More info on that to come soon!

The winning stories that will appear in the first publication by Alerion Books are…

The RW Short Story Prize Winners

Judge: Vanessa Gebbie

First Prize: On Crosby Beach by Judith Wilson

Vanessa said: I’d like to award First Prize to the haunting story ‘On Crosby Beach’. I found myself coming back to this atmospheric piece time and time again, seeing something different in it each time I re-read. It is a story about loss on several levels, about loss of innocence, about living with guilt which will not leave, and about an attempt at resolution and atonement. Here, a woman has been haunted all her life by a death that happened on her watch when she was only a child herself. I enjoyed the voice, the wonderfully and chillingly evoked Crosby Beach, now the setting for an Anthony Gormley installation. I found a real poignancy in the actions of the main character as she quietly and without fuss returns a lost boy to the place where he died all those years ago, where he will no longer be alone thanks to the myriad Gormley statues. The story ends well, I think – it does not tie up all the ends – we are left not knowing if her attempt to find peace for herself, and for the lost child will succeed. The power is all in the attempt.

Second Prize: Honeysuckle Happiness Hospice by Ian Tucker

Vanessa said: Second place goes to ‘Honeysuckle Happiness Hospice’ A delight to find a funny story in the shortlist. This one is clever, it is pacy, laugh out loud funny, and written entirely in emails, documents and texts about a dying curmudgeonly uncle with four potential inheritors of his vast estate, and a nutty list of tasks to be completed before his death. This one really keeps you hanging on waiting for the next message! I felt I knew these people, all very different, scrambling for their inheritance – the story pulls me through at a rollicking pace as time is running out and tasks must be done or the four will forfeit their enormous inheritance. I wanted to know, right to the end, why this had been set up – and it is finally answered. Well executed. Will they do it, or won’t they – I was kept entertained and guessing until the final paragraph.

Third Prize: Ten Things I Can Tell You ABout Abraham Lincoln by Veronica Bright

Vanessa said: Third place goes to ‘Ten Things I Can Tell You About Abraham Lincoln’ A neat very short piece, proving you don’t need to use all the words available to tell a good story. I thought this was a great idea, with a school student as main character, balancing the need to focus on Abe Lincoln for homework with a contrasting duty -that of helping with her mother’s partner’s young children. Certainly, this is an example of making every word earn its place, and by the end, I felt I knew these characters and their lives better than those in some novels! The device of mirroring the facts about Abe Lincoln with a gradual reveal of the main character’s life worked extremely well. A snappily executed story with a good voice and believable characters.

Honorary Mention: By the River Under the Banyan Tree by Alec Hutson

Vanessa said: I’d like to give an honorary mention for the poignant ‘By the River Under the Banyan Tree’. An extremely relevant story, sadly, today – with a focus on people trafficking, and the sex trade. This one is about a young Cambodian girl used as a sex slave in the US, escaping her captors at Christmas. I thought the characters were well drawn, and that the scenes had been carefully and successfully crafted to elicit maximum emotion from the reader. It certainly punches above its weight.


The RW Flash Fiction Prize Winners

Judge: David Gaffney

First Prize: At the Hospital by Jude Higgins

David said: At The Hospital is an intimate and moving encounter between a young girl and her dying grandparent, and the way it focusses on the minutiae of the scene – the grape she is peeling for her granddad, the colour of his skin, the bird outside the window opening and closing its beak – create a emotionally powerful vignette. ‘The hairs on his chest are still black and wiry,’ she says and ‘a pulse ticks in his throat. I don’t like the way the grape trembles in my fingers. ‘ Its hard to end a scene like this but the author does it brilliantly with the stunning last line ‘I still don’t know how to put on the brakes.’

Second Prize: Keep Calm and Carry On by Emily Richards

David said: I chose this story despite its title which I have to admit repelled me rather than drew me in at first, but in the end, Keep Calm and Carry On is a really great piece. I like the accumulation of detail and pop culture references and the way different voices appear to be batting about in the character’s head like he is exploding with other people’s points of view and can’t find his own. The way that people reach for slogans and pat cliches to motivate them or to help them explain their own lives to themselves is a key anchor point of this piece hence the title, and I think it does it very well.

Third Prize: Giddy With It by Mandy Huggins

David said: We are in the nineteen seventies for my third choice and you can’t really go wrong with that can you? Lots of great texture about clothes and music and brands of the time and a really nice story tucked underneath all of this it about a band made up of two best friends that sort of existed and didn’t exist, all at the same time, like schrodinger’s cat. Giddy With It is a piece about regret and friendship and the difficulties we have keeping up with people, and also about the memories we have invented as well as recalled and way invention and recollection can sometime collide and form something entirely different.


Well done to all winners and shortlisted story writers.

We look forward to working with you to produce the anthology of your stories.

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