QuickFic 29/04/16: The Winner

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Now then. What a charming first line that is, don’t you think? As lots of you knew, it’s of course the first line of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. But knowing you lot as we do, we were sure we could count on you to create all kinds of less homely moles – shout out to the last robot vacuum at the end of the world – and you did not disappoint. Another vintage crop of funny, silly, terrifying and beautiful flash fiction: well done, team.

Here are this week’s winners:

RUNNER-UP: Paul Jenkins

The Plan

Put on chemical suit. Drag body down cellar steps. Remove clothes from body. Place clothes in washing machine. Set to 40C. Remove any items from pockets and take upstairs to Sports Holdall A. Return to cellar. Place body on pre-arranged mats. Put mask on. Take axe to neck. Remove head. Place in black bag A. Remove individual limbs. Place in black bags B-E. If need to vomit, use bucket positioned under stairwell.

Put tail in black bag F. Take all black bags upstairs and place in Sports Holdalls B and C.

Return downstairs. Remove bucket if used and rinse. Remove mats to kitchen and same. Bleach cellar floor, walls and stairs. Leave floor to dry. Check again in 1 hour. Remove any remaining stains, sweep again, open cellar window to ventilate and close door.

Shower. Scrub thoroughly. Clean shower, check plughole. When dressed, take chemical suit downstairs and place in Sports Holdall C.

Revise notes for whereabouts last 24 hours. Test yourself. Check yesterday’s TV listings.

Take clothes from machine to tumble dryer. When dried, fold and pack into Sports Holdall A.

Take Rodentine and pipette from kitchen. Place in Sports Holdall A. Clean table, rinse sink.

Ring R., leave message, asking how he is. Sound calm, measured. Re-record until satisfied.

Walk to jetty, place all three sports holdalls beneath tarpaulin in stern.

Make tea, smoke cigarette. Check pockets for wallet, passport, keys. Put the cologne on, the one Badger loves. Wait by window for him.  

Destroy this note. Now.

WINNER: Carolyn O’Brien

Celia’s morning

Still kneeling, Celia sits back on her ankles to survey Mole’s work whilst he leans against the wardrobe, a tiny brush wedged in his paw.  Bending forward again, face-furrowed, Celia centres the clock on the living-room mantelpiece. Finally satisfied, she sweeps Mole up in the air and jostles him into the kitchen.

‘Time for a cup of tea?’  Mum says brightly.

Celia frowns.  She’s trying to stand Mole in the middle of the room, but his plastic feet aren’t quite even and she can never manage it.  She settles on propping him against the wooden dresser.

‘Is he having a break now?  Maybe he wants some tea?’

But Celia gently closes the right panel of the house.  The tidied rooms darken.   And now she closes the left panel, so that Mole, his nose sniffing the air above his blind eyes, is only just visible through the lattice-window.

‘Bye-bye Mr Mole.’ says Mum.

Meanwhile Celia has tottered into the kitchen and positioned her step-ladder immediately under the sink.  She climbs up, stretches over, teetering on one leg, to reach the tap.

‘Darling, you’re not dirty.’

She pumps the antibacterial soap onto her hands and rubs, swirling them over and over in the rush of water.

‘What shall we do now?’

Celia snaps off a piece of kitchen-roll and dries herself carefully.  Throwing away the paper, she walks past her mother, returns to the doll’s house and opens the doors.  She picks up Mole.

Her mother sighs and wrings her hands.

Congratulations, Paul and Carolyn! And thanks to everyone, as always. You fill us with a Spring-like joy.

See you next week!

QuickFic 29/04/16

Morning, QuickFic-ers!

Ready for a round of flash fiction fun?

We sure are.

Below is a prompt. It’s a first line, because we’ve not done a first line for a while. Anyway: you should go and look at that prompt, and then you should write a story, of 250 words or less, inspired by it. Send us that story, in the body of an email, to academy@faber.co.uk (include a word-count and a title) by 2:50 this very afternoon.

At 3:30 we’ll announce the winner and the winner will win books!

These books!

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Tasty.

Let’s have a look at that prompt, eh?

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Oooh.

See you back here at 3:30!

By entering our QuickFic writing competitions, you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. The winner will also get a chance to win a place on one of our Start to Write one day courses, because at the end of the year we’ll be choosing our favourite of all the winners – the champion of champions, basically.

For more creative writing exercises, click here.

QuickFic 22/04/16: The Winner

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Look at those cheeky little faces. When we hit the ‘Publish’ button on them this morning, we were struck by a sudden chill of misgiving. What fate would befall those poor mites in your terrifying, talented imagination-lands?

We just didn’t know.

But turns out we needn’t have worried. You actually turned out a whole bunch of beautiful, nostalgic stories – mostly melancholic, admittedly, but all very wonderful.

And here are the two most wonderful of all:

RUNNER-UP: Sharon Telfer

Rockpooling

“Look, Daddy, look!”

She strains upwards, on tiptoes, arm, fingers, whole body outstretched, willing him to see.

The black pebble gleams in her starfish hand.

“I found some jet.” She plants it in his palm.

“That’s not jet!” Her brother pulls at his sleeve, trying to get a better look. “It’s not, is it, Dad?”

“Well, it does look like jet.” Unlikely, he thinks, and too heavy. “Let’s see what else we can find.

They lean their long shadows over the pool. He takes his daughter’s hand. Her sea-wrinkled fingers curl round his like suckers. Last summer, he had held onto her brother as tightly. Now the boy crouches at the edge, old enough to balance on his own.

The green weed sways softly. A crab scuttles under the overhang. He names mussels for them. Barnacles. Sea squirts. They giggle at the words. Twice a day, he says, the waves come in and wash the pool clean. No one but them will ever see it just like this again.

He glances up. The tide has turned, sooner than he’d expected.

“I know what we should try to find now.” They look up, their faces like sea anemones, opening for what he will say next. “Mummy! And what was Mummy going to get?”

“Icecream!”

The boy is already away. Hoisting his daughter onto his shoulders, he strides after, calling warnings of seaweed and slippery rocks.

The pebble, drying now to grey, lies forgotten, as the tide creeps in behind them.

 

WINNER: Jude Higgins

Are We Nearly There?

You’re off to the seaside because you don’t know what else to do since he left. Sissy knows she shouldn’t ride in the boot with her beach ball but you won’t stop her. You’re just glad she blew the ball up herself. You refuse to take over that role as well.

All three kids look happy enough in the photograph. That’s a plus. It will be different when you get going. These days, they’re quiet in the car – even Finn, who used to sing all the time. You’ll keep checking the mirror and see him sucking his thumb, hear the girls playing Angry Birds on their iPads.

You’ll drive on and on through the mountains, past fields of lambs, past that stream where you had the picnic last year. Back then, he helped Finn catch a minnow, and pointed out the Red Kite gliding on a thermal. You’ll see a hawk yourself, but you won’t know its name. When you switch the radio on to blur your thoughts, Amy Winehouse will be singing Rehab. It always makes you think of him. Because the kids aren’t looking and asking, you’ll be the first to glimpse that line of darker blue on the horizon.

You’ll wonder if you’re nearly there. If you’ll ever arrive at a new place.

Wowza. Congratulations, Sharon and Jude! And thanks to everyone who entered. You were a delight as always.

Happy weekends, happy writing!

QuickFic 22/04/16

Ahhh. It’s Friday, which is a special day. It is the day of a new QuickFic prompt. And it’s also Nicci’s mum’s birthday! Happy birthday, Nicci’s mum!

Now. Back to that QuickFic thing. The prompt is at the bottom of this post, and if you already know the rules, you can skip on down there (pausing, of course, to admire the books up for grabs). We’ll see you later.

If you’re new to the game, it’s really simple. You just need to have a look at the prompt, and then you go away and write a story, of 250 words or less, inspired by it. Give that story a title and stick it in the body of an email (please include the wordcount, we’re no good with numbers) – then send that email to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm.

You might win these excellent books:

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Nice, right?

Okay, let’s go. Your prompt is served:

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See you back at 3:30, when we’ll announce the winner!

By entering our QuickFic writing competitions, you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. The winner will also get a chance to win a place on one of our Start to Write one day courses, because at the end of the year we’ll be choosing our favourite of all the winners – the champion of champions, basically.

For more creative writing exercises, click here.

QuickFic 15/04/16: The Winner

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We’ve been saving this one for a while. Mostly because we couldn’t help but wonder if it was a sequel to this – the perils of modern dating, eh?

Anyway, we knew you guys would come up with the goods. Murder and mischief abounded. It was great.

And because I’m alone in the office, with nobody around to stop me, this week we’re having three winners again.

RUNNER-UP: Lynda Clark

Like No Chickens I’ve Ever Seen

“That can’t be right,” she said. “Weigh them again.”

“I weighed ‘em four times! They don’t weigh nothing!”

“There must be some fault with the machine.”

“Ain’t no fault!” he said, taking the plucked bodies and laying them on the counter. “See?” He took one of his own capons from the refrigerated display case and dropped it onto the scales. The needle moved to register the weight. Eight pounds of plump bird. Maude’s ‘birds’ were scrawnier, but they weren’t that scrawny. Surely they should float off if they weighed nothing? How was it possible?

“Where did you get these anyway?” asked the butcher, eyes narrowing. “And why dint you weigh them where you bought them?”

Maude thought of the pentagram chalked on the floorboards of her flat, of the black candles guttering out, and the birds popping into the star’s centre like they’d been there all along, limp and lifeless. Sacrificial roosters in reverse, the end rather than the means. They looked almost like roosters, except for the albino-whiteness of their skin and the four legs rather than the customary two. She’d thought of them as plucked before, but there was no sign of them ever having feathers or fur, like they were born smooth and flawless. She wondered what heads had topped those severed necks in life. Best not to dwell on any of it, really.

“Never you mind,” she told him, stuffing them back into her bag.

There was good eating on those.

 

RUNNER-UP: Francesca Walsh

Feathers Extra

“That’s 18 cent a pound, Maud. It’ll come in under the half dollar. Will I wrap her up for you?”

“No, just wait a minute. You say its two pounds, right?”

“Two and a half pounds at 18 cent, that’s 45 cent. Entertaining tonight, Maud?”

“Mind your business, Joe Harris. Let me look at them scales again and don’t put the whole bird on, leave off the head and feet. I’m not payin’ for what I can’t use.”

“Have I ever duped you, Maud? Charged you for dog bones when I know darn well you don’t own a dog?”

“Have you something to hide, Joe Harris? Worried I’ll catch onto you? I’m no fool.”

“Yeah and you’re no spring chicken either so make up your mind. Do you want this bird or not?”

“Tough times Joe, I have to be sure I’m getting my due.”

“You’re married to the best provider in town but you’ll never get your due.”

“What’s that suppose’ to mean?”

 “Nothin’.”

“You’ve been actin’ strange a lot recently, Joe, I’m thinking of taking my business elsewhere. Somewhere they ain’t afraid to let you see the merchandise.”

“Where? Macy’s? Bloomingdales? This is Little Rock, Maud, there ain’t no Big Rock round here but take yer custom away. Suits me.”

“Show me that fowl again, I wanna make sure you ain’t crookin’ me.”

“Crookin’ you?”

“My mother was right, I never should’ve married you, Joe Harris. What time you home? We’re havin’ chicken.”  

 

WINNER: Carol Smart

Coq Au Vin

My heart sinks when I look up,  it’s Mrs Belushi again – the third time this week.   Surely she can’t need more meat?  Her sons all left home – no surprise there,  given the woman’s maddening ways, incessant talking, gesticulating, those hats she wears.

Mornings I get up early, look forward to my day.  I shower, dress,  give my bow tie one last tweak as I check my appearance in the mirror.  Off to start a new day in the shop.

It’s a neighbourhood shop.   Customers have been coming in regularly from the day my parents first opened up.   Always prided ourselves on cleanliness, good quality food, smart appearance, polite customer service.

Mrs Belushi upturns all that.  She fingers displays, she rustles packets, she speaks over other customers, vying for my attention.  She sullies my counters.  The woman invades my space!  The woman is a nuisance!

“Good morning ma’am, lovely day – what I can get you?”   I’m already gritting my teeth.

“Gee I’m thinking of chicken, special occasion chicken,” she squeaks.

I choose a good-looking bird, place it on the scales.  The woman is now leaning on my chopping board, peering over at the scales.  Is she without manners?  Is she so blind to my discomfort?

“Will that do for two?” 

“Certainly ma’am.”   My spirits rising; I’m already anticipating her departure.

“Well then,” she says coyly, “I’ll expect you at seven!”

 

Congratulations Lynda, Francesca and Carol! And thank you all for a most entertaining day.

Happy writing, happy weekends. Who’s having chicken for dinner?

 

QuickFic 15/04/16

Good morning, flash fiction fans!

We’re sorry we abandoned you last week. It was sort of unavoidable. But we’re back (again) with a fresh flash fiction prompt that’s all for you.

We’re very happy with this one. It’s quite weird.

So, to refresh all of our memories, the game is simple: Have a look at that prompt (it’s at the bottom of this post). Go away and write a story, of 250 words or less, inspired by it. Give that story a title and tell us the wordcount too, then stick it in an email (in the body, ideally) and send it to us at academy@faber.co.uk. Do all that by 2:50pm this very day, because that is the deadline.

At 3:30, we’ll announce the winner, who will win five lovely Faber books. Here they are:

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Cat card not included. That’s Ian’s.

Alright?

Alright.

Here it is then, this week’s quite weird QuickFic prompt:

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See you back here at 3:30!

By entering our QuickFic writing competitions, you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. The winner will also get a chance to win a place on one of our Start to Write one day courses, because at the end of the year we’ll be choosing our favourite of all the winners – the champion of champions, basically.

For more creative writing exercises, click here.

Introducing our Manuscript Assessment programme

It’s been a whirlwind week here at Academy HQ.

We’ve been absolutely thrilled to see three super-talented students become the talk of London Book Fair. First, Felicia Yap had the rights to her novel, The Day After Yesterday, snapped up at auction. Then Nick Clark Windo’s high concept thriller, The Feed, was pre-empted in a six-figure deal with Headline, twenty-four hours after it was submitted to them. And then Chloe Esposito’s thriller trilogy, Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know set the stands alight, selling in multiple territories for a seven figure sum. Go team!

Meanwhile, it’s finally time for us to tell you about something new for us, too. Because we’re expanding.

Introducing… our manuscript assessment programme.

full-report-graphicWe’ve been talking for a while now about offering manuscript assessment services. Since the Academy opened in 2009, our students have been asking about that next stage, once their course has finished and their novel is written. And we’re confident now that we’re in the best possible position to accompany them on that next part of their journey; to offer practical, supportive advice on editing and submitting their manuscripts. And to offer that same support to writers for whom, for whatever reason, a course just isn’t the right fit.

We’ll be offering three types of professional reader’s report, designed to provide assistance at each stage of a manuscript’s pre-publication life. There’s the How’s My Driving? report, for those writers who have an incomplete manuscript and want no-nonsense advice about whether it’s working or whether it’s worth having a rethink before they carry on with the rest. The Full Report is for those with a finished draft (whether its a first or a twentieth!) who are looking for a rigorous, comprehensive assessment – we think of it as our full MOT. And then for authors with a manuscript they’re ready to send to agents, there’s our Submission Review, offering feedback on a covering letter, synopsis and the first fifty pages of a manuscript.

There’s more information (a ton of it, actually) about the programme here – but just give us a call if you want to talk to a person about it all: 0207 927 3827. We’re ever so excited.

 

My Rocky Road to Publication

Five years after she began writing it, Laura Powell finally got a book deal for her debut novel, The Unforgotten. But weeks before publication, it all went wrong. Here she explains what happened next.

Writing The Unforgotten was the easy bit. I spewed out my first draft in six impatient months during a Faber Academy course. I edited it countless times, went on two writing retreats, edited it some more, got offers of representation from three literary agents, did two more rewrites, another edit. Then came those six glorious words from Norah, my wonderful agent at Curtis Brown: ‘It’s ready to send to publishers.’

It was spring 2014. I waited. And waited. At first there was some interest from a big publishing house, then it fizzled out. This, I’m told, is normal. Summer approached, dead time in the publishing industry. Rejections kept coming; each with kind accompanying notes, but rejections nonetheless. I braced myself that The Unforgotten would sit in my bottom drawer forever. Then, Hesperus, a four-woman band behind a clutch of respected novels, including Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, stepped forward. They offered a modest advance and we toasted the deal with cocktails at The Society Club in Soho.

Norah and I continued the celebrations into the early hours; afterwards I lurched into Burger King in Leicester Square on my own and woke with my face in a cheeseburger. I will always look back fondly on that naïve, thrilling night. Because shortly after, the hard work began – then it all went wrong.

First editing: There was a redraft. An edit. Another edit. A line edit. I was used to editing it by now and loved transforming woolly, flawed passages into something tight with editor, Martha. Next we brainstormed titles (as Hesperus didn’t like my working title, Dear Mister Gallagher) and settled on The Unforgotten, a happy compromise. We discussed blurbs, press release wording, I drew up lists of journalist contacts for publicity, drafted feature ideas to help market it.

14107 The Unforgotten CoverCover design was a sticking point. I hated Hesperus’ traditional idea of a painted scene of a loving couple on a beach. And I imagine them balking when they received my four-page moodboard of covers that better reflected the plot and better fitted, I felt, with the way Hesperus wanted to market the book (as a book club-type read). Weeks later they sent me the cover mock up – I could have cried with joy. It was better than anything I could have imagined.

Yet five months before the scheduled publication, the head of Hesperus resigned suddenly. A week later Norah called to say Martha had also left. I was confused she hadn’t told me herself. I reassured myself that the editing process was over and that Ruby, the wonderfully-friendly publicist, was still there. But days later Ruby emailed gently explaining that she was leaving too – at the end of next week. And the fourth employee had also resigned. No replacements had been found. None, as far as Ruby knew, were being sought.

I have never spoken to the owners of Hesperus but I understand they were businessmen based in Jordan who bought Hesperus as an investment years earlier, and had no background in publishing. I’m told they treated their staff poorly, left writers unpaid. I certainly never saw a penny from Hesperus. Jonas Jonasson was, I read, owed thousands of pounds in royalties. I wasn’t angry; I empathised with the team, was sad for them and for The Unforgotten. But I still thought it would be okay.

That night Norah and I brainstormed how to bring out a book without the backing of a publishing house. This was different to self-publishing. The wholesalers were lined up to sell it to shops (though they hadn’t been paid or lined anything up yet). We had the cover design (though the designer was also unpaid). The stamp of Hesperus was on the cover. We just didn’t have Hesperus.

Norah and I tasks divided between us. There were roughly 80 in total. I wrote them on A4 sheets of paper, stuck them to my bedroom wall and planned to work through methodically. This sounds simpler than it was. Some required copious effort, contacts and weeks of work for an experienced publishing team, never mind someone with a full-time job and no experience. Task number one, for example, was: ‘get a review quote from a novelist to put on the cover of The Unforgotten.’

I handwrote individual letters to 50 novelists asking for a cover quote. I wrote them on scented parchment. This, I thought, was a personal touch. On reflection it smacked of desperation and unprofessionalism. No one replied. Next I tried novelists I could approach directly; I called on my colleague who was a neighbour of Julian Barnes, my friend whose boss had a very distant connection with Sebastian Faulks. Again, no joy.

I had no personal contacts in the book world so I turned to friendly novelists I indirectly knew; Orange Prize winner Joanne Kavenna, whom I had once previously interviewed at her home and found marvelously warm and welcoming; wildly successful novelist Katie Fforde who was a good friend of a colleague’s mum; and Maggie Gee, who I respect enormously, whom Norah knew. All three agreed to read it – fortunately they enjoyed it and kindly offered quotes.

I was thrilled. On to task two. Only 78 to go…

I built my own website (which took weeks); listed local bookshops to approach; tracked down names of managers at my local branches of Waterstones and WHSmith; emailed book bloggers; sought out review editors at newspapers for book reviews; pitched articles to magazine features editors for further publicity; contacted local press; listed festivals to approach; radio stations to contact; awards to submit myself for. I even tracked down the right people at Amazon to send the blurb to. Meanwhile Norah was dealing with stockists, wholesalers, cover designer, contracts that are still all way beyond me, and brilliantly trying to keep it all jolly and merry – something I will always be so grateful for.

I also cold-called the publicity directors at several huge publishing houses to ask for help. They were generous in their sympathy and advice but no one gave me what I really, subconsciously wanted – someone to snap up the book and take away the burden. If it weren’t for Norah who shouldered the weight, I would have crumbled.

But eventually came the conversation neither of us wanted: it was too great a task for us to do alone without the backing, resources, few contacts and without the money needed. After all, who would pay the wholesalers? I agreed. It was April 2015. Publication was scheduled for July. By the end of the week, the lawyers at Curtis Brown had negotiated me out of the Hesperus contract. There was a sense of relief that the burden was taken away; but also crushing disappointment. Most of all I felt stupid for having prematurely celebrated, for thinking my book was ever good enough to be published.

Norah sent it out to publishers again. More rejections poured in. I gave up hope. I went to work. I ripped my to-do list off my bedroom walls. I cried a lot. Weeks passed. Then one Friday, as I was on a tight deadline in work, Norah called. ‘They want it,’ she squealed. ‘I’ve found you a publisher.’ The publishers were Freight Books, a tiny but brilliant and fiercely loyal team based in Glasgow. It was, on reflection, an even better fit than Hesperus.

Publication was delayed eight months – Norah, I could tell, was nervous telling me this but I didn’t care. I’d have waited three years if I had to. Finally I had a publisher. And finally, after even more hard work (another article in itself), The Unforgotten was released in March 2016.

I threw a huge launch party; usually I hate being the centre of attention but after so many obstacles, I (bizarrely) felt I owed it to the book. I would like to say that it hit me then, but I was numb. And I stayed numb, even when the kind reviews came out in The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, when I saw it for the first time on the table in Waterstones (on the table rubbing shoulders with Kazuo Ishirugo, my idol). I’d like to say I was delighted – my grandmothers both squealed and Mum bought all the copies, then made me sign them – but I was still in a blurry haze. Hopefully one of these days, it will sink in.

So what of the Hesperus experience? Someone once said it must have been valuable. ‘You learnt the real mechanics of publishing,’ they said. I should probably agree – but quite honestly I don’t. Anyone who has written a book knows it is emotionally draining and damned hard. To go through that, to be on the brink of birth, only to have it snatched back from you, is crushing. What it did make me is doubly grateful for my super agent, Norah, thankful that Freight believed in it, glad of my brilliantly supportive family… and in need of a long lie down – before I begin my next.

Headshot Laura PowellLaura Powell

Laura is a Features Commissioning Editor at the Daily Telegraph. She completed the six-month Writing a Novel course at the Faber Academy, tutored by Richard Skinner. Her debut novel, The Unforgotten, is out now (Freight Books, £8.99). Buy it here.

Read more about The Unforgotten on www.laurajaynepowell.com and follow Laura on Twitter.

QuickFic 01/04/16: The Winners

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So, after a short Easter break, we’re back. And we couldn’t wait to see what you fabulous flash-fiction fiends cooked up for us today.

Legs, it turns out. You cooked up legs.

We should have known, really.

To recap, that scenic little shot up there was our prompt, and we asked for 250 word stories inspired by it. Here are our winners:

RUNNER-UP: Michael Conley

That morning, the wrecked ship stood awkwardly at the shore, beached and immobile, like an old man who’d forgotten why he’d come into the kitchen.  Thick scribbles of smoke belched from its engines, the only blight on the otherwise cloudless sky of the blue bay.  Even from this distance, we could see the holes the rocks had torn into its hull.  The captain was already in jail, sleeping off his hangover.

Most of the cargo, five hundred mannequins ordered by the island’s only department store, had by now been accounted for.  The boxes had either remained intact belowdecks or slipped out to drift down to the seabed, unopened.  Only one had been damaged, spilling its contents across the bay in a bobbing melange of lifelike plastic arms, heads, legs and torsos.  The coastguard, irritable at having been woken early, had collected most of them with his speedboat within a few hours.

I found the last two while I was walking the dog.  Bruno saw them first, bounding up to them and then stopping with a high whine.  He ran back to me, tail between his legs. 

I stood over them and looked down at their vacant faces, the wide eyes staring past me into the searing dawn sun.  The tide moved their chests up and down, up and down, giving the illusion of breath.  They were both smiling, revealing slightly yellowing, ultra-realistic teeth.  Bruno yelped louder and pulled, hard, on the lead, in the opposite direction.

 

WINNER: Tim Roberts

Flotsam and Jetsam

“Two more Pa,” the girl shouts. She leans against a rock and waits for him to come out of the darkness.

“What are they?” His voice is behind her, but she knows these caves are full of tricks like that.

“One of each,” she says.

“Did you take anything from them?”

“Never Pa. Just like you told me, I took nothing.”

He appears from the back of the cave and steps towards her like a new born foal; it seems a miracle that his legs support him. When he reaches her, he stretches out a gaunt arm and strokes her cheek. Each breath he takes whistles as though he had a reed caught in his chest. “You’re a good girl,” he says.

“Why do they come here, Pa? Why won’t they leave us alone?”

“They come for our air,” he says, looking beyond her to the sky. He sees the signs of a coming storm. “I’ll build a raft and strap the bodies to it,” he whispers. “By tomorrow they will be gone.” 

She nods and smiles at him.

He brushes her hair behind her ears. He has no tears left for her. Someday soon he’ll have to show her how to carve the meat from the bone; how to cook it well so you can’t taste the diseased flesh. And on that day, he will reveal all he has kept from her: the lies he told himself so that they might survive.

 

Congratulations Michael and Tim! How many wins is that now, Tim??

And thanks so much to everyone who sent stories. It’s absolutely marvellous to be back.

QuickFic 01/04/16

We’re back!

We missed you. Hope you’ve been loading up on chocolate and inspiration…

In just a second, we’ll reveal this week’s QuickFic prompt. But seeing as it’s been a while, shall we remind ourselves how this whole thing works?

We’re about to show you a picture. You should look at that picture, muse with your Muse, and then write us a story, of 250 words or less, inspired by it. Send us that story to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm this very afternoon and not a moment later.

Then we’ll pick a winner, and we’ll publish that winner here, and that winner will win these very lovely books – look!:

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Tasty.

Sorted.

Here we are then. This week’s prompt:

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Ooooh.

Meet us back here this afternoon!

By entering our QuickFic writing competitions, you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. The winner will also get a chance to win a place on one of our Start to Write one day courses, because at the end of the year we’ll be choosing our favourite of all the winners – the champion of champions, basically.

For more creative writing exercises, click here.