QuickFic 23/09/16: The Winner


We did something a bit different today. We asked for QuickFic stories inspired by a randomly-selected Wikipedia article, which happened to be about Sverre Farstad, a Norwegian speed skater and Olympic gold medallist.

RUNNER-UP: Anne Petrie

Speed Skating

‘You’re skating on thin ice, Lou. You’ll be in deep trouble if you carry on like this.’

I can’t stop, though I hear the creaking and cracking beneath my feet. There is too much still to do.

‘I must,’ I tell her. ‘Only today. I’ll stop tomorrow.’

‘You said that yesterday and…’

‘I know, but this time I mean it.’

I look down. The ice is fragile, translucent, beneath it a fathomless depth of numbing cold where nothing can be alive. Down there the dead dwell in chilly passivity. I shiver and wrap my arms around myself, but still I tremble. I want to sleep, to but I must not. You die if you sleep, and there is so much to do, so very much to do.

‘The usual, love?’ the man says. He takes my money and hands over the wrap. I snort, wait. The shakes start to subside, the weariness recedes, the fragile ice thickens. Now I can skate. I can spin and spiral and flip and fly and the dark abyss of the dead will not claim me.


WINNER: Sharon Telfer


He keeps the blades sharp, the leather supple. Harder to keep his body in shape. The muscles in his legs are softening, that crouching balance tipping to one side.

The occupiers have forbidden skating. They seek to crack those they have conquered, shatter these people of the ice. He teaches other sports, gymnastics, football, wrestling: games of softness, the body’s rounded warmth. He trains his players to bend, to twist, to clutch. He yearns for the cold solidity of the ice.

Other men have gone into the mountains. They move on the enemy through the winter’s dark shrouded like ghosts bearing the white touch of death. Boys he was at school with, men he used to see in church. He has been sounded out, careful conversations started. He has pretended not to understand. Now people talk to him only of the weather.

He has a family to protect, he reasons, young children, his mother is frail. It is a shock to him, his fear. He has hurtled down the frozen river, the ice spitting in his face, the deadly water kept away by an inch of glass, his life balanced on a slither of silver speed. Now, overnight, terror has smothered him like a blizzard that leaves the morning world indistinct, uncertain, unfamiliar.

He takes down the skates down, runs his thumb across the edge. Whorls pattern his skin like lines traced in the ice. He wonders if this war will end in time.

Congratulations, Anne and Sharon! And thank you, everyone – there was some seriously special stuff sent in this week. It was beautiful.

Happy weekends! And we’ll see you again next week.

QuickFic 23/09/16


We’ve got a new kind of prompt for you today (another one! After all the playlist-inspired fun the other week!). This one has a background to it, so prepare yourself for a brief immersion in the mists of time.

A long time ago, when the Academy was just starting out and Ian and Nicci were also just beginning their Faber journey, they liked to get a bit competitive about writing. One day, Ian (then prone to wild flights of enthusiasm) decided to set a challenge. The challenge was this: the person who could write the best story using a random article from Wikipedia (with only three clicks of the ‘Random article’ button allowed) was officially the greatest and the smartest and the winner.

One of the stories was excellent, and one of them was… not written. On this basis (and probably others) Ian is the greatest and the smartest and the winner.

But the challenge was a good one, and so I’ve used it as inspiration for today’s QuickFic. I randomly generated three Wikipedia articles, and then I chose the best one as your prompt for today.

Here it is.


The rest of the rules are simple and the same as always. Read that article, have a think about how it might make a good story, and then write that story. It should be only 250 words or less, and when it’s done, you should send it, in the body of an email, to academy@faber.co.uk. Please include a title and a wordcount, and please make sure you send it by the deadline: 2:50pm.

Here’s what you might win:


Best get your skates on…

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 16/09/16: The Winner


RUNNER-UP: Laura Riley


Do I have my keys?

Yes, of course I do. I already checked. Twice. OK, nothing wrong with a final check. Yep, there they are.

Oh no the coffee machine… The warmer is still on. It’s on a timer Sarah, it will turn itself off eventually. Don’t worry about it. Oh no, wait. Am I thinking about the old machine? Maybe I should check the manual. Do I have time? Yes, it’s only 3 o’clock. I don’t have to be there for two hours. Where did I put the manual. Here it is. OK, great, it will turn itself off after thirty minutes.

Wait, that can’t be right. I had coffee over an hour ago. Why is it still on? I should just turn it off. OK, it’s off. The pot’s dirty now. Should I clean up? No, it’ll still be here when I get back. It’ll be fine.

What if it goes really well and he wants to come back here though? What if he’s really into cleanliness? What an awful first impression to make. No, I should clean the whole kitchen. It should sparkle.

What time is it now? Twenty past four. I said I’d be there at five. I’m running out of time. I can’t be late. How would that look? He’d know then. He’d realise how messy my life is. How could we move on from there? No, I can’t go out today. There’s not enough time. I’ll just cancel. Maybe tomorrow.

I’ll be ready tomorrow.


WINNER: Nathalie Kernot

The Salmon Run

The window bites cold at her fingers as she holds them to it, a long, still wave. He has reached the crossing, penguin-huddled with men in jeans, dark coats, peeking scrubs of hair. The sky a burnt blue, the sun violent on parked cars and windows and the pale faces of strangers, the grimy pavement bleached brilliant white under their feat. Her breath mists the glass, changes the weather. When it fades, he is on the other side of the street.

She is taking less with her than she expected. Her clothes, her makeup, some photographs, a hollow nest of space at the top of the bag. The inside of it still warm, this morning, when she put her chilled hand in to check. Its leather fine and smooth, an old cheek under her palm.

The rest of the house is dark behind her, the soft cushion of their things. A rug she doesn’t like. The chair he favours in the evenings, shying from her hand as it reaches to touch his hair. His piano, untouched. It presses her close to the window, lets her turn to watch him nearing the corner. 

He will call her mother, first. He will be alright.

He is too far to see properly, now, a little minnow, a silver flash in the sun. Maybe looking back at the house, maybe watching for her with his marble eyes, unchanged since he was first in her arms, slick and hot and newly born.  


Congratulations, Laura – and an extra big congratulations to Nathalie, for being our winner two weeks in a row! Outstanding.

See you all next week, you wonderful bunch of fiction fiends. May your weekends be word-filled.

QuickFic 16/09/16

Hello there.

Shall we do some writing?

We’ve got a brand new prompt for you at the bottom of the post, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

As always, we’re after stories of 250 words or less, inspired by the image below. We’d like those stories in the body of an email, and we’d especially like it if you could include a title and your wordcount. That would be tiptop.

Send us your story, by 2:50pm, to academy@faber.co.uk.

Hey, look at these books you could win!


Right, let’s take a look at this week’s prompt:


Who’s out there? What’s she thinking? Tell us: 250 words or less.

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 09/09/16: The Winner


RUNNER-UP: Jennifer Harvey


Tom dashes down the pier and I sprint after him.

‘Last one in’s a wimp!’ he cries.

I’m the faster runner, but he has a head start and I can only watch as he launches himself, arms akimbo, then hangs in the air like a bird, before hitting the water with a wild, triumphant whoop.

Earlier, we had watched the swans take off from the lake, the low thrum of their wings, strangely menacing, and at odds with the comical slap of their webbed feet as they gathered speed over the water.

Tom had stood so still as he watched them, awestruck. He’d never seen a swan take off before. Knew only their elegant, gliding forms. Those long necks.

But I know differently. I know that swans, for all their grace and beauty are not to be messed with. Neither am I.

So I do not jump. I dive into the water. Eyes open, arms straight, no splash as I enter. Just a slow, clean slide, deep into the green.

From below I look up and see Tom’s legs above me. I watch him hover and turn in circles. He is looking for me, wondering where I jumped. If I jumped.

And I rise, slowly. Creeping towards him, a pale arm reaching out to tug at his leg.

When I surface he is splashing. Frightened.

‘Damn it Addy!’

And I laugh and pull away.

‘Wimp!’ I cry.

And in the distance there’s a honk. The swans agreeing with me.


WINNER: Nathalie Kernot

The After Summer

He feels it at once, the thick muscled slap of the water, its pulsing tongue, its lips closing over his head. It’s dark and green and the cold a quick slice all along the edges of his skin. He kicks out unevenly, swimming as deep as he can until the swelling urgency is too much and he has to let go, whistles upright, breaks the surface. The seam of water at his chest is the coldest part, now, the breeze above it gentle and warm.

His cousin is closer to the dock, smaller than he is, paddling with little paw-hands, streams of her hair sectioning her face. It’s late, the sky melting yellow in the west, the green of the water reaching to meet it. The grown-ups stand like herons on the shore, fishing for lost shoes and bottles and sunglasses in the grass. He can see his father’s sister, her husband, his grandmother folded up small in her chair, maybe asleep, maybe watching him through the soft folds of skin around her eyes, the makeup that bleeds into her wrinkles. He waves, in case. 

The water around him is almost still, now, so that he can see the doubled sky, the wobbling edges of cloud. His family, smaller and smaller in the growing dark. His father is watching him, eyes in shadow, one hand clasped over the little egg-cup chair his mother always sat in.


Congratulations, Jennifer and Nathalie! And thanks to everyone.

See you next week!

QuickFic 09/09/16

A very good morning to you.

We’ve just about recovered from all the playlist fun last week, and we’re back with another QuickFic prompt. This one’s a photo, so you can fill your ears with whatever you fancy for the day.

A quick reminder of the rules, in case it’s your first time playing:

You’re about to see a prompt. We’d love you to write us a very short story, of 250 words or less, inspired by that prompt. You can send those stories, in the body of an email, to academy@faber.co.uk, and you should do so by 2:50 this very afternoon. No later please! Please also include a title and your wordcount.

There will be a winner, and that winner will win these books:


Right. Here we are then – this week’s prompt:


See you back here 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 02/09/16: The Winner

Well that was fun.

If you’re just joining us, this morning we asked for very short stories, of 250 words or less, inspired by that playlist up there. That playlist chosen by Eimear McBride to accompany her just published, deeply wonderful second novel, The Lesser Bohemians.

So many of you sent in so many brilliant stories — but after much discussion in the office, we’ve managed to choose our winner.

Also, we’re having two runners-up this week. Because we can.

RUNNER-UP: Bikram Sharma


I answer the phone in Norwich and am beside you in Bangalore, listening to you explain you are leaving, this time for good. You mistake my silence for disbelief and tell me about the packed duffel bag—your clothes rolled up and compressed tight so that you can carry as much of your life as possible. The rest will be for me to pick at, like a vulture and its nest of bones.

The table will be mine. Why would you want it after I slammed your head against its edge? Six stitches and a broken promise of ‘never again’.

The tea-tree-oil moisturiser will be mine. Its smell will always remind me of your calves, dotted red from mosquito bites.

The love letters will be mine. I will go through each one, marveling at how much ink I poured into you and you into me.

The carpet will be mine. Our first purchase together as a couple; our first commitment. Its seams will unravel and stitching fray, but I will keep it on the floor of my study, warming my feet on its worn surface.

Ninety-three days and I will return from my degree abroad to an apartment of dust. By then you will have severed ties, snipped kite strings, moved, disappeared, transformed into hushed whispers on friends’ lips. I will clutch at your possessions but crave most the empty spaces of your duffel bag. For only through your absence will I discover the meaning of ‘home’.


RUNNER-UP: Paul Jenkins

Unknown Pleasures

Twelve steps to the counter. Six days a week.

“Sex shop don’t open on the Sabbath, ma’am”, I say to an imaginary customer.

I’m almost there when I hear it land.

The shop’s called Unknown Pleasures. Opened by my uncle, before his accident. He asked me in hospital to mind the gaff.  Ten years later, I’m still here. I don’t know if that makes me sadder than the customers but I think that it might.

The girl came in wearing a Joy Division t-shirt.  But she didn’t turn and run. She pretended to browse awhile then walked up to the counter, cool as you like, and asks what the song playing is.

I‘ve been asked the worst things in the world. Never this.

I made a CD for the store, something appropriate for a dimly lit gateway to the fantasies of our grim clientele. Morphine, Tom Waits, Lee Hazelwood, stuff like that.

“Could you do me a copy?” she says in a voice that changes everything, seemingly indifferent to the novelty restraint gear between us.

“It’s just a job”, I want to say.

I hand over the CD. Mumbled something about a coffee sometime.

That was yesterday. Now there’s a tape on the doormat.

I scan the sleeve. Nice handwriting. I put the cassette on and wait.

A familiar organ refrain fills the room with beauty and hope. Loss and shame, our most regular customers, vanish from the store.

I flip the sign to Open, then to Closed.


WINNER: Justine Taylor

Do You Love Me

We smell of sweat, of cheap tequila; we smell medicinal.

Onstage Nick Cave punches the air and we throw our arms up high. More, we cry out, we want more. He sings of sex and death and love and death and desire and death. This is how we know we’re alive.

I want to take my medicine. I want to wash it down with something sweet.

He is our black-suited saviour. He preaches of our dark desires, he lays them bare. He is our saint. Saint Nick.

We run through the dark streets, rain fizzing off our skin; we are wired, we are electric. Street lamps burst in our wake. We are a blinding flash of light in the dark.

We throw open the windows. Our ears are full with music, our bodies beat to its rhythm. I lay you down, I stretch you out. Your body is as ripe as a peach, as bruised as fruit. I kiss you, I make it better. You taste pharmaceutical.

Our dark preacher stands in the shadows, his lips mouthing the words of the song ‘Do You Love Me’—

—until our bodies ring with it, chime with it. Until we cry it out. More, we want more.

Our light cannot stand the morning. We fade, we dissolve. There is only you and I, separate and distinct.

We say, see you later. We say, until next time.

We say goodbye.


Congratulations, Bikram, Paul and Justine! And thanks to everyone for their brilliant stories. This was fun. Let’s do it again some time.

In fact, let’s do it again next Friday – same time, same rules. New prompt.

A wonderful, word-filled weekend to you all.

QuickFic 02/09/16 – a special one!

Good morning, flash fiction friends.

We’ve got a quite special QuickFic for you today.

The first reason it’s so special is that it’s a celebration of this very wonderful book, published yesterday:


It’s a beauty, right? You can find out all about it here.

The other special thing is that for the very first time, today’s prompt isn’t a photo or a first line. It’s not even a song.

It’s a whole bunch of them.

Yep, we’re asking you to write a 250 word story inspired by this The Lesser Bohemians playlist, put together by Eimear McBride herself!

An important note on copyright here: it exists. And lyrics are its most expensive limb.

Please don’t use lyrics, because it means we can’t reprint your story and that means your story can’t win.

What we’re going for here is inspired by the playlist. A similar mood or a memory it might trigger or whatever. Just not the lyrics.

(Titles aren’t subject to copyright though. Go wild there.)

As always, you should send your stories to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm today, 2nd September. Please include a title and your wordcount.

To re-cap:

  • 250 words or less
  • Inspired by the playlist, but not plagiarising it
  • academy@faber.co.uk, by 2:50pm

The winner will win these excellent books:



See you back here at 3:30, when we’ll announce the winner – we can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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.