Author Archives: Faber Academy

A rose in bud - Faber Academy scholarship

Announcing… the Faber Academy scholarship

[Edit, 04.12.2017: full information about eligibility and how to apply is now available here.]

We are delighted to announce the new Faber Academy Scholarship starting in 2018.

Two free places a year on the flagship six-month Writing A Novel course will be awarded to writers from under-represented backgrounds whose voices might not otherwise be heard.

“This is a brilliant moment,” said Ian Ellard, head of Faber Academy. “It is absolutely vital to our literary culture that courses like Writing A Novel are accessible to as many people as possible, telling stories about the world as it really exists. I’m just really excited.”

To apply, prospective students will be asked to provide a synopsis of their proposed novel and a short letter explaining why it might go unwritten without the scholarship. Applications will then be anonymised before being sent to course tutors.

This announcement forms part of a broader initiative across Faber & Faber to address under-representation in the publishing industry. The new inclusivity scheme includes a 20-week internship for BAME candidates in association with Creative Access and outreach programmes in partnership with New Writing North, Arts Emergency and IntoUniversity.

For full information on eligibility criteria & how to apply, click here: The Faber Academy Scholarship

QuickFic Flash Writing Competition Winner! 12/02/16

It doesn’t matter how long we do this. It doesn’t matter how cheery the prompt, how Spring-like the weather, how chipper the readers. You always find the darkness.

Some folks in a Volks

Some folks in a Volks

We had death, we had demons, we had disasters. We had cracked smiles and stolen pooches and all manner of evils.

But we also had some brilliant, brilliant writing, so great job. Thanks to everyone who entered.

As every week, it was tough to decide, but we think we managed. Here they are, a winner and a runner up.

RUNNER UP: Simon Higgs


“That dog,” said the old man, holding the silver framed photograph in both hands, “That dog would chase anything. Sure, he’d chase a cat or a stick like any other mutt, but he’d chase cars too, and the silver train that ran across the plain past Omaha and up to Chicago. He’d hear that warning bell as the train approached and Pa would have to try and grab him, else he’d just set on after that train, never a hope in hell of catching it.
“We’d have to go out in the pickup along the side of the tracks, sometimes for miles. Eventually find him, in the shadow of a shed or a lone tree, worn out with running and that big old tongue of his hanging out. He was a bright enough animal, but he’d just do that same thing, over and over. Must have made him happy on some level I guess, but he sure never made it to Chicago.”
The old man put the photograph down beside him on the table, he looked at the time on his gold-plate carriage clock, then picked up the silver framed photograph again and held it in both hands.
“I remember the day this was taken.”

“Tell me about it.” She said for the fourth time that day.

He looked blankly at his daughter, failing to recognise her. “I can tell you about that dog young lady.” A smile spread across his face, “That dog would chase anything.”

WINNER: Simon P. Clark


The man is running, and he’s holding something. His shouts are muffled by traffic.  He tries to wave one-handed, struggling under the weight of whatever’s in his arms.

Jane squints to see better, turning to her husband.

‘Is that Vincent?’

‘Damn fool’s making a scene,’ he mutters. The car’s engine thrums to life.

‘He seems rather upset,’ says Jane.

‘The train leaves at eleven sharp.’

A hand on his arm. ‘Yes, honey, I know, but – ‘

‘He’s shouting something,’ says Danny. He stands up, resting a hand on Bumper. The dog’s tongue lolls and he shifts his weight.

A horn cuts through the air, a curse, the screech of brakes.

‘Good God, the man’s insufferable!’

‘What’s he shouting?’ says Jane. A thought strikes her: something else has happened.

‘Look, Daddy, he’s running through the cars!’

Danny laughs and waves to his uncle.

Vincent’s voice is raw with terror, his face shining and white.

‘Stop! Please! Get out!’

Jane shields her eyes from the sun. ‘What is he holding? Is that – what is that?’

Danny is still waving. ‘Hello!’ he shouts. Bumper growls and the air quivers.

‘Look!’ shouts Vincent, and he’s near enough now. ‘Look! It’s Bumper! Good God, it’s Bumper!’

The body is limp and awkward in his arms.

‘Not your dog!’ shouts Vincent, wild and mad. ‘That’s not your dog! Get out of the car!’

They turn to look, and already the thing is grinning, and changing, and opening its jaws, but there’s nowhere to run.


Brilliant stuff, right? Special mentions also go to Nicky Tate and Andy Vale.

Keep them coming – join us next week!

QuickFic 30/10/2015: ? The Winner ?

Ooooooooooh, well, if that wasn’t the spookiest 250-word flash fiction writing competition that happened today, I’d like to see a URL pointing towards one that was spookier.

As ever, you took the prompt and ran with it, often into a dingy forest-scape, sometimes across the ill-lit plains of the mind. And as always, it was tough to gouge the winners from the fleshy mass of entries, but we did, and we’re delighted with them. So without further ado, here they are.

Scary animal person teenager thingums holding hands

? Oooooooh! ?


RUNNER-UP: Finn Cotton

The Work Virus

‘Are you alright?’ asked my manager. He was standing in the doorway of the printing room with a sagging horse mask pulled right down over his face.

‘Mm hmm’ I said in response. The room was small, my back pushed up against the printer as it beeped and whirred, pages spitting out onto the tray beside me. I didn’t feel good. His silhouette was blurring at the edges near the ceiling and fading slightly. Chin forward, lying beside the printer, I managed to speak: ‘I need to go home.’

The printer shuddered, a fan spun somewhere nearby and the manager signalled reluctantly to a colleague beside the door. ‘The virus has taken its toll’, he said. I was the fourth member of staff so far – each one was found gibbering in a corner of a room somewhere, clutching a contract or a wad of papers, sweating into the air-conditioned office. He walked briskly out of the printing room to a window at the far side of the building for a gulp of fresh air.

Colleagues crowded round me with their masks moving in the office breeze, leaning in towards the printer, jostling for a better view. They laughed and pointed, drinking it all in. Every microscopic germ, I knew, was travelling around the room, passing through them all. Perhaps they would all fall sick, I thought. It wouldn’t take long. ‘I hope you all catch this’, I coughed, ‘you bastards’.

WINNER: Stephen Oliver


I found the moleman on the internet. He set the traps when I was out last week, then tonight at dusk he comes back to check them. But this guy whose job it is to kill moles, brings his young daughter along with him. The traps are buried underground, marked with sticks painted white at the top. These little white-tipped sticks are poking out of the ground all over the lawn and the little girl is running around to see if the traps have gone off. And she’s singing. Singing a nursery rhyme to herself as she checks for dead moles. When I go out again three moles in plastic bags hang from the bird feeder. The traps have been dug up and the girl’s running around with one of the white sticks tap tap tap. Just in the right place to set the mechanism off. The steel jaws snap shut and the whole thing leaps a few inches into the air. The moleman collects the traps and they get into their ancient estate car job done. I’m standing looking in the boot where all their paraphernalia is. And in the gloom I see a little girl’s foot in a white ballet pump poking out from under a dirty blanket. Then I see the moleman watching me in the rearview mirror. A jackdaw flaps overhead on the way to its roost and, when I look back down, the moleman is getting out of the car again.


Congratulations to our winners, and 1,000,000 thanks to everyone who entered. Come back next week for another, less terrifying flash writing competition.

QuickFic Writing Competition 11/09/2015: The Winners

Oh Autumn. Season of yellow fruitiness.
There's definitely a unicorn in there SOMEWHERE...Judging a writing competition – even a little one like QuickFic – can be quite a Zen thing. Passages of equal length, on an identical prompt, can take on a lulling, cosmic quality. Beautiful descriptions of lush forest. Warm evocations of the season, of the mists, of the poets and the flora and the ineluctable cruising on of time’s Corolla.

And THEN there’s a unicorn.

And THEN someone threatens to murder a weeing schoolchild.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun reading the entries, and a lot of trouble choosing between them, but choose I did, and here they are. Congratulations to both, and thanks to all – come back next week for more.

RUNNER UP: Magic, by Alexis J Reid

The villagers are coming. All flaming torches and pitchforks. How parochial. I’d expected more from them, I’d hoped for a little ingenuity from my oppressors. But no, here they come, chanting their inane chants and brandishing their poorly-spelled placards. Sigh.

‘Give us our forest back!’ Shouts a rotund, red-faced woman who I believe is the baker’s wife.
I open the shutters, looking down on the crowd below, trying to find a friendly face amongst the sneers and the booing.

‘But you have a forest. I just made it better. Look how beautiful the trees are,’ I say.

‘You made it autumn. It’s the 15th of March!’

‘Yes, but look at how pretty it all is. All of those reds and oranges.’

I can feel their hostility growing, they obviously don’t appreciate the aesthetic wonder of an autumnal display.

‘You’re supposed to help us, wizard, not plunge us into eternal winter.’

Autumn. I’ve plunged them into eternal autumn. Can’t these people get anything right?

‘We need summer to come! We need our crops!’

Always with the crops.

‘There will be a bounteous harvest,’ I shout, pleased with my own munificence.

‘We want summer!’

And they all take up the chant. Someone spits at my house, a little globule of silver spittle dribbling down my door.

Truth is, I can’t change it back. We’re stuck with it. An autumn that will last through the ages.

‘Better find your brooms, you’ll be sweeping up leaves forever,’ I shout. And then I run.

WINNER: Waldeinsamkeit by Anand Modha

She’d heard about the girls who were eaten by wolves. Wolves whose mouths grew bloody and their bellies fat on the gristle of hooded Year 7 children. However as the rows of trees marched away from her, she had no fear. In fact, she had no words to describe how she was feeling. If only she’d known German, as then she’d have a word. A word to describe the solitude of being surrounded, yet alone. Yet she’d bunked off her double language lesson to be in the woods right now, so she was doubly at a loss. She’d heard of murderers dragging corpses to the copses, and burying people, both alive and dead in the woods. Yet the sun streamed in at friendly angles, and birds chirruped in the branches high above her, and she found it impossible to be scared. Instead, she stretched out her arms so her hands brushed the trunks of the trees that were nearest. She span on the spot, and danced in that way you only do when you’re alone. Little did she know, that she truly was experiencing, and enjoying, waldeinsamkeit.

QuickFic 07/08/2015: The Winner

It doesn’t matter WHAT we do.

It doesn’t matter HOW summery and lovely and unimpeachably cheery we make the prompt, you still manage to find some darkness. Is it just something to do with writing competitions?

Look at this picture.

Apparently not.

Oh look, a 100% positive and lovely picture

Isn’t it charming? And extremely happy? And yet…

As ever, we had a lot of great entries to QuickFic this week, and as ever, judging was hard. But jeez, guys, come on, lighten up.

Anyway, here are the lauded entrants – two up-runners and a winner, all with very different approaches.

Runner Up: Crisa Cox
Set Fair

Things aren’t meant to fall from the sky. I mean things other than rain, sleet or snow (I correct myself automatically now, lest he get there first). There is something unnatural about seeing a black silhouette projected onto that bright blueness and about the speed with which it drops: both too fast and too slow at the same time.

We approached marriage cautiously, testing the idea out before committing and then, as he turned 40, bowing to the pressure to produce an heir (a girl would have been no good as his sister already had three). He did not want any more children: too much mess; too much chaos; too much interruption.

I wasn’t a very good mother: too indulgent; too impulsive; too idealistic. “But I only wanted”… He said that should be my epitaph. He hated it when I failed to think through the consequences of my actions. He hated having to pick up the pieces.

But I only wanted to re-create a childhood moment that now seemed so long ago: the lack of resistance against dusty feet, the saltiness on the upper lip, the bloody tang of the rust on the safety strap. The way you could look up and out and wave at the ants in the distance as your life hung by a metal thread.

It was all there as I had remembered: the primary colours, the heart in mouth and the shrieks of the fairground. I just hadn’t expected it to be so real.

Runner Up: Anstey Spraggan
The Chair-O-Plane-Door

Even as a child, Martin knew the portal was in the linimal seconds where the Chair-o-plane hit full swing, the pallid legs flew horizontal and excited squeals found an edge of fear. He knew he would be the keeper, like his father and his father before him. The portal was a last resort, a place of refuge. Not for sale.

It shared the characteristics of most portals hidden in fairgrounds – tiny coloured lights, tinny music and that twitch of dissolved chip fat on summer air. It is no coincidence that candy floss and magic smell the same.

It had the same Health and Safety restrictions; the height limit, the maximum weight of 18 stone. The fat Russian he’d shoved through the other day had certainly been over, but he hadn’t returned. Hadn’t come back for his money.

Martin’s grandfather had used the portal for smugglers before he’d disappeared. He remembered his own father hurrying people through in the war. In honest moments Martin remembered their frightened eyes and their religious scripts in undecipherable squiggles. No money changed hands for their safety.

‘You the bloke with the portal?’

Martin nodded. The man had the dead eyes of a killer and an envelope of cash.

He closed the bar over the man’s stomach.

‘And you,’ said a voice he couldn’t see but had imagined many times. ‘Get on the ride. Your time’s up.’

Above the Big Wheel two buzzards circled lazily on faux thermals from the engines that drove the vast cranks.

Winner: Jo Bradshaw
Those Poems On The Tube

We’ll know if it works because we’ll feel like heavenly bodies
Again you remember angelhood don’t you?

Yes but sorry I’m just
Catching your words on the wind there’s
A slight delay

Won’t it be nice to speak without vocal chords
Not have to shave or
Wear underpants

Or read those terrible poems on the tube

Yes those terrible poems on the tube they

Don’t scan at all

I smell fear and Head & Shoulders are you okay?

Phantom wings are searing my scapulae and also
I’m really going to miss


What do you think?

We’ll make it my love you’ll see
We’ll soar into the heavens arm in arm
Winged to the end
Let your belief lift you up

No you twat I will miss
Those chips from the pier
All melting crunch of malt

I hated those

Never mind are you
Ready to rock

I’ve forgotten how to fly

I’m letting go

We will ascend once more
Oh bugger it

Mind that seagull


Oh Lord.


Congratulations to Crisa, Anstey and Jo. And to everyone else, thanks so much for playing – and see you again next week!




QuickFic 23/07/2015: The Winner

That’s it! All done!

Congratulations to everyone who got their head round its being a Thursday, and sent us their QuickFic entries.

This was the prompt:


What are they? Shoes, yes. But what are they *really*?

We had lots of great submissions, and at least one perfect use of the word ‘aglet’.

Indeed, the entries were SO good, we’ve got two runners up. But there was one clear winner.

And here they are:

RUNNER-UP: Laura Pearson


When she came to collect her stuff, she left her favourite trainers behind. Battered but still potentially useful, they were me in shoe form.

Was it a message? Was she asking me to come after her, to kiss her feet and slip them on? Were there Cinderella connotations?

I slept with them next to me in bed for a week. The cat was furious. He’d never liked her. Every morning, I threw back the covers to gaze at them. I imagined her in them, which was weird, because she’d never come to bed in shoes. I was in a bad way. I can see that now.

I called her.


‘Oh…you left something here.’


‘Your red Converse.’

‘Oh, bin them.’

She hung up. I lay on the bed, phone in my hand, and didn’t move for over an hour. Eventually, the cat started nudging my feet, checking whether I was dead.

I put them outside, by the wall. I angled them a little, trying to make them say ‘take me’. I thought if they disappeared, it would help. In my corner of London, people will take anything. Old rolls of carpet, wooden chairs with missing legs, cracked toilet seats.

But day after day, I passed them on the way to work and on the way home. I’m pretty sure the cat pissed in them more than once. It didn’t stop me bringing them back inside a few weeks later.

We co-exist: me, the cat, the trainers. We get by.

RUNNER-UP: Paul Jenkins

Red Cons

Any amateur psychologist would trace the start of this collection to the death of your mother. Soon after the funeral, you came across a real find. A giant Perspex letter H, fallen from the side of a local factory. Impact font. You dragged it down the alleyway, crossed into the lane that your house backed onto. It was an effort, heaving the little rugby posts through the back gate.

In the winter you trained yourself to see these things before others. Lone gloves, lost scarves, a bus pass, a Madness cassette. Nothing as large as that H, but everything else just as precious.

Sometimes the finds felt wrong, but only for a second. An engagement ring in a swimming pool locker, a walking stick against a graveyard gate. The shed became a museum. You bought a padlock with a fiver you saw fall from a paper boy’s pocket on Christmas Eve.

You hadn’t told anyone about your collection. It was sacred to you, a secret from the world. When the first item appeared outside your back gate, you thought it a coincidence. A bucket and spade, the castle turrets still flecked with old sand.

Soon, other items appeared – a skipping rope, two bibles.

Then the knife.

Now you don’t want to go out. But the urge is so strong. What will be outside today?

You pull on your tattered red Converse, the hole in the right foot getting bigger. You pull at the gate and it already feels too late.

WINNER: Tim Roberts


“This is the last time, I promise.” I tell the store owner.

The old man groans and glances at the clock on the wall with his one good eye. “5 minutes, kid, then I’m closing.” He says. He runs through the options again, ticking each one off on his yellow, twig like fingers:

“Black is x-ray vision.”

“Green protects you from fire.”

“Red makes you irresistible.”

“Blue lets you walk on water.”

I tell him it has to be the red ones and, before I can change my mind, he snatches the £2.50 from from my open palm and throws my purchase into a creased paper bag.

“Make sure you don’t do anything stupid with them.” He says, as he ushers me out of the shop. I begin to tell him that I am going to use them to win over the girl of my dreams, but he doesn’t hear me over the clatter of his window shutters being pulled down. Then he is gone.

Monday morning, I walk into school ready for business. As I step through the corridors it feels like every pupil has assembled to point and laugh at my dirty, hole-ridden bright red boots. Everybody except Shelley, that is. She leans against a poster advertising the school disco, twirling her ginger curls, as she watches me pass. For the first time ever she has noticed my existence, and she offers me that cheeky smile; the one she reserves for all the cool kids.


Congratulations all three – but particularly to always-the-bridesmaid Tim Roberts on a crushing victory!

And to everyone who entered, thank you, and a very happy Friday. Tomorrow.

Click here to find all the winners of previous QuickFics, and all our other writing competitions.

Ricardo: A Story In Time

Ricardo the blue-footed booby

Meet Ricardo

So today instead of #QuickFic, we are doing something much sillier – we are writing a story together!

This chap is Ricardo. He’s a blue-footed booby on a mission, to publish his life’s work, 10 Rules Of Time Travel. Only two things stand in his way – the evil Gideon Eastcastle, Ricardo’s ex-life-partner & a big-time cormorant in the publishing industry; and the fact that Gideon has no thumbs, and no ready access to dictation software.

How will it play out? You decide! Join us on Twitter and use the hashtag #Ricardo to have your say!

Ricardo: A Story In Time

‘I will have had my revenge, Gideon!’ cried Ricardo. His cry filled the shed. It rebounded off the oaken minarets he’d bought in Isfahan in 1599, and off the synthetic feather from his great-great-grandson’s wing. It pinged off his new Dualit toaster, slid behind his iPod dock, and landed in the lap of Alan Sullivan, who barked paranoidly.

George the Guillemot put out a friendly wing.

‘Hey,’ she said. ‘Come on. So what if Gideon Eastcastle does publish 9 Rules Of Time Travel just to corner the market in bird-written time travel guides and crush your dreams..? I’m sure you’ll outsell him!’

‘No,’ said Alan. “I had this before. I did a YouTube about living with flippers and someone ripped me off and my ad revenue totally bombed. I never recovered. It was really, really, really bad.’

‘Not helping,’ said George.

‘It was terrible,’ said Alan. ‘Really bad.’

‘Look at me,’ said Ricardo. ‘I’m just a sad sack booby in a shed full of junk.’

‘Junk? Who’s junk? I’m not junk. Are you junk? You’re junk! Shut up!’ said Alan Sullivan.

With a sigh, Ricardo pum-pum-dum-bi-dun-dummed out of Skype and closed his laptop. ‘Who’s going to take time travel tips from a bird who can’t even fly?’

‘There are,’ said George dramatically, ‘other ways of flying than through the air. You may not be able to fly, Rick, but dammit, you can travel! Through time! Think about it!’

‘But I can’t go forward,’ said Ricardo. ‘You know that. The 10th rule states very clearly that no chronoflapter should ever, on any account, go forward in time.’

Right then, there was an almighty crash, and the ornate Venetian door of the shed smacked back against the wall.

And in stepped Ricardo.

From the future.

‘Why go forward,’ he said. ‘When I can come back?’

‘Who are you?’ said George.

‘It is I,’ said now-Ricardo and futuro-Ricardo, practically at the same time.

‘Woooooooooooah,’ said Alan.

‘Pleased to make my acquaintance’, future Ricardo announced, stepping forward and extending a wing in a crude approximation of a handshake. Sort of lodged under the other wing there was a sort of box.

‘Everything you need to know is in this box. Everything you do from now on, tracked and charted.’


‘Quiet, Alan.’

To be continued…


Deadline Day

Deadline Day | Faber Academy writing courses

Footballers rolling around on the floor like edited sentences.

Have you noticed a certain airborne charge? A certain franticity? A wibbliness of spirit in your colleagues & loved ones? Well, don’t panic. It’s just Deadline Day. And we all know what that means.

In Arsenal Town, and in the poachers’ huts of Queens Park and all through the City of Manchester United, men and women are perusing their manuscripts, editing a novel, looking for dead lines.

Dead lines? What dead lines?
My every idea is silver snowflake.

This is not the case. Every writer, however experienced, writes a dead line or two on occasion. Maybe you were tired. Maybe you listened to Capital FM in the shower, and the whining, repetitive, super-funky cadences of a pop song had caught their burrs on your brain-fur, causing you to pack a single paragraph with 12 five-word sentences. Maybe you couldn’t be arsed. Maybe you just wrote any old guff in the gap. “I’ll go back,” you said. Maybe you never went back.

Dead lines exist. Luckily, so does Deadline Day.

Why do they need to go?
Readers will forgive me my sins.

Deadline Day is about going back through your work and singing it to yourself – does the tune hold? Or does it burp sometimes? If your manuscript burps, you may have a dead line. What’s more, if it burps for you, it will surely burp for your reader, and there is nothing more likely to throw a friendly reader out of the world of your creation than a burp in the ear. You might be happy to burp in your own ear, but you should not burp in the ear of your reader. It’s impolite. Stop it.

But how? How can I ever be rid of them?
Dead lines haunt the living.

Sometimes it can feel like every sentence is a playing card in a tremulous house – one fat-fingered intervention and it’ll all come tumbling down. But don’t panic. Your #DeadlineDay brain is the same brain as the brain that wrote the dead line. Nothing has changed about these words just because they are now on the page. You just made a mistake before, is all. Plus, lines die all the time! That thing about the axolotl you thought was really resonant? It’s not! It’s guff! Get rid of it! No worries! If you see a dead line, get rid of it right now. Because you’re a better writer now than when you started – and you’ll be betterer again tomorrow.

What can I expect from my online writing course tutor?

A typical online writing course workstation

Your tutor is a vital element of your online writing course experience – but what will they be doing for you?

During your online course your tutors will work within the virtual classroom to:
  • Read your posts and monitor your progress via the forums most days.
  • Answer all queries about assignments posted to the forums within 24 hours.
  • Monitor the quality of peer-to-peer critiquing to ensure you all receive effective and useful feedback in each session.
  • Sum up every session’s discussions with a final post to each topic forum addressing general issues raised during the fortnight and your responses to assignments.
  • Offer you a one-to-one Skype or phone tutorial in Session 2 to discus your novel idea.
  • Provide around 10 minutes (about 1,500 words) of individual audio feedback on the opening of your novel and your developing voice in session 4.
  • Give individual written feedback on your research interests and questions on the publishing industry in Sessions 9 and 12.
  • Host at least five live web-chats at key points during the course. These are archived so that you can read online or download to read offline.
  • Answer specific queries about assignments by email.
  • Write a detailed final report of up to 2,000 words on your final submission.