Author Archives: Jade-Louisa Pepper

#QUICKFIC 16/08/2019: The Winner

Absolutely astounding writing landed in my inbox today. Note to self: more prompts involving circles. They are very inspiring. Here is the fabled prompt:

On to your runners up and winner!

Runner Up: Katherine Collins

 On all scales of magnification

The thing about fractals is that they contain their own kind of symmetry; the thing about creation myths is their struggle between form and disorder. The thing about this woman, in this moment, is that all her dreams and all her lives in all her centuries were exactly the same. Never did it occur to her to change one instant of her repeated life, one flicker of her echoed dreams, because nothing was constant, except her.

She always died in middle age; always of an illness beginning with the letter s: scirrhous, Spanish Flu, Swamp Fever, scarlatina, septicaemia. She never waited expectantly for news. She always told stories about fantastical coincidences, which she never recorded or wrote down. She never crinkled her eyes to try and see something just out of focus. She always dreamed of pollen-heavy insects with wings made from curved metal plates scored with minutely spaced lines diffracting the light into the full colour spectrum. She freed captive animals, believing that they possessed immortal souls, and never had a single jolt of déjà vu.

She was always born quickly and her eyes were a marvel, such an unusual hue; what spirits, witchcraft, Gods, rare genetic anomalies were responsible, they wondered. Never did they speculate for one moment that, by a random fluctuation in the chaos, she was operating, at ascending degrees of infinity, as the single, finite point in the whole complex logic they called the universe.

Runner Up: Thom Willis

May Queen in July

This hole is in your head. You have not imagined it, it is in your head. The line of gold bleeds light into your clear, clouded, pearlescent, missing, hidden, shaded, augmented eyes. Your head is the path. This is not in your mind, it is in your head. Look behind you and see how you ripple through our spaces.

Every time you breathe, you choose also not to and the ripples swim and darken, become deeper and more profound. More of you is gone, till the last of you winks out behind a broken wave. The golden thread dims. Please breathe. Your hesitation causes uncertainty. The wrong choice. You are not prepared for this, even as you have been shaped by the walk to reach this point.

The path you walk to each lighted spot is garlanded; honeysuckle and elderflower, juniper and pine, scents the you of now can follow to the next you. May Queen in July, Spring in November. Your path is scented with change and opportunity, follow to the previous you, along the golden line, through the darkening ripples, through the hole in your head.

Runner Up: Hetty Mosforth

Versailles

Theoretically this is a romantic trip. It has all the right components. Last night they dined out on red wine and a rich stew that is with her now, still sitting heavy on her stomach. They ate in the cooling evening air, a waiter squeezing past every few minutes, bearing plates between the crowded Seine-side tables. After dinner – when she was fugged with wine and jetlag – she’d been proposed too. Thankfully it had happened on a quiet street.

In front of her, the Hall of Mirrors runs on and on. She has been round once already, looking into every pane of glass, trying to find a married woman amongst her many reflections. Since the proposal, her fiancée has stayed close. In the Hall, their eyes met often, and he slipped his arms around her waist, camera bag hitting against her hip. She leaned into him, throat constricting.

All morning they have wandered the palace, taking in the gilt and ghost of excess. Most of their tour has involved being plugged in to an English language audio guide but for the Hall of Mirrors there is nothing. Visitors are left to appreciate it in their own time and on their own terms. With no dry, distracting information to mask her running thoughts, she has to consider the consequences of a yes. Everything extends away from her, mirrors and future at once. Catching her own eye, she tries to fathom a way out.

Winner: Lucy Grace

You

You said yellow was your favourite, it was sunny like my hair and you bought me a jumper, high-necked, long-sleeved, exactly the right type of yellow, and I bought a yellow cushion but not the right kind, and you threw it at me but only joking, it was only a cushion, it could be sent back, tomorrow.

You said I was fatter, too many lattes, and you made me small lunches to eat at my desk, I didn’t feel fatter but you had taken the long mirrors so I didn’t have to see myself, to suffer and upset myself, you were considering my feelings, just being kind.

You said I looked tired, my family were draining, they were too demanding, my sister especially, that they couldn’t be trusted to take care of me, only you cared properly, you knew me, really knew me, and we were both lucky to have each other, weren’t we?

You talked about children, said it’s safer when younger, that we should start trying right away. You couldn’t understand it, why it wasn’t working, you didn’t see the tiny pills I hid in my bag. You took me to doctors, arranged clinic visits, counted and mounted, sealing me in.

And I sit in this white room and pull at my yellow cuffs, bobbles falling like pollen balls, and when I look down I see a long trail of them, from here to there, and if they were breadcrumbs they would be more use.


Some might say picking four pieces is cheating, but to them I say that whittling is down that far was torturous. Big congratulations and all my thanks to everyone that submitted this week. Reading through every one of them was an absolute pleasure. Big congratulations to Katherine, Thom, Hetty and Lucy, this weeks champions.  

Bye until the next time!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 16/08/2019

Are we rolling? We’re rolling! Cheers to another Friday and another round of #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction competition. To those about to enter today’s round, I raise my large mug of coffee to you.

And how does one enter, you might be asking? If you’re not asking, scroll on down to see today’s prize and prompt. If you are asking, read on below

  • On Friday mornings, 9:50 AM GMT I give you the gift of a prompt. Images, playlists, writer’s quotes, you name it and we’ll prompt you with it.
  • Your task is to create a short story of 250 words or less inspired by that prompt.
  • Paste your piece of flash fiction into the body of an email. Make sure to include a title and your word count, with the subject line #QUICKFIC 16/08/2019
  • Send that email to academy@faber.co.uk no later than 2:50 pm GMT on the Friday afternoon.

I’ve been getting quite a few late entries lately that can’t be considered, so please please please do take note of the deadline: 2:50 pm GMT is your cut off, and not a single second over!

At 3:30 pm GMT we all return to the blog and Twitter. for the winners to be revealed. And what does your lucky winner get? Books!

Today you’re in with a shot of snagging Devotion by Madeline Stevens and Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More  by Stephen Hough. One fiction, one non-fiction, because variety is the spice of life. (The peaches will not ship well and are not included.)

 

Rolling right on, you ready for your prompt? Because here she is!

 

Annnnnnnnd go.

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win.

 

#QUICKFIC 02/08/2019: The Winner

Oh it is good to be back! You all welcomed the return of #QUICKFIC with wit and verve and beauty, as always. Here was your prompt:

Let’s see who are winners are, shall we?

Runner Up: Alison Drury

Tiddly winks is dangerous

Whiskey and Cleo, brother and sister, were fiercely competitive. Since they were kittens they had always tried to be the biggest and bravest and bring home gifts to show their hunting prowess.

Wiggly worms hung, feigning death, like drooping moustaches under pink noses. The pile of gifts curiously remained the same size as the worms burrowed under the lounge rug. Despite their best efforts, they couldn’t escape through the polished parquet flooring and were unceremoniously scooped up into Tupperware and released back into the wilds of suburbia.

Mini field mice played ball until they spotted their chance to scuttle through the skinniest of gaps, taking refuge under kitchen cupboards. The kittens took turns to be on sentry duty; hours and days, eager to pounce.

A bat in the bedroom. A Mum under the duvet. A naked Dad with a shoebox. Both squealing with ‘delight’ at their latest gift.

A frog squeals too; a tap on the back, a squeal and a hop. Tiddly winks for kittens the greatest of games. A tap on the back, a squeal and a hop … and disappears out of sight.

Weeks later a flat fried frog is released from the VHS player.

Runner Up: Amanda Jones

Lethal Creatures

On Monday, I painted a mermaid on the edge of the pool, giving her a razor-clam necklace. ‘You’re weird’ he said. I nodded, agreeing. It’s the best way. Then the day went on as normal. I showered in the evening, being careful with the tender bits.

Tuesday was Tanya’s day to go outside. I gave him my wrists for the handcuffs and he locked me to the usual radiator. She swam, splashing and giggling.

 On Wednesday, I painted a wolf with huge claws. ‘Why?’ he asked. ‘ I am painting a bestiary of lethal creatures’. I said. He nodded but I knew he didn’t understand. Then, same as Monday.  Went into town to the shop. Came back. Lay down when instructed. Showered. Went to bed.

 Thursday was Tanya’s day again. They went into town, ate ice-cream.

 On Friday, I painted a frog with big teeth. He raised an eyebrow. ‘All the better to eat you with,’ I said and he laughed, misunderstanding. Then, the usual thing.

 The shopkeeper asked why I don’t leave. ‘It’s complicated,’ I said. ‘And it will be over soon’. He nodded.

 Saturday – Tanya’s turn again. She swam. ‘Your paintings are odd,’ she said.

 It’s Sunday, I am painting a sprite, pistol tucked into her tunic. ‘That looks almost real’ he says, coming over. When he’s close, I shoot him like the man in the shop taught me.

 I unlock Tanya’s hands. She’s tearful, missing her ice-cream. ‘You’re mean,’ she says. I nod. 

Winner: Natasha Davies

A Child Again

“What are they painting?” I smiled, whispering to Mum.

We stood for a while looking at the rich creations unfurling before us.  I watched her eyes focusing, a moment of recognition, her mouth moving to shape a word. 

“Can you see what they are?”  I encouraged. 

She searched hard, she knew, but the word was gone, misplaced somewhere, taken by the disease.  She looked at me, all at once frightened, lost.  This woman, her skin lined with age, her hair grey with the loss of immunity from time.  A child again.  She focused hard on me, contemplating her hand intertwined with mine.  Then she scanned my face, nothing.

“Its Claire Mum, your daughter.” I smiled, but my eyes filled with tears.  It was too much. 

She nodded.  “Can we go back?  I’m cold.” 

“Ok Mum”.  I signaled ascent.  We made for the car, I bustled her in, strapped her seatbelt safely across her tiny frail frame.  “There we are.” I said keeping my tone light, sorrow disguised.  We drove in silence, Mum watching the road, wincing occasionally, the pain of a memory coming and then fading.  As we pulled in, I waved to the neighbour, “who’s that?” Mum asked conspiratorially.  “Clive Mum, from 52, we don’t like his new wife, remember?” 

“No we don’t” she murmured, leaning in to me.  “No better than she ought to be.”

We laughed together and made our way in. 

“Cup of tea” I called from the kitchen.

“Froggies” she said, “they were frogs”. 


Congratulations to Alison, Amanda and Natasha! Tune in again next week for another round.

Bye until then!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 02/08/2019

One week off and #QUICKFIC turns to poetry? I couldn’t believe it. Never fear though, for #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction competition is back and more prose focused than ever.

For those who have never played, or that got tempted in last week and found themselves burning with curiosity, here’s how this whole thing works:

  • On Friday mornings (at 9:50 am) I present to you a prompt. Images, playlists, writer’s quotes, you name it and we’ll prompt you with it.
  • Your task is to create a short story of 250 words or less inspired by that prompt.
  • Paste your story into the body of an email including a title and your word count, with the subject line #QUICKFIC 02/08/2019
  • Send that email to academy@faber.co.uk no later than 2:50 pm GMT on the Friday afternoon.

At 3:30 pm GMT we all return to the blog and Twitter. for the winners to be revealed. Easy enough!

That lucky winner gets my undying devotion, a place in our hall of fame and, most importantly, three books. This week we have some of Faber & Faber’s newest releases; Stefan Spjut’s Trolls, Sue Prideaux’s (award-winning!) biography of Nietzsche, I Am Dynamite! and Eoin McNamee’s The Vogue. 

 

And to be in with a shot of winning those, all you have to do is write me a little something based on this here prompt…

 

 

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win.

 

 

#QUICKFIC 19/07/2019: The Winner

A dreary day outside, but your #QUICKFIC pieces sure made up for it! Your prompt was this slightly odd looking contraption:

Let’s see what you made of it…

Runner Up: Zoya Afzal

The Pit

Sometimes she wishes she could dig a hole deep into the earth, build a little cove surrounded by wrought iron gates and hidden entrances, and spend the rest of her days out of reach. 

She dreams of existing only within the parameters of her own mind- flashes of colour blur into a murky brown haze, distorted voices shift into a distant buzz, and not a single pair of inquiring eyes fall upon her. She lies in her pit feeling invincible, invisible, victorious, defeated.  

Her brain terrifies her, it paralyses her. But this is what she wants, right? She wants to be free, she wants to be safe. She craves a moment, a lifetime of silence and security. Surrounded by nothingness. This makes sense, doesn’t it?

No. She hates the isolation. Every day she shuts herself further and further away, deeper within the suffocating loop of guarded walls and jagged barbed wires. Her pit is her nightmare, her haven, her inescapable prison. She wants to scoop out her brain, maybe try a new one- her mother has an innumerable amount of high heeled shoes perfectly tailored for different occasions, why can’t she have her own line of tailored brains? She wants a brain that doesn’t shut itself into crevices, that doesn’t seek comfort through isolation and misery. 

She lies in her pit, immobilised by fear, desperately wanting to throw herself into the hustle and bustle of life, of purpose, of happiness.

She wants to feel happy.

But she’s stuck. 

Runner Up: Catherine Oddy

One Afternoon

Bless! The little creature is running as fast as it can.

Of course speed, like size, is relative.

Poor dear — darting around the foliage — surely it must know that its orange flank is doing it no favours here.

Look! Despite appearing emotionally committed to escape, it’s keeping to the mud paths instead of hopping through the bushes to the road out of the park. It’s all the same to me but quite illogical, yes?

Now, I’ve found with these tiny beasts that panic both sears the wits and infuses the body with visible electricity — be it a tremor or shimmy or jolt. Of course we must be fair — being suddenly overwhelmed with an empty head and spasming limbs would make hatching an exit plan difficult for any prey. That said, you should watch for this unique dance next time you find one. It’s quite a thing when performed in your honour, if you can call it that.

And how predictable! When given the option, if there are any stairs within sprinting distance, they will always try to escape up them.

I can’t help but feel for it now that it realises there is nowhere else to go.

There. It’s laying down in submission. That was quick.

Please note that feasting like this is an art form of sorts. You must squint your eye and lean in slowly. Too much intense staring can spook it further and you can be left with sour meat. No one likes sour meat.

Watch me.

Winner: Julian Goode

Solitude

Solitude. That’s what he craved. Finding a space to be away from the world. Away from all the hectic madness.

He’d been seeking it out since he was a boy, climbing trees beyond his back garden. Venturing further when he could escape, when his parents were happy he was old enough to go into the hills by himself. There were some great places rejoiced in back then; and he’d been looking for similar ever since.

Anti-social? He wasn’t that. He loved people. Some people. His family; his closest friends from boarding school and university; his girlfriend, obviously. He was happy in and around them. But he often felt the need to get away, or for them to go away, so he could control his surroundings.

Starting work in London that hadn’t been easy. There were plenty of parks, woods and grasslands if you knew where to find them. But it was never quite the same as boyhood.

He’d jumped trains at weekends to every remote Home Counties beauty spot he could think of trying. In the end, wanderlust had got the better of him. But his backpacking plans didn’t feature the usual twentysomething hotspots. He sought a different extreme, a different path to euphoria.

And he’d stumbled upon it by accident, in a clearing behind his island hostel. An ornamental garden containing various bamboo structures, including a magnificent tower. Like a helter skelter without the slide. Lying there alone sky-staring was simply perfect. He’d finally found it.


Congratulations to Zoya, Catherine and Julian. Everyone that submitted, you have my eternal admiration and thanks for your brilliant pieces.

I’m on holiday next week, so no prompt. #QUICKFIC will be back again in August. Enjoy your week off!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 19/07/2019

The more things change, the more they stay the same as the saying goes! We’re all a change here as Faber Academy welcome some new team members on board, but you know what is reliable (ish) always here (most weeks) and eagerly awaiting some more pieces? That’s right, it’s #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction competition of wonder and delight.

New comers, please hold as I whip you through the rules of our game. Old hands, your prompt is ready and waiting down below, so keep on scrolling!

Step 1: Far below all the words and the blather is a prompt. Every Friday morning at 9:50 am, you’ll be presented with a new inspiring prompt.

Step 2: From that prompt, write a piece of flash fiction 250 words or less. 

Step 3: Once it’s perfect, paste your story into the body of an email. Include title and your word count alongside it. Use the subject line #QUICKFIC 19/07/2019 and send it to academy@faber.co.uk no later than 2:50 pm GMT on the Friday afternoon.

Step 4: Wait in a state of anxiety until 3:30 pm GMT when I reveal the winner here on the blog and on Twitter.

Hot off the presses, your prizes this week include the newly published The Stories You Tell by Kristen Lepionka, the Gordon Burn Prize shortlisted For the Good Times by David Keenan’ and Out of Egypt by André Aciman.

Should any of those take your fancy, step right this way for your prompt. Remember, 250 words to me by 2:50 pm.

And at last, the prompt to inspire you all…


By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win.

#QUICKFIC 12/07/2019: The Winner

I did not realise quite how cruel I was to taunt you all with the sight of sweets when you’d be writing so close to lunchtime. Sorry! My penance is definitely the endless loop of Friday I’m in Love that’s been running through my brain all day.

Here was your prompt!

And here are your winners:

Runner Up: Thom Willis

Sweetness Follows

The end is always the same. Inevitable. Everything broken. How do we begin to explain how it happens, every time? Sweetness cracked like eggshells, hope dimming on her face. Light palled by drawn curtains, summer alive and prowling at the edges of our experience. Birdsong filters through an open window and the realisation that it is late afternoon comes with it.

In the intruding haze, she thinks of a fairground. She cannot hear the roar of the rides nor the bass throb of the music, but she sees the lights whirl in the day-for-night room and smells the rich combinations of fried onions, burnt sugar candy floss, the deep warm scent of the enormous whirled lollipops that promise so much and deliver fragile sweetness and little more than furry teeth and sticky fingers. Other smells; oil, bent and snapped grass, people – their perfumes, their sweat. His sweat, her own.

He kisses her, eyes open. She stares at him. Awkwardly, his eyes close. Hers do not. He breathes hard, like a racehorse, settles down next to her. Her eyes still wide, she runs her hands distractedly across her face and rests her head on his chest. His heart beats the rhythm of the fairground. She breathes him in, sweat and rubber and a background of cracked leather seats. She rises and falls with his breath. His heartbeat slows to something more comfortable, and the crowds begin to drift from the fair. She sleeps, and dreams of sugar. 

Runner Up: Aliya Ali-Afzal

Sam

The floor started to shake. I gripped the nearest shelf, but it jerked away from me. Jars of jam crashed near my feet, like brittle water bombs, spattering my trainers red.

A siren blared.

‘Evacuate. Emergency!’

I’d been searching for Vanilla extract for Sam’s birthday cake. His school was ten minutes away. I took out my mobile. No signal. 

I pulled myself forwards on shelves that kept slipping out of my hands. I put each foot down hard, to grip the floor, like wading in the sea. I reached the milk aisle. It was white and wet. I could see the car park through the door.

Sam, Sam.

Six more aisles. I grabbed another metal edge. Someone pulled the sleeve of my t-shirt. I slipped. A man in a red jumper ran past, as if sprinting to the finishing line of a race.

I tried to get up. Pain sliced through me. I anchored my elbows into the floor, screaming through the pain. I couldn’t move. The strip lights danced on the ceiling. The milk seeped into the back of my jeans. 

Then, the shaking stopped.

‘Help!’ I shouted past the alarm that still rang out.

One last shudder, as if the earth exhaled. Above me, a broken jar of candy sticks trembled towards the edge of the shelf. It jumped. Others followed, small, large, glass, tin. I watched the shards rain down on me, floating as slow as snowflakes. 

I shut my eyes. All I could see, was Sam.

Winner: Jennifer Harvey

Lick

Mama says I shouldn’t have these thoughts.

‘Means the devil’s in your head,’ she says.

And I think of the devil. How he feels to me. Not that crazy idea of him people have, I know the devil that way, I know he’s bad news. But I know him my own way too. And he’s a shiver in my stomach, he’s a flutter in my throat, he’s a gasp of laughter I cannot control.

‘Lick,’ he said to me yesterday.

And I licked. A sweet, sugar rainbow, proffered with sticky fingers. The tang of imagined kisses.

‘Lick,’ he said to me.

And I licked. Caught a scent in the air, musky and ripe and dizzying. The smell of something awakening.

‘Lick,’ he said to me.

And I licked. Heard a growl, low and rumbling, like a wolf in the forest. The sound of danger.

And I could tell Mama things. All the places where he is. Not only in your head. He is more than a thought. He’s a taste, a smell, a sound, a force that lingers forever.

‘Lick,’ he says.

And I open my lips, flick my tongue and take the taste of him inside me again. 


Now we’re all craving candy. Congratulations to Thom, Aliya and Jennifer on their brilliant pieces. And congratulations to everyone that submitted this week. I never cease to be amazed by just how creative you can all get with a single prompt.

Now, off to the sunshine you all go! I’ll see you next week.

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 12/07/2019

It’s Friday
I’m in Love

with the sunshine and the good times and the #QUICKFICs that are going to be bought into this world today! For it’s 9:50 am, and we have work to do.

If you’ve joined in on this particular iteration of a flash fiction competition with us before, head on down to the prompt. If you’ve no idea what a #QUICKFIC is, have a quick read through the rules:

  • On Friday mornings (at 9:50 am) I present to you a prompt. Images, playlists, writer’s quotes, you name it and we’ll prompt you with it.
  • Your task is to create a short story of 250 words or less inspired by that prompt.
  • Paste your story into the body of an email including a title and your word count, with the subject line #QUICKFIC 12/07/2019
  • Send that email to academy@faber.co.uk no later than 2:50 pm GMT on the Friday afternoon.

After that your part is done. All you have to do is wait in a tense silence as read your pieces and pick a winner, revealed at 3:30 pm GMT both here and on Twitter.

AS we all know, no competition is complete without prizes! This week your winner receives copies of Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights (the stunning new cover version, nonetheless!) Gordon Burn’s Alma Cogan and Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister.

 

Prompt time? Prompt time.

 

 

Go!

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win.

#QUICKFIC 05/07/2019: The Winner

Runner Up: Natasha Davies

Then I’ll Know

“Move”

“Just move out of the way, Jesus fucking Christ”

Idiot.  I tap my watch.  Nothing. Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  It suddenly announces a fluorescent 17:38.  I’ve got twenty minutes. 

It will be fine.  My mantra.  Twenty minutes.  Three minutes from here to the tube.  Give or take the two minute wait on the platform.  Then a five minute tube ride, two minutes through the station and up the stairs and then no more than three minutes to the bridge.  It will be fine. 

I get to the platform.  I’ve missed one, but it will still be fine.  Tap.  Tap.  See?  Fine.  I stare at the board; the incoming train is three minutes away.  Still fine.  I get my phone out of my pocket, disrupting an ancient collection of receipts.  I scroll until I find the message.  “One last shot at this?  Meet me at our place?  18:00.  If you’re not there, then I guess I know”. 

The intense heat inside my body feels like its burning me.  I have to be there.  Whatever this emotion is, an exhilarating chase, plain stupidity, love?  I don’t know, but this time, this time, this is the time. 

And then it happens.  I see the illumination in the tunnel.  The crowd gets ready, bags picked up, newspapers tucked away.  The vibrations, the breeze consumes us.  This kid.  This kid just steps towards the line, passive, breathes in the rank darkness, and jumps.  Silence, a collective earthquake, and somebody screams in my head.  

Runner Up: Nathalie Kernot

Capture

She catches the very edge of his face, his cheek a fish-white flash in the corner of the frame. By the time she lowers her phone he’s almost gone, but she follows the flicker of his jacket in and out of the crowd. She should be keeping her distance. She isn’t.

It was the walk that she recognised, springy and delicate, his shoulders a little hunched. He passed so close she could have caught his hand. His fingers bitten red by the cold. His hair dark where it edged out from under his hat. The picture is blurred but she’ll remember his expression, his mouth drawn wide, not quite a smile, the skin around his mouth folding back like thin wings.

Now he rounds a corner and she surges after him, the warmth of strangers at her back. He’s been at work, she guesses. Under his coat his elbows are swollen with the folds of shirtsleeves, his wrists so thin and pale that for a moment, the bones look bare. If he works nearby, how many times have they passed in the crowd without her knowing? Her fingers flex on her phone. How many times have they touched?

As he reaches the bus stop he turns, almost to face her, and she pivots in turn, staring into the dark restaurant window at their sides. He looks up at the movement. In the reflection she can see the startled equine flare of his eyes, the exact shape and colour of her own.

Winner: Harriet Gillian 

Street Photography for Beginners

“Oh no.” Tony tutted. “Really? You’re going to go with that one?”

He and Barbara had been paired up at random. 

“Maybe.” Barbara said, examining the image she’d just taken.

Tony waved his wrist and pursed his lips. “Your funeral.”

Barbara frowned. Tony had taken his ten shots on the theme ‘street life’ the minute they’d left the classroom and stumbled across some world-weary street sellers. He’d thrust his camera right up in their faces while they batted him away like a boring mosquito. After all hope had faded that he might actually buy something, he was comically seen off by the shorter of the two women and chased through the crowd into the nearest shoe shop. Barbara had documented the moment for class, or the police, whichever came first. Either way, she was pleased with that shot.

“Chop chop, Babs.” Tony tapped his watch. 

She thought she might wallop him. 

A local man puffed some sweet smelling pipe smoke in their direction and Tony’s face contorted in disgust. Her shutter clicked.

“Shall we head over there?” Barbara pointed towards a man holding a small agitated monkey. 

Tony strode over like it was his idea, camera in one hand, fingers waggling, simply asking for trouble, on the other. 

Barbara raised her viewfinder and waited for the inevitable. It’s funny, she thought, that she’d come all the way to Asia, only to find her photographic muse was a middle-aged man from Dorking. 


I think we all know a Tony. And thank goodness for them, with their unintentionally inspiring ways! Congratulations to Nathalie, Natasha and Harriet and the warmest of thanks to everyone that submitted. It gets harder and harder to pick each week!

See you next time for more. Until then!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 05/07/2019

Good morning #QUICKFIC fans! We’re jumping in fast and furious this morning — no muss, no fuss, no waffle from me, just pure writing prompt goodness. Read on for your instructions if you need them, or just scroll down to the prompt if you’re a returning flash fiction aficionado.

Rules! We keep it simple: you are going to see a prompt at the bottom of the page, from which we ask you to get inspired. Channelling the emotions and pure writing power that prompt inspires in you we ask for:

  1. A piece of flash fiction 250 words or less. Short and sweet!
  2. Your work to be given a title, copy and pasted into the body of an email with a line giving me the wordcount
  3. Send it to academy@faber.co.uk with the subject line #QUICKFIC 05/07/2019 no later than 2:50 pm GMT 

Then you’re done! My duty and privileged is to read through your work and pick a winner, revealed at 3:30 pm GMT both here and on Twitter.

Your winner gets these brand spanking newly released books: Graham Farmelo‘s The Universe Speaks in Numbers, Shiv Malik’s The Messenger and Joanna Kavenna’s Zed.

 

Ready? Here’s your prompt, and goooooooo:

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win.