#QUICKFIC 02/11/2018

Remember remember, the 2nd November, when Jade-Louisa gave you all a new prompt…Yes, fresh off the heels of Halloween, we’ve got another themed edition of our #QUICKFIC flash fiction competition! This one is Bonfire Night themed. Or as I like to call it, Celebrating the Time a Crime was Narrowly Averted with Fire and Mayhem Night themed! The first is catchier, I’ll grant you that.

But before we get go to it, a rules refresher:

  • Use the prompt below to write a story of 250 words or less.
  • Pop the story into the body of an email, including the title and the word count, and send it to academy@faber.co.uk. Make sure it’s in the body of the email, not as a separate attached document!
  • Do all that by 2:50 pm 3 pm today

And if you do, you’re in with a shot of winning these criminally good books:

"Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D.James, "Fateful Mornings" by Tom Bouman and "Collusion" by Luke Harding -Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

And with that, here is your prompt: 

A shot of what we can assume is the very top of a bonfire set against a pitch black sky. The fire is spitting gold and orange sparks across the sky like a firework. The flame is so bright it lights up the bottom half of the image in a warm golden glow. -Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Bye until 3:30 pm! 

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 02/11/2018: The Winner

A shot of what we can assume is the very top of a bonfire set against a pitch black sky. The fire is spitting gold and orange sparks across the sky like a firework. The flame is so bright it lights up the bottom half of the image in a warm golden glow. -Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Runner Up: Susannah O’Brien

Cheese Slices and Car Parks

There were fireworks the first day she met him, although it’s an awful cliché to say so. Both students, they were working at the big Tesco in town. He was meant to be cutting cheese slices behind the Deli counter, and she was normally on Bakery, but that day, their respective supervisors sent them both to help with Seasonal. So there they met, selling Catherine Wheels and Roman Candles to middle-aged men who had over-promised their kids.

“Make sure to check for I.D., and give them this safety leaflet,” Joe, Deputy Manager (Events), said to them.

There was a brisk trade and although neither of them knew the first thing about fire safety, punters were only to happy to ask for their advice, hand over the cash and walk off with Rockets and Sparklers in one hand and Joe’s leaflet in the other.

She was working the late shift, but he’d been in since breakfast. At 6pm, her Long Break and his Finish collided in the car park. They stood together, holding mugs of tea from the Staff Room and watched as the sky became a shriek of purple swirls and green stars from the municipal show down the road.

“Remember, remember, the 5thof November,” she whispered as he kissed her there in the car park.

“We’ll never forget our anniversary,” he said, putting his hands into the pockets of her Tesco fleece and pulling her in.

It was just a shame that they had broken up by Christmas.

Runner Up: Mike Blakemore

Remember Remember

His faced burned but he held his position, too close for comfort but determined to savour this moment.

Eventually, his sister pulled him away, just as she had when the old man had been alive. This time her tug on his arm was gentle but many times she had grabbed him hard, trying to save him from himself.

His father had laughed then, just as he had when he had been the author of violence and no one had been able to stop him. Not the tiny children at his mercy and not their terrified mother.

His sister wasn’t laughing now and his own hysterical response sounded more like a cry of pain than anything resembling pleasure. But this would be closure; this would be the beginning of happier times.

Yes, it had been tasteless to dress the guy in his father’s clothes but he had never hesitated, vigorously screwing up pages of the newspaper the old man had hidden behind at breakfast and stuffing them into the moth-eaten suit. This was the uniform of respectability his father had worn to work each day, seating himself at the desk where he would proudly point towards a family photograph when colleagues asked after his kids.

The guy was all but burned now and there was just one act left to perform.

He tipped his father’s ashes into the orange flames; a second cremation because burning him once had not been enough.

Winner: Laura Riley

Penny For the Guy

It all happened so quickly — at least the beginning did. A spark of an idea I couldn’t quite shake.

The car was leaking diesel again. A sticky pool growing larger each day. I knew I couldn’t collect it, that would certainly arouse suspicion, but I could still use it. A dab here, a drip there, only enough to appear accidental of course. He’d been sniffling all week, perhaps he wouldn’t notice the smell of a blot or two on his trainers or the edge of his jeans.

He’d already decided that we’d attend the Bonfire party at the crappy pub down the road. On arrival, I saw no evidence of safety precautions. If I was lucky, this could work.

I couldn’t leave him. He knew that. We barely had enough combined, what life would I have alone. Alive, we both had share of an empty pot; but if one of us was to die, our life insurance would fill it right up.

I’m not sure what I thought would happen — but I never imagined that a small child, afraid of the sparkler a parent had clasped in their hand, would finish the job for me. Loosening their grip, they let the glowing stick fall beside my husband’s shoe. In an instant the gathered crowd froze as fire took its natural devastating form. It licked at the sides of my husband, until he was just an effigy of a man, his screams in harmony with the wailing Catherine Wheels above.

No firework display or bonfire could hold a (Roman) candle to you lovely #QUICKFIC writers. Many congratulations to Susannah, Mike and Laura — three different but wonderful spins on this week’s prompt picture. Much like how no two Catherine Wheels will spin the same, yet all look beautiful.

We’ll be back next week at 9:50 am with another prompt, minus my bad attempts at making fireworks based jokes.

Until then!

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

#QUICKFIC 26/10/2018: The Winner

Runner Up: Thea Oxbury

In-Between Time, or The Pumpkin Princess

The magazine had provided instructions: Pumpkin Perfection: A Fabulous Festive Face in Ten Easy Slices.

Alice had wanted to practice alone, master the technique before she sat down with the children, but there’d not been time. When was there ever?

Still, she’d made the initial incisions herself: stalk handled discs trepanned from each gourd’s pale crown. Then, her half-hearted attempt to convey the magazine’s primary instructions to Jessica and Rory: a single, crescent-shaped slash to map the smile, carefully placed, mirroring chevrons to plant a suggestion of laughing eyes.

Too late. Rory digs a fist into the pale hollow. Jessica grabs the potato knife, hazel eyes glinting keenly as its sturdy blade. Alice remembers the overalls she’d set aside, but forgotten to usher the pair into. And then a slew of realisations: tomorrow’s deadline for the committee’s report, her stepfather’s birthday (yesterday!), her overdue response to the neighbour’s planning application.

The boy licks sinewy pulp from his knuckles. (Raw pumpkin? Toxic?) The girl incants, knife gashing gaping sockets into a hollow, vegetable skull.

Samhain, remembers Alice, the in-between day, neither last year, this year, nor the next. Outside time itself. Souls roam and riot as they will.

Silently, she steps back from the table. Her children oblivious, she unlatches the garden gate, paces past the house, out, out, onto the windy road, towards the trees, the clatter and clamour, the raging in-between time, no time, the howling, boundless freedom of the celebration of All Souls. Alice walks and then runs

Runner Up: Thom Willis

The King’s Promise

The Pumpkin King was wrong.

He made the same speech every October, as his subjects grew ripely orange in mist-laid fields. He meant it to inspire them, to give them hope in their futures, to push them on to greater things. He spoke in good faith. He was wrong.

He told of transformation, of becoming. How the destiny of pumpkind was to be the jackolantern, how the fierce light would burn from all of them, how it would push the shadows back into their corners, how they were, for one night, the stars come to ground.

He told the stories humans tell, of headless horsemen with guardian lanterns, he told rousing jokes about the traditions of the season, of tricks played and treats given. He delighted the rows and ranks of his fellows. They saw how important they were, they felt unstoppable.

The Pumpkin King was wrong.

Stacked high in cardboard troughs, the harvested pumpkins sat and awaited their ascension. Days passed. The terror of those at the bottom of the pile became feverish as the first blooms of decay appeared at their stembases. This was not their calling, this was death. 

The day approached. Those pumpkins with healthier skin, whose roundness and orange glow was undeniable, were taken. This was the it, the King’s promise fulfilled! Only for the chosen few, they realised now. Only the elect.

And for the elect, for the most pieous, the lighted ones, what horrors now awaited them.

The Winner: Sarah Nash

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

The woman thinks this is fun. She thinks she’s in charge. They never learn do they?

Grownups.

Susie’s got a knife. A very sharp knife.  Makes it easier.

The volunteers are so sweet – doing their bit for the poor little orphans. Then going back to their comfy homes and forgetting all about us.

Not today.

They never ask how we became orphans. Who taught us everything we know. Taught us how to fend for ourselves.

I’ve really perfected this kooky little boy bit. Tongue out’s particularly good, don’t you think?

Sometimes I’m afraid Susie’s going to waver – think it would be cosy to be NORMAL. Disgusting word. Sometimes I’m afraid she’ll crack and ask if we can go home with one of these losers. Play happy families.

No way.

There’s no such thing as a happy family.

Sometimes I have to give Susie a pep talk. At least she’s been perfecting her knife skills. One day she started talking about working in a restaurant when she grows up. Silly cow. I told her, people like us don’t grow up. They make sure of that.

It’s the moments just before I enjoy the most. The tension. The build-up. I feel myself growing calmer, happier, sunnier.

“What a dear little boy,” they say.

Any minute now I’ll give the word. No-one will even look up, not at first.

They don’t know she’s the one who taught us what to do when the time came.

Any minute now.

“Mummy!”

I didn’t know quite how many sinister interpretations you’d all manage to get out of that adorable scene up top, but I do know exactly who I’ll have to blame for the nightmares I’m going to be having for the next few weeks. Congratulations to Thea, Thom and Sarah and many, many thanks to everyone that sent in their spooky tales! I’ll be back next week — same time, same place. Less horrific prompt.

Until then!

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

#QUICKFIC 26/10/2018

Happy almost Halloween! In defiance of the calendar, we’ve (I’ve) been celebrating Halloween all week and so it is only right that today’s flash fiction competition prompt is spooky and terrifying and all things Halloween should be.

A quick reminder of the rules, before we begin.

You’re going to see a prompt. Using that prompt, we’d like you to write a short story of 250 words or less. Send your story in the body of an email, including the title and the wordcount, to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50 pm this afternoon. No later! The winner wins these books: 

'All My Puny Sorrows' by Miriam Toews, 'Nine Lessons' by Nicola Upson, 'All the Beautiful Lies' by Peter Swanson - Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Ready? Here you go: 

Image of a table outside of a wooden cabin. There are three people sitting at a table; two children and an adult. The young children both seem to be carving miniature pumpkins. The female child is using a knife to carve the inside of the pumpkin, while the boy has his hand inside his pumpkin, presumably about to pull out the innards. The boy is pulling a face of disgust while the adult is watching and laughing. Around the three are some fully carved pumpkins, other gourds and some pumpkin shaped food stuffs. Just visible behind one of the figures is a banner, partially obscured, reading Halloween - Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Terrifying, right?

Be back at 3:30!

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 19/10/2018: The Winner

an image of coffee being made and poured on a table, with a faint woodland scene in the background. There is a large, steaming coffee pot just visible to the left, with two glass mugs waiting for coffee to be poured in. Coffee beans litter the table, spilling out of a copper bowl. Two ceramic looking jugs containing mysterious contents wait on the right, while an hand pours freshly made coffee out of a small glass cafetiere and in to one of the glass mugs. - quickfic, flash fiction competition

Runner Up: Claire Bennett

Coffee with a Colleague

She’d not really slept the night before, thoughts of the morning running through her mind.

She supposed she couldn’t really refuse his invitation and on the face of it, it was only coffee with a colleague, coffee with a colleague. Her mind ran over and over the phrase like some sort of mantra to help keep her anxiety at bay. Weeks of private smiles in meetings, accidental run-ins in the kitchen, graduating to the forwarding on of corporate emails, adding in commentary and recommendations of favourite books and music.

It made her feel excited in a nervy way and try as she might to keep her composure, she found her mouth fixed with a permanent smile for hours afterwards. There was an undercurrent to it all though, and that was what had kept her from sleep. Why was she feeling this oh-so- recognisable feeling about a man 30 years her senior, a man she wouldn’t look at twice if he tried to catch her eye on the tube?

Runner Up: Jennifer Harvey

This Fantastic, Incomparable, Instagrammable Life

Here, let me show you how it’s done. It’s all in the polish and the presentation. Nothing is too dull. Everything can shine and glisten. Even a life like your own.

No, trust me, it’s true. I can take your drudgery and spin it into gold.

Like this morning, when you woke feeling listless and emptied from a dreamless sleep? We can fill that space with aspiration. All you need to do, is imagine, believe, dream.

Ready? Okay, then tell me, what you see.

A room, morning bright, air filled with the oily aroma of coffee, table set with care and attention. Spoons polished. Napkins folded. A flower. And two cups. In this place you are not alone. The days begin with little rituals of affection, and life stretches ahead with such promise.

An illusion you say? Perhaps. But the dream is yours and who’s to say what’s real or imagined. Look, here, take it. Hold it to the light, turn it this way and that. See how it sparkles, how it shines. How it makes you smile.

You feel it don’t you? A flutter inside. Happiness? Yes, let’s call it that. And though it is fleeting, it fills you all the same. And your longing, is now your reality.

Believe. Imagine. Dream.

And hold on to the illusion. Face the world with a glow of perfection. They will never know. Because there you are, and they see you now, fantastic, incomparable.

And happy, oh so happy. 

Winner: Anstey Harris

This is Me

Cut!’

Five pairs of hands bustle in. One to take the jug from her before there is a chance of the coffee splashing onto her skin. Two to thrust cushions under her wrists lest those hands land awkwardly somewhere or snag on an unseen menace.

‘It’s not just the hands,’ says her entry in Spotlight. ‘The wrists, the angle of bone and sinew, the skin tone: there are so many reasons Jennifer Dunn’s hands are THE hands.’ So many reasons her hands are insured for ten million dollars, so many reasons that no one ever touches her except with – real – kid gloves.

Her assistants – Maureen and Joe – hold the gloves and, mechanically, she slips each slender finger into place. Joe doesn’t look up. Maureen doesn’t ask about her life, what she’s been doing. Everyone in the studio concentrates on Jennifer’s matchless hands.

If Maureen had asked, Jennifer might have told her about the man who moved in across the hall yesterday: how he looked at her, really looked. How the constant cloak of loneliness she wears shifted, slipped slightly, gaped.

There is a big green bin outside Jennifer’s block. She drops the gloves in, one at a time, and knocks on his door.

‘Hi’ he says and his eyes trace the scar under her eye, note the missing hair above her left ear. He smiles.

‘I forgot to get your number,’ she says.

‘Easy,’ he says. He lifts her hand and writes – a tattooed promise – across her perfect skin.

Well! What a welcome back! Congratulations to Anstey, Jennifer and Claire. And a huge thank you to everyone who sent in a story — every last one was completely brilliant. Have wonderful weekends everyone, and we’ll be back next Friday at the slightly earlier time of 9:50 am.

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

#QUICKFIC 19/10/2018

Good morning everybody! You asked and asked, and we answered! Yes, #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition, is back and it’s bigger and better than ever. We’re coming at the slightly later time of 10:50 but, as you’ll see below, this is a one time only occurrence. So don’t get used to it!

Here’s how to play:

  • You’ll be presented with a prompt on Friday morning at 9:50 am. This is anything my devious mind can come up with, so be prepared!
  • 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, and send that email to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm on the Friday afternoon.

At 3:30 we’ll announce the winner. That lucky person gets a stack of books as their prize. Much like this stack, in fact:

Stack of three books including 'Sugar Money' by Jane Harris, 'Lullaby' by Leila Slimani and 'For the First Time Ever: A Memoir' Peggy Seeger - Faber Academy's flash fiction competition quickfic

So here we go. Your first prompt is below:

an image of coffee being made and poured on a table, with a faint woodland scene in the background. There is a large, steaming coffee pot just visible to the left, with two glass mugs waiting for coffee to be poured in. Coffee beans litter the table, spilling out of a copper bowl. Two ceramic looking jugs containing mysterious contents wait on the right, while an hand pours freshly made coffee out of a small glass cafetiere and in to one of the glass mugs. - quickfic, flash fiction competition

See you back here at 3:30!

QuickFic 23/09/16: The Winner

shutterstock_91422530

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

Frozen

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 16/09/16: The Winner

qf72_799

RUNNER-UP: Laura Riley

Ready?

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!

qf72_books

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

qf72_799

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 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:

005

Lovely.

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.