#QUICKFIC 15/03/2019

In keeping with the current London weather and our continued stormy skies, today’s Faber Acdemy #QUCKFIC flash fiction competition prompt is appropriately dark and moody. I know how much you all love to get dark and spooky, but before you dive in, here’s a quick rule refresher!

You’re going to see a prompt. Using that prompt, we’d like you to write a short story of 250 words or less. No more than that please! 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. Our wonderful winner gets these books:

Without further ado, your prompt:

I’ll wait for the wind to blow some wonderful pieces of flash fiction into our inbox. See you at 3:30 to announce the winner!

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 01/03/2019: The Winner

Runner Up: Daniela Azzopardi

The Art of Summoning

She is flying.

She glided over the hard wooden floor as easily as if she were being held up by clouds and the dim lights showered over her an ethereal glow as she stood on her tiptoes. Her movements looked effortless, but from the edge of the stage he could see her eyebrows furrow as she moved with the music.

It was just the two of them; the audience did not matter, the theater staff did not matter. In that moment, she embodied the whole world. He was present, living and breathing, through her gentle movements; the precise control the ballerina held over every muscle in her body and every fiber of his being.

What had started as mere jumps and clumsy pirouettes only months after she had started to walk, had now blossomed into a full art form that could enamour anyone whose glance fell on her. His eyes grew hot as tears tethered on the edge. Had it really been that long since he waited outside those classes, when she would dance her way to his car, her hunger for ballet still not satiated after hours of lessons?

The music rose to a crescendo. The crowd heard their breath as the ballerina dove into her final bow.

Applause erupted. A chill ran down her spine and as she glanced up, she could swear she saw a familiar shadow flicker out of sight at the edge of the stage; the shadow of a protector long gone, but never forgotten.

The Winner: Victoria Clarke

Second chance

Dust clings to my fingertips as I drag the box out from under the bed, I wipe it on my trousers. It’s been years since I’ve opened this shrine for a life that nearly was. They’re still there, underneath the torn ticket stubs and crumpled flyers: my ballet shoes, tattered and worn, scuffed at the toes from hours spent en pointe. A symphony of soaring strings crashes around the walls of my bedroom. I close my eyes and inhale it, savouring the bittersweet taste on my tongue, rolling it around, trying it out for size again. Nothing in life compares. We travelled the world, relieving ourselves of the hunger pangs by throwing each other against the wall. Slight we may have been, but meek we were not.

I’d never call her a mistake. She was borne out of love, out of romance. Or so I thought at the time. In truth, he was persistent and I was naive. And then she was here, and he was gone, travelling off with the troupe to the incense filled warmth of the Middle East while I boarded a plane back to Europe with a suitcase and abdomen fit to burst.

All the other girls do it, she said, face reddening, spoon discarded in her cereal bowl. You did it Mama, why can’t I?

The shoes slide on my feet as if I was Cinderella, at least Prince Charming gave me something. I’ll tell her yes when I collect her from school.

 

What a welcome back, courtesy of Victoria and Daniela. Many thanks to everyone that sent a piece in! We’ll be back the Friday after next for your next installment of #QUICKFIC.

Until then!

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

Link

It’s a week of firsts, apparently. It’s the first day of a month, the first day I acknowledge that Spring may one day return (the two days of sun we had doesn’t count, I’m afraid, no matter how many of you decided to eat ice cream) and the first #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction Competition of 2019. Yes we’re back, bigger and bolder and brighter than ever.

First, it behooves me to explain the rules. If you’ve never played before or forgotten how over the break, here’s how to play:

  • You’re going to see a prompt on Friday morning at 9:50 am. prompts can be anything, including but not limited to: Playlists, Wikipedia Articles, Quotes, Pictures and anything else we 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 and runners up for that week. The winner receives a stack of books. This week’s stack is this rather lovely lot:

ack of three books including ''Owl Sense' by Miriam Darlington, 'Innocent Blood' by P.D James and 'The Silent Musician' by Mark Wigglesworth - Faber Academy's flash fiction competition quickfic

Get it, got it, good? Perfect. Then your first prompt is below:

- Faber Academy's flash fiction competition quickfic

Let the #QUICKFIC-ing commence! See you again 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 14/12/2018: The Winner

We throw a #QUICKFIC curveball, and you all more than rise to the occasion! Thank you, all, for the stories. You gave us dramatic car chases, a retiring santa, terrible families, a spot of framing for murder and other truly heartwarming tales. It’s been an absolute pleasure to read your submissions these past few months, and this week was no exception. Thank you for them all.

One last time, here were your prompts and then on to the winners we go:

 

Runner Up: Thom Willis

Going to Town

The scents of Christmas – cinnamon, pine, the muted sharpness of oranges – were starting to feel oppressive. He’d lost his taste for mulled wine this year, and the warmed-over dregs of a cheap rioja, with shards of broken star anise floating like driftwood on the surface, disgusted him. The snow settling outside depressed him, made him feel trapped and lonely.

“Humbug,” he muttered, pleased with that at least. His face itched in the glow of the roaring log fire. He had been unable to find his razor, and his fresh beard was irritating him as much as anything else. Soon he would be out in the fresh air, and he relished it. Only good part of the job. A thousand years he’d been delivering presents and still it surprised him how enjoyable that was.

Last year he’d almost died. A slip on a loose tile. He was always so careful but was now overconfident and simply ignored the warning signs that had always kept him safe. Slates were always bad. Slippery at the best of times, this one rattled down the roof and he heard it shatter on the ground long after it fell, even as he was still sliding to the edge.

He’d got to stop. He was old now. No one cared if he came or not. There were no adorable children to restore his faith in Christmas. Not now. This would be his last round. After that, if everyone believed it was their parents, well, they’d be right.

Runner Up: Jane Healey 

Sticks and Stones

Peter’s bones are slowly turning to cinnamon sticks; they crunch when he rolls his wrists, his muscles burning with the fiery heat of the powder seeping from the joints; they jostle against one another with a clattering sound when he breaks into a jog to catch the bus; and when he types the last batch of this year’s emails he does so slowly, carefully, so that the single sticks in each of his fingers do not snap and shatter. It’s Christmas party season now and he can no longer discern between the spice of his own sweat and the breath of those who have gulped down mugfuls of mulled wine, eats every minced pie he is offered gingerly because he fears that the taste means his teeth are turning to cinnamon too and disintegrating in his mouth; and as he stands at the back of the last office meeting of the year, gingerly cupping elbows that are crumbling into shards, stooping so that he cannot feel the scrape of his vertebrae against one another, the hot shiver of ground cinnamon cascading down his back, his manager turns to him and says, what we’re looking from you next year, Peter, is a bit more oomph, a bit more spark, a bit more – she pauses to bite into a slice of the festive cake that Peter’s work nemesis Samantha has made and brought to the meeting – spice. He nods and coughs, swallowing a jagged piece of bark.

Runner Up: Bridget Yates

Cold Shoulder

It was cold, bitterly cold as I expected. But it was working.

I ploughed on, the sun setting behind me and giving an eerie glow to the icy waste that was the road. And he was still there; his headlights clearly visible in my wing mirror.

It had taken planning and my heart fluttered in my chest every time I thought about what I had done, no -what we had done.

He had the body in the boot.

To say the situation had become unbearable was an understatement; she had made our lives a misery with all that crying and moaning . And when she fell down the stairs yesterday morning, well, it seemed a kindness to let her just slip gently away. And he had used a feather pillow .

But I needed the money to be able to keep the house.

So we decided to keep her alive so to speak and we put her body in the boot of his car.

He thought the plan was to dispose of her body by the roadside in the next State and then later abandon the car. But I had a different plan.

When we crossed the State line I would wait until he was close behind me and when there was more traffic around I would brake suddenly.

The cops would be called.

And he had a body in the boot of his car.

The Winner: Roger Evans

Cinnamon Scrolls

One day you may find, lurking at the back of a cupboard, a bag of cinnamon sticks smelling faintly of Christmas, with no memory of their purchase. Tight rolls of spice prompting thoughts of mulled wine and sweet confections. Pay good attention to this bag, as within such a treasure trove of flavour may lie a greater one.

For cinnamon can hold a secret, hidden from sight, waiting for the moment to bestow its fortune upon you. You see, rarely, very rarely, as the bark curls into its quills, the forest spirits bestow their luck upon one piece.

So hold each one gently before you consign it to the recipe, and see if will unfurl gently in your hand.  And read the message written within.

Good fortune.

Many congratulations to Thom, Jane, Bridget and Roger. Here’s to all of you #QUICKFIC writers, to the rapidly approaching new year, to the holidays and to all the brilliant flash fiction pieces you’ve written and have yet to write.

Happy Holidays! See you next year!

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

#QUICKFIC 14/12/2018

Welcome welcome, to the last #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction competition of 2018. I merrily skip off after this week and wanted to give you something a little bit different to celebrate the season and the end of 2018.

Now under normal circumstances here is where I’d go through the rules and most of you nod impatiently because you’re old hats by now and know what you’re doing. This week there’s a twist, so pay attention!

  • You’re about to see three different prompts, numbered 1, 2 and 3.
  • This week you can pick whichever prompt you like the look of the best and write a piece of flash fiction 250 words or less on it.
  • You can only choose one though, so choose wisely! No multiple entries please.
  • Give your piece a title, copy it into the body of an email and tell me the wordcount and which number prompt you wrote the piece based on (this is important!)
  • Send that email to academy@faber.co.uk no later than 2:50 pm today

At 3:30 we announce the winner of this bumper crop of books:

Got it? Three prompts, choose your favourite, write a piece and we’ll choose our favourite, then all our days will be merry and bright. Here are your prompts:

1. 

2. 

3.  

 

Go go go! Write away!

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 07/12/2018: The Winner

Thank you, lovely writers! I asked you for silliness, and silliness you did provide. Thank you everyone, for making me laugh hard enough that there was nearly a small incident involving a very full coffee cup and electronics. Here’s your prompt once again:

A quote from Jan Austen's "Emma" reading “Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.” against an image of a tree in the process of losing its leaves, with the contrast turned up and the image overlayed with a pink and orange colour gradient until the trees look like etchings - Faber Academy's Flash Fiction Competition #QUICKFIC

And without further ado, here are your #QUICKFIC Flash Fiction Competition winners:

Runner Up: Sarah Nash

A New Woman

“Enough is enough,” Jane says to her reflection in the bathroom mirror. “Thirty years in the same firm and never noticed. I am fifty tomorrow. Time for action. I shall take the morning off.”

“Never see you on a weekday,” says Tracey at Cut and Dried. “Same as usual?”

“I rather fancy going pink,” says Jane.

Tracey nearly drops her scissors, but seasoned pro as she is, rallies immediately.

“All over or just a touch?”

An hour later Jane strides, pink-rinsed, down her local high street. To her surprise, no-one laughs.

She decides (who is this new woman?) she needs a new face to go with the new hair and finds herself in the cosmetics hall of her local department store.

“Can I help?” asks an elegant woman.

“I wish I knew,” answers Jane honestly and submits.

On the way out, mascara-laden, she feels as if two spiders have landed on her eyes and tries not to blink in case they wreak havoc over her face. She pauses in shoe sales and remembers a survey (French of course) that stated women are more successful if they wear lipstick and heels. She licks her shiny lips and shops.

At noon precisely, Jane strides into Mr Carter’s office. (In reality, she teeters.)

He looks terrified.

She is Modesty Blaise, Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She is unstoppable.

“I want a promotion and a raise. Enough is enough!”

He surrenders.

Winner: Mary Thompson

John Coltrane, he is not

My beau’s penchant is the saxophone, and every Friday, after dinner and a small glass of Malbec, we retire upstairs where he extracts his instrument and begins to play. I want to be seen as a supportive lover so I perch on the end of the bed and murmur words of encouragement while he balances his sax on his extended belly, blowing into it as though it were a breathalyser. John Coltrane, he is not.

One day I’m on the top deck of the 133 with a banging hangover when he calls.

‘Not feeling well,’ I murmur. ‘Mixed my drinks and didn’t eat.’ And my head lolls back on the seat.
‘Hang on a second,’ he says.

Almost immediately I hear the sax. Its nail-hammering tones are so loud a baby starts wailing at the back of the bus. I try to switch the phone off but drop it under the seat and the screen smashes.

’Fuck!’ I scream, but he keeps on playing, even after I’ve exited the bus and staggered the five minutes to my flat, run a bath and watched the bubbles rise, dropped the phone on the floor again, submerged myself in the bubbles, lowered my head under the water so I can’t hear the damn thing any more, only I can as the crazy, fucked-up noise reverberates right through the bath tub.

Until finally, eventually he stops.

‘How was that?’ he asks, as I pick up the phone with a soapy hand.

Congratulations to Mary and Sarah! With that, I’ll send you all on your way for another week.

Until Friday!

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

#QUICKFIC 07/12/2018

Goodbye November, hello December and hello to a new #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction Competition!

It’s Friday at (roughly) 9:50 am, so get your typing fingers ready and your brains warmed up because I’m about to hit you with a prompt at the bottom of this post. You should take a look, then write out a 250 words or less story inspired by it. Give the story a title, then gently deposit it into the body of an email alongside your wordcount and email it to academy@faber.co.uk no later than 2:50 pm today.

At 3:30 we announce our winner, in with a shot of getting these three wonders:

- Faber Academy's Flash Fiction Competition #QUICKFIC

And here’s your prompt:

A quote from Jan Austen's "Emma" reading “Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.” against an image of a tree in the process of losing its leaves, with the contrast turned up and the image overlayed with a pink and orange colour gradient until the trees look like etchings - Faber Academy's Flash Fiction Competition #QUICKFIC

May the silliness now commence until 2:50 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 23/11/2018: The Winner

a quote from H.G Wells' "The Time Machine" set against a background of a cloudy sky as the sun is setting. The clouds are all coloured in various gradients of pink, white and black. The quite reads "It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning."

Common sense isn’t typically what we go for in Faber Academy — we’re more on the whimsy and reaching for the sky and achieving your dreams side of things — so why would we take H.G.Wells’ advice here? No waiting until the morning for us, here are your #QUICKFIC flash fiction competition winners for this week:

Runner Up: Annie Bien

Sensing the Night

The crickets stopped their night strumming, a hiccup of silence. Then the bullfrogs stopped belching, two alligator seconds. She recognized the tiny feet of a friend scrambling across the grass and dirt, followed by larger feet pressing down the brush. Car tire sandals.

Car tires sandals were cheap and left no trace of a poacher’s foot size or shoe style, just another tire track on the road into the conservancy. She picked up her rifle, nudging her companion who nodded. They edged out, following the footsteps. Her eyes easily adjusted under the moon crescent. She lived here now, breathed the bush. No one would treat her charges the way her ex-husband had treated her.

She saw the back of a man putting the small ball of scales into a sack. She placed the rifle in the poacher’s neck.

“Drop the sack. Hands up. No pangolin for you.”

“Evelina? Is that you, darling?” Her husband asked, unafraid. “Come home, you’re tired. The children miss you. So do I.”

That singer’s voice, cooing at her. The sack was still. She cocked the trigger.

“Wait. You know I love you. There’s never been anyone else. Come home. A good night’s sleep brings a fresh start in the morning.”

Her companion put the cuffs on her husband. She never spoke to him again. Tenderly opening the sack, the pangolin unrolled and ran into the dark.

Runner Up: Alex James

Cycles

The sky was turning the colour of a bruise, of an inflamed gum. I stroked his head in my lap. He was shivering, his jaw working on nothing.

“I’m sorry,” he croaked.

“It’s okay.” We were leaning back into a pile of dirty duvets, a few reinforced shopping bags. Everything we had, soaking up the cold from the ground.

“What?”

The cars passing overhead were deafening. I had to shout.

“I said its fine.”

For a while, we just sat like that, watching the sun duck from cloud to cloud. Our stomachs growled. He picked at a scab on his hand and looked up at me. Under the grime I could still see the lines of his cheekbones. His eyes were hot, wet.

“I’ve got a plan. We can hitchhike to Stockport; post up at my uncle’s place for a while.”

This again. I said nothing. I knew he hadn’t talked to his family in a decade, maybe longer. Why did he say these things? Always at dusk, when he knew we weren’t going to go anywhere, or do anything.

“I know you don’t believe me. Doesn’t matter. We are going to get out of here,” he said. “Out of this life. I promise.”

“Sure, babes. Wait ‘til tomorrow morning, yeah?”

Tomorrow morning, we would wake up and hike into the centre of town, as we had done every day for a year. Tomorrow evening, we would be here, making our plans all over again.

The sun dropped, readying itself.

The Winner: Cait Gillespie

Nobody is Watching

She moved about the darkened room, following her hips as they beautifully crashed from east to west. It was past midnight. Her head turned like a hunting owl, catching my gaze before twisting back round in the opposite direction. Her fingertips caught the music and held it solid, pushing it in pulses through her belly and into the ground.

I was in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, and she had shape shifted into an Egyptian dancer. I liked routines and exercises that could be repeated neatly, with more accuracy each time. My mother-in-law didn’t do routines, and repeated nothing that wasn’t commanded by emotion. I had to shake off my Scottish cladding of self-consciousness, and move with her, to somewhere else.

I was now standing beside her, a veil swept across my shoulders. She starting moving her elbow in delicate circles, her forearm poised at an angle that suggested things unseen.

I was now the centre of gravity, as she passed the pulse to me. The tempo of the drums quickened and my hips started to twitch. I closed my eyes and pictured nothing. The drums tapped faster and faster. I listened to my joints, tested out my muscles. They were in agreement. They moved. I kept my eyes shut, and started to move my feet. They were ready, and stepped out a quick pattern, pushing the pulse back to her. I was caught in the dance now, and couldn’t stop until every possibility had been explored.

Congratulations to Annie, Alex and Cait. Many, many thanks yous to everyone that entered this week; that beautiful sky and reprieve from my nonsense made you produce some beautiful pieces!

Lovely weekends all. We’ll see you next Friday.

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

#QUICKFIC 23/11/2018

Good morning, flash fiction fans!

We’ve got another stunning #QUICKFIC prompt for you, but first, the rules. If you already know How to Play, then keep on scrolling:

  • We’re about to show you a prompt.
  • Look at the prompt and, by the power of my photoshop skills and the wise words of another author, you should be granted the inspiration to write a fiction piece of 250 words or less.
  • Send us that piece in the body of an email with the title and the word count included to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50 pm today
  • Because if you do, you’re in with a shot of winning these books:

 

That’s it for the How To’s, and, for once, I’m going to keep quiet and let someone else’s words take center stage for this week’s prompt. See you back here this afternoon at exactly 3:30 pm!

a quote from H.G Wells' "The Time Machine" set against a background of a cloudy sky as the sun is setting. The clouds are all coloured in various gradients of pink, white and black. The quite reads "It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning."  

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 16/11/2018: The Winner

 

Runner Up: Laura Riley

The Illusion of You

I was always a little bit in love with you. I know it’s crazy to say. We never exchanged a deliberate word. And until that day I didn’t know your last name.

You were just Simon: head down, earphones in, always on the move, portfolio case banging at your side. Like a shark, forever in motion. That red hat, your crown whatever the weather; the blush of my cheek matching its hue, whenever you rushed by.

I sat behind you in art class, and would often lose half the hour, watching as your hand danced across the page, silently creating beauty I knew my paintbrush could never express. I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage to speak up; to tell you how great I thought you were; how your talent almost made me cry.

I learned your surname on the first day of our final year. My final year. The Head said you’d passed away over the summer, his face grey and long as he fumbled for the right words. Gasps of ‘drugs’ and ‘suicide’ filled the air as we left the assembly hall; but nobody really knew the answer to why you were gone. Just as we hadn’t really known you when you were here. The illusion of you took precedent over who was really inside. Not a loner, but lonely; not aloof, simply shy.

You were just the boy in the red hat; and how I wish I’d stopped to speak to you, before you went by.

Runner Up: Jose Varghese

Caught on Camera

Omar looked up, as Ron gave instructions to the light boys.

The room is stuffy. He wondered whether Ron was capable of adding even the rancid smell to the frame. He would be excited if that was possible, but all Ron works with now are the various elements of light.

‘Shut all the windows and switch off all the lights except the zero-watt bulb above him. We need to highlight the redness of his cap.’

Omar felt reduced to colours and contours Ron made tangible, with his craft.

‘Omar. What the hell are you waiting for? Switch on the phone and hold it exactly at the middle, below your chest.’

‘Oh, yes. I’ll do that. Is this right… or higher?’

‘No, man, keep the phone closer to your body.’

The phone. The body. Two objects Ron needs for this five-second shot.

What happens to Omar after that low-lit moment is trapped on camera? Ron would spend an hour more on it in the editing room for sure, to get things right in his perfectionism of visual language merging seamlessly with the story.

Omar would have to leave, as they make space for more important things.

He wouldn’t make it to the posters. No one would remember the random man in the bar’s dark corner where the hero has a fight later.

Even the bar is a major character. He’s just a part of the setting.

Do I get some dialogue later? – He swallowed that thought, scared of what cameras capture.

Winner: James Atkinson

Losing sight of you, gaining insight

Your red hat and your height have always helped.  I could always pick you out in a crowd, even before my eyes began to fail.

After they told me I began to memorise every part of you, linking sight to touch and smell, learning to feel changes to alter that memory, keep the image up to date.  And where I couldn’t, I studied your tattoos, the formations of your unraised moles until they were as familiar as my own.

“I won’t ever forget a single feature.”

As the black curtain began to draw in, I ramped up my efforts to recreate you perfectly when I closed my eyes.  I tested myself frequently, described you to yourself while seated in another room, drew pictures, wrote stories.  Created an avatar to serve in your stead.

“You won’t ever want another creature.”

“I don’t want to.  But what if I do forget?”

And now that I cannot even see your entire face at the same time, my hands and fingers trace your face evermore desperately while you kiss me to reassure me, tell me not to worry.

“I will be here.  By touch, by smell, by ear

Memory does not matter once love has beget.

(And when it doesn’t need to make sense.)”

I knew I feared the unknown more than anything, that an avatar was never needed when I had you.

Your worn hat full of your smell will always help.  And I’ve always been pleased that I am taller than you.

A mysterious figure in a hat, and you sure did come up with some intense backstories for this one! Congratulations to Laura, Jose and James. And well played to everyone who entered — I will be leaving this office with a deep suspicion of red beanie hat wearers from now on.

Happy weekends all, and I’ll see you next week!

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