Tag Archives: creative writing exercise

#QUICKFIC 22/03/2019: The Winner

Well that was very lovely!

Riding the high of actual sun (briefly, but I swear it emerged guv, honest!) we went for a brighter prompt this week. And not one piece involving murder this week! Death, yes, murder, no. I think that’s a #QUICKFIC first. Let’s take one last look at your prompt:

So without further ado, your brilliant winners:

Runner Up: Thea Oxbury

The Single

Charity shops? Sorry, no. I catch the melancholic whiff of lives dismantled, unwanted consumables ‘regifted’ in the name of a good cause, I’m out. Should never have crossed the threshold. Except for –

I was passing by when they caught me. Those eyes. How many years is it now? Thirty? No, more.

I still think I find your hairs, sometimes. Quavers and minims peppering a patch of floor. I dream about them. I rarely hear that tune, though. How could I? I’d need your voice for that.

But those eyes.

I walked in. Couldn’t look back at those eyes, so I went to a clothes rack instead. Felt the tweed of a motheaten great coat and thought of… the bus stop, how we’d stand together, both of us, inside that coat. They don’t make them like that any longer, do they? Didn’t in those days, either.

I turn back to the window display, because I want, at least, to pick up that old 45, cover frayed around the edges. It’s just a momentary memory, your smile, his smile, as you slid the vinyl from it’s cover.

I’m moving towards the window, but someone stands in my way. Some kid. He takes the record from its stand.

“Mum,” he crows, “This’ll be great as a place mat. Forty five pence!”

“Oh, go on then,” mutters the woman behind me.

No, I want to say. No, you can’t. You’ve no idea.

But I say nothing.

And I think: melancholic whiffs of lives dismantled.

Runner Up: Thomasin Sage

The Seraph of Forgotten Songs

She’d been leafing through the vinyl records for five hours now.

The only sound in the dusty shop was the shwip of each dog-eared record sleeve as it came to rest softly on the one behind it. The old cardboard sleeves had the kind of nicks and rips that showed they had been loved once, perhaps played at full volume with friends or alone with a glass of wine.

The shop keeper had given up trying to offer his advice. She had returned his queries with a warm, beatific smile before continuing her search without a word. It was eerie.

What is she looking for? he wondered. The question gnawed at him.

He put down his tattered paperback and decided to watch her instead. Sometimes she would pick up a record and nod to it as if greeting an old friend, or place a hand gently on the cover before returning it to the box. Other times she would close her eyes and tap out a rhythm with her foot, or simply shake her head sadly and move swiftly on to the next.

By the end of the day she was surrounded by a halo of dust from disturbing the forgotten songs. The early afternoon light filtered through it oddly and it felt like he was looking at her in an old, yellowed photograph.

He approached her once more, his heart pounding in his chest. She reminded him of when he was a young boy and still believed in angels.

The Winner: Gabrielle Turner

Breakages must be paid for

It was back again, and it wasn’t long since the last one. This time I tried to memorise how it felt. I wanted to write it down, in the blind scrawl that was becoming my handwriting, but how would I find anything to write with, in this state? I stood still. All around me, the world was becoming hazy. I steadied myself against the door frame and breathed in until it hurt.

It wasn’t a migraine, I was sure of that. In the hospital they’d talked about degeneration, about auras, oedemas and tunnel vision. I’d had dozens of scans. Drops that made my face go numb. My sight was perfect.

“You alright up there?” a thin voice called from the ground floor.

“Fine, fine,” I heard myself reply. In a junk shop, of all places, I thought. What about the china ornaments; the stacks of records and first editions at my feet? Could I make it down the stairs? If it was anything like the other times, I’d be like this for an hour at least.

The closer things were to me, the more blurred they appeared. Against the white walls, I could make out the rectangular forms of paintings and felt thankful for their reassuring green dullness. Certainty continued to melt, and the hard angles of the room were twisting slowly out of focus. Feet, hands, books, all becoming one. The disease was taking me to a place where there were no edges.

Congratulations to Gabrielle, Thomasin and Thea. Big thank you to everyone who entered. Happy weekends everyone!

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

#QUICKFIC 22/03/2019

Hello hello, and welcome to the new brighter, Spring like edition of #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition. Yes Spring is finally here and we can all put away dreadful things like winter coats, and darkness at 4 pm. 

Before you all spring into action and write me a piece, 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 today. 
  • At 3:30 we meet back on the blog for the winning entries to be revealed.

In honour of World Poetry Day, this week’s prize includes two brilliant collections by Christopher Reid and Simon Armitage in addition to our usual fiction fare:

a stack of books "Istanbul" by Orhan Pamuk, "The Wolf Border" by Sarah Hall, "Paper Areoplanes: Selected Poems 1989 - 2014 " by Simon Armitage and "The Song of Lunch" Chrisopher Reid -Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

 

You ready?

You set?

Okay….

Annnd here you go:

 

a half focused image with what looks like an open door, white paneled and wooden in focus. Out of focus and to the left is an ornate picture frame with a pastoral image, out of focus, just visible. In the foreground we see a hand holding a record close to the camera, while the other hand browses through a jam packed looking shelf of other records. The image is very cluttered and cramped, but somehow still homey - Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

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 15/03/2019: The Winner

I should never suggest you get dark with me, is what I learnt from today’s #QUICKFIC entries. Thank you to everyone that played along though! I may never look at forests, painting, camping, going on retreats or pylons the same way ever again. Here’s one last look at the prompt that inspired all that:

And here are your runners up and winner:

Runner Up: Lou Witts

On the Shoulders of Giants

The first blast took out the mobile networks. The second levelled cities. The last fragmented continents, decimated the population and sent us back to the Dark Ages. Where we stayed for the next four, five hundred years. Rebuilding took longer than anybody could have imagined. All records erased. Including the knowledge in our heads. So we retreated. To our make-shift homes, big enough to let us live, small enough to withstand the winds. Then, after what must have been nine, ten, eleven generations, we found a way. With enough light to power the plants, we passed our days sowing and reaping and watching the sun rise and set. Then sowing became hard work so we found tools to help. The tools became mechanised and the first sparks of electricity were rediscovered. What a joy, we said, what a joy to to be able to see after so many years in the dark. We’ll never let that happen again. And we really meant it, at the time.

Runner Up: Paul Jenkins

Getting Used to It

Your father warned you. His voice on the mobile responding to the good news. A boy, seven pounds exactly.

You yawn and your father laughs and says you’ll get used to it. A one-armed man glides past you with a drip trolley, seemingly oblivious to the lack of symmetry in his life. He got used to it. You’ll get used to it.

The boy’s mother smiles at you from the bed. The baby’s expression is one of resignation. Welcome to the world you whisper. You yawn again. No more sleep for you, your dad said and suddenly you see him as an old man.

Three years pass and you take your son to a park. The wind picks up; you check the hat is secure on your boy’s head. You check his coat is adequate.

Nearly there, you say to him.

But the park is full of people. Other children with diseases in their eyes and hate in their hearts. Look at the seesaw with its promise of knocked out teeth, the roundabout‘s silent menace. Your child is laughing and smiling. You push him gently on the swing. Everything is fine.

Higher Daddy Higher Daddy he shrieks, kicking out at the sun. That swing is creaking too much.

It is time to go home. Getting late, little man, you say in a voice you don’t recognise. You look at the sky, it might rain. That plane might crash.

How quickly it gets dark round here, how quickly it gets dark.

Winner: Gillian English

Outside

I didn’t ask to come. Easily led, that’s my problem. Always desperate to be part of the group, looking for friends who can substitute for family. Now here I am, lost in a howling forest, in a tent as thin as a plastic bag. The wind is battering and the tent is straining, ready to split and fly. Rain is pounding from above, seeping in from below. I might as well be outside; the only real protection offered by this flapping plastic is that it stops me seeing what’s out there. It’s been out there for hours, ever since I killed it.

And I really didn’t need to. It’s the most frustrating thing. If she hadn’t – well, no point wasting time on that. The others were no help, standing there open-mouthed, one of them whipping out his mobile to film me, not even asking permission. The next minute they were off down the path, chasing a signal. So here I am, waiting. The wind is dropping and I can hear something outside, edging closer, squelching across the sodden ground. A fox or a badger, I guess, attracted by the smell. It’s nature’s way, and she was always a keen recycler. But it’s right outside now and I’m wishing I hadn’t dropped the knife when I hear it behind me, slicing through the skin of the tent, opening me up to the wind and the wet, bloody darkness.

Many congratulations to Gillian, Paul and Lou. Keep them coming!

We’ll be back at 9:50 next Friday with another prompt. Personally, I’m rooting for some sunshine and light next week.

Until then!

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

#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.

QuickFic 30/01/15: The Winner

Well, that was a lovely way to wet the new website’s head. As you’ll recall, this week’s prompt was this poor little creature:

 

qf9orig

As always, we asked for 250 word stories about him. And as always, you came up with all kinds of wonderful and ridiculous ways to do just that. We love you guys.

But pick a winner we must, and here those winners are:

RUNNER-UP: Ann Fielding

Furry Standard of Ur

Toddler likes toys he can run with or throw. Toddler will tolerate one mile in pram before he wants to get out. One mile if I walk briskly.

There are nine playgroups within one mile. Monday through Thursday have two each. Friday has the Children’s Centre. The Children’s Centre like parents (which means mothers) to interact with their children. They don’t like it if mothers text, or read, or huddle. I don’t much like the Children’s Centre, but it is Friday and the only other option is staying home and that isn’t an option.

There is a pink hobbyhorse at the Children’s Centre. Toddler can run with it. It is important that children learn to share. It is important that they do protodeclarative pointing (not just pointing because they want something) that they do not walk on tiptoes and that they are not afraid of the noises hand-driers make. Toddler passes the tests, but if one day he doesn’t it will be my fault and if it isn’t it will still be my sentence. Toddler won’t let go of the hobbyhorse today. He will cry if he has to leave it, but he should learn to share and anyway it isn’t ours.

I stand up and walk to the door. ‘Come on darling. Let’s go home.’ Toddler sits in pram holding the hobbyhorse like a standard until he has to point out a train. I slip it into the nearest bin and walk on.

‘Yes darling. Trains!’

 

WINNER: Dan Carpenter

Army

He wouldn’t leave. It should have been obvious early on, when he hung the sign on the door: ‘No Hawkers, Trespassers, or Council Gits’.

The neighbours watched with increased curiosity as he barricaded his doors and windows, blockading them with wooden planks. They all talked about it, in the shops and pubs; “Have you seen what he did today? Only went and disconnected the doorbell. Took the knocker down too.” But for all of this, they saw him only as a quirk in the neighbourhood, something fun to talk about.

None of them expected him to amass an army.

The first troops showed up a week into the standoff. Neighbours awoke to find a perfect formation of garden gnomes standing on the trim grass, staring ahead, protecting the house. Each one equidistant from the other. If you were to walk by, their eyes would follow you. People passed by the house less often after that.

When the man from the council showed up, a few days later he was greeted by the knights; four bins, hobbyhorses sticking out from the opening, stood in the four corners of the front garden. The man from the council didn’t even deliver his letter.

He added castles made from the remnants of sheds, artillery from hacked up garden hoses, and then, one day a throne appeared.

A worn, teastained armchair sat on the porch. The army stood staring out at the neighbours who crept closer.

They all waited for their king.

 

Congratulations, Ann and Dan! Book-type prizes winging their way to you.

See you next Friday morning for a brand new prompt. Take care of your unicorns, y’all.

If it’s more writing competitions you’re after, and you can’t wait until Friday, you could also check out our Wednesday writing exercise  for a bit of practice and productivity.

 

QuickFic 30/01/15

Why hello there. How are you liking our new digs?

Once you’ve had a nose around, it’s time to get down to business. And that business is of course this: QUICKFIC.

If you haven’t played QuickFic before, or you’ve forgotten how it works, here’s a quick catch-up:

At 9.50am on a Friday (now), we give you a prompt.

You write up to 250 words of fiction about that prompt, and send them to us at academy@faber.co.uk by 2.50pm that same day.

At 3.30pm, we announce a winner, and the winner wins some lovely Faber books. They and the lucky runner-up also get their pieces published on this very site.

Doesn’t that sound fun?

So, without further ado, here is this week’s prompt:

qf9orig

 

Ooh. He looks like he’s got a story to tell, eh?

Before you dash off to pen it, let us tempt you further with those aforementioned books. This week, it’s these ones which are up for grabs:

DSC_0002

 

L-R: Copendium, The Black Album, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Spies, Into The Trees

See you back here at 3.30!

Fans of writing competitions: fear not! We’re here every Friday, so if you don’t have time to play today, or you’re visiting us after the fact – come back and join us again.