Tag Archives: creative writing exercise

#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. 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


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


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.




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


“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


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.

#QUICKFIC 07/06/2019: The Winner

Ah, a staircase. The thing you fall down, walk down, curse at and, apparently, today produced some of the best paces of flash fiction it’s been my privileged to read!  You all truly out did yourself this week.

Here’s one last look at your staircase of dreams before we hit the runners up and the winner:

Runner Up: Ana Acapella

Eid Mubarak

“Eid Mubarak” she silently whispered to herself as the early morning sun streamed down from the skylight onto her bed.

Half asleep, she reminisced of this day a year ago. So happy. So full of love. So different.

Normally she’d have spent last night helping her mum preparing the Eid feast, listening to her father’s stories of his bygone days and adorning her hands with henna. Staring at her bare hands, she thought that they were the perfect metaphor for today.

She rolled over in her bed, reluctant to start her day. Downstairs, she could hear a soft, thudding noise gradually getting louder. Footsteps. She knew exactly who it would be, even before the door burst open into her room.

“Aisha, Aisha! Get up!” Jenna said, ‘’Go downstairs now!” Aisha looked up quizzically at her best friend.

“Why?” asked Aisha but before she could get an answer, Jenna pulled her duvet away and chucked her out of bed. Aisha quickly grabbed her hijab as she was pushed out of her room. While Aisha tied her headscarf around her face, the two best friends wound down the mahogany, spiral staircase slowly.

They both could hear muffled voices getting louder until they stood in front of Shirley’s office. The first voice was definitely Shirley’s (her case worker). The second was of a male and he was vehemently asking to see Aisha.

“Dad?!” Aisha blurted out from behind the door.

Almost immediately, the door opened…

“Eid Mubarak darling” said her father.

Runner Up: Katy Brinicombe

13 Steps to Freedom

13 steps.

That’s all it would take.

13 steps to freedom.

This day was a long time coming. He had spent sleepless nights imagining how he would feel on this day, at this time. It had remained elusive. Even now, a mixture of feelings threatened to swallow him up. Where would he go? What would he do? He had always known that the world was a scary place – he had witnessed enough fear and terror to know that no-one could be trusted – but he had always had the safety and security of his room. Somewhere to hide and feel safe once more. His space.

But now it was gone. Today it belonged to someone else and he had to go. He grasped the handle of his small, battered case a little tighter. It was the one he had arrived with all those years ago, and he was sure it would still be with him when he died. It carried each and every one of his meagre belongings that he had accumulated over the years. It carried his identity.

He remained on that top stair, still unable to move. He looked at his feet, in the worn-out leather brogues, and willed them on. He took one last look up the stairs, at the scratched wooden doors, and of the ghostly faces that peered at him through the balustrades.

One deep breath. One step. Towards freedom.


Winner: Gillian English

History Lesson

Instead of the usual fast-talking twenty-something, the estate agent looked well past sixty and seemed to be struggling for breath.

“How long has it been empty?” I asked. He muttered something and then coughed violently, clamping a greying handkerchief over his mouth.

“You sit here, I’ll look round myself” I said, helping him into a chair. He was still bent over his handkerchief, taking long hoarse breaths.

I wasn’t going to be long – I could already see this was far too big for us. It even had two staircases leading to different parts of the building. Used to be a school, so someone told me.

I was on my way back down the stairs in minutes, wondering if I should take the old man to a doctor. But then I stopped. In front of me was the door to the front entrance. But now it had a large wooden noticeboard nailed across it, blocking it up. I must have come down the other staircase to the back of the building.

I went up and came back down the other way. And there was the blocked door. No sign of the old man either. I went up and down the stairs two or three more times, becoming increasingly short of breath, always ending up at the blocked door.

Then, wheezing slightly, I walked up to the blocked door and read the single dusty notice on the board.

“Influenza – school closure, 17 June 1918”

And I began to cough.

Big congratulations to Gillian, Katy and Ana. Thank you one and all again — this week was one of the toughest to judge, but you all knocked it out of the park. 

I’ll be gone again next week, trapped in a Summer Party induced haze, but I’ll see you again the week after that!

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

#QUICKFIC 07/06/2019

Oh well hello and happy June to you all! Welcome to #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash fiction  competition where the prompts are wild, your stories are wilder and I, your faithful prompt master, am wilder still. It’s the first #QUICKFIC of June and I know you’re all keen to get started but first, let me tell you the rules of our fair game.

  1.  You’ll see a prompt (this week it’s a picture. Next week it may not be, but this week it definitely is!)
  2. Let the prompt get that creativity flowing and channel that into writing a piece of flash fiction
  3. That piece needs to be 250 words or less. And I check, so no cheating.
  4. Title your work, pop it into the body of an email along with a note telling me the wordcount and send it to academy@faber.co.uk with the subject line #QUICKFIC 07/06/2019 no later than 2:50 pm GMT
  5. Wait patiently as I devour all your lovely words then report back at 3:30 with your winner

As the winner you do also win a prize. Alongside our friends at Faber & Faber we’re celebrating their ninetieth anniversary. Current staff members were asked to pick their three favourite Faber books. This week you have the opportunity to win two of the books on that list and my own personal favourite:  Four Quartets by T.S Eliot, Rip it Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. 


So: you’ve got five hours, three books to win and 250 words or less to produce for me based on a prompt that you’re able to view…






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 24/05/2019

Welcome, one and all, to a super sunshine edition of #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction competition. Whether you’re writing from a desk, desperately soaking up the sun from the window at your back and wondering when it’s late enough you can justify having lunch outside (solidarity, if so), curled up in bed, waiting for the day to begin for you or luckiest of all outside in the world, I’ve got a prompt to brighten your day even further.

But enough waffle! First, the rules of the game, if you’ve never played before. If you have, keep on keepin; on, for below lies your prompt:

  1. On Friday at 9:50, a prompt will be posted both on the blog and on the Faber Academy twitter.
  2. Inspired by the prompt, I’d like a piece of flash fiction of no more than 250 words (though you can, of course, write less).
  3. Give your piece a title, copy it into the body of an email and tell me the wordcount.
  4. Send that email at academy@faber.co.uk with the subject line #QUICKFIC 24/05/2019 no later than 2:50 pm GMT 

And after that, that’s your bit over with! From 2:50 onward I’m tasked with reading your wonderful words and picking a winner. That winner receives my undying admiration and three books. This week’s books are all about, fundementally, family. You’re in with a shot of winning Sarah Hall’s The Wolf Border, Laura Lipman’s Sunburn and Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered:


And all you need to do to snag those beauties is look right down here at this oh so summery prompt:


Write away, #QUICKFICCERS!

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 17/05/2019

It’s Friday,. You have a whole busy day ahead of you. The day? It’s grey. But never fear, for another round of QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction competition is here to make your day just that little bit brighter..

If you’ve QUICKFiC-ed with us before, head on down to the prompt. If you’ve no idea what this is all about, have a quick read through the rules:

  • On Friday mornings (so, now) I present to you a prompt. Images, playlists, other far better writer’s words, 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, and send that email to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm on the Friday afternoon.

Should your piece of flash fiction be chosen as the lucky winner we’ll send you off a lovely stack of books. This week our heart’s have bee set all aflutter thanks to Faber Members’ upcoming event, Making Debuts. So why not celebrate some of our brilliant debut authors by giving away their wonderful debut novels! Our winner receives Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater, Bev Thomas’ A Good Enough Mother and Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends:


So after dangling those beauties in front of your faces place run, don’t walk, to this week’s prompt.


Get writing! See you 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.