Tag Archives: creative writing exercises

#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.

Go.

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…

 

 

 

 

Now:

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. 

#QUICKFIC 10/05/2019: The Winner

Well. despite me initially getting the date wrong (I did tell you all I thought it was Thursday all week!) that was a wonderful batch of #QUICKFIC pieces. Excellent job, all! Let’s take another look at your prompt: 

And on to the winners:

Runner Up: James Atkinson

Shouting Across the Bar

She shouted across the bar, pointed to the little map.

He listened, didn’t hear and shouted back.  

It went back and forth.

They got nowhere.  

Well, they got lost.

They asked for Becks, he gave them Metz.  

They got irate, refused to pay and stormed off.  

He, shamefacedly, had to explain to his boss.  

And paid.

He didn’t recognise them.

He couldn’t understand their annoyance.

He let someone else take over.

He didn’t see them.

For over forty minutes.

No wonder they soaked him.

Immediately after, a frequent customer smiled kindly and asked for his number.

He gave her a flier, underlining the bar’s number.

She asked again, he gave an annoyed look and jabbed the flier.

She pushed it back and walked away, normally he had much more to say.

He shrugged, carried on.

It was only later he realised it was her.

And, while pouring her usual for someone else, he wondered… and spilt the drink.

And was ordered away from the bar.

It was just one of those shifts, one spent well outside the required zone.  

One not taking in anyone’s words or faces, just order, fulfillment, order, fulfillment.

A buzz filling his head.

Why did they play the music so loud?  

Often he dreamed of sleepy seaside tavernas.  

While collecting glasses outside he spotted his regular drinking alone across the street.  

In the relative quiet of the nightlife he crossed toward her preparing his apology.

Hoping it was necessary.  

He had often dreamed about her too.

Runner Up: Paul Jenkins

Nobody Knows Your Name

I’ve worked a lot of bar jobs. Student bars are easy but they’re also the worst. They are unfailingly polite, but irritatingly loud and they puke the most.

Regular bar, you don’t get so much puke and noise but you get more aggro. Like everything else in life, there’s a trade-off.

The girls get louder, they’re at the age where they know what they want. The boys are at the age where they just think they know. Neither the boys nor the girls will end up getting it and the pain of that realisation is where your humble bartender comes in.

This one girl, Sonia, she comes in more nights than she should but this isn’t social services. I just pour the drinks and take the money and clean up the puke.

“Can I get you a drink?”

She is very beautiful and very drunk and the kind of girl who’d drive a sane man crazy. But I’m crazy so her magic doesn’t work on me.

“I’ll take a half, thank you.”

I pass her a tray of vodka jellies and place a half pint glass beneath the pump.

My father doesn’t drink anymore, but did when I was a child. The smell of beer in my nostrils brings him back out the box, tearing upwards through the earth with his calloused fingers, shaking the dirt off his one suit and running at the speed of death to hammer his unmistakable fists upon our door.

But still I pour.

Winner: Daniela Azzopardi

Exploration

His hand hovered over the bottle hesitantly.

“Come on, I haven’t got all night.” Her eyes shone bright despite the low key lighting in the establishment. The chatter of his other patrons seemed to drown when compared to her husky voice.

“It’s not a mix I’ve ever heard of.” He picked up a bottle of clear spirit and unscrewed it.

“I know what I like.”

She smiled, directing him on the exact measures for her drink. Her accent sounded local, but something was off; she couldn’t recall certain words and would occasionally elongated the odd vowel.

“Is this it?” He asked, looking at the concoction sitting in his work space. A heavy blue settled at the bottom of the glass swirling into green, and then yellow at the top.

Before he could move, she reached over and grabbed the drink, examining the contents. Her nose twitched like an excited cat and her face broke into a smile.

“It’s going to taste like liquified sugar.” He warned as she put the glass to her lips.

One more smile, and half the drink was gone.

“Just as I like it.”

She put down the money for the drink together with a generous tip and waltzed away from the bar into the crowd.

The barman shook his head incredulously as he wiped his bench. Ever since humans started frequenting his bar, his alcohol stocks had started depleting shockingly fast. He had never met a species so capable of adapting and with such thirst. 

loved the tendency towards final lines that packed one hell of a punch her everyone! Congratulations to James, Paul and Daniela and thank you to everyone that played along this week. See you again soon for another round of #QUICKFIC!

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

 

#QUICKFIC 10/05/2019

Hello lovely flash fiction fans and welcome back to #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s (in)famous flash fiction competition. What a week! I, for one, was bamboozled by the Bank Holiday and have been convinced it’s Thursday every day. Luckily it’s finally reached Friday and your #QUICKFIC prompt is now within your reach.

First up, the Laws of the Land.

  • In however many minutes (or seconds, if you cheat and jump to it) it takes you to scroll and read the rest of this post, you’ll see a picture prompt.
  • From that prompt, I’d like to read whatever piece of flash fiction it inspires within you
  • Whittle that piece down to 250 words or less. Strictly no more than that!
  • Place your work of art into the body of an email, making sure to include the title and the word count, and send it to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50 pm today. 

After that, you simply wait and wait until 30:30 pm when I reveal the winner!

That lucky person wins two very special books this week. This year Faber celebrates its 90th anniversary and so, to celebrate our long history and the fantastic new authors we’re lucky to publish, our winner receives Toby Faber’s history of the company and Rachel Cusk’s Kudos: 

With all that, are you

Ready

For

A

Prompt?

Here you go!

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

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 09/11/2018

Happy Friday! Welcome back to Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Quick fire refresher:

One prompt. One 250 word story from you. Send it in the body of an email (including title and word count) by 2:50 pm today to academy@faber.co.uk. You might win these books: 

"The Book of Chocolate Saints" by Jeet Thayil and "In My Minds Eye: A Thought Diary" by Jan Morris -Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

The days are getting shorter, it’s dark and cold and everyone is reaching for the tissues, but not in the Academy office! We’re bringing back that summer feeling and switching  things up a little. This week your prompt is not a picture, or a first line, or even an extract. It’s a playlist full of cheerful songs designed to make you think of warmer, golden days gone by:

Have a listen, get inspired and see what words you can produce.

One more programming note before we go though. Thanks to copyright, we can’t re-print any of the lyrics to these wonderful songs. Please don’t include them in your story, as that means it can’t go up on the website and that means you won’t win.

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.