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#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 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. 

#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. 

#QUICKFIC 03/05/2019

Well hello hello and welcome back to #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition. We’ve had some Academy shake ups and some holidays and some bank holiday breaks, but a new month dawns and with it comes #QUICKFIC.

I teased your prompt last night, but you’ll shortly be seeing the full version. First though, the oh so strict rules!

  1. Further down the page is a prompt. Stare at it for a bit. Really let it inspire you.
  2. Alchemy like, I want you to take turn that simple prompt into a piece of fiction 250 words or less.
  3. Copy that piece into the body of an email, making sure to include the title and the word count, and send it to academy@faber.co.uk.
  4. Do all that by 2:50 pm today. 
  5. At 3:30 pm I’ll reveal your winner and runners up!

The winner is not just a winners in my heart and mind and on the pages of this blog. They also get a prize in the form of these lovely books:

Some cracking new releases in there just to really sweeten the pot.

 

With all that said and done here is the main event! The prompt itself:

Now let the inspiration flow through you like April flowing into May.

I’ll 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 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.