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To Hull & Back Short Story Competition Results 2016

Quick links on this page:

winners - shortlist - longlist - judges - notes

2017 comp now open - anthology - book launch - winner's video

I'm pleased to announce the results of the 2016 To Hull & Back Humorous Short Story Competition.

I received 284 entries into this year's contest. Last year there were 216 entries, so the continued growth is encouraging to see. The rise in submission numbers indicates that the number of mentally unhinged writers out there is greater than I anticipated, which is very reassuring – it's nice to know I'm not alone... :-)

I'd like to thank everyone who entered. Your continued support has allowed me to increase the prize fund for next year's competition. To Hull & Back would not continue to grow and give humorous writing a platform to be celebrated from without all the amazing writers who enter. So, I'd like to say a massive THANK YOU to you all. I couldn't do this without you.

Chris Fielden Thanks

If you didn't make the longlist or the shortlist, please don't be disheartened. The overall quality of submissions this year was absolutely amazing. There were hundreds of publishable short stories entered from all over the world. It was incredibly difficult to decide on the longlist and nigh-on impossible to select the shortlist.

I've increased the prize pot for next year, upping the second and third prize amounts and adding an additional 17 cash prizes so that all the authors who appear in the 2017 anthology will receive some prize money.

I go into more detail about this year's contest in the competition notes section below.

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Winners

Below are the 2016 winning and highly commended stories. I'd like to say a huge congratualtions to the winning writers - each of you has crafted a tale of mirth and legend.

The scoring was incredibly close this year, so massive congratulations also go out to all the shortlisted writers. Thank you all for making the competition a joy to run.

1st Prize

King's Gambit Declined, by Peter Ewing

2nd Prize

Take Off Your Nappy, by Dylan Balfour

3rd Prize

Oh No, Richard, by Adena Graham

Highly Commended

In alphabetical order:

Feeding the Creatives, by Dan Purdue

The Graveyard Shift at the Midnite Parapharmacy, by AH Cassells

Transmogrification for Insomniacs, by Ian Tucker

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The Shortlist

Below is the 2016 To Hull & Back shortlist – a delightfully motley-crew of short story writing maniacs.

The standard this year has been astounding, so if you've been shortlisted you deserve a well-earned tipple or 10 to celebrate – CONGRATULATIONS. All the shortlisted stories will appear in the 2016 To Hull & Back Short Story Anthology.

The links take you to each author's biography.

Adena Graham – Oh No, Richard

AH Cassells – The Graveyard Shift at the Midnite Parapharmacy

C L Raven – Death's Cold Kiss

Dan Brotzel – The Haircut

Dan Purdue – Feeding the Creatives

Dylan Balfour – Take Off Your Nappy

Heather Reid – With a Little Help from My Friends

Helen Combe – Schrödinger's Data Stick

Ian Tucker – Transmogrification for Insomniacs

Jim Horlock – The Lavash Claim

Joe Richardson – Ketchup

John Holland – The Night Ape

Jonathan Macho – Stranger Than Strangers

Martin Strike – Strange Goings on at Newbury Model Train Enthusiasts' Society

Mary D'Arcy – Happy Death Day to You

Peter Ewing – King's Gambit Declined

Sarah Hitchcock – The Misty Aisle

Simon James – Over The Rainbow

ST Ranscht – Sarcasm Font

Ted Myers – Bardo Train to Canarsie

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The Longlist

I've decided to publish a full longlist for the first time this year. This pays testament to the calibre of the stories submitted.

These writers missed out on the shortlist by a proverbial whisker. A huge round of applause to all of them – their stories were inventive, entertaining and brilliant.

Again, the links take you to each author's biography.

A Creed – Our Steelworks is Missing

Ali Bacon – When I'm Cleaning Windows

Andrew Davis – Wish

Christopher Stanley – His & Hers

Dianne Bown-Wilson – Syndactyly

Dirk Puis – A Pee Before Therapy

Gaynor Hill – Gnomes Again

Ian King – Clash of the Titans (and Achilles)

James Woolf – In Extremis

JH Moncrieff – The Sweetness of Life

John Emms – The Problem

Ken Morlich – Elephants of the Cosmos

Kevin Wilkinson – Spaceman Pandaman

Lesley Truchet – The Broken Machine

Martin Lindsay – The Very End of the Affair

Michele Sheldon – Mrs Shipley’s Spinning Wheel

Nat Wickens – The Goblin Told Me to Do It

Sharon Willdin – Not Quite the Brady Bunch

Tim Robson – The Betrayal of Aurelian

Ville Nummenpää – Beyond the Borders of Boredom

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To Hull & Back Winner's Video

The video was filmed on Friday 7th April and Saturday 8th April 2017.

Peter travelled all the way from Scotland to meet me in Hull for the video. He actually travelled further than me - his journey was around 600 miles in total. So MASSIVE thanks to him. He's a total legend and his support of this crazy competition is very much appreciated.

To Hull & Back - 2016 winner's video starring Peter Ewing and Helen Combe

When I set out on the journey to Hull, I did the usual 'Highway to Hull' Facebook post with a picture of me and the bike. Helen Combe, who was shortlisted in the competition and has a story in the anthology, commented on the photo, inviting me to pop in for tea and cake as I drive past her house on the journey to Hull - she lives just off the M42 near Birmingham. I didn't get her message until I'd got to Doncaster, which is way north of there, but asked if I could pop in on the way home. I couldn't refuse cake. And she lives in Solihull. SoliHULL... Couldn't say no really, could I? So she's in the video. Huge thanks to her and Tim for their support too.

Next year, I'm considering inviting all of the shortlisted writers to appear in the video... That could be fun.

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Shortlist Author Biographies

Below are the biographies and photos of the writers of the most inventive and original stories entered into the 2016 competition.

Adena Graham (UK)

Adena Graham

Adena Graham is a writer by profession (advertising copy) and a writer by hobby. She's had numerous short stories published, both online and in magazines – including Creepy Pasta, Unhinged, Dead Things, QWF, Writers' Brew and three editions of Popshot Magazine. She's also been runner-up twice for Faber Academy's Quickfic competition, won the Hour of Writes weekly competition, as well as the InkTears annual short story competition, and has also been shortlisted for a number of other competitions.

But the thing she's most proud of is actually featuring in the 2015 edition of To Hull and Back, since it's more amusing than any of the others! As well as short stories, Adena's had two erotic novels published (under a pseudonym) – because writing about penises is the only way to get over a convent education.

AH Cassells (UK)

AH Cassells

25 years a pharmacist, I’ve always had a passion for writing and comedy. After a health scare, I realised time was running out to make my dream of becoming a writer a reality. I joined the Johnstone Writers Group and haven’t looked back.

My first published story, 'The Tea Jenny', will appear this year in the Alterna TEAS anthology from Sky Warrior Books. I live in Paisley, Scotland, with my wife Karen and dog Coco.

C L Raven (UK)

C L Raven

C L Raven are identical twins from Cardiff who love all things horror. They spend their time looking after their animal army and drinking more Red Bull than the recommended government guidelines.

They write short stories, novels and articles for Haunted Magazine and have been published in various anthologies and horror magazines. They’ve been longlisted in the Exeter Novel Prize twice, the Flash 500 Novel competition and the Bath Novel Award. Soul Asylum was shortlisted in the 2012 National Self-Publishing Awards and Deadly Reflections was highly recommended in the 2014 awards. Several short stories have also been long and shortlisted in various competitions. Their most recent publication was in the Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper, which makes their fascination with him seem less creepy.

Along with their friend Neen, they prowl the country hunting for ghosts for their YouTube show, Calamityville Horror. Every Friday night, they can be found playing D&D/RPGs with their group, Disaster Class, which always ends in failing dice rolls and derailing all the DM’s plans. Sorry Tom.

Dan Brotzel (UK)

Dan Brotzel

Dan Brotzel lives in London with his wife Eve and their three young children. Dan’s short story, 'Fat Birds Don’t Fly', won Carillon Magazine’s 'Absurd Stories' competition in 2014. He also won Asda's Christmas cracker gag-writing contest in 2004. Why was the onion crying? Because it cut itself.

Dan Purdue (UK)

Dan Purdue

Dan Purdue's short stories have been published in print and online in the UK, Ireland, Canada, and the United States, in places such as The Fiction Desk, The View From Here, Jersey Devil Press, The New Writer, Every Day Fiction, Southword and The Guardian.

His fiction has won prizes in a variety of competitions, including the HE Bates short story award, the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition, the James White Award and Flash 500. His work has also featured in an English study guide, been performed at the Berko Speakeasy and been broadcast on hospital radio.

Dan lives in Leamington Spa and blogs at www.danpurdue.uk.

Dylan Balfour (UK)

Dylan Balfour

Dylan is a student of politics & philosophy in York, England. He hasn't really done that much creative writing except at school, thus details about his literary oeuvre are limited. However, in Year 4 he wrote a poem about a Christmas tree which seemed to go down well. He is currently attempting to get a short story featuring the phrase 'viscous faecal soup' published, but is not holding his breath.

He can't remember ever going to Hull, although he has heard it has a good aquarium. He used to regularly pass through Slough which he feels is probably similar to Hull but with less unemployed shipbuilders.

Heather Reid (UK)

Heather Reid

Heather Reid is originally from Lancashire but has lived in Scotland for the past thirty years. She is a lazy writer but has had her short stories and poems published in various places – most notably in a public toilet on Shetland – and broadcast on Radio 4. She likes cats and cheese and chocolate. She is currently working towards the British record for taking the longest possible time to complete a novel.

Helen Combe (UK)

Helen Combe

I came to writing rather late, having been earmarked in school as a scientist. A degree in combined botany and zoology led to the obvious choice of software engineering as my career. I joined the Solihull Writers group in 2009, just for a bit of fun, and have remained there ever since and have been their treasurer for the past five years. I have not had any work published, due to a combination of writers' procrastination and never having submitted my work anywhere outside of the club.

My proudest moment was in 2013 when I was voted Supreme Ruler of the Universe in the guise of Servalan (Blake's 7) at a sci-fi convention. My second most proud moment was when I had a walk on part as a belly dancer in the BBC Afternoon Play Turkish Delight with Denise Welch. I was a hobby medieval re-enactor at Warwick castle for a while, but sewing, carrying water, wearing soggy wool and constantly smelling of wood-smoke lost its attraction rather quickly. I live with two cats and a belligerent yeti who kicked down the cat flat and demanded that I adopt him.

Ian Tucker (UK)

Ian Tucker

I write silly stories for entertainment and fun and have been doing so for over 10 years. Many of them are on www.tilebury.com. So far I have entertained myself and had some fun. The rest of the world has been largely unmoved. An equally silly story of mine was kindly shortlisted in the 2015 to Hull and Back competition. I live in Bristol with my wife and some fat spiders.

Jim Horlock (UK)

Jim Horlock

I'm a graduate of the University of Glamorgan, where I obtained a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. I am primarily carnivorous and can usually be found loitering in real ale bars in Cardiff, staring into the middle distance or frantically scribbling notes onto napkins. I'm a great lover of comedy and find it the most rewarding feeling in the world when someone laughs out loud at something I have written.

Joe Richardson (UK)

Joe Richardson

I'm 22 and an American Literature with Creative Writing Student heading into my final year at the University of East Anglia. I enjoy writing both prose and screen, with my eventual ambition to direct comedy for TV. Over summer I work as a runner on various TV shows in the Northwest, from The X Factor to documentaries on naturism. I've also written and directed three short films to date, including Jim Reaper (2014), a comedy about a grim reaper that's really bad at his job.

John Holland (UK)

John Holland

John Holland is a short fiction writer from Stroud in Gloucestershire, UK. His stories are found online, in magazines and anthologies including The Best Stories of the Decade (2013). Sometimes he likes to read them out loud. His website is: www.johnhollandwrites.com

John is also the organiser of the twice-yearly Stroud Short Stories event, the website for which is: www.stroudshortstories.blogspot.co.uk

Jonathan Macho (UK)

Jonathan Macho

Jonathan Macho lives in Cardiff with his family and a talking space raccoon that almost certainly exists. A relatively recent English Graduate now faced with the big wide world, Jon always wanted to be a writer and loves making his nonsensical ideas into (a sort of) reality.

He has co-produced three plays with the Sherman Theatre Young Writers Group, and has previously been published in Candy Jar's Beneath the Surface Anthology, last years To Hull and Back, and Pageturners India's Across the Ages Collection, as well as the Modern Alchemists' Gallery The Abacus for an installation.

Martin Strike (UK)

Martin Strike

Martin was born in Hounslow – surely a geographical error on his parents' part. Early schooling was briefly interrupted by a broken nose incurred in the playground, tripping whilst playing 'Marine Boy', but was otherwise unremarkable. His father had previously broken his nose standing too close to the mesh of a cricket net when watching a batsman smack a lofted drive in his general direction. At time of writing, the nose of Martin's son remains intact, but future pain and disfigurement seems inevitable.

Mary D'Arcy (UK)

Mary D'Arcy

Romantic tales (set in my native Ireland) going nowhere.

Turned to murder and mayhem and since then published in anthologies, newspapers and magazines.

My novel, Tale of Hoffman, shortlisted for the Sitric 'Win a Book Deal' in 2004.

In 2007 shortlisted for the Stella Artois Pitching Award and came to the attention of the late Jimmy T Murakami, veteran of animation with whom I collaborated on a film script – later optioned by the Irish Film Board.

In 2008 I won the Bill Naughton Prize and the following year the Molly Keane Memorial Creative Writing Award.

Shortly after, Way To Go was shortlisted for the Waterford Film Festival.

In 2011 my 30-minute play In What I Failed To Do aired on BBC Radio 7 and was read by the amazing Maggie Steed.

By which time I was becoming a regular murderer and upsetting my elderly mother.

My collections of yarns, Checking Out & Other Tales (cover illustration and intro by Jimmy T Murakami) published in 2012.

Left off murder and mayhem and stunned to find The Colour Blue (no blood or gore) winner of the Harry Bowling Flash Fiction Prize in 2014.

And mother and I are friends again.

Peter Ewing (UK)

Peter Ewing

I'm a full time NHS general practitioner. I've won a few writing competitions but unfortunately not enough to quit the day job. When not writing I enjoy gold panning and plan to give my wife, Janie, a Scottish gold eternity ring. In 2026, at current production rates...

I also ride a Honda CB500F, which is a rather pipe-and-slippers machine compared to a Hog. But I guess I don't have to endure the jokes about handlebar hassles either.

I get ideas from stuff around me. 'Dear Gestapo', which won first prize in a writing magazine, was inspired by a wartime letter in a Jersey museum. I also heard that the Soviets banned overwintering staff in their Antarctic research station from playing chess - that inspired another story.

Sarah Hitchcock (UK)

Sarah Hitchcock

Sarah Hitchcock writes and illustrates from a small market town called Stroud. Although she calls the West home, she grew up in the South in a large town squashed between the Downs and the sea. She lives alone, unless you count a small freshwater shrimp that appears to be immortal.

Sarah has a background in nursing but returned to full-time education as a mature student to study Fine Art, and then gained the courage to begin writing in earnest.

Fantasy, the unfamiliar, and subverting fairy tales are how she likes to examine and explore the human condition: a way of turning the real world over a bit and giving it a poke to see another angle and understand something new.

As a nurse, she gained a deep and varied experience of human beings and as a consequence her characters come from close empathetic observation. Her real life as an artist means she comes at everything from an unexpected angle. The two combine to inform her work.

She has self-published a fantasy adventure for older children called Stan and the Enchantress, illustrates her own work for younger readers, and writes short stories for adults.

Simon James (UK)

Simon James

I'm a 22-year-old from Cheshire who has been writing since before he could write (I'd tell my mum what to put to paper for me). When I was 19 I self-published a book of 10 short stories called Chapter One, which I sold on Amazon and in local bookshops.

Last year I graduated from Lancaster University with a first in English and Creative Writing. Whilst there I wrote many short stories, as well as multiple scripts, some of which I took out of the classroom. For example a radio play I wrote and directed called Here For You won the award for that year's 'Best One-Off Special' on our student radio station.

For the last year I have been working in the Channel 5 press office in London. Whilst living in the capital I have also done freelance journalism work for outlets such as The Telegraph and The Star, as well as for websites such as Entertainment Focus and GeekTown. I am currently pursuing a career in television writing.

ST Ranscht (USA)

ST Ranscht

S.T. Ranscht is a single mum and storyteller/writer earning her living as a seamstress/costumer. She graduated from SDSU with a BA in Dramatic Arts with an English Lit minor. That pesky need to eat led her to a career with the Forest Service and two years in San Francisco – the longest 11 years of her life.

Eternally grateful to return to San Diego, she attended law school at USD, and gave up the glamour of Civil Service to become a Licensed Child Care Provider so she could stay home with her new baby son, and costume for a children’s theatre organization. Through it all, she never stopped writing and telling stories.

She's dedicated to the belief that kids who feel like they're outside the mainstream deserve strong literary role models of their own. All those kids she cared for heartily approve. Having earned Honourable Mention in the 2016 Book a Break Short Story Competition, her entry, 'Cat Artist Catharsis' will be published in the associated anthology, The Cattery, in November 2016.

She and co-writer Robert P. Beus are currently seeking an agent to represent their YA sci-fi novel, Enhanced, the first book of The Second Earth Trilogy.

Ted Myers (USA)

Ted Myers

After a twenty-five-year stint as a failed rock star, and a fifteen-year stint as a semi-successful 'record nerd' (working at Rhino Records and then Concord Music Group), Ted Myers landed a job as a copywriter in advertising, which cemented his determination to make his mark as a 'real' writer.

Some of Ted’s early writings were published in: Working Musicians (Harper Collins) and By the Time We Got to Woodstock: The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolution of 1969 (Backbeat Books). A more scholarly work, called Anatomy of a Box Set, was published in Popular Music and Society. (These publications were more a result of who Ted knew than what Ted knew.)

As a compilation producer at Rhino Records, Ted wrote and contributed to many liner notes, including those for his three-CD box set Washington Square Memoirs: The Great Urban Folk Boom (1950-1970), which earned a Grammy nomination in 2002.

His epic memoir, Making It: Music, Sex and Drugs in the Golden Age of Rock, will, after numerous rejections, be published by Calumet Editions in late 2016 or early 2017.

He currently lives with an overbearing cat named Rocky and writes fiction exclusively.

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Longlist Author Biographies

Below are the biographies and photos of the uber-talented longlisted writers. Again, big congratulations to them all.

A Creed (UK)

A Creed

I entered this competition because my brother Ron Two Stools (so called because he once held off an angry pub mob, during the Isle of Man TT, by rotating a chunky bar stool in each hand), loved his motorbikes. He will be in biker heaven – like Valhalla, but substitute pints for drinking horns, chicken and chips for suckling pig, and imagine half disassembled bikes standing on the long tables – laughing at me, if I get to ride to Hull and back.

Taking Ron as my inspiration: I entered my story with the same recklessness that he once showed when he accelerated to bury (no time to drop it to the ground) his bike in a car driver’s door. In the writing I tried to emulate the style he showed subsequently summersaulting over the car. And I hope to come out of the competition unscathed, just as he did landing on his feet the other side of the car.

I was once patronised by Prince Charles; I write because I am too cowardly to live in interesting times for real; and my ambition is to have enough filthy (or clean I’m not fussy) lucre, to be able to write full time.

Ali Bacon (UK)

Ali Bacon

In the last ten years Ali Bacon has written 2.4 novels, attained .3 of a degree and jettisoned 50% of her first name. She's actually no good at maths but spends her time writing, reviewing and occasionally performing her work in Bristol and beyond.

Andrew Davis (UK)

Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis is coming towards the end of his MA in Creative Writing. When he isn't writing, he enjoys playing acoustic guitar, much to the disappointment of people in the surrounding neighbourhood.

Christopher Stanley (UK)

Christopher Stanley

Christopher Stanley writes mainly horror and literary fiction. He currently lives in Bristol, but has previously lived in Grimsby and has been to Hull and back more times than he cares to remember.

His stories have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and published in Yellow Chair Review, Jellyfish Review and the National Flash Fiction Day anthology. He's a member of the Bath Company of Writers.

Dianne Bown-Wilson (UK)

Dianne Bown-Wilson

I was born in England, grew up in New Zealand and now live in Dartmoor National Park. I have always written short stories (the first I can remember being 'Lost in the Dessert' at school). Since then, although my spelling improved, for most of my life other things got in the way of prodigious output.

Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Although I’ve never had a problem with the first, I’ve recently made the second a daily challenge.

Persistence has some rewards and as a result, over the past few years I’ve had success with a number of short stories, most recently first prizes in the Bridgend Writers Circle annual competition and the Writers' Forum monthly competition. I’ve also had work published in several anthologies including the 2015 Momaya Short Story Review and Bournemouth University’s Fresher Writing Anthology.

Although I’m toying with the idea of writing a novel I fundamentally enjoy the short story as a form and love the potential inherent in the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.

Dirk Puis (Belgium)

Dirk Puis

Dirk Puis doesn’t really like people it seems. He prefers the company of his dog and three cats. His career as a software engineer is just a way to avoid human interaction.

He likes being alone, and we think it shows in his writing. He writes stories about loss of all kinds: identity, mind, memories of the past, bodily functions, etc. All that can be lost, will be lost.

He likes his humour dry and bitter, no ice.

He is currently writing Nurse Delia Nurse, a book in which he can go completely wild on every type of loss he can think of. He is having a ball.

Gaynor Hill (UK)

Gaynor Hill

Gaynor Hill is a country wife and fledgling artist who takes her inspiration from life in the Garden of England. The blame for her current writing aspirations lies entirely with the Women's Institute who introduced her to the craft. 'Gnomes Again' is Gaynor's second short story and first attempt at humour (her natural inclination being more toward the dark and sinister). She has not been published to date but lives in perpetual hope.

Ian King (UK)

Danny Shilling

Ian was born at an unknown point in time and has since fluttered between reality and the imaginary worlds he creates, never really knowing what one he is in at any one time.

James Woolf (UK)

James Woolf

James began writing short stories less than two years ago. In that time, the form has become something of an obsession; he reads as many stories as possible (as well as books and articles about the craft). 'R V Sieger – additional documents disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service' was longlisted in the Fish short story competition and the Short Fiction prize before being highly commended in the London Short Story Prize. 'Connectivity' was commended in the Segora international short story competition.

Prior to this, James's plays have been produced in various off-West End venues including The King's Head Theatre, the Arcola and the Theatre Royal Margate. In addition, two of his radio plays have been broadcast on Radio 4 and LBC, including Kerton’s Story with Bill Nighy, Lesley Sharp and Stephen Moore. Several poems have also been included in anthologies. He has also written adverts (including about 8 for Black and Decker), and worked for two years as a writer in residence in a prison.

James is married to Philippa and has two daughters, Zara aged 14 and Ruby aged 12.

JH Moncrieff (Canada)

JH Moncrieff

Raised in the far north, amid Jack London’s world of dog sleds and dark winters, J.H. Moncrieff has been a professional writer all of her adult life.

In 2016, Harlequin UK selected Moncrieff to co-write a twisted psychological thriller in its search for the 'next Gillian Flynn'. Samhain Publishing chose her novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, over hundreds of entrants for their 2015 Childhood Fears collection. During her years as a journalist, Moncrieff tracked down snipers and canoed through crocodile-infested waters. She has published hundreds of articles in national and international magazines and newspapers.

When she’s not writing, J.H. loves to read, travel to exotic locations, advocate for animal rights, and muay thai kickbox.

John Emms (UK)

John Emms

John Emms...

...after a career got in the way, found time to write again after retiring. Since then a number of short stories and articles, usually humour based, have featured in various publications, not least To Hull & Back 2014 and 2015. He has also, bizarrely, published a lengthy but entertaining (honestly...) history of local government lawyers. More recently moved into writing plays, a few of the shorter of which have won prizes or been selected for performance.

Ken Morlich (UK)

Ken Morlich

Ken Morlich is a writer of fiction who lives in Edinburgh. He likes elderly bicycles and detests the plastic doofers that connect beer cans together. In 2015 he won the Moniack Mhor Best New Writer Prize in the Skye Baker Prize. He's had stuff published once or twice on the web, and even in print (2015 Pushing Out the Boat).

He has a website and this is it: www.kmorlich.weebly.com

Kevin Wilkinson (UK)

Kevin Wilkinson

I have been writing as best I can since 2009 and have now written several short stories and a novel. I am currently undertaking an M.Litt in creative writing at Glasgow University and have come to see how wonderfully full of creative talent that city is. Other than that, I’m fond of this quote by Milan Kundera: "The mystery of humour is the last refuge of the human."

Lesley Truchet (France)

Lesley Truchet

Lesley Truchet is native English and lives in France. She has been writing for several years and has a number of short stories, articles and poetry published on paper and on the internet and is currently writing her first novel.

Lesley has been a member of The Oldham Writing Café since its naissance in 2008. She is also a member of an international online writing group created for ex-pat writers, which has a very limited membership, approximately 20 members worldwide.

Martin Lindsay (Australia)

Martin Lindsay

Martin Lindsay is an Australian writer based in Perth, Western Australia. He is the author of four plays, several short stories, and is wantonly procrastinating over several novel manuscripts. He divides writing time with portraying entire casts of Disney films for his daughter, and breaking things for a living as a software tester. He is even known to occasionally blog on his website: www.martinlindsay.net

Michele Sheldon (UK)

Michele Sheldon

I sneakily write short stories in between all the soul-destroying jobs like cleaning, cooking, washing up and being that person you come to when something you spill needs cleaning up or you're too short to reach something, usually containing lots of sugar, from a cupboard.

I've had a few stories published in anthologies, Born of the Sea and Other Stories and Stories for Homes in aid of Shelter and magazines, Woman's Weekly and Kent Life, the latter after winning its short story competition this year. I've also been shortlisted for a few including Bridport and, most recently, The Colm Toíbín International Short Story Award.

Nat Wickens (UK)

Nat Wickens

I am 32, live in Berkshire with my partner and our pooch. My day job as a scientist involves a lot of number-crunching and is somewhat stifling for my imagination. So I thought I’d unleash my creative side and writing seemed like a winner as it is much less messy than painting, and considerably less fattening than baking.

I usually read sci-fi, but a holiday is not a holiday without a dose of chick-lit. Besides reading my passions in life are wildlife, cycling, my dog and tea. Simple pleasures.

Sharon Willdin (Australia)

Sharon Willdin

Sharon Willdin is a recent creative writing graduate who loves philosophy, comedy and life. In November 2015 she won the Olga Masters Short Story Award for '12 Hollis Avenue' and this story was featured in Australia's leading newspaper, The Weekend Australian, in January 2016. She was raised in regional NSW and currently lives in Sydney.

Tim Robson (UK)

Tim Robson

Tell us something about Tim Robson.

Tim is six foot, attractive, loads of hair. Girls tend to be drawn to his good looks but then back off when they realise he has no depth. He’s lost many girlfriends to this short, bald guy who follows him around cracking intellectual jokes no one gets. He's often to be found in Battersea Arts Centre writing his blog – www.timrobson.eu/blog – or trolling the Guardian’s Comment is Free website.

Ville Nummenpää (Finland)

Ville Nummenpää

Ville is a musician and a screenwriter from Finland. If there is more to life than Monty Python and Iron Maiden, he is not aware of it.

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The Judges

Here are some details about the 2016 judges.

All but one of the judges are members of the writing group I belong to in Bristol – Stokes Croft Writers. Last year's winner, Radka, is also helping judge this year. Last year, Mike (the 2014 winner) helped judge the contest. Having the previous winner help judge each year seems to work nicely, so I will also invite this year's winner to help judge the 2017 competition.

The judging works like this: I read all the entries and try not to go blind in the process. I then compile a longlist and then deliberate for hours on the shortlist.

The other judges read the shortlisted stories and, using scoring criteria, select their favourites. I feel that a variety of tastes and opinions makes for a fairer end result. If it were left to me alone, some sort of writing apocalypse would probably occur. No one wants that. No one.

Anita MacCallum

Anita MacCallum

Anita is a Bristol based writer, full-bodied with a nutty after-taste. She writes about people living on the edge of society, mental health and feminism. Transformation compels her and she is inspired by stories of positive activism.

Anita can often be found performing her work in and around the South-West of England. She is currently writing a play exploring motherhood and mental health, last year (2015) her play Tiny Truths was performed at the Bierkeller in Bristol as part of the New Writing Festival. This year her flash fiction 'Boobless' received 'commended' from the Bath Flash Fiction competition.

Anita works as a socially-engaged artist playing with words, glitter, projections, installations, hearts and minds. Collaborating with other writers and artists is her favourite thing to do, second only to long lie-ins with a book and a cup of tea.

Anita's website: www.loud-word.co

Find Anita on Twitter here.

Anita's comments on judging the competition:

It has been a real pleasure to delve into so many different worlds and abstract realities. I'm left with some strange desires, I want to fry my socks, travel in time, wash my hands and be very wary of apes. This is the first time I have judged a short story competition and I was impressed with the standard of the entries. Can't wait to hold the chosen few in a book and re-visit them.

Christie Cluett

Christie Cluett

I write humorous fiction about odd people in normal situations and am currently in the final editing stages of my novel, a dark comedy about an odd man’s struggle to fit in. To pass the extra time, I also write short stories, which have been short-listed for a number of competitions, including the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize, Writers' Forum and Mash Stories.

I’m co-founder of Stokes Croft Writers, one of the organisers of the Bristol Festival of Literature and perform at events across Bristol, including the regular comedy night, Show & Tell.

Christie's comments on judging the competition:

This is my third year of judging To Hull & Back and, as ever, I’ve really enjoyed it. Every year the quality of the shortlist just keeps getting better. It’s always exciting to get the shortlist and read through the stories from the new and more established, but all talented writers. They are funny, original and the quality of the writing is always really high.

As ever, it was really difficult to choose a winner from those great stories at the front of the pack, but don’t worry, I did in the end, and it’s a cracker.

Looking forward to next year already.

Chris Fielden

Chris Fielden as Batman on the phone

I have trouble being serious. About anything. Accept judging competitions. When it comes to that, I'm more deadly serious than Death. Chris contradicts himself regularly. And I sometimes miss typos when I change a bio from 3rd person to 1st person.

To Hull & Back was my brain child. That says a lot really.

I've started running some writing challenges with other writers. The aim is to support charity and publish hundreds (and hopefully thousands) of authors for the first time. You can learn more about the writing challenges here.

And, if you want to know more about me, there is more information than anyone could possibly be bothered to read on my About page.

Chris's comments on judging the competition:

See the notes section below.

Leah Eades

Leah Eades

Leah Eades is a London-based writer and former member of Stokes Croft Writers. To date, her work has been shortlisted by MASH Stories, Darker Times Fiction and The Fiction Desk, and performed at the Edinburgh Festival.

In addition to creative writing, Leah is also an experienced features journalist who specialises in science, travel and lifestyle topics. She is currently fitting writing around studying for a MSc in Social Anthropology at UCL.

Leah's website: www.leaheades.com

Finde Leah on Facebook here.

Leah's comments on judging the competition:

I was fortunate enough to be a judge for the inaugural To Hull and Back in 2014, and it’s been incredible to see how much the competition has grown in just two short years. This year, Chris has received entries from all over the world, spanning a vast range of genres and styles. Seeing the diverse and original ways in which each entrant approached the task of crafting a short story with “a humorous twist” has left me feeling both impressed and inspired.

While the winning and shortlisted authors are all very different, there are some things I found they all had in common: namely, a distinctive voice, a way with words, and, most importantly of all, the capacity to make me chuckle. So fasten your seatbelt and dive right in! I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed judging them.

Mark Rutterford

Mark Rutterford

Mark Rutterford writes and performs his short stories at events in the South West – to paying audiences and passers-by alike. Mark has read on-stage, in pubs, cafes and bars, in Bath's Southgate shopping centre and in the changing room of a Georgian Lido. He has read, gesticulated, pleaded, declared, jumped, sung, clapped, wobbled and blown his kazoo telling stories. He likes to use a prop as well – beer cans, a triangle, postcard, paper heart, chocolate and a badge or two.

Since his publication as a shortlisted entry in the 2015 To Hull And Back Anthology, Mark has launched his website (www.markrutterford.com) and has joined Stokes Croft Writers.

Mark is currently putting together a collection of his stories.

Find Mark on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

Mark's comments on judging the competition:

This is the first writing competition I’ve been on the judging panel for – it’s been a joy. I knew, from previous To Hull And Back Anthologies, that the standard would be high and the styles and subject matters as diverse as diverse could be. I have not been disappointed – not by a single entry.

What no-one told me about is the sense of responsibility. I know my reactions are as subjective as anyone else’s, but reading a story as a judge meant this wasn’t something to squeeze in on a train journey or doze off with at the end of the day. So I’ve given it my best shot, read and ranked, then left it to settle for a while before reviewing again. And now, along with proclamations from other judges... ta dah!

Chris does such a fantastic job with the competition, I’ll thank him and all those who submitted too. I have laughed lots and often and look forward to doing so again in 2017.

Mel Ciavucco

Mel Ciavucco

Mel Ciavucco is one of the co-founders of Stokes Croft Writers, the greatest writing group in the world. They run a bi-monthly storytelling event in Bristol called Talking Tales. Mel has written two novels and a screenplay, which she should be editing, but instead she is writing and recording silly short stories whilst drinking too much wine and playing with silly putty.

Mel has had short stories published both online and in print, and regularly performs her work at storytelling nights around Bristol. She often tries to write serious stuff too, mostly about feminism and gender equality. You can find her blog here: www.melciavucco.weebly.com

She likes pizza and chocolate, but is allergic to cats, dogs, children and Donald Trump fans.

Twitter: @MCiavucco

Mel's comments on judging the competition:

It’s been an absolute pleasure to be a judge for the third year running. Reading stories by such talented writers fills me full of inspiration and hope. Well done to everyone who made the longlist and the shortlist, and keep writing those stories. The world can be a tough place at times so we need funny stories more than ever. Hurrah for comedy. Keep it coming!

Radovana Jágriková

Radovana Jagrikova

Radovana Jágriková (Radka) started writing short stories in her early teens, winning more than 20 prizes in youth and adult literary competitions. She then moved into journalism and academic writing. In the past few years, she has begun writing fiction again, determined not to let her ambitions and bucketfuls of ideas go to waste. Fitting writing around working full-time in the field of art and creative education and way too many hobbies proved challenging yet enjoyable and rewarding. She was the runner-up in the British Czech and Slovak Association's 2013 writing competition and won the Sentinel Annual Short Story Competition 2014 and the To Hull and Back Short Story Competition 2015, with all three stories published. In the future she is hoping to continue writing short stories while also working on longer and more ambitious writing projects.

She is currently based in Gateshead/Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. She is originally from Slovakia and has also previously studied and worked in the Netherlands.

She can be found on LinkedIn here.

Radka's comments on judging the competition:

This was the first time I was an official judge rather than just a critical friend, and it was a wonderful experience. There was a great diversity among the shortlisted stories in terms of styles, themes and sense of humour, and looking at the stories in a very structured way helped me appreciate the importance of various different elements of writing. Each writer and story had a particular strength I admired, and the anthology will be able to showcase these, becoming a source of not only enjoyable reading but also material for writers to think about and learn from.

Steph Minns

Steph Minns

Steph has been a keen reader, writer and artist since childhood. Originally from the suburbs of London but now living in Bristol, UK, she works part time as an administrator and spends her spare time writing. Steph's previous incarnations have included council parks gardener, magazine editor and web designer. Her dark fiction stories range from tales set in dystopian realities to ghost and horror.

Her professional publishing history to date runs to a novella and short story in Ink Stains, produced by Dark Alley Press. Her short stories have also been published in anthologies by Grinning Skull Press, Horrified Press and Almond Press. Competition wins have included winner of the Dark Tales March 2014 international competition, and an honourable mention in a Darker Times horror/dark fiction 2013 competition.

Steph's website: www.stephminns.weebly.com

Find Steph on Facebook here.

Steph's comments on judging the competition:

This was a great competition, with so many talented entries. Judging is always a hard task, even with specific qualities, such as plot, pace, strength of character etc. to stick with, to make it as fair and objective as possible. There were so many different topics and styles, which makes it so interesting as a reader, seeing what other writers are doing.

Tom Parker

Thomas David Parker

Thomas David Parker was born in Bristol, but was quickly exiled to the Forest of Dean so his childhood could be shaped into an Enid Blyton novel. From a young age he discovered a joy of stories and adventure and was drawn to the realms of fantasy and the supernatural. His earliest influence was Terry Pratchett, but later joined by Neil Gaiman and M. R. James.

He currently lives in Bristol where he has begun writing short stories as a form of procrastination. One day he hopes to work up the courage to write his first novel.

Tom's website: www.thomasdavidparker.com

Tom's comments on judging the competition:

When you get asked to do something you have never done before your natural response may veer towards excitement or apprehension depending on the activity and your circumstances. In this regard, I have never judged a writing competition before, and discovered that the responsibility was both amazing and terrifying in equal measure.

The stories were amazing, but how to rank them and ensure that there was an identifiable winner was a daunting prospect. Fortunately, I have impeccable taste and wisdom [Yeah, right... CF], so once I overcame my initial anxiety I became ruthless in my opinions and the winner soon became apparent due to its ability to enthral and delight. I felt a huge privilege in getting to read so many fantastic stories, and although some may disagree with the final result I have the peace of mind that I am right and they are wrong.

Until next year, au revoir.

At this point, Thomas David Parker climbed into a hot air balloon and ascended into the sky. He has not been seen since and this note has been published in its entirety as it is the last thing he has written. We hope for his safe return and any sightings should be reported to the appropriate authorities [if you can be arsed... CF].

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A Few Notes on the 2016 Competition

This year, I received more submissions into the To Hull & Back competition than ever before. The history of entry numbers looks like this:

  • 2016: 284
  • 2015: 216
  • 2014: 94

So, there has been steady growth, although entry levels have slowed down when compared to last year, despite hiking the top prize from £200 to £1,000.

There were lots of last minute entries. A special mention goes to Sophie Breuleux who lives in Canada – her story arrived 3 minutes before the deadline. She's asked for a commemorative plaque. I may send her one. They're really expensive. I may have to make one myself. Hmm. 'May' is suitably non-committal. My plaque making skills are somewhat non-existent. We shall see if it ever happens...

I received 171 entries to the competition in the last month, 101 in the last week and 41 on the final day. Now, I'm most definitely NOT moaning about the volume of entries – it's fantastic that so many writers enter the competition – but it is challenging to manage the judging process and edit the To Hull & Back anthology ready for release on Hulloween when so many entries arrive in my inbox at the final hour.

To encourage writers to enter earlier, I've introduced an early-bird entry fee for the 2017 competition. If you enter before 30th April 2017, you will pay £7 for 1 story, £12 for 2 stories, £15 for 3 stories. If you enter between 1st May 2017 and 31st July 2017, you will pay £9 for 1 story, £15 for 2 stories, £18 for 3 stories. Let's see if that makes any difference. If it were me, I'd probably still be working to the July deadline... Meh. It's worth a try.

I've also reduced the word count limit for the 2017 competition from 4,000 to 3,000. Shorter stories will help with the amount of reading time required to select the shortlist.

Overall I'm hoping the competition will break even this year, but a small loss is possible (depends on anthology sales). Prizes are 1st: £1,000, 2nd: £150 and 3rd £75. Other costs include PayPal charges, video production costs, costs of publishing the anthology, the costs of putting on a book launch and, of course, the epic journey to Hull. And then back again.

I've decided to invest into next year's competition again, and increase the prize pot. Rather than upping the top prize, I've decided to concentrate on increasing the second and third prizes and adding 17 more cash awards. So, the 2017 prizes look like this:

  • 1st: £1,000
  • 2nd: £200
  • 3rd: £100
  • 3 x Highly Commended: £50
  • 14 x Shortlisted: £25

As I've said before, the long-term aim is to provide a 5 figure top prize to help the competition become more widely known and give humorous short stories a respected publishing platform. I think I'm going to struggle to achieve that alone, so I've been in touch with Harley Davidson about sponsoring the competition. They replied. It's a possibility for 2018. We shall see. My fingers, toes and dangly bits are firmly crossed.

Entries this year came from an increasing number of locations around our fabulous planet. They include: Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Kenya, Malta, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA and Wales.

A surprisingly high number of writers didn't obey the rules this year. Unfortunately, I had to disqualify 10 stories. In total, 73 writers didn't adhere to all the rules. That's just over 25% of the entries. I've said it before, and I will say it again – if you obey the rules, you put yourself ahead of a large amount of the competition.

If you weren't longlisted or shortlisted this year, please don't be disheartened. There were so many good stories entered, it was incredibly difficult to make the final selections. Remember, judges are human beings and no matter how much you focus on the judging criteria, personal taste plays a large part in the process. Just because you haven't been successful in this competition does NOT mean you won't enjoy success elsewhere. Keep on submitting those excellent stories.

That's about it. I've laughed a lot. My eyes have bled a bit. It was worth it – I've read some very inspirational and amusing stories. Thank you for your interest in the competition and your support.

Thanking you all, Chris

The Anthology & Book Launch

The 2016 To Hull & Back Anthology will contain 29 funny short stories by the winning and shortlisted writers and the judges. I include stories written by the judges each year so that future entrants can read them and learn a little about the style the judges prefer. Reading previous anthologies really can help you pen a successful story for future competitions.

The book launch party will take place on Saturday 10th December in conjunction with Talking Tales at the Left Bank, 128 Cheltenham Rd, Bristol BS6 5RW, UK. Everyone is welcome, so please save the date.

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Comments:

Your comments:

Jerry W
Hello, Chris. Heartiest congratulations to the short and long listed writers of the 2016 To Hull and Back Competition, and thanks to you, Chris, for your vision and efforts. You are all heroes for carrying forth the shining banner of humor in this sad, desperate world. Write on.

Chris Fielden
Thanks very much, Jerry :-)

John H
Gee willikers, thank you, Chris. Lovely news indeed.

Chris Fielden
No problem, John- congratulations on making the shortlist :-)

Sharon W
Thanks Chris, I'm glad I made the longlist - looking forward to seeing the shortlist winners published and having a good laugh.

z

Chris Fielden
Thanks Sharon. And congrats on making the longlist. There really were some excellent entries this year and it was SO hard to choose the shortlist...

Sharon W
Looking forward to reading them and thank you for your efforts in putting on the competition. It is a lot of work but much appreciated.

Michele S
Hi Chris, that's so exciting! I'm so happy to have made the longlist. Thanks so much for running this competition... there's not enough silliness in the world of short stories or indeed publishing.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Michele, and congratulations on making the longlist :-)

Ville N
Hey Chris, just a few words to tell you, I was delighted today to find myself on the longlist. Cheers!!!

Chris Fielden
Excellent, thanks Ville - congratulations on being longlisted :-)

Gaynor H
Absolutely delighted to have made the long list.  Thank you Chris and well done to to everyone who made the lists long and short.

Chris Fielden
Thanks very much, Gaynor. Congratulations on being longlisted :-)

Dena G
Hi Chris, I'm really honoured and delighted to have made the shortlist, and I can't wait to read the anthology this year as some of the titles sound amazing.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Dena, and congratulations on making the shortlist :-)

S.T. R.
Thank you Chris, Anita, Christie, Leah, Mark, Mel, Radovana, Steph and Tom! I'm glad I was alone when I read the shortlist - the tearful raw emotion would have been almost as embarrassing as the happy dance.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, ST, and congratulations.

We'd like to see a video of the celebratory dance please :-)

Andrew S
First of all, I congratulate all the authors of the short-listed entries. You have made an outstanding contribution to English language literature. By my standards, anyway.

Secondly, I have to admit, I gave my all to this competition, and failed. Therefore I wish to withdraw from anything literary with Christopher Fielden, his competitions and correspondence. Yes, on one hand it's the bitterness in me that compels me to have decided that. On the other hand, I am obviously not of the calibre of writers the judges of the competition would like to see in the future, so please accept my resignation from future competitions.

This also extends into a humble request to Chris Fielden to cease and desist all future communication to me. Thanks.

Again, congratulations to the short-listed authors, you earned it.

Chris Fielden
I'm sorry you feel that way, Andrew. It's a shame that announcing a shortlist can cause this kind of reaction - causing upset was not my intention when I conceived the competition and started running it.

I've had my short stories rejected many (many, many, many) times, so I know what it's like. Still, I keep on writing and keep on submitting. I hope you will do the same.

All the authors who entered gave their all - I read every story and the standard was exceptional. Unfortunately, with 284 entries and only 20 places on the shortlist, a lot of writers are going to be disappointed with the result. However, this does not mean anyone that entered isn't talented. I received 100s of publishable stories. In the end, a lot of it comes down to personal taste and what I look for in this particular competition. I'm sure that many of the stories that didn't make the shortlist will be published elsewhere in the future.

As requested, I will cease future correspondence. However, I always respond to comments on the blog, hence this reply.

I wish you all the best with your writing in the future.

Jonathan M
Many thanks Chris, was delighted to see my name in the shortlist this year. 2016 has been far from the best, and it means a lot that my work continues to make you laugh. Thanks for making this opportunity open to all of us and doing such a mighty job steering the comedy ship - it is all very much appreciated!

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Jonathan, and congratulations on being shortlisted :-)

Helen C
Hi Chris, thank you so much for selecting me for the shortlist. I can't wait to read the anthology with all the other stories.

Chris Fielden
Thanks very much, Helen. I've started editing the anthology, so it's underway. Congratulations on being shortlisted :-)

Gary S
Congratulations, Chris, on what clearly has been a successful competition. And further congratulations to those 40 writers who succeeded in making the short/long list.

I've suffered that feeling of disappointment again, but I'm sure it's character building and will continue to strive to write publishable fiction.

Thanks for all the hard work in organising the competition.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Gary, very much appreciated.

That's a great ethos - good on you :-)

Martin S
I've been so big-headed about being shortlisted, that my head has jammed in the jambs of my door (bryng me mices). I have therefore dictated this message via my cat whilst I await the (kill da litle burdies) services of a local carpenter to free me. Please ignore any unauthorised cat content.

Chris Fielden
I know a good carpenter, Martin, but this is the first typing cat I've encountered. I could do with a secretary. How much for the cat?

AH C
First of all, thank you. When I saw my story had made the shortlist, I cracked a smile that continued atypically for a good couple of days. Then, as my friends heard the news, the congratulatory comments and 'likes' extended that feeling even longer. So your humorous story competition has already brought so much joy to me and the book isn't even out yet. 

The comment above left by Andrew S disappointed me. I didn't make the list last year and very nearly didn't participate this year, thinking I wasn't up to the competition. But I had a story I'd written on spec for another anthology  (rejected within two days as not being the right fit), which I was still excited about. I improved the ending and polished other bits and bobs then thought, why not - what's another rejection? Only this time it wasn't rejected and the gratification was immeasurable.

I suppose what I'm saying is don't give up. In a year's time, you won't be the same writer if you continue to practice. My submission from last year had humour but it was dark and violent and, most importantly, was not particularly well written. It was the best I could do at the time, though. I persevered and, a year later, I'm on the list with a funnier, better-written story.

So to Andrew S, lick your wounds, get over it and pick up your pen and start writing (or rewriting). Never give up hope and never rule out a particular competition just because you weren't successful before. There's not many out there like Chris who give priority to comedy.

Chris Fielden
Thanks very much, AH. Wise words indeed – I couldn't agree more. I've experienced a lot of rejection as a writer and have always refused to give up. If you keep writing, editing and submitting, eventually you will enjoy success. In the meantime, keep learning. You can only get better. Some of the stories I've had published had previously been rejected 10 times or more. Never give up.

I'd also add that judging a competition is highly subjective. Many of the judges involved in To Hull & Back have different opinions on which story should win (and many other competitions report the same thing with their judging panels). It's why I believe a panel of differing opinions is fairer when selecting the overall winner – it allows a variety of tastes and opinions to be taken into account, so the strongest stories with the widest appeal rise to the top.

Dan B
Very chuffed to be on the list. And thanks again for all your hard work in supporting writers, Chris. Further to comments above, I agree that persistence is crucial - my rejections are well into the 100s, but you just have to keep on trying, not take the nos to heart, try and learn from them.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Dan :-)

Dan B
Hi Chris - is it possible to pre-order the anthology anywhere?

Chris Fielden
Hi Dan. No, I'm afraid not - I don't have pre-orders set up.

However, I will send an email out as soon as it's released on 31st October.

It'll be available on Amazon then and will appear on other platforms over the following 6 weeks or so, as the distribution networks kick in.

Dan B
That's brill, thanks Chris - I'll look out for the email.