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To Hull & Back Short Story Competition Results 2015

Quick links on this page:

winners - shortlist - special mentions - judges - notes

anthology - book launch - winner's video - current competition

I'm proud to present the To Hull & Back Humorous Short Story Competition 2015 winners, highy commended entries, shortlist and special mentions.

There were 216 entries into this year's competition, a big increase compared to last year's 94 (much bigger than I was expecting). I was amazed at the overall quality of the writing and the inventive storylines. It's nice to know I'm not the only writer out there with an over-active imagination...

It was hard to create a longlist of 50, so selecting a shortlist of 20 was next to impossible. Still, after much deliberation (and the consumption of some inspirational tonic brewed by Bass Brewery, legendary purveyors of delicious nectar) the shortlist was selected.

Due to the large amount of entries, I have been able to increase the top prize for next year's contest to a whopping £1,000.

When I originally started the To Hull & Back competition, the aim was to celebrate humorous stories, allowing people to have fun with their writing and reading.

Everyone who has entered has helped me bring attention to just how fabulous (and often overlooked) humorous writing is.

I'd like to thank all the entrants for their interest and support of this somewhat crazy competition. It is you that has allowed it to grow into something awesome.

There are more details about this year's contest in the competition notes section below.

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I'm pleased to announce the 2015 winning and highly commended stories. Congratulations to all the winning writers; may your heads deservedly swell with pride.

1st Prize

Too, by Radovana Jágriková

2nd Prize

On A Cross Of Iron, by Jonathan Macho

3rd Prize

Parrotlytic, by Adena Graham

Highly Commended

In alphabetical order:

Biking To Find The Boy, by Ian Tucker

Joe Lean, by Bernie Deehan

Soup, by Dirk Puis

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The Shortlist

Below is the 2015 shortlist. MASSIVE congratulations to all the shortlisted writers. All their stories will appear in the To Hull & Back Anthology 2015. The links below take you to each author's biography.

Adele Smith – Shirt Tales

Adena Graham – Bestå

Adena Graham – Parrotlytic

Bernie Deehan – Joe Lean

Dan Brotzel – Tell Us About Your Stay

Danny Shilling – To Wyke-on-Hull And Back

Dirk Puis – Soup

Georgina Sanjana – The Deaths Of Arthur

Ian Tucker – Biking To Find The Boy

Jade Williams – Barry’s Home

John Emms – Fancy That

Jonathan Macho – On A Cross Of Iron

Mark Rutterford – Ups And Downs

Olivia Arroy – Beneath The Waves

Patrick Tuck – Cheer

Radovana Jágriková – Too

Scott Johnston – The Wedding Of Ugly Bob

Sheila Corbishley – Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Stuart Aken – An Eztraordinary Ezperience

Will Haynes – My Week With Kim Jong Un

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Special Mentions

The special mentions recognise the utterly awesome stories that missed out on the shortlist by a proverbial whisker. This list could have been far longer, but I had to stop somewhere or this page would be like the phone book. So I've limited it to 12, and will do the same in future competitions.

Cécile Riphagen – The Apophenia Of Number 42

Cosima Armstrong – European Union

Dave Clark – Einstein’s Napkin

Eileen Gilmour – Not With A Bang

Heather Redhead – Dolphin Watching

Jenifer Granger – The Christmas Chickens

Joe Haywood – Policy

John Holland – True

Lauren Harper – What Ever Happened To Godfrey's Wife?

Maggie Davies – The Castle

Tim Robson – In Between Days

Will Ingrams – No Such Thing As Luck

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To Hull & Back Winner's Video

The video was filmed on Saturday 30th April 2016 and Sunday 1st May 2016.

Unfortunatley, Radka was unable to join me in Hull, so she is portrayed in the video by the legendary Mr Richard Snack. I deliver a stellar performance of myself.

This year's adventure involved sun, rain, hail, a Harley Davidson Fatboy, many motorways, 13 counties of the UK, cars, an aeroplane, some beer, the Humber, a death, a grave, a zombie and some very expensive special effects.

To Hull & Back - 2015 winner's video starring Richard Snack as Radovana Jágriková

The ride from Bristol to Hull is 227 miles, so the round trip is approximately 454. I missed the M18 turning on the way back, so added a delightful 20 miles to the trip in the wrong direction. Go me.

The book that made the journey on the highway to Hull - which was rain damaged, insect spattered and a bit muddy from being buried - has been delivered to Radka by Royal Mail's finest, along with her certificate.

The Biographies of some Awesome Authors

Here are the biographies and glorious pictures of the authors who have been shortlisted or received a special mention. Congratulations to all of you - the inventiveness of your stories and characters was a veritable joy to behold.

Shortlisted Author’s Bios

Adele Smith (Australia)

Adele Smith

After many years as a drama teacher and school production scriptwriter, I have since completed three novels: ‘The Garden Dancer’, ‘Left Field’ and ‘Show Me Where’. I have also written several short stories. ‘The Biscuit Burglar’ received third place in the To Hull & Back competition last year, which made me very proud.

Juggling teaching, fitness training, and working with native Australian animals, I am still looking for that elusive publishing deal, but most importantly, I write because I love it.

Adena Graham (UK)

Adena Graham

I have had other stories published in various magazines (both online and offline). This includes Creepy Pasta, Unhinged, Dead Things, QWF, Writers' Brew and, most recently, three editions of Popshot Magazine.

I've also had two erotic novels published (under a pseudonym) - I'd like to say it was Fifty Shades of Grey, but there are three of those and my bank balance indicates it wasn't them!

I've also recently finished a novel which I'm trying to find an agent for.

Bernie Deehan (UK)

Bernie Deehan

Bernie Deehan writes short stories, some of which have been performed by actors at Liars’ League, a monthly literary event, while others have appeared in Vintage Script, Cent Magazine, The Litro, on Visual Verse websites, and the anthology New Ghost Stories II.

You can see Bernie's website here.

Dan Brotzel (UK)

Dan Brotzel

As a child, Dan Brotzel believed that people who wore glasses weren’t allowed to get married. This proved untrue, and he now 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.

Danny Shilling (UK)

Danny Shilling

I am currently a trainee accountant working in London, but my real passion lies with telling prose and getting all the rumblings in my head down in some sort of coherent manner.

If I were to be asked why I write, I would say, "Because I have no choice in the matter."

Even if one person were to read my story and enjoy it, then I would be happy (although getting a bigger audience would be preferred).

Dirk Puis (Belgium)

Dirk Puis

I’m a forty-something software engineer from Ghent, Belgium. I try to divide my free time and creative juices evenly between writing and software development. On the writing side I am heavily influenced by the likes of Jack Womack, Irvine Welsh, Kurt Vonnegut and John Irving.

I’ve written several short stories and last year self-published my first book, called Paddy’s Mile-High Malt. I’m currently working on a second book. At my usual writing pace, it could be published in about a decade.

Georgina Sanjana (UK)

Georgina Sanjana

Georgina is 23 and studying for a master's in astrophysics. She sometimes writes stories and poetry to amuse herself, and a few months ago suddenly realised she might one day get paid something for it.

Georgina enjoys reading, writing, eating, being right, ice-skating, learning languages, using Oxford commas, and wasting time on the internet. Her dislikes include Facebook, tinned tuna, and writing about herself.

Ian Tucker (UK)

Ian Tucker

I've been writing stories, almost entirely for my own entertainment, for about ten years. This includes two novels featuring morally dubious heroes and various amounts of misbehaviour and crime.

My short stories tend to cover horror of the supernatural rather than gory sort, silly tales nominally for children, which are probably more relevant to adults pretending to be children, and whodunnit crime. These are mostly uploaded onto my website where I am writing a reader-directed novel (meaning the reader can choose the order in which to read the story by clicking links) through the monthly articles of the Tilebury Harbinger (a village newsletter).

I aim for entertainment over worthiness and am fond of a good story. Certainly, I would never let too much truth get in the way of one. I live in Bristol with my wife and a lot of flies (and some spiders).

You can see Ian's website here.

Jade Williams (UK)

Jade Williams

A 21 Year old Film Student at The University for the Creative Arts in Surrey. Focusing on comedy writing and performances, trying to make the world a funnier place.

John Emms (UK)

John Emms

A few years ago I retired from a career as a local government lawyer, during which the only vaguely creative writing I could manage was for professional journals, so not wildly exciting. I now at last have the time to indulge my long-held desire to write in a way which is less vaguely creative. I have a number of short stories and articles published here and there, though quite a few not published anywhere. I have also written several plays, a few of the shorter of which have been performed or given rehearsed readings at venues such as the Cast Theatre in Doncaster and the Kings Arms, Salford.

Jonathan Macho (UK)

Jonathan Macho

Jonathan Macho lives in Cardiff with his family, and a talking space raccoon that may or may not exist. A recent English Graduate faced with the big wide world, Jon has always wanted to be a writer and loves making his nonsensical ideas into (a sort of) reality. He has co-produced 3 plays with the Sherman Theatre’s Young Writers Group and had work previously published in Candy Jar Books Beneath the Surface Anthology, Pageturners India’s Across the Ages Collection, and in the Modern Alchemist’s Abacus Gallery for an installation.

Mark Rutterford (UK)

Mark Rutterford

Mark Rutterford has been writing seriously since 2008, learning his craft (the hard way) via a couple of unpublished novels. Juggling work and volunteering commitments at a wildlife charity, Mark kept his writing going through short stories. He learned a lot from listening to some fabulous writer-performers, before eventually writing something short enough – and with story enough – to perform.

Since his first appearance in January 2014, Mark has established himself as a regular performer at story-telling events in Bath and Bristol. His stories are honest, funny, romantic, with a bit of heart-ache and twists you didn't see coming. A collaboration of inspiration from Tony Parsons, Cecelia Ahern, Roald Dahl and a thousand songs.

Olivia Arroy (USA)

Olivia Arroy

Olivia Arroyo was born and raised in Los Angeles. She is a recent graduate of St. Lawrence University where she majored in Creative Writing and Film Studies. Olivia will be attending Chapman University’s MFA program this autumn.

Patrick Tuck (UK)

Patrick Tuck

I am a twenty-nine year old working for a micro-brewery in London and writing short stories in my spare time. My favourite authors are Graham Greene, Douglas Adams and Leo Tolstoy. These are my first submissions.

Radovana Jágriková (UK)

Radovana Jágriková

Radovana Jagrikova (Radka) has been writing short stories since her early teens, and in her most productive years amassed more than twenty prizes in youth and adult literary competitions.

After a few years of focussing on journalism and academic writing, she has recently returned to fiction and hopes to start working on her ideas for a novel and a children's/young adults' literary project in the near future too.

She lives in Gateshead/Newcastle upon Tyne, in the UK, where she works for an international creative learning foundation. She is originally from Slovakia and has also previously studied and worked in the Netherlands.

Scott Johnston (UK)

Scott Johnston

Former forces, and now a pipefitter. I played Southern Counties level rugby for three decades and now I write under the nom du plume 'Old Fat Prop'.

I write funny pub reviews under the theme of Prop's Pubs. I also write a series of humorous travel shorts titled The Rucksack Chronicles and also shorts about life on the buildings, which has received critical disclaim under the title The White Van Chronicles.

This particular tale is from a series of shorts I call Tales from Mudflat-on-Ditch, which is a piss take on life in a small village I lived in a few years ago.

I am unpublished and have no agent. I submitted this one in another comp and although it was mentioned, it was disqualified. I released the hostages anyway.

I have already spent the prize money so it would be useful to win this. Just saying...

Sheila Corbishley (UK)

Sheila Corbishley

I took up writing when I retired from teaching. I write short stories for adults and have written a couple of children's novels which are – I'm going to be positive and say as yet – unpublished.

I've had more success with short stories and have been published in Women's Weekly. I have attached a photo but I do look rather strange in it because it feels very weird and vain to be taking a picture of yourself so I haven't got the hang of taking selfies.

Stuart Aken (UK)

Stuart Aken

Stuart Aken was born, against the odds, to a homeless widowed artist, in a neighbour’s bed. Husband, father, novelist, playwright, storyteller, occasional poet, blogger and word wrangler, he’s a romantic, open-minded radical liberal, sometimes dangerous to know. Raised by a creative, loving mother and an unimaginative step-father who educated him in things natural and worldly, he had what he describes as an idyllic childhood. An author who refuses to be shackled by genre, he’s written romance, thrillers, sci-fi, humour, erotic lit and fantasy. His fiction, the only place he ever bends the truth and which, after love, remains his raison d’être, appears in a number of novels, anthologies and on his website.

You can see Stuart's website here.

Will Haynes (UK)

Will Haynes

Will Haynes began his career in the UK film industry as a dogsbody, before turning to writing. He has been on the run since his controversial fable on rural affairs, The Parish State, was denounced by the Countryside Alliance. North Korea have also doubled the bounty on his head for his shocking exposé of British Public Schools in his story, My Week with Kim Jong Un. And the Royal Family are said to be less than happy about his dystopian allegory of hereditary Neoconservative dynasties, The People’s Republic. He was last seen in a bar somewhere in Paris, complaining that the martini lacked an olive, before staggering down Boulevard du Montparnasse on the hunt for one of those awesome cheeseburgers that you can only get in Paris. His publicist has declined to comment.

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Special Mention Author’s Bios

Cécile Riphagen (Holland)

Cécile Riphagen

Currently General Manager of an international non-profit organisation for international taxation with members across the globe and its head-quarters in the Netherlands. For my work I write articles, interviews, sometimes utterly dull policies and sections of websites. I also have to travel extensively which makes me a very lucky person. It has brought me to several places I visited again at leisure. It has also taught me to use my time wisely: To have an agenda to work on in the event of an unscheduled disruption. There is no such thing as dead time. That is how the reading and consequently writing of stories began.

Cosima Armstrong (France)

Cosima Armstrong

I have never been published. My qualifications are that of an art historian and I have recently started to write fiction as an antidote to having to remember dates and facts. In fiction I can write anything I like (I hope). So far, I have only been shortlisted with the Atlantis Short Story Competition, and a New York editor of a competition which I entered sent me an email to say as far as he was concerned I was the winner but the other two judges did not agree, but then I have not written a lot, that which I am determined to remedy from now on.

Dave Clark (UK)

Dave Clark

Dave Clark was born in Essex and lives in Cambridge, though his stories are mostly set in Swansea, New York and London, and occasionally outer space. His stories have also appeared in the charity anthologies 50 Stories for Pakistan and 100 Stories for Queensland. He regularly posts stories on the ABC Tales website, under the alias of Terrence Oblong.

You can see Dave's website here.

Eileen Gilmour (UK)

Eileen Gilmour

Eileen Gilmour was born in Liverpool shortly after the Beatles. She trained initially as a drama teacher but her career has taken a few surprising twists and she has just retired from running a reflexology school.

Her short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies and she has had some success in competitions. When not writing she is particularly interested in animal health issues and competes with her cockapoo, Rupert, in dog agility. She has been learning to swim for half a century and has made limited progress.

Heather Redhead (UK)

Heather Redhead

My name is Heather Redhead. I am nineteen years old, and currently studying for a bachelor's degree in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University. In future, I hope to publish my own novels, but my passion lies in short stories spreading across a range of genres, from fantasy to horror to romance.

Jenifer Granger (France)

Jenifer Granger

Jenifer Granger was born in Trinidad, grew up in Ghana and West Australia, studied modern French poetry, earned a living as a professeur agrégée d'anglais at University in France, is a late bloomer in creative writing with one short story recently selected and published in the Black Pear Press story competition anthology: Seaglass and Other Stories. Follow the link to hear Jenifer reading The Art Expert's Child.

You can see Jenifer''s website here.

Joe Haywood (UK)

Joe Haywood

My name is Joe Haywood and I'm a 21 year old English Language graduate currently trying to do something half interesting with my life. After selling Bakewell Puddings for 3 years, I decided to do a TEFL course, and will soon be teaching unhelpful Derbyshire slang to some Vietnamese kids. In the meantime I'm entering story competitions / playing poker to try and stay above water until the job offer comes. If I have to go back to the pudding shop I will probably jump down a well.

John Holland (UK)

John Holland

As a child, John Holland’s writing was held back because he mixed up the letters d and g. Dog knows why. Then he wrote comedy for BBC Radio 2 and 4 and Punch. Now he writes stories which are online, in magazines and in anthologies, including The Best Stories in a Decade (2013). He is the organiser of Stroud Short Stories, a twice-yearly event.

You can see John''s website here.

You can see the SSS website here.

Lauren Harper (Ireland)

Lauren Harper

Originally from Australia, I now reside in Ireland with my husband and two children. I love the gardens, music, pubs and jovial culture here; I don't love the weather.

I began writing my first novel eight months ago. It has been a spectacular journey, for both myself and my family, almost like we've travelled to a new world where everything has a secret and story to tell. I never want to stop trying to put feelings and colours and impressions into words, or to stop making up romantic or ridiculous stories of how a stranger has reached their current scene in life, because if I do I'm afraid the world would change back.

Maggie Davies (UK)

Maggie Davies

Born in the north-east, Maggie has been a United Nations bride in Peru, a bored housewife in Durban, and has sold advertising space in San Franciso and worked as PA to a senior backbencher at Westminster.

Back in the day, she won a short story competition in Girl About Town Magazine and another run by a local newspaper before turning to novel writing. The Invisible Woman was shortlisted (one of fourteen from over a thousand entries) in a Cornerstones' competition: Are You Ready to Submit.

Since then Maggie has been wrestling with the Big Rejection Monster, but refuses to submit. She is currently working on a romantic comedy with a dark twist at its heart.

Tim Robson (UK)

Tim Robson

Tim Robson writes under the pen name of Tim Robson. His website features (it says here) Tim’s unique and humorous take on life. Yeah.

His novel Franco's Fiesta is available on Amazon. It briefly stormed into the top 100,000 best selling books. His parents still cherish their copy.

Tim's early life was fictionalised in the novel Neil Diamond's Beard. On account of it being sexist, solipsistic crap, it remains unpublished. "Shades of Kafka," says Tim darkly.

Tim's second novel Hit and Run Lover – a savage dissection of the financial services industry told from the viewpoint of a 40 something middle manager – has been blackballed by the publishing industry. "They can't publish it, it will destroy the banking system," says Tim, sat at his computer in his Mum's basement in his Y fronts.

Unusually, Tim gets funnier and better looking the more he has had to drink. "I kind of invented observational comedy," he says. "Me, Ben Elton, Bruce Forsyth; there weren't many of us doing it in those days."

Tim's always been interested in politics. His political insights are often to be found IN CAPITAL LETTERS awaiting moderation on the Guardian's Comment is Free website.

You can see Tim's website here.

Will Ingrams (UK)

Will Ingrams

Syllables seethed and simmered for years in Will’s head while he tried to convince everyone that he might be a postman, a computer nerd, a forecourt attendant, a teacher of assorted subjects or some sort of engineer. Now that he has given up on other occupations the words are emerging. Will’s stories and poems have been published online and in several anthologies.

You can see Will's website here.

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The Judges

Below are the judges' biographies (listed alphabetically). They have also provided some comments on what it is like to judge the world's most awesome writing competition (yes, I am somewhat biased and must stop this shameless messaging...).

Most of the writers are members of Stokes Croft Writers, a writing group based in Bristol, UK. I also invited Mike, last year's winner, to join the judging panel this year.

This is how the judging works. I read all the entries and compile the shortlist. The other judges and I all read the shortlisted entries and select our favourites by scoring each story to strict criteria. All the results are popped into a spreadsheet and the winner is the writer with highest overall score. In my humble opinion, a variety of tastes / opinions generates a fairer overall result.

Andy Melhuish

Andy Melhuish

I've most recently focussed on my travel writing and improving my live storytelling, which to me is more important and enjoyable than publication. Amongst other things I've had some short plays produced, worked with multimedia artists, and won the occasional small competition whenever I could bother entering. To facilitate the next patch in my chequered life, I've recently stepped down as Editor at a financial publishing firm and moved to Oxford to do a second degree.

Samples of my creative and copy writing can be found on my website, Eloquent Bear.

Andy's comments on judging the competition:

It's been very eye-opening to see what comes out of so many different brains with just a single guiding purpose. The variety of styles and approach to humour is heartwarming, as I imagine all these individuals typing away in their own, equally idiosyncratic, lives.

Christie Cluett

Christie Cluett

Christie is one of the founding members of Stokes Croft Writers, is on the organising committee for the Bristol Festival of Literature and performs at story-telling & comedy events around Bristol. She was shortlisted for the Magic Oxygen prize, by Writer’s Forum and published by Mash Stories.

She writes humorous fiction about odd people in normal situations, which are mainly based on the lovely loons that she calls friends (whether they like it or not) or oddballs that pop into her head and march about like they own the place. She has just finished her first novel, writing short stories in between. At all other times, she can be found chasing balloons, clapping to work out which way is left or lying on the sofa exhausted from it all.

Christie's comments on judging the competition:

Judging was particularly difficult this year as the standard of writing was so high, but I powered through. You're welcome. Competition was stiff so well done to everyone that made the shortlist. There was a great variety of genre and topic, with some really interesting and original ideas that I really enjoyed reading. This competition is great because it celebrates humorous stories in all their glory and I'm really proud to be a part of it. Looking forward to next year already.

Christopher Fielden

Christopher Fielden

You are on his website, so there's an About page all about this purveyor of mentalism. If you want to know more about him, please go and peruse that.

Chris's comments on judging the competition:

You can see my comments below.

Mel Ciavucco

Mel Ciavucco

Mel Ciavucco is a Bristol based author, screenwriter and blogger. She’s had short stories published both online and in print, and she recently performed on a comedy BBC Radio show called Speechbubble. She has written a novel and a screenplay, plus short stories and short film scripts, and she writes a column for Zusterschap – an online lifestyle magazine.

Mel is a co-founder of Stokes Croft Writers. They run a bi-monthly storytelling event in Bristol called Talking Tales.

Mel is the founder of ‘Freesized’ - a website promoting body positivity and gender equality.

You can learn more about Freesized here.

You can read my blog here.

Twitter: @MCiavucco

Mel's comments on judging the competition:

I’m honoured to have been a judge for a second year. It’s been an absolute delight to read such brilliant stories, they're all written to such a high standard. Congratulations to all the writers, and thank you for making me smile. I look forward to the release of the anthology so I can read them all again!

Mike Scott Thomson

Mike Scott Thomson

Mike Scott Thomson has been a writer of various forms for as long as he can remember – which, depending on his state of mind, is either a very long time, or not nearly long enough. After many years dabbling in blogging, travel writing, and music journalism (his first published works were talking audiobooks of some disparate pop groups, very much of their day), he started writing fiction in 2011.

So far his short stories have been published by a number of journals and anthologies, including The Fiction Desk, Litro, Prole, “Stories for Homes” (in aid of the housing charity Shelter), and the National Flash Fiction Day anthology “Landmarks”. Aside from being the proud winner of the inaugural To Hull & Back story competition, other awards include runner up prizes in contests from both InkTears and Writers’ Village. (His only other first prize was to win Riptide Journal’s ice-themed six-word-story competition in 2014, with an entry which went: When the loch thawed, it awoke. He tells you this not merely to squeeze in an extra story alongside Away Day. Banish the thought.)

Based in south London, he works in broadcasting and can be found online here.

Mike's comments on judging the competition:

There’s an “inspirational” quote for everything, these days.

“When we are judging everything, we are learning nothing,” reads one.

“Every moment spent judging somebody else is precious time wasted,” goes another.

“Baloney,” says I.

Of course, I'm being a bit disingenuous, but my point stands. Not only has it been a pleasure and incredibly rewarding to read these shortlisted entries, but also a valuable learning experience – both for me as a reader, and a writer.

I admit in the past to having an over-active imagination when my own stories failed to make competition shortlists. Vividly I pictured miniature basketball nets in the corners of judges’ otherwise austere studies, into which (via well-practised throwing arms) they unceremoniously tossed crumpled double-spaced manuscripts, simultaneously bellowing (in the booming voice of the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk), “What fresh doggerel is THIS?!”

Thanks to my involvement as a judge in To Hull & Back II, I finally realise: double-baloney. I thoroughly enjoyed, and respected, all the stories I read – it really was hard to put them in any kind of order.

Never again shall I judge the judges. (So, those inspirational quotes were right after all. Darn.)

Steph Minns

Steph Minns

I’ve been a keen reader, writer and artist since childhood. Originally from the suburbs of London but now living in Bristol, UK, I work part time as an administrator and spend my spare time writing. My previous incarnations have included gardener, magazine editor and web designer. My dark fiction stories range from tales set in future dystopian realities to classic ghost and horror.

My professional publishing history to date runs to several short stories and a novella, in both e-book and print, accepted by notable independent publishers Dark Alley Press, Grinning Skull Press and Almond Press. My competition wins have included winner of the Dark Tales March 2014 international competition, and an honourable mention in the Darker Times November 2013 competition. I’ve also been featured on Writing Short Ficton’s website as a debut author.

You can read my stories, interviews and reviews on my website.

Please also visit my Facebook fiction page.

Steph's comments on judging the competition:

It's been a real pleasure to read all these stories and a real struggle to mark them, as the content has been so varied. I try to remember when reading that someone has put their heart and soul into their writing, as I do, but there were some outstanding stories. All the shortlisted stories were great so, even if you didn't win this one, keep writing and entering competitions.

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A Few Notes on the 2015 Competition

As mentioned before, there were 216 entries this year. Because of this unexpectedly large increase in entries, I have changed the closing date for next year's competition to the 31st of July. This is to give me more time to read the last minute entries and compile the shortlist. I received 74 entries in the final week, 27 of which were on the closing date of the competition, so I had to take a week off work to get through everything. Writers and their deadlines... Meh. I'm guilty of the same :-)

Overall the competition made a small profit this year. Prizes are 1st: £200, 2nd: £100 and 3rd £50. By the time you take out PayPal charges, video production costs, costs associated with publishing the anthology, the costs of putting on a book launch and, of course, the loooong ride to Hull and back, there ain't much left. Still, a small profit is an improvement on last year's small loss.

Due to the growth in entries, I've decided to invest this profit into next year's competition and increase the prizes for 2016 to:

  • 1st: £1,000
  • 2nd: £150
  • 3rd: £75

I've also upped the entry fee to £7 in the hope that I can make the competition break-even overall.

The long-term aim is to provide a 5 figure top prize to help the competition become more well known and give humorous short stories a respected platform to holler from. Due to the amazing amount of support all the entrants have provided so far, I'm hoping that will be achievable over the next few years. I'm also considering asking Harley Davidson if they'd like to sponsor To Hull & Back, seeing as I'm currently giving them free advertising for their glorious two-wheeled motorised-monster-machines. Maybe in 2017...

Unfortunately, there were a higher amount of writers that didn't adhere to the competition rules this year. I'm not draconian with rules, so there were only a couple of disqualifications (for stories exceeding the word count limit), but I've added some extra detail onto the main competition page regarding how the rules will be dealt with in future, so it's clear for all entrants.

The judges have all given very positive feedback about the stories they've read. It really was very difficult to choose a shortlist. If you entered the competition and didn't make the shortlist or get a special mention, please don't be disheartened. I could have easily included 100 writers in the special mention list. Just remember, judges are human beings and have different tastes. Keep entering those stories elsewhere. Many have an excellent chance of being published.

That's it I guess. I chuckled a lot while reading all the entries. This is something I like to do, so you've all made me very happy. Thank you.

The To Hull & Back 2016 anthology will contain all the shortlisted stories and a story by each of the judges. I include the judges' stories to give writers who might enter the competition in the future an insight into the styles of story the judges like, so they have a better chance of entering a successful story next year.

Thanking you all, Chris

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Your comments:

John H
Thanks for the Special Mention, Chris. Great.

Chris Fielden
No problem, John – much deserved :-)

Lauren H
Hi Chris, I know you will undoubtedly receive countless emails today, but I just wanted to say a big thank-you for the special mention. This story was actually my first short story and would not be in my field at all (I am a romance/mystery addict) but I had the idea and went from there. Having the positive feedback in the form of a special mention means the world to me and is an encouragement that is so hard to find.

I think what you are doing for the short story writers around the world (in regards to your own stories, website, book, competition etc) is inspirational and just wanted to let you know that.

Chris Fielden
Hi Lauren, thanks very much :-)

And congratulations on a special mention with your first short story – that’s really excellent.

Adena G
Wow Chris. This has made my day. I can't tell you how honoured I am - I loved last year's publication and am so delighted to be part of this. Thank you so much.

Chris Fielden
Hi Adena, no problem. Congratulations on having 2 stories shortlisted – much deserved. And that’s a first for this competition, so you are now a To Hull & Back pioneer :-)

Adena G
Haaa, thanks Chris, that's fantastic. It's a great publication so I'm delighted.

Cécile R
Thank you ever so much for the special mention, honoured! It is not my first but my third submission to short story competitions and as mentioned by Lauren already: this special mention is very nice, positive feedback and an enormous encouragement!

Also very good to read you had so many entries and the Comp will be back in 2016. I hope you have the time to keep up your own writing and website. It was the inspiration for my story!

Chris Fielden
Thanks Cécile, I’m very happy to hear you feel encouraged :-)

Jonathan M
Dear Chris, just wanted to thank you very much for the opportunity to be included in your brilliantly conceived anthology! I'm seriously glad to be a part of the finished product and can't wait to see it all come together.

Cheers again and best of luck.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Jonathan, you're welcome - congrats on making the shortlist :-)

Mark R
Hi Chris, this is fantastic news – I’m being very cool about it obviously… but may have to get up at three in the morning to walk around with my arms in the air. It’ll be my first time published so I’m very pleased indeed.

Thank you so much!

You had such a great response which must have meant a shed load of work for you (and the other judges) as well as brilliant recognition of the competition. Lots of overseas entries too – that’s amazing.

I hope you’re feeling pleased and proud. And sorry for adding to your last minute submission burden!

Cheers and many, many thanks again.

Chris Fielden
Hi Mark, I think some 3am arm waving would be appropriate. It’s always a pleasure to be able to publish a writer for the first time. Congratulations on your success!

Yes, I am proud of the competition (my head has now swollen to intolerable proportions…). I’ll admit, when it was conceived, I wondered if it was a bit too crazy to be taken seriously. I’m very pleased to have found that any worries I had were meaningless. It seems that, like myself, many writers still enjoy having fun with words and refuse to take life too seriously :-)

Jenifer G
Hi Chris, congratulations to the shortlist. I am thrilled my sad story made the special mentions.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Jenifer. And congratulations to you on your special mention :-)

Cécile R
I'm a member of the Word Cloud community (Writers Workshop UK). Your competition was the talk there yesterday as one of my virtual friends there was shortlisted by you, Scott Johnston. He was almost shocked, didn't expect it at all but was thrilled!

Chris Fielden
Excellent news, I’m glad Scott was pleased – he had a very ‘blokey’ writing style that appealed to me. Nice to hear people are talking about the competition too. That can only help it grow in future years!

Chris D
Hi Chris, congratulations to all your winners and the many shortlisted entries. I must say after reading the writers' profiles, I realise I had a cat in hell's chance of winning your comp. This is my first comp and it will be my last, as I know although I believe I can write good stories, my writing compared with these highly educated writers... it is not worth me wasting my money. But because I do love creating story plots I will carry on for the love of it. Thank you for the experience of entering.

Best wishes for the future.

Chris Fielden
Hi Chris, thanking you muchly.

Actually, everyone does have the proverbial damned cat’s chance. Please don’t give up. If this was your first competition entry don’t be put off. You scored well, especially for a first timer. It’s very rare that a writer will be published through their first entry in a competition. I certainly wasn’t. It took me a few attempts and many rejections before I enjoyed any success. I’d advise that you keep on trying (and learning) :-)

Will H
Have just seen that 'My Week with Kim Jong Un' has reached the shortlist for this year's To Hull & Back. Awesome. Thanks so much!!!

Fantastic news. I'm thrilled that the story will be in this year's book. And the benefit of only just finding out now gives my rather tired, fragile and hangover-ridden head something great to celebrate on a rather sober and drizzly day. And even more exciting seeing the high volume of entries this year... might be reason enough to delay/completely disregard my "dry week" I was supposed to be starting today?

Hope all is well with you and thanks again.

Chris Fielden
Hi Will, no probs - congratulations on making the short list!

Scott J
To Chris D. Everyone starts somewhere, mate. And humour is hugely subjective. One man's Picasso is another man's Python.. Stay the course.

To Cissy, thanks for the plug, above. I have to admit to you that George Clooney is not my brother and will not be the stripper at your birthday party. Sorry about that...

To Chris F. Many thanks for the listing. I am truely shocked, as well as very happy. Recognition, especially from those who know the value of laughter, is a nice thing to receive.

I have no active farcebook, twitter, or web page as such so the publicity won't do much for my other works but I am thrilled, just the same.

Kind regards and good luck, all.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Scott, and congratulations on being shortlisted.

Adele S
Hi Chris, thanks so much for running this terrific competition. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the short stories in the last anthology. Guess what all my family and friends received for Christmas?! So delighted to be short-listed again for 2015. Looks like no one I know will be short of a good read at Christmas again this year. Looking forward to reading some more great stories. Just the titles alone sound most intriguing.

Thanks again.

David M
Hi Chris, I am so pleased, as you know from my previous email, that I found your web site. Having worked in Advertising, sports sponsorship and also the law, I thought that I " knew it all" but OMG your site really does advise matters concerning writing that I had never even thought about. I have 3 stories up and running which I hope to put to publishers shortly. I already have one being considered by a publisher of a yearly short story anthology. I will keep you informed as to progress.

I am so grateful for all your help and advice. Your site is second to none.

Maggie D
I am tickled pink, green and a delicate shade of orange to be given a Special Mention for my story 'The Castle'. Thank you so much for this, and for the competition. We need more humour. Why is it you are the only champion out there?

Anyway, bells should be rung and massed flugelhorns blown in your praise.

Chris Fielden
Adele – thanks, and congratulations on being shortlisted. I hope your family will be pleased by Santa's yearly book delivery :-)

David – thanks, and congratulations on penning 3 stories. That's great news. I hope you see them published soon – do let me know how you get on.

Maggie – thanking you. We do need more humour – you can never laugh too much in my opinion. Thankfully, everyone who enters the competition helps champion laughter, so I’m not alone!

Georgina S
@Chris F

Really pleased that you enjoyed my story enough to put it on the list, it\'s the first time I\'ll have any of my stories published :) Thanks again for your hard work in organising this competition.

@Chris D

This is only the second story competition I've entered and I was lucky enough to be shortlisted - I've never taken any creative writing course in my life. So don't be disheartened by seeing "highly educated" writers... just take a look at their stories and think about what you liked or disliked. That's how I improved anyhow.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Georgina. Wise words :-)

Dan B
Hi Chris, wonderful news! Really chuffed to have made the list – and really want to say a big thanks for all the work you do to support writers with this comp and all your other initiatives.

Chris Fielden
Thanks very much Dan :-)

Congratulations to Radovanna, Jonathan and Adena on this great achievement. 

Am flattered and honoured to be included in the Anthology and this sorts out that troublesome question as to what to get the in-laws for Christmas.

And thanks to Chris for organizing and promoting such a great bunch of talent here.

Best, Prop  (aka Scott J)

Will H
Thanks Chris. And huge congratulations to Radovana, Jonathan and Adena!

Chris Fielden
Thanks Prop and Will :-) Wait until you see this year's cover; it's a BEAUTY.

Mark R
Many congratulations to the winning stories and those highly commended too - I look forward to reading the Anthology and to many laughs.

Thanks again and congratulations to you Chris and judges. Without you, 216 humorous stories might never have seen the light of day.

Chris Fielden
Thanks very much Mark :-)

Danny S
Hi Chris, thought I was better to wait until after the judging had been finished but I noticed a spelling mistake on my bio (completely my fault) in that I used the wrong 'where' on the last line. Just thought I would mention it in case it doesn't get picked up and bios are used in the anthology.

Glad you enjoyed my story and I'm pleased for the success of the competition. I look forward to Hulloween!

Chris Fielden
Thanks Danny. I’ve corrected that above. Will make sure that is sorted in the anthology too – that will be proofread thoroughly, so hopefully most of the typos will be picked up :-)

Prop (aka Scott J)
Dear Chris,

Alas, my moment of fame will have to wait. I am unable to attend the  To Hull and Back Anthology book launch.

I have researched the judges' profiles, websites and histories and with my White Van Man view of the world, they render signs ranging from feminist militancy to potentially academically induced cultural naivity.  They seem a great collection of people I would very much like to meet as do my fellow contributors. By definition, as judges of a comedy writing competition, they must have a funny bone.

I had made enquires about renting a paisley smoking jacket and cravate and I had sourced a pair of John Lennon glasses complete with blue lenses. I wanted to be at my most beautiful.

But... the ubiquitous but... due to some Karma induced scheduling atrocity, the book launch is scheduled for November. And so is the Rugby Classicals tournament in Bermuda.

So my chance to meet the gatekeepers of the industry, the judges, the other authors, the organizers, agents, Sky News, and both Random and House, the publishing duo, will be missed.

My chance to elevator pitch, to push a printed copy of 'The Wedding of Ugly Bob' into the hands of a cornered agent and say, "Fuckin' hilarious, ain't it?" will be missed.

The chance for the illuminati to meet the illiterati, the chance for Gauche to meet the Left, for Right to meet Write and for Feminist and Sexist to clink champagne flute to cider mug... will be missed. Anti-matter will not meet doesn't-matter.

I will be in Hamilton Bermuda and surrounding beer tents for the gathering of rugby veterans, the Classicals, for the real Rugby World Cup in November...

Sincere apologies.

 I can report more than several requests from my fans and their associated mental health professionals to purchase printed copies of the Anthology.

Best to all invovled in this great opportunity to showcase the comedy talents, raw and refined, that are out there.

Chris Fielden
Sorry to hear that, Prop. I'm devastated that I will not witness you at your most divine, gorgeous and beautiful, dressed in such chic finery. Gutted. Absolutely gutted.

You are right, the judges all love to laugh. And their eclectic mix of tastes and personalities - and there unwavering support at difficult times - have made the judging process a lot easier for me. If it were left to my personal taste and warped sense of what constitutes literary magic, the world would probably end. Everyone involved in running this competition - judges, entrants, artists, web designers, my cat etc. - give their time for free, and I sincerely thank them for it.

Enjoy Bermuda. I hope it's a joyous experience. I'd advise that you avoid triangles. I've heard they can be dangerous. Be sure to raid the beer tent repeatedly. It's good for the soul.

Thanking you kindly sir, Chris

Radovana J (Radka)
What a great feeling to be the winner! Thank you judges for liking my story and Chris also for all the hard work you've put into this competition and promoting humorous writing and talented writers in general. I'm really looking forward to reading the other published stories, as I'm sure there'll be plenty I'll enjoy very much.

And my apologies to anyone who was hoping to have their face on the cover of the anthology (and possibly on other promotional stuff). I still find it both exciting and rather terrifying at the same time...

Chris Fielden
Thanks Radka :-) This year's anthology cover is a beauty... coming soon!

Cosima A
Dear Chris,

A little bit late,  I have been very indisposed,  I wish to tell you how thrilled I am to be one of your competition's Special Mentions along with my funny selfie photo.  I now know why you wanted the photo and biography - never thought it would be used.  Shall have to try another humorous story for the next competition.  My goodness, £1,000 prize! Your wonderful homely site has made lots of writers happy, including me.  Stuck in the backwoods of rural France,  you have made me feel part of something,  your pack,  and I'm grateful because with the way you are expanding, soon you will not be able to keep up with everybody.  I am certain that you will soon achieve your aim to be able to earn your living solely by writing.

I have just bought the Anthology today from Amazon which will be delivered in about a week's time and look forward to reading it.  For your information,  in spite of my gray hair,  a few months ago my best friend's brother took me on a jaunt on his brand new Harley Davidson.

The locals were astonished to see me arrive in the village on the back of such a machine.  I loved the ride,  the engine purring so smoothly, not one other member of the family dared to go with him,  just me.

Very best wishes in all that you do.

Chris Fielden
Hi Cosima, thank you so much - messages like that are always nice to receive. It's good to hear you feel part of something, as that is the aim of the site. It's helpful and rewarding to know that is works :-)

Excellent that you braved a motorcycle ride. I've ridden through France a few times now, and it has some amazing roads and scenery.

I'll look forward to reading your entry into the 2016 competition.