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To Hull And Back Short Story Competition Results 2017

Quick links on this page:

winners - shortlist - longlist - special mentions - judges - notes

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

I'm pleased to announce the results of the 2017 To Hull And Back Humorous Short Story Competition.

I received 359 entries into this year's contest. Yet again, this is a substantial increase compared to the previous year – this Bad Boy is continuing to grow, which is awesome.

I'd like to say a MAHOOSIVE thank you to everyone that has entered. Your continued support means that the prize pot for next year's competition has increased yet again. To Hull And Back would not and could not continue to grow without every writer who enters. I'm incredibly grateful to each and every one of you (more details on that in my notes at the end).

Chris Fielden Thumbs Up

This image has not been altered in any way – note to self: massive yellow hands are not normal, go see a doctor

If you entered and don't see your name on this page, please don't be disheartened. There were literally hundreds of excellent stories entered this year. In fact, there were so many that I've had to do a longlist, a shortlist AND special mentions. And there were still loads of brilliant stories that I was unable to shout about here. Many of them will be published elsewhere, I'm sure - the quality of entries was fantabulous.

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Below are the 2017 winning and highly commended stories. These stories scored well consistently across a variety of reading tastes.

Congratulations to all the winners - you have each penned superb tales of mirth and legend.

1st Prize

Bug Boy, by Crystal Jeans

2nd Prize

The Turbothrob Triple-X, by Martin Strike

3rd Prize

Leisure Sickness, by Christopher Stanley

Highly Commended

In alphabetical order:

Desperate Witches, by Kim Montgomery

PAM, by Rachel McHale

Terms And Conditions, by Leah Strelsin

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The Shortlist

Here you will find details of the amazing, gifted, inventive and deranged minds behind the 2017 To Hull And Back shortlisted stories. Legends, each and every one of them.

The standard of stories entered this year was incredible. Congratulations to each author on the shortlist - may your heads now swell to suitably monstrous proportions. Let me know if you need a neck brace. Or scaffolding. Or a zero gravity 'I've Got A Massive Head, Please Help Me' Support SystemTM.

Authors are listed alphabetically, based on forename. The links take you to each author's biography.

Bar Danino – Chronos Wants A Trophy

C L Raven – Pretty Vacant

Christopher Brawn – Confessions Of A Dancing Alien

Christopher Stanley – Leisure Sickness

Crystal Jeans – Bug Boy

Edward Field – Deconstructing Me

Grace Newman – Exterus Sincerum: Newly Discovered Region Of Brain Leaves Scientists Baffled

Joe Eurell – Hannigan’s Eatery

Joma West – In A World

Karen Jones – The Critic’s Wife

Karl Bunyan – Have You Tried Switching The Universe Off And On Again?

Katy Wimhurst – Knitting To Oblivion

Kim Montgomery – Desperate Witches

L P Lee – Truth And What Comes After

Leah Strelsin – Terms And Conditions

Martin Strike– The Turbothrob Triple-X

R L Wilson – Dead Ringer

Rachel McHale – PAM

Stephen Keyworth – Nothing But Flowers

Tracey Iceton – HM Office Of Replacement

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The Longlist

And lo, forthwith,verily and yay, here thou whilst findeth the glorious, most superb and always beauteous authors of the To Hull And Back 2017 longlist.

Congratulations to all of them. Their story writing skills are beyond awesome.

Again, authors are listed alphabetically, based on forename, and the links take you to their biographies.

Adena Graham – Vegemite

Bobby Finn – Off The Rails

C R Berry – The Home Secretary Is Safe

Fiona Mills – Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Frank Machin – A Brief History of Necromancy

Hannah Moll – Red White & Blue

Jennifer Meyer – Jesse's Desire

John Emms – Tale Of The Unexpected

Jonathan MachoFinal Flight into Fiction - The Film

Jonathan Pinnock – Financial Engineering or Whatever Shall We Do With Grandma?

Joseph Shuba – The Science Of Sexual Evolution

Ken McBeath – And Hey For Houghmagandie

Lis Maimaris – The Carer

Melanie Roussel – Rock ‘n’ Revelation

Michael Antoinetti – The Collectors

Owain James – The Holey Sprite

Rhiannon Lewis – Independence Day

Rose Farris – Simply Rub Gently…

Simon Pinkerton – The Sausage Of Concern

Victoria Richards – Below The Line

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Special Mentions

This year, I received quite a few entries from younger authors. I decided to mention some of them here because I believe young talent should be encouraged. I hope these writers keep studying their craft – they submitted amazing stories and could all be literary voices of our future.

As above, authors are listed alphabetically and links take you to their biographies.

Leah Charlie Weisz – Bowling

Nuthara Dulandee Karunarathna – Adventure at Camp

Soraya Dhanani – One Last Breath

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To Hull & Back Winner's Video

The video was filmed on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th May 2018 and stars Crystal Jeans.

Crystal is the first winner to make the long journey to Hull with me, on the back of Hilda The Hog. The more astute reader will notice that I have never referred to The Hog as Hilda before... That's because prior to this epic journey, she hadn't been assigned a proper name. Or gender. Crystal thought this was a poor effort on my part, so did it for me.

So. The Hog is now a she. And she's called Hilda.

I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to Crystal for being insane brave enough to make the journey with me - her support is very much appreciated.

To Hull And Back - 2017 winner's video starring Crystal Jeans

Because Crystal travelled with me, this video has more footage of us dicking about and less of books on motorways. So, more nonsense, less tarmac.

The journey was also quite a bit longer than previous years. This is because I went to Cardiff, in Wales, to pick Crystal up en route. So for the first time, the video contains footage from more than one country. EPIC.

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Shortlist Author Biographies

Below you will find photos and biographies of the writers of the most inventive and original stories entered into the 2017 To Hull And Back competition.

Bar Danino (Israel)

Bar Danino

Bar Danino is a Mechanical Engineer. He has been writing for a year, with one previously published story.

Bar is a Mensa member and, for the past four years, has been a mentor for a high-school robotics team, working with team students on both mechanics and community activity.

C L Raven (UK)

C L Raven

C L Raven are identical twins and mistresses of the macabre from Cardiff. They’re horror writers, as ‘bringers of nightmares’ isn’t a recognised job title. 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 twice, 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. They recently won third prize in the British Fantasy Society Award. In 2015, they were published 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, and can also be found urbexing in places they shouldn’t be. They also unleash their dark sides playing D&D/RPGs and gracefully fall off poles as they learn PoleFit.

Christopher Brawn (UK)

Christopher Brawn

I was born in 1967. I’m married to Tracy and have four daughters. I have lived in Doncaster for 14 years but I was born in Northampton; it has changed so much I don’t recognise it as home anymore.

I have learned British Sign Language over 10 years and work at a college for deaf people, people with autism and people with other communication problems.

Mainly, I read for escapism, leaning towards fantasy, sci-fi, occult etc. I have always had stories in my head but only recently begun to attempt to express them. It’s harder than I thought.

Some things I like: science, astronomy, conspiracy theories, the unexplained, air crash investigations, films, sign language, science-fiction.

I hope that each time I write a biography, I’ll have more to put in it.

Christopher Stanley (UK)

Christopher Stanley

Christopher Stanley lives on a hill in England with three sons who share a birthday but aren't triplets. In the last couple of years his flash fiction stories have won prizes from The Short Story, Raging Aardvark, Retreat West, ZeroFlash, Corvus Review and The Molotov Cocktail, as well as being published in the 2015 and 2016 National Flash Fiction Day anthologies.

Find Chris on Twitter.

Crystal Jeans (UK)

Crystal Jeans

Crystal Jeans was born and brought up in Cardiff. She lived in Bristol before doing a Creative Writing BA and then an MPhil at the University of Glamorgan. She has a pamphlet of poetry, Just Like That, published by Mulfran Press.

She's been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2010) and has two novels, The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise and Lightswitches Are My Kryptonite, published by Honno. She has a blog – – which she is crap at maintaining. She lives with her daughter and more animals than is really necessary.

Edward Field (UK)

Edward Field

Edward Field trained as a stage manager at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School before working in the arenas of post-production, theatre and event management as a runner, set builder, stage manager, venue producer, VOG (Voice of God) and scriptwriter.

Over the past 20 years or so, he has venue produced around the world, cast and directed corporate videos, devised and staged bespoke quizzes, treasure hunts and Generation Game-themed events, helped Lenny Henry escape, accepted Bianca Jagger’s personal phone number, been mistaken for a French pilot by Alex Salmond, thanked personally by President Clinton and narrowly avoided being shot on three occasions.

His words grace the sleeves of documentaries, publications and websites, have prompted the largest mailbag response ever for The Stage, and have been orated in speeches and presentations at weddings, international AGMs and product launches.

He edited the Tyler May series of YA novels for author B J Mears, has three children’s plays on the South African curriculum, self-published the humorous diatribe, Permission to Rage: The Book on How to Complain Effectively, and is currently working on his second novel whilst seeking representation for his first.

Grace Newman (USA)

Grace Newman

I am young, blonde and strange. I am partial to dangerous things like oceans, words and winks. Less interestingly, I am from Buffalo, NY, and a student at Stanford University. I write because I have to document my lunacy somehow.

Joe Eurell (UK)

Joe Eurell

Joe Eurell is a writer from Birmingham who is currently editing his first novel (a process he fears will never end). In between drafts he enjoys writing shorter fiction to cleanse his palate. Some of these stories have been longlisted or shortlisted for awards such as the Bath Short Story Award, Bath Flash Fiction Award, Reflex Fiction and the Momaya Short Story Competition.

His work has also been heard at Cheltenham Literary Festival, Stroud Short Stories and Brum Radio. To find out more about Joe and his writing, follow him on Twitter.

Joma West (UK)

Joma West

Joma West was born in London in 1986. Months later, she was moved to Zambia, then to Swaziland and she hasn’t stopped moving ever since.

She studied English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow and then took up teaching.

Joma’s novella, Wild, won the 2016 MMU novella award.

Joma writes in several genres, but her primary focus is Science Fiction, which she finds exciting, flexible and challenging. She likes to use the strange to highlight and interrogate the familiar. She believes that stories are reflections of ourselves and, whilst they should definitely entertain, they should also help us understand what it is to be human.

She currently lives in between places. Which is sometimes the best place for a writer to live.

Karen Jones (UK)

Karen Jones

Karen Jones is from Glasgow. Her stories have appeared in numerous magazines, e-zines and print anthologies. She’s been successful in short story competitions including Mslexia, Flash 500, Writers Bureau, The New Writer, HISSAC and Words with Jam. Her story collection, The Upside-Down Jesus and other stories, is available from Amazon.

Karl Bunyan (UK)

Karl Bunyan

Karl Bunyan is a self-unemployed computer programmer based in east London. To Hull And Back marks his first short story competition entry, although he has previously been published in the form of a handful of contributions to professional magazines, blog posts, and a book on computer game development. Karl's proudest fictional works are three adventure games for the ZX Spectrum written in the late 80s.

A longstanding fan of sci-fi authors such as Ray Bradbury and John Wyndham and an avid reader of Alexander Dumas, Karl's other inspirations include long-running TV serials such as Blake’s 7, Knight Rider and The A-Team, and he has a penchant for poor quality action movies of any era. Whilst trying his hand at writing, other excuses to avoid paid work include cycling, flying a light aircraft, riding a motorbike, modern board games and playing lawn bowls.

Katy Wimhurst (UK)

Katy Wimhurst

Katy Wimhurst studied social anthropology before doing a PhD on Mexican Surrealism. She has also worked in publishing, but now has a chronic illness.

She writes fiction and non-fiction and has been published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Puritan,, Black Pear Press, Fabula Press, Breath and Shadow, The Short Story, Bust Down the Doors and Eat All the Chickens, and Cafe Irreal. She was a winner of the Tate Modern short story competition TH2058.

She interviews short story writers for TSS Publishing.

Kim Montgomery (UK)

Kim Montgomery

I am a semi-retired Englishman living in Scotland. I have had careers in cartography and IT, but now work for a major supermarket.

I have self-published a children’s story, Curly and Tubs and the Galloping Rot. I have also written two other novels, as yet, unpublished. One is a sequel to the Curly and Tubs story, and the other is the autobiography of a pet rabbit.

Over the years I have written many short stories, three of which I am submitting to this competition.

L P Lee (UK)

L P Lee

Born to a British father and a South Korean mother, L P Lee grew up somewhere in between South London and South Korea. Her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and selected for Best New Horror (ed. Stephen Jones).

Lee’s work has been featured in magazines and anthologies including The British Fantasy Society, Litro and Popshot Magazine. Short film adaptations include The Feast, starring Katie Leung (Harry Potter).

Leah Strelsin (USA)

Leah Strelsin

By day, I am a teacher and a camp director. By night, I am also a teacher and a camp director (lesson planning, you know?). I’m from Chicago, Illinois and hold the unpopular belief that deep dish pizza has no place on this planet.

I’ve published approximately zero stories – I started writing last year just for fun and found it very relaxing and hope to continue.

Skills: I can recite every Harry Potter sorting hat song from memory, but I’ve stopped doing it at parties because it made people feel inadequate...

Martin Strike (UK)

Martin Strike

Martin is an occupational gardener and should not be confused with Tierra del Fuego which is, of course, an 18,000 square mile archipelago of flat table land off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland divided between Chile and Argentina.

Married with few inhabitants, Martin's hobbies include timber, oil and natural gas extraction, as well as developing a burgeoning increase in tourism. He also adds silly stories to his blog.

R L Wilson (Australia)

R L Wilson

R L Wilson is an Australian scribbler on a quest to find that one half-decent story that reads as well on paper as it does in her head. Occasionally, a piece of her short fiction will appear in an anthology. Many have made excellent compost.

The search continues…

Rachel McHale (UK)

Rachel McHale

Rachel McHale works as a nurse but moonlights as a writer. She is currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing. She initially obtained a degree in English Literature before going on to qualify as a nurse to have a day job where she can help people in a practical way, while keeping up with writing as a hobby and a pleasure.

Rachel grew up in Hong Kong but now lives in York, UK. She has found beauty and inspiration in both the hectic big city environment and the quaint ancient feel of York.

Although she writes across a number of forms, she has a particular love of writing short stories because of the specific challenges they present – developing characters and a plot in such a short space, and making every single word work to its maximum potential. Her stories usual address the ‘what if’ of colliding two seemingly disparate elements. Somehow, this often results in a sci-fi or fantasy piece. Her favourite short story writer is the award-winning Adam Marek.

Rachel’s hobbies include international travel, city sightseeing, skiing and reading.

Stephen Keyworth (UK)

Stephen Keyworth

Stephen has written for EastEnders, Casualty and is currently a contract writer on Doctors. Work for Radio 4 includes Gondwanaland, My Difficult Second Album, A Farewell To Arms, The Two Georges, The Last Minutes and in 2017 an adaptation of William Goldman’s Marathon Man and its sequel Brothers.

He’s written sitcom pilots for BBC Comedy, Leopardrama and Bayamber, and did rewrites on movie Breaking The Bank starring Kelsey Grammer, released in 2016. Stephen also worked for some years as a stand-up comedian.

Stage plays include Mad For It at Manchester’s Royal Exchange and Zimbabwe Boy for Flight 5065 at the National Theatre. As artistic director of Flight 5065 he filled the London Eye with comedy, theatre and music for a one night arts extravaganza. Artists included Damon Albarn, Jo Brand and the Royal Court Theatre.

Tracey Iceton (UK)

Tracey Iceton

Tracey Iceton is an author and creative writing tutor from Teesside. Recently awarded her doctorate in creative writing from Northumbria University, she is a qualified English teacher experienced in delivering creating writing courses and workshops.

She won the 2013 HISSAC short story prize for ‘Butterfly Wings’, was runner up in the 2013 and 2014 Cinnamon Press short story competitions with ‘Slag’ and ‘As the world (re)turns’ which appear in the anthologies Journey Planner and Patria. She also won the 2011 Writers Block NE Home Tomorrow Short Story Competition and has been shortlisted for the 2012 Bristol Short Story Prize with ‘Apple Shot’ and the 2015 Mslexia Women’s Short Story Competition for ‘Ask Not’.

Green Dawn at St Enda’s, her debut novel and part one of her Celtic Colours Trilogy, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2016 with parts two and three following in 2017 and 2019 and plans for a fourth novel, Rock God Complex: The Mickey Hunter Story, to appear in 2020.

She regularly reads her work at literary events. Her stories have appeared in Prole, Litro, Neon, Tears in the Fence, The Momaya Annual Review, The Yellow Room and Writer’s Muse.

Her PhD research, entitled Troubles Women, is a practice-led project exploring the portrayal of female paramilitary protagonists in Troubles fiction.

You can learn more on Tracey's website.

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Longlist Author Biographies

Below are the biographies and photos of the 2017 To Hull And Back longlisted writers.

Adena Graham (UK)

Adena Graham

Adena Graham's short stories have appeared in numerous publications, both online and offline - including Creepy Pasta, Unhinged, Dead Things, QWF, Writers' Brew and, most recently, three editions of Popshot Magazine. She has twice been placed as runner-up in the Faber Academy Quickfic competition. Her short story, 'More Than Life', was Highly Commended in the Writers' Village International Short Fiction Award Winter 2015, and her short story 'Comedy of Terrors' won the Hour of Writes competition. She was also shortlisted for the Ink Tears Flash Fiction Prize 2015 and won the Ink Tears Short Story Competition 2016. She has also been delighted to be placed third two years running in this very competition. As well as short stories, Adena's had two erotic novels published under a pseudonym. She is currently working on a horror novel but keeps getting scared and having to stop.

Bobby Finn (UK)

Bobby Finn

Over the years I have variously been a professional hot air balloonist, an internationally recognised movie star, the inventor of the hedgehog and a complete fantasist. When I'm not day-dreaming about jobs I'd like to have, I pass my time as a radio producer for the BBC.

I have written scripts for some of the biggest names in comedy including Tim Key, Rich Hall and Miles Jupp and have travelled the world making radio programmes in Manila, Moscow, Morocco, Mumbai and even some places that don’t begin with ‘M’. I was John Peel’s World Service producer for the two years up until his death (the two facts are unconnected by the way) and more recently was a producer on the family-focused 4 O’Clock Show With Mel Giedroyc on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

I recently wrote the third series of BAFTA award winning CBBC show The Dog Ate My Homework, and have performed my own one-man comic monologue Dear Dan Brown at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In addition to this I was shortlisted for the Scottish Book Trust's New Writer Award in 2016. Outside of writing, I can play the bagpipes, juggle and sew but cannot make balloon animals or those origami swan napkin-type things.

C R Berry (UK)

C R Berry

C R Berry is a British author whose forthcoming novel, Million Eyes, is a time travel / mystery / conspiracy mash-up. Think Doctor Who meets The Da Vinci Code meets 24. He’s also working on a series of loosely linked short stories set in the Million Eyes universe. 'The Home Secretary Is Safe' is one of those stories.

The Million Eyes short stories have also been published in Scribble, Tigershark, Storgy and Metamorphose. His story in Scribble was voted 3rd prize winner of that issue. In 2014, he won 2nd prize with an unrelated story (about a turkey with mental health issues - yes, you read that right) in the inaugural To Hull And Back short story competition. He was shortlisted in the Aeon Award Contest 2015 and highly commended by Writers' Forum in 2017.

You can follow C R Berry on his website and get his take on government cover-ups, unsolved murders, UFOs, monsters, ghosts and curses. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Fiona Mills (UK)

Fiona Mills

Fiona Mills used to write about real things that happened to real people, but when she left work as a journalist to look after her three children, she started making things up. Despite being a fairly happy person, her stories are often serious and usually a little sad, which can be a bit depressing at times.

In an attempt to cheer herself up, she wrote ‘Barking Up The Wrong Tree’. It worked, at least for her. Fiona lives in Dorset with her husband and children, but no dog. Not yet. She loves walks on the beach, whatever the weather.

Frank Machin (UK)

Frank Machin

Frank grew up in rural Gloucestershire and eventually grew tired of cider and trees and headed to London to do a degree. It was here that he started writing crude jokes for student TV shows, eventually finishing as a runner-up at the National Student TV awards with his show Cooking with Frank.

He moved from pretending to be a culinary yet murderous TV personality to pretending to be a man pretending to be a doctor at the Edinburgh Fringe. Not wanting to get on the overnight coach again, Frank stayed in Edinburgh to do a PhD. During that time, Frank dabbled in play writing with the student theatre society, writing about prostitutes and haunted houses.

This is Frank's first foray into short story writing, and when he's not staying up late swearing at his laptop, he likes to invent board games and to cook.

Hannah Moll (UK)

Hannah Moll

I'm a soon-to-be English Literature graduate living in Bristol. I'm aware that this bio is extremely boring - forgive me. I've been applying for jobs and I'm getting sick of talking about myself.

Jennifer Meyer (UK)

Jennifer Meyer

I love the power of words and creating colourful worlds with them. Spurred on by the magic of Disney as a kid influenced my flair for romance and fairy-tales that I lavishly invented, forever speaking to characters in my head or out loud. Soon this was mixed with teenage hormones and my raw passion for rock music also stemming from wind-milling at 2 years old and every weekend possible since.

I have not been published or tried yet and this competition has inspired me to make the step from writer (for my own pleasure and sanity) to author ( being brave to share them with the world).

Now as an adult (apparently this status happened at 18, I don't remember signing up for that), the rose-tinted glasses have long since fallen off and my art has grown into more domestic-noir and darker tales but always with a sense of mysterious joie-de-vivre and sarcasm, of course. Some mistake me as loud or crazy, but really it's probably just my dry sense of humour. What can I say, the Great in Great-Britain stems from it birthing Rock Music and Monty Python.

John Emms (UK)

John Emms

After a career got in the way, John Emms found time to write again after retiring. Since then a number of short stories and articles, usually humour based, have featured in various publications. 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 at a variety of venues around Yorkshire and Lancs.

Jonathan Macho (UK)

Jonathan Macho

Jonathan Macho is a recently-ish graduated student, lost in the big wide world, with a passion for writing, a frenzied imagination, and a love for all things daft. He lives in Cardiff with his family and a talking space raccoon who definitely exists.

He has been previously published, including in the last two To Hull And Back Anthologies, Candy Jar Books’ Beneath the Surface Anthology and the first issue of 404INK’s literary magazine.

Jonathan Pinnock (UK)

Jonathan Pinnock

Jonathan Pinnock is the author of the novel Mrs Darcy Versus The Aliens (Proxima, 2011), the Scott Prize-winning short story collection Dot Dash (Salt, 2012), the bio-historico-musicological-memoir thing Take It Cool (Two Ravens Press, 2014) and the forthcoming short story collection Dip Flash (Cultured Llama, 2018). He also writes poetry from time to time. He blogs at and tweets as @jonpinnock.

Joseph Shuba (USA)

Joseph Shuba

My name is Joseph Shuba. I've been writing since I was 19. My primary genre is Black Comedy, though I have been jumping around to see what appeals to me. I’ve written over 10 books. Currently I've been writing in Science Fiction, trying to incorporate elements of humour in a low-fantasy setting. Right now, my goal is to write a Cyber Punk novel spanning 1000+ pages. It’s unfeasible for an unpublished writer to publish a book this long, but I want to write it for the sheer enjoyment of it, and to prove to myself I can do it.

As for work I am in marketing, for a cyber security company known as Kudelski Security, which has helped me understand the business world. Working in cyber security helps me write in a Science Fiction setting, using concepts I’ve learned in the business world. With the inter-connectivity of all devices, it is imperative to understand the unprecedented scope cyber security will have on the future.

I live in Downtown Phoenix and spend most of my time pursuing creative hobbies, when I’m not in the office.

Ken McBeath (Canada)

Ken McBeath

Born in India, brought up in Cullen, Banffshire, Scotland. Worked in high tech electronics and hated it. Went oil drilling in the Persian Gulf and Libya - loved that - I could hit my work with a sledgehammer.

Geology at Aberdeen University, then the deep gold mines in South Africa, and gold exploration in Rhodesia during interesting times.

Lived in Canada for the last many years, presently in Courtenay, Vancouver Island, finishing off my 24' home-built fishing boat and writing stuff.

Lis Maimaris (UK)

Lis Maimaris

I am now more middle-aged than I'd like to be but still feel like I'm stuck at 18 which is perhaps why my favourite writing genre is YA fiction. This is my first adult short story.

I have an MA in Children’s Literature with Creative Writing and I have also completed a Writing for Children course with Curtis Brown Creative. I was recently longlisted in the Mslexia Children’s Novel competition in 2016 for my story, Catching Rainbows. I have just recently been working on a YA novel with Cornerstones Literary Agency editor Natalie Young.

I live in North London with my husband and two young children.

Melanie Roussel (UK)

Melanie Roussel

I grew up in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire which is a quaint and quiet little market town. It has its oddities, like a castle which isn't really there and a totem pole overlooking the Grand Union Canal. After university, I moved to North London, which is neither quaint nor quiet.

I'm currently a Coordinator in television production. Not a job which affords you a lot of free time, so with every spare moment I pursue my dream of becoming a published author. I've been writing all my life, boring my family rigid with my stories. I mostly write fantasy and have recently launched a blog. I'm a member of the London Writers' Café, a group who are wonderfully supportive.

After years of banging my head against a brick wall (aka my still work-in-progress steampunk novel), I began to explore short stories. If only as a respite from the madness! When I came across the 2015 To Hull A Back anthology, it showed me there are others out there who love gallows humour as much as I do. In this insane world, here’s to all the writers who help us to laugh at the chaos.

Michael Antoinetti (USA)

Michael Antoinetti

Michael Antoinetti is an Italian-American writer living in Western Massachusetts. He teaches English Composition at Westfield State University and has an MFA from Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.

He has been published by McSweeney's Internet Tendency and was named a finalist in Glimmer Train's Very Short Story contest. He runs a writing blog in his spare time and is currently at work on his first novel.

Owain James (UK)

Owain James

I'm Owain James, and as you can probably tell from the name I'm very Welsh.

Presently, I'm studying for a DPhil in Theology at Oxford University, which should mean that I get to put doctor against my name one day. Other than that, what I'm doing is pretty useless and has little real-life application. But I'm researching early Christian ideas about magic, demons and the afterlife, so it's interesting at least. Like most people in their early 20s, I have no idea what I want to do in the future. If anybody has any ideas, get in touch.

My interests change a lot, but I've always had a passion for the arts. When I was a child I used to read a ton of fiction. Now that I read dry academic books all day, I usually get my creative fix from watching films.

When I have the chance, I love to write. But I don't do as much as I should, and so most of my ideas are still just notes on paper. I'd like to have a go at writing a screenplay next, but we'll see.

Rhiannon Lewis (UK)

Rhiannon Lewis

Rhiannon Lewis was born and raised on a farm near the West Wales coast. Educated at the Universities of Wales at Aberystwyth and Cardiff, she worked as a teacher and lecturer before going on to work in public relations, marketing and communications.

Rhiannon writes in both English and Welsh and has published articles, poems and short stories.

In July 2017 she won the Frome Festival Short Story prize for her story, 'The Jugs Stay with the Dresser'. Currently, she is looking for a publisher for her historical novel about a Welshman who plays a pivotal role in the Chilean Civil War of 1891.

Rose Farris (UK)

Rose Farris

Rose Farris writes short fiction about any random subject that pops into her head. Having exhausted the patience of family and friends, she now aspires to gain a wider audience for her (usually slightly grim) stories. When not writing, she is generally reading, hill-walking or at the theatre.

Rose is married with two grown-up children and lives in Leicestershire. Curiously, she found writing this biography one of the most challenging literary tasks she has undertaken to date.

Simon Pinkerton (UK)

Simon Pinkerton

Simon Pinkerton is the missing piece in your life, a humour and fiction writer that gets you so well, you think his writing is coming from INSIDE YOUR HEAD. At first this is terrifying, but you get used to it, and you are able to continue your life with a degree of normality.

His work appears in a ton of excellent magazines and websites, and you can find him on Twitter or his website.

Victoria Richards (UK)

Victoria Richards

Victoria Richards is a journalist who has worked for the BBC, FT, Independent, The Times and Sunday Times. She has also appeared on Newsnight, BBC World and ITV News. She recently graduated from Birkbeck, University of London, with a Masters in Creative Writing.

She won the inaugural Oh Zoe! Rising Talent Award 2017, was longlisted in the Bath Short Story Award 2017, runner-up in the Stylist Fiction Competition 2017, third place in the Winchester Writers’ Festival Memoir Writing Competition 2017, shortlisted in The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition 2017, runner-up in the ELLE Writing Competition 2017, shortlisted in the Stratford Salariya Picture Book Prize 2017, runner-up in The Unbound Short Story Prize 2016, longlisted in The Guardian Short Story Contest 2016 and shortlisted in The Ghost Story Supernatural Fiction Award 2016.

She’s had poems published in the Mechanics’ Institute Review (online) and flash fiction in the 2017 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology. Victoria lives in east London and is working on a collection of short stories and books for children. She has also written a novel, which she is using as inspiration to write a better one.

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Special Mention Author Biographies

Below are the biographies of some incredibly talented young writers.

Leah Charlie Weisz (UK)

Leah Charlie Weisz

My name’s Charlie Weisz - I’m a sixth form student in London who’s extremely passionate about both writing and comedy, so this competition is right up my alley. I’m a book worm, game geek, and science nerd who likes writing short stories in her spare time. I’ve never entered any writing competitions before (neither have I won any) but I chose your competition as the first competition I would enter since I love the idea of combining a short story with humour. In my opinion, all stories should include humour - in fact, why am I limiting it to stories? All things that exist should include humour.

Nuthara Dulandee Karunarathna (Sri Lanka)

Nuthara Dulandee Karunarathna

Nuthara Dulandee Karunarathna was born on 14th October 2004, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She grew up in Panadura and is studying in Lyceum International School, Panadura. She took a big interest in reading books at an early age and started writing stories at the age of nine.

Soraya Dhanani (UK)

Soraya Dhanani

My name is Soraya Dhanani and I am a 14 year old girl from London. I go to Latymer Upper School, and I love writing. I hope my writing can one day progress to a more serious level than just being a pastime.

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The Judges

Here are some details about the 2017 To Hull And Back judges.

All the judges are published short story writers. Most of them are members of the writing group I belong to in Bristol – Stokes Croft Writers. Mike and Pete are both previous winners of the To Hull And Back competition.

The judging works like this: I tell anyone who will listen that I have around a million words to read and use that as an excuse to go on holiday. While on holiday, I read all the stories. By the time I return, I have some idea of a longlist and need my eyes tested. I then deliberate for too long about the shortlist.

Once I've eventually made a decision, the other judges receive the shortlist and read the stories. After all their results have been received, my magic spreadsheet tells me who has won. The winning stories are the ones that have scored the best consistently across a variety of reading tastes.

The judges give their time for free. I'd like to say a huge thank you to all of them for their assistance. I could not do this without you guys.

Christie Cluett

Christie Cluett

Christie wrote her first book when she was a child. It was about the burning issue of losing a teddy bear and she got a professional (child) in to do the illustrations. Unfortunately it wasn’t a best-seller but her parents liked the ending. Job done. Since then she’s been trying to recreate the high.

She’s currently in the final throes of a novel, a dark comedy about a geography teacher who exacts his revenge on an unjust world in a repressed British way.

When she’s not scribbling in a corner for long periods, chewing pens to pieces and sobbing into paragraphs, she can be found on stage, performing short stories and other comedy nonsense. If not, she’ll be reading and is not to be disturbed.

Christie's comments on judging the competition:

Year 3 of judging and, once again, it was a pleasure to be involved in judging the excellent shortlisted entries. Somehow the level of skill, humour and great story-telling was elevated for another year, and I enjoyed reading such a wide variety of original stories. Humorous story-telling has been done a great service. Over and out.

Christopher Fielden

Christopher Fielden

I launched my website in 2011, started running the To Hull And Back short story competition in 2013 and gave up my day job to run my blog fulltime in 2016.

I now survive by eating a lot of baked beans on toast and Super Noodles. While my diet may not be as rich as it used to be, my freedom means I smile more. I chose the right path.

The writing challenges I run with other writers on my website have grown in popularity over the last year. The aim is to support charity and publish hundreds (and hopefully thousands) of authors. Hundreds have been achieved, thousands will likely be published in the not too distant future. You can learn more about the writing challenges here.

If you want to know more about me, there is more information than anyone could possibly be bothered to read on my website’s About page.

Chris's comments on judging the competition:

See the notes section below.

Mark Rutterford

Mark Rutterford

Mark Rutterford writes and performs his short stories at events in the South West. Since last year’s competition, Mark has added a church hall, a 1950s retro diner and a museum to the list of venues he’s appeared at – whilst continuing to read on-stage, in pubs, cafes and bars.

Mark’s stories have a bit of heart on the sleeve about them and some laughs along the way. He likes to use a prop as well – beer cans, a triangle, bracelet, postcard, wellington boots, kazoo, chocolate and a badge or two.

Mark is a proud member of Stokes Croft Writers and is currently putting together a collection of his stories and writing a workshop on performing.

You can find out more on Mark's website or you can find Mark on Twitter and Facebook.

Mark's comments on judging the competition:

Science and subjectivity – a bit of both involved in this judging lark.

Chris Fielden structures the science bit. Making sure all the judges read the stories blind and score against the same criteria. There are loads of them, criteria that is… but I’m not going to tell you what they are! There are lots of points to be won and at the end of each story, I thought long and hard about whether that was a big score or a little score.

So I did all of that, hid the scores so I wasn’t influenced by the previous markings and then found lots of stories with the same number of points overall.

There was more work to do, coming down to a very subjective personal assessment of one story over another. What was most important to me – the laughs in that story or the originality of the next? Sometimes it was the beginning, sometimes the middle and you can guess the last bit.

Huge congratulations and thanks to all those included in this year’s anthology – a major achievement of unerring originality and quality. You made me work hard as a judge and for that, thank you very much indeed.

Mel Ciavucco

Mel Ciavucco

Mel Ciavucco is a Bristol-based fiction writer and blogger. She writes novels, screenplays and short stories, which range from gritty emotional dramas to gross-out zombie comedies. Mel writes about gender equality and body positivity on her own blog and has been published by online feminist magazines Bust and Zusterschap.

She’s had short stories published both online and in print, and was a ‘notable contender’ for the Bristol Short Story Prize in 2013. She is one of the co-founders of Stokes Croft Writers – they run a bi-monthly storytelling event called Talking Tales.

You can find Mel's blog here.

You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

[She also likes to use feckin massive photos of her head in bios... I cropped this one and it's still like the Empire State CF]

Mel's comments on judging the competition:

I love judging To Hull And Back. Such entertaining stories – funny, witty, clever. So much talent, it’s inspiring.

Thank you to all the shortlisted writers for putting a smile on my face, and of course a big thank you to Chris Fielden for making all this possible.

To Hull And Back is truly unique – how many other competitions put the winner’s face on the front of a book and drive it all the way to Hull? Well done to everyone involved and I look forward to more awesome stories next year.

Mike Scott Thomson

Mike Scott Thomson

After writing all sorts of odds and ends for most of his 40-odd years (ranging from reviews and interviews, blogs and travelogues), Mike Scott Thomson began writing fiction in ‘earnest’ – if this is indeed the correct adjective – in 2011.

Since then his short fiction has been published by a number of literary anthologies and magazines, including The Fiction Desk, Litro, Prole, Storgy, Stories for Homes, and a National Flash Fiction Day anthology. Out of a small handful of competition successes, the most notable was, and remains (as if he could say any different here), winning the inaugural To Hull And Back short story competition in 2014.

Based in Mitcham, Surrey, he works in broadcasting.

You can find out more on Mike’s website.

Mike's comments on judging the competition:

I’d better be careful, lest this mini-screed become inadvertently eligible for one of Chris’s cliché challenges – but sometimes only clichés can suffice.

The standard was high. I was bowled over with the heart and soul that all writers had poured into their stories. And, boy, was it tough to judge. How, indeed, can one pass judgement in a field as subjective as creative writing? (And, indeed, humour?)

Using Chris’s scoring system was exceptionally helpful as a guide, but even then on a few occasions it came down to basic, gut instinct. Maybe it was a voice, a turn of phrase, which chimed just that little crisper than the others; maybe a storyline, or basic concept, which I could say I had honestly never read before.

Still subjective, of course – no doubt each of the judges have handed Chris a vastly different set of results – but for me at least, being privileged enough to be again part of the To Hull And Back panel served me a timely reminder just how subjective creative endeavours can be.

Congratulations to all those on the long and shortlists. And, of course, the winner – enjoy your moment on The Hog.

Pete Ewing

Pete Ewing

Pete Ewing is an NHS GP who also works in psychiatry. He won the 2016 To Hull And Back competition and has won or been shortlisted in 15 other writing competitions, including the Writers’ Forum competitions (first prize, twice), the Scottish Book Trust ‘My Favourite Place’ competition and the Mountaineering Scotland Literary Competition (second prize). He has also written satirical sketches for The Treason Show at Brighton’s Komedia theatre.

When not writing he enjoys various niche hobbies which his long suffering wife describes as ‘weird’: deer stalking, recreational lock-picking, gold-panning and motorcycling. However, she has to admit that the freezer is full of venison, she’s never been locked out of the house when she loses her keys, her Scottish gold eternity ring is only three short decades away, and her husband looks rather better when wearing a full-face helmet.

You can find out more on Pete’s website.

Pete's comments on judging the competition:

Great fun judging and very hard indeed to separate out the top half dozen. Some stories were brilliantly crafted and highlighted the short story as a serious literary form. There were others which, although not so technically well-written, featured the kind of devious originality seen in Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams' work. I think there could be some seriously good stuff coming from those writers over the next year or two. I can honestly say that every story gave me delight, to the extent I was wishing I could look at the longlisted entries too - To Hull And Back seems to be attracting entries from some very capable writers.

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 illustrator. 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 competition-winning short stories, published in anthologies, plus a novella, by Dark Alley Press, Grinning Skull Press and Almond Press, among others. I have also published a collection of my short horror stories, The Obsidian Path, which has attained five star reviews on Amazon.

Please see my Amazon author page for more details or my website, where you can read free stories, interviews and reviews. And this is my Facebook fiction page.

I am a member of Stokes Croft Writers, a small Bristol-based fiction writing group who host story telling events around Bristol and regularly perform at the Bath Fringe and Bristol Festival of Literature.

I am also a member of The Horror Writers Association and British Fantasy Society.

Steph's comments on judging the competition:

I found it really hard to choose a winner - in fact I had ties for several places as all the stories were so good, and going back over them a second time seemed to make the task even harder. The subjects and styles were all so different. I really enjoyed reading them all.

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A Few Notes on the 2017 Competition

This year, I received a record number of submissions into the To Hull And Back competition. The history of entry numbers looks like this:

  • 2017: 359 (+75)
  • 2016: 284 (+68)
  • 2015: 216 (+122)
  • 2014: 94

In 2017 I trialled an early-bird entry-fee for the first time, to try and reduce the amount of entries received just before the deadline at the end of July. The cheaper entry fee was in place until the end of April.

This worked, to a certain extent, making the reading a bit easier to manage. By the end of April 2017, I’d received 124 entries, compared to 58 in 2016. However, I still received a lot of entries just before the deadline – 170 in the final month, 100 in the final week and 26 on the final day. This is a slight improvement on 2016, which saw 171 in the final month, 101 in the final week and 41 on the final day.

Hmm… not exactly a massive difference. Still, if you consider the increased volume of entries, it did help. So, the early bird fee is here to stay.

I know, I always say it, but I am NOT complaining about the amount of submissions – it’s fabulous that so many writers have entered and supported the competition. I’m incredibly grateful to each and every person who has submitted. Your continued support means I have been able to increase the prize fund again, for the fourth year running. I simply have to find ways of managing the ever increasing number of stories that have to be read during the judging process.

So, this year, to ensure I completed the reading in a timely fashion, I decided to go to France.

“You mean you decided to go on holiday?”

Well… yes, wise reader. A working holiday. Admittedly, I only need the slightest excuse to go off gallivanting around Europe, enjoying the fine cuisine…

I stayed for a week with Bob Pearce and his wife Julie in a remote location near Cénevières in the south of France. Bob is my third cousin (my grandmother’s first cousin). I had limited internet access and no distractions, so got heaps of reading done in my mobile writing office (my campervan). I then spent a few days with Lesley Truchet (who runs the Nonsense Writing Challenge with me) and her husband Hervé in another remote location, near Nausac.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Bob, Julie, Lesley and Hervé for making me feel so welcome and helping facilitate the time and concentration I needed to get the job done in good time.

There were so many excellent stories entered this year. I had real trouble selecting the longlist. There were 100s or brilliant entries and many contenders for the longlist. Selecting the shortlist took so much deliberation my brain almost melted. Luckily, French fire crews managed to contain the heat and my sanity remained intact(ish).

There are a few changes to the 2018 competition:

  1. Maximum word count limit of stories reduced from 3,000 to 2,500, to help manage the reading process
  2. Slight simplification of the rules, to make entry easier:
    1. Changed admin procedure so no specific file name is required
    2. PayPal transaction ID no longer needed – just PayPal email, if different from email used to submit
  3. Increased entry fees, to help cover the ever increasing prize pot and maintain growth:
    1. Early-bird entry fee – if you enter the competition before 30th April, you will pay £9 for one story, £15 for two stories, £18 for three stories
    2. If you enter between 1st May and 31st July, you will pay £11 for one story, £18 for two stories, £22 for three stories

I’m hoping that exceeding £10 for a single entry won’t put people off. Many prestigious contests seem to maintain success with higher fees and increasing the fees will allow me to keep upping the payments to all the writers featured in the anthology in the future.

Overall I’m hoping the competition will break even again this year, but a small loss is possible (as always, it depends on anthology sales). Prizes are first £1,000, second £200 and third £100, 3 x runner-up prizes of £50 and 14 x shortlist prizes of £25 – total is £1,800. 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 back.

All the judges, artists and everyone else involved with the competition continue to give their time for free, which I appreciate greatly.

As I mentioned, next year’s competition will have an increased prize pot. Rather than upping the top prize, I’ve decided to concentrate on increasing the second and third place prizes. So, the 2018 prizes look like this:

  • First: £1,000
  • Second: £500
  • Third: £250
  • 3 x Highly Commended: £50
  • 14 x Shortlisted: £25

As I’ve said before, the long-term aim is to provide a five figure top prize to help the competition become more widely known and give humorous short stories a respected publishing platform to be celebrated from. I’m continuing to explore the possibility of sponsorship, but as yet nothing has come to fruition.

Entries this year came from an increasing number of locations around our fabulous planet. They include: Australia, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Jersey, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, USA, Vietnam, Wales and the West Indies.

A surprising number of writers didn’t obey the rules again this year. Unfortunately, I had to disqualify 11 stories. In total, 102 story submissions didn’t adhere to all the rules. That’s 28% 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 excellent stories entered. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and thought that many of them were highly publishable. 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. If you haven’t been successful in this competition, you can (and probably will) enjoy success elsewhere. Keep on submitting those excellent stories.

That’s about it. I drove 2,000 miles around France. I laughed a lot. I received strange looks from people, wondering what was causing all the giggling in the back of my van. My eyes have been tested. I’m getting some new reading glasses (no joke, I really am, although in honesty the cause is probably age rather than too much reading). I’ve read 100s of innovative and inspiring stories. Thank you to everyone who entered – your support of this crazy competition is appreciated greatly.

Cheers me dears, Chris.

The Anthology & Book Launch

The 2017 To Hull & Back Anthology contains 27 short stories of mirth and legend, written by the winning and shortlisted writers and the judges. Judges stories are included so future entrants can read them while researching the competition and learn about their tastes. This is to give writers a better chance of penning a successful story in future competitions.

The To Hull And Back book launch party took place on Saturday 9th December in conjunction with Talking Tales at the Left Bank, 128 Cheltenham Rd, Bristol BS6 5RW, UK at 6.30pm.

You can learn more about the anthology and the book launch party on the page about the book.

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Your comments:

Helen C
Congratulations all on your services to humour. I shall look forward to reading another hilarious anthology.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Helen :-)

Jonathan M
Congratulations to all the listed writers! I was disappointed not to make the shortlist but am really  honoured to see the caliber of writers I was longlisted alongside. I can't wait to check out the anthology this year - based on the titles it's gonna be another insane read!

Chris Fielden
Thanks Jonathan. And congrats on being longlisted :-)

Karen J
Exceedingly chuffed to have made the shortlist. Thank you, Chris, for giving us somewhere to submit humorous stories - it's a rare and wonderful thing.

Chris Fielden
No problem, thanks Karen. And congratulations on being shortlisted :-)

Jennifer M
What an incredible energy this competition brings. I have stumbled into a really cool tribe, I sneaked in and now getting comfortable. At last, a home for my crazy sense of humour. I am so inspired by the shortlister profiles and look forward to getting the book. My ambition is to write my 2018 entry before the last minute...

Thank you Chris for  creating this virtual home from home. What a rock star.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Jennifer - welcome to the clan :-) Congratulations on being shortlisted.

Melanie M
Congratulations to one and all, I can't wait to read everyone's stories! I've been a huge fan ever since I read 'King's Gambit Declined' and had to read every other anthology! I've been on such a high all day to find myself on the longlist. It's been a massive boost to my confidence and I can't wait to try again next year.

Chris Fielden
Awesome, thanks Melanie - congratulations on being longlisted :-)

I'll look forward to reading your 2018 entry!

Kim K
Congrats to all the listed writers. Congrats Chris on a fantastic competition! Looking forward to reading the stories.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Kim :-)

Martin S
Woo hoo! No, that's not a wave from a bridge to a passing barge, or even a stereotyped ghost impersonation, but a heart-felt emotion from being shortlisted. It is a genuine honour and one that I really did not expect, having heard about the increased size and mettle of this years competition's competition. Well done to all entrants, and thank you, Chris - its a wonderful thing that you do for us oddities.

Chris Fielden
No worries, Martin. And thank you - tis a privilege to provide a home for the funny, strange, odd, weird and wonderful. Congratulations on being shortlisted.

Chris B
I feel so privileged  to see my name in the lists, thank you. This has given me a well needed boost and I'm very grateful.

Chris Fielden
No problem, Chris - congratulations. You submitted an awesome story.

Michael R
Hi Chris, I received the 2017 Long & Short Lists, thank you, and would like to say well done to everyone.  But perhaps my friend Anna Gram summed it up better. She just happened to be visiting when I received your email and I said to her, "Look at what I've been sent - a great collection of stories no less," to which she replied instantly, "So sincere congrats to all those listed."

Congratulations indeed.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Michael (and Anna) - much appreciated :-)

Chris B
Congratulations to the winners, I look forward to reading the fruits of your minds.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Chris :-)

Julie M
Loved the video. Hmm, really finickity here, but you put it starred dogs and cat - I saw one dog and two cats. And, sigh, geese and chickens never seem to get a mention nowadays!

Chris Fielden
Hi Julie. There are definitely 2 dogs - one being held by the bike and another in Crystal's flat. But where did you see the second cat? I haven't spotted that...

Apologies re the chickens and geese... it was an artistic decision based on space and font size. Plus, the birds were not Crystal's. Anyway, it won't happen again - equality to all species in future.