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To Hull And Back Short Story Competition Results 2021

Quick links on this page:

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

anthology - book launch - winner's video

I'm pleased to announce the results of the 2021 To Hull And Back Humorous Short Story Competition.

I received 524 entries this year. That's a fantastic number of submissions, but it's a decrease in entry numbers from the last time the competition ran. The good news is I've decided to up the next competition's prize pot regardless. Therefore, the pot has increased for the seventh time running, in value and in the number of prizes on offer (full details in my detailed notes at the end of the page).

Everyone who enters the competition helps make To Hull And Back more well-known and more respected within the writing community. Thank you, to each and every one of you. The competition could not continue operating without the backing of every writer who enters. I'm extremely grateful.

Chris Fielden Thumbs Up 2021 To Hull And Back Short Story Competition

Me, scaring wildlife, tourists and anyone else that happens to witness my 'THANK YOU FOR ENTERING' thumbs-up selfie atop Mwnt in Ceredigion, Wales, during my 'competition reading, judging, procrastinating and having a complete nightmare making decisions because the stories are all too good' trip

If you entered and your name doesn't appear on this page, please don't be disheartened. It was almost impossible to select the final 100, let alone a shortlist of 20. I don't reject stories because I don't like them, I just pick the ones that are best suited to this crazy contest. Many of the stories entered will be published elsewhere. Please don't give up. Keep submitting those wonderful tales to other comps and magazines.

OK, enough of my waffling. Here are the 2021 results...

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It's my pleasure to present the winners of the 2021 To Hull And Back short story competition. These short stories scored consistently well across a variety of reading tastes.

Congratulations to all the winners – you have each penned a fable of mirth and legend that will be revered for eternity in To Hull And Back's historical archive.

1st Prize

Eulogy for a Bastard, by Emma Brankin

2nd Prize

Catch Me if You Cat, by Ian Tucker

3rd Prize

Tuesday, by Marc Phillips

Highly Commended

In alphabetical order:

Hard to Swallow, by Emma Melville

May Contain Nuts, by Karen Jones

The Queue, by Dan Purdue

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The Shortlist

Here is the awesome pen (an apt collective noun for writery types methinks) of authors who created the 2021 To Hull And Back shortlisted stories.

Congratulations to each author on the shortlist. Be proud parents of your brainchilds. They are magnificent.

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

Bryant Phillips – It's Not Easy Being an Ectoplasmic Mutant Abomination

Dan Purdue – The Queue

Edward Field – What Happened

Emma Brankin – Eulogy for a Bastard

Emma Melville – Hard to Swallow

Geoff Mead – Hacked Off

George Riley – So You’ve Been Cancelled

Ian Tucker – Catch Me if You Cat

John Holland – Da

Jonathan Sellars – The True Story of the Three Manbeavers

Jude Gray – FML

Karen Jones – May Contain Nuts

L M Rees – No Mojitos in Siberia

Lauren Guyatt – Deflated Mermaids

Marc Phillips – Tuesday

Navaris Darson – When You Least Expect It

Rob Widdicombe – Wren Baldwin’s Thank You-O-Meter

Tabitha Bast – Between Whores and God

Todd Sherman – Vader

Tony Kirwood – Random

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The Longlist

Hear ye, hear ye, for here be the authors of the To Hull And Back 2021 longlist.

Congratulations to all of them. Their stories were mind-blowingly brilliant. I'm sure many of them will be published elsewhere in the future.

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

CG Casci – A Story About Nothing

Chris Miller – The Bequest

D.T. Langdale – Mrs Hackett’s New Life

Eamon O'Leary – No Answer

Fee Johnstone – Bright Lights, Big Shitty

Georgia Cook – Away With the Faeries

Hannah Persaud – The Sweetest Apple

Helen Combe – We Value Your Health

Isa Richardson – Hallway of Doors

Jackie Juno – In Harry's Shoes

James Northern – A Single Wish

Karen Ashe – Girvan Blues

Kathryn Smith – Someone on a Line

Lance Dowrich – Ethelbert and the Free Cheese

Louise Mangos – The Perfect Hike

Nicola Russell Johnson – Arpeggios of Anxiety

S. Bhattacharya-Woodward – Unicorns

Shelley Roche-Jacques – It’s Not Cricket

Steven John – Second Date on a Hill Walk

Victoria Mason – He’s Tasty

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Special Mentions

This year, I received so many imaginative entries that my mind exploded. Well, it didn't, or I wouldn't be writing this... But you know what I mean.

I like to mention some more writers here, because I believe that as many authors as possible should be encouraged to keep doing what they do. I limit myself to ten special mentions for practical reasons, even though I'd prefer to mention hundreds.

Special mentions recognise writers who use an exceptional tone of voice and / or have submitted highly imaginative and unique stories and / or show great promise. Congratulations to all of them.

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

Abi Jones – The Large Man Named Richard

Andrew Ball – The Best Disaster Ever

Anita Ponton – Recycled

Bridget Emily – Numbers

Iva Bezinović-Haydon – The Dress Said No

Richie Co – Initiation

Roddy O'Neill – How Cloning My Wife Helped Me Express Myself

Rosie Arcane – The Study Goblin

Sutton Bonington Campus Creative Writing Group – Nine Lives

Tara Campbell – How Melba Really* Got Her Groove Back

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To Hull And Back Winner's Video

The winner's video was filmed at the end of May 2022. It stars winner Emma Brankin and her boyfriend Jab. Huge thanks to both of them for making the long journey from London to Hull to be in the video.

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Shortlist Author Biographies

Below you will find photos and biographies of the shortlisted writers.

Bryant Phillips (Washington, USA)

Bryant Phillips

I'm a full-time dad from Seattle attempting to reinvent myself post-pandemic as an aspiring author. I'm currently working on a series with my father Doug, an accomplished author with six published books, while simultaneously working on my own novel and various pet projects like this one. I only do comedy, so lord help me if you don't like my humour, and lord bless you if you do.

Dan Purdue (England, UK)

Dan Purdue

Dan Purdue lives and writes in Leamington Spa. His occasionally published, sporadically prize-winning fiction has appeared in print and online in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the United States. His stories have found their way into The Fiction Desk, a couple of To Hull And Back short story anthologies, The New Writer, Jersey Devil Press, Every Day Fiction, Southword, and The Guardian.

His work has won prizes in a variety of competitions, including the HE Bates Short Story Award, the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition, the James White Award and Flash 500. His work has also featured in an English study guide, and been performed live at the Berko Speakeasy. One of his stories has been broadcast on hospital radio, although the fact that this has never happened since suggests the medicinal benefits of his fiction are, at best, negligible.

Edward Field (England, UK)

Edward Field

Edward Field is a writer, editor and the author of Permission to Rage: The Book on How to Complain Effectively, as well as three children’s plays currently on the South African curriculum. He writes and edits fiction, non-fiction, scripts, speeches, corporate presentations and brochures, and his work has appeared in anthologies, websites and publications including The Stage, Breathe, Reflex Fiction, 101 Words, Storgy, To Hull And Back and Idle Ink.

Find out more about Edward on his website and Twitter.

Emma Brankin (Scotland, UK)

Emma Brankin

Emma Brankin is a teacher from Glasgow, Scotland. She holds an MA in creative writing and education from Goldsmiths College, University of London. She was the winner of Fugue Magazine's 2021 Prose Contest and the runner-up in Writer Advice's 2021 Flash Fiction Contest. Other work has appeared in places such as XRAY Literary Magazine, Reflex and Maudlin House. You can catch her on Twitter posting about Tim Curry's acting career and her cat's daily movements via the handle @emmanya.

Emma Melville (England, UK)

Emma Melville

Emma Melville lives and works in Warwickshire. She is a school teacher of students with special needs who writes in her spare time, concentrating mainly on crime and fantasy short stories, often inspired by her involvement with folk dance and song. She has published several poems and short stories in anthologies and won several literary competitions. Her first novel, recently published, was shortlisted by the Crime Writers Association for their Debut Dagger Award.

Geoff Mead (England, UK)

Geoff Mead

Geoff Mead lives in a house appropriately named Folly Cottage, in Kingscote, Gloucestershire. The first thing he ever wanted to do as a child aged eight was to write stories. Unfortunately, it took another fifty years before he discovered anything worth writing about.

In the past few years he has authored six published books of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and memoir. With the help of his trusty canine companion, Captain Midnight, he writes an irregular blog. As an organisational consultant, keynote speaker and workshop leader, for the past two decades, he has taken his work on narrative leadership onto the shop floors and into the boardrooms of blue-chip companies, charities, universities and government departments.

Geoff also performs traditional stories at international festivals and storytelling clubs and runs story-based workshops in the UK and as far afield as Spain, Canada and Japan.

George Riley (England, UK)

George Riley

George Riley likes to write about topics that he finds provocative or challenging. He particularly enjoys finding humour in the grind of daily life and the perils of his character’s obsessive behaviours. Over the last few years, he has written many short stories, from the light-hearted to the downright horrifying, and has even published a collection of some of them. Alongside this he is continuing to work on a novel about a cult – a typically cheery subject matter.

Ian Tucker (England, UK)

Ian Tucker

Ian tries to find time to write around all the other commitments of being alive. Mostly mystery, horror and humour. He has appeared in the supporting line up of a few To Hull And Backs in the past. He lives in Bristol with his wife, feral strawberries and no cherries after the blackbirds got them all.

John Holland (England, UK)

John Holland

John Holland is a short fiction author from Gloucestershire in the UK. He started writing aged fifty-nine and, ten years on, has won first prize in short fiction competitions on five occasions, including To Hull And Back in 2018. His work, which is often darkly comic, has been published more than a hundred times in print anthologies and online - including in The Molotov Cocktail, Truffle Magazine, The Phare, Spelk, Ellipsis Zine, The Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, Storgy, Riot Act and NFFD. John also runs the twice-yearly event Stroud Short Stories.

Find out more about John on his website and Twitter.

Jonathan Sellars (England, UK)

Jonathan Sellars

You won't know who Jonathan is. You probably don't care who he is either. But, if you do ever stumble across him (and this photo won't help with that as he doesn't usually make that facial expression) he's a pretty nice guy who writes a lot with not a lot of success. He thinks the lack of success is because nice guys tend to finish last but, deep down, he knows that it's because not-great-writers also tend to finish towards the back of the pack. Maybe his day will come, maybe it won't.

He has two children, neither of whom can read or write. He's not worried about that. Yet.

He also lies on Instagram.

Jude Gray (Scotland, UK)

Jude Gray

I am a writer who has been putting pen to paper and creating stories and poems for the past fifteen years. In the past five years my focus and commitment to writing has crystallised into a regular writing regime that has both improved the quality and quantity of my output, and also given me the pleasure of watching my stories develop and grow.

I’ve completed several novels and I’ve had a couple of short stories and poems published in small magazines, most recently in The Selkie. I live in Edinburgh and work part-time as a risk manager, which allows me regular writing time.

Karen Jones (Scotland, UK)

Karen Jones

Karen Jones is a flash and short story writer from Glasgow, Scotland. She has been long and/or shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Bath Flash Fiction, Bath Short Story, To Hull And Back, TSS 400, HISSAC etc. and has won prizes with Mslexia, Flash 500, Words with JAM, Ink Tears, Ad Hoc Fiction, Retreat West and won first prize in the Cambridge Flash Fiction Prize 2021.

Her work is published in numerous e-zines, magazines and anthologies. Her story 'Small Mercies' was nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, a Pushcart Prize, and is included in Best Small Fictions 2019 and the BIFFY 50 2019. Her novella-in-flash When It’s Not Called Making Love is published by Ad Hoc Fiction. She is the special features editor at New Flash Fiction Review.

L M Rees (Wales, UK)

L M Rees

L M Rees writes darkly comic and historical fiction, as well as non-fiction about Asian music and film. Her book Mongolian Film Music: Tradition, Revolution and Propaganda was published by Ashgate/Routledge in 2015 (re-issued in 2020).

She has an MA in creative writing with distinction, and has won the Writers’ Forum monthly short story competition for her story 'Fast Train to Zion'. She has previously worked as a teacher of rock and classical music, an English teacher in Germany and Slovakia, a researcher in Mongolia and Wales, and a TV extra for several Welsh-language programmes (which involved freezing to near-death in swimwear on a beach near Cardiff one February). She has now opted for a quieter and warmer working life as a librarian.

She lives in a small house by the sea, and spends her free time doing yoga and hoping the sea level doesn’t rise too much.

Lauren Guyatt (Ontario, Canada)

Lauren Guyatt

Lauren Guyatt has worked as a second assistant director in film and television in Toronto, Canada, for fifteen years where she currently resides with her fiancé, downtown in an overpriced but spacious apartment with their Doberman, Gonnie Goo Goo. While she prefers to work on comedic sitcoms, there is also a good mix of horror and fantasy she enjoys, but avoids hospital shows mainly due to the fluorescent lighting.

Lauren has been published many times in The Feathertale Review as well as their online publications. Her most recent stories, 'Dream Phone' and 'The Phone Call', were featured in issue #24.

She recently studied to become a yoga instructor while residing in Venice Beach, California, in 2020 in the hope of finding better balance in life.

She is set to begin filming a new show with the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) in September 2021. She will continue to follow her passion of writing short stories and is working towards putting together a collection while continuing to grow in the television industry.

Marc Phillips (Texas, USA)

Marc Phillips

This story is a radical departure from my first novel, The Legend of Sander Grant (Telegram, 2009-ish), and my acclaimed short story, 'Pyjama Squid'. Sorry for the length of that link. [A note from CF: Marc's last sentence won't make much sense because I've been cunning and employed a hyperlink, but I can confirm that, when written in full, the link is gargantuan.] You can also google 'Donal Ryan Marc Phillips'.

My short story 'The Mountains of Mars' won the world’s second largest prize for a single work of short fiction in 2005 (£10,000).

Over the past two decades, I’ve published short stories, poetry, articles/essays and a couple of non-fiction books. I was named a 'Notable Writer of the Year' in 2004 and some of my work is anthologized online, such as 'Different Than Any Day so Far', which was selected as Editor’s Choice by Carve Magazine.

I’ve twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Stories anthologies. My foray into genre fiction ('Caye Caulker Tides') placed in the 2007 Crime Writers Association Knife Awards.

I think that’s the high points. It looks a bit narcissistic to me. I’m not that way. Anyhow, I’m currently at work on my next novel, Tip Diebaeck’s Corpus, the origin story of a contemporary anti-hero. (188 words) (shit, now it’s 192) [CF: with my note, it's now 227] [CF again: shit, now it's 233]

Navaris Darson (California, USA)

Navaris Darson

Navaris Darson is an actor, improviser, singer and writer who lives in Los Angeles, California. As a writer, Navaris enjoys writing poetry, personal essays and short stories. In the past year, he has written a short comedy play, completed over 75 poems and co-written two different TV sitcom pilots.

Outside of writing, Navaris teaches improv and guest-performs at The Groundlings Theatre and School. In addition to acting in television shows (including 2 Broke Girls, The Other Two and American Horror Story), he also appeared on the 85th Academy Awards with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and he’s sung with choruses at Disney Concert Hall, The Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall.

For more information, you can check out his website. Plus, he can be easily found and followed on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Believe it or not, there aren't a lot of Navarises out there.

Rob Widdicombe (New Jersey, USA)

Rob Widdicombe

Rob Widdicombe was born in Virginia, USA, and is still alive. He enjoys staring out of the window and thinking about space chickens, generally speaking.

Tabitha Bast (England, UK)

Tabitha Bast

Tabitha Bast lives with a child and a cat in a cooperative community in inner-city Leeds, and works as a sex and relationship therapist. Writings range from political articles to fictional short stories.

Previous work includes Eclectica Magazine, Plan C and Novara Media online, and in print Shift, Dysophia, and a chapter in a book Occupy Everything. Won first prize with Grist publisher anthology Protest, runner up with Creative Futures. Most recently have had short story 'There is Life at This Level' published this year with Parracombe Prize, and an article 'The Boys are Alright' with Dope Magazine.

Todd Sherman (North Carolina, USA)

Todd Sherman

Todd Sherman is alive in Wilmington, NC. He is an author of novels and short stories, or so we have it on good authority. And that authority has been granted by the angels – even if those angels have long since fallen to earth. So, we surmise he writes by demon-power and may not realise it. Is, in fact, blissfully unaware that he even exists. But he breathes, we can swear it. His stitched-together host body crashes through this world.

Todd Sherman is the express property of Klaxon Corp.

Find out more about Todd on Amazon.

Tony Kirwood (England, UK)

Tony Kirwood

Tony Kirwood started taking his writing seriously when his sketches were broadcast on European TV comedy shows. He wrote material for Russ Abbott, Shoot the Writers on ITV, and for sketch shows that he produced himself. He honed his gag writing skills with his short-lived stand-up comedy routine. He’s written humorous and comedy-related articles for Writers’ News, The Independent, The Oldie, and other publications that flattered him by somehow finding his stuff funny.

His stories have appeared in New Myths, Kzine and Story Fridays in Bath. He is currently writing a novel which is an expanded version of a humorous column he wrote for his local newspaper. He inflicts his views on writing on the long-suffering students in his writing classes, while occasionally admitting he has as much to learn as they have. His book How To Write Comedy (Little, Brown) is a distillation of some of his teaching and was nominated for the Booker Prize for the most obvious title of the year.

As an actor, he has appeared in numerous TV sitcoms. He was a Death Eater in the last two Harry Potter movies, though he likes to think he’s actually quite nice.

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Longlist Author Biographies

Below are the biographies and photos of the longlisted writers.

CG Casci (England, UK)

CG Casci

CG Casci is a Scottish born architect and urban designer who adopted London as his home but has lived and worked in various parts of the world. From a 'sink' comprehensive school education in a declining industrial town, Craig studied at Edinburgh University as under and post graduate, and additionally at the Architectural Association in London.  He was a reluctant contributor to professional press and design panels and has written about housing, municipal power and the application of authority to the predictable rather than excellent.

Craig was once a prolific letter writer, when such things existed, covering his experiences while travelling; from New York board rooms to living with nomadic tribes. He has transcribed many of these musings into a fiction format, distilling his notes and sketchbooks, and often bizarre conversations, people and places to bring real stories to a conclusion. While seemingly apolitical in a modern 'issue based' context, the stories contextualise relationships, employment, poverty, break down, violence and death.

He is currently working on a book on urban design and the peoples who shaped cities.

Chris Miller (England, UK)

Chris Miller

Chris is a special needs teacher in Gateshead. He has done various things over the years including studying philosophy and working as a solicitor. Like so many other people, he found time to do some writing during lockdown and got very in to it. Three of his stories are due to be published in anthologies by North East publishers Inkylab. His stories are very varied and usually quite odd. Somebody usually dies.

Chris is not entirely comfortable writing about himself in the third person, but it makes it sound like he might have an agent or something.

D.T. Langdale (England, UK)

D.T. Langdale

D.T. Langdale is a professional copywriter and author. He has a passion for dark, surreal F&SF and has had short stories published in both Phantasmagoria and Harvey Duckman magazines, in addition to the Before You Blow Out the Candle and Cozy Villages of Death anthologies. He has also had flash fiction published in the Museum of Walking's Winter Chill anthology and three charity anthology series.

D.T. Langdale is a proud member of the British Fantasy Society, and Clockhouse and North Write writing groups. When not writing, he's often found walking the Yorkshire countryside with his fiancé, listening out for lapwings.

Find out more about D.T. Langdale on Twitter.

Eamon O'Leary (Ireland)

Eamon O'Leary

After taking early retirement, I soon realised that I needed something more than hacking up the golf course to keep me busy, so I started writing short stories. An eclectic mix, no particular genre, but no sci-fi. Definitely no sci-fi. I try to include an element of humour in all my stories. Thankfully, many have been published online and in print. Highlight to date was winning the Southport International Short Story Competition in 2019.

(I'm still playing terrible golf.)

Fee Johnstone (Scotland, UK)

Fee Johnstone

I reside in Scotland and enjoy writing short stories and flash fiction. I have had work published in various independent zines including Paper and Ink, Razur Cuts, Ellipsis Zine, Glove and Crab Fat. I have also had stories published in anthologies such as Nothing Is As It Was, a charity anthology to raise awareness of climate change, F, M or Other, an anthology on gender, and Shades of Pride, an anthology of LGBT work. My debut short story collection, Hath no Fury, is available from Amazon.

I’m happiest when writing to the soundtrack of my two snoring cats.

Georgia Cook (England, UK)

Georgia Cook

Georgia Cook is an illustrator and writer from London. She is the winner of the LISP 2020 Flash Fiction Prize, and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, Staunch Book Prize and Reflex Fiction Award, among others.

She can be found on Twitter and on her website.

Hannah Persaud (England, UK)

Hannah Persaud

Hannah Persaud was born in England and spent her first twenty years moving around England and then South and Southeast Asia before settling in London where she promptly fell in love with a Canadian and uprooted again for Toronto. She now lives in Stroud with her family.

Her debut novel The Codes of Love was published in 2020 and her short stories have placed in and won numerous competitions. She is currently writing a novel and a memoir, alongside short stories which are a constant source of joy and experimentation. She’d love to have her own short story collection published one day.

When not writing Hannah can usually be found wild swimming, walking the Cotswolds with her dogs, or exploring rock pools and beaches in the Gower in Wales.

Helen Combe (England, UK)

Helen Combe

Helen came to writing rather late, having been earmarked in school as a scientist. A degree in combined botany and zoology led to the obvious choice of software engineering as her career. Helen was published in the To Hull And Back Anthology 2016 after being shortlisted for the prize.

Helen's proudest moments were in 2013 when she was voted Supreme Ruler of the Universe at a sci-fi convention in the guise of Servalan from Blake’s 7, and again in 2019 as Gay Ellis from UFO. Her second most proud moment was when she had a walk-on part as a belly dancer in the BBC afternoon play Turkish Delight with Denise Welch. She has also been a hobby medieval re-enactor at Warwick castle, but wearing damp wool and constantly smelling of wood smoke quickly lost its attraction.

Helen lives with one cat and a small, belligerent, three legged yeti who kicked down the cat flap and demanded that she adopt him.

Isa Richardson (Texas, USA)

Isa Richardson

Isa Richardson was born in Austin, Texas, before her family quickly moved out to a small lake town. She is a high school student, but would much rather spend her time raising chickens, working on her never-ending project of a car, and writing. 

Isa enjoys trying new styles of writing as well as entangling odd ideas into her stories. She plans to follow in her parents’ footsteps and open her own coffee shop near Duluth, Minnesota, all the while fulfilling her dreams of traveling and becoming a published author.

Jackie Juno (England, UK)

Jackie Juno

Jackie Juno is a writer, poet and performer living on the edge of Dartmoor, Devon, England.

She has been a finalist in many international competitions for her short stories, flash fiction and poetry, including Arvon, Writing Magazine and Mslexia.

She is a multiple poetry slam winner, including Glastonbury Festival Slam 2017, and was a contender in the National Poetry Slam finals at the Albert Hall in 2018.

She is also a stand-up comedian, and lead singer and lyricist with psychedelic rock band The Invisible Opera Company of Tibet.

She has performed her poetry at two TEDx Talks. She held the title Bard of Exeter 2011-2012 and Grand Bard of Exeter 2012-2019.

She has four self-published poetry collections and is currently writing her first novel, something she said she would never do, due to the gargantuan nature of the task.

She really, really likes maps.

James Northern (Colorado, USA)

James Northern

James Northern (@JNorthernWrites on Twitter) is a British writer living in America. He took up writing five years ago, aged thirty-two, after he developed a pain-related disability and needed a distraction and an outlet. Since then, his short stories have been published in anthologies or web journals by Retreat West, National Flash Fiction Day, Stroud Short Stories, Truffle Magazine, 100 Words Of Solitude, Riggwelter and Secret Attic. He was shortlisted for the 2019 Retreat West Short Story Prize. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the piano, walking in the mountains and travelling with his wife, Sarah.

Karen Ashe (Scotland, UK)

Karen Ashe

Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Awardee for 2016, Karen  has been shortlisted in the Fish prize, Highly Commended and shortlisted in the Bridport Prize and been published in Mslexia and Gutter magazines.

Kathryn Smith (England, UK)

Kathryn Smith

I write stories and I paint stories. I love doing both but not together as in illustration. I especially like flash fiction and was delighted to be shortlisted in the last two Fish Flash competitions. I also had a short piece published by Pygmy Giant and a longer piece by Litro Online. When I’m not painting or writing, I’m making useful (often debatable) stuff out of scraps of wood. Before I unleashed the creative in me, I used to be a social worker.

Lance Dowrich (Trinidad and Tobago)

Lance Dowrich

Born in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago, Lance Dowrich copped the Caribbean prize in the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize with his story 'Ethelbert and the Free Cheese'. He has had stories published online in Granta, Adda and Twist and Twain. His award-winning story from 2016 was handpicked as part of The ImagiNation Project, a collection of thirteen stories from eight countries and four continents published by Story Exchange Pty Ltd. in 2019, conceptualised as a smart social project to benefit worthy causes in South Africa.

A learning and development professional with more than ten years as a teacher, Lance is part of a family whose creativity lies on a platform of books and reading. Lance’s parents are avid readers, and his father bought books and magazines from many sources to fuel his family’s love of reading. Creative writing is a natural development for Lance and he tells stories which reflect the human spirit and eccentricities of human interaction all from a West Indian perspective.

Louise Mangos (Switzerland)

Louise Mangos

Louise is a compulsive writer and drinker of Prosecco. Her novels, short stories and flash fiction have won prizes, been placed on several short and long lists and read out on BBC radio. She has published two full-length suspense novels with another on the way in early 2022. Her short fiction has appeared in more than twenty print anthologies and magazines. She lives on a Swiss Alp with her Kiwi husband and two sons.

Nicola Russell Johnson (England, UK)

Nicola Russell Johnson

Nicola has been writing for quite some time now. She lives in Cheshire with her other half, her two kids and her ducks. She’s slightly more sentient than the yoghurt that’s been in her fridge since last year but she can’t remember what she did last Wednesday.

S. Bhattacharya-Woodward (England, UK)

S. Bhattacharya-Woodward

S. Bhattacharya-Woodward is a writer and journalist based in London. She is generally known for writing serious stuff. Her day job is as a science and health reporter. She is currently working on her debut short story collection, which focuses on contemporary urban life and won third prize in the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Awards in 2020. Her story ‘Zolo’ from this collection was published in the 2019 Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology after winning third prize, and her longlisted story ‘Home’ was published in the 2019 London Short Story Prize Anthology.

She has also been shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize 2018 and longlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize 2019. However, really she is not serious at all and would love it if one of her stories was taken on a Harley Davidson to Hull and back…

Shelley Roche-Jacques (England, UK)

Shelley Roche-Jacques

Shelley Roche-Jacques’ work has appeared in magazines such as Litro, Reflex Fiction, Under the Radar, Ink, Sweat and Tears and The Boston Review. Her collection of dramatic monologues Risk the Pier was published in 2017. She lives in Yorkshire, in the UK, and teaches creative writing and performance at Sheffield Hallam University.

Steven John (England, UK)

Steven John

Steven John’s writing has appeared in numerous online magazines and printed anthologies including Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020. He won Bath Ad Hoc Fiction a record seven times and has read at Stroud Short Stories on four occasions. Steven is Joint Managing Editor at The Phare Literary Magazine and lives in The Cotswolds, England.

Find out more about John on his website and Twitter.

Victoria Mason (New Zealand)

Victoria Mason

I'm an English woman living in New Zealand with my Kiwi husband, Luke, and two cow print dogs called Rosie and Mr Alfred Pencil. When I'm not playing the banjo, I'm writing.

I've been writing short stories for a few years now with some minor success. I've been published online plus long and shortlisted for a few publications including this delightful competition. I love the weird and wonderful, which is why I love the To Hull And Back anthologies.

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Special Mention Author Biographies

Below are the biographies and photos of the writers who have received a special mention. While this list is limited to ten mentions, you'll see there are actually fourteen author biographies below, because one story was written by five authors.

Abi Jones (England, UK)

Abi Jones

Abi Jones is a (slightly stressed and caffeine-filled) student who has just finished her undergraduate degree in English language and linguistics, and is moving to Cardiff to study an MA in forensic linguistics. However, her hometown is Cheshire where she lives with her mum, sister, (very moody) two cats and now apparently some mice that are eating away at her childhood notebooks in the attic. Before this competition, her writing had really only extended to average-marked college essays and now some slightly higher-marked university essays. However, she was really excited to receive a special mention in the To Hull And Back competition in 2019 for the first short story she had ever written.

She has a preference for writing fiction as she finds it exciting and enjoys reading it the most. Writing this short story has been a lot of fun for her and has been a good distraction / procrastinator of actually doing her degree and also preparing (both mentally and physically) for her MA, something which she is very grateful for.

Andrew Ball (Virginia, USA)

Andrew Ball

When he’s not trying to write, Andrew Ball raises Black Angus cattle on the banks of the Rappahannock River in Tidewater, Virginia, USA, an occupation that leaves his mind free to wander. Occasionally, those wanderings turn themselves into stories or poems, which have appeared in The Secret Attic, Mocking Heart Review, and In a former life, he was a professor of biochemistry and microbiology, specialising in the secret life of viruses that very few people cared anything about. In yet another life, he grew up in England.

Anita Ponton (England, UK)

Anita Ponton

Londoner Anita Ponton is a writer and visual artist, with an interest in exploring subversive characters in dark tales of revenge and, on occasion, redemption.

Educated at Central St Martins School of Art and at Goldsmiths College, her art practice is multi-disciplinary and often involves a retelling of stories. She has published several short stories and is currently working on her first novel.

Find out more about Anita on her website.

Bridget Emily (WA, Australia)

Bridget Emily

Bridget was born a giant geek in a tiny little part of the world called Perth, Western Australia. After working in video game retail for the better part of the last decade, they moved into disability support but still spend most of their time talking about games. Bridget enjoys writing short stories, long stories and fantasy. They have been published twice in the Curtin Writer’s Club annual anthology Coze and is currently working on a new adult novel about millennial elves.

Iva Bezinović-Haydon (Croatia)

Iva Bezinović-Haydon

I'm a former language teacher and a writer, married with three kids and an old dog. Originally Croatian, I spent a big part of my life living in the US, Hungary and Germany.

So far I've published two picture books, a few short stories and poems on literary portals and in short story anthologies.

Two of my stories in English were short-listed for the Bridport Prize (in 2019 and 2020) while a few others got short and long-listed in various competitions (London Independent Story Prize, Flash 500, Fish Publishing Short Story Contest…).

I'm hoping to win at least one competition before I turn ninety.

My kids don't think I'm funny.

Richie Co (Singapore)

Richie Co

Richie Co is from the Philippines. She works in IT by day, and IT by night because of overtime. In between, she likes to write. Other works by Richie can be found at Literally Stories or Flash Fiction Magazine.

Roddy O'Neill (Scotland, UK)

Roddy O'Neill

Roddy O'Neill works as an English teacher and writes creatively in his free time. One of his short stories made the shortlist for Writers' Forum magazine but actual publication has so far eluded him. He lives on the West Coast of Scotland with his wife and daughter. He met his wife, who is Japanese, while travelling in Australia and they later lived together in Japan, which has been a huge inspiration for his writing.

Rosie Arcane (Scotland, UK)

Rosie Arcane

Rosie is from Edinburgh and has been writing poetry and short stories since she was a teenager. It wasn’t until recently she found the courage to actually submit her work. She won the Writers’ Forum monthly poetry competition (June 2021 issue), has an upcoming flash fiction publication and will be one of the 1,000 writers featured in Christopher Fielden’s 81 Words Anthology to be published later this year. She loves horror films, heavy metal music and being indoors.

Sutton Bonington Campus Creative Writing Group (England, UK)

The authors are members of Sutton Bonington Campus Creative Writing Group, who have all proudly contributed to Chris Fielden’s 81 Words Anthology , along with some of our children. The Group’s first anthology is nearing publication, and individually they have a wealth of experience publishing in different genres.

Annie E. Francis

Annie E. Francis

Annie has studied fine art and psychology and is currently writing her first novel. She works as an occupational therapist and lives in Leicester with her husband and three children.

Catrin Sian Rutland

Catrin Sian Rutland

Catrin is a professional author of science fact by day and a slightly less professional writer of horror and science fiction by night. Her stories can be discovered in anthologies from a range of publishers across the world.

Jennifer Hankin

Jennifer Hankin

Jennifer spends most of her time reading stories and occasionally she decides to write them down.

Richard H. Argent

Richard H Argent

Richard writes speculative fiction novels as a hobby and has contributed to Nonsensically Challenged Volume 3, and has a short story accepted for publication in the Queer Sci-Fi anthology Ink.

Sean Tobias May

Sean Tobias May

Sean writes science fiction and horror short stories, mainly to get them out of his head. All his 200+ publications are, however, ostensibly science non-fiction.

Tara Campbell ( Washington, DC, USA)

Tara Campbell

Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University. Previous publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons and CRAFT Literary. She's the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and four collections: Circe's Bicycle, Midnight at the Organporium, Political AF: A Rage Collection and Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection. Connect with her via her website or on Twitter.

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The Judges

Here are some details about the 2021 To Hull And Back judges.

All the judges are published writers, with a variety of experience and differing reading tastes. Alan and Mike are both previous winners of the To Hull And Back competition. Lynda works with me via my writing services. Mark and I are both members of Stokes Croft Writers in Bristol. Members of SCW have been helping me decide the winner since To Hull And Back was launched way back in 2013.

This is how the judging works:

  • I journey in my mobile writing office (my campervan) to a location with a pleasant view and no internet connection. As you can see from the picture below, this is a terrible hardship. I don't know how I survive.

Mobile Writing Office Campervan in the Cambrian Mountains Wales UK.jpg

The To Hull And Back mobile writing office, in the Cambrian Mountains, Wales

  • The stories are read.
  • I realise I've received hundreds of awesome tales, so making decisions on which should be short and long-listed will be almost impossible.
  • Comfort food is required to see this through. Biscuits. Must. Be. Eaten. Preferably after being dipped in tea. I go shopping.
  • McVitie's save my mind but I sacrifice my waistline in the process... The experience is one of mixed emotions, but highly delicious.
  • I embark on days of re-reading, deliberating and procrastinating.
  • I force myself to make nigh-on impossible decisions.
  • The twenty shortlisted stories are sent to the judging panel, who go through the same process I just described, independently.
  • I await their results.
  • Once received, I place the aforementioned results in my 'To Hull And Back 2021 Spreadsheet of Answers', which decrees the winner.

The judges give their time for free. I'd like to say a huge thank you to all of them for their generosity and awesomeness.

Alan MacGlas

Alan MacGlas

Alan MacGlas, a Glaswegian born and educated in London, is a retired government servant and current professional editor of stories and poetry. He won the 2019 To Hull And Back story competition.

Alan's comments on judging the competition:

Reading a collection of solicited short stories sent in from many corners of the English-speaking world is always a stimulating experience. The creative spark may produce diamonds or it may produce clinker: as a long-time editor of prose and poetry, I anticipate both. Polished literary skills are useful but not essential to a writer; good ideas, intelligent plotting and sheer enthusiasm are more likely to get an editor’s interest than elegant but vapid style. The one unforgivable crime is to bore the reader. I am happy to confirm that none of these stories bored me. On the contrary, it’s evident that the To Hull And Back competition is going from strength to strength in its encouragement of new writing, and new writers. If I have one disappointment, it’s that the quotient of real laugh-out-loud humour across these selected stories is spread a little thin. But that isn’t surprising, even in a competition devoted to humorous stories, because – as any top comedian will confirm – humour is in fact one of the most difficult genres to master, and all the more credit is due to those writers who achieve any success in it, which includes all the authors in this book.

Christopher Fielden

Christopher Fielden

Chris is a human being with a problematic brain. It's full of crazy ideas. Said ideas have no business associating with reality or becoming actual things. Unfortunately, sometimes they do. To Hull And Back is but one example. There are many others. Chris could have created a list at this point, but decided not to. You're welcome.

Fortunately for Chris, lots of other human beings suffer with similar defective brain issues and enter his competition. Entrants hope to take a trip on a motorcycle. To Hull. With a lunatic. They pay an entry fee and everything. Behavioural scientists are baffled.

Chris is considering starting a political party. Since writing the previous sentence, he's decided it would be too much work and has shelved the project. Instead, he'll be concentrating on writing his own stories until To Hull And Back reopens its doors in the summer of 2022.

You can learn more about Chris than anyone could possibly want to know on his about page.

Chris's comments on judging the competition:

Judging this competition does not have a positive impact on my waistline.

For full details, see the notes section below.

Lynda Nash

Lynda Nash

Lynda lives across the border

and likes, in no particular order,

cats, kids, countryside

peanut butter cups

and poems that don’t’ rhyme.

She spends her spare time

stitching scraps of fabric into

crafty creations

and thinks the world needs more

art and alliteration.

Lynda's comments on judging the competition:

It’s an honour to be chosen as a judge, especially for a competition as esteemed as this one. The standard of writing made every story a pleasure to read, and whittling down the short list was no mean feat. Stories took me to unexpected places and unusual situations and introduced me to many unique characters – your writerly imaginations are amazing and I wanted you all to win. Congrats to the short list and kudos to the winner, whoever you may be.

Mark Rutterford

Mark Rutterford

Mark Rutterford writes and performs his short stories in towns and cities across South West England, quite often with a prop in hand. Stories with a love interest, a bit of humour and a slice of heartache. If you see him, tell Mark you like his big heart and he will love you forever.  

A proud member of Stokes Croft Writers, Mark is looking forward to regular meet-ups in the future and the return of Talking Tales whenever and wherever it happens. Whenever and wherever there is an opportunity to tell a story, that’s where you might find Mark. He’ll be casting a big shadow, eating a biscuit and waving… or wearing… a prop.

Mark's comments on judging the competition:

You know some writing competitions tease you with an article from a judge about what they’re looking for? It’s good to have an insight but it’s a bit like chasing last week’s rainbow and a long since emptied pot of gold.

Here’s what I’m looking for.

A story – a finished story, although not everything has to be neat and tidy or fully explained.

Humour – in some form and I’m not particular about belly laughs or wry smiles, humour is a broad church.

Fairy dust – I know that’s a little hard to pinpoint, but that’s the point. The fairy dust could be a character, a voice, use of language, rhythm, a plot twist or a unique and brilliant idea. It could be one, all or none of these things… like tomorrow’s rainbow, you’ll love it when you see it.

There was lots of fairy dust in a brilliant shortlist that was lots of fun to read.

Congratulations to everyone in the anthology and thank you for your stories, your humour and your unique and brilliant ideas.

Mike Scott Thomson

Mike Scott Thomson

Mike Scott Thomson is a writer of fictions of different shapes, sizes and styles – one day he should probably make up his mind. A few good places have published his work over the years, including anthologies from the Fiction Desk, Momaya Press, Bridge House and National Flash Fiction Day, and literary magazines such as Litro, Prole and Storgy. That’s also his face riding The Hog on Chris Fielden’s first ever To Hull And Back collection, way back in 2014.

Mike is also responsible, in cahoots with the esteemed Mr Fielden, for encouraging the literary community to wantonly overuse that much-maligned linguistic tool: the adverb. Several hundred published stories later, there now exist five anthologies in aid of the literary charity First Story, with a sixth on its way.

Find him online at and on Twitter at @michaelsthomson.

Mike's comments on judging the competition:

Goodness me. This never gets any easier.

At the risk of once again sounding like a stuck record (and being responsible for the wanton use of literary clichés), the quality of writing and storytelling has been outstanding. Judging these tales to belong in any sort of ‘order’ has been nigh-on impossible. But, that's the job of a judge. Where does one start…

In previous years where I have assisted with this competition, I usually do have a clear winner. Not so this year. For me, ten stories – that's exactly half the shortlist – could have easily made my podium positions. And out of this top ten, four of them could have been my overall winner. I have never had to be so picky, finicky and, frankly, judgmental, in my life to get anywhere near separating them out.

I doubt, of course, that my results are anywhere near what my esteemed judges have decided for themselves. But that of course is by design, not accident, and the overall results will make fascinating reading. At the time of writing, I have no idea who's won, but from what I've read, it will be well-deserved. Whoever it turns out to be: enjoy your moment.

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A Few Notes on the 2021 Competition

This year, I received over 500 competition entries for the second time. The history of entry numbers looks like this:

  • 2021: 524 (-58)
  • 2019: 582 (+126)
  • 2018: 456 (+97)
  • 2017: 359 (+75)
  • 2016: 284 (+68)
  • 2015: 216 (+122)
  • 2014: 94

This is the first time I've experienced a reduction in competition entry numbers. It had to happen at some point...

There could be any number of reasons for fewer entries, including the increased entry fee (although I've upped that every year to date and it hasn't made a difference), the pandemic, lots of lovely weather in the UK during July, the fact that the competition now runs biennially (every other year) instead of being open 24/7 (meaning it may drop off people's writing radars), a general dip in writing related online searches (my website traffic always dips during the UK's summer months, but it's more pronounced this year despite my site continuing to rank well for key search terms on Google and other search engines) etc.

Writing website stats 2021 vs 2020

Screenshot from Google Analytics - sessions January to July 2021 vs 2020

The image above might be a bit small to see clearly, so here's the gist of what it means:

  • The blue line shows sessions for 2021. The orange line shows sessions for 2020.
  • In January 2020, my website attracted 27,374 sessions (or visits) from 21,672 users (I get a lot of returning website visitors who use my website more than once a month). In January 2021 it attracted 32,086 visits from 25,488 users. January often results in the most monthly website visits of the year. I think this is because writers come back after the Christmas break with New Year resolutions to finish their book, write more etc. The year on year session figures for January show an increase of around 14.5%.
  • In June 2020, my website attracted 22,700 visits from 17,979 users. In June 2021 it attracted 19,486 visits from 15,656 users. Website traffic often dips in June, but not as much as it did during 2021. The year on year figures for June show a decrease of around 14%.
  • In July 2020, my website attracted 23,440 visits from 17,284 users. In July 2021 it attracted 21,453 visits from 18,442 users. This shows a decrease of around 8.5%.

As you may have realised, I'm a stats geek. In the interest of not boring anyone that isn't, I'll leave it there and summarise by saying that visits were down in the summer months of 2021, even though To Hull And Back wasn't running in 2020. When the competition is open, I'd expect the number of sessions and visitors to increase. While my search engine rankings (the position my website appears in Google's search results when someone searches for something like 'short story competitions') do fluctuate, they have remained fairly consistent. This indicates that fewer people were searching for terms relating to writing competitions during the summer of 2021, which may be part of the reason for the drop in entry numbers. A lot of the world was in lockdown during the summer of 2020. Lockdown restrictions were being lifted in the spring / summer of 2021. That is likely to be a contributing factor in all of this.

Anyway, I decided to up the prize pot again next time the competition runs regardless. More on that shortly...

The early bird fee helped again this year, working better than previous years. At the end of April 2021, I'd received 238 entries, compared to 212 entries in 2019.

The flow of submissions during May and June were consistent with previous years (numbers up throughout). It was the tail end of June and most of July that were different. The 2019 figures were higher. On 20th July 2021, the overall number of submissions dropped behind those of 2019.

As usual, there were a large number of entries as the closing date approached: 230 in the final month, 133 in the final week and 58 on the final day. Last year, it was 312 in the final month, 162 in the final week, 56 on the final day. Writers love working to deadlines. I'm no exception.

I know I say this every year, but I'm NOT complaining about the amount of entries I receive – it’s fantastic that so many people enter and support the competition. I'm extremely grateful and am confident that the number of entries will grow again in future. I simply share these stats because I find them interesting and it helps me find better ways of running To Hull And Back.

This year, I went to the Cambrian Mountains and Ceredigion in Wales to undertake the reading and judging. I started off in the mountains. There's no internet or phone signal up there and it's not a tourist hot spot. It's the perfect place to read.

Cambrian Mountains, Wales, UK

One of my favourite writing and reading spots, above Llyn Brianne

I went to Llandovery and got a bit over-excited at the castle because it's guarded by a gurt big metal knight.

Llandovery Knight

The Llandovery Knight, at Llandovery Castle

I went walking in the mountains to calm down.

Cambrian Mountains

Me, calmed down by fresh air and mountains

And then I headed to Mwnt in Ceredigion and did some more reading.

Mobile Writing Office at Mwnt in Ceredigion, Wales

The mobile writing office parked up near Mwnt in Ceredigion, Wales

The weather was very changeable. It resulted in some spectacular rainbows.

Rainbow Mwnt

Rainbow over Mwnt

I saw dolphins while walking along the cliffs. They weren't walking on the cliffs. I was. The dolphins were in the sea.

Ceredigion coast path

The cliffs of Ceredigion, Wales, UK

And then I stopped off in the mountains again on the way home, to do a bit more reading and procrastinating.

Mobile Writing Office in the Cambrian Mountains.jpg

The mobile writing office back in the Cambrian Mountains

Are you suitable jealous? Good. That's enough photos.

The quality of the stories entered this year was awesome. There were lots of original ideas I hadn't seen before. Stories that are imaginative and unique resonate with me. They captivate my attention and inspire me.

Running To Hull And Back is a lot of work. The reading is always time consuming, even if the entries are fewer. Therefore, I've decided to make the following changes to how the competition runs next time around.

The opening and closing dates will be altered. Previously, the competition has always open for submissions on 1st August and closed on 31st July. In future, it will open on 1st July and close on 30th June. The next competition will run in 2023. It will open for entries on 1st July 2022 and close 30th June 2023. The shortlist and winner announcements, and book publication date, will remain the same. This is to make the reading more manageable for me, give the other judges more time to evaluate the shortlist and the artist more time to incorporate the winner's head on the book cover. And it will give me more time to prepare the anthology for publication.

I will also be investigating alternative ways of advertising the competition. In 2021, I substantially increased my spend on social media ads. Most of that spend was concentrated on Facebook. I ran both video and static ads.

Writing competition Facebook advert

Facebook static ad example, used in July 2021

The engagement stats were good (wide reach, meaning lots of views, likes and shares) but the ads didn't result in many clicks to my website and, therefore, entries. Well... not in a way that could be tracked, anyway.

The increased spend resulted in some abusive comments and unfounded accusations of the competition being a scam.

Facebook unfounded scam accusation

I deleted anything abusive and replied politely to any false scam accusations, like the one above - an advantage of undertaking this detailed write-up every year is that it's easy for me to back up claims of legitimacy and transparency by simply sharing a link. My replies sometimes resulted in the person who had made the accusation removing their comment (meaning my replies, and any others, disappeared too). Sometimes, there was no response. Other times, the commenter either maintained their accusation or just said something non-committal. EG, a reply from the same person below.

Facebook unfounded scam accusation reply

I'm pleased to say that other members of the writing community jumped to my defence in the comments. I'd like to say a special thank you to Debbi Voisey of Writers Supporting Writers for her kind help.

I also experienced a few complaints about the entry fee via advert comments. One chap said it was too expensive and used the V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize as an example of why - they charge £7.50 for an entry, whereas I charge £15. I pointed out that I'm a one man band and don't have sponsorship, hence the fee, and that the V.S. Pritchett (which is a fantastic competition, by the way) has the Royal Society of Literature behind it. I also drew the chap's attention to the fact that my prize pot is over 3K and gives twenty cash prizes, whereas (from what I could see in the T&Cs) the VSP only gives one cash prize of 1K. My fee is double theirs, but my prize pot is triple. He said, 'Fair comment. Thanks anyway.'

Overall, the ads were time consuming to run and didn't work brilliantly. This means that I will move some of my ad spend away from social media next time round, and look at other online advertising and print advertising options.

In 2019, I concentrated on increasing the top six prizes. This time, I'm upping the lower fourteen prizes and adding twenty more for the long-listed writers. Therefore, for the 2023 contest, the prize pot will be increased as follows:

  • Prize pot increased from £3,250 to £3,860:
    • First: £1,200
    • Second: £600
    • Third: £300
    • 3 x Highly Commended: £150
    • 14 x Shortlisted: £75 (up from £50 - £350 total increase to prize pot)
    • 20 x Longlisted: 1 x free early-bird entry to the next competition (20 new prizes with a value £13 each - £260 total increase to prize pot)
      • The cost of these 20 new prizes won't hit me until the 2025 contest runs, so it gives a bit of breathing space if entry numbers drop again in 2023

So there will be forty prizes in future.

In previous years, I've always upped the entry fee to help cover the increase in the prize pot. For 2023, I've decided to leave the entry fee the same as 2021. This is more risky for me, but I want to see if keeping the entry fee the same helps attract more entries. I'm highly likely to up the entry fee again in the future.

In 2019, I said I was going to investigate using Submittable to manage and automate the entry process. This would have removed a lot of admin work that I currently undertake manually. I found that, for my needs, the cost was over $2,000 a year and Submittable didn't do everything I required it to do. I also looked at other similar service providers. Some were a bit cheaper, but still too expensive. All of them had functional limitations, meaning none were ideal for my needs. To Hull And Back doesn't currently turnover enough money to make automation viable without reducing the prize pot and / or advertising spend. Therefore, I didn't pursue this further.

In 2019, I also said I'd consider working with other readers to help me decide the shortlist. The idea was to reduce my workload and incorporate different reading tastes during the selection process. I thought this might make the initial judging stages fairer. Relying on one person's (rather quirky) taste year after year can impact the diversity of the stories selected.

However, the first round of reading is very time consuming. So is the second. It usually takes me four or five rounds to decide the shortlist. I decided that I couldn't ask anyone else to do the work for free. The amount of time it takes would have meant paying other people a lot of money, even if they worked for minimum wage. This would result in the competition making a substantial loss - something I can't afford to do. So, I decided to keep doing the shortlist selection myself for now. If the competition's turnover increases in the future, I will revisit this idea.

As always, I kept sponsorship in mind. So far, nothing has come to fruition.

This year, the competition is likely to make a small profit (the overall amount depends on anthology sales). The 2021 prizes are first £1,200, second £600, third £300, 3 x runner-up prizes of £150 and 14 x shortlist prizes of £50 – total is £3,250. Other costs include PayPal charges, video production costs, admin costs, website maintenance costs, costs of publishing the anthology, advertising costs, the costs of putting on a book launch and, of course, the epic journey to Hull and back.

This year's anthology cover is designed by James Childs. I've known James most of my life. We became friends at school and play music together in rock bands Airbus and Little Villains.

Chris Fielden and James Childs

Chris and James, modelling some new band merch while on tour in Belgium with Little Villains in 2019

The eBook version of the anthology will be coded by Angela Googh this year. Ange codes the eBooks for a lot of the writing challenges I run. Having the eBook professionally coded means it looks better and is more accessible to readers who are visually impaired. I'd like to say a huge thank you to Ange for all her meticulous hard work.

All the judges and everyone else involved with the competition continue to give their time for free, which I appreciate greatly. This is something I want to address in future... maybe next time, if the turnover allows.

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. That is still my goal.

Entries this year came from a large number of locations around the planet. They include: Australia, Canada, the Canary Islands, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the USA and Wales.

I've kept track of different points of view used to tell the stories again this year (geekdom overload, but I loves it). Here are the figures:

  • Stories written in the first person (I did, I said): 43%
  • Stories written in the second person (you did, you said): 1%
  • Stories written in the third person (she did, he said, they wanted): 51%
  • Other (stories that were presented as a list, poem, album review, emails, journal / diary entries, letters, meeting minutes, phone calls, scientific papers, scripts, vignettes, or used both first and third person etc.): 5%

Compared to 2019, first person is down 4.5%, second person is unchanged, third person is up 1% and other is up 3.5%.

In 2019, 59 entries didn't obey the rules (just over 10% of 582 entries). In 2021, that figure decreased to 47 (just over 9% of 524 entries). Unfortunately, I had to disqualify 22 of these entries compared to 12 in 2019. Most of the disqualifications were either excessively over the word count limit, or failed to obey any of the rules.

If you weren’t longlisted or shortlisted, please don’t be disheartened. I receive a lot of entries and there are only twenty places on each list. I don't reject stories because I don't like them. I simply select the stories that are best suited to this competition.

That’s it. The seventh To Hull And Back competition is complete. I've read hundreds of stories. I've laughed a lot. I've been surprised and delighted by some amazing writing. Thank you to everyone who has entered. This simply would not be possible without each and every one of you.

And as a final note, I'm pleased to say that To Hull And Back was recognised by Reedsy as one of the best writing contests of 2021. I must be doing something right :-)

Best Writing Competition 2021

Cheers me dears, Chris

The Anthology & Book Launch

The To Hull And Back Anthology 2021 contains 25 short stories of mirth and legend, written by the winning and shortlisted writers and the competition judges. Judges stories are included so future entrants can read them while researching the competition and learn about their tastes.

The To Hull And Back Anthology 2021 book launch party took place in December 2021 on Zoom. You can learn more about the book and the launch party on the 2021 anthology page.

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Your comments:

Larry K
Congratulations to everyone!!! Can't wait to see the anthology.

Chris Fielden
Thanks very much Larry :-)

Debbie S
What can I do to make my writing more read worthy and entertaining? Congrats to all winners!!!

Chris Fielden
Thanks for your message, Debbie  - much appreciated.

I'd suggest joining a writing group or seeking feedback on your stories by critique providers. That can really help a writer develop and improve their stories. You can find a lot more information about writing groups here and critiques here (both paid and free).

I hope that's helpful to you and I wish you all the best with your writing in the future :-)

Roger W
Hi Chris, over 500 entries from around the world, I guess I was out of my depth there? I'll just keep on trying. Well done to all involved. Happy Sunday.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Roger. Yes, it’s a lot of entries… but that doesn’t mean you’re out of your depth.

As I say in the write-up: If you entered and your name doesn't appear on this page, please don't be disheartened. It was almost impossible to select the final 100, let alone a shortlist of 20. I don't reject stories because I don't like them, I just pick the ones that are best suited to this crazy contest. Many of the stories entered will be published elsewhere.

So, please do keep on trying :) Happy Sunday to you too.

Julie B
Congratulations to all shortlisted and the winners. I must work harder on mine. 

I will enter again. Thanks Chris, enjoyed the last anthology.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Julie, much appreciated.

Very pleased to hear you'll be entering again - thank you for your ongoing support.

All the best :-)

Jan Crews
Well done everybody. I didn't pull my finger out quick enough to send in an entry! I have no excuse next time as I have two years in which to pull said finger out faster!

Chris Fielden
Thanks Jan. Yes indeed, two years should be enough time - I'll look forward to reading your entry :)