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To Hull And Back Short Story Competition Results 2023

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 2023 To Hull And Back Humorous Short Story Competition.

I received 594 entries this year. That's a wonderful increase compared to last year, and the highest number of submissions any of the To Hull And Back competitions have received to date. You can read all about the 2023 competition and my plans for the 2025 contest in my notes at the end of the page.

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

Chris Fielden Thumbs Up 2023 To Hull And Back Short Story Competition

Me, feeling very pleased with myself because I found a dragon in a lake in Llandrindod Wells in Wales while trying to find a good selfie spot for my 'THANK YOU FOR ENTERING' thumbs-up pic during my 'competition reading, judging, procrastinating and having a complete nightmare making decisions because the stories are all too good' trip

If you entered the 2023 competition and your name doesn't appear on this page, please don't be disheartened. There were almost 600 entries this year and the overall quality of the stories was spectacular. It was almost impossible to select the final 100, let alone a longlist of 40 and then 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 your wonderful tales to other comps and magazines.

OK, enough of my waffling. Here are the 2023 results...

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It's my pleasure to present the winners of the 2023 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 (well... maybe not eternity, but for a substantial amount of time when compared to the average lifespan of a human being) in To Hull And Back's historical archive.

1st Prize

How to Buy a Pumpkin in November, by Olivier Breuleux

2nd Prize

Armageddon, with Extra Pineapple, by Dan Purdue

3rd Prize

Still Life With Flowers, by Tim Craig

Highly Commended

In alphabetical order:

All My Apologies, by Sherry Morris

Sunset Cruise on the River Styx, by Mark Nutter

The Coital Rituals of Planet S3, by Tony Kirwood

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The Shortlist

Here are the names of the fantabulous authors who created the 2023 To Hull And Back shortlisted stories.

Congratulations to each author on the shortlist. You should be extremely proud of magnificent mind babies.

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

Alex Dutson – A Bicycle Built for Two

Avi Ben-Zeev – Sacrifice Is Sexy

BV Lawson – Here's to You, Neil

CG Casci – Love in a Time of Chatbots

Clayton Lister – Headbag

Dan Purdue – Armageddon, with Extra Pineapple

Helen Binks – Plant-Based

Ian Tucker – Absent Mind

John Holland – Booboo

Katy Wimhurst – The Rabbits of the Apocalypse

Kitt Harris – The Remains of the Cake

Mark Nutter – Sunset Cruise on the River Styx

Mary Ethna Black – Monday's Child

Noel Taylor – Mr Featherstone's Hat

Olivier Breuleux – How to Buy a Pumpkin in November

Rhys Timson – Frozen Futures

Sherry Morris – All My Apologies

Susan Bennett – When You Are Dog

Tim Craig – Still Life With Flowers

Tony Kirwood – The Coital Rituals of Planet S3

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The Longlist

Here are details of the authors of the To Hull And Back 2023 longlist.

Congratulations to all of them. Their stories were fantastic. 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.

Aneeta Sundararaj - My Final Tapasya

Arleen McCombie – Loitering With Intent

Cathy Layne – Simon Says

Chris Morris – Anti-Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

Christopher Lukas – Myrtle

Claire Dalkin – The Real House Keepers

Diana Webb – Diary of an Idiot

Edward Field – That Was the Day We Lost the Plot

Emily Hay – Someone to Watch Over Me

Fenja Hill – Making Notes

Helen Chambers – The Great Escape

Ian Hey – Gemma

James Flanagan – Any Given Sundae

Karen Jones – The Resurrection of Andy McPhail

Kate O'Grady – Happy Together

Lyn Ocaro – The Brother Expert

Steve Sheppard – Arthur and the Sinkhole

Susan Chisholm – Where Is Joe?

Tabitha Bast – Be True to Your Bar

Zoë Sutton Harris – Fishing With Dad

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Special Mentions

This year, I received a lot of highly imaginative entries. 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 like to mention many more.

Special mentions recognise writers who, in my humble opinion, 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.

Áine Thistleton – F*** You (For the Police)

Brandon Robshaw – Bernard's Dream

Eileen Castledine – Compost

Frances Knight – Scissor Happy

Holly North – Stuffed

Jack Roe – Fresh Strawberries

James Mason – Slipper

Kathryn Joyce – The Museum of Selfies

Lee Lim-Shern, Ashton – The Hidden World

Viveka Kjellberg-Motton – Through the Looking Glass and What Hetty Found There

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To Hull And Back Winner's Video

The To Hull And Back 2023 winner's video will be filmed sometime during spring 2024. More details will appear here when the video has been made.

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Shortlist Author Biographies

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

Alex Dutson (England, UK)

Alex Dutson

Alex Dutson is a civil servant from London with no previous published works. She has been dabbling in writing various novels and short stories over the last decade but keeps being sidetracked by DnD campaigns and an inability to say no to a pub trip. When she isn't immersed in the world of fantasy, she can be found perusing the shelves of a bookshop, trekking the British countryside or planning trips to far-flung destinations in search of inspiration for the next story she won't finish.

Avi Ben-Zeev (England, UK)

Avi Ben-Zeev

Avi Ben-Zeev is a gay transgender man, a high school failure, and a Yale PhD. As a senior lecturer in psychology and a recent Birkbeck, University of London’s creative writing MFA graduate, he is passionate about applying a psychological lens to memoir and fiction. 'Angel', a chapter from his in-progress memoir, Straight Femme Goes … Poof!, won the 2023 UK’s Transgender Short Story Prize. In addition, he has edited the anthology Trans Homo … Gasp!, which was a Lambda Award finalist, authored nonfiction books, including Complex Cognition (Oxford University Press), published high-impact articles, and has been an invited speaker at exciting settings (e.g., George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch). Avi has lived in different countries, including Israel, Italy and the US, and now resides in the UK. London is home and the location of his next book. For more info, feel free to peruse:

BV Lawson (VA, USA)

BV Lawson

My short stories have appeared in dozens of publications, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, won the Dillydoun Flash Fiction Prize, the Short Mystery Fiction Society Derringer, Noir Nation Golden Fedora, and Gemini Magazine Awards, and I was also a contributor to the award-winning anthology Blood on the Bayou. My poetry has appeared in Noir Riot, International Poetry Forum, Midwest Poetry Review, and more. My Scott Drayco crime novels have also been chosen as a Featured Library Journal Pick and a finalist for the Shamus, Silver Falchion, Daphne, and Foreword Book Reviews Awards.

CG Casci (England, UK)

CG Casci

CG Casci spent decades in design, which included writing for professional press, brochures and websites, while being a contributor to design and competition panels. His compulsion to recount stories once manifested as travel logs, sketchbooks and letters (when such a thing existed) but more recently as fiction. Between research for his book on the mechanics of the evolution of cities (not many laughs), he is writing a fictionalised account of his grandfather’s ninety-nine-year life. Recent short stories have been published by MONO. and Litro.

Clayton Lister (England, UK)

Clayton Lister

Clayton Lister has had short stories published in magazines and anthologies and been shortlisted for prizes but never won a single bloody thing - unless you count a life-size plastic dolly in a community centre raffle, 2013, for which he himself didn't buy the ticket. So he doesn't.

His first YA novel, The Broke Hotel, is due out in 2023 with Stairwell Books. That is not a funny book. It is very serious.

Dan Purdue (England, UK)

Dan Purdue

Dan Purdue lives and writes in Leamington Spa. His short stories have been featured in a variety of places both online and in print. He has won prizes in several writing competitions over the years and is particularly pleased to have made it into three previous To Hull And Back anthologies. At the time of writing, he is midway through yet another round of edits for his science fiction novel and appreciates your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.

Helen Binks (England, UK)

Helen Binks

A very-nearly OAP who refuses to go gently! Recently completed an MA in creative writing at the University of Hull (yes, really!). Many moons ago, that’s where I gained my first degree. Happy days! Since then, I have earned crusts by teaching English Literature, raised two daughters, and racked up over forty years of marriage (all to the same person, in case you’re wondering). My glass is always half full… in the metaphorical sense, not because I’m an alcoholic!

Ian Tucker (England, UK)

Ian Tucker

Ian writes for a laugh. Sometimes he gets one. Most of his story ideas come from dreams his wife has and tells him about, which he has the bad grace to listen to and remember. They live in Bristol with an ever-increasing number of woodlice and, occasionally, other people's pets. Ian has been shortlisted in previous To Hull And Back's but never had his head superimposed on a picture of a biker. He also tries to write crime.

John Holland (England, UK)

John Holland

John Holland is a short fiction author from Gloucestershire in the UK. He started writing aged 59 and has won first prize in short fiction competitions on five occasions, including To Hull And Back in 2018. He has also been short listed etc. in competitions more than 50 times.

His work, which is often darkly comic, has been published more than a hundred times in print anthologies and online including The Molotov Cocktail, Truffle Magazine, Spelk, The Phare, Ellipsis Zine, The Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, Storgy, Riot Act and NFFD.

John is also the organiser, editor and publisher of the twice-yearly event Stroud Short Stories.

Find out more about John on his website and Twitter.

Katy Wimhurst (England, UK)

Katy Wimhurst

Katy Wimhurst’s first collection of short stories was Snapshots of the Apocalypse (2022). Her fiction has been published in numerous magazines including The Guardian, Cafe Irreal, and Shooter. Her visual poems have appeared in magazines like Ric Journal, 3:AM Magazine, Steel Incisors, Dreampop Press and The Babel Tower. Her first book of visual poems, Fifty-One Trillion Bits, is to be published by Trickhouse Press. She interviews writers for various magazines, including 3:AM. She is housebound with the illness ME.

Kitt Harris (England, UK)

Kitt Harris

Kitt Harris is an ex-English lit postgrad who in their spare time pens queer humorous poetry and writes about their dog. A previous winner of the Wells-Next-the-Sea Junior Poetry Competition and commended writer by Cinnamon Press, they are published online and in print by Queer Sci-Fi, Scout Media, Everyday Fiction, and Tipping the Scales.  They live with their partner and pug in Norfolk, UK.

Mark Nutter (IL, USA)

Mark Nutter

Mark Nutter grew up in a motel near Joliet, Illinois, which is not as glamorous as it sounds. He developed a taste for absurd comedy in the womb. Mark has written two short fiction collections (Giant Banana Over Texas and Sunset Cruise on the River Styx). He’s had short stories published in That is So Wrong!, Jokes Review, Havok, Mystery Weekly, Dear Leader Tales and the Daily Drunk Magazine. He’s also written musicals (ReAnimator the Musical), television (SNL, 3rd Rock from the Sun) and film (Almost Heroes).

Mary Ethna Black (England, UK)

Mary Ethna Black

Mary Ethna Black is a public health doctor and writer from Northern Ireland. A medical globe-trotter, she has judged silver salmon in Alaska, mapped the Belize Barrier Reef, and raised two children with the oarsman who saved her life from pirates in the Bay of Bengal. Akin to the life cycle of salmon, Mary was conceived in Melbourne and returns frequently. In-between she knits, bakes, sings, and makes stuff up.

Blood and Roses connects her war work in Belfast and Bosnia and won the 2021 Fish Publishing Short Memoir Prize. She is writing Her Life in Hats, about three generations of women doctors in her family that collectively span the history of the NHS. Also, Stories from Senjak, a celebration of her family home, a wooden splav moored on the River Sava in Belgrade. The cast of characters include children, criminals and a ginormous catfish. The stories are tall but true.

Keep Darkness from the Door won the Irish Writers Centre Novel Prize in 2021. This work in progress is inspired by a forgotten 1980s medical scandal. It examines how ordinary people can be imperfectly brave and the book is currently hibernating and waiting for a creative spring.

Noel Taylor (Portugal)

Noel Taylor

Noel Taylor lives near Lisbon, in Portugal. He divides his time between writing and playing improvised music on clarinet. He started to write short stories in 2020, and the form seems to suit his restless relationship with his home country, the United Kingdom, where all of his narratives are set. Most of his inspiration comes to him as he walks by the side of the Atlantic Ocean, on the long beach at Carcavelos, a short train journey from his home. Each story seems to lead on to another, and he is confident enough not to worry that his ideas will dry up – he knows that fresh ones will be arriving soon enough, sometimes like a London bus, at exactly the same moment. He has been encouraged by the number of times he has appeared on longlists and shortlists, before finally having a story published in Writer’s Forum, in the November issue of 2022.

Olivier Breuleux (Canada)

Olivier Breuleux

Olivier hails from Canada, the fridge of the world. Programmer by day, programmer by night, he sometimes scribbles a few words around dusk.

Rhys Timson (England, UK)

Rhys Timson

Rhys Timson has had stories published in 3:AM, Litro, Popshot, Structo and other journals. He has had stories featured in Retreat West's competition collections and had a number of pieces performed at Liars' League.

Sherry Morris (Scotland, UK)

Sherry Morris

Originally from Missouri, Sherry Morris (@Uksherka) writes prize-winning fiction from a farm in the Scottish Highlands where she pets cows, watches clouds and dabbles in photography. She reads for the wonderfully wacky Taco Bell Quarterly and her first published story was about her Peace Corps experience in 1990s Ukraine. Her work appears in Longleaf Review, Fictive Dream, Molotov Cocktail, NFFD, Barren and other publications. Visit for more of her writing.

Susan Bennett (Australia)

Susan Bennett

In her first job, Susan Bennett sold large knives, replica pistols and handcuffs to complete strangers. Many years later, it occurred to her that some of those nice strangers may not have been purchasing these items for joke gifts as they claimed. Maybe they weren't even nice.

She is the author of The Whack Club and Songbook. Her writing prizes include first place in the EJ Brady Award, the Sydney Writers' Room Short Story Competition and The New England Thunderbolt Prize for crime writing. Her stories have been published in The Fish Anthology 2016, The Moth (31), To Hull And Back Humorous Short Story Anthology 2019, Etchings and the Shepparton News, among others.

Tim Craig (England, UK)

Tim Craig

Originally from Manchester, Tim Craig lives in a rain barrel under a motorway bridge just north of London. A winner of the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction, his small stories have appeared three times in the Best Microfiction anthology and in many fine literary journals in both the US and the UK. His debut collection, Now You See Him, was published in 2022 to huge critical acclaim, but piss-poor sales.

Tony Kirwood (England, UK)

Tony Kirwood

Tony Kirwood lives in London with his wife and a fridge, both of which have been a great support to his writing. He began to take it seriously after selling sketches to UK and European TV shows. His nonfiction book, How To Write Comedy (Little, Brown), was nominated for the Booker Prize for the most unambiguous title of the year.

Comedy is still at the heart of what he writes, though nowadays he spends most of his time working on prose fiction. He’s had stories published in New Myths, KZine, Scribble, Story Fridays and in the last To Hull and Back Anthology, and longlisted for the Minds Shine Bright competition.

As an actor, he has appeared in TV sitcoms and as a Death Eater in the final 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.

Aneeta Sundararaj (Malaysia)

Aneeta Sundararaj

Aneeta Sundararaj is an award-winning short story writer. She trained as a lawyer and practised for five years before she decided to pursue her dream of writing. She also created and developed a website and called it ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. The aim remains to make it a resource for storytellers. Her writing has appeared in many magazines, ezines and journals and the national newspapers. To date, she’s worked on some 14 book projects. Her most recent and bestselling novel, The Age of Smiling Secrets, was shortlisted for the Anugerah Buku 2020 organised by the National Library of Malaysia. Throughout, Aneeta continued to pursue her academic interests and, in 2021, successfully completed a doctoral thesis titled Management of Prosperity Among Artistes in Malaysia. Aneeta gives back to the writing community by managing the Great Story Competition (@httags) which is hosted on her website.

Arleen McCombie (Scotland, UK)

Arleen McCombie

I am a librarian and archivist who champions the cultural heritage sector and lives by the coast in north-east Scotland (in Peterhead, which, like Hull, was once a thriving whaling town). I have a keen interest in mental health issues and have recently contributed to a non-fiction book (to be published this spring) which explores personal experiences of mental illness around the UK. I have taken online creative writing courses and am currently writing a novel set in a psychiatric hospital which has a strong vein of black humour threading through it. I enjoy writing short stories and one of my stories submitted to a UK women's magazine was commended by the author Marian Keyes.

Cathy Layne (Singapore)

Cathy Layne

I’m British, living in Singapore, work as an editor for a company that makes books on Asia for the English language market. Been writing for years, mainly novels, yet to be published. Been longlisted and shortlisted in various competitions. Was represented for a while by Zoe Ross at United Agents in London when my novel You're Beautiful was shortlisted in the Bath Novel Award 2016, but parted ways amicably when she couldn’t sell the book, despite lots of positive feedback. Currently un-agented, trying to stay motivated!

Chris Morris (Scotland, UK)

Chris Morris

Chris Morris is a writer from Dundee in Scotland. He has self-published three books and is currently working on a horror-comedy novel that he hopes to traditionally publish. When he's not writing, Chris teaches music, assists pupils in a high school, and tries his best to be the kind of father to his daughter that will make her say, "He's alright, you know."

Christopher Lukas (NY, USA)

Christopher Lukas

Fifty years of producing for American public television.

Six published books: non-fiction and fiction.

Six Emmy nominations. Two awards.

Claire Dalkin (England, UK)

Claire Dalkin

Claire Dalkin is a high school tutor and support worker. Her work has been published by the Wyrd Harvest Press and Minds Shine Bright, also the Nottingham Writers’ Studio, along with flash fiction for local newspapers. The writing bug bit her when she was eight, when she had her first story read out in Assembly. She lives with her family in Sussex between the hills and the beautiful sea.

Diana Webb (MO, USA)

Diana Webb

Diana Webb is a five-time national award-winning author and the daughter of a child survivor of Nazi Germany. Life is a potpourri of yeast that leavens your loaf of creativity, spirit, and honour. But as your wheat, rye, or pumpernickel raises and falls, no matter how you slice it, or whether it's served on fancy dinnerware, wax paper, or in a plastic tub, you might as well incorporate the elements of humour and laughter as it's still just bread and the guy next to you is having lunch at the same bistro.

Edward Field (England, UK)

Edward Field

Edward's screenplay, Things They Say of Me, won both the Fresh Voices Short Script and Humanitarian awards, whilst his short stories and flash fiction have been recognized and published by Storgy, Reflex Fiction, To Hull And Back, Idle Ink, 101 Words, London Independent Story Prize and Grindstone Literary. He is also the author of two non-fiction books and three children's plays, which are on the South African curriculum. In the corporate arena, Edward has written over two decades' worth of award ceremony scripts, promotional material, sleeve notes, speeches and product demonstration videos, whilst a feature for The Stage generated its biggest ever mailbag – and prompted calls for his public execution. He eats cake, knows something, and is no longer afraid of red doors.

Emily Hay (England, UK)

Emily Hay

I still live in the same bit of South East London that I grew up in. I have changed, the people around me have changed, but Lewisham Market is still there. Sometimes I try to catch a few moments in the flux. I have written poetry and short stories and am working on a novel.

Fenja Hill (England, UK)

Fenja Hill

Fenja Hill is a self-published author of  short stories and a novella. After gaining considerable professional experience outside writing, she left London to pursue her creative storytelling passion on the coast in Somerset. Her debut novella, What I Did on My Holidays, was published shortly thereafter in 2018. Fenja went on to publish Nightwriting in 2022, a multi-genre collection of short stories with twists, turns, and hints of wit and humour.

Her stories have also been published in anthological works produced by Writers in Stone including Driftwood (2019), Cuckoo (2021), Seventy Three (2022), and Lock and Key (2022), an anthology produced during the first 18 months of COVID-19. Now, Fenja is expanding her creativity through poetry. Her poem 'Traveling in the Back Seat' was shortlisted for the 2022 Yeovil Literary Prize.

Fenja is currently working on a psychological suspense novel. When not penning action-packed adventures and complex characters, Fenja spends time exploring her seaside town with her grandson and reading the likes of Margaret Atwood and Stephen King.

Helen Chambers

Helen Chambers

Helen writes flash and short stories and has words in Janus, Ellipsis, The Phare and Flashback Fiction. She won the Fish Short Story Prize in 2018. This summer, she directed The Winter’s Tale for Wivenhoe Outdoor Shakespeare and worried about staging 'exit pursued by bear.' Read about this, and her other publications on her website.

Ian Hey (England, UK)

Ian Hey

My name’s Ian Hey and I’m 58. I started writing about 16 years ago when people said my text messages were quite funny.

I’ve had three one act plays performed at the Cornerhouse Theatre in Douglas Road, Tolworth 2011, 2013 and 2017 as part of their OneAct festival. They were described by the judges as, surreal, imaginative and funny.

I did a course with the Writer’s Bureau between 2016 and 2019 and I must say it did help. During the six weeks I was off work during the first lockdown, I managed to write most of a 300-page novel. A rom/com thriller, No Lift and No Stairs was published in May 2022 and is an essential read. Up there with The Godfather and To Kill a Mockingbird. (Am I allowed to plug my book?) [Note from CF: Yes :-)]

'Gemma' is my third entry into To Hull And Back – the other two sank without even the tiniest, tiniest ripple.

But you’ve got keep trying. Health and happiness to all.

James Flanagan (England, UK)

James Flanagan

James Flanagan is a new author with several short fiction publications under his belt. By day, he is an academic scientist with a PhD in cancer biology, publishing scientific articles in respectable journals. By night, he is a fiction writer attempting to publish in less reputable venues such as Nonbinary Review, Everyday Fiction and Dark Drabbles. His debut sci-fi novel Genefire is due to be published in Summer 2023.

Karen Jones (Scotland, UK)

Karen Jones

Karen Jones is a flash and short fiction writer from Glasgow, Scotland. Her flashes have been nominated for Best of the Net and The Pushcart Prize, and her story 'Small Mercies' was included in Best Small Fictions 2019. She has won first prize in the Cambridge Flash Prize, Flash 500 and Reflex Fiction and second prize in Fractured Lit’s Micro Fiction Competition. Her work has been highly commended/shortlisted for To Hull and Back, Bath Flash Fiction and Bath Short Story Award. Her novella-in-flash When It’s Not Called Making Love is published by Ad Hoc Fiction. She is Special Features Editor at New Flash Fiction Review and an editor for the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology.

Kate O'Grady (England, UK)

Kate O'Grady

Kate O’Grady lives in Stroud, England. She won 1st prize in the Bath Short Story Award 2022, was shortlisted for The Bristol Short Story Prize 2022, and longlisted for Bath Flash Fiction 2022. Her short stories and flash fiction have been long-listed/short-listed or placed in Reflex Fiction Flash Fiction Competition, The Phare Short Story Competition, Exeter Short Story Competition, Gloucester Writers Network Competition, and Stroud Book Festival Short Story Competition.

Lyn Ocaro (Australia)

Lyn Ocaro

I’m an expat Aussie, accidental artist and current endoscopy technician. Having lived half a lifetime in a foreign country, I have firsthand experiences of existential crises.

I started writing stories after my father died. I wanted to capture memories of the happier days when our family was whole. My celebration of character  focuses on the quirks and idiosyncrasies of individuals. These foci can be problematic when maintaining family ties, so I started writing fiction.

Stories sustain me and bring me joy. Stories help us understand each other, appreciate each other, understand our past and imagine our futures. I write because I love stories.

Steve Sheppard (England, UK)

Steve Sheppard

Steve was born in Guildford and grew up in a house with a river at the bottom of the garden. This makes him sound quite posh, but it wasn’t a very big house and it wasn’t a very big river. Nine years at boarding school taught him absolutely nothing about how to be an adult and actually becoming an adult also failed in this respect. One thing he did eventually learn, however, was that he ought to have tried writing a book much earlier than he did, although he also now realises that he should have become a celebrity first, as this would have made selling it much easier. Steve has had two comedy thrillers published by Claret Press: A Very Important Teapot (2019) and a sequel, Bored to Death in the Baltics (2021). These have been read by approximately a million fewer people than he might have hoped but, nothing daunted, he is working on two further books, including a trequel, Poor Table Manners.

Susan Chisholm (England, UK)

Susan Chisholm

I live in Leicester and have retired from working in Housing. I write short stories and sometimes enter them into competitions. Three of my short stories have been shortlisted. I have started more than one novel and am hoping to finish the latest one. I did finish a children’s novella, unpublished, but that is back in the drawer.

Tabitha Bast (England, UK)

Tabitha Bast

Tabitha Bast lives in inner-city Leeds, and works as a therapist and writer. Writes a memoir/feminist blog on positive masculinity that was spotlight blog in Mslexia Magazine Dec 2022.

Tabitha has eight short stories published since 2018, most recently 'Last Nights of the Panto' by Anansi Archives in 2022. First prize with Grist Publishing and published in Trouble: An Anthology of Protest.  Creative Futures Award Winner in 2020.

Zoë Sutton Harris (CA, USA)

Zoë Sutton Harris

Corrienne Zoë Heinemann, Canadian author, writes under the pen name of Zoë Sutton Harris. She has written four short stories, three of which are published and one to be published in June 2022. She is also in the editing stage of a coming-of-age memoir about growing up in the small village of Ketepec on the Saint John River in New Brunswick, Canada.

Zoë graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a master’s degree in social work.

She has lived in California for forty-three years with sojourns to The Bahamas for four years and to Kazakhstan for eight years. She now lives in Northern California outside of San Francisco with her husband and rescued mutt, Lucy. She has two adult children.

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Special Mention Author Biographies

I like to give some writers a special mention each time To Hull And Back runs, to offer encouragement beyond the short and longlist. The writers mentioned show great promise and have penned stories with strong voices, many of which are likely to be published elsewhere. I could easily include 100 stories here, but limit myself to 10 for practical reasons.

Áine Thistleton (Ireland)

Áine Thistleton

Áine, 25, desperately trying to prove that my English degree wasn’t a waste of time by producing very average prose that never win anything. (Please note in the event that I win, I will edit this for future competitions to read ‘highly-praised prose that won the most prestigious writing competition in all of the UK’, but don’t let that sway you.) [Note from CF: Duly noted (searches for raised eyebrow emoji and gets bored before he find it)]

I do medical typing on a daily basis at work, so this is truly the only time I’m allowed to write anything funny. (I know, my humour is so seamless you couldn’t possibly tell.) [Note from CF: As is mine]

Current life plan is to somehow trick everyone into making me a best-selling author so that I can finally pay my parents back for the aforementioned degree and all of the food I’ve ever eaten in their house. Back-up plan is to rob a bank.

Brandon Robshaw (England, UK)

Brandon Robshaw

I am a writer of children’s stories and academic monographs in philosophy. I’m also a part-time poet and free-lance journalist. My story 'Book Reviews' was shortlisted for the 2019 To Hull And Back competition. I sing in a choir, and play the ukulele really badly.

Eileen Castledine (England, UK)

Eileen Castledine

My name is Eileen Castledine and I graduated from the Open University in 2019 with an MA in creative writing.

I am particularly interested in the relationship between the tamed and the wild landscape.

I’ve lived all my life in the mining area immortalised by George Orwell and have grown up watching the decline of Lancashire’s industry: the brownfields becoming retail centres, housing estates and country parks. I have observed the material and social evolution of the inhabitants as they emerge from solid terraced streets to acquisitive detached residences. These are my neighbours. I know all these people; their astonishing lack of ‘ordinariness’, their tissue-thin skin of respectability, living on a land where the past is little more than a grass - sward deep. 

The story I have submitted is one of a collection of short stories featuring the inhabitants of Collier’s Close.

Frances Knight (England, UK)

Frances Knight

Writer, musician and composer Frances Knight originally studied fine art then switched informally to jazz, playing gigs live, then going on to study at the Guildhall School. 

She has released several albums on her own label, Mandeville Records, working with amongst others Tony Coe, Paul Booth and Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine). She is part of  numerous eclectic and diverse projects, ranging from jazz and blues through to  improvised music, Argentinian tango and circus. 

After being involved with music for several years, Frances decided to pursue her interest in writing. She joined a lot of courses and went on to take an MA in prose fiction. Her work has been shortlisted several times for the Bridport Prize as well as winning the University of Kent T. S. Eliot student poetry award.

She was recently awarded second prize in Saveas International Short Story Competition and Faversham Literary Festival.

Frances is currently working on a show Songs From My Soul, co-writing songs with performer Ginger Bennett.

Holly North (England, UK)

Holly North

Holly North is a young adult writer from Cumbria currently living in Newcastle. She has an English literature with creative writing BA from Newcastle University and starts her creative writing MA in September 2023. Holly has two published short stories, one in Uncommonalities Volume IV: Eventually called 'The Flatmate', and one in the Newcastle University Undergraduate Anthology called 'Blurred'. Although these are contemporary stories, Holly is a fantasy writer at heart and currently has a young adult fantasy series in the works. Holly is a Jellycat enthusiast, somewhat capable pole dancer and, according to this story, speaks for the emus.

Jack Roe (England, UK)

Jack Roe

I am currently studying for an MA in creative writing at the University of Hull. As a writer, I am interested in depicting the reality of working-class life in Hull. I write both fiction and literary non-fiction centred around the city. My flash fiction piece ‘Going’ was featured on the Flash Fiction North website and explores how relationships were impacted by World War Two. As a reader, my interests are varied. In terms of contemporary fiction, I enjoy the works of Barney Farmer, Louise Beech, Russ Litten, Louise Kennedy and Roddy Doyle. However, I am also inspired by the social-problem novels of the 1840s and 1850s and the ‘kitchen-sink realism’ era of the 1950s and 1960s. In summary, I want to be a writer because I want to create stories that people can enjoy and be immersed in. Also, I want to be a part of the movement to consolidate Hull’s place on the literary map.

James Mason (England, UK)

James Mason

James Mason’s short fiction has most recently appeared in The Phare, Horla and Flash Fiction Magazine, as well as competition anthologies by Retreat West, Creative Mind and Cranked Anvil. His work also features in the 2021 and 2022 Worcester LitFest Book. He has a masters in creative writing from the Open University. We’re not saying he’s boastful, but he claims that he’s what sliced bread actually compares itself too.

Kathryn Joyce (England, UK)

Kathryn Joyce

Kathryn Joyce was born in Hull, a city of both literary and historical significance. She was inspired to write creatively at school by a teacher who seemed to appreciate her excuses for not submitting homework on time. Kathy was told she was, "Highly imaginative."

Time moved on and Kathy began to write with intent in later life. Her novel, Thicker Than Soup, was published in 2016. Since then, some of her short stories and poems have appeared in a number of publications, including the To Hull And Back Anthology 2019.

As leader of a local creative writing group, she discovered a wealth of talent, and so when someone suggested, "Why not do an anthology?" she did. She is now working on the third anthology, with each print raising funds towards local projects.

Kathy wrote her first children’s story in December 2022, a chapbook Christmas present for her 6-year-old grandson who is already a keen reader and storyteller. He told her he ‘didn’t like it only 3%’. She is hoping he might, one day, become an inspiring teacher.

Lee Lim-Shern, Ashton (Malaysia)

Lee Lim-Shern, Ashton

Ashton is 11, from Malaysia. He is the student ambassador in school and used to speak in some events for education purposes. He recently passed his Cambridge International Examination (for primary checkpoint) with flying colours. He got outstanding grades for all three core subjects. Ashton participated in the 6th Steinway Malaysia, Youth Piano Competition in 2022. He also passed ABRSM Performance Grade 5 and got a distinction in ABRSM music theory Grade 3. He created his own song and lyrics at the age of 9. He woke up one Saturday morning and excitedly ran towards the piano and played it out.

Ashton used to be the main speaker in the debate team in school. His masterpiece, the ligle (the hybrid of lion and eagle) was exhibited in a virtual art exhibition – 'Making a Difference'. He created his own story and won first prize in the storytelling competition organized by the school during MCO time.

Ashton loves traveling around the world, especially during snowy weather. Snow simply lights him up. He aims to be a movie director when he grows up. He likes Pokémon, superheroes like Spiderman. He also likes action-adventure movies, and movies regarding the multiverse. He watched the movie Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse recently, and he finds it thrilling!

Viveka Kjellberg-Motton (England, UK)

Viveka Kjellberg-Motton

Viveka is a teacher of philosophy at a school in Kent. She writes in her spare time, mostly humour, and has been doing so for around 7 years. Previously she has just written for fun, but now wants to take it more seriously and send off some of her stories for submission.

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The Judges

Here are some details about the 2023 To Hull And Back judges.

This year's judges comprise writers, readers and language teachers, with a variety of experience and differing reading tastes. Emma and Mike are both previous To Hull And Back competition winners. 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. Susannah is a language teacher, an avid reader and my fiancée.

This is how the judging went down this year:

  • I journeyed to a quiet location and read. A lot. This used to happen in my campervan come writing office. Sadly, a chronic case of rust meant the van failed its MOT in the most magnificent and epic way imaginable earlier this year, so I had to sell it. I couldn't afford to replace the van, so this year I found an Airbnb in Llandrindod Wells and barricaded myself into a room for a week.
  • The stories were read.
  • I soon realised I'd received hundreds of strong stories, so making decisions on which should be short and long-listed would be almost impossible. Yet again. You lot really don't make my job any easier year after year, do you? No. No you don't.
  • I went out, sampled the local cuisine, ate far too much of it and got indigestion.
  • I then had to buy a vat of Gaviscon. No, this is not product placement and they do not sponsor the competition. I've spent a lot of money on their products, so maybe they should.
  • I embarked on days of re-reading, deliberating and procrastinating.
  • I forced myself to make impossible decisions.
  • The twenty shortlisted stories were sent to the judging panel, who go through the same process I just described, independently. They may use other brands of indigestion medication. I don't know which ones. You'd have to ask them.
  • I awaited their results.
  • Once received, I placed the aforementioned results in my 'To Hull And Back 2023 Spreadsheet of Answers', which decreed the winner.

The judges give their time for free. I'd like to say a huge thank you to all of them for their ongoing generosity and unwavering support of this crazy writing contest.

Below are the judges' biographies and their comments about judging the competition.

Christopher Fielden

Christopher Fielden

Chris is a maniac from Bristol. Look, the picture above proves it. That's him, in Bristol, clutching a book all about Bristol like a maniac. One of his stories is in said book. This makes him very happy.

Chris writes. He plays drums. He rides motorbikes. He runs the most awesome writing competition in the known macrocosm (no, he is not biased at all, the previous statement is unarguably true). He has no hair on his head and too much elsewhere on his body. Why is he sharing this information in a biography? No one knows, least of all him. It's baffling.

Chris is currently re-designing his website. The project has overrun a tad. After writing the previous sentence, Chris decided to look up the definition of "tad". According to the dictionary, it's "to a small extent; somewhat". Chris has now reassessed the statement "the project has overrun a tad" and altered it to "the project has overrun tadtastically". He knows tadtastically isn't a word, but hopes you will get the gist. He's going to try and finish the new site by the end of the year. If he fails, he's going to eat cake until he feels better.

You can learn more about Chris than anyone could possibly want to know on the about page of this website.

Chris's comments on judging the competition:

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

For full details, see the notes section below.

Emma Brankin

Emma Brankin

Emma Brankin is the author of the short story collection Attention Seekers. A writer and educator from Glasgow, Scotland, she holds a master's in creative writing and education from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her work has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize’s short story contest. In 2021, she won the short story contests for Fugue Fiction, To Hull And Back and Superlative. Other stories have appeared in publications such as Narrative Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly and X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. She assists her cat Sabre with his burgeoning social media career on Instagram: @sabre_reads

Emma's comments on judging the competition:

I really admire anybody who has the creativity, determination and, let's face it, patience to finish a short story. On top of that, I think it's so tricky to weave humour into a self-contained story that has tension, strong characterisation and a compelling plot. The stories that really shone for me were the ones that were able to be funny while still strongly upholding key narrative elements that kept propelling me through the pages. I especially loved how playful so many entries were, in such a wide variety of ways. Thank you so much to everybody for entrusting all the judges with your hard work. Well done to all.

Lynda Nash

Lynda Nash

Lynda lives in the countryside where she has spent the last six months growing her own veg, playing mother to a flock of chickens and contemplating life, the universe and pizza. Happily, the hens fared better than the vegetables, the universe has given her creative ideas, and pizza will continue to be eaten. And when she’s not doing all that she writes music reviews for an entertainment magazine and weird stories for herself.

Lynda's comments on judging the competition:

It is an honour to be asked once again to help with the judging, and once again you writers with your fascinating characters and imaginative (and often off-the-wall) storylines made my job enjoyably difficult. The standard of writing has continued to be high and several stories battled it out for top spot on the short list. I had my favourites. I hope one of them wins. This is the writerly equivalent of The X Factor. Well done all who entered and good luck with your future writings.

Mark Rutterford

Mark Rutterford

Mark Rutterford writes and performs stories. Stories with a love interest, a bit of humour, a slice of heartache and, quite often, a prop in hand.

After ten years performing at live-lit events across the South West, Mark has performed stories as a busker, in promenade and on the Bristol Old Vic stage, as well as in pubs / clubs / cafes / libraries, a shopping centre, pizza kitchen and barn.

In 2023, Mark has taken his debut show Love. Stories. ❤️ to the Bath, Shaftesbury and Camden fringe festivals. The show features Love Hearts and love songs, heartache and happiness, Cupid, an alien and lots of audience participation. The audience decides the path of one story, who wins the ‘World Cup of Love Songs’ and after Mark shares his best and worst romantic moments, he invites others to share theirs too. Each show is unique and written-up on Mark’s website.

Entertaining and engaging an audience is Mark’s idea of heaven – he visits whenever he can.

Mark's comments on judging the competition:

I really enjoyed reading every one of the short-listed stories. Such craft and skill, such imagination… so many twisted minds!

I thought the standard was as high as ever with laugh-out-loud moments interspersed by thought-provoking observations or vivid giant rabbits.

Thanks and congratulations to everyone who made the shortlist and made it difficult for me to choose which I liked more than others.

Thanks to Chris Fielden for another epic anthology that'll be heading our way – I can't wait.

Mike Scott Thomson

Mike Scott Thomson

Mike Scott Thomson has written all sorts of fiction and non-fiction miscellanea for many years. When not writing, he can often be found skiving off by finding other things to do, including travelling, attempting to learn far too many languages to be useful, and being crafty by making things from scraps of old leather. If he can find a way to skive off from those, perhaps he may get more writing done.

Publication successes in the past have been with venues such as The Fiction Desk, Litro, Prole, InkTears, Momaya Press and winning the first ever To Hull And Back competition, so long ago now…

Based in Mitcham, Surrey, he works in broadcasting.

Find him online at:

Mike's comments on judging the competition:

Yet again, what a fantastic selection to choose from. I’ve helped judge a fair few of these now, and either it never gets any easier, or I forget in the intervening period just how difficult it is to separate out the stories into some kind of coherent list. I suspect both apply.

I say this every time too: reading such well-written and witty stories always, without fail, gives me a bit of a kick to push on more with my own writing, and reminds me where I need to step up my game. If anyone ever has an opportunity to help judge a competition - say, with a local writing group, or with likeminded friends and acquaintances - take it, I say. It can be of immense benefit.

At the time of writing, I have no idea who has won this one, but to whomever the lucky individual is, enjoy your moment. And, of course, your immortalisation on the cover of the book.

Susannah Plomer

Susannah Plomer

Susannah is a teacher at a secondary school in Bristol. She specialises in French and English. She's an avid reader, film lover and audio book devourer. Her son is called Zac and he wants to be an oceanologist. Susannah and Chris are getting married later in 2023.

Susannah's comments on judging the competition:

It was my absolute honour to be a judge for this year’s To Hull And Back short story competition. Having listened to Chris talk about all the wonderful stories submitted over the years, and all of the amazing writers he’s been introduced to because of it, I was excited to be involved.

The quality of writing was incredibly high, and I found myself utterly immersed in each story, to the point that characters and quotes were popping up in my dreams. I definitely smiled when I saw the ease with which fellow shoppers in Sainsbury’s purchased their unseasonal pumpkins (thank you ‘How to Buy a Pumpkin in November’) and I definitely suppressed a snort-chuckle when I beheld the stack of pineapple pizzas in the frozen aisle (thank you ‘Armageddon With Extra Pineapple’). I have since stared wistfully at random dogs walking along, wondering what thoughts are bubbling away in their brains (thank you ‘When You Were Dog’) and I toyed with the idea of making my own dirty words book – enchanted by the idea in ‘All My Apologies’. I would also give anything to read more about the fascinatingly scary Ramona from ‘Here’s To You, Neil’.

Thank you, dear writers, for sharing your incredible talents this year and for creating these beguiling worlds, funny characters and creative stories. I enjoyed every moment.

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A Few Notes on the 2023 Competition

This year, I received 594 competition entries. The history of entry numbers looks like this:

  • 2023: 594 (+70)
  • 2021: 524 (-58)
  • 2019: 582 (+126)
  • 2018: 456 (+97)
  • 2017: 359 (+75)
  • 2016: 284 (+68)
  • 2015: 216 (+122)
  • 2014: 94

After the drop in entry numbers last time round, receiving more entries than ever before is very encouraging. I am humbled by the writing community and their support.

The early bird fee helped again this year but was not as effective as in previous years. At the end of March 2023, I'd received 219 entries, compared to 238 entries in 2021. The flow of submissions during April and May was very slow. On 31st May, with one month to go until the deadline, I'd received 248 entries – far fewer than the 294 I'd received during 2021. I'll admit, at this point I was worried about covering the prize pot. Thankfully, in June things changed.

The number of entries always increase as the closing date approaches but this year exceeded all previous years. I received 346 entries in the final month, 230 in the final week and 85 on the final day. In 2021, it was 230 in the final month, 133 in the final week and 58 on the final day. This is a substantial increase. Why? More on that in a bit...

I know I say this every time To Hull And Back runs, but I'm NOT complaining about the number of entries I receive – it’s wonderful that so many authors support the competition and I'm extremely grateful. I simply share these stats because I find them interesting and it helps me find better ways of running the competition.

This year, I went to the Llandrindod Wells in Wales to undertake the reading. As I mentioned in the judges section of the page, my van was eaten by rust and I couldn't afford to fix it or replace it, so I booked the cheapest nice-looking Airbnb I could find and locked myself away for a week in a room in a house that oozed character.

House in Llandrindod Wells

While I was there, I discovered an amazing Welsh water dragon in a lake. It was real, I tell you. I refuse to believe otherwise.

Welsh Dragon in Llandrindod Wells

The quality of the stories entered this year was exceptional. Vivid characters came to life in my mind. Imaginative storylines set in this world and other worlds fuelled my imagination. I smiled a lot. And, on occasion, I laughed out loud. The stories were a joy to read.

To date, I have increased the prize pot every time the competition has run. To Hull And Back turns over quite a bit of money now, due to the number of entries I receive, but the profit margin is slim. In the past, I haven't been too worried about making profit from the competition because my cost of living has been low due to my highly supportive family, and I have earnt money from other income streams to supplement the time I spend on the competition. I have also taken a lot of risks with the prize pot, knowing I could find ways to cover it if everything went tits up. This situation has changed over the past year.

I'm in a new relationship with a marvellous lady I've known for many years. We're getting married in November. I'm also becoming a stepfather and we've bought a house. All of this is wonderful and I'm extremely happy, but it also means I'm taking on a lot more financial responsibility. So, I have to reduce the risks associated with offering a 4K prize pot and ensure I earn enough from the competition to pay my share of the bills while I undertake the work.

Due to all of the above, I have taken the tough decision to reduce the prize pot for the 2025 contest as follows:

  • Prize pot decreased from £3,860 to £2,000:
    • First: £1,000
    • Second: £200
    • Third: £100
    • 3 x Highly Commended: £70 (£210)
    • 14 x Shortlisted: £35 (£490)
    • 20 x Longlisted: £0

So, there will be twenty prizes in future instead of forty.

To reflect the lower prize pot, the entry fee will also be reduced. The fees will look like this:

  • 1 story £10 early bird / £12 standard
  • 2 stories £17 early bird / £20 standard
  • 3 stories £20 early bird / £24 standard

Everything is more expensive nowadays and many people have less disposable income, so reducing the entry fee seems sensible for that reason too. I'm hoping the lower fee might make the competition more accessible to a wider range of writers.

I will be investigating more ways of advertising the competition in the future. In 2021, I substantially increased my spend on social media ads and wrote about those experiences on the 2021 results page. Long story short, they didn't work well, so this year I didn't spend any money on social media ads at all. Instead, I did other things:

  • I run an email list with just shy of 6,000 subscribers, many of whom are writers and readers. I did some promo swaps with other organisations that run similar email lists, like Winning Writers.
  • I contacted every short story competition list on the internet to try and get To Hull And Back listed: Duotrope, Reedsy, Creative Writing Ink, Ralan etc.
  • I undertook more rigorous promotion of the competition in my email newsletters, mentioning To Hull And Back in every email I sent out. I also sent more dedicated emails about the competition as the deadline approached, to remind people to enter.
  • I did a lot of social media shout-out swaps with contests that I list on my website.
  • I did a lot more work on my social media profiles, promoting the competition during the final month, using more 'real people' pics than I have previously. These seem to gain wider exposure and more interaction than posters and other types of artwork.

Chris and Zac To Hull And Back social media promo

A social media pic example, "To Hull And Back closes in 5 days", featuring Chris and Zac

Judging by the number of entries I received in the final month, the email campaigns and social media promotion worked very well indeed – much better than paying for social media ads. It cost less, but required more time to be invested. I shall be doing the same again for the 2025 To Hull And Back contest, and more.

In previous years, I've investigated using Submittable and other platforms to automate the entry process and reduce my workload. Unfortunately, the cost was prohibitive. Earlier this year, I was approached by Jonathan Pinnock, who runs Subbub. I will be investigating using his platform to manage the entry process for the 2025 competition.

This year, the competition has made a small profit. The overall amount depends on anthology sales. Even if the anthology sales are good, the money I make from the comp will be far below minimum wage. I've never worried about that before. Moving forward, I must.

The 2023 prizes are first £1,200, second £600, third £300, 3 x runner-up prizes of £150, 14 x shortlist prizes of £75 and 20 x longlist prizes of free early bird entry for the next competition. The total prize pot is £3,860. Other costs include PayPal charges, video production costs, admin costs, website maintenance costs, costs of publishing the anthology, paying the book cover artist, 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 has been designed by Georgia Cook. She was longlisted in the 2021 comp. I noticed she was an artist from her bio and approached her because her portfolio looked great. Big thanks to Georgia for creating such an amazing cover.

Georgia Cook

The eBook version of the anthology will be coded by Angela Googh again 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.

Angela Googh

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.

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. Despite the changes for 2025, that is still my long-term goal.

Entries this year came from a large number of locations around the planet. They include: Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Portugal, South Korea, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, USA, Wales and Zimbabwe.

I've kept track of the different points of view used to tell the stories again this year. Geektastic, I know, but it's interesting. Well... I think it is. Here are the figures:

  • Stories written in first person (I did, I said): 38.5%
  • Stories written in second person (you did, you said): 0.5%
  • Stories written in third person (she did, he said, they wanted): 52%
  • Other (stories that were presented as academic papers, book reviews, book submissions, customer support conversations, diaries, doctor's observational notes, emails, interviews, letters, meeting minutes, monologues, news stories, newspaper reports, phone calls, podcasts, poems, quotes, recipes, reviews, scripts, sketches, story poems, word definitions, or used both first and third person etc.): 9%

Compared to 2021, first person is down 4.5%, second person is down 0.5%, third person is up 1% and other is up 4%.

In 2021, 47 entries didn't obey the rules (just over 9% of 524 entries). In 2023, that figure increased to 79 (just over 13% of 594 entries). Unfortunately, I had to disqualify 29 of these entries compared to 22 in 2021. 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 forty places on the longlist. This year, I had to select just 7% of the entries and reject 93%. Then I had to whittle that down to just 3.5% for the shortlist. 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 eighth 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 inspired writing. Thank you to everyone who has entered. This simply would not be possible without each and every one of you.

Until the next time, cheers me dears, Chris

The Anthology & Book Launch

The To Hull And Back Anthology 2023 contains 26 short stories of mirth and legend, written by the winning and shortlisted writers and the competition judges. The judges' stories are included so future entrants can read them while researching the competition and learn about their tastes.

Details of the book launch will appear on the page about the anthology.

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Your comments:

Thomas F
You've made it actually feel good to be rejected! See you next time, To Hull and Back--

Chris Fielden
Thank you, Thomas - I'll look forward to reading more of your work next time round :) All the best to you.

Susan B
This is one of my favourite competitions to enter; I'm looking forward to watching it grow further. Thanks to Chris and all the judges for their generously given time and efforts. (Chris, have you considered a crowdfunding campaign for the pot and expenses? I'd be happy to kick in and I bet others would be too, given all the support you've given writers by running and growing To Hull and Back.) 

Congratulations to all the listees and entrants. I'm intrigued by some of these titles, looking forward to reading the stories. Sick puppies. Wait - was that an idea for the next competition?  What might be done with sick puppies...?

Finally, congratulations to Chris, Susannah and Zac.  What a fine looking family you make.

I wonder if I can work a rusted campervan into that sick puppy story. Maybe the rust was caused by sick puppy pee, with the intention of dislodging the inhabitants so the sick puppies can eat them alive. I really think I'm onto something here.

Chris Fielden
Thank you, Susan, very much appreciated :)

I haven't considered crowdfunding... I'll have a look into that because it sounds like an interesting idea. Thank you for sharing.

It sounds like your entry for next time round is already gestating nicely. I'll look forward to reading it.

All the very best to you, and thanks for submitting such a great story to the competition.

Susan B
Re: the crowdfunding idea, I noticed last night after I commented there is a donate button on your site but I haven't been able to find it again. From memory, I believe the first crowdfunding site started specifically to support actors who worked full time in day jobs. When they did land a gig, i.e. a play for say 5 weeks, the earnings weren't enough to cover lost wages, hence the crowdfunding. The arts community seems to be happy to support other people's projects. I've been surprised, visiting crowdfunding websites, at how successful campaigns appealing for money to produce a play for example, have been. I guess it's the same old problem of getting the word out. I've just read about your experiences advertising on Facebook. Mine were similar - lots of interaction but not sales. And all that baseless, bizarre incivility.

But I see you have a subscriber list of 6,000 and something like 24,000 website visitors? Wow. As mentioned, personally I would be happy to kick in for a number of reasons. There aren't many humour-specific story competitions and your resolve to make To Hull And Back a major monetary prize, with all the attendant interest that major prizes generate, represents a great opportunity for writers. I hope other writers would see donations as an investment. I certainly would. Also the work that you have done to grow the competition this far definitely deserves support - thanks! - and the judges deserve to be paid for their time and effort.

Anyway, thanks again for running this competition.

Chris Fielden
Thank you for all the information, Susan, and for sharing your thoughts. It's greatly appreciated.

Yes, I do have a decent-sized audience, and my experience of the writing community (and the wider arts community) is similar to yours - positive, supportive and generally wonderful. So maybe you're right. Once I have my website redeveloped, I'll take a proper look at this and see what can be done. Like you say, just got to get the word out there a bit more :)

All the best to you, and thanks again.

Clayton L
Mega congrats to Olivier, and thanks and respect to Chris for organising this bonkers comp. Cannot wait to read all the stories in the anthology!

Chris Fielden
Thank you, Clayton, very much appreciated :)

Damian R
Out of curiosity do you receive many entrants from Australia?

Chris Fielden
Hi Damian, thanks for your message.

Yes, I do receive quite a few entries from Australia. The highest percentage of entries come from the UK, then the USA. For the 2023 comp, just over 4% of the entries came from Australia.

All the best to you.