Short Story Competition winners announced

The winners of the University’s 2022 Staff and Student Short Story Competition have been announced.

Entrants were invited to submit a short story of up to 1500 words, aligning with the theme ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’. The winners are:

Postgraduate category: Marta Zanucco, Department of English

Close Reading: Despite their differences, the narrator and the ‘you’ to whom the story is addressed are connected by a shared love of literature and writing. Set against the background of life in a university hall of residence, ‘Close reading’ is an exploration of friendship, regret, and hope, as well as a reflection on what it means to write about those we have been close to and lost.

Undergraduate category: Trudy-Ann Smith, School of Architecture

God Stood Me Up, and I Don’t Know Why: This story follows the main character through the healing process of her tragedy, which she hasn’t fully accepted. She’s forcibly moving forward in her life while doing nothing but looking back.

Staff category: Phil Olsen, School of Law and Social Justice

Do Not Point at the Sun: This story was inspired by taking the competition theme of ‘Looking forward, looking back’ quite literally and playing around with the idea of a broken, twisted-round coin-operated telescope at the seaside… What might it be pointing at? And how precarious might it be to climb over the marine lake railings to take a look and find out?

About the competition

This year’s judging panel included:

  • Dinah Birch, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Cultural Engagement and Professor of English Literature.
  • Frank Shovlin, Professor of Irish Literature in English, Institute of Irish Studies.
  • Saul Leslie, University of Liverpool PhD candidate and 2021 ‘Postgraduate’ category winner.
  • Dr Danny O’Connor, Colm Tóibín Lecturer in Creative Writing, Department of English.

Each of the three category winners will have their story published in the University’s Great Read anthology later this year, the chance to be involved in Liverpool Literary Festival and receive a cash prize of £500. Second and third place winners in each category will receive £300 and £200 respectively.

Professor Dinah Birch said: “It was a real pleasure to read this year’s brilliantly imaginative entries for our Short Story Competition, submitted from all corners of the University by our impressively creative staff and students.  The three powerful winning entries will be published in The Great Read, our annual anthology of short stories, alongside stories by James Joyce, J. G. Ballard, Helen Dunmore and Helen Oyeyemi. They will be available online for all members of the University to read free of charge, and the judges are confident that you will find them as rewarding as we did!”

Reaction from category winners

The judging panel praised submissions across the board, and this follows a similarly successful inaugural competition in 2021, with the theme of ‘Changing Natures’.

This year’s winners have described their experience of entering the competition and how it feels to have won.

Marta Zanucco said: “Having read last year’s winning entries, I was aware of the incredibly high standard of this competition and genuinely thought I had no chance of succeeding. Yet, I decided to finish my story and submit it anyway. As someone who is extremely insecure and writes creatively in her second language, I felt that finding the courage to share my words was in itself an achievement. This prize makes me feel so much more confident and excited to start working on new story ideas.”

Trudy-Ann Smith said: “I never had much confidence in my writing, but I’ve always just written from my heart. And as cliched as that sounds, it’s the truth. It feels amazing to have won – I’m over the moon.”

Phil Olsen said: “I accidentally checked my work emails while on holiday and was delighted to find they weren’t all ominous! It’s a great feeling to have a short story validated. I’m excited about ‘Don’t Point at the Sun’ being included in The Great Read anthology and I look forward to reading the other stories when it’s published.”

Highly commended entries

The second and third place winners are:


  • 2nd: Michael Holloway, Remember the Lake
  • 3rd: Siobhan Regan, Rattenkönig


  • 2nd: Patrick Brennan, Sharpened Words
  • 3rd: David Tierney, Foundry


  • 2nd: Hope Meisel, The Familiar Stranger
  • 3rd: Jack Morris, Don’t Look Back

More details on The Great Read and Liverpool Literary Festival 2022 will be announced soon.