The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is delighted to launch its 2021 Writing Competition, in partnership with Bipolar Scotland. We are seeking entries which address mental health in all its diversity and explore the theme of ‘Normality?’.

The Writing Competition is one of SMHAF’s most enduring successes, providing an opportunity for first-time writers to be published alongside established names. The awards ceremony is often where we discover what our festival is really about, as writers from across Scotland and further afield take inspiration from our theme in poignant, powerful, personal and often ingenious and surprising ways.

The theme for 2021 is ‘Normality?’. This can be interpreted in any way you choose – the limit is your imagination. For this year’s competition, there are three categories:

  • FICTION: Short stories, between 500 and 2000 words.
  • POETRY: Poems, up to 40 lines.
  • CREATIVE NONFICTION: Creative writing with a factual basis, between 500 and 2000 words. Examples can include letters, diary entries, autobiographical writing, personal essays, and creative journalism.

All entrants to the writing competition will have the exclusive opportunity to attend a series of free online creative writing masterclasses led by experienced writers, supported by Creative Scotland. Places for the masterclasses may be limited, and further details – including presenters – will be announced in the spring. 

The shortlisted writers will be invited to read from their work at the SMHAF Writing Awards, during the festival dates 3-23 May 2021, and/or participate in an online event. Their work will be published in an illustrated book, made available to writers, audience members, and across digital platforms. You can read the winning entries from 2020 in our Perspectives ebook, and watch a series of readings by the writers here.

The shortlisted writers and one winner in each category will be selected by a jury of writers and mental health professionals. In recent years, jurors have included Jenni Fagan, Graham Morgan, Jenny Lindsay, and Alan Bissett. The most recent awards ceremony in 2019 was presented by Ian Rankin. 

The closing date for entries has been extended to midnight on Sunday 14 March 2021. We cannot accept any entries received after this date. Please download the submission guidelines and entry form for full details on how to enter and return your submission along with a completed entry form. 

For further information and any queries about the submission process, please contact Bipolar Scotland at or 0141 560 2050.

Find out more about SMHAF 2021 and the theme of Normality? here

Image by Ingrid Mur, showing Ian Rankin at the 2019 Writing Awards.