Our annual writing competition is open for entries. We are seeking new writing that addresses mental health in all its diversity and explores the theme of ‘In/Visible’.

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 helps us to discover what our festival is really about, as people from across Scotland and further afield take inspiration from our theme in poignant, powerful, personal and often ingenious and surprising ways.

Competition guidelines

The theme for 2024 is ‘In/Visible’. 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 fiction pieces, including 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.
Hannah Lavery standing at a lectern.
Hannah Lavery (c. Ingrid Mur)

The shortlisted writers and a winner in each category will be selected by a jury of writers and mental health professionals. In recent years, jurors have included Tom Bird, Jenni Fagan, Kirsten Innes, Graham Morgan and Oliver Seligman. Hosts for the Writing Awards have included Hannah Lavery, Catherine Simpson and Ian Rankin.

The jurors’ shortlisted entrants will be invited to read their entry at the awards ceremony during the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival this October. The date and venue for the event will be announced at a later date. The shortlisted and winning pieces of writing will also be published in an illustrated print and digital book.

Entries must be your own original work. They must not have previously been published either in print or online. They must not have been submitted to the writing competition in previous years.

You can read examples of work from previous writing competitions here.

How to enter

Entries should be submitted as a document (.doc or .docx file, e.g. Microsoft Word, Google Docs) or PDF file using our submissions platform Zealous.

If you require support or need to submit in another format for accessibility reasons, please get in touch at smhaf@mentalhealth.org.uk.

Entries are free and the competition is open to people based in Scotland, the UK and internationally. Full competition guidelines are available on Zealous.

Entries are open now. The closing date for the competition is midnight on Monday 19 August 2024. We cannot accept any entries received after this date.