Dead of Winter

Dead of Winter Horror Fiction Writing Contest

The 2020 contest is closed.

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Read the General Contest Rules first.

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Dead of Winter is open October 1 – December 21 annually. Click here and search the “Dead of Winter” tag if you can’t find the current announcement for the word count parameters and theme.

The 2020 announcement is here.

  • Stories MUST be based on the theme(s) provided.
  • Stories MUST be set in winter
  • Stories MUST fall in the horror genre*.
  • The word count range varies each year

Any horror subgenre is welcome. Note that the judges prefer gothic, dark fantasy, erotic horror (PG-13 max), noir, psychological horror, quiet/soft horror, and suspense horror. The judges tend not to like sci-fi horror, extreme/splatter horror, Lovecraftian, etc. but, as always, the quality and creativeness of the writing come first. See previous placed Dead of Winter entries to get an idea of what the judges enjoy reading.

Be wary of using tropes like “creepy child” “disturbed cult leader”  or “he didn’t know he was dead.”

As to gore level, we’d far rather know what’s going on inside a character’s head than to see it on a pike. We want to be disturbed, unable to shake your story and compelled to leave on every light in the house after reading it. Soft horror is absolutely acceptable but should not be so soft that the judges do not recognize your story as horror.

HOW TO ENTER:

The contest opens October 1 and the deadline for submission is 11:59 PM ET December 21.

Email entries to dow2020[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line: Dead of Winter Contest Entry.

Remember: no attachments. Any attachment to your entry will result in disqualification. This includes links to Google documents. The story itself must appear in the body of your email.

Stories under or over the word count parameters will not be considered. The word count for each year’s contest may be found in the contest announcement.

QUESTIONS:

Post any questions you have about the contest in our DOW thread at the forums or tweet them to @toasted_cheese (hashtag: #tcDOW20) or email them to the editors. Please do not include any part of your entry in the thread or email and be wary of including information that might identify your story. If you need to contact an editor with a more specific DOW tweet, please send your Twitter DM to one of these editors:

  • @theryn
  • @amandamarlowe
  • @deoris1
  • @unanalike

Questions or messages posted to or sent through Facebook will not be seen as quickly as questions sent via other methods and may not be answered in a timely way.

FOR TEACHERS / STUDENTS:

If entering Dead of Winter (or any TC contest) as a class assignment, please let us know in your cover letter. Students receive an extra note from the DOW judges. Notifications go out in a new semester for some students. If you don’t retain access to your school email address and therefore don’t get your notification and note, contact us. If your story is a winner, we will sort out the email addresses with you then.

As always, follow the instructions from your teacher for the assignment. If your teacher’s assignment parameters are different from the contest guidelines (for example: a different minimum word count), we cannot consider the entry but prioritize your grade.

If you’re a teacher assigning a TC contest, feel free to drop us an email or @/DM us on Twitter. Let us know how we can be a partner in your classroom. Students over 13 are welcome to enter any TC contest as an assignment or on their own.

We love reading work from emerging writers of any age so please keep assigning TC contests!

JUDGING & PRIZES:

Entries are blind-judged by Baker & Billiard. Decisions are final. Winners are announced January 31.

Winning stories are published in the March issue of Toasted Cheese. If an honorable mention is awarded, there is no prize or publication for that entry, only the recognition.

If 50 or fewer eligible entries are received, first place receives a $20 Amazon gift card, second a $15 Amazon gift card, and third a $10 Amazon gift card**.

If 51 or more eligible entries are received, first place receives a $25 Amazon gift card, second a $20 Amazon gift card, and third a $15 Amazon gift card**.

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Past themes:

2020 | ANY PREVIOUS THEME
2019 | FAMILY TREE
2018 | THE PODCAST or THE AWARD
2017 | NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED
2016 | THE HAND OF FATE
2015 | THE NEIGHBORHOOD CHILDREN
2014 | TOYS IN THE ATTIC
2013 | IT’S NOT NICE TO FOOL MOTHER NATURE
2012 | HEART AND SOUL
2011 | SKULL AND BONES
2010 | Open theme
2009 | HIDDEN GRAVE
2008 | choice of ALASKA, ALTERNATIVE SANTA, BLOOD RIVER BRIDGE, VENTRILOQUIST
2007 | URBAN LEGEND
2006 | THE HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE
2005 | THE SOUVENIRS/TROPHIES OF A RETURNED SOLDIER
2004 | THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE ROAD
2003 | THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS
2002 | DEATH AND WINTER
2001 | WHAT’S POSSIBLE ON THE LONGEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR

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* Horror “uses literary techniques to frighten, unsettle or horrify the audience; employs macabre and/or supernatural themes.”

** Amazon gift cards arrive directly from Amazon so please keep this in mind when choosing which email address you use to enter the contest. It will be the email address to which a winning gift card will be sent.

For non-US entrants: so far, TC offers gift cards via Amazon, Amazon.ca, Amazon UK, and Amazon.de; we can work with you to get you an electronic gift card from your country’s Amazon site in your currency. You will receive more information in your winning notification email.

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