Welcome to the short story contest!

Posted: July 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

“Talk about depression” – But what if you can’t – because institutions of power or stifling, culturally-enforced shame have made it unsafe to do so?

Walking on Thin Ice is a once-off short story competition designed to address this. The submission date is now closed and entries are being read – but the website also offers guest posts from people in the field. These are designed to talk about the REAL problems and obstacles faced by those confronted with mental health stigma, and to highlight the fact that stigma is active hatred perpetrated by the powerful upon the powerless.

Enjoy the site and I hope it is useful to you.

Short Story Contest Details

Theme: Mental illness, stigma and oppressive institutional power

Submissions open: August 24

Submissions close: October 1 NEW EXTENDED CLOSING DATE: November 15

Prizes: €500, €250 and €100. Publication in an e-anthology for the final shortlist.

Judge of final shortlist: Dave Lordan, poetry and prose writer and facilitator, author of Invitation to a Sacrifice and First Book of Frags.

UPDATE: Now fully funded as of 20 Sept!

Youtube clip (please note extended deadline!)

Mission Statement: The Walking on Thin Ice short story competition has one aim: to produce powerful, new, high-quality short fiction (500 – 4000 words) on the topic of mental health, stigma and power by means of an open blind-submission short story contest. The intention is also to fundraise as much of the prize money as possible – details below.


Welcome and thank you for dropping in! If you are hungry to write something after reading all the guidelines below, the rules are here. Comments and questions can also be left on this page.

A Bit More About That Mission Statement

There is plenty of talk about mental health and stigma but not much about the last of that triple theme – power. But the question of power – who wields it, who creates the bar for sanity, who enforces social norms from macro to micro – often gets quietly dropped in these discussions. Because we’re afraid. Because our livelihood may be threatened if we speak out. Because we may be sidelined and shamed in some of our workplaces, families and communities.

After one particularly tasteless, badly written piece of cruel bilge about self-harming written by a prominent figure in a national newspaper – which unfortunately cannot be discussed here – author Susan Lanigan decided she’d had enough of the toxicity and decided to organise a contest and make Dave Lordan the judge.

Oh No, Not Another Event About Mental Health…

Fair point. Mental health and stigma are not exactly obscure topics these days – you can hardly open a newspaper or browse to a current affairs without hearing about them. And as far as short fiction is concerned, we have already had the excellent Silver Threads of Hope anthologyBut we still tend to avoid talking about the role of a dysfunctional society and repressive power dynamic in forming an ill state of mind. As the clip says, what if the person who commits stigma is the one has deciding power over whether you can pay your bills, live in your home, or be accepted by family and society? Much of what we call stigma is the abuse of power committed by one person over another.

Writers, however, have not traditionally shied away from this responsibility; indeed, often fiction picks up the reins where factual reporting decides, or is compelled, to leave off.  And creating an open short story contest encourages people who might not have opened up before to put words to the page and sing out their truth.

But You Can’t Sing Out Your Truth, There’s Laws Against That Sort of Thing

Unfortunately, you’re correct.  This has been a problem ever since the real Mr Brocklehurst threatened to sue the publishers of Jane Eyre.  (If you have not read the novel, Brocklehurst is a sanctimonious evil turd of a cleric who shames and malnourishes the young impoverished students in his care.) However the Walking On Thin Ice contest will have as one of its rules that the laws of defamation must be strictly obeyed. Nothing that can identify a real individual should be submitted. Box clever. Change name, appearance, details, geographical area, sex if there is any real-life basis to the story.

How Will I Enter the Competition?

A special dashboard has been setup using submittable.com. The access redacts names and identifying information to prevent bias. This will be made live on 24 August.

What are You Raising the Money For?

Prizes, is the short answer 🙂 We believe that competitive prizes attract writers who really want to write killer short stories on this theme. And allowing people to enter for free takes away an extra barrier that might be in place.

Theme’s Kinda Broad, Give Us a Clue?

Anything that involves the shaming and repressing of someone – because that’s what stigma is. Stigma isn’t this thing floating away merrily in the clouds among us. Stigma is one or more persons actively using social power to perpetrate an act of hatred onto someone else, whether it’s denigrating their use of anti-depressants or wholesale denying their lived experience. Stigma is something people do, and they should be held responsible for it. So the wielding of such power in any arena: family, work, war – there’s a whole can of worms there! – anywhere.

What Do You Know About this Writing Stuff Anyway?

Quite a little bit 🙂 But the judge of the final shortlist, Dave Lordan, knows a HELLA lot 🙂

I hope this answers all preliminary questions – if you would like updates, subscribe to the blog! Thank you very much.

  1. lorrs33 says:

    I can’t find a link to submit my story. Can you help?

    • Hi! If you click the Submit link on the menu on the top of the page, it will bring you to the submit page. That in turn links to the Submittable dashboard which handles all the submissions. You will be asked to put name and email address but this won’t be visible when you submit it, so there should be no identifying info on the story itself. Hope that helps and good luck!

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