Dead of Winter Horror Fiction Writing Contest

 Full Details 

Dead of Winter Horror Fiction Writing Contest

The 2022 contest opens October 1.


Read the General Contest Rules first.


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 2022 announcement will be posted October 1 on TC’s front page.

  • 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.


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

Email entries to dow2022[at] 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.


Ask any questions you have about the contest on the announcement post or tweet them to @toasted_cheese (hashtag: #tcDOW22) 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.


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!


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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