25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards:  A Milestone in Women’s Crime Writing

Sisters in Crime Australia will celebrate its 25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards for best short stories with a gala ceremony at Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre on Saturday 24 November, 6 for 6.30pm. Almost $10,000 is on offer in prize money with the first-prize winner also taking home a spectacular scarlet stiletto trophy.

The awards will be presented by Kate Atkinson, star of Wentworth and Cate Kennedy, short story guru, with crime author and performer Jane Clifton compering.

Kate Atkinson has a long criminal record – on the acting front. This year she received a Logie Award nomination for Most Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Governor Vera Bennett in the Fremantle production of Wentworth.

Kate has acted in many of Australia’s favourite series. Her most recent ongoing role was in Jack Irish; other series include Rush, The Dr Blake Mysteries, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Blue Heelers, State Coroner and the much-loved SeaChange, giving a memorable portrayal of Constable Karen Miller.

Before presenting the major Scarlet Stiletto awards, Kate will talk to Jane Clifton about her life in crime.

Cate Kennedy, winner of the first two Scarlet Stiletto Awards, will make a short presentation – ‘”These heels are made for walkin’’ – about how this recognition transformed her life.

Back in 1994, Cate, then working at the Daylesford Library, laboured for weeks on her entry.  She then quickly knocked off a second story – just for fun  -and entered both.

She said, “I had to make sure I didn’t go away thinking, ‘God, that was like the dentist, never again’.”

It was that second story that won First Prize; although her first-one was commended.

“This single event set me on a path which hasn’t petered out yet. What made the difference was the attitude of the women I met in the Sisters in Crime. They seemed to just assume I’d be writing more, and that basic faith in my writing did more for my confidence,” Cate said.

Cate took out First Prize again in 1995, and a second entry of hers won Third Prize. With such talent already showing its colours, Sisters in Crime’s convenors decided on a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ rule – to give other (new) women writers a chance to shine.

“I was a bit concerned winning a pair, because they sat there on the shelf looking strangely disturbing. The stiletto metal heels reminded me of the story of the Little Mermaid, for whom every step on her new human feet was like walking on sharp knives. But nothing could have been further from the truth: far from losing my voice as she did in the fairy tale, it turned out that I’d found mine.”

Cate Kennedy Deborra-Lee Furness, Scarlet  Stiletto Awards 1995 (left)

It’s now become the goal of every shoe winner to earn their ‘pair’. Four other authors have won two shoes – Christina Lee, Janis Spehr, Josephine Pennicott and Ros Bent – though to date only Cate has a matching pair. Two-time shoe winners are invited to become judges of the competition.

Cate will also present framed certificates to this year’s shortlisted authors and launch Scarlet Stiletto: The Tenth Cut (Clan Destine Press), an e-book of this year’s winning stories.

Since discovering her mojo in a matching pair of scarlet stilettos, Cate has written The World Beneath (Scribe, 2009), which won the NSW Premier’s Prize for Literature People’s Choice Award, and has been published in the UK, North America, France and China. She has also written three collections of poetry; a memoir about volunteering; and two short story collections: Dark Roots (Scribe, 2006) and Like a House on Fire (Scribe, 2012). She still loves crime fiction, and is still trying to write it.

The awards have springboarded the careers of many writers. To date, 3471 stories have been entered with 25 Scarlet Stiletto Award winners –including category winners – going on to have novels published: Cate Kennedy, Tara Moss, Annie Hauxwell, Angela Savage, Josephine Pennicott, Ellie Marney, Aoife Clifford Sarah Evans, Inga Simpson, Alex Palmer Liz Filleul, Margaret Bevege, Patricia Bernard, Bronwen Blake,Jo McGahey, Cheryl Jorgensen, Kylie Fox, Simmone Howell, Emilie Collyer, Sandi Wallace, Amanda Wrangles, Lois Murphy, Janis Spehr, T J Hamilton  and Anna Snoekstra.

This year 201 stories have been in contention with 23 authors from all over Australia shortlisted: Beth Amos (ACT); Susan Bennett (VIC); Robyn Boston (QLD); Jan Bull (VIC); Jenny Castles (VIC); Kat Clay (VIC); Dawn Farnham (WA); Bridgette Cummings (SA); Olivia De Lesantis (VIC); Alison Ferguson (NSW); Cristine Goonrey (NSW); Annie Hauxwell (VIC); Philomena Horsley (VIC); Kerry James (VIC); Kate Jenkins (TAS); Lisa Jordan (VIC); Lisa Louden (NT); Helen Richardson (NSW); Fin J Ross (VIC); Dorothy Shorne (VIC); Paulene Turner (NSW); Ellen Vickerman (QLD); Sandi Wallace (VIC).

The full list of awards is: The Swinburne University Award: 1st Prize: $1500; The Simon & Schuster Award: 2nd prize: $1000; The Sun Bookshop Award: 3rd Prize: $500; The Fleurier Consult Award for Best Young Writer (18 and under): $500; The Athenaeum Library ‘Body in the Library’ Award: $1000 ($500 runner-up); International Association of Forensic Linguists Award: $1000 for Best Forensic Linguistics Story; The Every Cloud Award for Best Mystery with History Story: $750; Kerry Greenwood Award for Best Malice Domestic Story: $750; Writers Victoria Crime and Punishment Award: $660 (studio residency, Old Melbourne Gaol) for the Story with the Most Satisfying Retribution; HarperCollins Publishers Award for Best Romantic Suspense Story: $500; Clan Destine Press Award for Best Cross-genre Story: $500; Liz Navratil Award for Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist Award: $400; ScriptWorks Award for a Great Film Idea: $200

Nine collections of winning stories are available: http://clandestinepress.com.au/

Tickets: $58 (no concession) event and dinner. Drinks available at bar prices. Men or ‘Brothers in Law’ welcome.

Bookings close  2pm Wednesday 21 November. All seats are limited so book early — individually or in tables of up to 10: http://scarlet2018dinner.eventbrite.com

Venue: Thornbury Theatre, Velvet Room, 859 High Street, Thornbury http://thethornburytheatre.com/

Media enquiries: Carmel Shute, Secretary and National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia: 0412 569 356 or admin@sistersincrime.org.au