Sisters in Crime’s Scarlet Stiletto Awards for best short crime and mystery stories turn 30 this year and are offering a record $12,720 in prizes.
The first prize winner takes home $2000, donated by Swinburne University of Technology, plus the coveted trophy, a scarlet stiletto shoe with a steel stiletto heel plunging into a mount. The shortlist will be announced in October, with the awards being presented at a gala ceremony in Melbourne in late November.
In the lead-up to the ceremony, all of the winning stories over the past 30 years are being narrated by Susanna Lobez for Sisters in Crime’s very first podcast – Scarlet Stiletto Bites: Scintillating stories by Australian women. The podcast is free and a new episode is available weekly on Fridays on Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Google, and other services.
Christina Lee, judges’ coordinator and winner of two trophies, said that the Scarlet Stiletto Awards were remarkable in their ability to uncover outstanding criminal talent.
“Winning a Scarlet Stiletto Award has often launched literary careers. To date, 4,332 stories have been entered with 33 (soon to be 34) Scarlet Stiletto Award winners–including category winners – going on to have novels published,” she said.
“Well-known authors who got their start with the Scarlet Stiletto Awards include Cate Kennedy, Tara Moss, Aoife Clifford, Ellie Marney, Angela Savage, and Anna Snoekstra. For Dervla McTiernan, just being shortlisted in 2015 gave her the impetus to finish five drafts of her first novel, The Ruin, and put her on the road to becoming a global publishing sensation.”
Former police officer, TJ Hamilton, says that winning the shoe in 2015 was “a huge turning point” in her career. In the eight years since, she has worked in various script departments across a wide variety of Australian dramas and is now in LA working on two crime shows.
Like many of Sisters in Crime’s best ideas, Scarlet Stiletto Award sprang from a well-lubricated meeting in St Kilda in 1994, when the convenors debated how they could unearth the female criminal talent they were convinced was out there.
“Once a competition was settled on, it didn’t take long to settle on a name – the scarlet stiletto, a feminist play on the traditions of the genre. The stiletto is both a weapon and a shoe worn by women. And of course, the colour scarlet has a special association for us as women. And they were right – talent is lurking everywhere, sometimes in the most unlikely places!” Lee said.
Allen & Unwin is now offering the Best Young Writer Award ($1000). It previously offered a youth award for over two decades. Every Cloud Productions has boosted its Best History with Mystery Award to $1000.
Monash University, which previously offered the Emerging Writers’ Award, is now offering an award for Best Campus Crime Story ($600). The only proviso is that it has to be set on the campus of a university, TAFE College, or vocational institution. The award draws on a long history of crime stories set at universities, such as Amanda Cross’ novel, Death in a Tenured Position, and Unable by Reason of Death and Not in Single Spies, set at Redmond Barry College (a thinly disguised RMIT University) by Lee herself and Felicity Allen, under pseudonyms.
The full list of awards is:
Swinburne University Award: 1st Prize: $2000
Simon & Schuster Award: 2nd Prize: $1000
Sun Bookshop & Fremantle Press Award: 3rd Prize: $750
Allen & Unwin Award for Best Young Writer (under 19): $1000
Melbourne Athenaeum Library ‘Body in the Library’ Award: $1250 ($750 runner-up)
Every Cloud Award for Best Mystery with History Story: $1000
HQ Fiction Award for Best Thriller: $1000
Clan Destine Press Award for Best Cross-genre Story: $750
Kerry Greenwood Award for Best Malice Domestic Story: $750
Viliama Grakalic Art and Crime Award: $750
Monash University Award for Best Campus Crime Story: $600
ScriptWorks Award for a Great Film Idea: $500
Liz Navratil Award for Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist Award: $400
Writers Victoria for the Story with the Most Satisfying Retribution: Choice of online course, worth $250
A hardcopy Scarlet Stiletto collection of the first-prize winning stories will be launched at the ceremony along with Scarlet Stiletto: The Fifteenth Cut, a collection of the 2023 winning stories.
The closing date for the awards is 31 August 2023. The entry fee is $25 or $20 for Sisters in Crime members. Maximum length is 5000 words.
The competition is open to all women, whether cisgender, transgender, or intersex, who are citizens/residents of Australia.
To download information and a list of FAQs, go here.
To pay the entry fee go here.
Media comment: Christina Lee; 0424 003 285; firstname.lastname@example.org