SheKilda3…where a criminally good time was had by all

Sisters in Crime celebrated its 25th birthday in style at SheKilda3: One-day Crime Spree at St Kilda Town Hall on 19 November.

The verdict has been unanimous: SheKilda3 was outstanding – top level panels and discussion, a great Great Debate, inspiring Scarlet Stiletto Awards , a warm and inclusive atmosphere, productive networking, fabulous  food, and marvellous fun….

The Great Debaters: (l-r ) Sue Williams, Leigh Redhead, Robert Gott, Jock Serong, Angela Savage, Andrew Nette & Vikki Petraitis

Sisters in Crime President, Vivienne Colmer, said SheKilda3 had exceeded the wildest expectation of the organisers.

“Authors and crime buffs came all over the country – from Cairns to Hobart, Sydney to Perth –with everyone commenting on the stimulating debates, both on stage and elsewhere. The authors and other speakers raved about how inspiring it was to get together with their peers – on both a professional and social level. One author declared it was ‘life-changing’.

“Authors talked eloquently about their bvivienne-colmer-lr2ooks and their works-in-progress and even ideas for new projects they got just from attending. It was exciting to see how many professional connections between writers, editors, publishers and producers were forged,” she said.

“The hall looked amazing with scarlet stilettos big and small everywhere we looked. Everyone felt welcomed, whether they were veterans or newbies.”

President Vivienne Colmer (left)


Here are a few comments from SheKilda3 participants:

Maryanne Ross (author): Congratulations on a BRILLIANT #SheKilda3 – the absolute best writers’ event I have been to for many years. The stand out experience for me was that it was great value for a writer (other writers’ festivals are really for readers) – eight high quality panels very insightful re writing process, with deep discussions about challenges and how they were overcome, as well as exploring personal courage. Also, great networking with other writers at all stages of their careers. Better than writing courses! Professionally run event with fun vibe.

 Karin Altmann, ScriptWorks (producer): A short line to congratulate the Sisters on a splendid conference. Beautifully planned and executed – with a whole slew of great panels chock full of super smart women! It was interesting, challenging and entertaining –  a great combination of intellect and fun. Then, of course, there was the great debate AND the awards.

Speaking as a sponsor (albeit a little tiny one) of the awards I have to say that work the Sisters do in promoting the work of writers is just astonishing. The Scarlet Stilettos must be the best value for money exercise in developing an industry –  and the careers that will operate within it – that there is. So kudos to all who figured in that!

 Anna Snoekstra (author): Thank you so much for including me in SheKilda3. I had such a great time on Saturday, it was a fantastic event!

 Sandi Wallace (author):  What a fantastic day!… There were simultaneous panels running throughout the day and I wish I could’ve gone to them all but the ones I went to were brilliant, inspirational, funny, intelligent conversations.

 Sally Scott (fan): It cost me over $1000.00 to be there [from Perth] and this money was extremely well spent:

  • An inclusive atmosphere that had a real excitement
  • Superb event management – you are a gem Michaela
  • Catering that was so exceptional and entirely unexpected – I thought it would be sandwiches and Arnott’s Assortment biscuits
  • Sessions that were top-class & I think this relates to having it over oneday – writers are happy to give up one day & spread themselves over sessions…

melina-marchetta-p-d-martinSheKilda3 was actually a day and a bit with crime writing workshops run by Ellie Marney and Professor Christina Lee at St Kilda Library on Friday afternoon. Everyone got into the mood for the convention with an engrossing session early Friday evening with Melina Marchetta (pictured left with P D Martin), the YA author who has just turned to (adult) crime. (Catch up with Sue Turnbull’s review if you missed the session.

The pitching sessions to the publishers were a popular addition with 21 women and two men pitching to five publishers. The pitching session to the producers was also great fun and allowed everyone to dream bigger than their novel. All sorts of possibilities may ensue. One producer pitched to two authors during a smoko on the Town Hall lawn. Another producer has asked for a list of all the ‘pitchees’.

In her opening address, Vivienne paid acknowledged Janelle Colquhoun, Sisters in Crime’s Queensland convenor, who travelled from Brisbane, and to Rose Stone (below), a founding member who turns 95 in March and until recently rarely missed an event. As Vivienne said, “Clearly having a criminally good time keeps the ageing process at bay.” (Click shekilda3-welcome-vivienne-colmer for the full speech.)


Professor Sue Turnbull presented the key note address about the state of Australian women’s crime writing (click shekilda3-keynote-address-sue-turnbull to read) and, to her surprise, was presented with a Life Membership and also made Sisters in Crime’s inaugural ambassador. Sue’s colleagues at the University of Wollongong are apparently now referring to her as ‘your excellency’. (A separate report on Sue’s awards will be posted shortly.)

One of the highlights of the day was the Great Debate where the Dames – Vikki Petraitis, Leigh Redhead and Sue Williams – argued the toss with the Dicks – Robert Gott, Andrew Nette and Jock Serong – on the topic, Dicks should stick to writing hardboiled and dames should stick to writing cozies.

Leigh Redhead took issue with Dicks’ Team Leader Robert Gott whom, she said, had claimed that Leigh had won previous debates by wearing low cut frocks and flashing her breasts. She donned a nun’s habit and then quoted Seneca! Robert almost brought the house down when he told Leigh he had attended a Christian Brothers’ College, with the implication that the nun’s habit wasn’t so much a turn-off, as a turn-on…

The Dicks’ team was the best ever assembled for a Sisters in Crime event but the Dames narrowly won when it came to the clapometer. Now everyone wants to buy Andrew Nette’s hard-boiled cookbook!

jenny-chen-lrSheKilda3 climaxed in the Scarlet Stiletto Awards for short stories. Nicole da Silva (Frankie in Wentworth) won everyone’s hearts with her honesty, charm and commitment to stories told by women for women. She has recently set up a production company to get more women’s stories to the screen.

The Scarlet Stiletto Awards reminded us again how crucial they have been in providing a springboard for emerging women writers. It was particularly inspiring to hear how Year 12 student Jenny Chen (left) had decided to enter after a school visit from Cate Kennedy, the doyen Australian short story writers, who got her start by winning the first – and then the second – Scarlet Stiletto Awards back in 1994 and 1995. (Pauline won the Barre Body voucher in a draw.)

All panels were videoed by long-time Sisters in Crime member Leslie-Falkiner-Rose and her daughter Zarah. Filmmaker Pippa Wischer Interviewed a number authors for her film project, A Murder of Crime Writers. Her colleague Nick did vox pops with convention-goers about Sisters in Crime. Videos and podcasts will available in the New Year.

Many thanks to SheKilda3 sponsors:

Criminal Accomplices: Bonnier Publishing; Harper Collins Australia

Criminal Associates: Text Publishing

Criminal Line-Up: Blarney Books & Art

Criminal Reputation: Clan Destine Press; Dennis Jones & Associates; Sun Bookshop

To our sixteen criminal consorts who kindly made donations to help with the cost of the event: Maggie Baron, Suzanne Bozorth-Baines, Tony Berry, Ann Byrne, Mirna Cicioni, Aoife Clifford, Vivienne Colmer, Ayala Deasey, Caroline de Costa, Annie Hauxwell, Claire Hill, Anne Holmes, Editors Victoria, Vicki Skidmore, Jaz Stutley and Ann Turner.

To the SheKilda3 committee: Carmel Shute, Michaela Lobb, Lindy Cameron. Caz Brown, Sandra Nicholson, Vivienne Colmer and Robyn Byrne, and to all the volunteers.

A reliable source informs us that the last SheKilda3 attendees standing were still laughing and singing at 4am…