The Scarlet Stiletto Awards

Womens crime and mystery short story competition

The idea for a national award for short stories, written by Australian women and featuring a strong female protagonist, was cooked up over a few glasses of wine in 1994 at a convenors’ meeting in St Kilda, Victoria. The purpose was to support and unearth new talent.

This has been achieved in spades.

In the 30 years to 2023, 4582 stories have been entered with 34 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, 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, Aoife CliffordAmanda Wrangles, Lois Murphy, Janis SpehrTJ Hamilton, Dawn Farnham, Natalie Conyer, Fin J Ross, Anna SnoekstraSuzanne Frankham, Julianne Negri,  Hayley Camille, Veronica Lando, Louise Bassett and A D Penhall (aka Ann Penhallurick).

The winners – from all walks of life – have been librarians, editors, teachers, union officials, journalists, public servants, psychologists, investigators, hair-dressers, exercise instructors, mothers and retirees, medical autopsy specialists, pharmacists, cattery managers, and even a few full-time writers.  Amazingly, five women have won the First Prize (and Scarlet Stiletto trophy) twice.

When Cate Kennedy won the inaugural Scarlet Stiletto Award in 1994 she admitted to learning an important lesson. After labouring 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-written one was commended.

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.

It’s now become the goal of every shoe winner to earn their ‘pair’ (though to date only Cate Kennedy has a matching pair). Two-time shoe winners are invited to become judges of the competition.

Fourteen collections of winning stories have been published by Clan Destine PressScarlet Stiletto:  The Second Cut is available in hard-copy form. Click here to purchase. Scarlet Stiletto: The First Cut is out of print but still available as an e-book.

Guest presenters of the awards are usually actors from Australian TV crime shows and have included Nicole Chamoun, Essie Davis, Marta Dusseldorf, Danielle Cormack, Sigrid Thornton, Noni Hazlehurst, Debra Lee-Furness, Catherine McClementsNadine Garner, Nicole da Silva, Kate Atkinson, Geraldine Hakewill and Danielle McCormack.

(For background information, read Angela Savage’s essay, Red Shoes, written to commemorate the Scarlet Stiletto Awards’ 20th anniversary in 2013.)

Click here for the results of the 2022 awards presented by actor Nicole Chamoun

The 30th Scarlet Stiletto Awards will close on 31 August 2023. $12,720 in prizes on offer. Maximum length: 5000 words

Information about the  2023 competition and FAQs (essential reading) is here. 

The link to paying the entry fee per story, $20 (Sisters in Crime members); $25 (non-members) is here.

The Registration Form is here (it can now be filled out online.)

Note: Entering hard copies of the stories is no longer necessary. 

Further information
Carmel Shute
Secretary, Sisters in Crime
0412 569 356