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 28 years to 2021, 4137 stories have been entered with 31 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, and Hayley Camille.

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, 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.

Thirteen collections of winning stories have been published by Clan Destine PressScarlet Stiletto: The First Cut and Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut are available in hard-copy form. Click here to purchase.

Guest presenters of the awards are usually actors from Australian TV crime shows and have included 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 2021 awards presented by actor Catherine McClements. Click here to view the award ceremony with Catherine McClements and Sue Turnbull and the shortlisted and winning authors.

The 29th Scarlet Stiletto Awards close on 31 August 2022. $10,000+ in prize money will be on offer.
Maximum length: 5000 words

The 2022 entry details are yet to be finalised but will be similar to those outlined in the 2021 entry form (see Terms and Conditions, FAQs and category definitions) – please make sure you read the FAQs.
Scarlet Stiletto 2021 entry_FAQs
Scarlet Stiletto 2021 entry_FAQs_printer friendly

Further information
Carmel Shute
Secretary, Sisters in Crime
admin@sistersincrime.org.au
0412 569 356