Youth writing awards: $1000 up for grabs in two Sisters in Crime’s Scarlet Stiletto Awards

It could be worth killing for…  This year Sisters in Crime is offering not one but two Scarlet Stiletto Awards for short stories by young women crime writers – the long-running Best Young Writer Award ($500) for under 19s, offered for the first time by Affirm Press, and the brand-new New Writers’ Award, open to 19-25 year-olds ($500), sponsored by Monash University.

Martin Hughes, Affirm’s Publishing Director (and CEO), said, “Affirm Press is delighted to sponsor the Scarlet Stiletto short story competition Youth Award because there is no better way for new writers to cut their teeth than through short fiction, and no better curators of crime/mystery fiction than Sisters in Crime.”

“We’re excited to sponsor the New Writers’ Award,” said Dr Barbara Pezzotti from the Monash Crime Fiction Project.

“As crime fiction scholars we are always interested in emerging writers who push the genre in new directions and to take an active role in this is a great honour. We set up the Monash Crime Fiction Project to bring scholarship and practice together in new and innovative ways that will hopefully make a tangible impact on crime writing in this country. In this respect we value our partnership with Sisters in Crime,” she said.

The youngest-ever recipient of the Youth Award was eight-year old Carolyn Harding-Smith for her heart-felt story “The Axe-Murderer Casualty Teacher”. Her award was presented in the second year of the award in 1995 by the then little-known actor Deborra Lee-Furness.

In 1998, the award, which then extended to writers under 25, went to 24-year old Canadian model Tara Moss (left) and kickstarted her literary career. Moss was awarded second prize the following year. She then went on to publish six books in the international bestselling crime series featuring model turned forensic psychologist and PI Mak Vanderwall. Tellingly, the books featured the ‘Stiletto killer’. Dead Man Switch, the first book in her new Second World War series, was published in October 2019.

The Scarlet Stiletto Young Writers’ Award also proved transformative for Brisbane author Ellen Vickerman (main picture, Sigrid Thornton left) who took out the award in 2016 and 2017 plus two adult awards. Vickerman, then a student at Brisbane State High School graduated with a degree in Creative & Professional Writing from QUT last year. Vickerman is still there, now studying for her Master’s in creative writing and literary theory, experimenting with narrative structure to explore stories of betweenness and liminality in the era of climate change.

Vickerman says: “I first came across the Scarlet Stiletto Awards when I was fifteen. At that point, I enjoyed mystery novels and television, but I’d never written crime fiction before in my life. The Scarlet Stiletto’s Youth Category made me feel like the genre could be for everyone, including young writers like myself, and so I entered – not realising what a significant step I was taking.

“The Sisters in Crime are a phenomenal community of enthusiastic, patient, and incredibly supportive women, and having such a network is a very valuable resource when you’re an emerging writer, trying to find your feet. I have been surrounded by advice, opportunities to pitch, friendly faces and warm encouragement for the last six years. This has not only given me the motivation to enter each year to remain involved, but also the confidence to write my first manuscript – a YA crime novel.”

Vickerman says that she would highly recommend the competition for young writers.

“Sisters in Crime has been a constant for me through the end of high school, studying creative writing at university, and now moving onto postgrad – each July, I am reminded to dive again into a genre that I love, along with other women all over Australia. Get ready to learn, grow, and discover a passion for writing crime as well as reading it – the Scarlet Stiletto Award is for everyone, so have your best go and involve yourself in the Sisters in Crime.”

Altogether, $10,460 is up for grabs in the 27th Scarlet Stiletto Awards and young writers are eligible to enter all the other categories – ‘Body in the Library’, Malice Domestic, Cross-Genre, Forensic Linguistics, Thriller Award, Mystery with History, Great Film Idea and Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist Award.

Eleven collections of winning stories are available:

Closing date for the awards is 31 August 2020. The entry fee is $25 or $20 for Sisters in Crime members. Maximum length is 5000 words. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Melbourne in late November, pandemic permitting.

To download an entry form and a list of FAQs or to pay the entry fee, go to:

Additional information:
Carmel Shute, Secretary and National Convenor, 0412 569 356:;

Closing date for the awards is 31 August 2019. Entry fee is $25 or $20 for Sisters in Crime members. Maximum length is 5000 words. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Melbourne in late November.

General media release:

Media comment: Ellen Vickerman:; 0478 589 516

Additional information: Carmel Shute, Secretary and National Convenor, 0412 569 356:;

Full list of the 2020 Scarlet Stiletto Awards:

  • Swinburne University Award
    1st Prize – $1500
  • Simon & Schuster Award
    2nd Prize – $1000
  • The Sun Bookshop/Wild Dingo Press Award
    3rd Prize – $500
  • Affirm Press for Best Young Writer (under 19) – $500
  • Melbourne Athenaeum Library Award for Best ‘Body in the Library’ Story – $1250; $750 runner-up
  • International Association of Forensic Linguists Award for Best Forensic Linguistics Story – $800
  • Every Cloud Productions Award for Best Mystery with History Story – $750
  • Kerry Greenwood Award for Best Malice Domestic Story – $750
  • Writers Victoria Crime and Punishment Award for the Story with the Most Satisfying Retribution – three-month studio residency at the Old Melbourne Gaol (value $660)
  • HQ Fiction Award for Best Thriller Story – $500
  • The Monash University Award for Best New Writer – $500
  • Clan Destine Press Award for Best Cross-genre Story – $500
  • Liz Navratil Award (Queensland Chapter of Sisters in Crime) for Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist Award – $300
  • ScriptWorks Award for a Great Film Idea – $200