Scarlet Stiletto Award

The Scarlet Stiletto Awards

Women's Crime & 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.


In the years since then, the competition has attracted over 2100 entries (and counting) as Australian women have taken to creating tales of  murder, crime and mystery to compete for prizes in a variety of categories.

All of them, ultimately, were after the coveted First Prize trophy: a real scarlet stiletto shoe, with a steel stiletto heel plunging into a mount.  

The winners – from all walks of life – have been librarians, editors, teachers, union officials, journalists, public servants, psychologists, investigators, exercise instructors, mothers and retirees, even a few full-time writers. Amazingly, four women have won the First Prize 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, the Convenors of Sisters in Crime decided on a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ rule – to give other (new) women writers a chance to shine.

A good decision we think, because over the next 13 years another three writers – Christina Lee, Janis Spehr and Roxxy Bent – did the same thing.

It's now become the goal of every Shoe Winner to earn their 'pair'. And two-time shoe winners are invited to become judges of the competition.

Many first prize and category winners have also had novels published, including: Cate Kennedy, Tara Moss, Angela Savage, Josephine Pennicott, Alex Palmer, Liz Filleul, Margaret Bevege, Patricia Bernard, Bronwen Blake, Jo McGahey, Cheryl Jorgensen, Inga Simpson, Sarah Evans, Kylie Fox and Amanda Wrangles.

Two collections of the winning stories have now been published. Scarlet Stiletto: The First Cut featuring 26 winning stories from the first 13 years of the competition was first published by MIRA in 2007.  It was republished in 2011, along with the new book, Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut (with stories from 2007-2010) by Clan Destine Press to celebrate Sisters in Crime’s 20th anniversary.

Special guest presenters of the Scarlet Stiletto Awards over the years have included actors Sigrid Thornton, Catherine McClements, Noni Hazlehurst, and Val Lehman and writers Leigh Redhead, Kerry Greenwood and Malla Nunn.