The Scarlet Stiletto Awards

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.

This has been achieved in spades.

In the 23 years to 2016, 3084 stories have been entered with 22 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 Clifford, Amanda Wrangles and Anna Snoekstra.

Three collections of winning stories have been published by Clan Destine Press: Scarlet Stiletto: The First Cut, Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut and Scarlet Stiletto Short Stories: 2013 (ebook).

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, 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 National Co-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.

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

The 2016 Scarlet Stiletto Awards were presented at the climax of Sisters in Crime’s 25th anniversary convention: SheKilda3 – One-Day Crime Spree on Saturday 19 November, 6pm  at St Kilda Town Hall in Melbourne by Nicole da Silva, a star of Wentworth. The event included a special Silver Stiletto Award, open only to previous trophy (first-prize) winners.

The results are here: Scarlet Stiletto Awards PR 3 results 2016

One of the highlights of SheKilda3 was the launch of six e-book collections of winning Scarlet Stiletto stories by Clan Destine Press, 2011-2016. The e-books are available for $4.95 in mobi is for Kindles and ePub for others devices including iPads. Scarlet Stiletto: The First Cut and Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut were published in hard copy some years ago but are also available as e-books. All 23 years of stories can be bought via

Closing date for the 2017 awards is 31 August. Entry fee is $15 (Sisters in Crime members) or $20 (others). Maximum length is 5000 words. Prize money and sponsorship are still being finalised. In 2016, the prize money was $10,000.

If you download the 2016 entry form, it will give you some idea of the different prize categories and the entry conditions. Note: these may change in 2017: Scarlet Stiletto 2016

Download FAQs: Scarlet Stiletto Awards FAQs