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. (Click here to read Angela Savage’s essay, Red Shoes, written to commemorate the Scarlet Stiletto Awards 20th anniversary in 2013.) attached as separate document

The 2016 Scarlet Stiletto Awards will be 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. This year the event will include a special Silver Stiletto Award, open only to previous trophy (first-prize) winners. E-books of recent winning Scarlet Stiletto stories, including those from 2016, will be launched at the awards ceremony.

The 2016 awards are:

  • The Text Publishing Award: 1st Prize: $1500 (plus trophy)
  • The Simon & Schuster Award: 2nd prize: $1000
  • The Sun Bookshop Award: 3rd Prize: $500
  • Allen & Unwin Award for Best Young Writer (under 18): $500
  • Silver Stiletto Award: $1000
  • The Athenaeum Library ‘Body in the Library’ Award : $1000 ($500 runner-up)
  • The Every Cloud Award for Best Mystery with History Story: $750
  • Kerry Greenwood Award for Best Malice Domestic Story: $750
  • HarperCollins Publishers Award for Best Romantic Suspense Story: $500
  • Scarlet Stiletto Award for Best Environmental Crime Story: $500
  • Scarlet Stiletto Award for Best Financial Crime Story: $500
  • Clan Destine Press Award for Best Cross-genre Story: $400
  • Liz Navratil Award for Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist Award: $400
  • Scriptworks Award for a Great Film Idea: $200

Closing date for the 2016 awards is 31 July (a month earlier than usual. Entry fee is $15 (Sisters in Crime members) or $20 (others). Maximum length is 5000 words. Prize money is $10,000.

Click here to pay entry fee:

Download entry form: Scarlet Stiletto 2016

Download FAQs: Scarlet Stiletto Awards FAQs