Every year, the team at Hardie Grant Egmont throws open the doors and puts out the call for manuscripts by unpublished writers. It's called the Ampersand Prize, and we get really, ridiculously excited about it.
The Ampersand Prize aims to find brilliant debut novels by YA and middle-grade writers. If we fall in love with a manuscript, the writer gets a contract, an advance and serious editorial development to bring their books to market.
Since its launch in 2012, the Ampersand Prize has quickly become the premier award for debut novelists in Australia and New Zealand, and has launched the career of a number of incredible writers, including Melissa Keil (Life in Outer Space, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl) and Erin Gough (The Flywheel).
2015 Prize-winner, Cally Black, will release her debut novel In the Dark Spaces in 2017.
In 2017 the Ampersand Prize will commence earlier than previous years, with submissions opening in July and running for three weeks instead of two. Further details to be announced.
Hardie Grant Egmont is thrilled to announce that Sydney writer Rhiannon Williams has been awarded the Ampersand Prize for her debut fantasy adventure, Little Ott Colter.
Selected from over 160 entries and a shortlist of six, this exhilarating novel from Williams marks the first time a middle-grade manuscript has won the Ampersand Prize.
The first in a planned trilogy, Little Ott Colter follows the journey of 12-year-old Ottilie, who must disguise herself as a boy to rescue her brother from a secret organisation of monster hunters.
Williams, a Creative Arts graduate from Flinders University with a background in theatre, is thrilled. ‘This story means so much to me and I can’t wait to share it with everyone,’ she says. ‘Winning the Ampersand Prize is a dream! I’m so glad that Little Ott Colter found its home at Hardie Grant Egmont.’
‘I knew from the first page that we had an incredibly special debut on our hands,’ says Publisher Marisa Pintado. ‘Rhiannon has threaded a heartbreaking sibling separation into an exciting adventure with terrifying monsters – and done it utterly beautifully. I can’t wait for readers to be kept awake at night by this story like I was!’
Williams' debut adventure has definite girls-can-do-anything appeal. ‘I wanted to write about an ordinary girl doing extraordinary things,’ says Williams, ‘and when Ottilie emerged I knew she belonged at the heart of an epic adventure.’
This year's shortlist was very strong, but with its masterful storytelling and highly visual world-building, Little Ott Colter was a firm favourite throughout the judging process.
Little Ott Colter will be published by Hardie Grant Egmont in 2018.