Every year, the team at Hardie Grant Egmont throws open the doors and puts out the call for manuscripts by unpublished writers.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.
Hardie Grant Egmont is thrilled to announce that six writers have been shortlisted from nearly 160 entries for the 2016 Ampersand Prize.
'We had a fantastic crop of submissions this year,' says publisher Marisa Pintado. 'More than one third of entires were aimed at middle-grade readers and we found an extraordinary quality of writing overall. I was especially delighted with the broad range of genres we encountered.'
The six winners shortlisted for the Prize this year are:
To rescue her lost little brother, Ottilie Colter must disguise herself as a boy and join an organisation of monster hunters working to keep her homeland safe.
Rhiannon Williams is a graduate of Flinders University and lives in Sydney, where she balances work and writing. She has been building worlds for as long as she can remember, and committing them to paper since her early teens. Little Ott Colter is the first in a planned series.
When a teenager breaks into his childhood home searching for a connection to his absent dad, he doesn't expect the new owner to become a father figure – or to fall in love with the man's niece.
Amy Laura Jackson is a YA writer from Hamilton, NZ, where she currently lives on a lifestyle block with a stand of Christmas trees and two free range children. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English after becoming addicted to writing as a teenager.
A brilliant young engineer and a feral orphan are thrown together by chance when their families are abducted by mechanical monsters.
Amelia Mellor recently graduated from her Creative Writing degree with First Class Honours at the University of Melbourne, where she completed a minor thesis on YA steampunk fiction.
When a teenage girl vanishes without a trace, her best friend finds herself falling apart – and falling in love with the missing girl's brother.
Rachel Sanderson lives in Canberra and works in the Commonwealth public service. Her background is in screenwriting and her feature-length documentary film, The End of the Rainbow, won the First Appearance Award at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.
When a deadly disease breaks out that turns people into flesh-eating shamblers, a teenage girl is separated from her family and joins forces with a group of unconventional survivors.
Jess Howard decided to be a writer at age 7 after reading Roald Dahl's The Witches, because she wanted to make stories that were both terrifying and triumphant. She studied writing and editing at RMIT and now works in educational publishing.
On Abigail's first day at St Winifred's Orphanage, she is warned that the Bagman will get her if she misbehaves... but misbehaving is what Abigail does best.
Rachael McKay is an English teacher from Melbourne. She won the Marjorie Graber-McInnis Short Story Award in 2012 and is currently completing a Master of Teaching at the University of Melbourne.
The team at Hardie Grant Egmont congratulates the shortlisted authors, and thanks all of this year's entrants.