Ampersand Winner

21 Aug 2020 | Hardie Grant Books

Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing is thrilled to announce that the winner of the 2020 Ampersand Prize is Helen Valley, a writer from Auckland, New Zealand, who won judges over with her novel Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues – a charming and hilarious YA romantic comedy with a touch of magic.  

Helen’s novel was selected from a record number of submissions, and was instantly beloved by the team. Pitched as Red White and Royal Blue meets Carry On, this gay YA rom-com is set in a magical boarding school in NZ and follows two boys who ditch their exes to team up for the annual egg-baby experiment.

Publishing Director Marisa Pintado is thrilled that Helen will join Ampersand Prize alumni such as Melissa Keil and Erin Gough in launching a publishing career.

“My neighbours are extremely lucky that we were on lockdown when I first read Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues, because otherwise I would have been going door-to-door to shout about how brilliant and fun it is!” Pintado says. “There are many wonderful queer romantic comedies being published right now, but none are as original, gripping, as, or magical as this one. So much so that we’re crashing it into 2021, because what the world needs now is love that looks like Tim and Elliot’s. I can’t wait to publish it!”


Helen Valley grew up on the Waitamatā Harbour in Auckland, at the foot of Takuranga. She now lives at the edge of the Waitākere Ranges with her partner and teaches high school level design. “It's still a bit surreal to have won,” she says. “I keep forgetting and when I remember, cracking up laughing and not being able to tell anyone why. The thought of Tim and Elliott being out in the world is bizarre. I'm not 100% convinced this isn't an elaborate prank!”


Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues will be published in August 2021, and the Ampersand Prize will re-open for submissions in 2022. Read more about the shortlist here

Author photos available on request. For all publicity enquiries and further information, please contact laurendraper@hardiegrant.com