The Remarkables and I won the TIMES | Chicken House | IET150 Children’s Fiction Prize, and I couldn’t be more delighted and honoured.
This is the biggest and best thing that has happened in my twelve-year writing career. Chicken House, one of the most adventurous, quirky, and inspired kidlit publishers in the English-speaking world, is taking me and my manuscript on board.
As part of my prize, thanks to the sponsorship of the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology), I get a publishing contract, an advance, and a literary agent. But most excitingly, I get to work with the fabulous team at Chicken House Books.
This is the Stuff of Dreams!
Just peruse the Chicken House catalogue and you will see why I’m so stoked. Their books are gorgeous! Their authors are amazing! And Chicken House are welcoming me into The Coop. #pinch #pinch
The IET150 Prize, a one-off 2021 award, accompanies the annual Times | Chicken House Children’s Fiction award. This year’s winner is Emily Randall and her acclaimed MG manuscript The Flood Child. From what I can gather on Twitter, she is ON FIRE, having won other major UK writing awards this year. I am stoked to share this moment with her and wish her all the best!
I am so grateful to the IET, who while celebrating their 150th anniversary, made this children’s fiction prize part of their 2021 agenda for making STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) more visible and accessible to young people. Under the visionary leadership of Professor Danielle George MBE, the IET celebrated their big 1-5-O milestone with flare and innovation.
Professor George was one of the three judges who selected The Remarkables. At the winner announcement meeting, she said she loved my character Winnie, an aspiring engineer and crafty inventor, because she was a fun, creative problem-solver. Professor George’s praise was the highlight of the event for me. (I’ll update Danielle’s quote when I receive the promised judging/editorial notes. I was a little excited and therefore got the gist rather than her exact words.)
I’m covered in a rabble of tiny purple bruises from all the self-pinching at this opportunity. The thought that my Winifred Weatherby, plucky heroine of The Remarkables, might inspire young readers to embrace STEM subjects makes me so happy I want to—I don’t know, breakdance—but I’ll spare everyone that spectacle.
From Waiting to (…Drumroll…) the Big Moment
Seven (long) weeks stretched between the shortlist announcement and the winner announcement. I was afraid to speculate or dream, so I slammed the brakes on my rampant expectations to keep them under control. My little sneaky-peeks at the other two brilliant, original stories in the shortlist only resulted in fretting.
Finding out I’d won was such a surreal moment. The winner ceremony was on Zoom with the judging panel and the shortlistees in attendance. After the judges presented a verbal summary of the strengths and weaknesses of all three stories, Chicken House managing director Barry Cunningham announced the winner was, drumroll please… me!
I was wild-eyed and speechless, my neural pathways swamped with a heady cocktail of elation, disbelief, relief, and overwhelming empathy for my fellow shortlistees. I now feel silly for not being more ‘out-there’ with my reaction, but the win took days to sink in. In fact, I’m still wondering if it’s real.
For the record, when the Zoom meeting ended, I whooped, cried, and laughed all at once, and Paul immediately popped a bottle of Moët. (So glad the purchase wasn’t in vain. And OMG, here’s to more champagne-worthy milestones. #BringIt)
Speaking of fellow IET150 Prize shortlistees, I know great things lie ahead for both Jackie Jones and Henry Cole as well as the shortlistees for the other prize. I can’t wait to read their books one day and wish them joy as they move towards fulfilment of their literary dreams.
More Pinch-Me Moments:
For the first time (and hopefully not the last), I made it into the publishing media! How cool is this? #pinch #pinch
And I even got a little feature in the newsletter of my HNSA mentor, Dr Wendy Dunn! That was a lovely surprise.
What’s Around the Bend?
I’m crazy-excited about getting to work with the Chicken House editors and team members. For twelve long years, I’ve doggedly held my course on the traditional publishing route not because I dislike indie publishing in any way but because I wanted—craved—the full editorial-team + marketing-team experience.
I can’t wait to work with publishing professionals to make my book read beautifully, look gorgeous, and be distributed widely. I know I’m in good hands with Team-ChickenHouse, under the leadership of managing director Barry Cunningham!
A Little Name-Drop..
You may not recognise the managing director’s name, but Barry Cunningham is the publisher who famously acquired Harry Potter and discovered JK Rowling…
**I know, right?**
Isn’t it cool that he chooses to work with new talent like me? In fact, Chicken House describe themselves as, “an independent-minded children’s book publishing company with a special enthusiasm for finding new writers, artists, and ideas.”
I can get behind that!
In addition to IET150 Children’s Fiction Award judges Barry Cunningham, Danielle George & Christopher Edge, the IET, and TEAM Chicken House, there are some people and organisations I want to thank:
- My writing buddies in the Sunshine Coast Writers’ Roundtable
- My friends and colleagues at SCBWI QLD and SCBWI ANZ
- The Historical Novel Society Australasia, for awarding me the Elizabeth Jane Corbett Mentorship (A huge thankyou to her family)
- My mentors Dr Wendy Dunn (HNSA), Dee White (RADF), and Catherine Bateson (ASA)
- The CYA Conference, Tina Clark, and 2021 competition judges including Lisa Berryman
- Justine Barker for first seeing the potential in The Remarkables and encouraging me
- Mandy Downing for valuable technical help
- Mom because, you know, she’s my mom, and she cried
- And most of all, Paul for putting up with me while I’m incommunicado / lost in ‘the zone’ + everything else that’s annoying about living with a writer.
Watch this Space
More good things are coming, so I’ll update this tale as interesting things unfold. I can’t wait to share what I learn about the editing process and who my agent is and when The Remarkables should be AVAILABLE in bookstores!! **SQUEE** (Probably getting ahead of myself…)
Apologies if this seemed like a big blah-blah-blah of horn-blowing, but anyone who’s on this road knows the wins tend to be few and far between, particularly on the traditional- publishing pathway.
If you’ve followed my writing journey from the beginning or if you’ve recently joined the fun, thanks for the company!