Alison Stegert, daughter of Payson resident Judy Douglas, has won the 2021 TIMES/Chicken House/IET 150 Award. Chicken House is a British publishing house managed by Barry Cunningham, the publisher who acquired Harry Potter and “discovered” JK Rowling.
The publishing house holds an annual international talent search. This year, an additional award was added, the Chicken House/IET 150 (Institution of Engineering and Technology), aimed at celebrating STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and encouraging young women to take up engineering.
They narrowed the pool of over a thousand entries down to a shortlist of three writers for the IET 150 Award and six for the Chicken House Award. The winners receive a worldwide book deal with Chicken House with a $13,745 advance and an offer of representation by a literary agent.
Stegert’s entry, “The Remarkables,” is a historical fiction for readers aged 10-15. It stars young Winifred Weatherby, an aspiring inventress whose sneaky plans to exhibit her Very Promising Invention at the 1889 Paris World Exposition are upended when she’s recruited as gadget mistress to Queen Victoria’s league of lady spies. The author describes the story as “Enola Holmes” meets “The Crown.”
Children’s literature publisher, Chicken House Books, has a special enthusiasm for discovering new talent. Barry Cunningham, the publisher at Bloomsbury who famously acquired JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, established the publishing house in 2000. Less famously, he advised Rowling to keep her day job because she wouldn’t make much money from it. She’s now one of the wealthiest female authors of all time.
Stegert is reveling in one-degree of separation from JK Rowling via Cunningham.
“Barry rang in the middle of the night when my phone is switched off, but I have his congratulatory email, and it includes the words, ‘your excellent novel.’ I’m framing it.”
Stegert lives on Australia’s Sunshine Coast and serves as the Queensland state director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Her debut picture book, “Boogie Woogie Bird,” will be released in early 2022.